Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by
Go to the Everglades-Hub homepage

     Search Site:

EvergladesHUB Home > News > Archives > JULY 2011 - TEXTS          2011: JAN   FEB  MAR  APR  MAY  JUN       2010:  JAN  FEB  MAR  APR  MAY  JUN  JUL  AUG  SEP  OCT  NOV  DEC


Distract and attack – The Inquirer, Editorial
July 31, 2011
While the public's attention has been focused on the irresponsible showdown over raising the nation's debt limit, the Republican House has been conducting a full-scale assault on the nation's environmental laws.
It spent last week trying to push through an agency-funding bill that's chock full of changes making it easier for polluters to continue business as usual.
The Interior appropriations bill carries more than 40 additional directives, or "riders," that would roll back protections for public health and the environment. It's a breathtaking example of how the new GOP-run House seems to be paying back the corporate interests that bankrolled Republicans' electoral successes last year.
Several riders would let power plants and other polluters keep pumping mercury and other toxics into the air, threatening the health of pregnant women and young children.
Another would reopen land around the Grand Canyon to mining firms searching for uranium.
Another would block action to protect the Everglades from the sewage and manure that cause toxic blooms of algae.
There is a rider to make it easier for coal companies to chop off mountaintops and bury streams as they strip-mine the Appalachians. The bill would hamstring efforts to cut air pollution from offshore oil rigs and scale back the Clean Water Act so it doesn't apply to smaller streams and lakes.
Democrats have been fighting a largely losing battle to remove the worst anti-environmental riders. As of Friday, only one had been stripped out, the one suspending any new work to enforce the Endangered Species Act.
That rare victory came with a big assist from Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), who helped round up the necessary Republican votes, including his fellow Philadelphia-area colleagues.
Environmental advocates in Washington say that this round of environmental attacks is even more brazen than when Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich was leading his assault on anti-pollution laws in the 1990s.
This region has a huge stake in the battle. Pennsylvania ranks second nationally for toxic air pollution from power plants, according to a rating this summer from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Polluted air aggravates asthma, a disease that afflicts millions of Americans, including Gov. Christie, who attributed his recent hospitalization for asthma in part to the poor air quality.
Clean air, clean water, and open space are bedrock American values. They enjoy wide support among the public, both in our region and nationwide. The American people recognize what the anti-environmental House Republicans do not, that it isn't OK to make people breathe foul air and drink polluted water in the name of protecting jobs and profits.


Jobs and the environment - Editorial
July 31, 2011  
We appreciate Gov. Rick Scott's continued emphasis on job growth, as in his recent visit to Pensacola. And although here in the Panhandle we're likely to get more leverage from the BP money headed this way, it's fair to note that he signed into law the bill that focuses the expected fine money on this area.
That said, it's important to note that across most of Florida, which won't have access to the bulk of the BP money, job growth is likely to be slow for some time because of the general economy.
We hope that doesn't drive Scott to increasingly desperate measures to fulfill his jobs promise by ripping away more of the policies and regulations that have helped Florida grow while protecting water quality, residents' quality of life, wildlife habit and the safety net that protects the most vulnerable of Florida's residents.
The recent rains have broken the drought that was parching the Panhandle. But as growth resumes — fed by the hundreds of millions in BP money that could come this way — areas of the Panhandle could begin to see more of the growth strains the rest of Florida has seen, including water shortages.
To continue to do things like prune back the state's water management districts, abandon aquatic preserves, stop the purchase of open land needed to recharge aquifers, and to lose the decades-long focus on protecting water quality will produce a poorer Florida in the future.
Until the Great Recession hit, Florida was growing like topsy despite the presence of regulations that Scott now cites as job killers. It was concrete proof that there was no conflict between protecting the environment and growing the economy.
The proof was demonstrated every day, as Florida added 2.8 million new residents from 2000 to 2010, a 17.8 percent jump in population. It was the third-largest rise in the number of people among the 50 states over that period.
Those numbers tell us there was little that the state of Florida or local governments were doing to impede reasonable growth. If growth continues at merely the same pace as the last 10 years, the state will expand by the equivalent of more than five City of Pensacolas every year.
The point: You can have a healthy environment and strong economy at the same time.
Were there regulations or policies that created unnecessary barriers to growth and development, and that could be improved or eliminated? No doubt.
But last week we noted that Scott had recognized the state's crucial role in regulating assisted-living facilities by ordering increased oversight on the heels of abuses exposed by the Miami Herald. Let's not wait for future exposés to grasp the importance of effective environmental regulation


Wind energy proposal gains in Florida
July 31, 2011
A wind power plant farm with 80 wind turbines on the edge of the Florida Everglades is closer to realization with a decision by Palm Beach County.
The county commissioners' vote to amend development rules Thursday eases the way for 80 wind turbines on 16,000 acres of sugar cane land near Belle Glade.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote to Wind Capital Group July 1, urging more study of potential wildlife threats. "Collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resulting in the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population," the agency said. George Gentile, representing Wind Capital, said a yearlong review would determine the risk to wildlife.
George Gentile, the consultant who represents the wind power proposal from the Wind Capital Group, called the federal concerns and environmentalists’ objections premature. He said a year-long review would determine the risk to birds and other wildlife.


Concealed Weapons Against the Environment
New York Times - by Robert B. Semple, Jr.
July 30, 2011
While almost no one was looking, House Republicans embarked last week on a broad assault on the nation’s environmental laws, using as their weapon the 2012 spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. When debate began Monday, the bill included an astonishing 39 anti-environmental riders — so called because they ride along on appropriations bills even though they have nothing to do with spending and are designed to change policy, in this case disastrously.
Riders generally are not subjected to hearings or extensive debate, and many would not survive on their own. They are often written in such a way that most people, even many Capitol Hill insiders, need a guide to understand them. They are, in short, bad policy pushed forward through a bad legislative process.
A rider can be removed from the bill only with a vote to strike it. The Democrats managed one big victory on Wednesday when, by a vote of 224 to 202, the House struck one that would have gutted the Endangered Species Act by blocking the federal government from listing any new species as threatened or endangered and barring it from protecting vital habitat — a provision so extreme that even some Republicans could not countenance it.
Here are some of the other riders that were still pending as of Friday, and a guide to what they really mean:
Greenhouse Gases
Sec. 431. (a) During the one year period commencing on the date of enactment of this Act— (1) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall not propose or promulgate any regulation regarding the emissions of greenhouse gases from stationary sources to address climate change.
What It Means: With Congress unable to pass climate change legislation, the E.P.A. is planning to issue new regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other industrial sources. This rider would force the agency to sit on its hands for one year and do nothing.
Fuel Economy
Sec. 453. None of the funds made available under this Act shall be used— (1) to prepare, propose, promulgate, finalize, implement, or enforce any regulation pursuant to section 202 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7521) regarding the regulation of any greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines that are manufactured after model year 2016 to address climate change.
What It Means: The White House announced on Friday a major agreement between automakers and government agencies to produce cleaner, more efficient vehicles for the model years 2017-25. This rider would stop the agreement in its tracks, barring the E.P.A. from spending even a dime on paperwork or enforcement.
Mountaintop Mining
Sec 432. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to develop, carry out, implement, or otherwise enforce proposed regulations published June 18, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 34,667) by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement of the Department of the Interior.
What It Means: Two riders in this bill weaken protections against mountaintop mining, the destructive practice that has already ruined much of the Appalachian landscape. This one halts work on a “stream buffer rule” to protect waters from industrial activity.
Grand Canyon
Sec. 445. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the approximately 1,010,776 acres of public lands and National Forest System lands described in Public Land Order No. 7773; Emergency Withdrawal of Public and National Forest System Lands, Coconino and Mohave Counties; AZ (76 Fed. Reg. 37826) may be withdrawn from location and entry under the General Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 22 et seq.) except as expressly authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this Act that refers to this section.
What It Means: This would nullify a moratorium on new uranium mining on one million acres near the Grand Canyon. The moratorium is intended to protect the Colorado River aquifer, the source of drinking water for roughly 27 million people. The rider also blocks the review process that could lead to permanent protection, or “withdrawal,” of those lands.
Clean Water
Sec. 435. None of the funds made available by this Act or any subsequent Act making appropriations for the Environmental Protection Agency may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce a change or supplement to the rule dated November 13, 1986, or guidance documents dated January 15, 2003, and December 2, 2008, pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).
What It Means: Over the last 25 years, court decisions and administrative rulings have steadily weakened protections for wetlands and small streams under the Clean Water Act, exposing them to commercial development. This would block the E.P.A. from going ahead with its proposal to strengthen those protections.
Coal Ash
Sec. 434. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, propose, finalize, implement, administer, or enforce any regulation that identifies or lists fossil fuel combustion waste as hazardous waste subject to regulation under subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6921 et seq.) or otherwise makes fossil fuel combustion waste subject to regulation under such subtitle.
What It Means: This one is a gift to industry. By preventing the E.P.A. from labeling the toxic ash from coal-fired power plants as hazardous waste — which it is — businesses would be spared the expense of storing or recycling it safely.
Florida Waters
Sec. 452. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce the rule entitled “Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida’s Lakes and Flowing Waters” published in the Federal Register by the Environmental Protection Agency on December 6, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 75762 et seq.).
What It Means: This would prevent the E.P.A. from enforcing a long-overdue rule limiting runoff of pollutants like phosphorus and nitrogen into Florida’s lakes, rivers and, ultimately, the Everglades. That means industry and agriculture would not have to invest in pollution controls.
Wilderness Protections
Sec. 124. None of the funds made available in this Act or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order No. 3310 issued by the Secretary of the Interior on December 22, 2010.
What It Means: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants to use his legal authority to limit oil, gas and commercial development on public lands that may someday qualify for permanent wilderness protection by Congress. This rider would block him from spending any money to do so.


Eric Draper
Eric Draper,
Executive Director of Florida Audubon

Proposing Solutions to Protect South Florida’s Water
Sunshine News - by: Eric Draper
July 30, 2011
Audubon executive director replies to column 'Lying About Lake O to Win Hearts and Minds: The Eric Draper Story'
Florida’s recent drought and its effect on water supply and the environment should lead to serious discussions about water management and how water supply decisions are made.
Water is a public resource in Florida, and the state’s water laws provide guidance for balancing water needs. 
As long as the resource is not being harmed and no one else needs the water, the assumption of long-term use for such practices as sugar-cane irrigation and lawn watering makes sense. But when Florida’s largest lake is drained below legal levels for a prolonged period and people have to worry about whether water will be there when they turn on the faucet or flush the toilet, it’s time to reconsider how water is being used and conserved. 
In a recent letter to the South Florida Water Management District, I suggested that the drought was made worse by water supply decisions. Despite widespread and well-known forecasts of severe drought, recent water supply decisions favored supporting continued delivery of Lake Okeechobee water for sugar-cane irrigation and other consumptive uses. Instead of rationing water earlier, the district released about 22 inches of water from the 730-square-mile Lake Okeechobee for consumptive use. That is a huge amount of water, and while the exact quantity is unclear, a significant amount of this water was delivered via publicly owned canals to irrigate sugar cane.  
One key measure for the appropriate use of water is impact on the environment, including fish and wildlife. Scientists studying Everglades restoration use the Everglade Snail Kite as an overall indicator of success. The highly adapted bird also provides a means of measuring the health of Lake Okeechobee and the impact of drought and water supply deliveries. 
The Everglade Snail Kite population declined from about 3,400 individuals in 1999 to fewer than 700 now. Scientists at the University of Florida conducted a statistical analysis of snail kite population trends and concluded that if conditions do not improve, kites could be virtually extinct in Florida in as little as 30 years. Lake Okeechobee is designated critical habitat for kites, which depend on the lake’s shallow marshes for nesting and foraging. Excessively low lake levels for prolonged periods dry out the marshes and wipe out apple snails, the kite’s primary prey. 
Largely as a result of drought and water management there were no successful nests on the lake in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The 14 nests in 2010 were a start to recovery. Of the 41 nest attempts this year, only 13 fledged young and it is not yet known whether those young birds have survived the drought. As FWC biologist Don Fox said in an interview with Sunshine State News, by comparison, there were hundreds of nesting kites on the lake in the 1980s. 
Audubon has been at the forefront of Lake Okeechobee recovery strategies. We have recommended practical, workable solutions for controlling nutrient pollution sources, for compensating farmers for private water storage and for water conservation. The record of our efforts is available at We work with many farmers and with water management districts across the state. We do not hold back when we believe a practical solution is in order. 
My letter to the water management district contained one practical suggestion for dealing with drought and water supply: Revisit the rules and permits that allow sugar-cane irrigation to use the wasteful practice of flooding fields with Lake Okeechobee water. Just revisit those rules and permits. Look for efficiency just like many other water users have done.
My letter also prompted a derisive column in the Sunshine State News (Nancy Smith, July 25, "Lying About Lake O to Win Hearts and Minds: The Eric Draper Story"). While people who know me were shocked by the column’s tone, it gave attention to the questions surrounding water supply and its effect on wildlife, such as the highly endangered Everglade Snail Kite, and these are issues that deserve in-depth discussion. For that I am grateful.
This is a guest column by Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon Society.


Highly toxic (methyl-)mercury is the poison in the Everglades fish. Its formation is promoted by sulfur compounds originating mainly from agricultural operations.

Dr. G.M. Naja
Dr. Naja - a water quality scientist with the Everglades Foundation

The surprising link between mercury in seafood and inland agriculture
TCPalm - by Eve Samples
July 30, 2011
Everyone in the room appeared to be doing some mental math.
I know I was.
How many times had I eaten mahi-mahi during the past month?
What about grouper? And snapper?
The entire state of Florida is under a mercury advisory for those and more than 70 other species of saltwater and freshwater fish, explained Melodie Naja, a water quality scientist at the Everglades Foundation. Eating them too frequently can cause serious neurological problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.
But that wasn't the shocking part of her presentation at Stuart City Hall on Thursday.
What was: The cause of the contamination.
It's not as beyond-our-control as you might think.
I had been under the impression that mercury contamination in seafood was caused solely by coal-burning power plants and other industrial pollution across the globe. In its gas form, mercury can be carried to Florida from other continents, so I didn't think we could do much to fix the problem here.
Naja corrected my thinking.
While she recognizes the foreign sources of mercury, her research shows sulfate used by Florida farmers as fertilizer and fungicide plays a key role in converting mercury into methylmercury — the organic form of the toxin that is found in fish.
In the Everglades, the majority of sulfate comes from discharges from canals in the Everglades Agricultural Area, according to Naja. The Florida Department of Health warns people not to eat certain species of fish in the Everglades because of their methylmercury content, including largemouth bass that's 14 inches or longer.
Closer to home, sulfate from Lake Okeechobee and Treasure Coast citrus groves are a big part of the problem, Naja said.
The concentration of methylmercury increases with the food chain, with high concentrations in large fish and predatory birds. That's why the toxin is so dangerous for humans.
Methylmercury poisoning can cause numbness of the hands and feet, muscle weakness and damage to hearing, vision and speech.
Those symptoms are familiar to Port St. Lucie resident Shari Anker, who attended Naja's presentation to the Rivers Coalition on Thursday. After a lifetime of eating fish caught in Florida's waters, Anker was diagnosed with elevated levels of mercury in her system. She now avoids fish with high mercury levels because eating just one fillet can cause tingling in her hands and feet in a matter of hours.
"It seems to have gotten worse over the last several years, and I don't know whether it's me or the fish," Anker told me.
A study last year by the Martin County Health Department showed 25 percent of the 400 women who participated had elevated levels of mercury — far more than women in other counties that performed testing. The health department pointed to fish consumption as the cause.
Karl Wickstrom, founder of Florida Sportsman Magazine, invited Naja to speak to the Rivers Coalition. After the presentation, I asked him if he would continue to eat fish from the local waterways.
"This has given me pause. It really has," he said, adding that he will probably stick to smaller mackerel from off the beach and near shore.
"I'm past the age of worrying too much," he said, "but if I had young children, I wouldn't let them eat it."
So what can we do — other than get paranoid about monitoring the seafood we eat? (If you want to do that, too, check out the state's fish consumption advisories at
Naja believes agricultural interests should find alternatives to sulfate-containing fungicides and fertilizers.
"That will not be enough," she cautioned.
We also need to redesign stormwater treatment areas so they can better filter sulfate.
And she recommends creating specific standards to limit sulfate in surface waters.
It will be an uphill battle. Elected officials across the state are already fighting such limits on phosphorous and nitrogen — even though they have been the works for years.
"The problem is, the polluting industries have such a stranglehold on politics in Tallahassee," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation.
He encouraged residents to make their voices heard.
It's not just an issue for people who eat fish or enjoy the outdoors.
As Fordham put it: "The backbone of our economy is really our natural resources."
Eve Samples is a columnist for ScrippsTreasureCoast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. For more on MartinCounty topics, follow her blog at
Contact her at 772-221-4217 or


Clean, safe water is important to everyone – by Michael William Mullen, the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, based in Banks, Ala.
July 29, 2011
I find it hard to comprehend why so many Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are leading a stampede to return to an era of unhealthy, dirty water.
I remember as a teenager in the mid 1960s watching raw sewage pour out of a 30-inch pipe into the beautiful, clear White River in Batesville, Ark. I don't believe that anyone really wants to return to the days when beaches were closed all summer due to sewage or when rivers changed color based upon the paint color of the day at the paint plant or when rivers actually caught on fire.
However, the U.S. House has passed HR 2018 and has passed or is about to pass other bills that would roll back clean water protections to the era when we did see raw sewage and burning rivers. Rich, powerful interests who want to continue to blow off mountaintops and fill valleys and streams, and sugar and cattle growers who want no limits on the damage they are causing to the Everglades and other Florida waters are apparently more important to many House members than the rest of the folks. Logging interests in the West that want to avoid proper forest road management to protect salmon and other fisheries and Southern cotton farmers who want to allow pesticides to enter waters or even to be directly sprayed into waters are apparently more important than the rest of the folks.
Clean, safe waters are a fundamental human right. These practices that would be allowed in the rollbacks of the Clean Water Act passed by the U.S. House would create health risks due to heavy metals and pesticides. These measures have been sold as job-creating legislation. In fact, dirty water kills jobs generated by the tourism, recreation and fishing industries. Dirty water harms local property values, harms local businesses, damages or destroys local water supplies, creates ecologically unsustainable conditions for fisheries and aquatic ecosystems and harms public health.
Congressmen Steve Southerland and Jeff Miller and the 16 other Republican Florida delegation members who voted yes or did not vote should be ashamed. Bill Young, the lone Florida Republican to vote no on HR 2018 — and who voted to override Richard Nixon's veto of the original Clean Water Act — deserves public applause. Those voting yes must think that the people are not watching because they are worried about jobs, the economy and whether these rascals in the U.S. House are going to let the nation default on its debts. The people are not asleep, and they will remember who voted for dirty water. Our U.S. senators can stop this foolishness. They can if they value the folks and understand that clean water is a fundamental human right that should not be given over to special interests.


Clean water ? What a quaint concept – by Diane Roberts
July 29, 2011
You would think that that United States Congress had its sticky hands full, fighting over the debt ceiling. Yet the House of Representatives has found time in its busy schedule of posturing, whining and wrecking the nation's credit rating to attack clean water. Clean air, wetlands, national parks and endangered species, too. And Florida Republicans are right out in front.
Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, is the lead sponsor of HR 2018, the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011," which, in the way of governmentspeak, does precisely the opposite of what the title suggests. The bill promotes pollution by forbidding the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing minimum water quality standards. States get to decide if they want to pipe poisons into their water bodies. Say Georgia feels like disposing of cow, chicken and pig, er, waste in the Chattahoochee: Florida couldn't stop it. Apalachicola Bay oysters would be out of luck. Or say a mining company blows the top off some mountain in West Virginia, and the resulting contaminants infest Virginia's rivers and impair Kentucky's groundwater; well, that's just tough.
As if this weren't bad enough, the appropriation bill for the EPA and the Interior Department (HR 2584, if you want to look it up) has been loaded with polluter-appeasing riders — 39 at last look — which read like a dirty industries letter to Santa Claus. One rider wants to allow uranium mining right next to the Grand Canyon, another would stop EPA from regulating pesticides and power plant emissions, and yet another would give oil and gas companies an extra $55 million in federal subsidies (those poor guys really need the cash).
Fifteen riders go after water standards, blocking EPA from limiting poisons in streams from mountaintop-removal coal production and barring EPA from protecting wetlands in areas that have experienced flooding. Never mind that wetlands mitigate storm water, and if you drain them, the flooding will only get worse. We wouldn't want actual science to get in the way of ideology, would we ?
Florida's contribution to this parade of environmental atrocities comes courtesy of Mario Diaz-Balart and Richard Nugent. Diaz-Balart wants to prohibit the EPA's regulation of pollution from agricultural runoff. He needs to get out more. The St. Johns River is already blanketed in bright green algae. So is the Caloosahatchee. All that cow poop, all that fertilizer, fosters algae so toxic that if you get it on you, it could give you a severe rash, cause respiratory distress, even gastrointestinal disease. Forget boating or fishing; the water stinks too much. The fish are probably dead, anyway: Lee and Collier counties have just suffered huge fish kills as a result of algae blooms — rotting algae suck up all the dissolved oxygen so the creatures suffocate.
As for Nugent, he wants to block funding for manatee protection in Citrus County's Kings Bay. Apparently, he was pressured by people philosophically opposed to wildlife. As Edna Mattos, leader of the Citrus Tea Party Patriots, said, more manatee protection "elevates Nature above people" which is "against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."
Mica's bill has passed the House but will probably die — at least this year. It will, however, be back next year. And the next. But some of those nasty additions to the EPA appropriation bill might stick. So why, you ask, would Florida Republicans (all except Rep. C.W. Young voted for Mica's legislation) be so dead keen on destroying 40 years of environmental protection? Money, obviously. The pollutigarchy — Associated Industries, Big Ag, phosphate mining, developers, energy companies — have been pitching tantrums worthy of a 2-year-old ever since Florida conservationist organizations sued the George W. Bush EPA, compelling the agency to enforce the Clean Water Act in the state. It's not as if these water standards are new; we've known since 1998 that we should adopt numeric criteria for the junk in our water. We just never quite got around to it.
Before the Clean Water Act became law in 1972, water went pretty much unprotected. In 1970, around 30 percent of drinking water samples from around the country contained several times the chemical effluent recommended for human consumption. The Hudson River teemed with carcinogenic PCBs, piped in courtesy of General Electric. Ohio's Cuyahoga River was so full of petrochemical waste it actually caught on fire.
As for Florida, it was paradise — for polluters. In 1969, Lake Thonotosassa in Hillsborough County scored the largest fish kill ever recorded — 26 million — thanks to laissez-faire chemical discharges from four food processing plants. And remember Lake Apopka ?  Rep. Mica should: it's Florida's third-largest freshwater body and only a few miles west of his Winter Park home. From the 1940s on, it was a filthy, unregulated soup of pesticide and manure, a stew of nitrates so deadly that in 1981 it was finally declared a Superfund site. Tower Chemical Company saw fit to dispose of its excess DDE, an endocrine disruptor, in the lake, causing severe health disorders in local farmworkers, bird kills, sexual disorders and some very weird mutations in alligators.
Why do Reps. Mica, Nugent and Diaz-Balart want to turn the clock back to when you could practically walk across Lake Apopka on the bodies of dead bass, back to when you smelled the Fenholloway River 10 miles before you saw it? They call the EPA a "job-killer," but here in Florida, dirty water is the job-killer. Nobody wants to buy a house on a slime-streaked river, rake dead fish off the beach before you can spread out your towel, or have to boil water before you can drink it. Florida's economy — our tourist industry, our hopes for growth, our very lives — depends on clean water.
But in the tea-infused alternative universe of Florida's Republicans, ideology trumps reality: All regulation is bad; if Obama's for it, we're against it. Everything was great back in those golden days when capitalism reigned unfettered by bunny-hugging, water-testing, hippie-wuss socialism.
Back on this planet, John Mica, Richard Nugent and Mario Diaz-Balart's constituents should ask them why they're willing to risk dragging Florida's waters back to a time when rivers burned and lakes stank of death.


Alva residents still upset about algal bloom
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 28, 2011
A recent large-scale algal bloom in Southwest Florida had residents concerned about both their financial and physical well-being. Recent rainfall has diluted much of the bloom, but questions about the future of state water pollution rules remain.
On the surface, things look fine. “The water here now is crystal clear. Look down about four feet, and it’s covered with this green silt,” says Alva resident Richard Spence, describing the effect recent rains have had on a major algal bloom that was harshly affecting the area up till last week. ”Maybe some has moved out, but a lot has been pushed to the bottom. ”
Spence, a convenience store owner, suffered financial setbacks as a result of the bloom. While he normally sells about 35-45 to-go sandwiches a day (mainly for people boating along the river), that number dropped to zero in recent months. And though life is mostly back to normal for Alva residents, Spence and others like him are still upset. “I’ve never seen it like it was this year,” he says. “It will probably be even worse next year.”
Alva’s state representative, Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, is opposed to a set of water pollution standards mandated by the EPA that could help thwart algal blooms and fish kills.
Kreegel, like many other state lawmakers, say that implementing the EPA’s “numeric nutrient criteria” could be costly for agriculture companies and citrus growers. But those agricultural interests are partly to blame for the problem. The major contributors to nutrient pollution in waterways are failing septic tanks, home fertilizer and industry runoff. Large farms use water to spray their crops, the water mixes with fertilizer (and, often, manure), and runs back into the waterway — leading to conditions that are ripe for algal growth. Algal blooms are not just noxious and ugly, they cut off oxygen to other marine life — leading to fish and even mammal deaths.
Residents of Alva lay much of the blame on the citrus, beef and sugar industries. Kreegel lists beef and citrus associations among his “affiliations” on his House of Representatives profile.
In a recent interview with The Florida Independent, Kreegel said that he is “still at a quandary” about how to clean up Florida’s water without negatively impacting Florida’s economy. Wary of claims that U.S. Sugar is a major contributor to algal blooms, Kreegel said that the water coming out of Sugar “already filters through filter strips and marshes, and nitrogen content and phosphorus content is already quite low.”
Kreegel’s constituents aren’t necessarily angry at him. Some even admitted to donating to his campaigns in the past. But so did members of the agricultural industry — to the tune of at least $18,000 during his 2008 campaign. According to data released on Follow the Money, Kreegel received at least $1,500 from the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida during his 2008 run. According to the site, agriculture interests contributed at least $16,500.
Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann doesn’t find fault with Kreegel, but with the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers, who are jointly responsible for approving permits in the area.
As previously reported by the Independent, the South Florida Water Management District released only one inch of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee during this summer’s drought. Less water means less flow — a ripe condition for an algal bloom. The District released around 15 inches to an area that includes the Everglades Agricultural Area, home to U.S. Sugar.
“[Kreegel] lives outside of Alva, so he might not have been witness to the bloom,” says Mann. “He’s not here that much, in fairness. The most frustrating part, by far, is the water managers.”
The recent rainfall in Alva quickly got rid of the majority of the bloom. Many residents say that just one healthy release from the Okeechobee could have also done the trick. “We got to eat and we need a healthy agricultural industry. Everybody understands that,” says Mann. “What is so frustrating to us, is the relatively small amount of release required to deal with the problem. Nature did for us what the Corps of Engineers and the District would not allow.”
According to concerned residents of Alva, the problem didn’t disappear with the algal bloom. Most are confident the situation will repeat itself. “We have periodic dry spells,” says Mann. “This certainly will happen again and agriculture will want its share again and we’ll be at the same point.”
Mann points to the District’s recent call for “shared adversity” to protect the area’s water resources. The District has touted the importance of “cooperation” and said that both agricultural interests and citizens must cut back on water use.
“Even though they say that everybody is supposed to share the pain … we know that agriculture has been the beneficiary of certain releases,” he says. “We feel like step-children. The District has adopted this idea of ‘shared adversity’ and this was their chance to really exercise it. I think they failed.”


Highly toxic (methyl-)mercury is the poison in the Everglades fish. Its formation is promoted by sulfur compounds originating mainly from agricultural operations.

Dr. G.M. Naja
Dr. Naja - a water quality scientist with the Everglades Foundation

Methylmercury an environmental and health issue, Rivers Coalition told
July 28, 2011
STUART — Members of the Rivers Coalition, who for years have been fighting pollution of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon by nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, were told Thursday the South Florida ecosystem may have a more serious public enemy No. 1: methylmercury.
"It's not just an environmental issue," said Melodie Naja, a water quality scientist at the Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to restore and protect the South Florida ecosystem. "It's a health issue."
Methylmercury is formed when vaporized mercury in the air, primarily from exhaust of coal-fired power plants in Europe and Asia, Naja said, falls into waterways with each rain and combines with sulfur in the sediment below the water.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methylmercury can cause impaired neurological development, specifically in fetuses. It usually doesn't kill directly, but it can cause numbness, weak muscles and impaired speech and hearing.
Naja said methylmercury accumulates in the bodies of organisms that ingest it, so that the higher an animal is on the food chain, the more of the chemical it contains.
Game fish are high on the chain; and heightened levels of methylmercury led the Florida Health Department to issue guidelines on eating fish from the state's lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. The department recommends, for example, that women of child-bearing age and young children eat snook from coastal waters no more than once a month; others should eat snook no more than once a week.
While Naja recognizes "we can't really control the mercury (from overseas)," she said, "we can control the sulfur."
Sulfur is in the fungicides and fertilizers used in the Everglades Agricultural Area, Naja said, and is a main reason water in the Everglades contains 30 to 50 milligrams of sulfur per liter. The target level under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is 1 milligram per liter.
Naja didn't have specific sulfur amounts for the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon, but a graphic supplied by the Everglades Foundation indicated levels between 100 and 500 milligrams per liter in some "hot spots" in the estuary.
"It's coming from Lake Okeechobee and from throughout your local watershed, both the urban and agricultural areas," she said.


Researcher: Florida Keys could be underwater by 2100
July 28, 2011
MIAMI (NBC) -- Could the Florida Keys be sinking? Actually going under water? A researcher at the University of Miami thinks so.
The sea is rising, but slowly enough so that too few people get alarmed. A slow march upward 5-10 feet, says all the science, that will happen over the next 100 years or so.
"And so we would be utter fools not to attempt to arrest this while we have a fighting chance," said University of Miami climate change researcher John Van Leer.
Van Leer has been studying climate change longer than almost anyone. This new warning from the Natural Resources Defense Council, warning us about south Florida is the same warning he and his colleagues have been raising for decades -- that Florida's magnificence is threatened by climate change:
An increase in diseases like dengue fever already underway, seafood that becomes less plentiful, our valuable coral reefs are already dying at alarming rates, our drinking water supply becomes infused with seawater, we see worsening extreme weather events, and our coastline erodes at a greater and greater pace especially during storms.
All these impacts, to some degree, are already happening in part because of climate change. and van leer says we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as prepare for rising seas.
"Both," Van Leer said. "We have to do both things. I mean, how will you live in a high-rise condo when the feet of the buildings are in seawater?"
Maps of south Florida that show the anticipated rate of a rising see indicate that in 100 years, most of south Florida - including the Keys - is underwater.
Scientists ask what will the next generation say about present day inaction.
"Their reaction would be, 'I can't believe you guys didn't take it seriously when you had the chance'," Van Leer said.
Some folks are listening.
Officials in Miami-Dade are working with surrounding communities to develop a strategy to prepare for rising sea levels. Four counties in south Florida have formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to coordinate policies and research to create a regional action plan.


Tea Party's agenda fouls the air, pollutes the water - by Joel Connelly & staff
July 28, 2011
Several houses along scenic Chuckanut Drive, south of Bellingham, are decorated with Tea Party-inspired yard signs saying "WE THE PEOPLE" with a backdrop of the fluttering Stars and Stripes.
Given the movement's agenda in Congress, a more appropriate slogan would be "WE THE POLLUTERS" against a picture of Bellingham Bay (or Port Gardner Bay at Everett) back in the 1960s when pulp mill pollution and raw sewage made for bubbling water the color of tobacco spit.
The right-wing populists of the Tea Party movement are enacting an agenda for plutocrats -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Oil, Big Coal and the Koch brothers -- in the U.S. House of Representatives.  In one ambitious environment-energy appropriations bill, they seek to roll back almost 40 years of lawmaking to clean up the American earth (and water).
Do you think this is an exaggeration?  Consider the 39 pending riders to the bill, or 38, now that Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., has succeeded in killing the "extinction rider" that would have eviscerated the Endangered Species Act.
"I have served on the Appropriations Committee for 35 years and never seen anything like this:  They are serving up a smorgasboard for special interests," said Dicks.  Or, in the words of Clean Air Act author Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the new Republican House majority "seems intent on restoring the Robber Baron era" of the 19th Century.
Some examples of the new corporate populism:
-- Dirty Air:  A "polluter paradise" rider orders the Environmental Protection Agency to stop all work updating clean air standards for smog, soot and other pollution sources in places where "background" levels of that pollution are occasionally higher than what's needed to protect public health.
-- Cementing Pollution:  A "concrete memorial" or "this boy's life" rider blocks EPA health protections designed to control smog, soot, mercury and other toxic pollutants emitted by cement plants.  A companion rider blocks the EPA from factoring in the best scientific/medical information to update clean air standards for "coarse particle pollution," e.g. soot.
-- Mercury Contamination:  A Republican rider denies EPA money to enforce the Clean Air Act's forthcoming Mercury and Air Toxics standards from power plants and recently finalized Cross-State Air Pollution rules. ( A chlorine plant put mercury into Bellingham Bay in the 1970's.)
-- Blowing Up Mountains:  Republicans from Appalachia have written a rider that would block EPA review of mining that blows the tops off mountains (and contaminates nearby streams), or revising Bush-era rules that opened up streams to receive tailings and dirt from blown-up mountaintops.
-- Timber Industry Relief:  A rider sponsored by Washington GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler would amend the Clean Water Act, creating a loophole that exempts the timber industry from having to get pollutant discharge permits for silvicultural activites.
-- Manure in Water:  A GOP rider would stop the EPA from using its money -- cut $1.7 billion in the appropriations bill -- to implement, administer or enforce new water quality standards limiting manure, fertilzer and sewage flowing into Florida's fresh waters.
-- Uranium and the Grand Canyon:  A rider would open federal lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park to extensive uranium mining, potentially contaminating a crown jewel of the National Park system and key Southwest waterway.
Of course, some lawmakers in the party of Theodore Roosevelt would go even further.  A GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., would abolish the EPA.  She calls it the "job destroying agency" and has had kind words for carbon in the atmosphere.
The House GOP strategy appears to be a variation of the old throw-spaghetti-against-the-wall approach.  They will load up the appropriations bill with extreme provisions before sending it to the U.S. Senate, hoping a good chunk of the odious stuff survives.  President Obama would have the choice of signing a deeply flawed bill into law, or having the federal government run out of money. 
With the debt ceiling crisis, maneuvering by anti-environment extremists in the House is getting almost no attention from the press.  They are picking up momentum in a bid to dismantle a heritage of environmental protection that dates back to President Nixon (and his two ex-Seattlite aides John Ehrlichman and Bud Krogh) and Washington Sen. Henry Jackson.
But this is the backstage cut-and-thrust of government:  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is reaping a handsome return on its massive investment in the 2010 elections.  The Koch brothers' vehicle, Americans for Prosperity, can point to the big bucks that helped elect Rep. Herrera Beutler.
A final question:  Where is "Big Green," the potent environmental lobby and grass roots effort that thwarted Interior Secretary James Watt in the Reagan administration, and blocked Tom "The Hammer" DeLay during the Gingrich Congress?
Recently, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $50 million to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, designed to shut down America's most pollution power plants.
With the appropriations bill loaded up with Big Coal riders, haven't heard a peep from the club or received any kind of white paper on pending dark deeds. (The NW Sierra Club office will probably send out a press release 20-24 hours after the House takes final action.)
A lesson here:  Don't get too wound up in the insular teapot politics of Seattle when the Tea Party and its corporate masters are restoring the ability of power plants, refineries, factories and mega-farms to pollute at will.


Water district steps up push to save Orlando-area springs, lakes
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
July 28, 2011
SANFORD — Focusing on the plight of springs that feed the Wekiva River and some of the best-known lakes in theOrlando area, authorities on Thursday renewed a crackdown on excessive pumping from the region's main source of water, the Floridan Aquifer.
St. Johns River Water Management District officials called on local utilities to cooperate in lessening their pumping in order to replenish the shriveled Starbuck, Palm and Sanlando springs west of Interstate 4 in Seminole County and Sylvan Lake near the Heathrow community.
District officials also said Prevatt Lake in Wekiwa Springs State Park and the nearby Lake Brantley, which is ringed by homes, are in danger of suffering from drawdowns that harm fish, wildlife and plants.
Until now, the agency had pursued a general strategy of warning that in 2013 it would cap Central Florida's pumping of hundreds of millions of gallons a day from the aquifer to prevent environmental harm to any of the dozens of interconnected springs, streams and lakes.
By shifting to focus on specific water bodies, with some in people's backyards, the agency hopes to enlist utilities, environmental groups, agricultural associations, homeowner associations and even individual waterfront residents to cooperate on solutions rather than lay blame and file lawsuits.
But as the agency introduced the concept during a public meeting inSanford, where officials laid out an "aggressive" 18-month timeline, some utility representatives were at a loss to describe the difficulty of challenges ahead.
"Obviously this has a whole different feel to it," said Bill Marcous, support manager for Sanford's water utility.
Ultimately, the exercise will boil down to identifying how responsible each utility is for restoring spring flows and lake levels — by bolstering conservation requirements for customers to constructing regional water plants that tap river or ocean waters and may cost as much as $1 billion.
Recognizing how touchy utilities are likely to be over sharing responsibility for the health of a spring not even in their service area, district officials said their top priority is to make sure discussions and calculations are "equitable."
"People can be very, very parochial about this," said Rob Teegarden, an Orlando Utilities Commission vice president for water.
The water district has a history of pressuring Central Florida utilities to lessen their pumping from the Floridan Aquifer by turning to rivers, lakes and even the Atlantic Ocean. But separate campaigns to make that happen in Orange, Seminole and Volusia collapsed in the past decade after years of talks among local utility managers.
The new initiative by the water district comes during a time of much turmoil. Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature slashed tax revenues earlier this year for water districts by more than 25 percent.
Though not directly related, a current effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set pollution limits for Florida waters has resulted in a fierce push-back from industries and local governments.
In that anti-government and anti-regulation atmosphere, the St. Johns River Water Management District is trying to make the case that springs and lakes need protection even though a sluggish economy has reduced Central Florida's demand for water, at least for now.
"It's not hypothetical," said Tom Bartol, director of the district's water-supply management. "We don't have to wait until we see serious harm."
The district, launching similar efforts for water bodies in south Lake and west Orange counties and in Volusia County, will rely on a state law that regulates "minimum flows and levels" in springs, rivers and lakes.
MFL standards require that — for the health of fish, plants and wildlife — waters remain high enough, and even flood occasionally, and not drop too low or too often.
District officials warned the science behind the law isn't easy to understand.
"The more you know, the more you realize you don't know," said Jennifer Gihring, a district water-supply program manager.
Further complicating the district's efforts are questions about changes in climate, resulting in less rainfall, and extensive construction in the region, which has lessened the amount of rainfall that soaks into the ground to the Floridan Aquifer.
The ultimate goal is to figure out what utilities should do about declines in Prevatt Lake, for example, where an Orlando Sentinel photographer on Thursday waded through grass and weeds growing on the lake bed but could not find water.
"Getting there is going to be a difficult process," OUC's Teegarden said.


'Wind farm' gets boost Thursday, despite potential threat to birds flying through Everglades
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 28, 2011
Plans to build a "wind farm" that risks putting towering wind turbines in the migration paths of birds flying through South Florida moved a step closer to approval on Thursday.
Palm Beach County commissioners on Thursday approved changing development rules in order to better accommodate the 500-foot towers with rotating arms that catch the wind in order to generate power.
The final vote on the alternative energy development guidelines is Aug. 29.
The wind turbines create an environmental conundrum for some because of a proposal to erect a wind farm on agricultural land that was once part of the Everglades.
Putting wind turbines in the Everglades Agricultural Area threatens to create hazards for endangered and migrating birds the frequent the wide-open spaces south of Lake Okeechobee, according to representatives of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society.
While many environmentalists support alternatives to the polluting practice of burning fossil fuels to generate energy, they say putting wind turbines on the farmland in western Palm Beach County could pose too great a risk for eagles, wood storks and the Everglades snail kite.
In addition to the spinning blades, the blinking lights on top of the towers could prove too great a distraction to passing birds, said Drew Martin, of the Sierra Club.
“They will be drawn (to the towers), they will circle these and they will die,” Martin said.
Looming in the background of the County Commission's decision Thursday was a still-pending proposal from the Missouri-based Wind Capital Group to build 80 wind turbines spread across 16,000 acres of sugar cane land near Belle Glade.
The wind turbines’ large rotating blades can spin nearly 200 mph, with each tower potentially generating enough energy to power 400 homes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a July 1 letter to the company called for a more thorough analysis of potential wildlife threats from the wind farm. The federal regulators said that bird “collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resulting in the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population.”
George Gentile, the consultant who represents the wind farm proposal from the Wind Capital Group, called the federal concerns and environmentalists’ objections premature. He said a year-long review would determine the risk to birds and other wildlife.


Collins, Scott no friend to Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post – Letter by Mary Barley
July 27, 2011
It should surprise no one to see former South Florida Water Management District Governing Board member Mike Collins rush to the defense of Big Sugar and other polluters ("With Scott, Everglades restoration back on track," letter to the editor). He now works for them.
Mr. Collins oddly asserts that former Gov. Charlie Crist's policies somehow brought the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) "to a standstill." In fact, the opposite is true. Over the past three years, as a result of Mr. Crist's leadership and bipartisan support in Washington, there has been a surge in the construction of CERP projects that will protect the Everglades and our water supply.
Even more bizarre is Mr. Collins' defense of Gov. Scott's alarming environmental policies. Before he could even move his furniture into the Capitol, the new governor sued the Environmental Protection Agency to allow polluters more latitude to dump sewage, animal waste and fertilizer into our lakes, rivers and streams. Only weeks later, Gov. Scott gutted state laws designed to shield taxpayers from expenses for unchecked development and sprawl. In a move that was nothing short of insulting to our state's fishermen, hotel owners and other small businesses who suffered deep financial losses as a result of the BP oil spill, the governor recently scuttled a state lawsuit that would have recovered from BP hundreds of millions - perhaps billions - of dollars owed to Florida taxpayers.
Topping it all off, Gov. Scott's budget proposed cuts so deep in Everglades restoration funding that even the conservative Republican leadership of our state Legislature felt compelled to restore a portion of the much-needed money to keep water supply and Everglades projects moving forward.
While it is public record that Mr. Collins has applied for reappointment by Gov. Scott to a board position at the water management district, his shameless pandering and transparent defense of the governor's policies is a glaring reminder why he should never again be trusted to oversee the protection of our natural resources or the water supply for nearly 8 million Floridians.
MARY BARLEY, Islamorada - President of the Everglades Trust.

The EPA had to act -
Judge Gold
- and it acted
cautiously, professionally, and
extremely appropriately.

Facts & Fiction: Numeric nutrient criteria and water quality - Guest commentary by Rae Ann WESSEL, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director
July 27, 2011
Residents and businesses in Southwest Florida know the truth about nutrient pollution first hand. We live with the truth in our backyards. Devastating and ongoing algae blooms impact our livelihoods, our use and enjoyment of area waters, our properties, businesses and the natural resources that are the engine of our local economy.
The serious and persistent algae blooms that continue to affect Southwest Florida — and other areas of the state — are the direct result of too much nutrient enrichment of our region's waters. Simply put, nitrogen and phosphorus levels are way beyond what the natural system can absorb. Southwest Florida is not alone, the problems of nutrient enrichment reach all corners of our state and nation, impacting some of our most unique and precious resources.
This is why the current effort to establish standards for nutrients is so important. Decades ago, regulations were developed to address many aspects of water quality. Unfortunately in Florida, the regulation of nutrients has been ineffectual since no numeric standard of harm was established to measure nutrient enrichment. Instead, Florida adopted a subjective, narrative standard of “healthy well-balanced systems” which has no scientific method of measurement. My definition of "healthy well-balanced" may not be the same as someone who is contributing significant nutrient pollution.
In fact, under the current definition we have seen the degradation of local waters that in the 1980s were such unique and special resources they were awarded the status of Outstanding Florida Waters (OFW). Today, these same waters are impaired by nutrient pollution that affects water quality and the amount and quality of the habitats upon which our unique aquatic life forms depend.
After years of deteriorating water quality and ten years of inaction by our State water quality agency, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a numeric standard for nutrients in Florida called the Numeric Nutrient Criteria. This first set of standards for lakes and streams has become a tug of war between the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Federal EPA and is being hotly debated.
Last week, a group of industry groups submitted an opinion to The Florida Independent news misrepresenting the scientific facts, including the suggestion that Caloosahatchee algae blooms are not due to nutrient pollution but are the result of this year’s drought! The industry opinion can be read on our website:
In the interest of clarifying the facts associated with our water quality conditions and the need for numeric nutrient criteria we provide a few facts to address statements made ("Decipher Facts from Scare Tactics' in EPA NNC Decision", Sunshine News, July 15, 2011) to set the record straight.

Industry statement: “The [Caloosahatchee] algae bloom was a result of the lack of freshwater flow to the Caloosahatchee River due to the historic drought in South Florida.”
Fact: Nutrients are needed for algae to grow. Lack of water flow concentrated the nutrient soup compounding the problem, but the bloom would not have occurred had there not been noxious levels of nutrients in the water to begin with.

Industry statement: Unsurprisingly, water quality is improving.
Fact: Improving water quality from a toxic condition to a less dangerous condition must not be confused with clean, healthy, fishable, swimmable water quality — the standard that numeric nutrient criteria are designed to establish. Rain washing algae downstream merely moves the nutrients downstream to our coastal waters where they will continue to pollute, preventing fishable, swimmable waters.

Industry statement: Mr. Guest’s letter failed to mention that the Caloosahatchee River already has an EPA-approved numeric nutrient pollution limit.
Fact: The Caloosahatchee has two basic components: the downstream tidal Caloosahatchee and the upstream (east of Franklin Lock) freshwater Caloosahatchee.
1. Only the tidal Caloosahatchee has an established TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load; that establishes a limit for nitrogen pollution). The majority of the river, including all the freshwater portion of the river and upstream tributaries that flow into the tidal waters are not covered by the TMDL.
2. The tidal TMDL only establishes a limit for nitrogen, not phosphorus. Unfortunately the toxic bluegreen algae that has plagued the Caloosahatchee for the past eight weeks blooms on phosphorus and can obtain the nitrogen it needs out of the air — which contains 78 percent nitrogen. There is no TMDL for phosphorus in the Caloosahatchee so even if the nitrogen TMDL limits were magically met tomorrow the algae could continue to bloom.

Industry statement: The state law requires a 22.8 percent reduction in nitrogen loads to Tidal Caloosahatchee estuary downstream of the S-79 Franklin Lock and sets a numeric nutrient limit of 9,086,094 pounds of Total Nitrogen per year.
1.  The Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan  completed by the SFWMD in 2009 identified the downstream tidal portion of  the river as contributing only 29 % of the nitrogen pollution.  The upstream, freshwater portion of the river responsible for  71% of nitrogen pollution is not covered by the TMDL.
2.  The same plan identified the tidal Caloosahatchee as responsible for 41% of the phosphorus pollution, but there is no TMDL for phosphorus. 
3.  Unfortunately the toxic bluegreen algae that has plagued the Caloosahatchee for the past eight weeks needs only phosphorus to bloom, it can obtain the nitrogen it needs out of the air. So even if the nitrogen TMDL limits were magically met tomorrow, the toxic algae could still continue to bloom.
4.  The process of determining the sources of pollution and assigning  responsibility  for  cleaning them up is established in the next step called a Basin Management Action Plan or BMAP.   It has been 2 years and we still do not have an implementation plan for cleaning up the Caloosahatchee.  
5.  In fact, DEPs current modeling attributes just 38% of the nitrogen pollution to human activities and  62%  of the nitrogen pollution to  undeveloped natural areas, forests and wetlands.  If this were even plausible, waters would have been polluted before any human development added its minor contribution.

Industry statement: We are confident that as the full story of Florida’s nutrient water-quality-control programs continue to unfold, it will become increasingly apparent that EPA’s flawed numeric nutrient criteria rules are not needed, and the state of Florida is best situated to manage its own waters.
Fact: Under the State  oversight and “unfolding” program, water quality has plummeted across the state.  What is increasingly apparent is that the State has been unable to come up with a plan in the 10 years since EPA mandated they develop numeric standards.  We are now out of time and the EPA standards are scientifically based and structured to allow the state to achieve them over time.

The devil is always in the details… and in the scientific facts. We need numeric nutrient criteria and we need them now. We must not allow inertia and fear to prevent science from moving us to clean, healthy, fishable, swimmable waters for ourselves and the generations to come.


Reclaimed water – by Frank S. Rossi
July 27, 2011
Using wastewater can be a solution for areas hit by droughts.
The recurrent droughts experienced through the United States each year have given the turf industry pause. Watershed commissions that cross state lines, water management districts that determine water needs and municipal water suppliers continue to question the use of potable water for recreational (read: non-essential) use.
The Northeast Climate Center reported that 2010 in the Northeastern U.S. was the driest in recorded history. The Southeast U.S. is in the throws of the most significant drought in the last 100 years. The Florida turf industry may soon be facing phased-in restrictions that will allow watering of lawns once per week or not at all.
With less than 1 percent of the world’s water available for human consumption and 80 percent of the fresh water consumed for agriculture, concern is growing in the industry on water used for maintaining greenspace.
Wastewater lawns. With population growth and the demand for potable water expect to increase, the turfgrass industry can no longer take a passive approach to water use issues. The Western U.S. receives only one-third of the nation’s rainfall, yet uses 80-85 percent of the nation’s fresh water.
Effluent wastewater can be delivered following primary, secondary or tertiary treatment at a wastewater treatment facility. Primary treatment mechanically removes the majority of the solid waste with screens, grinders and settling tanks.
While primary treatment involves mechanical removal of solids, secondary treatment engages biological processes to remove the majority of the remaining solids.
Secondary treatment may also involve chlorinating prior to discharge. Water for turf and landscape uses must be at least experienced secondary treatment.
Several processes may follow secondary treatment and include using chemicals to flocculate remaining solids, then through more sediment removal and various methods of filtration.
A reverse osmosis process or chlorinating can occur prior to release, producing highly purified water.
In the end, the water will likely contain a variety of nutrients (from the waste), metals (from the flocculation) and salts (from the purification) that will require careful management to minimize their impact on turf quality.
Interestingly, real estate developments are constructing their own wastewater or desalinization treatment facilities.
Several Audubon International Signature Properties are leading the way with small facilities that utilize ultra filtration and biological reactors to treat wastewater before reusing.
Estimates are that the $500,000 price tag can be recovered in a few years based on the increasing cost and restriction placed on irrigation water is South Florida.
Increased awareness.  Lawns managed with effluent water must realize that quality can be variable and will always have a variety of “contaminants” that will require specific management practices.
Professors Bob Carrow and Ronny Duncan from the University of Georgia authored “Salt Affected Turfgrass Sites” in an effort to bring together the best thinking on managing turfgrass with poor quality water. The title of the Carrow and Duncan book clearly identifies the major challenge with effluent irrigation water – high salt content. But it is not the only issue.
The major agronomic and environmental issues suggest that the first step to using effluent water is to establish a regular monitoring program.
Salty turf.  In a presentation at the 2010 Florida Turfgrass Conference, Carrow stated that “The three most important aspects of managing high salt content irrigation water is leaching, leaching, leaching.”
This is not simply a matter of copious amounts of water that keep salts moving downward, the you must know the type of salt that must be leached, rainfall amounts, turf species tolerance range and time of year.
Sodium salt can have a direct influence on plant growth in a manner similar to how dog urine burns leaf tissue (although dog urine is a different salt).
However, while the direct burn from high salt content irrigation water is rare, high sodium content soils often produce plants that have restricted rooting and develop drought stress symptoms. Depending on the water source and rainfall pattern, the long-term effects of sodium on soils is well documented.
As sodium content increases in the soil, the vital process of aggregation is disrupted. Sodium molecules absorb large amounts of water and swell.
The swelling prohibits silt and clay particles from making larger aggregates that offer a variety of pore spaces for water and nutrients.
Where to now ?  Most landscape managers, especially in areas with adequate rainfall take their high quality irrigation water for granted.
If the population continues to grow, the leadership effort by the turf industry in using effluent water could be viewed as facilitating “smart growth.” In other words, communities will need landscapes as outlets for societies waste, whether it is water or compost. L&L
The author is an associate professor at CornellUniversity.


Young stands up for environment – Everglades – Letter by Kirk Fordham (Everglades Foundation)
July 27, 2011
Response to: Young's quiet vote for clean water (July 16, 2011)
In this era of hyperpartisanship, it is rare to see a politician put the people's interest ahead of powerful lobbyists and political donors. One notable exception: U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. In recent months, there have been repeated attempts by the biggest polluters to gut the laws protecting our state's beaches, lakes, rivers and streams. On several occasions, Young has stood up against these misguided attempts to allow polluters to dump sewage, cow manure and pesticides into our waterways.
On Everglades restoration, he recently shepherded to passage legislation that will complete the final phase of bridging along a 5 1/2-mile stretch of Tamiami Trail that prevents freshwater from flowing into the parched Everglades National Park. By elevating the road, this critical restoration project will remove a man-made dam, restoring the natural water flow into one of our greatest national parks. This much-needed water will replenish the fisheries of Florida Bay and the Keys, providing significant benefits to our state's multibillion-dollar boating, recreational and commercial fishing industries.
Young's leadership will help protect the hundreds of thousands of Florida jobs that depend on clean waterways, pristine beaches and a vibrant and healthy Everglades. Furthermore, he understands the Everglades provides the daily supply of fresh water for one in three Floridians.
While many others in our state's congressional delegation sided with the polluters, Young chose to protect our quality of life. And for that, we should all be grateful.
Kirk Fordham, CEO, Everglades Foundation, Palmetto Bay


Algae still in bloom in Collier waters
July 26, 2011
 Test results released Tuesday show the algae bloom is still high in Collier County, and a new type of bloom has also been added to the results.
Takayama Tuberculata, which was blamed last week for a fish kill, dark water and hundreds of fish and other sea creatures swimming along the shoreline, is still blooming. Water samples taken from the Collier County shoreline again this week also show a bloom of a diatom called Nitzschia closterium.
“There does continue to be a bloom in Collier County. The bloom is from Barefoot Beach to the Naples Pier,” said Wendy Quigley, spokeswoman from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Quigley did not know if the bloom levels were higher, lower or the same as last week.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s better or not, but it is at bloom conditions,” Quigley said. “There is still an ongoing bloom in that area.”
Takayama Tuberculata is not toxic like red tide. Instead, it sucks oxygen out of the water and causes some sea creatures to die and others to head toward more oxygenated water.
Collier County beaches are no longer littered with fish, and the huge number of creatures swimming along the shoreline is gone.
But there are still signs of trouble.
“One of the sea turtle monitors said the water was still dark and dead fish were still washing up on the beach,” said Rhonda Watkins, principal environmental specialist for Collier County. Watkins said the county plans to continue to take weekly water samples.
Quigley said the state also plans to do some offshore water sampling later this week.


NRC Closed Session Summary
(Posted Aug.2/11)

Day two of water pollution meeting again highlights major cost discrepencies
EPA-NNC economics examined
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 26, 2011
The National Academies’ National Research Council met yesterday in Orlando to examine the implementation of a set of water pollution standards. The conference mostly dealt with the science behind the proposed rule, but discussions between various stakeholders made clear that the projected costs remain unclear. Today’s meeting featured of a series of presentations by those stakeholders, all of whom gave their own estimates of how much the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria may cost Florida businesses.
Overall, every major stakeholder — from the agriculture industry to electric utilities — has projected costs to be much higher than the agency that created the rules, which limit the amount of waste allowed to be dumped in Florida waters.
Richard Budell, of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said that his agency feels that the EPA is “lowballing” its estimates, which range from $135 to $236 million annually. ”Our numbers are so much larger than the EPA’s because of uncertainty,” said Buddell. “There is no detailed information in the proposed or final draft [about] implementation.”
The department has estimated that costs could be around $1.6 billion just for agricultural land uses alone. As Budell pointed out in his presentation, though, the department included forestry and additional impacts in its study. (For example, the department assumed in some cases that costs would be so significant that they would shut down the production of entire farms, thereby causing “trickle-down” effects to landowners in the state.)
Representing the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, Paul Steinbrecher touted estimates in the billions.
The council, which is comprised of utility heads from across the state (Steinbrecher himself works for JEA, the eighth largest utility company in the country) hired Carollo Engineers to determine a cost estimate. “We asked them to bias the estimates toward the low end,” said Steinbrecher. “We didn’t want inflated numbers.”
Carollo’s conclusion was that the capital costs of implementing the pollution standards would be between $24 and $50 billion, and would cost Florida residences on average $700 per year on their utility bills.
The Florida phosphate industry, likely to be one of the most impacted by the implementation of water quality standards, was also represented at Tuesday’s meeting. ENVIRON was tasked with developing cost estimates for the state’s phosphate industry and, unsurprisingly, the estimates were quite high.  According to ENVIRON, statewide compliance with the nutrient criteria is estimated to require $1.6 billion in capital costs and $59 million in annual operating and maintenance expenses.
The pulp and paper industry, also represented at the meeting, projects capital costs to be more than $288 million, with an annual cost of $169 million. Like the other industries represented, pulp and paper representative Ron Stewart described the criteria as “lengthy,” “costly” and “uncertain” and said that the EPA excluded information from its analysis. Sewart also remarked that he feels the EPA is “playing dirty” by waiting to release numbers for estuaries and salt-waters. (This week’s meetings only concerned the rules for inland waters.)
For a full view of the economic projections of various industries, take a look at this chart (.pdf).

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Meeting (August 2, 2001):

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the meeting:
Glen Daigger, Otto Doering, Len Shabman, Allen Davis, Bill Easter, Wendy Graham, Arturo Keller, David Mulla, Kevin Sherman, Kurt Stephenson, Mike Tate, Alan Vicory, LaJuana Wilcher.
The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:
The committee was introduced to the NRC and its study process, discussed the roles and responsibilities of the committee members and staff, held its bias and conflict of interest discussion, and discussed possible areas of focus for their report. The committee also discussed plans for its next meeting in October 2011.
The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:
Date of posting of Closed Session Summary: August 2, 2011

Most of Keys may be lost to sea by 2100
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 26, 2011
Pollution, climate change to bring rise in ocean, alter coast, study says
South Florida can't afford to ignore growing dangers from pollution-fueled climate change, according to new findings from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Rising seas, more flooding from storm surge and saltwater seeping in and fouling drinking water supplies are among the looming threats from climate-altering pollution, according to the environmental group's nationwide review released Tuesday.
South Florida, and Miami in particular, is one of the most vulnerable parts of the country, and local governments need to play a larger role in dealing with the damaging effects of climate change, according to the NRDC.
"Ideological deniers of climate change debate facts, [but] cities don't have that luxury," said Dan Lashoff, director of the NRDC's climate center. "Plan, prepare and act. The sooner the better."
What causes climate change ?
Manmade air pollution adds to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere that trap heat from the sun.
Increased levels of greenhouse gases are leading to higher temperatures, melting ice sheets and swelling oceans, resulting in rising sea levels.
What are the potential local effects of climate change ?
The South Florida Water Management District estimates that sea levels could climb 5 to 20 inches during the next 50 years.
The NRDC report warns of a larger sea level threat for Miami — a 1.5- to 2.3-foot sea-level increase by 2050 and 3 to 5 feet by 2100.
The projections are more severe for the Florida Keys, which could lose more than 90 percent of land area to rising seas by 2100.
Across the region, water managers already have identified 28 flood-control structures along the southeast coast and six along the west coast at risk of not working properly because of rising sea levels.
What is being done locally to address climate change ?
Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to find ways to reduce pollution and adapt to the changes that climate change brings. The county leaders are working with university scientists to try to reach consensus on regional sea level-rise projections to help plan for how to deal with rising water.
The South Florida Water Management District is continuing to "evaluate the potential implications of sea level rise," according to a statement released Tuesday in response to the NRDC report
What are hurdles to addressing climate change ?
Cost remains a hurdle.
Developing alternative energies to fossil fuels, improving coastal flood-control structures and relocating other infrastructure that could be inundated by rising seas — such as roads, water plants and even nuclear plants — all comes with steep costs.
"Consider the costs of not acting," said Michelle Mehta, the lead author for the NRDC climate change report.


New Report Identifies How Impacts of Climate Change to Water Supplies & Waterways Will Affect U.S. Cities - NRDC
July 26, 2011 14:34 ET
In Record Year for Storms and Drought, Provides a Resource for Cities Nationwide Preparing for Sea Level Rise, Increased Rain, Flooding, Drought and Drinking Water Impacts.
WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Jul 26, 2011) - As the nation grapples with a record year for storms, drought and weather-related devastation, a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals climate change is leaving American cities open to a range of water-related vulnerabilities -- from drought to sea level rise and increased rainfall -- regardless of region or size. The report looks at how communities facing these new extremes are trying to protect their water supplies and waterways.
"This report makes clear that some of the first, most profound and far-reaching impacts of climate change are water-related, affecting the water we drink, fish, and swim in," said Michelle Mehta, an attorney for NRDC's Water Program and a principal author of the report. "In the future, we can expect increased violent storms, drought and rising seas, so communities nationwide, regardless of size, should get plans up and running to reduce their unique vulnerabilities and prepare for impacts."
The report, "Thirsty for Answers: Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities," found that climate change will impact water supplies and waterways in communities across the country, with geography often determining the specific effects. For the first time, this peer-reviewed report has compiled the results of more than 75 scientific studies, data generated by government agencies, and information gathered by other nonprofit organizations to analyze how the impacts of climate change on water supplies and waterways could affect 12 target cities:
Boston, Massachusetts
Chicago, Illinois
Homer, Alaska
Los Angeles, California
Miami, Florida, and the Florida Keys
New Orleans, Louisiana
New York, New York
Norfolk, Virginia
Phoenix, Arizona
San Francisco, California
Seattle, Washington
St. Louis, Missouri
The report provides a snapshot of projected climate change impacts in regions across the country: Rising sea levels threaten vital infrastructure and saltwater intrusion to freshwater supplies in cities on the East, West and Gulf Coasts. Severe storms in the Midwest and East Coast are likely to become more intense and more frequent, causing floods and erosion, and threatening drinking water quality. In the West, a combination of increased temperatures, decreased precipitation and less snowpack contributes to a future shortage of water supply for people and aquatic life. More specifically scientific studies reveal a range of possible impacts under various carbon emission scenarios:
Rising Seas: Coastal cities examined in the report, such as Miami, Norfolk, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are threatened by flooding and storm surges due to rising sea levels. For example, data show the very existence of the Florida Keys is at stake, with 38 percent at risk of inundation in the most optimistic scenario. Conservative projections also suggests the California coast could see a 12- to 18-inch rise in sea levels and the coastline of Seattle a 3- to 22-inch rise relative to levels recorded in 2000.
Saltwater intrusion also could become more common in coastal communities as a result of this sea level rise, threatening freshwater supplies, according to data compiled. In New York City, for example, saltwater is expected to journey farther up the Hudson and Delaware Rivers during high tides, two of the region's major sources for freshwater supply. Also, the salinity problem already facing California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is likely to increase, threatening the quality and reliability of the freshwater supply used by millions of Californians for drinking water as well as the region's heavy agriculture industry.
Increased Storms and Flooding: Research finds the Midwest is expected to experience more frequent and intense storms, contributing to the type of recent heavy flooding along the Mississippi River. The frequency of very heavy rainfall in Chicago, for example, is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 30 years, which without infrastructural improvements is likely to increase the number of combined sewer overflows (CSO) that send untreated sewage and storm water into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
Increased rainfall along the Atlantic is predicted to cause significant flooding as a result of tropical storms and nor'easters. In New York City, 100-year floods could occur every 30 to 55 years by 2050. Such flooding increases the risk of damage to vital low-lying infrastructure in New York, as well as critical naval and civilian ports in Norfolk. Heavier rainfall in the Midwest is likely to cause increased stream flows due in part to saturated soils, threatening levees in cities like St. Louis.
A Drier West: The report describes rising temperatures, less rainfall and decreased snowpack in the U.S. West. As a result, without proper management, water supplies could be seriously threatened in regions such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix. Slight temperature changes could cause irregular stream flow patterns and lead to unseasonal snowpack melt outside of the dry season when the runoff is most needed, the data revealed. For example, the loss of spring snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range is highly likely, and a worst case scenario estimates stream flows in Southern California decreasing by as much as 41 percent.
Warmer air also could cause precipitation to fall as rain in areas where it traditionally has fallen as snow, such as in watersheds that supply the populations of Seattle and Phoenix, causing decreases and even disappearance of snowpack. Such a scenario would pose serious challenges for local water supply managers, particularly during the summer months, as they attempt to balance human demand for water with needs for water supplies for hydroelectricity and wildlife habitats.
Decreased Water Quality: Data cited in the report point to the many negative effects rising carbon dioxide concentrations are having on water quality. For example, higher dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations, warmer water, and increased runoff could cause increased occurrences of harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay and around Seattle. The blooms can result in fish kills and cause shellfish to become contaminated with potent natural toxins, causing illness in humans who consume them.
Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and warmer waters are detrimental to the health of the coral reefs off the coast of Miami and the Florida Keys, and acidification of the waters in Puget Sound near Seattle threatens shellfish, a vital contributor to the local economy.
The compiled local data are cause for concern, and the report describes various steps these cities are taking to become more resilient to the effects of climate change, providing examples of steps that communities across the country should consider. These include:
Chicago has developed a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The plan includes steps to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to already-occurring changes in climate, while calling for improved policies on the local, state and federal levels.
New York City has launched the Climate Change Adaption Task Force and the New York Panel on Climate Change to develop strategies to secure the city's infrastructure in the event of floods or sea level rise.
San Francisco, Seattle and Phoenix have taken steps to prepare for water shortages. Seattle Public Utilities has identified a series of system modifications and supply options based on research conducted by the University of Washington. It also plans to save 15 million gallons of water a day by 2030.
Miami is working with surrounding communities to develop a strategy to prepare for rising sea levels. Four counties are working together as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to coordinate policy positions, scientific research and adaption efforts that ultimately will lead to a regional action plan.
Norfolk has hired an outside consultant to conduct a flood vulnerability assessment. The firm has developed a flood forecast model that estimates flood depths based on tide elevation data. The model will allow the city to assess costs related to flood mitigation strategies, and apply the assessment to a long-term flood plan that prioritizes funding and the implementation of flood improvement projects.
"It is encouraging that many communities are taking measures to reduce damage to their local water supplies and waterways from the impacts of climate change," said Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney with NRDC. "The good news is that many actions that will make cities more resilient in an era of climate change, ranging from using water wisely to greening city streets, have a whole range of additional benefits, making them no regrets approaches."
The report's focus cities were chosen for their population concentrations and geographic diversity. Additionally, the scientific community has studied local and regional impacts of climate change in many of these communities, which provided more data from which to draw conclusions.
The complete report is available online from NRDC at:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at


Protect Florida's water
Orlando Sentinel
July 26, 2011
New federal regulations aren't the enemy - the state's intransigence is.
Last year's hysterical reaction from opponents of tougher federal clean-water rules was, unfortunately, only the beginning.
Since the Associated Industries of Florida's Barney Bishop hammered "radical left-wingers" for daring to impose new regulations that would strap businesses, we've seen a lawsuit from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
The pair sued those awful left-wingers running the Environmental Protection Agency for imposing what will be new limits on how much phosphorus and nitrogen can get into waterways from sewage plants, industry and other sources.
Central Florida's John Mica got into the act, too, introducing legislation in Congress that would blunt the EPA's ability to toughen Florida's ineffective water-pollution limits. The EPA's "almost unprecedented power grab" would create a "regulatory nightmare," Mica gasped on the floor of the U.S. House.
Central Florida's Sandy Adams injected her trademark hyperbole. The congresswoman tied the EPA's coming rules to clean Florida's waterways to an imagined plot by President Obama to undermine anti-pollution efforts. And her office said the new EPA rules "would effectively kill job creation throughout Florida."
Fortunately, Mica's bill won't make it to a vote in the Senate, which appreciates that the EPA should have the ability to draft and enforce rules making states comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
And, fortunately, the nonprofit National Research Council, which is holding meetings this week in Orlando, is continuing its months-long, deliberate study of what kind of financial burden the EPA's tougher water standards would truly impose on the state.
Make no mistake, Florida needs these new standards. A near-dead Lake Apopka, a chronically sick St. Johns River and the region's many algae-bloom-filled springs cry out for them. And with the NRC scientists examining the cost of making improvements to sewage plants, stormwater systems and septic systems, we expect they'll show that the financial burden from the standards will be significantly less than the $1,000 per year per sewage customer that opponents contend. The EPA's own estimate: $11 per resident.
If the arguments against the EPA's tougher nutrient standards sound familiar, that's because they've been used over and over again by reactionary lawmakers to eviscerate sensible regulations. The anti-environment gang in Tallahassee killed state growth laws they said killed jobs. What nonsense.
Washington lawmakers dropped efforts at meaningful climate-change legislation, and this month even tried to repeal sensible regulations designed to curb the use of wasteful light bulbs.
They did so saying these regulations stifled the ability of businesses to grow. Or cost businesses too much. Or would burden the public because consumers will get saddled with the costs.
Regulations frequently carry costs. But the cost of doing nothing can be greater. The state's lax water rules have allowed pollutants to choke Florida's waterways, lower property values and threaten the state's ability to draw tourists.
Opponents of the new EPA water rules also need to turn down their rhetoric if only for this reason: The EPA's new rules aren't one size fits all. The agency will let businesses and communities propose alternative standards if they can demonstrate that those alternatives would effectively protect the water.
The EPA wants Florida to clean its waterways without submerging its businesses. That's something anyone who calls Florida home also should want.


South Florida's lack of water storage leaves billions of gallons draining out to sea during drought
(Water storage problematic for South Florida Water Management District )
Sun Sentinel, ( – by Andy Reid
July 25 and 26, 2011
Dumping billions of gallons of water out to sea in the midst of a lingering drought is South Florida's water-supply irony.
Drought concerns quickly can become flooding scares in the course of a summer afternoon downpour because there's not enough water storage in crowded South Florida
About 10 billion gallons of stormwater was drained into the ocean from local flood-control canals during the first two weeks of July, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
That's more than 600 million gallons a day washing away, right on the heels of the driest October-to-June on record.
With emergency landscape watering restrictions still in place, enough stormwater was drained into the ocean during the first half of July to fill more than 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
South Florida's 2,000 miles of drainage canals and levees were created to protect neighborhoods and farms sitting on what used to be the Everglades from flooding. They are not so good at saving water long-term.
Adding to the problem, proposed reservoirs remain delayed, unfinished or plagued by problems, hampering South Florida's ability to hold onto more water. And there's not enough money — or in some cases, political commitment — to finish them.
"We are trying to retain as much [water] as we can," said Susan Sylvester, district director of operations controls. "In South Florida, we go from one extreme to the other. … Water has been discharged to tide. There's no place to store it."
The farther north and west rain falls, the more water storage options are available for the South Florida Water Management District.
Lake Okeechobee as well as the Everglades water conservation areas — which stretch across western Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — are key water storage areas that can be tapped to supplement water supplies.
But the Army Corps of Engineers during 2010, in the name of flood control, drained more than 300 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water out to sea, despite warnings that it could worsen South Florida's water supply strain during a drought.
The closer rain falls to highly-populated areas around Interstate 95, the more likely that stormwater will get drained out to sea, according to Sylvester.
With limited water storage options, environmentalists advocate tougher watering rules for homeowners and farmers alike to conserve more water. They also call for buying more western farmland to store water through Everglades restoration.
"South Florida escaped a catastrophic drought by a very thin whisker this year," said Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida's advocacy director. He said the "political clout" sugar cane growers wield at the district too often give them preference over environmental and urban water needs.
Instead of blaming agriculture, the solution to South Florida's water supply woes is speeding up the decades-long project to strengthen Lake Okeechobee's dike so more water can be stored in the lake, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"We don't have enough water to go around when everybody needs it," Miedema. "The best place to store water is the lake."
Everglades restoration plans — which call for building reservoirs and water treatment areas — are billed as the way to boost the water supply for the environment as well as agriculture and urban populations.
But Everglades restoration remains years behind schedule. Also, the water management district has a questionable track record with the reservoirs — racking up costs with limited results saving water.
That includes $280 million for a reservoir left unfinished in southwestern Palm Beach County.
While long-term water storage fixes remain far from completion, the near daily dumping of water from summertime rains continues.


State alters Everglades legal fight, tries to settle two lengthy cleanup suits
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
July 26, 2011
In the 20 years since the state settled a lawsuit over restoring the Everglades and then violated the settlement, a cottage industry of well-paid lawyers and consultants specializing in the Everglades cleanup has been arguing about who is to blame and how to get the job done.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has spent $3.8 million on private lawyers, including one who bills $585 an hour. There are years' worth of airfare, hotel and restaurant bills for attorneys from the DEP's offices in Tallahassee and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington to attend hearings in Miami, where two federal judges overseeing the cases are based. Scientists and consultants rack up fees for their research and testimony.
But now an unexpected confluence of politics, budget cuts, scandal and threats from two angry federal judges has swept the old roster clean. A new set of players - politicians, policymakers and lawyers - is privately discussing the possibility of a settlement in two controversial cases.
Talk of settlement, however, has some in the environmental community concerned that the result will be less-clean water. "What you've got is a lot of hope on the political side," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.
Draper worries that the state and district will try to use the talks to negotiate weaker water quality standards. In their minds, he said, "the honest analysis is: 'We can't meet water quality goals under the current state rules and consent decree, so let's toss the consent decree.' "
The oldest of the two lawsuits began in 1988, when the federal government sued Florida and the South Florida Water Management District for failing to enforce water quality standards in the Everglades. In 1992, water managers signed a consent decree to settle the case, agreeing to meet water quality standards by 2002.
Several years later the Miccosukee tribe reopened the case, claiming the standards had not been met. Another lawsuit followed in 2004, in which the tribe and Friends of the Everglades accused the EPA and DEP of failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.
Governor's goal
The first hint of change in the state's legal strategy came in January, when Rick Scott became governor. Scott made it known that he favored "restoration, not litigation."
In April the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Carol Wehle, suddenly retired . The district's governing board then hired Melissa Meeker, a former board member and insider at the DEP.
Meeker followed Scott's lead, pushing for "restoration, not litigation." She has even begun to use the word "settlement," but has declined to comment further.
Other new players include DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, a Scott appointee; Carolyn Ansay, the newly hired general counsel at the South Florida Water Management District; and Bernardo Roman, who began representing the tribe in May.
To further his cause, Scott recently brought in a veteran peacemaker to referee the private talks. Tallahassee attorney Christopher Kise showed up at a hearing in Miami in May.
Kise, a well-known government attorney, served as special counsel on the transition teams of both former Gov. Charlie Crist and Scott. Kise declined to comment, but insiders say Scott's decision to hire Kise shows the governor's commitment to settling the lawsuits.
Also seen in court is attorney Parker Thomson, the legendary negotiator who helped broker the state's $11.3 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1997. The DEP has agreed to pay Thomson an hourly rate of $585, along with three other lawyers from the Hogan Lovell law firm at hourly rates ranging from $333 to $517. The department has paid the firm more than $2.4 million.
However, it won't be easy to reach consensus after decades of bitter disputes, environmentalists say.
David Guest, attorney for the nonprofit environmental law firm EarthJustice, who has been involved with the cases for more than 20 years, said the chances of a settlement are "very remote." Guest also views the discussions as a veiled attempt to void the consent decree. Budget cuts have left the district unable to build additional stormwater treatment areas, which use plants to remove excessive phosphorus from Everglades water.
Phosphorus and farmers
The only other way to lower phosphorus levels is to control the source of the pollution, much of which comes from fertilizer-steeped runoff from farms. On that issue, water managers have allied themselves with growers, arguing that existing regulations, called "best management practices," are tough enough to control runoff from the farms.
Environmentalists accuse the DEP and district of kowtowing to growers, especially sugar farmers, and insist there would be less phosphorus going into the water if stricter best management practices, or BMPs, were imposed .
"Certainly the state would have to stop playing footsie with Big Sugar," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation. "It would be necessary for them to demand that the biggest polluters get serious about implementing BMPs."
Growers are equally adamant. "We do not believe that regulatory BMPs are necessary," said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative.
Growers already implement BMPs and achieve twice the phosphorus reduction currently required, Miedema said. "We believe we have stepped up to the plate and have done everything required and more."
However, Meeker is willing to put BMPs on the negotiating table.
"I think source controls are critical to anything moving forward," Meeker said, adding that she wants to discuss the technical issues with growers and environmentalists. "My goal is to make


The Interior & Environment Appropriations Bill
FCNP - by James Moran - Moran's News Commentary
July 26 2011
The House of Representatives is debating the Fiscal Year 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill on the floor this week, as party leaders work behind closed doors on the stalled debt ceiling negotiations. While the debt talks have sucked up most of the oxygen in the media, what Republicans have produced with the Interior bill is one of the worst attacks on the environment and our public lands in modern history. It deserves more attention.
With its deep cuts to important programs and amazing array of anti-environment provisions and legislative riders, this bill is not so much a spending bill as a wish list for the extraction industries. It falls far short of meeting our responsibilities to protect and wisely use the American peoples' resources on public lands.
This bill contains drastic cuts - spending levels fall billions short of what was approved just last year. The Republicans continue their assault on the EPA, an agency established under President Nixon. Already grappling with sharp budget cuts to the agency earlier this year, EPA safe drinking water programs which go directly towards providing clean water for local communities are hit even harder.
The Republican Party may tout these penny-wise, pound-foolish spending cuts in the short term, but keeping toxins out of our air and water is a great deal cheaper than cleaning up the damage or dealing with the adverse health effects that will be caused in the long run under this draconian bill.
As bad as the funding in the bill is, most distressing is the unprecedented level of extremist legislative riders, 39 in all, and funding limitations included in the legislation. It's literally a virtual dump truck of provisions for big oil and other special interest groups.
These provisions have become the new earmarks; designed to benefit specific industries. From allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon to blocking pollution controls, these provisions have nothing to do with deficit reduction and everything to do with carrying out an extreme ideological agenda.
Not only do these riders abuse the appropriations process, but they poison the legislation with contradiction. For example, the bill allocates millions of dollars to restore the Everglades in Florida, yet the majority includes a funding limitation that will allow pollution of the Everglades.
Our national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and other conservation units deserve better than what the bill provides. We have a responsibility to protect these for future generations. As stewards of these magnificent resources that were passed down to us, we must and can do better.
The debate over the debt ceiling is running against a tight deadline and should take top priority, but we owe it to our constituents and our communities to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink; to protect public health from the dangers of mercury, arsenic and lead, and to preserve the abundant natural and cultural heritage passed down to us. We are going the exact opposite of that direction with this horrendous piece of legislation.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia's 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Army Corps' Repair of Unstable Dike Critical Factor in Level of Lake Okeechobee
Sunshine News - by: Adam Putnam
July 25, 2011
All Floridians have been experiencing one of the most severe droughts in recent memory.
Statewide, the extremely dry conditions have contributed to wildfires, environmental stress, crop loss and the tragic loss of life and property. Climatic conditions for South Florida have been especially dire since last fall when rainfall accumulations between October and January were the lowest since records have been kept.
Although recent precipitation has provided some relief, the events of the past few months should remind all of us of just how vulnerable we are to the frequent swings between adequate water supply and water shortage situations. All Floridians need to realize that as our population continues to grow and our demand for water concurrently increases, that fragile balance will continue to be tested.
The water depth in Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of all of South Florida’s water supply needs, is currently at approximately 10.2 feet. Last year at this same point in time, the depth of the lake was above 14 feet. Based on current projections by the South Florida Water Management District, there is a 65 percent chance that the lake will remain in the “Water Shortage Management Band” throughout this year’s rainy season.
While the rainfall deficit has certainly played a large role in the current water shortage situation, I believe that an even larger contributing factor is the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers has been forced to lower the operational stage of the lake because of the uncertainty of the stability of the Herbert Hoover Dike. If not for the instability of the dike, water levels in the lake today would be almost 2 feet higher than they are. Still low in comparison to other years, but a dramatically better scenario than the one we face now.
I believe that repairing the dike is of critical importance to the future water supply needs of all of South Florida. If we are unable to rehabilitate the dike and return the Lake Okeechobee stage operations schedule to one that more closely reflects the schedule prior to discovering that the dike was vulnerable, then we will be in an almost constant state of water shortage for all legal water users.
It is important for all of us to recognize that our access to fresh water is not unlimited. All over Florida, from the Panhandle through the Suwannee River Basin, to the greater Orlando and Tampa Bay regions, we see evidence that our demand and use of fresh water is outpacing the natural system’s ability to provide supply.
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to conserve and protect the water supply we do have, and work together cooperatively to identify and fund the development of alternative water supplies to meet our needs into the future.
Adam Putnam is Florida's commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.


Conference on economic impact of EPA water rules kicks off in Orlando
Public meeting
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 25, 2011
Representatives from major industries (including JEA and Georgia-Pacific) and environmental groups (like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Earthjustice) gathered in Orlando early this morning to discuss a much-disputed set of federal water pollution standards and the costs associated with compliance.
The National Academies’ National Research Council was tasked with conducting an independent review of the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria, which would set pollution limits on Florida’s lakes and flowing waters. An independent, nonprofit group, the Research Council often performs third-party reviews. The group wrote the study that eventually led to the decision to ban smoking on planes.
Rather than crunching numbers, and coming out with its own estimate, the Research Council will be commenting on many of the existing analyses and exploring the costs associated with transitioning from Florida’s current standard governing waterbodies to the nutrient criteria, which will likely be much stricter.
Sara Gonzales-Rothi, legislative council for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was the first to speak during the Monday morning panels, and expressed major concerns about the wide-ranging cost estimates associated with implementing the criteria.
“The EPA estimated the price tag at $135 to $206 million, while the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services found that costs to agriculture alone could be around $1.6 billion,” she said, adding that Nelson had many questions about the criteria: Is it appropriate to assume that they will or will not require reverse osmosis? Are there technologies available for treatment or control that could lessen the economic impact? And will regional, local variations in cost be taken into affect ?
The decision to implement the criteria have triggered a fierce backlash across the state — particularly on the part of agricultural and industry interests and the lawmakers whose campaigns are fueled by those interests.
The EPA’s cost estimates pale in comparison to those performed for the industries that would the cost of cleaning up waterways: electric utilities, beef, dairy and citrus. Some of those estimates include assumptions that all septic systems would be replaced (the EPA says that many of those could be upgraded) and that every wastewater treatment plant in the state would be required to use reverse osmosis (a very expensive process). Specifically referencing two controversial cost estimates (one from Cardno ENTRIX, one by Carollo Engineers), the EPA’s Ephraim King implored the Research Council to ”focus on the documents that have framed the debate” over cost estimates.
King went on to say that, when Florida designates a waterway as “impaired,” it generally draws up very sophisticated standards to govern them, such as Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs. “Keep in mind that … a number of current TMDLs currently out there are more stringent than the EPA’s nutrient criteria,” said King.
The EPA’s standards are slated to go into effect on March 6, 2012.


House Continues Assault on Key Health & Environmental Protections
July 25, 2011
Riders on an EPA spending bill will sacrifice thousands of lives, billions of dollars in savings
WASHINGTON --(ENEWSPF)--July 25 - The U.S. House of Representatives will begin debate today on important legislation that sets spending requirements for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and other federal agencies. The bill currently contains dozens of “riders” that gut key environmental protections for air, water, endangered species and iconic places.
The following statement is from Marty Hayden, Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earthjustice:
“The House of Representatives, led by anti-environmental Republicans, are sharpening their knives to gut key health and wildlife protections that could benefit millions of Americans. These are no small cuts; this is a complete butchering of environmental safeguards.
“Riders attached to the EPA spending bill decimate protections for air, water, lands and wildlife. Even before this bill reached the House floor for a full debate, Appropriations committee members attached 38 riders that shred our safety net for protecting against pollution in our air and water, saving imperiled wildlife, and protecting iconic places like the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. The White House rightfully highlighted these egregious policy riders as one reason for the veto threat it issued last week.
“This bill is larded up with giveaways to polluters and corporate donors. The same industries that filled the coffers of Tea Party candidates are finally seeing their investments paying dividends in the form of relaxed regulations for air and water pollution. Instead of paying taxes like the rest of us, these corporate polluters spend money buying off members of Congress. These same politicians are scurrying around right now, stuffing this budget bill chock full of favors for their corporate patrons.
“This bill is spreading death and disease across America as House Republicans massacre environmental safeguards meant to protect us all.”
The following is a brief summary of some of the current environmental attacks in the federal spending bill:
Interrupting Agency Review of Coal Ash Standards –Seeks to defund any rulemaking that would regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, thus foreclosing any regulatory scheme that provides for federally enforceable regulations for America’s second largest waste stream.
Water of the United States – Would halt the EPA’s ongoing work to clarify which waters remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions.
Preventing EPA’s Ability to Regulate the Largest Water Users – This rider prevents the EPA from developing and proposing standards for the use of cooling water at power plants under the Clean Water Act.
Weakening the Clean Water Act – Would amend the Clean Water Act to create a loophole for the timber industry, exempting it from pollutant discharge permit requirements for silvicultural activities.
Stormwater Discharge – This rider essentially prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from updating its stormwater discharge regulations or permits to manage runoff from post-construction sites.
Letting More Pesticides In Our Waters By Axing Clean Water Act Protections –Would create a loophole for pesticide applicators to spray toxic chemicals directly into our waterways without complying with the only statute that was created to protect our water bodies and us.
Allowing Toxic Slime in Our Waters From Manure, Fertilizer and Sewage – This rider stops the EPA from using its funding to implement, administer or enforce new water quality standards finalized in November for Florida's lakes and flowing waters. This amendment, supported by industry groups in Florida and nationwide, would even stop public education or enforcement of this rule to protect Florida's waters from excess nutrient pollution from sewage, manure and fertilizer.
Polluter Paradise– This rider would require EPA to stop all work to update clean air standards for dangerous smog, soot and other air pollution if so-called “background” levels of that pollution anywhere in the country are occasionally higher than the standards needed to protect public health.
Spreading Death and Disease from Cement Pollution– This rider blocks EPA health protections that would control smog, soot, mercury and other toxic pollutants emitted by cement plants, some of the worst industrial polluters of any kind.
More Soot Pollution, Anti-Science –This rider blocks the EPA from taking account the best scientific and medical information and updating clean air standards for “coarse particle pollution” or PM10, sometimes called soot.
Spreading Mercury Poisoning, Death and Asthma Attacks – This rider denies EPA funding to carry out and enforce the Clean Air Act’s forthcoming Mercury and Air Toxics standards for power plants and the recently finalized Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to cut smog and soot pollution from power plants.
Regulation of Ammonia Emissions – This amendment would prevent the EPA from setting a Clean Air Act standard for ammonia. Several federal agencies, including EPA, have documented ammonia’s acute and chronic adverse health effects.
Fish and Wildlife
Extinction Rider – Prevents the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from spending any money to implement some of the most crucial sections of the Endangered Species Act, such as listing new species; designating habitat critical to a species’ survival; upgrading the status of any species from threatened to endangered; and assisting law enforcement by protecting species that resemble listed species.
Shielding Gray Wolf Delistings from Judicial Review – This provision exempts from judicial review any final rule that delists gray wolves in Wyoming and any states within the range of the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment of gray wolves, provided that FWS has entered into an agreement with the state for it to manage wolves. The provision undercuts one of the most important checks and balances built into the ESA – public participation through the ability of citizens to request judicial review of delistings.
Attacking protections for Endangered and Threatened Wild Bighorn Sheep – Eliminates nearly all protections for bighorn sheep in the western United States, forbidding federal agencies from protecting this key wild species.
Anti-Wildlife, Pro-Poisons Rider – This amendment prohibits the EPA from implementing any measures recommended by federal wildlife experts to protect salmon and other endangered species from pesticides.
Mountaintop Removal Mining:
Prohibiting Rules to Protect Streams from Surface Mining – Keeps the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department of the Interior from continuing work to revise regulations adopted in the waning days of the Bush administration that opened up streams to destructive and polluting practices associated with surface coal mining.
Blocking EPA Oversight of Mountaintop Removal Mining – Shields mountaintop removal coal mining operations from EPA review by stopping EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from continuing a process they put in place in April 2010, to scrutinize proposed mining permits.
Offshore Drilling
Giving Oil Companies a Free Pass to Pollute – Limits the EPA’s ability to regulate air emissions from offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Special Places
Lifting the Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Moratorium – Allows for extensive uranium mining directly adjacent to the Grand Canyon, potentially endangering an iconic landmark as well as some of America's most important water resources.
Sticking Taxpayers With Mine Cleanup Costs – Prohibits EPA from ensuring that the hard-rock mining industry, like uranium and gold mining companies, post adequate financial assurance to cover the costs of cleanup at mine sites potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.
Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.


Lying About Lake O to Win Hearts and Minds: The Eric Draper Story
Sunshine News – by Nancy Smith
July 25, 2011
Either Eric Draper doesn’t know a snail kite from a Canada goose, or he’s lying through his teeth.
My money is on the latter. I can see his nose growing from here.
Draper is the executive director of Florida Audubon Society. Surely the man knows a thing or two about every endangered creature in Florida.
So, you have to ask yourself, why would he write a four-page, full-of-baloney letter to the South Florida Water Management District, blaming the district for so mismanaging Lake Okeechobee water releases in the drought that “the water body experienced significant harm, including … loss of apple snail habitat and failure of Everglade Snail Kite nests”?
Draper goes on at length: “… six of the remaining nine endangered Everglade Snail Kite nests on Lake Okeechobee … failed, apparently resulting from parental abandonment related to low water levels and lack of available food. The loss reflected deteriorating habitat conditions in the Lake that continue to threaten the survival of newly-fledged young and adults.”
Birders must have gone nuts hearing this sky-is-falling hooey.
Oh, my God, they're killing the kites !
Think about it. Literally thousands of Floridians are engaged in some kind of volunteer effort to protect the vanishing habitat of native creatures in this state. And here comes Eric Draper, with environmental credentials up the wazoo, telling them that another species is going under because -- to hear Draper tell it -- chronic screw-up SFWMD is playing favorites and evil Big Sugar is greedily sucking up Lake O.
Very little in this letter is true, no matter what light you hold it under.
It's super-hype. It's a blueprint to what is, frankly, a sinister agenda.
About the kites: If six snail kite nests were abandoned -- and let's say they were -- many more that Draper fails to mention were productive and thriving.
Don Fox of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told me Friday that in spite of the drought, successful kite nests on the lake are up -- yes, up -- 35 percent this year. Fox, by the way, is The Man on the lake and in the tall grass. He's a biological administrator for FWC's Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. It's his job to manage the habitats supported by Lake Okeechobee.
"We had 41 snail kite nests on the lake this year," said Fox, "which is a huge improvement over last year and over 2007 and 2008 when we were down to nests in the single digits. It means our numbers are back to normal in spite of the drought. Oh, it's nothing like in the 1980s when there were hundreds of kites over the lake, but I'm encouraged."
Fox said the importation and embedding of apple snails deep underwater in the Okeechobee muck have begun to pay off. "We brought in food, got it started and it sure worked well. This year the snail kites have had plenty of food.
"The kites are out there on the lake now, they haven't left. That's how we know they're getting the food they need," he said.
So much for Draper sounding the snail kite alarm.
And by the way, SFWMD hasn't called the shots on lake releases for nearly three years. That's the job of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. See for yourself, it's on page 72 of the Environmental Impact Statement. While I've been the first to criticize the district for wasteful spending and questionable management practices, the Gun Club Road folks are very much the innocent party here. If, as Draper says, the Water Management District is in violation of the Minimum Flows and Levels Rule -- if it's been dishing water unfairly to parties it shouldn't, why didn't he direct his letter to the Army Corps?
I'll tell you why.
He clearly wants Florida agriculture uninvited to the lake-users' party. He wants them starved of water. He wants their land.
Charlie Crist's U.S. Sugar Corp. deal was a bust. It was perceived as a giant boondoggle up and down the state. In fact, it did more harm than good for the Everglades. Now there's neither the money nor the will in Tallahassee or Washington to buy more land for Everglades restoration. What's the next best thing for Draper, the Everglades Foundation and determined environmentalists in a dozen different well-funded groups? Try to get a grass-roots, anti-ag campaign going. Upset the public with bogus "facts" about an endangered, victimized wetlands-dependent bird of prey and you're on your way. It's like lobbing tear gas into a closed room.
But Draper and his friends should know they're on a loser. I wanted to tell him personally, but I was unable to reach him late last week.
The land farmed in South Florida is some of the richest, most productive in the world. It's no exaggeration to say that without Florida agriculture, this country would be importing food from foreign nations.
Agriculture in Florida supports 766,000 jobs, generates $100 billion in annual economic impact and is responsible for $3 billion in tax revenue for local, county, and state governments.
Those crops Draper wants to see choked of water? They make Florida No. 1 in the nation in citrus, No. 1 in sugar cane, No. 1 in sweet corn, No. 1 in winter leaf crops east of the Mississippi. We're known as the Winter Salad Bowl -- no one in the Northeast would have lettuce without Florida's production. Oh, yes, and Florida is No. 2 in virtually all other vegetables.
Agriculture is one of the few industries in the state ready to expand and hire. Said one Glades farmer last week at the 10-County Coalition meeting, "I want to open up more fields, I want to grow my business. The only thing stopping me is water."
Florida is a breadbasket for the nation. And when all is said and done, neither the Legislature nor Congress is ever likely to join Draper's grass-roots anti-ag movement.
Spokespersons from the state Department of Agriculture confirm that farms have worked hard to take their losses and act responsibly during the 2011 drought. Please, no more false alarms.


More from water pollution conference: Huge gap between industry, EPA cost estimates discussed
Public meeting
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 25, 2011
Water pollution in the state of Florida might be a major problem for the state’s citizens, but a Monday meeting of major stakeholders in the EPA’s “numeric nutrient criteria” — a set of standards to clean up Florida waterways — revealed that industry and agriculture leaders have laid claim to the issue.
Representatives from Georgia-Pacific, JEA and a senior lobbyist from Associated Industries of Florida all attended Monday’s meeting, as did representatives from engineering firms hired by industry groups to perform cost estimates of the criteria. One such firm, Cardno ENTRIX, revealed its latest round of cost estimates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they haven’t changed much.
Cardno ENTRIX — which today released an addendum to its original cost assessment — puts the mean cost of implementing the criteria at around $4 billion, roughly two-and-a-half times the EPA’s estimate.
One of the major differences between its estimate and the EPA’s is the number of sectors the group says will bear the cost. While the EPA estimates there will be 248 affected entities, the ENTRIX study argues that there could be as many as 618.
Overall, Cardno ENTRIX estimates that the annual cost of complying with the new regulations will be “anywhere from 2.5 to 24 times higher than the EPA’s analysis.” Among the sectors that would see increased annual costs, industry and agriculture figure to bear much of the burden. But how much remains uncertain. Cardno ENTRIX today said that 49 percent of the annual costs would fall on the industrial sector, and 24 percent on agriculture.
As one committee member pointed out, the Cardno ENTRIX study was performed without the EPA (the organization looked at the EPA estimates, but did not work with the agency). The new addendum to the study was commissioned by the Florida Water Quality Coalition. #
A press release sent out earlier today said that the recent additions to the original 2010 study confirms the group’s initial assessment, that the EPA’s nutrient rule would “impose substantial, long-term costs.”
From the release:
-    Statewide costs would range from $3.4 to $4.7 billion per year for 20 years with operating and maintenance costs extending well beyond 20 years;
-    Costs for municipal wastewater treatment plants and urban stormwater utilities would range from $626 million to $1.555 billion per year;
-    Costs for agriculture would range from $853 million to $1.088 billion per year; and
-    Costs for Florida’s struggling industrial sector would range from $1.492 to $2.437 billion per yea.
In short, EPA’s rule would impose significant costs on all Floridians well in excess of EPA’s estimates.
As one committee member pointed out, the ENTRIX study operates on several assumptions, and includes some waterbodies not included in the EPA analysis.
“Why pick the highest figure you can without taking into account some of the differences?” asked one committee member, directing his question to Cardno ENTRIX representative Barbara Wyse. Glen Daigger, committee chair, answered for her: “Because some people in Florida are saying that all these things are going to happen. This group [ENTRIX] basically took everything that people are saying could happen, and analyzed that.”
As the session wrapped up, one committee member asked Cardno ENTRIX’s Doug MacNair to elaborate on who, exactly, makes up the Florida Water Quality Coalition, the group that commissioned the addendum. “It’s [a] diverse group of stakeholders. … I don’t know the exact membership of the coalition,” said MacNair. “You don’t know? Or you can’t say?” asked the committee member. MacNair again said he didn’t know.
As previously reported by The Florida Independent, the Florida Water Quality Coalition is a group of regulated interests and includes members of the agriculture and utility industries. James Spratt, the president of the coalition, is also the director of government affairs at the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association. Others on the board include Ray Hodge, director of government affairs for Southeast Milk, and Staci Braswell, director of government affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau.


The UN Wildlands Project…Taking Over America Starting With Florida
Canada Free Press – by James Lampe
July 25, 2011
Almost all Americans know about the United Nations, but few know about Agenda 21, or the US government’s implementation of UN policies.
The UN issued several policies at the 1992 Earth Summit, one of which was the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  Compliance with this UN policy is being driven and managed by the Wildlands Network which shares the same goals as the CBD; to set aside half the land in America for animals.
But let’s reframe this issue just a bit and put it into perspective; is there any reason you would turn over half of America to Vladimir Putin?  What is the difference between living under Putin’s rule or living under UN rule?  We are giving the eco-socialists our land (the agencies buy it with our taxes) and we are sliding down the slope to living under UN rule.  In Florida, the government has acquired 28% of the land (9.9 million acres), so the UN’s work is already better than 50% done in Florida!
The process of returning land to its wild state is referred to as “re-wilding.”  Wildlands are created by buying land, reducing or eliminated human activities and access to the land, and then putting buffer zones around them.  Then another wildland is created nearby, and they connect them with more land purchases.  This accumulation of land begins to form corridors, and the corridors then connect to one of the four North American Wildways (migration routes).
This project is supported and managed by eco-socialists like the Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy which brokers land deals, and often works with the USF&WS to obtain and transfer land.
The Wildlands project (now called Wildlands Network and based in Florida) was first proposed by Earth First’s Dave Foreman, in 1991. The eco-socialists do not hide their intent:  “The Wildlands Network is now spearheading an initiative to connect habitat along the length of eastern North America, from the Everglades of Florida…”
The ultimate goal is to erase any sign of human activity (houses, roads, trucks, etc.); therefore, humans will be pushed out of wildland areas.  Figure One shows the UN’s plan for America.  We will be living in the black areas (human settlements), while most of the land will be off limits to humans (red, orange, yellow).
Mr. Foremen, a former board member of the Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy stated, “My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with its full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”
Federal and state politicians continue passing legislation supporting this UN goal despite the overt usurpation of American sovereignty.  In 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12906 –  Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access; which resulted in the development of GAP, a graphical mapping system designed to compile the geospatial data and identify bio-diverse units, needed by the Wildlands Network..  (Figures 2 – 4 are from the GAP program.)
In 2010, House Resolution HR 5101 the ‘‘Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2010” was introduced, and didn’t make it into law, but it provides an insight into the thoughts of our politicians.  The EPA helped out when they started promoting the Wildlands Network on their site.
In 1999, the Florida legislature passed the Florida Forever program which authorized $3 billion in bonds to purchase land.  In 2008, the program was reauthorized with an additional $3 billion in bonds to conserve land.  The Florida Forever program has provided $6 billion for the acquisition of land.
As a result of Florida Forever, Florida agencies like DEP’s division of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife are buying land under the Florida Forever program which states the purchases are for “conservation and recreation lands.”
However, the Wildlands Network states the land is for:  “ ‘landscape connectivity’ – a connected system of conservation lands – has become widely recognized as essential for long-term ecological viability and wildlife survival, and with this recognition has come renewed interest in making a continental corridor from Québec to Florida, an Eastern ‘Wildway,’ a reality.”
There are four Wildways in North American, including the Eastern Wildway, which extends into the Everglades.  It is doubtful Floridians would be approving these expenditures if they knew the real goal of these land purchases.
Politicians of both parties, and agencies at the federal and state levels are working together to create the UN’s vision of controlling 50% of America, and the federal government already owns about 50% of the western US.  Karl Marx wrote, “The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence:  Abolish all private property.”  The UN and their eco-socialist ilk have pledged to take our land and our freedom, and the people in our government are helping them!
All property owners should ask themselves if they would prefer to control their own land, or would they prefer their land be managed by a global management system of government experts?  The socialists have been working unimpeded for years, and it is apparent freedom loving Americans need to play catch-up.  We cannot rely upon, or trust, our government or politicians to do it for us.  There is a new paradigm we must accept; only we the people can stop this.


Water pollution meeting highlights questions about cost, feasibility
Public meeting
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 25, 2011
A meeting of the National Academies’ National Research Council, which began this morning and will continue all day (and tomorrow), is highlighting major concerns over a set of federally mandated water pollution standards that target Florida.
The EPA, the federal agency currently mandating the rules, received more than 22,000 public comments on its proposed water pollution rule, most of which were in support of the criteria. But discussion among those attending Monday’s meeting — the audience included utility representatives, scientists, professors and environmentalists — highlights major discrepancies in estimates of how much it would cost to implement the criteria. The EPA has estimated costs to be  between $135 and $206 million, while industry-derived studies have touted estimates as high as $8 billion.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has been tasked with developing a rule to govern waterways in the state, which are often inundated with fish kills and algal blooms as a result of excess nutrients (specifically, phosphorus and nitrogen).
“Eighty to 90 percent of the questions that we get … are, ‘How does it affect me?’ That’s where the cost comes into play,” the Department of Environmental Protection’s Drew Bartlett told the committee. Referencing the pileup of lawsuits surrounding the nutrient criteria, Bartlett called Florida “a litigious state when it comes to environmental protection.”
Industries that pump their effluent into state waters will likely bear the brunt of the economic burden. The EPA estimates that the cost to point-source polluters like mining and pulp and paper companies would be around $25 million a year.
Lawmakers and industry leaders have been strongly opposed to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to water pollution standards. They argue that Florida needs site-specific criteria, which would entail rules developed with specific waterbodies in mind.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, too, has been adamant about the importance of site-specific criteria. The EPA agrees that such criteria could be effective, and would likely cost less, but they would come at a delay, since they would have to be implemented over time — a potential hindrance to the very waterways they are supposed to be protecting.
“The question isn’t cost or no cost,” said the EPA’s Ephraim King. “The question is whether costs are occurring sooner … or whether the costs occur 20, 30 years out, as the state works its way through it, on a site-by-site basis. Florida’s DEP is completely capable of doing a top-rate job [of implementing site-specific criteria]. But that delay is environmental protection that is deferred.”
Though much has been reported about the cost of implementing the criteria, little has been said about the cost of not implementing them. The criteria, after all, aim to combat water pollution, a serious problem in a state that relies on its water for fishing and tourism.
The EPA’s Julie Hewitt made mention of benefits of the criteria, but only briefly. “I realize it isn’t the charge of the committee to discuss benefits, but I thought I needed to end on a pretty picture,” she said, while standing in front of a slide that read “Benefits,” alongside a picture of a placid Florida lake.


EPA triggers fierce backlash over attempt to force Florida to clean up waterways
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
July 24, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to force Florida to clean up its ailing streams, lakes and coastal estuaries has triggered fierce backlash, and the biggest controversy is over how much it would cost to implement new pollution limits.
EPA officials contend the state would spend a few hundred million dollars a year to meet limits for phosphorus and nitrogen pollution that can feed a destructive growth of algae in waterways.
But industry and state estimates show the annual price of EPA's pollution rules will run into the billions of dollars for measures such as improving sewage plants, upgrading household septic systems, expanding stormwater systems and devising methods that prevent pollution from spilling off farms and ranches.
In a letter to the EPA on Friday, 32 industry groups and companies in Florida, ranging from fertilizer to sugar producers, again blasted the rules as potentially "devastating."
Acting as a referee, a committee of the National Research Council will hold open meetings today and Tuesday in Orlando as part of a 13-month study of the state's potential financial burden. Industry and environmental groups will make presentations, and public comments will be taken on both days. The committee will hold a closed session Wednesday.
The private, nonprofit council expects to issue a report in June, or two months after EPA regulations are to take effect.
Potential consequences for Floridians range from hikes in utility bills to declines in the tourism economy as inland and coastal waters turn green with algae.
"The new standards will save Florida money in the long run by preventing expensive clean-up costs, and help prevent a decline in Florida's multibillion-dollar tourism industry that is an engine of job growth," said EPA officials in a written response Friday to Sentinel questions.
In their comments, agency officials said larger cost estimates contain many exaggerations and false claims about the extent of the new federal rules.
The agency has been applying pressure nationwide to get states to adopt pollution rules that are based on specific numbers and are readily enforceable.
However, Florida became the first state where the agency directly imposed numbers-based limits on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution after a coalition of environmentalist sued the EPA to help restore waterways such as the algae-plagued St. Johns River that winds through Central Florida.
Industry and environmental groups are entrenched in their positions in the fight over EPA regulations, and it's not clear either side will be swayed by the National Research Council, which staffs its committees with volunteer experts from across the nation.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said he will not take a position until after the council announces its findings. In March, he asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to commission the third-party review.
"There are steep costs associated with algae blooms, fish kills and closed beaches," Nelson wrote to Jackson. "But there remains intense debate over the cost of complying" with EPA rules.
The council's job will include clarifying the impact of EPA rules and the types of cleanup measures that will have to be taken, including the hot-button issue of whether sewage plants will need to install costly filtration systems.
According to the EPA's analysis, Florida's additional costs each year as a result of complying with the new rules would be between $135 million and $206 million — or as much as $11 per resident.
Earthjustice, the Tallahassee law firm that sued the EPA on behalf of Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups, estimates the costs would be about $20 million less than the EPA figures.
An industry group, the Florida Water Environment Association, projects that typical homeowners would see a hike of nearly $1,000 in annual sewage charges.
Florida Department of Agriculture officials estimate annual agricultural costs, including lost revenues, would be as much as $1.6 billion.
A private consultant often cited by industry, Cardno ENTRIX, reported that annual costs would be as much as $8.4 billion.
David Guest, lead attorney at Earthjustice, said he welcomes the National Research Council review of cost estimates, many of which he thinks were shaped more by politics.
"I don't think they produced those [estimates] with the idea in mind that real scientists were going to get a chance to ask questions about them," Guest said.


Openness about lobbying costs by local governments can help citizens judge value
TCPalm - Editorial
July 24, 2011
Local municipalities should be open about money paid, benefits received through federal government.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
That seems to be the prevailing theory among Treasure Coast local governments that pay tens of thousands of dollars annually for lobbyists in Washington, D.C., even while they are forced by revenue shortfalls to cut local employees and services.
And, those lobbyists are in addition to members of Congress, who should be lobbying for their constituents and making sure local governments are aware of all the federal opportunities available to them.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, "Lawmakers are supposed to watch out for the interests of their district. The mayor or county council has the same constituency the congressman does, so if a lobbyist has to step in to help them get money, either one or the other is incompetent."
That might be an overstatement, but it raises the question of whether local governments that hire lobbyists get their money's worth. When decisions are made in Washington, some local governments say, it's invaluable to have someone there to beat out the competition for grants and other funding. It's a rather sad state of affairs that they feel the need to hire lobbyists largely because other local governments do.
According to a study by Scripps Howard News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based watchdog group on the influence of money on elections and policy, Treasure Coast local governments spent more than $2.3 million on federal lobbying since 1998.
Last year, St. Lucie and Martin counties and the cities of Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce spent money on lobbying. Indian River County and Indian River State College have spent money on lobbying in previous years but not last year.
Indian River County Commissioner Peter O'Bryan said the county's good working relationship with its congressman, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, has reduced the need for a paid lobbyist. O'Bryan added, "I think the bottom line was we weren't seeing a return on what we were spending with the federal guys."
St. Lucie and Martin counties, though, each spent $40,000 last year for lobbyist Greg Burns of Van Scoyoc Associates, which bills itself as the largest independent lobbying company in Washington. It has more than 80 lobbyists representing more than 200 businesses and governments, including about four dozen city and county governments.
St. Lucie officials said that the work of their lobbyist helped the county secure about $16 million from the federal government last year.
But Indian River County, which paid nothing for lobbying, got $12.1 million in federal funding, also last year, and the county's population is much smaller.
Martin County was the biggest spender on the Treasure Coast for lobbying last year, parting with $120,000, which included efforts related to Everglades restoration. Lobbying efforts, officials said, helped lead to some $124 million being awarded for the Indian Street Bridge.
Drawing a direct link between lobbying and the payoff with specific federal dollars can be a tricky business. To explain the controversial practice of hiring lobbyists, governments that do so ought to disclose on websites who their lobbyists are, what they've cost and how successful they've been.
Hiring lobbyists is one of the ugly parts of doing business in Washington and is not going away anytime soon. That leaves it up to informed voters to decide if they approve or disapprove of hiring lobbyists. People don't have to wait until the next election to express their opinions on the matter.


Clean water needs to be our top priority
July 22, 2011
In 1998, former President Jimmy Carter acknowledged what Paul Simon, a former member of the United States Senate, had written in his book “Tapped Out” that “in order to avert a devastating natural disaster we need to heed Senator Simon’s warning!”
Simon points out in his book what has already come to pass: that “nations will go to war over oil.” He then warns of “an impending water crisis of catastrophic proportions … in part because of the world’s population doubling and the fact that our water supply will not increase.”  He then predicts that “nations will go to war over water in the early part of the 21st Century.” (His extensive bibliography further supports his suppositions.)
History tells us that prior to the time of Columbus, a serious drought extended from as far south as what is now the Carolinas, westward to Ohio and also to the northern most region of what is Maine … “a drought that lasted for nearly three decades.”
Native Americans survived the drought by migrating to this region because the lakes here are the largest spring-fed lakes in the world! (Thus an even greater reason why the new legal safeguards in the Clean Water Act be followed in order to keep our local water safe!)
How fortunate also that there will be no more dumping of  “fracking water” into our Owasco treatment plant.
Recently we’ve heard of epic floods and tornadoes (“some of the worst weather conditions this country has ever experienced,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)
A New York Times newspaper article of May 3 describes “the remote western edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle, quietly enduring a weather calamity of its own … the longest drought on record, even worse than the Dust Bowl.” A July 11 article, “Drought Spreads Pain From Florida to Arizona” tells the readers that “the pain has spread across 14 states … and the soil is so dry it might as well be pavement.”
Right now, our leaders are at odds as to how to solve our nation’s debt problems … giving no notice at all to what should be at the top of both political parties’ list of priorities … our water!
Joyce Hackett Smith Moore, Moravia


Sick Fish, Fish Kill Reported in Gulf
July 22, 2011
Dead fish have been washing up on the beaches at Naples since Monday.
And commercial fishermen out of Madeira Beach and marine scientists have been conducting a survey of fish with sores and deformities in the Gulf of Mexico since the first week of July.
The exact cause of these problems hasn't been pinpointed yet, and the reports have been isolated dating to the winter.
But two possible reasons being mentioned are the Gulf oil spill last April and a "dead zone'' devoid of oxygen.
The St. Petersburg Times reported last week that three 10-day trips into the Gulf from Madeira Beach and Panama City that departed July 6, July 8 and July 18 were searching for fish that might have some sort of disease. They are catching and checking fish from the Keys across to Texas.
The Times report said red snapper and vermilion snapper caught by fishermen showed "wounds straight through their muscle tissue.''
Meanwhile, the Naples News reported Monday that dead fish were on the beaches between Doctors Pass and Wiggins Pass.
Collier County officials have sent dead fish and water samples to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg for testing.
The News reported that fish species that are uncommon along beaches were swimming in "rust-colored'' water with little or no oxygen, possibly because of an offshore algae bloom that ate up all the oxygen.
The story said there were dead lobsters balled up together in Clam Pass, and Vanderbilt Beach was loaded with cowfish, toadfish and eels.
Red tide wasn't mentioned in either of the reports, however.
We all remember the large dead zone off the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area in 2005 after one of the most severe outbreaks of red tide on record on the Gulf Coast.
And there have been dead zones in the Gulf south of the Mississippi River for years.
But reports of fish with lesions, deformities and discoloration are rare.
The BP oil spill has been mentioned as the cause for many unusual occurrences in the past year off the Tampa Bay area, from whale sharks off Sarasota to changing baitfish patterns to an influx of goliath grouper. But proving a connection to the oil spill is difficult.
Hopefully, these reports of dead and diseased fish will be limited.
But the health of the Gulf is always a concern.
The Florida Keys are hopping with activity this weekend with the two-day sport season for Florida lobster coming up Wednesday and Thursday.
The short season gives recreational divers a shot at the tasty crustaceans before commercial traps are set on Aug. 1.
The regular season for recreational harvest opens on Aug. 6 and continues through March 31.
A saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit ($5) are required, as are diver-down flags.
The daily limit is six per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, but 12 elsewhere in the state.
Lobsters are also harvested on near-shore reefs along the coast from Sebastian Inlet south toward Miami, and to a much lesser degree in the Gulf.
But there is a significant population shift south into the Keys for the sport season for many Floridians. Motels are booked months in advance and U.S. 1 is kind of like driving through downtown Atlanta at rush hour.
Divers in the Keys can download the lobster fishing brochure at
There will be a heavy law enforcement presence, always nabbing those who exceed their limits and take undersized lobsters.
Be sure you know the rules. Not knowing is expensive.
People are always caught in areas they shouldn't be, like Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Red snapper season in the Gulf closed on Monday in state and federal waters.
The recreational season had opened on June 1.
Anglers reported excellent catches of red snapper 10-15 pounds at depth, mostly beyond 110 feet, right up to closing day.
Amberjack season reopens in state and federal waters of the Gulf on Aug. 1.
The Ridge Archers will hold their final 3-D shoot of the season on Sunday at Tenoroc.
Registration is at 8 a.m. with shooting at 9. Lunch will be available.
The club meets Saturday at 8 a.m. at the range. The meeting is open to the public.
For information, call Joe at 863-698-2586 or Ansel at 863-858-6994.
[ Del Milligan's outdoors column appears Fridays in The Ledger. He can be reached at or 863-802-7555. Milligan's blog, Central Florida Fishology, can be found at home page. ]


St. Lucie officials say they see return on lobbyist investment
TCPalm - by Eric Pfahler
July 22, 2011
Treasure Coast communities differ on whether to use taxpayer dollars for federal lobbyists.
With tax dollars tight in part because of low property values, some governments have continued spending for federal lobbying, while others have opted not to use lobbyists to help chase federal money from Washington.
Treasure Coast public entities spent more than $2.3 million on federal lobbying since 1998, according to a study by Scripps Howard News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit Washington operation dedicated to tracking influence of money on elections and policy.
Some argue lobbying is necessary to ensure local communities get their share of federal tax money, while others claim lobbying is a waste of local taxpayer money that encourages the federal government to spend beyond its means.
Martin and St. Lucie counties and Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce all spent money on lobbying in 2010. Though some have made small reductions, most spent about the same amount as in years past.
Proponents say lobbying helps open doors and makes locals aware of grants, rule changes and other funding opportunities without tying up staff time. Martin and St. Lucie counties use the same lobbyist, Greg Burns of Van Scoyoc Associates. The two counties each paid the company $40,000 in 2010.
St. Lucie County Commission Chairman Chris Craft said lobbying on behalf of a community is not the same as lobbying on behalf of a corporation. Federal money has been limited with the ban of earmarks and tightening budgets.
"I keep telling (Burns), he's not a lobbyist, he's a local community advocate," Craft said. "Because that's really what he's doing. He's advocating for the constituents locally. I see a huge difference between lobbying for results for a local community as opposed to a lobbyist who's only trying to dictate policy so that their corporation benefits."
St. Lucie County officials estimate the county gained about $16 million from the federal government for the 2010 budget year in part because of Burns. The money includes $6.1 million for beach renourishment. During the last decade, the county has gone from getting $2-$4 million per year to more than $15 million annually the last several years, said County Human Resources Director Bill Hoeffner, who once served as the county grants manager.
Lobbying also helped get the new federal courthouse built in downtown Fort Pierce. The city spent $20,000 on federal lobbying in 2010 after spending $40,000 in 2009. Port St. Lucie spent $60,000 on federal lobbying in 2010. The city has used federal lobbying to help get money for Crosstown Parkway and recover FEMA dollars.
"We've gotten more money than we've spent," Port St. Lucie City Manager Jerry Bentrott said.
Not everyone believes annual federal lobbying is the right way to raise revenue.
Indian River County and Indian River State College have spent money to lobby the federal government in the past but did not spend money on lobbying in 2010, according to
"I just don't think we thought it was an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars," Indian River County Commission Chairman Bob Solari said.
After spending $80,000 in 2007 to help secure Federal Emergency Management Agency money following the 2004-05 hurricanes, Indian River County stopped paying for federal lobbying. The county received $12.1 million from the federal government in the 2010 budget year, County Budget Director Jason Brown said. The county got $7.5 million in 2009, Brown said.
Indian River County Commissioner Peter O'Bryan said he wants to ensure the county gets some money back from the federal government, but only for projects that are needed as opposed to having a hand out for any money that might be available.
O'Bryan said the county works well with U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge who has helped eliminate the need for federal lobbying by organizing meetings and connecting county commissioners with the right people.
"I think the bottom line was we weren't seeing a return on what we were spending with the federal guys," O'Bryan said.
Martin County spent the most on federal lobbying the past five years. The county uses two lobbyists, one primarily for appropriations and the other for Everglades restoration projects. The county received more than $173 million in federal benefits during the past 10 years. In all, the county spent $120,000 in 2010 for federal lobbying. Martin County Engineer Don Donaldson said the money saves staff time and keeps the county aware of developing situations in Washington.
"We couldn't do (all that our lobbyists do for us)," Donaldson said. "Positions change up there. The time for us, or any member of my staff to maintain routine communications with congressional members and their staff and a myriad of other federal agencies, we just don't have the time ... It would take innumerable hours for us to try to replicate that."
Figuring out the exact amount of return on investment is difficult because many people play roles, Donaldson said. But lobbying helps get money such as the $124 million awarded for the Indian Street Bridge, which will link Palm City and Stuart. The county is working to get money to dredge the St. Lucie Inlet with the help of lobbyists. Lobbying helps local officials get in the room with the right people, he said.
"Usually, you can get one, maybe two meetings (in Washington) scheduled for the same day," Donaldson said. "Our lobbyist is typically able to schedule five meetings in a day with different agencies as well as with our representatives all at once."
Martin County Taxpayers Association President Richard Geisinger Jr. said he believes it's a shame governments must lobby in order to compete with corporate interests at the federal level. Without lobbying, he said, government could make decisions based on the merit of a project as opposed to how much is spent on lobbying.
Geisinger said he has not analyzed the return on investment the county gets for its contributions. But he said so long as there's a measurable cost-benefit relationship, he does not blame governments for paying for lobbyists.
"As long as they're doing it, you've got to do it," Geisinger said. "You don't have any choice or I'm afraid you're not going to get anywhere."


Florida Water Quality: Drowning in Pollution
July 22, 2011
Those waging the war against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 13-year effort to implement tougher water-quality standards in Florida scored another victory this month, and once again Florida was a loser to lethargy and gridlock.
The U.S. House voted 239-182 along largely partisan lines July 13 to pass HB 2018, the misnamed Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act.
It is just the latest in a series of political and bureaucratic duels that has gone on between the states, and Florida in particular, and the EPA.
Since 1998, the EPA has been pressing Florida to adopt new water-pollution standards. Also during that time, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has identified more than half of Florida's waterways as having overloads of nitrogen and phosphorus and other contaminants.
In short, more than half our lakes, rivers and estuaries are polluted, and that is by the state's estimation.
Yet, the state has balked at every EPA attempt to resolve the problem, including the EPA's agreeing to let the DEP draw up the new water standards.
One of America's great policy successes over the past couple of generations is that it has cleaned up many of its waterways. Before the Clean Water Act was strengthened in 1972, rivers caught fire and major lakes were declared dead. Today, those same bodies of water are cleaned up and places of recreation.
This fight with the EPA is about more than pollution rules. The state is suing the EPA to block implementation of its rules, and the business lobby has fiercely opposed the EPA's attempts to implement new regulations, claiming it would be a heavy financial burden on businesses and farms and cost Florida jobs.
What they seem to overlook is that water is one of Florida's greatest assets and, whether coastal beaches or inland lakes and rivers, are our major economic drivers of tourism and real estate. Who will want live or play in polluted waters?
The EPA has given extensions, offered compromises and, again, even asked the DEP to draft regulations it believes are fair.
Still, the Republicans in power in Florida would rather engage in political brinksmanship than figure out a way to clean up the widespread water pollution in Florida.
They say it's about jobs, but what it's really about is ideology.


Friends of the Everglades calls on Scott to make polluters pay
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 21, 2011
Earlier this week, a U.S. appeals court rejected an attempt by the state of Florida, sugarcane growers and the South Florida Water Management District to block a federal EPA plan to protect the Everglades from cane farming pollution.
The EPA plan was initially mandated in 2010 by federal District Judge Alan Gold as a result of a lawsuit brought by the environmental group Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe. Now Friends is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to make polluters pay for the damage they do to the Everglades.
Fifteen years ago, a constitutional amendment dubbed the “Polluter Pays” aimed to require that “those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution.” In 1996, it passed with 68.1 percent of the vote.
But environmentalists argue that the amendment didn’t do much in the way of halting pollution — the Everglades is still inundated with pollution, and the agencies responsible for protecting the area are often accused of siding with big business rather than the environment they are charged with protecting.
Even with the “Polluter Pays” plan, the Everglades has a major Methylmercury problem. Sulfate from farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area (which is used as a fungicide and to increase the pH of the soil) combines with naturally occurring mercury to form Methylmercury, which can drastically affect the human nervous system and harm vision and speech. In scientific studies, Methylmercury was even found to cause kidney tumors in male mice. As we’ve previously reported, state agencies have no limitations on sulfate flowing into wetlands.
In a recent press release, Friends of the Everglades says that the governor and Legislature are guilty of shifting the cost of treating pollution from those responsible to the taxpayers of South Florida. According to the release, these actions have “not only created one of the nation’s largest environmental catastrophes, [they have] also perpetrated one of the largest rip-offs of taxpayers in American history to benefit billionaire industrial farmers.”
From the Friends press release:
Sugar cane growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), located directly north of the Everglades, use the Everglades as their waste treatment facility, flushing billions of gallons of agricultural wastes containing high levels of phosphorus, sulfates, and pesticides, directly and indirectly into the Everglades Protection Area, Big Cypress and Everglades National Park. Agricultural wastes runoff damages the Everglades and also causes high-levels of toxic mercury contamination. Mercury contamination in the Everglades poses a direct, immediate threat to human health, particularly to pregnant women and small children who may consume fish taken from the Everglades. All of the Everglades is under Florida Department of Health Fish Consumption warnings. Mercury in Everglades fish is toxic to the unborn fetus and can cause brain and nervous system damage.
With damage to the Everglades continuing unabated, and with delay tactics on the part of the South Florida Water Management District and agricultural interests, Friends is now calling on Florida citizens to stand up to Gov. Scott and demand that he take a stand against the polluters. “Florida taxpayers must demand that Gov. Scott and the Legislature enforce the Florida constitution and make the EAA polluters pay for their own waste treatment and cleanup, now,” says Friends’ Alan Farago.


Port of Palm Beach expansion plans again target western farmland
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
July 21, 2011
'Inland Port' could emerge on Everglades land drained long ago for agriculture.
The Port of Palm Beach is reviving efforts to expand beyond the crowded coast and create a spin-off cargo hub in what used to be the Everglades.
Port officials and sugar producer Florida Crystals on Thursday announced a new deal to develop an "inland port" on 850 acres of sugar cane land south of Lake Okeechobee.
The long-sought inland port would turn western farmland into an industrial distribution center linked by truck routes and rail lines to coastal ports throughout Florida.
Project backers contend it would better position South Florida to take advantage of an influx of cargo expected after expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014.
They also say it could bring long-sought jobs to South Bay, Pahokee and Belle Glade, which have been plagued by unemployment levels hovering near 40 percent.
Last year, the Port of Palm Beach scrapped its inland port push after environmental concerns prompted Florida Crystals to change the proposed location. Port board members back then also weren't willing to consider a competing industrial site near Port St. Lucie.
Since then, backers of the Port St. Lucie site and Florida Crystals both have been moving forward with plans to lure industrial development.
In June, port board members gave the go-ahead to the newly announced "memorandum of understanding" to team up on developing an inland port on Florida Crystal's 850 acres near U.S. 27.
"There's an agreement on both sides that we want to move forward," Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said.
The deal announced Thursday calls for Florida Crystals and the Port of Palm Beach to "collaborate on the development, construction and operation" of the inland port, but doesn't define the potential public cost of the project, according to Cantens.
Road improvements, new rail lines and building warehouses and other port facilities on Florida Crystals land are among the potential long-term commitments.
The new agreement with Florida Crystals is an initial step to "explore the possibilities" of an inland port, port director Manuel Almira said Thursday.
"We continue to see that there is a growing demand logistically for an inland port," Almira said. "We are on the clock. We better get moving."
Inland port proposals have been dogged through the years by environmental concerns about expanding industrial development to far-flung agricultural land that once was part of the Everglades.
The Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida are among groups that raised concerns that previously proposed inland port sites could get in the way of using agricultural land for Everglades restoration.
Opposition from environmentalists and state regulators last year prompted Florida Crystals to move its inland port proposal to 850 acres closer to existing roads.


Block power lines across the Everglades
July 20, 2011
Help persuade National Park Service (NPS) to block massive powerlines across Everglades National Park.  Our voices are definitely being heard.
The deadline for electronic submission of public comments is next Monday, July 25th, at midnight.  Comment form is here:
Some things to consider with regard to submitting comments.  Everglades National Park contains remnants of a completely unique planetary ecosystem.  In addition to being the first “biological park” in our nation’s history and by far the largest designated wilderness in the eastern United States, the park is also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.  Unfortunately, Everglades National Park also consistently ranks among “top travel destinations to see before they disappear” – and approximately one million visitors per year take that opportunity.  See example here – article also provides a good summary of the basic problem:
NPS has created a rather complex public comment form for this project and folks wanting to comment are free to jump to the final box and tell the park service in your own words how you would like your park to be managed with regard to these powerlines.  Answering the questions posed by NPS is completely optional and should not keep folks from commenting in the open comment box at the bottom.  While signing a petition is easier  it is NPS policy to treat all form letters – no matter how many come in – as a single response.  Unique letters of any length are definitely the way to make an impact in this case.  Also good to keep in mind – officers of the National Park Service are your public servants – they work for you.  No need to be shy.
NPS has identified three alternatives for folks to consider:
1. The “No Action Alternative”.  Florida Power and Light (FPL) would retain their old corridor inside the park and it would be up to FPL to try and get their massive powerlines permitted.  Just about impossible since the 1989 Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act required that this land be acquired and be managed as “park”.  Utility lines have already been considered and rejected as an “incompatible use”.  This alternative – leaving in place a corridor which could lead to 150 foot high transmission towers inside a National Park – is also completely inconsistent with the mission of the National Park Service as stated in the Organic Act of 1916:
“…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
2.  Do the land swap which was authorized (but not mandated) by a rather strange inclusion buried deep in the massive Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Section 7107).  NPS would acquire the original FPL corridor – but would give up NPS land on the east side of the park.  Everglades National Park would also gain a new industrial horizon visible to visitors throughout the area.  Along with the necessary utility access road which would be constructed, the project would likely lead to severe impacts on wetlands, bird and animal populations (especially bird collisions and electrocutions), and facilitate the spread of invasive plant species throughout the area.  A good summary article dealing with potential impacts of this project is here:
3.  Acquire the land as required by the 1989 Act.  In 1996, NPS wrote a short letter to FPL telling the company that the “fair market value” of the  property was determined to be $109,300 (ironically, NPS now intends to spend over $500,000 of the taxpayers money just to do a “study”).  The company could do a voluntary sale or – if they refused – NPS would acquire the property by eminent domain in order to fulfill the purposes of the Act – the ecological and hydrological restoration of Everglades National Park.  No powerlines or access road would be built.
Alternative 3 was exactly what congress intended when this important piece of public land was acquired.  It is fully supported by South Florida Wildlands Association and numerous local and national environmental organizations.  It is also supported by the 1989 Act and the NPS’s own 1991 Land Protection Plan written to implement that Act.
After over 20 years of foot dragging, it’s high time for the NPS to fulfill the promise made to the American people.  Your comments can insure that happens:
Folks preferring regular mail can submit written comments to the following address:
National Park Service Denver Service Center – Planning Division
Attn: FPL Project Planning Team
P.O. Box 25287
12795 West Alameda Parkway
Denver, CO 80225-0287
Feel free to share your ideas on protecting wildlife habitat in south Florida – or post photos of your own favorite places in the greater Everglades – to this Facebook page


Health for Sale: House EPA Bill Allows Pollution and Supporters Get Big Oil Donations
American Progress - by Daniel J. Weiss, Stewart Boss
July 20, 2011
Download career campaign contributions from the oil, coal, and electric industries to House Appropriations Committee members (.xls)
Download a list of the pro-pollution provisions in the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency appropriations bill (.xls)
The House Appropriations Committee voted July 12 on a strict party line to pass the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012. The bill makes severe cuts in programs vital to protect public health from air and water pollution. And it includes a number of provisions added in the back rooms that would block EPA from reducing air and water pollution while benefiting oil, coal, and utility companies. Not surprisingly, the committee members who voted for this pro-pollution bill received over four times more in campaign contributions from these industries compared to those who opposed it.* The House of Representatives could vote on this bill as soon as July 23. It should remove the pro-pollution provisions and make sure EPA and DOI have the resources they need to safeguard our health, waters, parks, and recreation areas.
Clean air and water programs face a budget chainsaw rather than a scalpel. The EPA would receive $7.1 billion next year, which is $1.5 billion or 18 percent below 2011 spending. This cut is so severe that it’s lower than EPA’s appropriation in 2006 by $468 million. Some particularly harmful reductions include:
$967 million cut in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds, which help states and cities pay for sewage treatment and drinking water. This is nearly a 40 percent cut from FY 2011.
$102 million cut in grants for state enforcement of environmental standards. States are the first responders to violations of pollution safeguards. This is 20 percent lower than 2011, which will harm enforcement in cash strapped states.
$46 million cut to establish carbon dioxide pollution reduction standards.
$49 million cut in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is nearly 20 percent less than 2011.
$4 million cut in the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Initiative, 8 percent less than last year.
$8 million cut in the Puget Sound Restoration Initiative, more than 20 percent less than 2011.
DOI fares somewhat better. The department takes a $720 million, 7 percent cut below last year’s level with a proposed $9.9 billion budget for FY 2012. But within this budget there are significant cuts, including an 80 percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This would drain resources to purchase threatened lands for recreation and other enjoyment.
This budget bill is about more than gutting investments in clean air and water, however. The bill that the House Appropriations Committee approved also includes pollution provisions snuck into the bill by a number of GOP committee members and largely opposed by its Democrats. Others were added during the committee consideration of the bill. Here are just a few of the most harmful. (The provisions listed without a representative were in the underlying bill. The representatives listed offered the amendment to add the provision.)
Allows power plants to continue spewing mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other hazardous pollutants by prohibiting EPA from developing and enforcing the Utility Air Toxics and Transport air pollution rules, by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).
Continues reliance on foreign oil due to less efficient vehicle fuel-economy standards caused by prohibiting EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution from vehicles for cars built from 2017 to 2025, by Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH).
Prolongs threat of lung and respiratory ailments in rural areas by preventing EPA from limiting dangerous particulate matter in the air—including farm dust—under the Clean Air Act, by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulates (or soot) is designed to protect people from this pollutant and prevent more asthma attacks.
Allows “Portland cement” facilities to continue to emit dioxin and other hazardous chemicals by prohibiting EPA from setting pollution reduction standards, by Rep. John Carter (R-TX).
Prohibits EPA from setting safeguards for the disposal of coal ash. The 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill in Tennessee dumped more than a billion gallons of toxic coal waste into more than 400 surrounding acres, exposing local residents to radium and arsenic pollution with “severe health implications.”
Prevents EPA from establishing carbon dioxide pollution reduction standards for power plants, oil refineries, and other major emitters.
Threatens water quality in Florida waters by preventing EPA from enforcing Florida Water Quality standards, by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).
Allows uranium mining in 1 million acres adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River, threatening to contaminate drinking water for 17 million people.
Most of these provisions would have little chance of enactment if they were openly proposed as changes to long-standing provisions of the Clean Air or Water Acts. Instead, their sponsors sneaked in spending prohibitions that retain the underlying pollution reduction requirements but deny EPA the funding necessary to set new standards or enforce them. Importantly, such funding prohibitions will not reduce the federal budget deficit beyond the aforementioned cuts but instead prevent EPA from enforcing existing environmental laws. This will allow pollution to continue unabated.
In his opening remarks before the full committee marked up the bill with these amendments, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who earlier this year described the EPA as the “scariest agency in the federal government,” said that:
“The legislative provisions in this bill—and those that will be added today and on the House floor—they aren’t about special interests.”
Actually, these provisions and program attacks have a lot to do with special interests. If this bill becomes law these provisions will quite clearly benefit Big Oil, King Coal, and electric utility companies by delaying and avoiding cleanup requirements that they would have to make. Instead, these industries avoid such costs at the expense of our health.
Case in point: The provision that blocks the long-overdue national limits on mercury and other air toxics emissions from power plants would benefit coal companies and the utilities that burn coal with few or no pollution reductions.
This pollution provision was added to the spending bill by an amendment by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) on a 25-20 vote. Not surprisingly, a CAP analysis found that the representatives who voted to prolong mercury and toxic pollution from power plants—including Rep. Lummis—received more than twice as many campaign contributions (see vote #13) from mining and utility companies combined compared to those who opposed it.
CAP conducted a similar analysis of the Appropriations Committee vote on the amendment by Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) to block EPA from setting carbon dioxide pollution standards for vehicles built from 2017 to 2025. This amendment would lead to lower fuel-efficiency standards and more oil consumption, which would help Big Oil.
We found vastly higher Big Oil campaign cash gifts to those representatives who voted to block these pollution reductions. The 27 committee members that voted for it received a total of more than $4.2 million from the oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, the 20 members who voted against the amendment have taken only $808,000 in career contributions from oil and gas companies—a ratio of more than five to one.
Overall, the representatives who voted for final passage of this pollution-packed package received an average of $325,000 from oil, coal, and utility companies in career campaign contributions. Opponents who resisted these provisions received only $122,000 on average, a ratio of more than two and a half to one. (see attached spreadsheet)
Such candidate contributions are very cost effective because thousands of dollars in campaign cash can help companies avoid millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Of course, Americans pay this bill every day with more premature deaths, increased lung disease, and other respiratory ailments.
It’s easy to see what’s motivating conservative attacks on the EPA. Ideological opposition to government action might play a part. But the lure of lucre must also play a big role.
Next week the House of Representatives will consider this bill that would dirty our air, foul our rivers and lakes, and warm our climate. It must remove these back door antienvironmental provisions and ensure that EPA and DOI have the resources to protect our health and recreation areas. To do otherwise would reinforce Americans’ growing skepticism about the real interests of their elected representatives.
*Campaign donation reports from
Download career campaign contributions from the oil, coal, and electric industries to House Appropriations Committee members (.xls)
Download a list of the pro-pollution provisions in the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency appropriations bill (.xls)
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy and Stewart Boss is an intern at American Progress.


South Florida's mosquito season arrives, one of worst in modern memory
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
July 20, 2011
A late-starting mosquito season has quickly developed into one of the worst in modern memory, forcing residents of many neighborhoods to run from their house to their car through swarms of blood-sucking insects.
Broward County Mosquito Control reports 500 to more than 700 complaints a day, as tiny, aggressive salt marsh mosquitoes blow in from the Everglades. Palm Beach County, farther from the salt marsh bugs' breeding grounds, is reporting about 100 calls a day, the worst in the past few years.
They're very small, they're very fierce biters," and unlike most other types, bite around the clock, said Joe Marhefka, Broward County's mosquito-control director. "It's creating a really big problem."
The long drought delayed the breeding season, but since the rains began in June, they have been reproducing in stupendous numbers.
"People are calling like crazy," said Marhefka. "They can't get to their cars, their kids are getting bitten up."
When Tony Moonen arrived at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines to pick up his daughter from band camp, he found the mosquitoes had attacked in force.
"She was covered with bug bites all over her legs," he said. "They had been out in the field practicing, and a lot of kids in the band got bit. I was out there, and I got bit pretty bad. I've got sores all over my legs from scratching."
Maria Hernandez, of Miramar, feels trapped in her house.
"We're getting eaten alive," she said. "I have to run from my car to my house as if I'm running away from something. I can't go skating with my dog. I can't go outside at all."
Shelly Redovan, executive director of the Florida Mosquito Control Association, said heavy concentrations of mosquitoes are being reported statewide.
"It's been a rough season for pretty much everybody," she said. "Across the state people are reporting more numbers than they usually do."
A possible cause is the drought, she said. Many mosquito species lay eggs on dry land that would eventually become wet, and with the lack of rainfall over the past few months, there's been a lot more dry land than in typical years. When the rains came, raising the water levels of lakes, ponds, marshes and canals, vast numbers of mosquitoes started to hatch.
"There was more dry land for laying eggs, and when the rain came you'd have these massive explosions of mosquitoes," she said. "Most places are having a difficult mosquito season so far."
In Palm Beach County, the western neighborhoods near the insects' marshy breeding grounds are particularly infested, said Ed Bradford, the county's mosquito control director.
Initially, northern Palm Beach County from the ocean to Lake Okeechobee had the worst of it, although more complaints are now coming in from southern Palm Beach County, he said.
He said it was vital for people to eliminate the standing water in which they breed.
"Every day you have rainfall, you get more larvae hatching out," he said. "Unfortunately we have been getting multiple hatches. Each mosquito can lay 200 to 300 eggs. And it just takes a few mosquitoes and you could have 1000 mosquitoes hatching out and biting you."
Both counties dispatch trucks for anti-mosquito spraying in hard-hit neighborhoods. Palm Beach County contracts for a helicopter out of Lantana to spray more spread-out western communities. Broward County uses a twin-engine plane.
Although mosquitoes transmit diseases such as dengue fever and West Nile virus, the species that carry these diseases have not yet begun breeding in great numbers. They are expected to peak from September through November.
The salt marsh mosquitoes making life miserable in South Florida breed in areas beyond the reach of these vehicles, although there are separate populations along the coast.
But Broward County has responded aggressively to complaints – which peaked at 738 on Tuesday, compared to the typical season's 200 or 300 a day – and the phones seemed quieter Wednesday, Marhefka said.
In addition to eliminating standing water around their homes, authorities advise people to wear clothing that protects arms and legs, avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk and use repellent that contains DEET.


Protecting our children from prophets (and profits) of doubt
Environmental - by Cynthia Bearer and Richard J. Jackson
July 19, 2011
When it comes to the health of our children, listen to those who care for and about children, not to those peddling poison. The latest attempt at foisting unreality on the people of America comes from critics of the EPA’s proposal to reduce mercury from power plants.
As the late statesman Daniel P. Moynihan remarked, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”
The latest attempt at foisting unreality on the people of America comes from those who are critical of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposal to protect our children by getting mercury out of our environment and our food.
They want to preserve archaic power plants more than to protect our children. These plants spew tons of toxic mercury into our environment every month, even though existing and proven technologies exist to capture this mercury. By claiming that mercury presents little harm, they want to save the polluters from investing in proven technologies to capture mercury.
Here are the facts:
Mercury’s harm to human health was discovered centuries ago; its dangers are well known and long lasting. While mercury harms adults, it is especially harmful to the developing nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children. Methylmercury, a particularly toxic form of mercury, crosses the placenta easily and readily penetrates the fetal brain.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends that every effort should be made to reduce the release of mercury into the environment. Their 2000 report estimated that each year more than 60,000 children are born at risk for neurodevelopmental problems associated with in-utero mercury exposure.
The U.S. population is exposed to methylmercury primarily by eating fish and other kinds of seafood. Where does methylmercury in fish come from? The mercury released into our air by old coal-burning power plants settles on land and water, where it is converted into its organic form, methylmercury. Methylmercury accumulates in the food chain, especially in fish. Mercury contamination in fish is so pervasive that 38 states issued warnings about eating mercury-contaminated fish in 2008. Forty-three percent of the nation’s lake acreage and 39 percent of the nation’s river miles are contaminated by airborne mercury.
The scrubbers that remove mercury from plant emissions actually do their job. For example, after south Florida waste incinerators were required to reduce their mercury emissions (they were required to reach 90 percent but achieved 99 percent reduction), mercury levels in Everglades fish and wildlife declined by 60 percent in just 10 years.
Those who are trying to create an untrue “reality” are using approaches outlined in Doubt Is Their Product, the title of both a book and a Scientific American article by David Michaels. The article’s subhead says it all: “Industry groups are fighting government regulation by fomenting scientific uncertainty.” In this case, we would add “where none exists” to the end of this sentence.
As Michaels notes, “many corporations have successfully avoided expense and inconvenience by blocking and stalling much needed protections for public health.”
The “alternate reality” appearing in the media and Congressional hearings about power plant mercury emissions is a perfect example of this.
When it comes to the health of our children and grandchildren, listen to those who care for and about children, not to those peddling poison. Who are you going to believe -- independent doctors, researchers, pediatricians, whose only stake is protecting the health of their patients? Or those who have a financial stake in the outcome ?
Bearer, Board Chair of the Children’s Environmental Health Network, is currently the Mary Gray Cobey Professor of Neonatology and Chief of the Division of Neonatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics.
Jackson, Professor and Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA’s School of Public Health and member of the Network’s Advisory Board, formerly headed the National Center on Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Q&A: A flood of questions about stormwater retention ponds
July 19, 2011
Pondering the stormwater pond.
I saw some gentlemen fishing in a stormwater retention pond recently, and it started me thinking about the purpose and purity of those ponds. I have a lot of questions that I hope you can help me with. (Editor's note: The questions and answers follow.)
Robyn Felix, media relations manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), agreed to address these questions. Her answers:
What is the purpose of stormwater retention ponds?
Stormwater ponds generally serve two purposes: They receive untreated stormwater runoff from streets and parking lots and they prevent the pollutants in that runoff from being discharged directly into our lakes, streams and other water bodies. They also serve a flood control purpose by controlling the discharge of runoff following large rainfall events in a way that prevents downstream flooding. In some cases, stormwater ponds also provide an irrigation source for crops or landscaping, reducing demand on our potable water resources for this nonpotable use.
Where does water go and how does it leave a stormwater retention pond?
There are two types of stormwater ponds: 1) retention ponds that percolate stormwater runoff into the ground; and 2) detention ponds that hold stormwater runoff for a defined period of time for pollutant removal purposes and then release the water to a downstream receiving water body. It should be noted that even retention ponds usually have overflow structures and discharge water downstream during large rainfall events.
Is the earth under the ponds polluted?
Studies have shown that most stormwater pollutants are retained within a few feet of the pond bottom. Polluted ground and groundwater are more commonly associated with septic systems, landfills and industrial waste sites.
What is the process for filling one of these ponds, and does it create a Superfund site?
Filling a stormwater pond requires a permit from the district (Swiftmud) and would not create a Superfund site.
How clean is the water in these ponds?
Some are cleaner than others, however stormwater ponds are treatment ponds and are not required to meet water quality standards.
What types of pollutants are in the ponds?
It depends on the land uses in the area draining to the pond, but stormwater runoff generally contains elevated levels of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), metals, oils and greases, and in some cases, pesticides.
Is it safe to eat a fish caught in one of these ponds?
The ponds are not intended to be used for fishing, swimming or other recreational purposes.
Are these ponds regulated?
When land is developed, our rules require stormwater ponds as part of the development to treat stormwater runoff and control flooding. These ponds are required to be inspected on a regular schedule.


9 weird fish you should be eating
July 18, 2011
Learn about 9 invasive species as Food & Water Watch has described in a new guide.
Most of these fish may not fly the freak flag as we know it, but all of them are invasive species that are dominating an environment in which they are not native–and adversely affecting the habitat they now call home. This year Food & Water Watch, the non-profit that helps people navigate making safe and sustainable food and water choices, has included invasive species in their Smart Seafood Guide–with the idea that adding invasive species as a menu item may help to control their populations at less destructive levels. And with so many other aquatic species being overfished to the point of extinction, it may be an idea whose time has come. What do you think? Asian swamp eel for dinner?
Following are 9 invasive species as Food & Water Watch has described in the new guide.
1. Asian carp (Midwest and Great Lakes regions)
Asian carp, as they are known in the United States, actually includes several different species, including the bighead, black and silver carp. Asian carp species are not bottom feeders, and so are generally lower in contaminants than the common carp. Although the FDA has not yet evaluated these fish for contaminants, they are believed to be low in mercury. These fish are native to Asia and were brought to the United States primarily by catfish farmers in the 1970s to control algal blooms in aquaculture ponds. Today, Asian carp have spread through major waterways from the Southeast through sporadic flooding events, and have moved toward the Great Lakes regions. Asian carp are a problem because they are prolific spawners, grow and mature quickly, and feed on both plant and animal plankton. Silver carp, for example, may consume two to three times their own body weight in algae and phytoplankton each day — throwing off ecosystem balance. Asian carp may compete with other native fish populations in the lakes and ponds of the Midwest. Asian carp can be caught with cast nets, hand nets or occasionally on hook and line.
2. Asian shore crab (East Coast states from Maine through North Carolina)
Asian or Japanese shore crab is native to to parts of Russia and Japan, but has become invasive along the East Coast, from Maine through North Carolina. It was probably introduced into the United States by international ship travel. Asian shore crabs are small, usually measuring not more than an inch and a half across, but are opportunistic feeders and will consume small fish, crustaceans, algae and anything else they come across. Its primary negative impact as an invasive species is displacement of native crab populations, as it competes for similar habitat to native blue crab, rock crab, and lobster.
3. Asian swamp eel (Hawaii, Georgia, Florida)
Asian swamp eels are native to many parts of Asia, and are currently listed as invasive in three states: Hawaii, Georgia, and Florida. In New Jersey, their status is listed as unknown but they have recently been found there. The eels’ introduction to the wild probably took place accidentally in the Southeast (from an aquarium or fish farm escape) and they may have been introduced as a food fish in Hawaii by immigrants. They have no known predators in North America. The eels are highly adaptive, can live in just a few inches of water, and can travel short distances on dry land. They are predators, feeding on insects, worms, fish, crustaceans and small amphibians — but can also survive for weeks without food. All of these traits make them especially risky as an invasive species. In particular, there is concern that populations of Asian swamp eels have been found within a mile of Florida’s Everglades National Park; if these eels manage to establish themselves in that sensitive ecosystem, it could displace threatened native populations and vegetation. It is a popular food fish in Asian cuisine and has a meaty texture. Contaminants unknown, no incidents reported.
4. Chinese mitten crab (California and New Jersey)
The Chinese mitten crab is native to Southeast Asia but was introduced to California in the early 1990s, probably by way of international ship travel. It is now established throughout many California water networks surrounding the San Francisco Bay, and also in New Jersey, with several other states reporting sightings.  The crabs are edible, and considered a delicacy in some cultures. They are imported live, sometimes illegally, as the sale of these crabs is prohibited in certain states. Release of live crabs from these shipments may be another means of introduction. Ecologically speaking, Chinese mitten crabs are a nuisance in non-native areas, especially in urban areas, and may clog water pumps and hamper water delivery. They also burrow into soil, which can exacerbate riverbank erosion and weaken levees.  The mitten crab eats a variety of plant and animal materials, which may harm recovery efforts of endangered species in the California delta; they are also a problem for rice farmers, as the crabs can damage the rice crop in flooded fields by eating young shoots. Although there is limited data, testing on Chinese mitten crab captured in California has revealed low levels of chemical contaminants20; there is little data on New Jersey populations of this species.
5. European green crab (Eastern and Western Coasts of U.S.)
The European green crab was introduced to the East Coast of the U.S. in the early 1800s, probably by way of ship travel. In the late 1980s, the crab was discovered on the West Coast, and invasive populations have since become established from California through Washington and up into British Columbia.  The European green crab is a small but voracious predator, and it is able to outcompete other crabs for food and habitat.  It eats a variety of small crustaceans (including the young of commercially important crab populations), algae, and shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels. They can be caught in traps or collected from shellfish operations (they are a nuisance to these facilities). Although the FDA has not yet performed testing specifically on this species for contaminant levels, academic studies suggest that it does not contain levels of mercury or PCBs that can be harmful to human health, because it is especially sensitive to these contaminants itself. Although the meat yield from a green crab is somewhat lower (because they are smaller than other types of crab), it can be eaten like any other kind of crab — in soups, seafood bisque or crab cakes.
6. Lionfish
The lionfish is a tropical fish native to a wide range of regions in the western Pacific Ocean. Since the early 2000s, it has become an established invasive species on the East Coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean, probably as a result of people releasing aquarium fish in coastal waters. The lionfish is fast-growing, a voracious eater, reproduces yearround, and has no known predators in the areas to which it has now been introduced, so it is quickly becoming a threat to local ecosystems, especially along the central and south Atlantic coasts. Because it is not native to the U.S., it has not traditionally been considered a food item there; however, in areas where it is native, such as the Red Sea in Greece and many islands in the Pacific, the fish are regularly consumed. Because they are slow moving, lionfish are typically caught with spears or hand-held nets, a catch method that is very selective and results in little bycatch or damage to habitat. Although its spines are venomous, they are easily removed after capture and the poison in them is neutralized by heat, as through cooking. The lionfish is a whitefish and is said to taste similar to certain snappers and groupers.
7. Rusty crawfish
The rusty crawfish is native to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, but it has become invasive in at least 17 states throughout the U.S., from Maine to New Mexico. Because it is a popular baitfish, this crawfish has probably been introduced into new waters accidentally by recreational fishing. Most people may not be familiar with the risks that these creatures can pose to new environments. Rusty crawfish can establish themselves in new areas easily, as females can lay 500 eggs or more at a time. The rusty crawfish is a voracious and opportunistic eater, and can change the ecology of regions it invades by reducing the abundance and diversity of plants and aquatic life where it lives. Because it can eat twice as much as native crawfish, it also has the potential to outcompete and overtake the local crawfish population. The rusty crawfish is caught for commercial consumption in some areas, and can be eaten like any other type of crawfish. Because they live in the mud, crawfish are generally purged in fresh water for several hours prior to eating to flush out any contaminants. However, care should be taken to adhere to state laws, some of which prohibit the capture of live rusty crawfish (which means they can’t be adequately purged before cooking). Contaminants unknown, no incidents reported.
8. Tilapia, Mozambique and blue (Hawaii, Florida)
Two populations of tilapia have been introduced to the U.S. through escapes from fish farms — the Mozambique tilapia, which is native to southern coastal Africa, and the blue tilapia, native to the Middle East and parts of Northern Africa. These fish are now established throughout many warmer southern states from Hawai`i to Florida. Tilapias can tolerate a wide range of salinity, and so can live in freshwater or marine habitats (and everything in between). Tilapias can be a threat to native species because of competition for food and habitat; the presence of invasive tilapia populations can lead to declines in wild populations of native fish. Tilapia is white-fleshed and mild-flavored, and a popular food choice in many countries. It is already growing in popularity in the U.S. Contaminants unknown, no incidents reported.
9. Walking catfish (Florida)
The walking catfish is native to Southeastern Asian countries, but has become invasive in southern Florida, and is at risk for becoming invasive in other states. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s, probably as a result of the aquarium trade, and after attempts to farm the fish commercially here. The walking catfish is unusual because it is able to live out of water for short periods, and even to move short distances over land. This allows it to take advantage of flooded fields, canals, and even rainy days to expand its territory. This fish has previously invaded several eastern coastal states and Nevada, but as of 2011, has been eradicated from all locations except for Florida. Like many types of aquatic invasive species, the walking catfish is a voracious eater and will consume a wide variety of foods including small fish, insects, plant material and detritus. Its eating habits may help it to outcompete other predators in ponds and it can quickly establish itself as the dominant species in new areas. This type of catfish is viewed as a delicacy in much of Southeastern Asia, and especially in India — and can be eaten as any other type of catfish. Contaminants unknown, no incidents reported.


Ag. interests: EPA water rules not the ‘proper solution’ to pollution, algal blooms
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 18, 2011
In a July 14 letter sent to the Florida congressional delegation, a large group of industry and agricultural representatives say that a set of water pollution standards are not the solution for algal blooms and fish kills plaguing many parts of Florida.
The letter is a response to one penned by the Florida Water Coalition, who implored lawmakers to adopt a set of numeric nutrient criteria in an effort to fight Florida’s water pollution, which many say costs Floridians in the long run. In an email dated July 7, the Coalition (which includes Earthjustice attorney David Guest) said that the failure to implement the criteria would be “a clear dereliction of duty,” as excess nutrients impose a threat to public health.
In its response, members from Florida’s top agricultural and industry organizations, as well as Associated Industries of Florida, a top lobbying firm, wrote their own letter. They argue that the EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria do not offer a “proper solution” to periodic algae blooms, like those along the Caloosahatchee River, which are making headlines.
In their letter, agencies like the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Citrus Mutual argue that the algae bloom was brought on by a drought, which meant that lake water (from Okeechobee) could not be released to the river, which created stagnant conditions, ripe for algae growth.
As recently reported by The Florida Independent, water was indeed released to the Caloosahatchee — one inch. Meanwhile, the Everglades Agricultural Area (which is home to U.S. Sugar) received approximately 15 inches. The algal blooms that came about as a result have since hurt businesses (and real estate) that rely on a clean Caloosahatchee to survive.
Read the letter, in its entirety:
'Decipher Facts from Scare Tactics' in EPA Num. Nutr. Criteria Decision
SunshineNews – July 15, 2011
Last week, you received a letter from the Florida Water Coalition, signed by David Guest, requesting your support for EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking in Florida.
The letter pointed to a recent algal bloom in the Caloosahatchee River to justify EPA’s rulemaking. While Mr. Guest is correct that the periodic algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee are a problem, he is simply wrong in suggesting that EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking is the proper solution. Mr. Guest omits two essential facts that lead to a very different conclusion.
First, Mr. Guest’s letter omitted the widely reported reason for the algae bloom in the Caloosahatchee River. The algae bloom was a result of the lack of freshwater flow to the Caloosahatchee River due to the historic drought in South Florida. Baseflow deliveries of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River are made when necessary to keep the estuary within its salinity envelope if water is available in the lake to make these deliveries. The conditions under which those releases are made are defined in the lake regulation schedule and operational protocols utilized by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, due to severe drought conditions, lake water was unavailable to be released to the river, and the river became stagnant, giving rise to ideal conditions for algae blooms. As a result of the recent rainfall and local runoff, the stagnant water has begun to be flushed from the river.
Unsurprisingly, water quality is improving. These verifiable facts were omitted in Mr. Guest’s letter.
Second, Mr. Guest’s letter failed to mention that the Caloosahatchee River already has an EPA-approved numeric nutrient pollution limit. The state of Florida adopted this site-specific numeric nutrient total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Caloosahatchee River estuary in August 2009. See FDEP Rule 62-304.800(2), FAC. The state law requires a 22.8 percent reduction in nitrogen loads to Tidal Caloosahatchee estuary downstream of the S-79 Franklin Lock and sets a numeric nutrient limit of 9,086,094 pounds of Total Nitrogen per year. On Sept. 30, 2009, EPA agreed that achievement of this nutrient TMDL would protect the river from imbalances of flora and fauna. The state of Florida is implementing this TMDL in part through the comprehensive Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, which was established by the Florida Legislature in 2007. See § 373.4549, FS.
The undersigned organizations appreciate the efforts of the Florida congressional delegation to decipher facts from scare tactics as the delegation engages the EPA in this unprecedented federal rulemaking. We are confident that as the full story of Florida’s nutrient water-quality-control programs continue to unfold, it will become increasingly apparent that EPA’s flawed numeric nutrient criteria rules are not needed, and the state of Florida is best situated to manage its own waters.
Associated Industries of Florida
Association of Florida Community Development
CF Industries
Farm Credit of Northwest Florida
Farm Credit of Central Florida
Farm Credit of Florida
Florida Beverage Association
Florida Cattlemen’s Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Florida Citrus Mutual
Florida Crystals Corp.
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group Inc.
Environmental Committee (FCG EC)
Florida Engineering Society
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
Florida Forestry Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Florida Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council
Florida Home Builders Association
Florida Land Council
Florida League of Cities
Florida Nursery, Grower & Landscape Association
Florida Pest Management Association
Florida Pulp & Paper Association
Florida Rural Water Association
Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council
Florida Water Quality Coalition Inc.
Floridians for Industry, Jobs and Growth
Gulf Citrus Growers Association
PCS Phosphate, White Springs
South Walton Utility Co.
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative
The Fertilizer Institute
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – UFCW Local 1625
U.S. Sugar


Algae depletes oxygen, kills fish, seagrass in north Indian River Lagoon
July 18, 2011
Worsening bloom started in April.
A tiny green algae that scoots around with a whip-like tail grows so thick in the northern Indian River Lagoon it's killing hundreds of fish and stunting seagrass growth.
The algae called Resultor sp., is not known to be toxic to fish or humans. But too much algae can starve fish of oxygen in the water. And by blooming this spring and summer, the algae is blocking sun from seagrass beds during their prime growing time.
And seagrass -- crucial habitat for fish, crabs and other marine life -- is considered the best barometer of the lagoon's ecological health.
"For this type of bloom, it's the most intense and the longest duration that any of us have seen," said Joel Steward, technical program manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District. "We're venturing into totally new territory."
Usually, such blooms last a few weeks. This one dates back to April, and it's getting worse, possibly the beneficiary of a drought-driven spike in the lagoon's saltiness, biologists said.
Recent lagoon water samples show salt content at 5 percent, twice what's considered ideal for seagrass growth and fish larvae. Ocean water is around 3.5 percent salt.
"We call it hyper salinity," Steward said.
The impact to lagoon life remains uncertain.
"Some of these species can survive the high salinity," Steward said. "With these hyper salinities, we're seeing a totally different estuary than we've ever seen before."
Resultor is thought to occur worldwide and may have popped up in lagoon samples -- at much lower levels -- in 2005, 2006, and 2010, district officials said.
But it took an electron microscope at the University of Florida to identify this year's bloom definitively as Resultor. UF researchers found the species in high densities in samples collected in June.
High levels have been seen over the broadest area district officials can recall seeing such a lagoon bloom, from Titusville to almost Melbourne, including the entire Banana River.
So far, the fish toll has been low and sporadic. But on July 12, about 300 red drum, mullet, catfish and trout washed up dead between Mims and Scottsmoor, according to a state fish kill database.
Biologists aren't sure how long the bloom will last, but know it could claim more seagrass and fish before its done.
Already, its kept seagrass beds from growing half as far out as they could otherwise, district officials said.
"We've never seen anything like this," Steward said.


Audubon blames water management decisions for Lake Okeechobee water supply violation
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
July 18, 2011
Despite relief from recent rains, Lake Okeechobee water levels dropped too low for two long this year and violated state standards intended to protect the environment, according to Audubon of Florida.
Water management decisions combined with this year’s drought led to lake levels as of Monday dropping below the "Minimum Flows and Levels" standard set by Florida law.
The extended drop in lake level dried up key wildlife habitat, further threatening the endangered Everglades snail kite. The lake’s prolonged decline also cut off the lake from providing back-up drinking water when West Palm Beach supplies dipped to critical levels.
During the water supply strain, the South Florida Water Management District used temporary pumps to keep lake water flowing to sugar cane growers and other agriculture that rely on the lake for irrigation.
Water management decisions during the past year "placed the public and the environment at risk," Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper wrote to the South Florida Water Management District.
Audubon contends that stricter irrigation limits should have been imposed sooner on sugar cane growers and other agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee.
Draper on Monday called for the water management district to create a plan to help the lake recover and avoid future strains on South Florida’s primary back-up water supply.
"The restrictions placed on sugarcane irrigation were too little, too late and ultimately ineffective," Draper wrote to the district. "It is time for the District to take action to ratchet back (water) users."
In addition to providing vital wildlife habitat, Lake Okeechobee serves as South Florida’s primary backup water supply – tapped to irrigate crops and supplement regional water supplies.
South Florida endured its driest October to June on record and in June the lake dropped below 10 feet above sea level for the first time since 2008.
According to Audubon, Lake Okeechobee water levels this summer triggered a violation of state environmental standards when they stayed below 11 feet for more than 80 days in a row for the second time in a six-year period.
Environmentalists and agricultural advocates alike in recent years warned that federal and state water management decisions threatened to drop the lake too low during times of drought.
The Army Corps of Engineers, with input from the South Florida Water Management District, controls water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Safety concerns about Lake Okeechobee’s dike have the corps keeping lake levels about a foot below normal year round. During 2010, the corps released more than 300 billion gallons of lake water out to sea to ease the strain on the dike.
While South Florida was enduring a record dry season, the district released the equivalent of 22 inches of water off Lake Okeechobee for agriculture and other users south of the lake, according to Audubon.
The district in March imposed emergency watering restrictions that limited landscape watering to twice a week across South Florida and also required agriculture and golf courses to reduce water use 15 percent.
In May, growers that used lake water for irrigation were required to cut water use 45 percent.
 Audubon contends that imposing tougher irrigation restrictions earlier in the drought could have prevented Lake Okeechobee from dropping to levels that violate state standards.
Lake Okeechobee’s extended decline below 11 feet dried out the marshes rimming the lake that endangered snail kites rely on for feeding and nesting. As water levels declined this year, snail kites started abandoning their nests.
Before the drought, snail kites populations during the past decade had already dropped from about 3,000 to 700.
"Largely as a result of water management practices, this endangered species no longer has viable populations through its historic range in the Greater Everglades," Draper wrote to district officials.
The South Florida Water Management District officials on Monday issued a statement saying they "appreciate Audubon’s input" on Lake Okeechobee water supply decisions.
"These are complex issues that require thoughtful discussion with federal water managers and all stakeholders with an interest in the management of Lake Okeechobee," the district statement said.
Lake Okeechobee on Monday measured 10.13 feet, continuing to rise this month amid steady rains.
Despite increased rain, the lake still remains more than 3 feet below normal. District officials warn that it will take above-normal rainfall this summer to avoid going into the next winter-to-spring dry season at water shortage levels.
Building more stormwater storage facilities and reducing the use of Lake Okeechobee for water supply needs are among the ways to help stretch South Florida water supplies.


Clean Water Act measure endorsed by House
July 18, 2011
The House voted to give states more say over water quality standards. By a 239-184 vote, lawmakers backed a proposal (HR 2018) to limit the federal agency’s authority to enforce new or revised clean water standards. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Mica, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Rahall, D-W.V., cosponsored the measure that would restrict the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to override state water pollution plans and enforce stricter standards.
The proposal comes in response 1) to EPA actions over the past two years to stall mountaintop mining in Appalachia over concerns about stream contamination and 2) to insist on numeric nutrient standards in Florida.
The House adopted, 268-152, an amendment by Rep. Capito, R-W.V., to require the EPA to look at the economic impact of its CWA-related actions before new changes are enacted.
Other GOP lawmakers argued the bill would curb an overly aggressive EPA, restoring the balance between states and the federal government on water quality regulation. Many in Congress have argued that under the longstanding system of CWA “cooperative federalism,” states have primary responsibility for water pollution control.
The measure did garner the backing of 16 Democrats but many Democrats worried that the legislation would allow states to create their own standards, to the detriment of neighboring states that share water resources. The White House also weighed in with concerns, issuing a veto threat on the bill and saying the bill would “significantly undermine the Clean Water Act and could adversely affect public health, the economy and the environment.”
Related Articles: > Issues > EPA
Nearly 40 percent of House urges Clean Water Act guidance reconsideration
EPA’s Clean Water Act guidelines cause concern
Ducks Unlimited supports Clean Water Act restorations
Clean Water Act faces legal challenge
Clean Water Act making changes on farm


Sea rise
If sea levels rose to
where they were during
the Last Interglacial Period, large parts of
the Gulf of Mexico
region would be under
water (red areas),
including half of Florida
and several Caribbean islands.
(Photo illustration by
Jeremy Weiss)

Rising Ocean Levels A Long Term Problem
July 18, 2011
A new study has shown that not only does melting ice contribute more to rising sea levels than thermal expansion, but that ocean levels are likely to continue rising well after the warming of the atmosphere stabilises.
 The University of Arizona-led study focused on analysing paleoceanic records of sea surface temperatures during the warmest 5,000 year period of the Last Interglacial Period, a warm period that lasted from 130,000 to 120,000 years ago.
The researchers then compared their data to results of computer based climate models that were set out to simulate ocean temperatures during a 200 year snapshot in the middle of the Last Interglacial to calculate the contributions to global sea level rise of the waters thermal expansion.
What they found was sea surface temperatures of about 0.7 degrees warmer than today, and that even if the oceans warmed all the way down to 2,000 metres in depth – a highly unlikely scenario – the thermal expansion would only have accounted for no more than 30 centimetres.
This allowed the authors of the study to calculate that 4.1 to 5.8 metres of sea level rise during the Last Interglacial Period was derived from the Antarctic Ice sheet.
“This means that even small amounts of warming may have committed us to more ice sheet melting than we previously thought. The temperature during that time of high sea levels wasn’t that much warmer than it is today,” said Nicholas McKay, a doctoral student at the UA’s department of geosciences and the paper’s lead author.
“Even though the oceans are absorbing a good deal of the total global warming, the atmosphere is warming faster than the oceans. Moreover, ocean warming is lagging behind the warming of the atmosphere. The melting of large polar ice sheets lags even farther behind.”
“As a result, even if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions right now, the Earth would keep warming, the oceans would keep warming, the ice sheets would keep shrinking, and sea levels would keep rising for a long time,” McKay added.
Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the UA’s Institute of the Environment and a professor with joint appointments in the department of geosciences and atmospheric sciences, who is also McKay’s doctoral advisor and a co-author of the study, said: “This study marks the strongest case yet made that humans – by warming the atmosphere and oceans – are pushing the Earth’s climate toward the threshold where we will likely be committed to four to six or even more meters of sea level rise in coming centuries.”
“Unless we dramatically curb global warming, we are in for centuries of sea level rise at a rate of up to three feet per century, with the bulk of the water coming from the melting of the great polar ice sheets – both the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets.”
Source: University of Arizona
Source: Planetsave (
If sea levels rose to where they were during the Last Interglacial Period, large parts of the Gulf of Mexico region would be under water (red areas), including half of Florida and several Caribbean islands. (Photo illustration by Jeremy Weiss)
Source: Planetsave (


Southeastern Drought Worsens - USGS to Assess Impacts in Georgia, Florida and Alabama
July 18, 2011
Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192 Brian  McCallum - Phone: 770-903-9127
Hannah  Hamilton - Phone: 703-648-4356
ATLANTA, Ga. – Streamflow and groundwater conditions in southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama continued to worsen during July. Waterways in many of the regions rivers are setting new record lows with gauges on the Flint, Suwannee, Ochlocknee, Alapaha, and Apalachicola rivers recording the lowest water levels in their history due to lower than normal rainfall. Groundwater levels were below normal and set new records in much of the southern Georgia, with some wells going dry.
To determine the impact of the drought on water resources and ecology of southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama, almost two dozen researchers from three U.S. Geological Survey water science centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia will conduct field studies in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Aucilla-Suwannee-Ochlockonee river basins over the next 10 days.
"This is the first effort of its kind ever completed during the peak of the summer irrigation season", said Brian McCallum, assistant director of the USGS Georgia Water Science Center. "This effort will help us see hydrologic and ecological conditions at their most stressed condition."
USGS field crews will visit more than 200 stream sites and 400 private and public supply wells to assess streamflow decline and drops in groundwater levels. Additionally, field crews will collect water-quality information that will help in the determination of the drought's impact on ecological conditions in the region. Later in the summer, they will visit the same stream sites to assess populations of fish and mussels affected by drought conditions. The work is being completed as part of the USGS WaterSmart initiative, a program to assess sustainability of water supplies in the ACF basin.
Residents interested in monitoring water levels across the state or across the country have several USGS tools available for keeping informed, WaterAlert, WaterWatch, and GroundWaterWatch.
The USGS WaterAlert service sends e-mail or text (SMS) messages when certain parameters, as measured by a USGS real-time data-collection station, exceed user-definable thresholds which may vary at each gauge. For example users can input their favorite water gage, and receive updates on water level, streamflow, water temperature or salinity.
The USGS WaterWatch and GroundWater Watch websites display maps, graphs and tables describing real-time, recent and past stream flow and groundwater conditions for the United States, with real-time data updated on an hourly basis.  
"WaterWatch and GroundWaterWatch systems are great tools to compare streamflow and groundwater levels in terms of historical context", McCallum said. Used in conjunction with the WaterAlert notification system, these systems provide a comprehensive tool for keep track of the hydrologic conditions in Georgia. 
The USGS is the nation's primary provider of flow and water level information for our nation's waterways.  For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored selected streams and rivers with about 7,700 streamgaging sites and 20,000 wells across the nation.


Who needs clean water anyway
FloridaTimes-Union - by Ron Littlepage
July 18, 2011
Congressman Ander "I love the St. Johns River" Crenshaw joined forces with his Republican colleagues in the House in passing legislation last week that would make it easier to pollute the river he allegedly cares about.
Crenshaw voted in favor of a bill sponsored by another North Florida congressman and pollution apologist, John Mica, that basically guts the federal Clean Water Act that was passed in 1972.
That act, by the way, was a driving factor in Jacksonville's decision to finally stop dumping 15 million gallons of sewage daily into the St. Johns, work that was completed in 1977 and was celebrated by Mayor Hans Tanzler's famous attempt to ski in a cleaner river.
Crenshaw and his running buddy Mica are on the path to take us back to the good old days when the federal government had little say in protecting the health of our waterways.
Another North Florida Republican joined with them in supporting this odious legislation — Cliff Stearns. The only representative from this area who had the sense to vote against it was Corrine Brown.
The U.S. Senate needs to make sure this bill doesn't see the light of day, or polluted waterways could once again be just a flush away.


The new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District wants ‘patience'?
TCPalm - Editorial board
July 17, 2011
Only results will satisfy South Florida residents jaded by decades of bureaucratic failures.
Memo to Melissa Meeker, the new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District: Treasure Coast residents served by the district — and others throughout the district's 16-county service area in South Florida — are all out of patience.
Speaking recently to members of the Rivers Coalition in Stuart, Meeker repeatedly enjoined the organization to be "patient" with the district's efforts to preserve the St. Lucie Estuary.
"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," Meeker 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."
Setting aside the claim we have an administration in Tallahassee "focused on what's best for the Everglades" — ludicrous on its face — Meeker's apology and plea for patience falls squarely on deaf ears.
Patience? The public has been waiting decades for the water management district — and the state and federal governments — to restore the natural flow of the Everglades (south, not east and west) and stop the voluminous dumping of nutrient-laden fresh water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Residents in Martin and St. Lucie counties have witnessed firsthand the disastrous effects of the district's failed water policies.
Twice in the past 13 years, discharges from Lake Okeechobee have created an ecological crisis in the St. Lucie. First it was the "lesion fish" in 1998, followed in 2005 by an algae bloom that suffocated oxygen from the water and turned the South Fork of the St. Lucie River bright green.
Our region has been spared this calamity this year. Residents on Florida's west coast — also served by the South Florida Water Management District — haven't been so lucky. A toxic algae bloom — similar to those we've experienced in the past — is fouling the Caloosahatchee River. To inform the public, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation has been running full-page ads in west coast newspapers. One ad states, in part, "The Caloosahatchee is shouldering the burden for years of mismanagement of our most precious resource — water."
Hopes soared in 2000 when the state and federal governments launched the ambitious, $10 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. However, year after year, the federal government failed to provide adequate funding. Many projects that were funded went ... nowhere.
In February 2009, Earth magazine summarized a decade of CERP's failures. In the article, "Everglades restoration efforts make dismal progress," author Mary Caperton Morton noted: "According to the National Research Council, none of CERPs 50 projects have been completed and even relatively modest proposals, such as the Tamiami Trail bridge project, which would elevate a highway blocking marsh water flow, have been derailed by contentious politics, litigation and soaring costs."
Local residents don't have to look far for examples. Consider the Ten Mile Creek project near Fort Pierce: The $30 million reservoir — completed in 2006 and designed to draw in and clean water from Ten Mile Creek before it is released into the North Fork of the St. Lucie River — is not operational because of concerns about the integrity of the reservoir constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It may never be completed.
We're tired of the seemingly endless promises made by governors, interior secretaries, congressmen and senators who've toured the Everglades and produced nothing more than expensive photo-ops. Their words ring hollow.
After billions of dollars have been spent and untold hours have been invested, there is still no southern flow-way from Lake Okeechobee, and voluminous discharges of toxic water continue to foul our estuaries.
We're all out.
Only results will satisfy South Florida residents jaded by years of bureaucratic failures and false promises — and noxious requests for "patience."


The Wrecking Crew
Making Florida a Haven for Polluters - by ALAN FARAGO
July 15-17, 2011
We have reached the nadir of the dumbing down of American politics. The path was cleared by ideologues: and why should the devastation not be delivered by the conservative right holding the Book of to their American flag lapels? I am half-tempted to go along with the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party and let August 2nd come and go: just like Y2K right? (On Jan 1, 2000 apocalypse was predicted when computers would all shut down or short circuit because they had not been programmed to accept the millenium date. If you don't know what happens on August 2nd, stop reading now.)
Republican brainiacs believe they can pin "this budget thing" on President Obama and the Democrats, but if there is no resolution to the budget and debt ceiling crisis, expect a stock market crash of at least 20 percent off the bat. No one thought home values could be worth only half of what they were, five years ago. Let the GOP masterminds like Karl Rove explain how it is the Democrats' fault our savings turn out to be worth only half of what they were.
That the Republican Party turned into a party of unrecognizable extremists didn't happen overnight. For those who thought Grover Norquist was just trying to shrink the size of government, look at the consequences of the decapitations that are working themselves out in slow motion. Turn, for example, to Florida's GOP wrecking crew in the House of Representatives.
If you were too focused on Texas' GOP initiative to save the incandescent light bulb, or the electric utilities' decision to abandon investment to reduce man-made chemicals that cause global warming (because of regulatory uncertainty as a result of Republicans effort to kill environmental regulations), then you might have missed the Florida GOP delegations' most recent tactic in the Holy War against the US EPA: to gut the Clean Water Act as revenge for the federal agency's efforts (after decades of lawsuits and inaction) to clean up Florida's filthy waters where the state refuses (thank you, Governor Barely Legal Rick Scott).
The GOP is ginned up by campaign contributors from polluting industries like Big Sugar and its lobbyists; Florida's Associated Industries and its Jack-Ass-In-Chief Barney Bishop. "US EPA's proposed nutrient criteria rules will impose 'crushing burden' on families, economy" is the alarmist press statement dated July 9, 2011. It is a piece of the 40 Year War Against the Environment that provides the foundation for Florida's future: a haven for polluters.
Yesterday, a week after Associated Industries' kick-off-- followed up by a full scale lobbying press by Big Sugar in the halls of Congress-- the House passed The Dirty Water Bill sponsored by Florida REp. John Mica. Sierra Club wrote of the measure (supported, naturally by the Republican delegation from coal-polluting West Virginia); "H.R. 2018 guts the Clean Water Act, severely limits the federal government's ability to protect waterways, and seeks to return the country to an era of inconsistent and ineffective state water safety standards without a federal safety net. Representatives also voted against an amendment that would have ensured continued protection of municipal drinking water sources."
H.R. 2018 would "prevent the Environmental Protection Agency, without state concurrence, from taking action to revise outdated state water quality standards, making it easier for companies to dump their waste and garbage into lakes and rivers." Like Big Sugar, frantically trying to fend off paying for its pollution of Florida and the Everglades.
It is nauseating: the GOP Congress is using the budget crisis-- otherwise consuming the nation's bandwidth for political turmoil-- to insert the will of big polluters and Republican campaign contributors. Call it "Particle Board Democracy" to the benefit of the Koch brothers (billionaires like the Fanjuls) whose profits derive, among other sources, from the manufacturing of formaldehyde; the binder in chip board. Chip board: a symbol of American democracy. That's what we have come to: binding democracy to Big Sugar and carcinogenic fixatives. When you strip away "Obamacare" and the other wisps of Frank Luntz rhetorical magic tricks, the key Republican issue is protecting polluters; just look at the states where the GOP leadership comes from. In addition to Florida, the co-signer of H.R. 2018: West Virginia. Mitch McConnell, opponent of campaign finance reform and Senate minority leader, Kentucky. Big Coal, Big Sugar, then there are the Kochs.
When the EPA recently-- after more than a decade of "study"-- declared formaldehyde to be a carcinogen, the Koch's frenzy added even more vigor to the funders of the Tea Party and other reactionary, revenge-seekers against the EPA. Consider U.S. EPA costs relative to other monthly expenses of the federal government: the subject of so much spent energy by the Florida GOP delegation in the context of the budget crisis.
The monthly obligations of the federal government, all-in, are approximately $307 billion. One must ask the question, if the best the GOP Congress and Florida's extremist Republicans in Congress can find to do is beat up on the EPA, whose budget represents .3 percent of monthly federal obligations, WTF is going on? We know what is going on: the House of Representatives and its Florida GOP delegation is marching through our democracy like General Sherman through Georgia; laying waste to everything of value. In 2012 voters will have a chance to redress the shameful ploys by Republicans. But God help us, the next two weeks.


Bill Young

Young's quiet vote for clean water
July 16, 2011
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores was in his first term when he voted for the Clean Water Act in 1972. This week, Young was one of just 13 Republicans — and the only Republican from Florida — to vote against gutting the law he embraced nearly four decades ago. Florida is fortunate to have at least one member of Congress willing to take the long view and not blindly follow the party line.
The Clean Water Act originally passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats. After President Richard Nixon vetoed it, Young voted with most of his fellow Republicans to override the veto. This week, clean water was a partisan issue as the Republican-led House voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from forcing states to set high water quality standards and protect wetlands. Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and Richard Nugent of Spring Hill did not share Young's perspective or independence and voted to protect the polluters.
Young, whose name is on the Tampa Bay Water reservoir in Hillsborough County, has a long history of protecting natural resources and drinking water. For decades, he ensured that Congress protected Florida's Gulf Coast from oil drilling. In the twilight of his distinguished service to Tampa Bay and Florida, Young again cast a vote this week for clean water without fanfare or notice. Sometimes, those quiet votes against the partisan tide say the most.


Contract awarded for Indian River Lagoon project linked to Everglades restoration
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
July 15, 2011
MARTIN COUNTY — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a Knoxville, Tenn., company a $32.4 million contract to build stormwater treatment areas and a reservoir along the St. Lucie Canal — the first step in a Martin County Indian River Lagoon project linked to Everglades restoration.
Tennesee-based Phillips & Jordan Inc. will head the initial phase of a $340-million, three-phase Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project. State and local governments already have spent $168 million to acquire land for the project, including $28 million county taxpayers provided through a three-year, one-cent sales tax.
The first phase will attempt to reverse the effects of pollution and freshwater discharges into the lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary from the St. Lucie Canal. The project will not, however, stop periodic discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River that flow into the Indian River Lagoon, said Paul Millar, Martin County water resource manager.
The Indian River Lagoon-South Project is one of several pieces of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The St. Lucie Canal phase has a seven-year construction time line that will involve three contracts, an Army Corps of Engineers release said.
The Tennessee company's contract includes creating an intake canal, access roads, a drainage canal and outlet for the C-133 and C-133A canals in western Martin County. The project also includes removing a culvert under the C-133 Canal, building a bridge on Citrus Boulevard over the new intake canal, and adding turning lanes on Citrus Boulevard, the release said.
Phillips & Jordan officials said their two-year contract will create 40 to 50 new jobs, and they'll try to use Treasure Coast workers. It will also have an overall impact of 490 related jobs in the contract's first year and 310 in the second, according to the release.
The Army Corps of Engineers had announced they'd award the contract on May 26.
Overall work on the C-44 Canal — the technical name for the St. Lucie Canal – will entail creating a 3,400-acre above-ground reservoir and 6,300 acres of stormwater treatment areas. The reservoir will be about 15 feet deep to capture basin runoff.
The reservoir will be able to store 50,600 acre-feet — about 16.5 billion gallons — of water, and will include a station that can pump 1,100 cubic feet of water per second.
The canal adjustments aim to clean water in a 116,000-acre watershed north and south of the C-44 Canal between Port Mayaca and the St. Lucie Locks. Water in the reservoir will go through water treatment areas, and the water then will flow back into the canal and eventually into the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon.


'Decipher Facts from Scare Tactics' in EPA NNC Decision
Sunshine news
July 15, 2011
July 14 letter to Florida congressional delegation from business, govt., labor groups.
Last week, you received a letter from the Florida Water Coalition, signed by David Guest, requesting your support for EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking in Florida.
The letter pointed to a recent algal bloom in the Caloosahatchee River to justify EPA’s rulemaking. While Mr. Guest is correct that the periodic algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee are a problem, he is simply wrong in suggesting that EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria rulemaking is the proper solution. Mr. Guest omits two essential facts that lead to a very different conclusion.
First, Mr. Guest’s letter omitted the widely reported reason for the algae bloom in the Caloosahatchee River. The algae bloom was a result of the lack of freshwater flow to the Caloosahatchee River due to the historic drought in South Florida. Baseflow deliveries of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River are made when necessary to keep the estuary within its salinity envelope if water is available in the lake to make these deliveries. The conditions under which those releases are made are defined in the lake regulation schedule and operational protocols utilized by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, due to severe drought conditions, lake water was unavailable to be released to the river, and the river became stagnant, giving rise to ideal conditions for algae blooms. As a result of the recent rainfall and local runoff, the stagnant water has begun to be flushed from the river.
Unsurprisingly, water quality is improving. These verifiable facts were omitted in Mr. Guest’s letter.
Second, Mr. Guest’s letter failed to mention that the Caloosahatchee River already has an EPA-approved numeric nutrient pollution limit. The state of Florida adopted this site-specific numeric nutrient total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Caloosahatchee River estuary in August 2009. See FDEP Rule 62-304.800(2), FAC. The state law requires a 22.8 percent reduction in nitrogen loads to Tidal Caloosahatchee estuary downstream of the S-79 Franklin Lock and sets a numeric nutrient limit of 9,086,094 pounds of Total Nitrogen per year. On Sept. 30, 2009, EPA agreed that achievement of this nutrient TMDL would protect the river from imbalances of flora and fauna. The state of Florida is implementing this TMDL in part through the comprehensive Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, which was established by the Florida Legislature in 2007. See § 373.4549, FS.
The undersigned organizations appreciate the efforts of the Florida congressional delegation to decipher facts from scare tactics as the delegation engages the EPA in this unprecedented federal rulemaking. We are confident that as the full story of Florida’s nutrient water-quality-control programs continue to unfold, it will become increasingly apparent that EPA’s flawed numeric nutrient criteria rules are not needed, and the state of Florida is best situated to manage its own waters.
Associated Industries of Florida
Association of Florida Community Development
CF Industries
Farm Credit of Northwest Florida
Farm Credit of Central Florida
Farm Credit of Florida
Florida Beverage Association
Florida Cattlemen’s Association
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Florida Citrus Mutual
Florida Crystals Corp.
Florida Electric Cooperatives Association
Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group Inc.
Environmental Committee (FCG EC)
Florida Engineering Society
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association
Florida Forestry Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Florida Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council
Florida Home Builders Association
Florida Land Council
Florida League of Cities
Florida Nursery, Grower & Landscape Association
Florida Pest Management Association
Florida Pulp & Paper Association
Florida Rural Water Association
Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council
Florida Water Quality Coalition Inc.
Floridians for Industry, Jobs and Growth
Gulf Citrus Growers Association
PCS Phosphate, White Springs
South Walton Utility Co.
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative
The Fertilizer Institute
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – UFCW Local 1625
U.S. Sugar
Information regarding this program (Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program), including the lengthy Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan, is available at Issues related to better managing the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee are addressed in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Watershed Construction Project, Phase II Technical Plan. Similar comprehensive, numeric‐based programs are already in place for other water bodies mentioned in Mr. Guest’s letter – the Lower St. Johns River (see, e.g., Rule 62‐304.415, FAC) and the St. Lucie River (see, e.g., Rule 62‐304.705, FAC).


Thumbs up: Bill would rein in EPA
The Herald-Dispatch
July 15, 2011
If it is possible for a federal agency to become more unpopular than the IRS, the Environmental Protection Agency has done it -- at least in our region.
With new restrictions and reviews over the past few years, the EPA has disrupted mining operations in the coalfields and cost much-needed jobs.
Some view it as assault on coal by those who favor alternative energy sources. Others feel the agency is simply trying to follow its environmental mission, but lacks a reasonable regard for the impact of its actions on local economies. Either way, many on both sides of the aisle maintain something has to change.
So it is encouraging that this week the U.S. House passed bipartisan legislation that would require the EPA to apply the Clean Water Act in a more even-handed fashion.
Sponsored by Democrat Nick Rahall from our district and Republican John Mica from Florida, the bill would provide more common-sense standards for mining permits and speed up the permitting process, which can now be bottled up for months.
It also would put limits on the EPA's ability to veto previously approved dredge-and-fill permits, as it did with the Spruce Mine operation in Logan County earlier this year. In that case, the company already had worked through years of winning permit approvals, set up operations and hired workers, only to have an EPA ruling bring everything to a halt.
What industry can function in that kind of climate?
"This bill would bring the federal water quality permitting process back to center and help to ensure a more stable, clear and equitable national clean-water program," Rahall said this week.
That is what we need.


With Scott, Everglades restoration back on track
Palm Beach Post - Letters to the Editor by Michael Collins
July 15, 2011
In response to the op-ed commentary "Would you trade water for a pizza? Our governor did," Florida needs to support a well-planned, scientifically sound Everglades restoration blueprint, like the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which was developed and approved by all stakeholders.
But the environmental community, backed by The Palm Beach Post, supported the previous governor's vision for the Everglades, which is what veered the district wildly off course from CERP. The so-called "River of Grass" project, proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist and hailed by environmentalists, brought CERP to a standstill. In addition to wasting $200 million on land that was not needed, it squandered two years that could have been spent advancing CERP projects and continuing the positive path restoration was on under Gov. Jeb Bush. That is why these new efforts to vilify Gov. Rick Scott, whose goal is to prevent further derailment, ring more than hollow.
It is unfortunate that the environmental community and The Palm Beach Post continue to ignore the progress and investments made by Florida and Florida's agricultural producers and instead praise the federal government, which has virtually defaulted on its 50 percent restoration cost share. The feds seem to be happy to dictate terms that hinder, rather than help restore the Everglades and its waters.
Rick Scott is putting politics aside and using his office to streamline Everglades restoration. The state and the South Florida Water Management District need to spend our precious tax dollars efficiently, on a logical, scientifically sound plan. One can only imagine what a reader with limited knowledge of Everglades restoration would think after reading the revisionist history in "Would you trade water for pizza? Our governor did."
Editor's note: Michael Collins was chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board when the state and federal governments approved Everglades restoration.


Algae in Florida river turning people sick, killing dogs say local residents
Washington Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
Nutrient runoff and algal blooms hurt the bottom line along the Caloosahatchee
Florida Independent – by Virginia Chamlee
July 14, 2011
Property values are falling and merchants complain lack of regulation hurts their businesses.
The Caloosahatchee River is in trouble — and with it, the residents and businesses that line its banks. The river, like many Florida waterways, has been inundated with large-scale algal blooms, likely brought on by an abundance of nutrients found in failing septic tanks, home fertilizers and industry runoff.
Florida currently has no regulatory safeguard in place to protect its waterways, and citizens, from such nutrients. Attempts to create a nutrient standard have been railed against by lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio, who has argued time and again that such regulations would be bad for business. But according to residents of the small town of Alva, it is the lack of criteria, and the overwhelming presence of algal blooms, that is proving bad for business.
Alva is a sleepy little town of just around 3,000 located near the southwest coast of Florida. Richard Spence, an Alva native who owns a convenience store on State Road 80, has seen (and smelled) the stuff firsthand. ”It looks like some kind of fungus, like a liquid type of moss — and it’s very thick, almost like a putting green, and about an inch thick,” Spence says.
He believes the gunk is not only aesthetically displeasing and extremely noxious, but that it’s making people sick.
In addition to the belly-up fish floating in the river, Spence has heard of dogs dying after drinking the water. Talk at his convenience store — which he describes as a neighborhood water cooler — is that the blooms are having a physical effect on humans. “Lots of people are complaining of stomach pains and all that stuff,” he says. “I’ve personally been having lots of problems with my eyes. … It’s a safe guess that it’s the river making people sick.”
Recent rains have washed much of the bloom away, but concern among residents remains widespread. “OK, so we don’t have the bloom now, but the chronic implications of extended exposure is incalculable,” says Alva resident Michael Dove. He says he has heard of others with intestinal bloating brought on by cyanobacteria — neurotoxins that have been shown to cause chronic illnesses in laboratory animals.
In addition to physical harm, residents of Alva say that the blooms are harming businesses and property values. Spence’s convenience store sells wrapped sandwiches to those boating on the river. On a typical day, he sells somewhere between 35 to 45 sandwiches to go. But recently? “I haven’t done one in the past two months,” he says.
Waterfront homeowners are losing money, too. One homeowner, who wished to remain anonymous, says that the real estate crisis, coupled with the algal bloom, has caused his home to drop millions in value. “I put a ‘For Sale’ sign up on my property. A couple comes out and they see algae and signs that say, ‘Don’t Fish’ or, ‘Don’t Recreate’ in this water,” the resident says. “That’s the value of our property — it’s been stolen. It’s theft by omission and incompetence. Either the governing board or our government in this state is incredibly inept, or it’s a criminal enterprise. Which is it?”
As both a business and property owner in Alva, Spence has resigned himself to the fact that the issue may be a lost cause. “My property value is shot,” he says. “No one wants to buy anything out here. Who wants to live next to a toxic dump?”
Concerns that state regulatory agencies are to blame is a common refrain among the residents of Alva. According to some, the South Florida Water Management District should be held at least partly responsible, for what they argue is a misuse of water withdrawal permits.
Word among the residents of Alva is that, during the months of April and May, the district released only one inch of water into the Caloosahatchee, but released nearly two feet to agriculture and lawn-watering companies. The South Florida Water Management District maintains that 1.3 inches of lake water went into the Caloosahatchee during that time period, and estimates that the Everglades Agricultural Area received around 15 inches.
The lack of water, coupled with the continual runoff of nutrient-laden water from nearby farms, led to the worst algal bloom the area has seen in decades.
Residents compare the algal bloom to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. ”We don’t carry a lot of votes, so I guess people just don’t care,” says Spence. “But it is amazing how one catastrophe can draw presidential attention, to the point BP is reprimanded and fined. We have U.S. Sugar dumping their stuff into the river and no one’s saying a word to U.S. Sugar.”
Like the district, Big Sugar has received a lot of flack for the algae. Even residents wary to point fingers mention the sugar industry as the primary source of the nutrients and the blooms.
 “I understand that they’re having issues with salinity in their water,” says Judy Sanchez, director of communications for U.S. Sugar. “There’s very little water anywhere in the system. West Palm Beach is close to running out of water, the Everglades are dry, Lake Okeechobee is four feet below normal. … We are in a drought situation.”
 “There’s a misconception that farmers are getting normal amounts of water,” she says, adding that U.S. Sugar is on a 45 percent water restriction. But because of the flow of the water, and the capacity of the pumps, that number is actually less. “We should be getting about 55 percent of the water we normally receive, but we’re probably getting more like 40 percent. Crops that are normally six to eight feet tall are only three feet tall. The rain is starting to help, but we’ve lost both the yield of cane and the sugar content of those crops.”
But critics say that agriculture isn’t suffering nearly as much as Lee County residents, and that if practices continue unchanged, everyone’s bottom line will suffer.
 “The reality that I see is that if we don’t have clean water in Florida, we’re not going to have tourism,” says Dove. “Our health is going to be gradually eroded. Each year, the bloom gets more severe. Agriculture is a component, and their practices have contributed to the lack of health, but so have septic tanks. All of us are shareholders in the degradation.”
Dove, a longtime resident of the area who lives in one of Alva’s oldest homes, says he is mystified by the argument that regulating nutrients will be costly and bad for business.
 “Agriculture is kicking and screaming about those nutrient levels, and lawmakers argue that we already have clean water. The reality is, most of our tributaries are nothing but conduits for sewage,” he says. “We are spoiling the very resource that nurtures agriculture. If we don’t act yesterday, we aren’t going to have agriculture.”
And that, it seems, would be awfully bad for business.


Rainy July boosts Lake Okeechobee water levels
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 14, 2011
Lake Okeechobee's water level crept back to 10 feet above sea level on Thursday, offering another sign of South Florida's improved water supply situation thanks to a July drenching.
But while steady rains have helped boost water supplies from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, drought-triggered watering restrictions remain in place for South Florida.
Water officials on Thursday announced that after the driest October-to-June stretch on record, July rainfall has been 125 percent of average. That helped boost the lake that provides South Florida's primary back-up water supply, but the lake remains more than 3 feet below normal.
Lake Okeechobee in June dipped below 10 feet for the first time since 2008. It got down to 9.53 feet on June 24 before the late-starting summer rainy season brought relief.
"We aren't out of the woods yet," said Kimberley Taplin, of the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates lake levels. "We hope to get … some heavy rain and tropical storms that can help replenish the lake."
Manmade manipulations contributed to the drought's strain on Lake Okeechobee.
Concerns about the stability of the lake's aging dike prompted the Army Corps of Engineers last year to release more than 300 billion gallons of lake water out to sea in the name of flood control.


South Florida water managers cut taxes, slash spending to meet required cutbacks
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 14, 2011
State-imposed cuts could mean more money in taxpayers' pockets, delays for Everglades restoration.
South Florida water managers on Thursday committed to cutting property taxes about 30 percent, despite concerns that slashing spending could further delay Everglades restoration.
The tradeoff for the South Florida Water Management District's tax cut is expected to be nearly 100 district layoffs, more delays for already overdue Everglades restoration and reduced spending on a backlog of maintenance for South Florida's aging flood-control facilities.
State-imposed cutbacks require the district to trim about $128 million from the budget that kicks in on Oct. 1.
Environmental groups oppose such deep cuts, saying it puts at risk efforts to clean up water pollution and build stormwater storage and treatment areas that could boost water supplies for both the Everglades and the public.
"We don't think penalizing the Everglades, water quality and the people of Florida is the right thing," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida.
The district is charged with protecting water supplies and guarding against flooding from Orlando to the Keys, as well as leading Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott pushed for cutting district spending about 30 percent and the Florida Legislature during its spring session imposed new limits on the district's tax rate as well as its ability to borrow money.
The district submits its proposed budget to state officials on Aug. 1. District officials are still looking for about $25 million in additional cuts to reach $128 million before the district board's final vote on budget and tax rate in September.
"I think we are headed in the right direction," said new District Executive Director Melissa Meeker, who took over the agency's top job in June. "Get back to the core mission."
According to the proposal approved on Thursday, the district property tax rate would be about 44 cents per $1,000 of taxable value for most of the district's 16-county region. That's down from about 62 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.
For a home valued at $230,000 and eligible for a $50,000 homestead exemption, district taxes for a property owner in Broward or Palm Beach counties would be about $79 a year. That's down from about $112 at the current rate.
The district's proposed budget cuts include eliminating 270 to 280 agency jobs.
A buyout program in June persuaded 123 district employees to voluntarily leave the agency and the district as of Thursday had another 91 vacant positions.
The district expects to save about $45 million by: reducing the number of employees; cutting salaries for those making more than $90,000 a year; and reducing employee benefits.
Another $58 million in operating cost cuts include: eliminating nearly $33 million in contractor and consulting costs, cutting $10 million from the $60 million usually spent each year for maintenance of flood control facilities, and saving $1.4 million by reducing use of district helicopters.
The district's proposed $600 million budget includes more than $200 million for Everglades restoration projects.
The district's budget plan so far doesn't prioritize putting to use 26,800 acres of former U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland that the agency bought for $197 million in October for Everglades restoration.
Scott opposed the land deal during his campaign.
In addition to the uncertainty over plans for the U.S. Sugar land, the district's new leaders have not committed to what to do about an unfinished a reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County.
South Florida taxpayers invested nearly $280 million in construction on the reservoir project that ended up getting shelved as the district pursued the U.S. Sugar land deal.
Before Meeker took over, the district planned to use the reservoir site to build a smaller stormwater storage or treatment area. Now it's not among the restoration priorities in the proposed budget.
Meeker on Thursday said the future of the unfinished reservoir is part of the ongoing talks with federal officials about "what Everglades restoration looks like moving forward."
District Board Member Daniel DeLisi defended the agency's proposed spending cuts and advocates selling some public land to raise money.
"We have cut a tremendous amount," said DeLisi, one of Scott's recent appointments to the nine-member board that oversees the district. "This is all about using what resources we have."


U.S. House passes Mica-sponsored water bill
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
July 14, 2011
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, is proving successful in his effort to thwart the Federal Environmental Protection’s efforts to regulate water pollution. Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 2018, a bill sponsored by Mica that would block the EPA from tightening water pollutant limits without a state’s consent.
The bill is one of a slew of efforts to block implementation of the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria — a set of standards that would set tight limits on water pollution in Florida. Environmentalists (and many residents of areas suffering from nutrient pollution) support the criteria, arguing that they are necessary for public health and industries like tourism and fishing. Industry and agriculture leaders and lawmakers across the state have cried foul, however, arguing that the criteria will harm the economy even further, and lead to a loss in jobs.
Environmental law firm Earthjustice has been vocal in its opposition to Mica’s bill, which they say is “pro-pollution.”
In a press release, Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer came out hard against those supporting the bill, who she says are “playing politics with our public health.”
“It is hard to imagine that Florida Rep. John Mica sponsored legislation that makes it harder to clean up toxic algae outbreaks like the ones that cover the St. Johns River and the Caloosahatchee River with toxic green slime,” said Reimer. ”Where does he think our drinking water comes from? There’s a water plant in Southwest Florida right now shut down because of toxic algae. It should be serving 30,000 taxpaying citizens, but the water is too polluted.”
As it is written, the bill would roll back several provisions of the Clean Water Act, and essentially bans the EPA from noting whether or not a proposed project would be detrimental to lakes, streams or wetlands. The bill would also significantly impact the agency’s ability to comment on federal permits affecting water quality or public health.
In its own legal analysis of the bill (.pdf), EPA representatives determined that it would “overturn almost 40 years of Federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.” The bill passed in a 239 to 184 vote.
Republicans cite jobs in attacking federal environmental regulations -
House votes to block EPA on water pollution - Politico
Mica seeks to limit clean-water rules - St. Augustine Record
House Votes to Roll Back Clean Water Act - Huffington Post (blog)


Arthur R. Marshall Foundation to honor interns at luncheon
Sun Sentinel
July 13, 2011
The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, which champions the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem, will be hosting a "Graduation Luncheon" honoring its four Everglades interns.
The Marshall Foundation's annual summer intern program started in late May and runs through the luncheon, which will be held on Aug. 4 at the West Palm Beach headquarters of the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin counties. The public is invited to attend the "Graduation Luncheon," tickets are $50 per person and are available at 561-233-9004.
This year's summer interns at the Marshall Foundation have been busy calculating the economic impact of the summer's ongoing drought.
"We believe that the drought's so-called 'sticker shock' will convince citizens to support implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan," said John Marshall, board chair for the Marshall Foundation and the Florida Environmental Institute, Inc. "Certainly, implementing CERP will not only be cheaper than putting up with future droughts, it will help in reducing the frequency, duration and extent of additional droughts over the next 40 years."
The Marshall Foundation's 2011 Everglades interns include:
♦Vanessa Aparicio recently graduated from Stetson University with a bachelor of science in biology and environmental science. She grew up in Fort Lauderdale where she fell in love with South Florida's freshwater ecosystems. After earning a master's degree, Aparicio intends to pursue a career in wildlife and conservation biology with an interest in ecosystem management.
♦David Diaz was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Florida. A recent graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in environmental science and a minor in international studies in agriculture and life sciences, he studied for six months in southern Brazil, where his exposure to the Atlantic rainforest sparked his interest in ecology. Diaz hopes to pursue a career in tropical ecology or environmental management.
♦Judy Hartshorn graduated from the University of Miami in May 2011 with a major in marine affairs and minor in biology and communication studies. Next year she will be attending the University of Miami to get a master's degree in marine affairs, and wants to work with coastal communities in developing countries.
♦Robert Hill was born and raised in St. Petersburg, and is in his final semester at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he is majoring in environmental studies with a minor in biology. After completing the environmental studies graduate/master's program, his career goal is to work in habitat restoration, wildlife management or natural resource management.
The Marshall Foundation's intensive, 11-week internship is for undergraduate and graduate students with top grades in the environmental sciences. The program is focused on the Florida Everglades and the multi-billion dollar plan to preserve and restore this vital ecosystem. Mentored by top-level professionals and decision-makers, interns are involved in hands-on projects and educational activities.
"The purpose of this life-changing, career-enhancing summer program is to train the next generation of environmental leaders," said Nancy Marshall, president of the board of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation. "Our objective is to create knowledgeable professionals who can address issues like the Everglades from a multitude of viewpoints. I'm pleased to say that many of our graduates have gone on to achieve impressive things in the ecological sciences."
For more information, visit •


Delayed Everglades restoration prompts Palm Beach County leader to question state, federal 'courage'
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
July 13, 2011
Frustrated with stalled Everglades restoration, Palm Beach County Commission Chairwoman Karen Marcus contends that federal and state officials lack the "courage" to get it done.
One year ago, Palm Beach County imposed a moratorium on new rock mines that were spreading across farmland that environmental groups said may be needed for Everglades restoration.
The county’s moratorium is set to expire in August, but efforts to reshape Everglades restoration plans remain on hold and state and federal officials have yet to commit to what additional land in the vast Everglades Agricultural Area may be needed.
Amid the indecision on the future of Everglades restoration, Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday opted not to support the tougher regulatory hurdles for new rock mines sought by environmental groups.
Rock mining companies as well as the sugar cane growers that own much of the land in the Everglades Agricultural Area opposed tougher standards for new mines.
Federal and state officials, including the South Florida Water Management District, lack the "courage" to more clearly define what land is needed for restoration and what land could be used for mining, according to Marcus.
"I think they are afraid," Marcus said. "I think they are afraid of the landowners."
The Everglades Agriculture Area includes hundreds of thousands of acres south of Lake Okeechobee, including much of western Palm Beach County.
Water once naturally overflowed the banks of Lake Okeechobee’s southern rim, slowly flowing all the way south to Florida Bay – fueling the Everglades’ River of Grass.
Decades of draining land to make way for sugar cane and other crops, in what would become the Everglades Agricultural Area, cut off that natural water flow.
Long-term Everglades restoration plans call for building more stormwater storage and treatment facilities in the agricultural area to recreate water flows to hydrate what remains of the Everglades.
But Everglades restoration remains behind schedule after a decade of funding delays and changes in state and federal leadership. That leaves questions about which land in the Everglades Agricultural Area could be needed for water storage and treatment.
The South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration for the state, once planned to buy all of the more than 180,000 acres owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. to help restore water flows between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
The country’s economic downturn shrunk that nearly $2 billion land deal championed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to 26,800 acres costing $197 million. Since then, new Gov. Rick Scott has pushed for  cost-cutting measures at the district that limit the agency’s ability to buy the rest of the U.S. Sugar land.
New plans for restoration in the Everglades Agricultural Area remain "very, very far away," said Dean Powell, of the water management district.
"We won’t have the property to construct that flow way," Powell said.
Environmental groups contend that the digging and blasting of rock mining threaten to eat up land needed for Everglades restoration. They also argue that the deep pits can lead to contaminated water supplies.
Rock mines produce material used to build roads and for other construction.
Before the moratorium, the county commission had already approved about 24,000 acres of rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area since 2006.
Sugar cane growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have increasingly explored rock mining as a way to diversify their operations.
State legislators passed a law that won’t allow the county to continue its rock mining moratorium beyond August.
Marcus maintains that there should be a "higher threshold" for determining whether to allow more mining.
State and federal officials need to hurry up and determine what land is needed for Everglades restoration before it ends up as rock mines, according to Marcus.
"You need to fix that hole," Marcus said about restoration plans for the Everglades Agricultural Area. "We don’t want to impede … Everglades restoration."


House attempt to gut EPA's enforcement of clean-water rules is dangerous
Miami Herald
July 13, 2011
(Related Content: - McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Tuesday, July 12:
When you go swimming at the beach, do you mind if there's a little sewage in the water?
Going fishing? Would you mind a few industry contaminants in your favorite river or lake, maybe a little mercury, with that fish fry?
Clean water is not a jobs killer - certainly not in Florida, which counts on its beaches and natural assets to lure millions of tourists and billions of dollars. Yet U.S. Reps. John Mica, an Orlando-area Republican, and Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat, have sponsored a bill that seeks to gut the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate water quality, wetlands protection and the removal of mountain tops in coal mining.
Why? It's all in the name of states' rights. And they blame the Obama administration for toughening enforcement and hurting jobs creation in the states.
Whoa, fellas. Clean water doesn't have state boundaries. The reason the EPA was created and the Clean Water Act was strengthened in 1972 was the confusing patchwork of state-by-state water rules that allowed governors and legislatures to curry favor with big industries in their states and permitted uses with disastrous consequences. Those short-cuts don't just have consequences for a state that allows an industry to dump poisonous chemicals into a stream - but for its neighbors, too.
Consider that the Gulf of Mexico suffered huge dead zones because contaminated water from septic tanks and factories that dumped into the Mississippi River carried such high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Gulf that marine life couldn't survive.
Ohio's Cuyahoga River was so polluted it caught fire back before there were national standards to protect water quality.
Consider, too, closer to home, that the dredging at the Port of Miami needs strict rules to ensure Biscayne Bay's water quality and that islands such as Key Biscayne surrounded by the bay are protected from irresponsible dumpers.
The legislation, HB 2018, is being hailed as a "state-federal partnership" that will help states create jobs. This is laughable if it weren't so frightening.
Fast-tracked through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the panel passed the bill without even holding a hearing. Now it's scheduled to come before the full House as early as Wednesday.
Make no mistake. This legislation would hamstring the EPA from overruling any state's vague water-quality limits or ensuring dredge permits are feasible even when there is evidence of contamination. Under HB 2018, the misnamed Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, the EPA could not veto a state's assessment of a project unless the state agrees. In effect, outdated state rules on water-quality standards, requirements for dumping waste or trash would no longer have to answer to federal oversight. Even if states failed to meet clean water standards, the EPA would have no hammer to stop them from getting federal funding.
This latest assault on the EPA comes after it nixed a West Virginia mine's attempt to dump mountaintop coal waste into waterways. Downstream North Carolina might have something to worry about.
The GOP-led House, apparently embracing tea-party hysteria about federal overreach, needs a reality check. Surely South Florida House Republican members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera - who have fought for a cleaner Miami River and Biscayne Bay - aren't so clueless as to gut the EPA. Are they ?


U.S. judge stops work at Mosaic Hardee mine - by Kyle Kennedy, NYT Regional Media Group
July 13, 2011
FORT MEADE -- Work at a Mosaic Co. phosphate mine in Hardee County has been halted as part of an ongoing legal dispute between the company and the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
Mosaic's spokesman said Monday that a number of the employees there are from Polk County.
Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. of U.S. District Court in Jacksonville on Friday issued a temporary injunction preventing all mining activity on the Hardee County extension of Mosaic's South Fort Meade mine.
The Sierra Club and two local environmental groups requested the injunction in June, following a Mosaic announcement that it planned to mine an additional 700-acre tract at the site this month. The environmental groups asked Adams for the injunction because a previous order was set to expire July 7.
In the June filing, the Sierra Club charged that new mining would cause irreparable and irreversible harm to the environment on the 700 acres, affecting the headwaters of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor estuary. Mosaic countered the mining work would occur only on "uplands areas" that are not as environmentally sensitive as wetlands.
"We are surprised and disappointed that the District Court granted another preliminary injunction," said Richard Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and general counsel, in a prepared statement Monday.
"We do not believe the injunction is supported by the overwhelming facts or the law, and we will vigorously pursue all options to obtain relief, as we successfully did with the previous injunction. The court's ruling is inconsistent with the overall regulatory environment in Florida and may bring significant hardship to our employees and local communities."
The tract is part of a 10,583-acre extension of the company's South Fort Meade Mine that has been the subject of a year-long legal battle. The Sierra Club lawsuit challenges a mining permit issued last year by the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The court has recognized that the Corps of Engineers review of this project was deeply flawed and needs to be re-done in order to protect these wetlands, streams and water flows that are crucial to wildlife and human populations," said Bev Griffiths, chair of the Sierra Club Florida phosphate committee, in a statement responding to Friday's temporary injunction. "Such destruction should not occur without full compliance with environmental protections," Griffiths said.
In April, Mosaic announced its mining plan for the 700 acres shortly after the 11th District U.S. Appeals Court in Atlanta vacated Adams' June 2010 injunction against the entire Hardee mine. It sent the case back to Adams and left his injunction in effect for 90 days to allow the judge time for a new ruling after further review.


Water management impacts on the Caloosahatchee Condition - Guest commentary by Rae Ann WESSEL, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director
July 13, 2011
The toxic bluegreen algae and phytoplankton blooms that have turned the river and estuary toxic, killed fish, shellfish and decimated critical habitat for manatee, fish, crabs and shrimp this season were the direct result of water management decisions to cut off the Caloosahatchee from water this past fall and spring.
Although the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) announced that this drought was projected to be the worst in 50 years, and water shortages were predicted last October, no water restrictions were implemented until March 26.
Now that the rainy season has commenced, it is appropriate to review the water management decisions and their impacts on the Caloosahatchee estuary for this past dry season with the hopes that we can prevent another repeat of these disastrous conditions and get a fair share of public water for the public resources of the Caloosahatchee.
Rains are bringing the first significant water flow to the Caloosahatchee since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD last cut off all releases to the river and estuary on March 6. The result of being cut off from needed freshwater flow is the exact conditions we warned these agencies about: complete loss of the low salinity zone in the estuary below the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam and stagnation of water and the toxic bluegreen algae blooms that have polluted nearly half the river the past seven weeks since late May.
Freshwater provides a low salinity zone
Each week since January, we have submitted a report to the Corps and District on Caloosahatchee conditions and warned that without water the estuary’s low salinity zone would disappear and with it the critical habitat for many of our food and recreational fisheries.
Ask the crabbers, ask the snook fisherman, ask the tarpon hunters how their numbers have been and you’ll get the same answer. Devastated. In the lower estuary, 60 to 80 percent of oysters have suffered from disease due to excessively high salinities. These species need freshwater for a portion of their life cycle which coincides with the dry season. So if freshwater to the Caloosahatchee is cut off, sea water from the Gulf of Mexico extends all the way to the lock, eliminating the entire freshwater portion of the estuary below the Franklin dam.
The freshwater tapegrass that supplies refuge, habitat and food for everything from bait fish, juvenile recreational fish fry, shrimp, shellfish and crab larvae to winter feeding grounds for the endangered manatee are killed off by high salinities.
Water flow prevents stagnation
Lack of water flow also deteriorates water quality in the river. Before the 1950s and 1960s, dredging that deepened the Caloosahatchee to its current depth and resulted in the construction of the W.P. Franklin Lock ( S79) in eastern Lee County, freshwater springs provided freshwater flow throughout the year. But today, the springs are gone and low water tables during drought mean that groundwater flow is not available either. Lack of flow causes stagnation that promotes blooms of toxic bluegreen algae that has caused health department warnings to be posted across three counties from the Franklin Lock to Lake Okeechobee.
Ask homeowners along the river what it means to them to have dead fish and clams killed by toxic algae floating and stinking up their backyards making it unbearable to be outside, let alone near the river.
These conditions were preventable with early mandatory conservation and shared cutbacks in water use across all users. Your calls and letters have helped bring this issue to the attention of the agencies but we need to turn that attention to action, changing how the limited water resources are shared and managed. DEP’s response to our letters stated:
“Management of Lake Okeechobee is a matter of balancing flood control, public safety, navigation, water supply and ecological health. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) along with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) are fully committed to working with residents, environmental groups, agriculture, governmental agencies and other partners through public processes to evaluate current initiatives and the need for additional actions that will improve water quality and better manage the timing and quantity of freshwater flows to the estuary.”
Ok, but we have not seen the “fully committed” on their part yet. So, let's hold them to action on these commitments. We need the Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD to re-evaluate the policy and management decisions that cause these unsustainable conditions.
The Caloosahatchee river and estuary are critical to our economy, quality of life and ecological vitality. We cannot allow the failed management of critical natural resources to continue.


Mosaic’s FL Mine Extension Halted Again by Court
TwinCitiesBusiness, by Melissa Loth
July 12, 2011
The Mosaic Company was issued a second preliminary injunction on Friday that prevents it from extending its South Fort Meade phosphate mine in Central Florida.
Just months after Plymouth-based The Mosaic Company won an appeal, the company was issued another preliminary injunction last week that prevents it from extending its South Fort Meade phosphate mine in Central Florida.
Mosaic has been in a legal battle with environmental groups since last summer over a permit that was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand its South Ford Meade mine.
The environmental groups claim that Mosaic’s plans to extend its mining into Hardee County violate the U.S. Clean Water Act. In August, a judge agreed with the groups and issued a preliminary injunction against Mosaic, thus preventing the company from extending mining in the area.
But the case was sent back to U.S. District Court in April after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the preliminary injunction was “improper” because it was based solely on letters from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and failed to take into account other analysis of Mosaic’s extension plans.
Shortly after the Appeals Court ruled on the case, Mosaic informed the court that it was preparing to start mining about 700 uplands acres and said it would protect two cattle ponds located in the mining area. Mosaic said that the Army Corps did not object to those plans because no federal permit is required to mine uplands—areas of land that are hilly and of high elevation.
But a judge did object to the plans and on Friday issued another preliminary injunction against Mosaic, thereby halting its plans to mine the uplands.
“We are surprised and disappointed that the district court granted another preliminary injunction after being expressly instructed by the appellate court in April to rule on the merits of this case,” Richard Mack, Mosaic’s executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “The inclusion of uplands mining in the injunction is particularly unwarranted because such mining does not require a federal permit.”
Mack added that the company will vigorously pursue all options, including appeals, to defend itself against the injunction, “as we successfully did with the previous injunction,” he said.
According to Mosaic, the South Fort Meade mine produces 6.6 million tons of phosphate rock annually and provides the raw material for three Mosaic crop-nutrient manufacturing facilities in Florida. In a conference call that took place last year, the company said that it needed to expand because it was close to fully exhausting the available phosphate ore in the area.
The company recently said that it will be able to support its planned finished phosphate fertilizer production levels through the end of fiscal 2012 through a combination of existing phosphate rock inventories, higher output from its other Florida mines, increasing shipments from a joint venture, and supplemental purchases of phosphate rock from third parties.
Mosaic said that it will seek a stay of Friday’s preliminary injunction—in other words, try to get the injunction suspended. Should a stay not be granted, the company estimates that its pre-tax costs could increase by about $200 million in its 2012 fiscal year because of higher costs for purchased phosphate rock and unabsorbed fixed costs.
Mosaic is among Minnesota’s 15-largest public companies based on its 2010 fiscal-year revenue of $6.8 billion. The company will report its 2011 fiscal-year revenue later this month.


Palm Beach County balks at tougher rock mining standards
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 12, 2011,
Opponents say rock mining threatens Everglades restoration.
Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday shied away from imposing tough new requirements for rock mining proposed on western farmland eyed for Everglades restoration.
Instead of approving more stringent hurdles sought by environmental groups, the commission opted to consider the least-restrictive changes suggested after more than a year of weighing whether to toughen mining restrictions.
The County Commission last summer imposed a one-year moratorium on new rock mines on western farmland. The idea was to provide time to consider tougher requirements pushed by environmentalists who oppose the mining industry claiming more land that was once part of the Everglades.
That rock mining moratorium expires at the end of August.
Environmental groups contend that the digging and blasting of rock mining threatens to eat up land needed for Everglades restoration. They also argue that the deep pits can lead to contaminated water supplies.
They want the county to require landowners in the vast Everglades Agricultural Area to at least have to change the zoning of their agricultural property in order to get the OK for rock mining. That could give the County Commission wider latitude to reject rock mining proposals.
Before the moratorium, the County Commission had already approved about 24,000 acres of rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area since 2006.
The existing county development rules that environmentalists want to change aren't to blame for the proliferation of rock mining, according to Commissioner Shelley Vana.
"We can say 'No' now," Vana said about the County Commission. "The problem simply has been that we haven't said 'No.'"
With cutbacks at the state level on development regulations, Palm Beach County needs tougher local rules for rock mining, said Cara Capp, of Clean Water Action environmental group.
"The county can no longer depend on outside agencies for … protection," Capp said. "Special interests continue to trump the public good."
Rock mining companies and western land owners maintain that plenty of room remains in the Everglades Agricultural Area for rock mining. They consider new restrictions on mining as threats to their property rights.
Mining supporters say that even with county approvals, mining proposals still have to get cleared by state and federal regulators before they can start digging.
Mining companies along with sugar cane growers that own much of the land targeted for mining pushed for keeping the existing county rules.


To save water, charge for overuse
Miami Herald - by Jackie Bueno Sousa,
July 12, 2011
A million gallons of water can go a long way for most of us. It’s enough to lubricate a typical Florida household for more than 10 years.
The town of Palm Beach doesn’t have typical Florida households, however. Instead it has residences like the estate of Terry Allen Kramer, which, according to a recent analysis by the Palm Beach Post, gobbles up one million gallons of water in less than a month – a rate that’s about 120 times that of the average home in the region.
The 32,000-square-foot house does have 19 bathrooms, after all.
When asked by a reporter if excessive water users should pay a surcharge, Ms. Kramer, the heiress of investment banker Charles Allen, said they should not. Instead, in a moment reminiscent of let-them-eat-cake, she said the town should build a desalination plant to ensure adequate water supply.
Great idea. And here’s a suggestion on how to fund it: place a surcharge on excessive water users such as Ms. Kramer.
Now, I’ve got no quarrels with her or anyone else’s need for space. But I do take issue with some of our current water-conservation efforts.
The region’s water use has become a problem that will only grow worse, affecting not only our wallets but our future growth prospects. Given our population projections for the coming decades, it’s only a matter of time before, as Ms. Kramer suggests, communities throughout South Florida have no choice but to invest in desalination plants.
In the meantime, developing better consumption-control programs grows increasingly important.
While Florida’s current drought, one of the most severe in the state’s history, is atypical, the mandatory water restrictions such droughts wreak have become commonplace. We limit household lawn watering to certain days a week and place heavy fines on violators caught sprinkling on an off day.
What if that household happens to use less water than a typical household its size? Too bad; meanwhile, water guzzlers are free to quench their insatiable thirst free of penalty — so long as they do it on the appropriate day of the week.
If we want to affect water consumption, let’s focus on how much water we use instead of when we use it. Surcharges for excess use or scaling residential water rates so that they rise as household consumption rises — relative to similar size homes — may be one way of prompting us to be more conscious of our water use.
If you prefer the carrot to the stick, then combine it with credits for households that under-consume water relative to similar-size homes.
We’ve had it good in Florida. Our water rates are among the lowest in the country. In 2008, monthly water bills in the state averaged $54 a month, according to a report by the South Florida Water Management District. By comparison, the average in Houston was $140 a month; in Chicago, $127.
Time was when we could take water for granted. Florida, after all, is supposed to be a lush, green paradise marked by the frequent sub-tropical drenching and nearly surrounded by water.
We still have our greenery, our sunshine and our beaches. But our water.… Well, let’s just say we’re no longer swimming in it.


Water Management District Tax Rate Cut 26%, Reducing Revenue and Gutting Services
July 12, 2011
The St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board approved a tentative budget today that reduces property tax revenues by 26 percent, a consequence of Gov. Rick Scott’s and the Legislature’s order to the districts to cut their budgets and scale back their responsibilities, with likely repercussions on conservation and environmental preservation.
A new law that effectively reduces the water management district boards to advisory capacities requires the districts to submit their proposed annual budgets to the governor, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House and the chairs of all substantive and fiscal committees in the Legislature, each of whom may object to portions of the budget. The law also sets limits on property taxes that the districts may levy.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District cut its budget 36 percent, the South Florida Management District, 30 percent. The Suwanee River and Northwest districts cut theirs by 8 and 0 percent, respectively.
The tentative $0.3313 per $1,000 in taxable value in the St. Johns River district will result in $85.3 million in revenue that will be part of a total $209 million budget that will also be funded with prior years’ state and carryover funds, timber sales, cattle leases, interest earnings, and permit fees. Under that rate, the owner of a $200,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $49.69 per year in property taxes to the district. All property owners in Flagler County are in the St. Johns Water Management District.
The district will fund fewer projects as a result, scaling back services and laying off employees. Salary and benefit cuts will amount to $12 million. Contractual services will be cut by $23 million. Operating expenses will fall by $3 million, and cooperative funding, such as the management district’s contributions to Palm Coast’s desalination project, will fall by $7 million.
Within its restricted means, the district will focus on the following priorities: Restoration projects to improve water quality and develop alternative water supplies; water supply planning, including water conservation, and minimum flows and levels prevention and recovery strategy development; water quality monitoring; land management, such as prescribed burns (though that is primarily to responsibility of the Division of Forestry), control of invasive exotic plants, and operation and maintenance of levees, locks and other structures; and permitting.
“It is a bit of an insult to the people of South Florida for the Governor to fly down on his private plane to offer the average homeowner a tax cut that amounts to less than 50 cents a week, just as our region is experiencing a water supply shortage of such great magnitude,” Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham said last month, when Scott signed the bill into law. “Since the water management district’s mission is to protect our natural resources and water supply, I’m not certain that gutting the agency in the midst of a massive water crisis is either smart politics or very good policy.”
Following on the heels of the resignation of the executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District director last month, whom Scott forced out, St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Kirby B. Green III, 61, today announced his retirement, to be effective no later than May 2012, after 10 years as the the top executive, following 23 years of service with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Green’s accomplishments at the District have included numerous water conservation initiatives, including the establishment of simpler, more enforceable watering restrictions and the implementation of cost-share incentives encouraging utilities and large water users to find more conservation opportunities; development of many projects to increase the reuse of treated wastewater and reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into the St. Johns River; and his ongoing support for water resource restoration projects, many of which can also serve as alternative water supply sources.
Public hearings on the tentative budget will be held at 5:05 p.m. on Sept. 13 and 27. Final budget adoption will occur at the Sept. 27 meeting.


Big Water Users Get Flak in Drought
Wall Street Journal – by Arian Campo-Flores
July 11, 2011
Calls for Surcharges as Vast Amounts Consumed by Wealthy Palm Beach Residents Draw Ire of Neighbors.
PALM BEACH, Fla.—A record dry season left West Palm Beach, Fla., with just 22 days worth of fresh water last month, prompting new rules restricting residents to once-a-week watering schedules for lawns and plants.
But with a 2.6-acre estate in neighboring Palm Beach that features a 37,000-square-foot home, a pool and lush tropical landscaping, Terry Allen Kramer is accustomed to using more than 120 times the amount of water consumed by the average customer in the region.
And she isn't alone.
Some of her neighbors in this tony island enclave—whose water is supplied by West Palm Beach—use more than one million gallons of water a month to keep their properties green.
That disparity has drawn calls for a water-pricing arrangement that includes surcharges, at least while drought conditions last, and has spawned tension between the tract-home crowd and the more affluent.
"People living on a 19-acre estate can afford to pay a lot more for their water," said Drew Martin, who has a seat on the Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District. "If they were paying significantly higher expenses, it would encourage them to be more efficient."
"The excess water usage is not for the grass," said Ms. Kramer, a theater producer and heiress of Charles Allen, who co-founded investment bank Allen & Co. "I do have guests. I do have 19 bathrooms."
Though her property consumed more than 13 million gallons of water from June 2010 to May 2011—the most of any Palm Beach resident, according to an analysis of residential water bills by the Palm Beach Post—she said she didn't plan to reduce her usage. The town should invest in a desalination plant, she said, which would ensure that "there's enough water for everyone."
After enduring the most parched October-to-June dry season on record, parts of eastern Palm Beach County are suffering "exceptional" drought conditions, the highest classification, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. As a result, officials in West Palm Beach tapped an emergency wellfield, bought water from the county and obtained permission to draw off a reservoir owned by the South Florida Water Management District.
They also limited landscape irrigation, which accounts for roughly half of total water consumption, to one day a week for all utility customers, including those in Palm Beach.
Yet there is no cap on the volume of water a resident can consume and no surcharge for excessive usage.
Given the need to conserve, some residents ask why the owners of large estates are allowed to continue soaking up as much water as they want. "It's appalling," said Cecily Hangen, who has kept her water use in check by cutting back on laundry and planting native species in her garden. "They should be fined."
Code enforcers in Palm Beach have been cracking down on violators of the watering restrictions. Since April 1, the town has issued 283 written warnings and 116 citations, according to code-enforcement manager Raychel Houston. Among those warned were Ms. Kramer; John L. Thornton, a former president of Goldman Sachs; and Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder of the Blackstone Group. Mr. Thornton also received a $125 citation.
Mr. Thornton didn't return calls seeking comment. A spokesman for Mr. Schwarzman said the house had been fully compliant with watering restrictions since the warning and that his contractor expects a "major reduction" in usage through checking for leaks, among other things.
Some residents argue that officials should crack down more vigorously. "If you've got a water bill that high, the county needs to cut your water off," said Louise Fargason, adding that she no longer hoses down her yard.
West Palm Beach leaders have shied away from criticizing Palm Beach estate owners and say there are no plans to change the pricing scheme. "We don't want to isolate anybody," said Pat Painter, watershed manager for West Palm Beach. "Collectively, we're all culpable."
The Palm Beach Civic Association has been encouraging homeowners to invest in more efficient irrigation systems, said Garrison Lickle, a director of the group and a board member of the Everglades Foundation, which advocates on water management issues.
In the past few weeks, bouts of rainfall have provided some relief to the area. But climatologists say the region needs to be drenched by several tropical storms to close the water deficit.
"People are already asking, 'Can I start watering more?' " said Mr. Painter. "We're trying to say, 'If it rains this week, that's your one day a week. Take it as a gift.' "


Clean water, healthy economy - Editorial
July 11, 2011
It has been over a year since the BP oil disaster began fouling the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida. Today, Sen. Marco Rubio brings the U.S. Senate's Small Busi­ness and Entrepreneurship Committee here to talk about how to repair the damage with fines to be paid by BP.
We have a suggestion: Make environmental restoration a priority.
Money is already rolling this way for economic fixes, and more will come from the fine money. But as research from University of West Florida economist Rick Harper shows, Northwest Florida is almost unique across the Gulf Coast in how closely the health of the economy is tied to the health of the environment.
Yes, we need to diversify the local economy. Money from the state and from BP already allocated will help do that. But the depth of the relationship between a healthy environment and a healthy local economy will remain.
In that regard, a number of organizations are proposing significant environmental restoration projects. They include governments like Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, private organizations like the Nature Conservancy, and state agencies like the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Here, especially, fixing longstanding environmental problems brings extra bang for the buck because it also restores economic health.
Estimates of the amount of fines to be paid range from $4 billion to $20 billion. It's up to Congress to decide where the money goes, but the vast majority should go to the five Gulf Coast states impacted by the spill.
As the committee meets here, Sen. Bill Nelson and others are working on legislation to ensure that the fines paid by BP come to the Gulf region.
There are many good projects being proposed, including:
» Large-scale restoration — 16 miles — of oyster reef, salt marsh and shorelines in Blackwater Bay, the Yellow River Aquatic Preserve and Pensacola Bay.
» Removal of toxic sediments from Bayou Chico, badly polluted for years by industrial waste and stormwater runoff, but now showing signs of rebirth.
» A fish hatchery and marine plant nursery in downtown Pensacola.
» Stormwater management and treatment across Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
» Construction of 50 new artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The key must be focusing on large-scale projects that will help restore and maintain clean water, and provide habitat for marine life. This, in turn, will support commercial and recreational fishing, commercial oystering and tourism.
That all means jobs, in a diverse economy, recreation and an improved quality of life for residents.
Congress needs to ensure that what BP did is made right by returning Clean Water Act fines to the Gulf states.


Congress speach
Congresswoman (FL-D) speaks up for the
Everglades (Click - 4 min.)

Wasserman-Schultz decries Everglades cut
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
July 11, 2011
South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz objected on Monday to a House spending bill that “slashes $32 million” from the Obama administration’s request for Everglades restoration.
The bill, debated by the House on Monday, would leave $130 million for Everglades restoration in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, a significant reduction from $181 million in fiscal 2010. Some Everglades advocates say the funding will allow current construction to continue but could delay new contracts and the jobs they create.
“To be sure, Everglades restoration is a priority the Florida congressional delegation takes very seriously, and we have fought for adequate funding every year,” Wasserman-Schultz, a Democrat from Weston, told the House. “Continued investment in Everglades restoration protects our water supply, benefits key job-creating industries, and enhances our quality of life.”
Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, South Florida’s only representative on the Appropriations Committee, said he was grateful the Everglades got as much money as it did in the energy-and-water spending bill. He and other Republicans say that even worthy projects face cutbacks as Congress moves to reduce deficit spending.
Wasserman-Schultz, who lost her seat on the committee after Democrats suffered a beating in the 2010 campaign, said she was especially troubled by a report that came with the bill.
The committee report noted that Everglades restoration has taken up more than 10 percent of the Army Corps' construction spending in recent years. It adds: "While the committee continues to support funding for Everglades restoration, this [10 percent] share of funding is not sustainable or equitable, particularly as overall construction funding trends downward."
Wasserman-Schultz asked the committee to clarify the language, which she found “deeply disturbing.”
“I hope this language does not signal the committee’s intent to de-emphasize the importance of Everglades restoration in the future,” she said.


Water district slashes budget
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles-Pulver, Environment Writer
July 11, 2011
Cuts impact local projects.
Major cutbacks in the budget for the St. Johns River Water Management District will be revealed at a governing board meeting Tuesday as the district copes with a new reality brought on by the current administration in Tallahassee and the state's economic recession.
"Every element of spending is being looked at and nothing is off the table," said Ed Garland, a district spokesman.
Programs and positions will be cut as the district reduces its property taxes by 26 percent for the coming year, as ordered by state legislators this spring. Legislators said the cuts were designed to give property owners a break, but observers say it goes much deeper than that, with legislators and lobbyists trying to rein in the district's policies, authority and spending.
The tax cut will save the owner of a $100,000 home in Volusia and Flagler counties about $5 a year, and mean about $30 million less in district coffers. The total revenue to be collected from property taxes will be capped at $85.3 million.
The reductions are likely to mean less money to local governments for capital projects such as stormwater improvements and alternative water supplies such as the Coquina Coast desalination project in Palm Coast.
The district also plans to cut as many as 140 positions, about 20 percent of its staff. That includes 24 recently vacated by employees who accepted a voluntary separation program and another 24 that were vacant.
The district's budget and personnel also are being impacted by a dramatic reduction in the number of environmental resource permits processed each year, which fell from a high of 3,200 in 2006 to 1,500 last year.
Further details on how the staff and budget cuts might affect residents in Volusia and Flagler counties weren't available Friday. Officials said they're still trying to crunch numbers as things get down to the wire before Tuesday's budget discussion.
Also on Tuesday, the district board will consider the annual contract for Executive Director Kirby Green, but the contract will be for a shorter period as Green announced this week that he will retire in February.
The state's five water management districts have been charged with protecting and governing the use of the state's water resources for more than 30 years. But concerns from legislators and the regulated community -- locally and statewide -- about the powerful districts have been building for years.
Early on in the new administration, legislators and members of Gov. Rick Scott's transition team said the agencies that regulate growth management, environmental permitting and land acquisition were stifling Florida's economy and killing jobs.
"They were targeting any area that has oversight of how we grow and utilize our land and water resources," said Ann Moore, a former St. Johns board member who lives in Daytona Beach and Flagler County.
Moore said the leaders don't seem to be "looking at the big picture."
"That isn't to say there aren't improvements and streamlining that could be done," she said, "but it's the old 'don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.' "
A series of letters this spring spelled out new goals for the districts.
The Department of Environmental Protection has always supervised the districts, and in April, the governor sent a letter reminding the DEP secretary of that role. Scott asked DEP to supervise and review the districts' regulatory activities to ensure statewide consistency, to develop proposals to streamline regulatory programs and coordinate land acquisition activities.
Since the elections last fall, DEP and the districts have seen numerous departures in high-level positions. At DEP, the positions of deputy secretary of water policy and water policy director are vacant. And, the executive directors of both the South Florida and Southwest Florida districts resigned earlier this year.
The South Florida Water Management District was more directly targeted than St. Johns, observers say, in part because of controversies regarding district staff and the massive Everglades restoration.
But at the St. Johns district, Kathryn Mennella, once considered the most influential woman in water in Florida, has left her position as general counsel. Mennella remains with the district part time to ensure a smooth transition of her department and to assist the executive office with special projects, Garland said.
In addition, the water resources and environmental permitting department was split to remove the authority for permitting from long-time department director Jeff Elledge.
Charles Lee, advocacy director for Audubon of Florida, said it's clear the pressure to make the changes came from regulated interests.
In June, Jon Stevenson, special counsel on policy and legislative affairs for DEP, wrote the districts stating it is "imperative" to reexamine their structure and activities.
"We must be able to make the districts more focused, more effective and newly dedicated to the accomplishment of our core mission," Stevenson wrote.
Stevenson also stated many of the districts were top-heavy and should be analyzed for staffing, salaries and benefits. He said salaries and benefit structures are "significantly out of line with the rest of our state's employees and the state as a whole."
The letter stated no additional debt could be accrued without the approval of the governor and DEP secretary, no land could be purchased until an official process is established to review those purchases, and that certain missions such as the administration of mitigation banks might be done by the private sector.
It also advised the districts to begin paring down or eliminating public outreach programs and turn those roles over to local utilities. Outreach staff members often are asked to speak at organizations and clubs throughout Volusia and Flagler counties to discuss water resources and conservation.
The St. Johns district began slashing spending earlier this year to pad cash reserves to ease the transition to the lower revenue.
District officials announced less money would be available for the Palm Coast project and also pulled funding from a project the city of Deltona was exploring with the city of Sanford to consider using water from the St. Johns River.
However, some projects are expected to continue, such as the Fellsmere Water Management Area, a project to reclaim 10,000 acres of floodplain in the headwaters of the St. Johns River and prevent discharge of stormwater into the Indian River Lagoon.


Florida should restore basin boards
Herald-Tribune - by Sonny Vergara
July 10, 2011
In the interest of "efficiency," and at the direction of Gov. Rick Scott, the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governor board summarily disbanded its basin boards.
The move was done with little notice or justification — even though it could have enormous implications on water management basin property taxes and how they are spent.
The district — which covers 16 counties and includes Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte — had eight of these boards before they were dismantled last month, probably without the public's knowledge.
Basin board members were essentially told they would no longer be needed because decisions were now going to be made by the district governing board — a board controlled by the governor, the Department of Environmental Protection secretary and the back-door whims of a largely disconnected Legislature. In a word, Tallahassee.
Basin boards were important to public interests.
For 50 years, they allowed the fundamentally important decision to levy a property tax on landowners for water management to be made at the lowest possible level of government — within designated sub-taxing districts roughly based upon river-watershed boundaries.
Board members were private individuals, landowners who knew they would bear the brunt of their own taxing decisions. They were personally familiar with the need for each project they funded, most of the time in close coordination with local city and county commissions.
They were, more often than not, one of your neighbors or at least someone with whom you would feel comfortable sharing your opinions because they were from your community, not from another city or county far from where you live — like Tallahassee.
You, the taxpayer, knew who levied the taxes and for what purposes they were levied, and that they would be spent to benefit only your basin.
Taxes levied by the Manasota Basin Board, for example, could only be spent for purposes benefitting the Manasota basin — which consists of Sarasota and Manatee counties. The taxes levied within the Peace River basin could only be spent for Peace River basin purposes, and so on. Meetings were held locally within the basin's boundaries.
No more. After 50 years, the basin boards were deemed inefficient and their members fired for being a burden to the process, an ill-advised decision.
Although basin reserves currently on hand will be spent within the basins from which they were derived and for their original project purposes, in two or three years those funds will be gone.
At that point, taxpayers should have deep concerns. Then, basin tax dollars from Manatee and Sarasota counties will be available for projects anywhere — such as Tampa, St. Petersburg or Polk County.
Incredibly, this shameful tax grab means an estimated $300 million that the basins would potentially have produced through 2030 — for their own basin water projects — will be under the control of the Brooksville-based district governing board, to be spent wherever it decides.
Even now, Polk County has planned a $150 million (probably $200 million, by the time it's completed) water-supply project that the district plans to help build.
Recently, the governor and Legislature took action to reduce the district's budget by 36 percent. It would have been very difficult for the district to partner with Polk County and its communities to build the project without the tax levies previously controlled by the basin boards.
It will now, however, be very possible because of the dismantling of the basin boards and the district governing board's tax grab.
All new project proposals will now be tossed into one bag. Proponents will have to compete with others district-wide for funding. Small cities and counties will not be able to compete with more powerful entities like Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties, which by law are each guaranteed two representatives on the board.
If this disturbs you, communicate with your legislators, county commissions and district governing board members.
Ask why the basin boards were dismantled and members fired without adequate notice to the affected public.
Ask them to re-establish the basin boards (accept no substitutes) and to give you adequate notice when and where the decision will be discussed. Then be there and let your voice be heard.
Sonny Vergara was executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the St. Johns River Water Management District and Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority. He is retired, lives in Brooksville and writes a political blog at: http://swfwmdmatters.


Gators give warning
Post and Courier - by Schuyler Kropf
July 10, 2011
Reptiles serve as latest 'canary in a coal mine' for humans
AMONG THE ALLIGATORS OF GEORGETOWN COUNTY -- Dr. Louis Guillette has just ticked off a nine-foot gator.
Plucked from the swamp by a three-pronged hook, the hissing critter has tired after a 10-minute tug-of-war where it tried to spin out of a wire-harness clamped firmly around its neck.
When the fight ebbed, extra-strength rubber bands were placed around its snout, while a wet towel covered its eyes.
"It's a female," one of the wranglers says. That makes Guillette, a reproductive biologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, smile.
The alligators of South Carolina are the latest "canary in a coal mine" species. They are animal-sentinels that will help tell whether and how far along the flood of pollutants, toxins and agricultural runoff in state waters are on their way toward adversely affecting humans.
Female gators are the best test creatures because weaknesses in the reproductive system are among the best harbingers of bad things to come.
It's not that far a stretch to use alligators as a comparison to how poisons affect humans, Guillette says. "There are as many commonalities as there are differences."
For example, both man and alligator are top of the food chain. Both are long-life species stretching into the decades, and both have a reproductive life cycle spanning about 30 to 40 years. Plus, "at the gene level and at the cell level, an ovary is an ovary, a testes is a testes," he said, no matter the animal.
That distinction is important because the PCBs, heavy metals and other chemicals threatening the planet now, usually go after the reproductive cycle hardest.
Guillette's workplace is the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve, 20,000 pristine marshy acres spread across three islands near the mouth of Winyah Bay. Its former owner was one of the original Boston Red Sox families who later gave the property to South Carolina.
Though the site is owned by the state, access is limited, which can be a good thing considering that the mosquito swarms there on Friday rivaled Messerschmitts in their ferocity.
Guillette who spent the last 25 years studying alligators in Florida, recently arrived at MUSC to study the gators here. He has a lengthy title that includes an endowed chair of marine genomics at the school, and professorial work in obstetrics and gynecology.
While South Carolina is new to this kind of gator study, Florida has been doing it for some time. "We had animals that watched John Glenn go up the first time," he said.
The Florida study also uncovered some unsettling results. Some of the female alligators were found to be exposed to agricultural chemicals and showed signs of ovarian failure and infertility, essentially giving what would be a human woman in her 20s or 30s the body of a 50-year-old.
Over the next few years Guillette and his team hopes to lasso as many of the Georgetown gators as possible, take blood and urine samples plus other measurements needed to track the health of the population. What they uncover could later affect what pregnant humans are taught, including what foods to eat and chemicals to avoid, or if a pollutant is registering dangerously high.
Catching gators for the study remains the tricky part. A three-pronged treble hook, minus the sharp barbs, is tied to the end of a rope that is tossed at a gator as it swims by. It is not as easy as it sounds to set the hook and drag one of the beasts to shore since alligators will dive at the slightest disturbance.
Also, when you see an alligator head moving on top of the water, it can be deceptive as to where their bodies are below the waterline. The animals often will hang perpendicular fashion, "sea-horse style," making the "hook" hard to set.
Once an animal is dragged to shore the sampling goes fast, because stress levels can affect blood samples. The gator gets tagged to show its habitat and record where it goes if it is caught again. None of the alligators in Guillette's study are "volunteers," he likes to joke. Collecting and monitoring gator eggs is also part of the study.
The nine-foot female, or "sow" to the male "bull," examined Friday probably weighed more than 200 pounds. Age wasn't easily discernible but she was probably 24 or older.
After the samples were taken, she slowly made her way back into the murky water.
Philip Wilkinson, a retired S.C. Department of Natural Resources biologist, and the widely identified father of alligator studies in the state, accompanied Friday's mission, saying there's still much to be learned, and that can be learned, about the alligator's role on the planet.
"Most people don't give 'em too much credit," he said. "But they have more sense than you think they do."


Green agenda for Berwick
July 10, 2011
formatPubDate("Sun Jul 10 11:08:01 BST 2011"); It may come as a surprise to find that rainforests can be listed as world heritage sites as we more often think of these as being, to quote UNESCO’s first criteria for choosing them, “a masterpiece of human creative genius”. Indeed, Berwick was at one time considered for nomination for world heritage status by the UK government.
However, further down UNESCO’s list of 10 reasons something might be a world heritage site come four that relate to the natural world. What UNESCO is looking for are sites that are: areas of exceptional natural beauty and home to superlative natural phenomena; outstanding examples of the earth’s history; places representing significant ecological and biological processes; the most important natural habitats containing threatened species.
Being listed as a natural world heritage site means a place is of outstanding value to humanity and, as such, should be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Around the world there are about 200 natural world heritage sites, although unfortunately the protection side of things doesn’t always work out - roughly 10% of sites are listed as in danger, not something UNESCO does lightly.
In several cases, as with the Honduran rainforest, this is down to a breakdown in the rule of law which results in wholesale destructive behaviour in the area. For example, all sites in the Congo are in danger because the political situation is making it impossible to prevent poaching.
Other sites are threatened by legal activity close by. The Everglades in Florida is in danger because of local water demand and work to reduce flooding outside the national park boundary. This drive for additional flood protection is linked to house building in areas at risk of flooding and has ultimately reduced water flow into the Everglades by over 50%. On top of this the water that still arrives is increasingly polluted by agriculture and other chemicals.
These sites are some of the most important natural places on earth, so we really should be taking better care of them.


If water is the new oil ... - Editorial
July 10, 2011
Google the phrase "water is the new oil," and you will get some 42 million results.
That so many people, pundits and publications think water is the new oil — that is, an increasingly scarce and valuable commodity — is worth mentioning, as marketing water becomes not just a part of Ocala/Marion County's economic development strategy but the virtual centerpiece of it these days.
Not only are water bottlers moving to get permits to pump Marion County water, but local economic development officials are talking with companies that manufacture water-bottling equipment and operate bottling plants. There also have been extended discussions among business leaders, economic development organizations, and city and county officials about trying to attract beverage makers, from soft drinks to micro-breweries, to our community, in part, because of our cheap and relatively plentiful water supply.
Here is an indicator of the emphasis being put on peddling our water supply: The Marion County Commission late last year adopted a 25-point economic development plan called "Doing More for Jobs." The first of those 25 initiatives to be rolled out is "Food and Beverage Recruitment." On the county's flow chart outlining recruiting successes and prospects, the first enterprise listed is the controversial Moody family's Salt Springs water-bottling operation.
Yet, while the world is recognizing water is the new oil, an increasingly rare and finite commodity to be conserved and valued, we here in Florida still give it away to those who seek to profit from pumping tens of thousands, sometimes hundred of thousands of gallons of water a day from our aquifer.
Why is water not treated like other natural resources extracted from the ground, like oil and gas and phosphate, and those mining it not charged for the privilege? Why are the Legislature and our water management districts not seeing what the rest of the world is seeing and moving to get real control of our water supply before it is under the control of corporate profiteers with little interest in the public good?
Closer to home, it is worrisome that we have gone from spending $1 million just a half-decade ago to do an exhaustive study of our future water supply and the demands that will be placed on it — the Water Resource and Management Study — because we know our water supply is precious and, importantly, dwindling, to today where we are peddling that invaluable resource to outsiders who take much and give little.
Ocala/Marion County has water that others lust for — we all know that. But we should not and cannot afford to give it away.
More to the point, if marketing our water is going to be an integral part of our economic development program, we would hope the community will get more in return for it than a handful of modest-paying jobs.
If oil was discovered under Marion County, we are certain our community leaders and policymakers would not let just anybody come in, drill and take that oil without the community sharing in the bounty. If water is the new oil, then why are we giving it away for free and, more perplexing, encouraging just that ?


Jupiter's reverse-osmosis process helps South Florida towns dodge the drought
Palm Beach Post - by Jennifer Sorentrue, Staff Writer
July 10, 2011
JUPITER, Fla. - When the rest of Palm Beach County is forced to turn off the sprinklers and watch drought-parched lawns turn brown, residents in Highland Beach are free to water.
The small seaside town is the only area in the county where residents are not required to follow water restrictions imposed by the South Florida Water Management District. All of the town's water comes from the brackish Floridan Aquifer, which is not affected by drought.
The utility is one of six in Palm Beach County that have tapped the deep Floridan. The water is then treated using a reverse-osmosis system that removes salt and other impurities.
Jupiter, the first government in Palm Beach County to use the technology, now has one of the largest reverse-osmosis systems in South Florida. Town officials decided to build the plant in the late 1980s, after studies showed an aquifer closer to the surface would not produce enough water to support future growth.
Jupiter's utility can treat up to 70 percent of its water supply using the reverse-osmosis system.
"In Palm Beach County, they were the pioneer," said Mark Elsner, administrator of water supply development for the South Florida Water Management District.
Most public utilities in South Florida draw water from the surficial aquifer, which is shallower than the Floridan Aquifer and is replenished by rainfall. During droughts, though, the fresh water in the aquifer is depleted, allowing subterranean salt water to creep into the system.
Once salt enters a utility's well, it can take months or years before the water can be used again for public drinking. Sometimes the wells are lost forever.
The Floridan Aquifer, more than 1,000 feet deep, doesn't need rain to replenish, Elsner said.
Once brackish water from the Floridan is pumped to the surface, reverse-osmosis plants force the water through special membranes at a pressure of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch. These filters trap salt and other impurities, allowing only water to pass through.
But the process is costly. The saltier the water, the more power is needed to produce more pressure. Palm Beach County does not have a plant capable of stripping salt from sea­water, the most expensive to treat.
"The pressure makes it expensive," Jupiter Utilities Director David Brown said. "Power is very expensive."
As Jupiter grew, officials relied on impact fees - a one-time charge on new development - to help pay for the plant.
"There has been a lot of planning, ongoing over the past couple decades, to build a sustainable water system," Brown said. "During that period we believed strongly that growth would pay for growth. As every home was constructed, they all bought into this investment."
Despite the added cost, a rate study conducted by Palm Beach County last year found that Jupiter's water fees were among the lowest in the county.
As South Florida's population has grown, many governments have turned to reverse osmosis. Manalapan, Tequesta and the Glades Utility Authority also use the technology to treat water. Lake Worth plans to open its reserve-osmosis plant this fall.
"Back in the '90s and early 2000s, we were seeing increases in population," Elsner said. "There was a need for water."
In Highland Beach, officials began using reverse osmosis in 2004 after salt water threatened the town's surficial wells, Public Works Director Jack Lee said.
"The well field was being threatened by salt­water intrusion," Lee said. "The town did a study on different alternative water supplies and determined that RO was the best alternative. It would meet all of our future demands."


Swamp buggies allowed in Everglades again
Sun Sentinel - by Joe Cavaretta
July 10, 2011
The homemade contraptions known as swamp buggies that look like they're out of the "Mad Max" movies are back after a long dry spell.
State officials dropped special regulations for wildlife management areas in the northern Everglades and the Holey Land, Rotenberger and Francis S. Taylor areas. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescinded an executive order issued in the spring that had sidelined the swamp buggies.
"Last time we came out was in January," said Ubaldo Gonzalez of Miami, who was taking his son Gabriel, 7, to check out the hunting stands they plan to use this upcoming season. "It was too dry and they didn't want any buggies out here starting fires, so they closed it down."
Weeks of rain have solved that problem. With the order lifted as of this past weekend, motorized vehicles including airboats and motorcycles are allowed into the previously closed areas.
Gabriel and his dad squished through ankle-deep mud in rubber boots as they helped buggy co-owner Jean Aubert, also of Miami, make final adjustments. Then they headed out from the north levee of the L-5 canal into the Holey Land wildlife management area, on the Palm Beach-Broward County line west of U.S. 27. 
The three climbed up into high seats, and the roaring Chevrolet V-8 engine sent mud, water and grass spraying as they bounced along.
A few miles up the levee road, Steve Hodgdon, of Hollywood, said he had not been out since spring. 
"The recent rains have allowed them to let us back out here. We're going out three weeks prior to archery season, which opens up on Aug. 6. We're clearing out shooting lanes around our stands." he said.
 "The growth rate is so phenomenal and so rapid, if you don't mow it like your grass, it grows up so high, the deer walk right by you and you can't seem them." Hodgdon said. 
Despite the new rules, there appeared to be no mad rush to get back to the back country. Only a handful of vehicles huddled on the levee by the Holey Land area. 
"I was surprised to not see many buggies out here today," Gonzalez said.


Mining contributes to underground and
surface waters mixing.
Water quality suffers -
said Dr. Naja from the Everglades Foundation in her expert testimony.

Click for VIDEO

Firms, environmentalists polarized on Everglades mining as moratorium expires
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton , Staff Writer
July 9, 2011
For years the Palm Beach County Commission has hosted summits, workshops and studies on rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area in the hope environmentalists and mining companies could reach some agreement on how, when and where mining should be allowed.
Last year the commission authorized county staff to spend up to $35,000 on consultants to moderate yet another consensus-building confab. Stakeholders met four times between January and May. On Tuesday, the commission will hear the results.
"There has been no consensus," said Joanne Davis, community planner for 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit group that promotes growth management. "We were just as much on our side as they were on their side."
The disagreement is especially timely now as the county's one-year moratorium on new permits for mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area will expire Aug. 31 and cannot be extended. Without an agreement on a comprehensive plan for rock mining, it will be business as usual.
"Fundamentally, it comes down to should there be rock mining at all," said Ernie Cox, a consultant for Palm Beach Aggregates, which operates the county's largest mine. "I think everybody tried their best but there are just some fundamental issues that we haven't been able to agree on."
Even as the debate goes on, Palm Beach Aggregates expects to receive its final permit to expand its operations by 2,393 acres this month. The proposed mine, which was approved by the county before the moratorium, will result in the excavation of six rectangular lakes, identical to those proposed in the C-51 Reservoir Project, which will store billions of gallons of fresh water for cities from Wellington to Fort Lauderdale.
In the debate, environmentalists favor changes that would require mining firms to petition the county for changes to its Comprehensive Land Use Plan and zoning rules - which would require commission approval.
Industry representatives argued that existing state, regional and local regulatory frameworks are adequate –– even duplicative - in their requirements.
Variations of these proposals were floated during the workshops, in addition to limiting mines to certain areas in the Everglades Agricultural Area, requiring mining companies to prove the need for aggregate and creating a special zoning classification for mining. No combination of options brought the parties together.
"The various interests are polarized," Davis said. "We think the mining interests don't want anything but what they have now."
The county's current land-use rules allow mining only for agriculture, water storage and building public roads. Environmentalists insist the demand for aggregate has dropped with the decline in road construction. Their insistence that the mining companies prove the need for aggregate irks industry officials.
"It gets back to the question, should the county be in the business of regulating a market?" Cox said. "From my perspective, markets are markets and to have the government try to get in and say we're going to be involved in the market is wrong."
The controversy began in 2006, when the commission raised concerns about its limited role in the permitting process as it reviewed several applications for mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area. In 2007 it authorized a mining study, which called for more coordination among various regulatory agencies and a more detailed study of environmental, transportation and utility impacts.
A local mining summit followed in March 2008, which ended without consensus. In April the commission approved plans to mine 11,000 acres in western Palm Beach county. That triggered a lawsuit in July, in which 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club sued commissioners, claiming they failed to assess the mine's impact on drinking water and the environment.
In June 2010, another stakeholder workshop ended without concensus. In August 2010, the commission adopted a one-year moratorium on rock mining and authorized the most recent workshops, which will be discussed on Tuesday.
While there is no common ground among the stakeholders regarding mining, there could be some agreement on the need for another workshop.
"I think we should always continue the conversation and keep the dialogue going," Cox said. "But I don't know if it makes a whole lot of sense to spend a lot of time to push for a new consensus. I think it's probably time move on."


Gov. Scott's net worth cut more than half
Florida Today
Jul. 9, 2011
Clinics sold to avoid conflict of interest
Florida's wealthiest governor is a lot less rich these days.
Gov. Rick Scott's net worth, revealed in financial disclosure forms filed last week, dropped more than half between end of 2009 and end of 2010.
As a candidate, Scott reported assets of $218.6 million on Dec. 31, 2009. In forms filed with the state's Ethics Commission, Scott claimed assets on Dec. 31, 2010, at $103.1 million. The slashed assets included a $47.8 million drop in value for his controversial ownership in Solantic Corp., a chain of urgent-care clinics the governor sold last month for an undisclosed sum.
Candidate Scott spent $73 million of his own money to become governor.
A spokesman for the governor said Scott's reported assets diminished in part because of steps taken to avoid conflicts of interest.
"Most is attributable to transfers for a variety of reasons, including moving some holdings to comply with ethics requirements," said Brian Burgess, communications director for the governor's office.
Financial disclosure forms show a snapshot in time and don't reveal all transactions underlying the totals at year's end. It's impossible to tell if changes in an asset's value is because of losses or transfers elsewhere.
Even with his riches slashed by 53 percent, Scott's wealth towers over other Florida chief executives. His predecessor, Charlie Crist, left office last year with assets reported at $461,797. Before then, Gov. Jeb Bush entered office in 1998 with a net worth of $2.04 million. Bush, a real estate developer, left office eight years later with a reduced purse of $1.3 million.
Scott, a former healthcare executive and Naples investor, broke spending records to win the race for governor last year, outspending his primary and general election opponents by wide margins. He did so largely with his own cash.
On the campaign trail last year, Scott spoke about his self-financed campaign, his first for public office, and millions he was spending. Not many people, a reporter observed, would devote a third of their wealth to pursue an interest, whether it be politics or something else. "I would," Scott said then.
What about 2014?
Whether Scott is willing or able to spend as much of his own money on a re-election campaign could have a bearing on the 2014 race. He won't be running as an unknown, then, however.
"As an incumbent, it will be easy to raise money so maybe he won't have to self-finance, especially if he can right the ship and become more popular," said Brad Coker, veteran director of the independent Mason-Dixon Florida Poll. "But there's still a lot of people in the Republican Party who don't trust him. I'd not be surprised if he gets a primary challenger, especially if his pockets are perceived to be not as deep."
Coker said "2014 is a long way away" but if Scott doesn't draw a GOP challenger, or easily wins a primary, Republicans will unite behind him "and he won't have to spend his own money again."
Not all of Scott's diminished wealth is because of campaign costs. The value of his controversial stake in Solantic Corp., a chain of walk-in medical clinics, fell. His Solantic holdings dropped more than three-quarters between the end of 2009 and 2010 from a reported $62 million to $14.3 million. In 2009, Solantic was Scott's single largest asset. That distinction now belongs to Drives Acquisition LLC, an agriculture- and construction-equipment manufacturing firm, with Scott's stake valued at $19.9 million.
The financial disclosure notes Scott's interest in Solantic was transferred to the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust, controlled by his wife, on Jan. 1, three days before he was inaugurated as governor. The state-regulated Solantic was a possible conflict of interest. Scott in April said he would sell Solantic.
Burgess said the sale was completed late last month. The Wall Street Journal reported that minority stockholder Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe, a New York investment firm, bought out Scott's shares in the company he co-founded in 2001.
A salary of $0.00
His interest in RLSI-CSP Capital Partners, a plastic-supply company for the auto and air-conditioning industries Scott founded, also lost value in Scott's portfolio. Its 2010 value dropped 27 percent from the year before from $19.4 million to $14.2 million.
Scott's stake in Drives Acquisition, a manufacturing company that does business with Case New Holland and Deere & Co., is valued at $19.9 million, down from $20.4 million in 2009. The Illinois-based company is listed as the source of $1.9 million in income for Scott last year.
During the campaign, Scott released three years' worth of tax returns. The Ethics Commission filing does not include his tax returns. The returns he released last year showed an adjusted gross income of $13 million, $3.6 million and $7.9 million from 2007-09. In office, he's rejected the $132,000 annual salary due the governor and works without pay. Furthermore, he sold the state planes and travels often on state business on his own jet at his own cost.
Blind trusts
Scott's reported income on the Ethics Commission disclosure was $11.5 million in 2010. The largest individual source, at $4.3 million, was investment income from Airco Industries Inc. The firm does business as Photo Etch, a Fort Worth, Texas-based company that "manufactures sophisticated integrally lit display and control panels, flight simulation and training components, as well as black boxes. One of the company's specialties is night vision technology for airborne military operations," according to the company's website.
Earlier this year, Scott took the unprecedented step of asking the Ethics Commission if his plan to place his assets in blind trusts would protect him from ethics violations. The commission in May approved an opinion by its executive director, Philip Claypool, that blind trusts - where assets are controlled by trustees who Scott doesn't direct - would pass muster. Furthermore, the commission found that - other than Solantic - Scott's large ownership stakes were not in companies regulated by the state. Other investments, in equity and bond funds, were in companies he didn't manage.
No conflict of interest
"We conclude that the Governor's passive investments in these large national corporations and investment funds do not create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict of interest with his public duties," the opinion stated.
It wasn't all declining values on Scott's financial report. In 2009, Scott valued his 8,500-square-foot Gulf-front home in Naples at $8.8 million. In the 2010 filing, the value is listed at $9.1 million. That's still less than the $11.5 million Collier County property-tax records show Scott paid for the home in 2003.


New bridge
Tamiami Trail Bridging - Artist's Impression

Tamiami Trail bridges clear congressional hurdle - by Kevin Wadlow
July 9, 2011
Amid a sea of gloomy economic news, a congressional budget panel this week backed a major environmental project seen as critical to Florida Bay.
A step toward authorizing construction of 5.5 miles of additional bridges for the Tamiami Trail to increase Everglades water flow was approved Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives' subcommittee on appropriations for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"This is some of the best news we've heard on Everglades restoration in months," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation.
The vote does not appropriate spending for the additional bridges on U.S. 41 -- estimated to cost more than $300 million -- but essentially acknowledges that the project should remain in the funding pipeline because of its environmental benefits.
"It's a big first step in a process that could take a couple years," Fordham said. "But it is a big deal to get a project of this magnitude authorized in the current economic environment.
"It shows a that the Obama administration and a Republican-controlled branch of Congress still consider Everglades restoration a top priority," he said.
A one-mile bridge to begin restoring freshwater flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay started in December 2009, and is expected to be finished in the spring of 2013. Conservationists generally consider it unlikely that single one-mile span can provide enough water flow to achieve the restoration goals.
Everglades National Park and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have declared the additional 5.5 miles of bridging necessary.
If eventually approved, the additional bridges have the potential to create hundreds of jobs in South Florida, officials noted. "This also would benefit key industries in tourism that literally employ hundreds of thousands of South Floridians," Fordham said.
The road now known as the Tamiami Trail was completed in 1928 to link Miami with Tampa. An unintended effect was that it created a dam that blocks the natural sheet flow of fresh water through the Everglades and into Florida Bay.
"The biggest problem in Florida Bay right now is the hypersaline water quality that is dramatically hurting our fisheries," Fordham said.


Feds say wind farm proposed near Everglades could harm birds
Sun Sentinel
July 08, 2011
A plan to construct 80 wind turbines as tall as skyscrapers on farmland in western Palm Beach County could harm several endangered species, according to an analysis by a federal wildlife agency.
Wind Capital Group of St. Louis proposes the construction of a wind farm across 16,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area, land used for the production of vegetables and sugar cane. Each turbine at the Big Lake Wind Facility would be 475 to 515 feet high, exceeding the height of the tallest building in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The blades will spin at a maximum speed of 195 miles per hour, with each turbine capable of powering 400 homes.
The turbines will also be capable of killing birds, including several endangered species, according to a preliminary analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a July 1 letter to the company, the agency said it was concerned about the impact to the Everglade snail kite, wood stork, northern crested caracara and the many species that inhabit the nearby Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The service also expressed concern abou the potential harm to bats and the endangered eastern indigo snake.
The project falls within the core foraging zone of five rookeries of endangered wood storks in the Loxahatchee refuge.
“The Service is concerned about the risk of injury or death of migratory birds or federally listed species,” states the letter from Spencer Simon, acting field supervisor for the service’s South Florida office. “…Collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resultin the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population.”


FL Water Coalition to Congress: "Our Rivers Are In Trouble"
Public News Service – by Les Coleman
July 8, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An environmental advocacy group has written members of the state's congressional delegation, demanding action to address algae outbreaks clogging rivers and streams in southwest Florida.
The Florida Water Coalition points to examples such as the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County, which is covered with inch-thick green slime. Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer, who is representing the coalition, says their repeated complaints to state authorities are stuck in political muck.
"We filed a lawsuit back in 2008 because the state had not done anything in 10 years."
A looming health issue has turned into a political football, the coalition says, and it is time for state and federal authorities to act - and to face the fact that no one wants to visit or live in a state that is infested with polluted rivers and streams. It's been a frustrating, long and drawn-out political battle, Reimer says.
"What we would like to see is that, instead of this simply being a political issue, which it seems to be now, that the representatives understand that this is an on-the-ground health problem that needs to be resolved."
The toxic algae outbreaks are fueled by "nutrients" including nitrogen and phosphorus which come from inadequately treated sewage, fertilizer and manure pollution. In southwest Florida, a drinking-water plant on the river at Olga, designed to serve 30,000 people, is shut down because of the contamination.


Conveying phosphate
The Bou Craa mine in the Western Sahara sends phosphate down a 150-kilometer-long conveyor belt to the port of El Ayoun.

“Most of the world’s best phosphate reserves are gone, and those that remain are in just a handful of countries."

“Can we find ways to recycle phosphate and keep it in the food chain where we need it ?"

Phosphate: A Critical Resource Misused and Now Running Out  by Fred Pearce
July 7, 2011
Phosphate has been essential to feeding the world since the Green Revolution, but its excessive use as a fertilizer has led to widespread pollution and eutrophication. Now, many of the world’s remaining reserves are starting to run low.
If you wanted to really mess with the world’s food production, a good place to start would be Bou Craa, located in the desert miles from anywhere in the Western Sahara. They don’t grow much here, but Bou Craa is a mine containing one of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate rock. Most of us, most days, will eat some food grown on fields fertilized by phosphate rock from this mine. And there is no substitute.
The Western Sahara is an occupied territory. In 1976, when Spanish colonialists left, its neighbor Morocco invaded, and has held it ever since. Most observers believe the vast phosphate deposits were the major reason that Morocco took an interest. Whatever the truth, the Polisario Front, a rebel movement the UN recognizes as the rightful representatives of the territory, would like it back.
Not many people would call phosphate a critical issue or one with serious environmental consequences. But even leaving aside the resource politics of the Sahara, it is an absolutely vital resource for feeding the world. It is also a resource that could start running low within a couple of decades — and one we grossly misuse, pouring it across the planet and recycling virtually none of it.
The world’s food supplies are alarmingly dependent on the phosphate fertilizer that is hewn from the desert of the Western Sahara. The vast open-cast mine at Bou Craa delivers several million tons of phosphate rock every year down a 150-kilometer-long conveyor belt, the world’s longest, to the Atlantic port of El Ayoun. From there, it is distributed around the world and made into fertilizer.
Morocco’s phosphate reserves are owned by the Office Cherifien des Phosphates, a Moroccan state agency. Given the almost unlimited executive powers of the Moroccan monarch, it might reasonably be said that most of the world's known reserves of phosphate are, in effect, owned by King Mohammed VI and his Alaouite dynasty, which has reigned in Morocco since the 17th century.
If the people of Western Sahara ever resume their war to get their country back — or if the Arab Spring spreads and Morocco goes the way of Libya — then we may be adding phosphate fertilizer to the list of finite resources, such as water and land, that are constraining world food supplies sooner than we think.
Phosphorus is one of the building blocks of all life. Every living cell requires it. Plants need phosphorus to grow as much as they need water. Many soils do not have enough to meet the voracious demands for phosphorus of the high-yielding crop varieties of the Green Revolution. But we can provide more by mining phosphate rock and turning it into fertilizer to spread on the land.
It takes one ton of phosphate to produce every 130 tons of grain, which is why the world mines about 170 million tons of phosphate rock every year to ship around the world and keep soils fertile.
Currently, only about 15 percent of that comes from mines in the Western Sahara and Morocco. But the only other large producers, the U. S. and China, mostly keep supplies for their own use. So Morocco is by far the biggest contributor to international trade, with more than half the total business. The people of India, the world’s largest importer, would be starving without Morocco’s phosphates. Brazil’s agricultural boom would never have happened otherwise.
Even more critically in the longer term, the U.S. Geological Survey says that of the 65 billion tons of the world’s known phosphate rock reserves — and the estimated 16 billion tons that might be economic to mine — almost 80 percent is in Western Sahara and Morocco. Add in China’s reserves, and the figure rises to almost 90 percent. The U.S., with 1.4 billion tons, is close to running out. You can see why agronomists are starting to get worried.
The world is not about to run out of phosphate. But demand is rising, most of the best reserves are gone, and those that remain are in just a handful of countries. Dana Cordell of Linkoping University in Sweden, who runs an academic group called the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative, says we could hit “peak phosphorus” production by around 2030.
As domestic production wanes, the U.S. is starting to join those countries — most of the world, in fact — that import phosphate from Morocco and the Western Sahara. American imports cross the Atlantic courtesy of Potash Corp, the Canada-based fertilizer company whose hostile takeover bid by the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton was blocked by the Canadian government last year. And phosphate mining in Florida, which is home to the world’s largest phosphate mine, is being challenged by environmentalists concerned about its impact on waterways and drinking water supplies.
Already, like other key commodities with once-dominant sources running low, the price of phosphate is starting to yo-yo alarmingly. Prices spiked at an 800-percent increase in 2008.
A century ago, much of the world’s internationally traded phosphate came from bones (a major English import at one time) and guano, excavated from Pacific islands where birds had been defecating phosphate for millions of years. But bones are not traded much any more, and most of the guano islands are now mined out. The island state of Nauru, for instance, is nothing more than a moonscape after decades of mining it to fertilize the grain fields of Australia.
The other key ingredient needed to fertilize modern high-productivity farm soils is nitrogen. We know how to “fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere. If the German chemist Fritz Haber hadn’t come up with his process in 1908, there wouldn’t have been a Green Revolution — and there wouldn’t be 7 billion people on the planet today. The nitrogen produced by this process is estimated to be directly responsible for feeding 3 billion of us.
But there are no new sources of phosphate. We continue to mine the rock — or we starve.
Phosphate strip mines are environment wreckers. They produce around 150 million tons of toxic spoil a year. Their massive draglines, huge slurry pipes, and mountainous spoil heaps dominate the landscape for tens of miles in key mining zones, whether in the North African desert or in Florida, a state that still provides three-quarters of American farmers’ phosphate needs.
The world’s largest mine is at Four Corners in an area known as Bone Valley in central Florida. The Four Corners mine covers 58,000 acres, an area five times the size of Manhattan. It is owned by Mosaic, a company recently spun off from agribusiness giant Cargill. Next door is the world’s second-largest mine, South Fort Meade. But South Fort Meade is living on borrowed time — its expansion plans are being opposed by local groups, and unless it can expand, the mine will have to close.
As the drag mines move south in Florida, anger has been growing about the environmental impacts. A million tons of mine waste, containing lows levels of radioactivity, are already piled up at dump sites around the state, and disputes are growing over promised mine cleanups. Rivers have dried up, and settling ponds have leaked.
Last year, the local chapter of the Sierra Club went to court to block Mosaic’s plans to extend the life of the South Fort Meade mine by expanding its footprint. The group is concerned about the fate of the Peace River, a vital source of Florida’s drinking water; it says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave approval for the expansion without first conducting a full environmental audit. The case is unresolved to date.
As for the impending shortages of phosphate, will technological advances and market forces solve the problem? We certainly waste a lot of this most valuable resource. Globally, we allow some 37 million tons of phosphorus to spill into the environment each year. It mostly flows down sewers and agricultural drains into rivers and lakes, where it feeds the growth of toxic cyanobacteria and consumes oxygen, creating eutrophication and “dead zones.”
While nitrogen pollution tends to get top billing as a cause of eutrophication, cyanobacteria can often abstract nitrogen from the air. David Schindler, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and others have argued that limiting phosphorus pollution is the key to eliminating eutrophication.
So how can we stop phosphate pollution, recycle it, and keep it in the food chain where we need it? Composting crop residues would be a good way of recycling this valued nutrient back into the soil, cutting the need for new applications of fertilizer — so would capturing some of the 3 million tons of phosphorus that cycles through human bodies annually, after being consumed in our food. Cordell says we should give top priority to recycling our urine, which contains more than half of all the phosphorus that we excrete.
But another conventional technical fix for a resource in short supply — finding a substitute — is not available. Presently, there simply are no substitutes for phosphorus.


Pipeline could help ease flooding, counter drought – Letter by Tom Culhane, Union, NJ
July 7, 2011
I think the United States should build a pipeline system from points along the Mississippi River east to central Florida and west to southern California. A pipe eight feet across and pumping stations throughout the system would allow for water to refill dried lakes and marshes in Florida or alleviate the recent droughts in Georgia.
There will be periods when no water needs pumping, but rather than waiting for a serious flood or drought to hit the U.S. again and having no options, we could start this major works project. Part of the system could even be built with prison labor to keep costs down.


Software program could protect Florida's lakes, rivers from pollutants
July 7, 2011
As a young scholar, Fernando Rios loved science and computer programming equally. So when Rios - who holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Canada's University of Waterloo - went looking for a graduate program, he discovered the Department of Scientific Computing at Florida State University, which has about 35 graduate students and launched a new undergraduate program of computational sciences in fall 2010.
Now, along with his FSU professor and colleagues, Rios has written an important and practical software program that could protect Florida's lakes and rivers from excessive pollutants.
"I wanted to use both my science and computing skills at the same time, not just one or the other," said Rios, who, along with associate professor of computational hydrology/geology Ming Ye, recently spent two and half years developing the software, which is designed to help local and state government measure the amount of nitrates from septic systems that end up in surface water bodies such as lakes and rivers.
"In Florida, there's a lot of septic tank usage - and an increased potential for increased groundwater and surface contamination," said Rios, who wrote the software known as ArcNLET (ArcGIS-Based Nitrate Load Estimation Toolkit). "When the nitrates enter groundwater, they can end up in drinking water and surface water."
Nitrates in drinking water may cause a health disorder known as methemoglobinemia, which in newborns can manifest itself as a sometimes-fatal condition called "blue baby syndrome." Discharge of nitrate-rich groundwater into surface waters also can lead to fish kills, algal growth, hypoxia, eutrophication (a bloom of phytoplankton), and outbreaks of toxic bacteria.
ArcNLET, which is free and available on Ye's website, officially will debut at a training workshop on Friday, July 8, in the Geography Information Systems Laboratory in FSU's Bellamy Building. The workshop is geared toward employees of state, local and county governments throughout Florida.
"Basically, we just want to introduce people to the software and give them an idea of what it can do," Rios said.
The GIS-based model is easy to use "and has a shallow learning curve," said Ye, who holds a doctorate in hydrology. In addition to his classes in scientific computing, he also teaches in Florida State's Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science. "An average person can use this."
Ye, who, together with Paul Lee and Rick Hicks of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, developed the concepts and ideas behind the septic software model, specializes in predicting how contaminants in water affect human health. Approximately one-third of Florida's population uses onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems - or septic systems - for treating domestic wastewater. Estimation of nitrate load from septic tanks to surface water bodies is critical to analysis of water resources and to environmental management. The ArcNLET software can estimate such nitrate loads.
The software research and development was funded with a two-year, $80,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, with an additional $60,000 extension of that grant. The development is also supported in part by the Florida Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability at Florida State.
Rios, who is now studying geography in the doctoral program at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, has returned to FSU's Department of Scientific Computing this summer for a paid internship, partly because he enjoys working with Ye and fellow FSU graduate students. He also is continuing his work on the ArcNLET software project.
"It's basically a tool to help guide certain kinds of decision-making," said Rios, who dreams of someday working as a government consultant doing environmental research on groundwater. He said he is proud of his work but adds that ultimately it's not a panacea.
"No (computer) model will give you a definitive answer," he said. "Basically, this is just another method to help guide decision-making."
Source: Florida State University


'In your face' protests needed
July 6, 2011
Today's SCCF newsletter is about the most discouraging thing I have read in a long time. It should ne a wake-up call to the futility of writing letters, sending e-mails, donating to PURRE, educating the public and to influence politicians, the Army Corps of Engineers or the South Florida Water Management District. The e-mail in return to mine from the Water District was typical — we send the water where it in most needed, economically, which translates to "Big Sugar."
Years ago, I asked Eric Lindblad why the SCCF was not more activist; his reply was that first we would collect scientific data that would be used to influence the powers that be. Well, after millions spent on RECON sensors and peer-reviewed science, we are no farther along. There is absolutely no point in pursuing more science. Every piece of research ends with "we need more study," which interpreted means we want another grant. Anyone who has had a farm pond in Illinois knows, without science, that fertilizer causes algae to grow.
Another example is red tide. The scientists have said for years that fertilizer might be a factor, but since red tide was around prior to chemical fertilizers and they need more data. They always need more data. They didn't consider that long before Florida was settled by polluters, there were thousands of rookeries along the coast — and guano, or bird crap, is a wonderful fertilizer. When it rained, the guano went to sea and caused red tide, just like today's chemicals. The trouble is that today, there are more chemical fertilizers and human sewage than birds.
The legislators and this governor are not the least interested in science or public opinion. The respond to donations from industry and rarely intense pressure from voters. So far, they have not had meaningful voter pressure.
The only thing that will change the legislators and activate public opinion is the sort of "in your face" protests that worked with civil rights during the 1960's. One of the most effective environmental activists was a lone guy, the "Fox" who single handedly cleaned up the Fox River in Illinois by dumping dead fish in corporate headquarters, stopping up drains from polluting factories and generally raising hell. He had plenty of publicity and managed to shame the corporate polluters and the goevernment int taking action. Today, the Fox River is relatively clean.
I am really ticked off! It is time for SCCF, together with the Sierra Club, Friends of the Everglades and every other Florida environmental organization to organize hundreds of people, in caravans with trucks full of dead fish, dead birds and stinking algae to descend on the headquarters of "Big Sugar," the governor's home and the legislature. We can dump the mess in their corporate offices and on the floor of the legislature. I will be happy to lie down and go to jail, even though I have already been busted by the cops for sending dead shrimp to Jeb Bush, the great developer. It is against the law to send perishables through the mail, but I claimed that the shrimp had already perished. All we need are slogans, banners, theme songs and burning effigies of Governor Scott, corporate executives, Connie Mack and Senator Rubio. But then, I suppose, that would offend the corporate donors of SCCF.
Really fed up,
John Raffensperger, MD, Sanibel


Of Fetuses and the Everglades - by ALAN FARAGO, Conservation Chair of Friends of the Everglades
July 6, 2011
Mercury Flows Downstream
The conservative right deploys right-to-life as its battle cry, but when it comes to rallying against environmental pollution that is arguably a greater threat to fetuses than abortion, the right is silent. With a few exceptions, there is hardly a whisper from the pulpits about organizing to protect the unborn by rallying congregations to support tougher anti-pollution laws and candidates for public office who support them. Mercury exposure, for example, is known to cause deformities and developmental disorders. In Florida, mercury is as ubiquitous as sulfur thrown on sugar fields by billionaire farmers, flowing downstream to God knows where.
Southern Christians (I'm singling out Southern Christians, because this writer is from Florida) ought to recognize that the rights of fetuses are harmed by pollution. So why isn't the conservative right deploying their message machinery to educate Southern Christians about the threats of environmental pollution to the unborn, especially since it is clear thatpollution is arguably a bigger threat to fetuses than abortion?
The rapid rise in autism spectrum disorders has been widely reported in the press. What is less remarked is that the percentage of children born with development disorders -- some of which may be attributable to toxins in the environment-- is higher per thousand than the incidence of abortion in the general population. Now, new science verifies the significant role environmental pollution is playing in autism rates.
For Southern Christians, supporting the rights of the fetus over the rights of polluters shouldn't require scientific proof. According to the CDC, between 1997 and 2008, the number of children with a disability rose from 8.2 million to roughly 10 million, or more than 15% of all kids between the ages of 3 and 17. A more recent study indicates that 2 to 3 percent of American children suffer within the range of autism spectrum disorder. In comparison a 2008 report by the non-profit Guttmacher Institute notes that in the U.S. the abortion rate peaked in 1980 at 2.9 percent (per 1000 women) and declined to 2 percent by 2004.
Why is a polluter given a free pass by Southern Christians for imposing toxics on the public that has no choice in the matter, when a clinic that provides poor women with a choice, isn't? Is it poverty of imagination that keeps Christians from being the nation's conscience on the environment or is something more sinister at work? That, for example, polluting corporations and their executives like the Koch brothers have invested millions to co-opt the conservative right?
These doubts about conservatives tie back to the refusal of the Republican Congress to unite behind efforts to stop environmental pollution from harming the fetus. Instead the GOP is holding agreement on the debt ceiling hostage until President Obama agrees to sacrifice the EPA. Instead of guaranteeing the unborn will be protected from pollution, Republicans rise in the morning to defend the rights of polluters.
In Florida, a new day for conservatives could start by organizing churches and congregations to lobby Republican legislators in Florida and Governor Rick Scott so that fetuses are protected from a threat greater than abortionists: environmental polluters. Start, for example, with new laws to ensure that mercury contamination is stopped, even when it originates in the sugar fields of wealthy campaign contributors, posing threats to fetuses and killing the Everglades.


New bridge
Tamiami Trail Bridging - Artist's Impression

Tamiami bridge gets boost in Congress
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
July 6, 2011
Plans to build an additional 5.5 miles of bridging over Tamiami Trail got a boost on Wednesday when House appropriators agreed to approve spending on the project, which is considered vital to Everglades restoration.
Much-sought language to allow bridge spending was tucked into a bill that the interior appropriations subcommittee is expected to formally draft on Thursday.
Everglades advocates were delighted. They have long hoped to allow water to flow in wide sheets across Tamiami Trail in western Miami-Dade County to nurture Everglades National Park. Bridges that raise the roadbed and allow water to pass underneath are considered the most effective method.
‘Glades advocates also like this project because it provides obvious evidence that restoration creates jobs.
“If you drive down there now, you will see construction workers with hardhats, and you can see progress being made,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, who tracks federal spending for Audubon of Florida.
She cited estimates that every $10 million spent on restoration creates 130 to 170 jobs.
Workers are expected to complete a one-mile bridge by 2014, under an $81 million contract. The language pending in Congress would clear the way for unspecified spending on another 5.5 miles of bridging.
Planning estimates range up to $300 million for the extended bridge. But costs for the one-mile bridge turned out to be far less than expected, raising hopes that the next phase can be done cheaply as potential contractors compete amid Florida’s economic downturn.
“The timing is critical,” Hill-Gabriel said. “Our hope is that we can have a seamless integration of the two projects and can move into the next stage of bridging right after the one-mile bridge is finished.”
Construction of the second phase is expected to take about two years.


Beachfront drilling returns - Editorial
July 05, 2011
Less than a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was finally plugged, Senate President Mike Haridopolos looks to be slyly hawking beachfront drilling again.
Haridoplos, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and House Speaker Dean Cannon were among the champions of a proposal to allow drilling in state waters — three to 10 miles offshore — until the BP rig exploded, killing 11 workers and gushing 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over three months. The tragedy ruined the economies of waterfront communities, and even Gulf resorts unaffected by the spill saw their business plummet.
Supporters quickly retreated from the drilling plan, but high gas prices this spring gave the drill-everywhere crowd another opportunity to push their case. And now Haridopolos is calling for a new "all-energy" policy. Gov. Rick Scott, similarly, wants a revised energy policy. Haridopolos says drilling in Florida waters won't be considered next session, but you can see where this is heading.
Florida does need a comprehensive energy policy, one that includes natural gas, clean coal, nuclear, alternative sources such was solar, wind, wave and biofuels and more focus on conservation.
But nearshore drilling should not be in the mix.
Most Americans favor reasonable offshore drilling, but what is being pushed in Florida is essentially beachfront drilling, which would inevitably damage the state's annual $65 billion tourism industry as well as reduce its appeal to tourists and residents.
Politicians such as Scott and Haridopolos always say they will consider drilling only if it can be made safe, but no human activity is foolproof. All drilling poses some risk, and it is necessary to take some risks if the nation is to meet its energy needs.
But Florida needs to keep risks as low as possible. Nearshore drilling is simply too unsafe for the expected return.
Despite oil industry claims, accidents happen, and not infrequently. The chances for a major disaster can never be ruled out. During the campaign to drill in Florida waters, the oil industry acted as if it were as clean as rain water and accidents were an ancient curiosity. But since 2001, there have been 858 fires and explosions in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Minerals Management Service, and oil spills are common, though most are modest.
The Deepwater Horizon debacle has caused industry and regulatory reforms, and technology surely will continue to improve.
But drilling will never be risk-free, and the closer to shore the drilling is done, the greater the chance of devastating damage.
A spill only a few miles off the coast would allow scant time for containment or the natural processes such as evaporation, dilution and sun exposure that break down the oil's toxicity.
Nearshore drilling, particularly in the Gulf, is simply too great a threat to the sandy beaches that underpin the state's tourism industry and coastal economies.
There is little reason — other than to benefit a few select interests — to jeopardize the coast. An independent study conducted last year by the reputable Collins Center for Public Policy on behalf of the Legislature found the total estimated oil reserves in Florida would satisfy U.S. demand for less than a week and would have no "discernible impact" on gas prices or U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
Why would Floridians risk the most beautiful — and valuable — resources they have for such a modest return?
Offshore drilling should continue to be a part of the nation's energy strategy, and reasonable people can debate about what is a safe buffer for the state.
But any objective cost-benefit analysis would show that drilling very near shore would be a terrible business decision in addition to an environmental disaster.


Congress considers muddying Clean Water Act
Philadelphia Daily News – DN Editorial
July 5, 2011
THIS JUST IN: Rivers often cross state boundaries. In fact, some rivers actually are state boundaries.
So if hazardous waste were dumped into the Delaware River in, say, Trenton, some of it would almost certainly find its way to Philadelphia.
And we likely would have a problem with that.
When it comes to water quality, we're all in this together. That's why the Clean Water Act - which sets and mandates the enforcement of national standards for water quality - has been essential to protecting the environment for nearly four decades.
As we learned in the 1960s, when it's "every state for itself," rivers catch fire, you can't swim in lakes, fish are too polluted to eat, and feuding states have to go to court to duke it out over whose garbage is whose.
If some shortsighted members of Congress have their way, the United States could very well be singing a reprise of "Burn On, Big River, Burn On," Randy Newman's hymn to the fiery Cuyahoga. If it were to become law, a bill approved early last month by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would undo two generations of environmental progress.
Apparently, one congressman from West Virginia is angry because the Environmental Protection Agency has blocked mountaintop coal-removal methods that jeopardize watersheds. Another from Florida doesn't like government-mandated safeguards against chemical pollutants. So they cooked up legislation that not only will make it easier on the polluters in their states, but render the Clean Water Act useless for the 48 others.
According to an EPA analysis, if the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act" became law, the agency would be prevented from upgrading water-quality standards if an individual state disagreed with the changes - even if there were scientifically demonstrated threats to human health or aquatic life. In addition, the bill would keep the EPA from refereeing disputes among states.
In short, the proposed legislation would pretty much allow individual states to veto standards set by the Clean Water Act - the better to attract polluters or please local industries that want to avoid the expense of cleaning up the poisonous crap they generate - and that just might want to show their gratitude by making big contributions to the helpful politicians' election campaigns.
Environmental groups say this legislation is the single most serious threat to the Clean Water Act in its 39-year history. Congress should "deep-six" it.


Florida Water Management District Swiftly Cuts Budget With 120+ Employee Bailouts, Does This Really Hurt the Everglades ? - by Rosa Schechter
July 5, 2011
The South Florida Water Management District was quick to put together a buyout package for its employees after the Florida Legislature's big budgetary cutbacks were signed into law by Governor Scott last month. Facing a big budget cut from the state, the South Florida Water Management district hastily put together a buyout package to reduce payroll.
Water Management District Saves Money on Payroll, Employees Avoid Layoff
It was a nice package, and last Friday, 123 South Florida Water Management District employees who had been on a salary of $100,000+ per year officially started their Fourth of July Weekend by saying goodbye to the South Florida Water Management District as their employer - saving them from layoffs expected to occur next month and saving the SFWMD around $10,000,000 in payroll.
How Will This Impact Florida ? The Doom and Gloom
Out of the 123 employees who took the buyout last Friday, 15% were scientists and 10% were engineers. Already, there are those who question how the SFWMD can be effective with this loss of expertise, given that the District is responsible for managing the state's water supply. Who knows how many more of these brainiacs will be let go next month, when it's expected that 100 employees will be laid off, leaving the SFWMD will around 1500 employees.
Meanwhile, conservationists are bemoaning the future of the Everglades with these manpower cutbacks at the South Florida Water Management District. These critics include attorney Allan Milledge, member of the Florida Audubon Board and formerly the chairman of the board for the South Florida Water Management District. In a recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Milledge voiced his concern that the cutbacks at the SFWMD will harm the Everglades, especially as drought conditions continue.
The Hard Realities Florida Faces Means Tightening the Budget - We Must All Work Together for Florida
It is true that last week's buyouts and next week's layoffs at the South Florida Water Management District are motivated by money: the SFWMD governing board has to find $128,300,000 to cut from its $1+ billion budget because of the new legislation that cut its revenues by 30% as part of a statewide reduction in property taxes.
However, this does not mean that the District has been gutted and made powerless. There are those that thought it could use some streamlining - that the District had more people on its books that it really needed in the first place.
New Executive Director Mellissa Meeker, for example, has announced her desire to reduce the District's overall salary and benefits package so that it looks more like the packages that other State of Florida workers get.
This means the SFWMD folk don't get golf carts to carry them from the office to their car, for example. And Meeker's already sold ONE of the SFWMD airplanes. She's also cut her own salary from $202,000 of her predecessor to $165,000, taking 20% off her own payday at the get-go.
It makes sense for conservationists to be afraid of rampant disregard of everything they hold dear if there is no regulation left for protecting the Florida Everglades. However, the cruel reality is that the State of Florida is broke, Floridians are sharing the tough times of this Great Recession, and we must all tighten our belts in this economic crisis.
The Everglades are protected by local, state, and federal laws as well as being monitored by private and public groups dedicated to its survival. Perhaps there will be dangers to the Everglades because of these cutbacks, but that suggests a distrust of Ms. Meeker and her remaining, streamlined crew at SFWMD which may be very premature and unwarranted. Melissa Meeker gave up her job as state water czar to helm the SFWMD, after all.
We must all be financially responsible as well as ethically vigilant. We're in tough times and things have to change.


USDA Awards Grants to Help Agriculture Producers Adapt to Global Climate Change
July 5, 2011
(USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded 13 grants to research possibilities for agriculture and forestry producers to adapt to climate change - Jul 05,2011 - USDA Awards Grants to Help Agriculture Producers Adapt to Global Climate Change Effects
WASHINGTON, – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded 13 grants to research possibilities for agriculture and forestry producers to adapt to climate change and to best take advantage of variable climate patterns.
These grants were awarded through USDA’s highly competitive Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and administered through NIFA. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.
“Anticipating and adjusting to long-term climate patterns is vital for successful agricultural production,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, acting NIFA director. “Sound science helps farmers, ranchers and foresters make the right decisions to reduce the effects of climate change and increased variability on their operations. The grants we are announcing today support a wide range of fundamental global agricultural concerns, from cereal crops and animal production to forestry and pest management.”
Today’s announcement represents an investment of more than $53 million to study how climate patterns and variability affect agricultural production. The long-term goal of these USDA-sponsored projects is to help prepare the nation’s agricultural and forestry sectors for unpredictable global climate effects, while helping agricultural and forest production systems play a valuable role in addressing the global challenge of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.
Fiscal Year 2010 projects were funded in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Project highlights include:
A project in Arkansas to evaluate options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from swine operations and develop accessible and practical means for swine producers put these options into practice.
A project in Indiana to study the biophysical and economic factors related to climate change and examine the challenges to successful cereal crop harvests presented by climate variability, while developing training materials to help farmers make effective decisions to keep their operations productive and successful.
A project in California to develop strategies for rice growers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state’s primary water supply hub, to maintain economic competitiveness while improving water quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A full list of awardees can be found online at:
AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at:


Groups Urge National Park Service To Block Transmission Lines Along Everglades National Park
Nat.Parks Traveler - by Kurt Repanshek
July 4, 2011
A proposal to string a ribbon of high-voltage power lines along the edge of Everglades National Park is being met with strong opposition from a number of groups that want the Interior Department and Park Service to reject the request and acquire the land the lines would traverse.
The proposal from Florida Power and Light is to locate 70, 150-foot-tall, high-power transmission lines along the park's boundary to reach two proposed nuclear power reactors next to two existing units at the Turkey Point nuclear facility on the edge of nearby Biscayne National Park.
While the preferred route would take the corridor along the Everglades boundary, one option would be to run it through an inholding owned by the utility that is surrounded by the park. The 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Bill gave the Park Service permission to pursue acquisition of this 7-mile-long tract.
The agency is in the midst of taking public comment, through July 25, on a proposal to acquire the land through an exchange with the utility or some other means (ie., outright purchase or through eminent domain).
Documents prepared for the environmental impact statement examining the project and whether the Park Service should acquire the land have said the towers could present risks to birds in the area. Although a report (attached) on the possible impacts to birds called for more study, it also said that the preferred location "would result in the loss of more than 100 acres of habitat used by more than 200 avian species, including loss of breeding habitat used by more than 50 avian species."
"This loss of habitat," the report continued, "would affect a diverse and abundant assemblage of avian species nesting, foraging, and migrating through habitats located within Everglades National Park."
Bird species that rely on wetlands, such as wading birds, raptors, and passerines, "are likely to be impacted by the proposed power lines. However, not all bird groups and species are at the same degree of risk of injury...," the report added. "A more comprehensive risk assessment for avifauna in and around Everglades National Park will need to evaluate the entire length of the proposed Florida Power and Light Co. transmission corridor in Miami-Dade County."
The plan is being opposed by the Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Clean Water Action, the Izaak Walton League, and Tropical Audubon Society. The South Florida Wildlands Association has announced its intention to sue to halt the project. NPCA also has presented the agencies with thousands of comments against the powerline plan.
"The use is completely incompatible with the designated purpose of the Everglades, and it is therefore necessary that FPL find an alternative route," NPCA has said in opposing the transmission line corridor. "Taxpayers are the rightful owners of America's national parks. Conveying a track of Everglades National Park to a for-profit utility for a transmission lines corridor poses a threat to the Everglades ecosystem and conflicts with long-term restoration efforts. "


What to do with $30-a-year tax cut? One resident wants to give it back to environment
TCPalm - by Eve Samples
July 4, 2011
Thirty dollars a year.
That's how much the owner of a home valued at $150,000 in Martin and St. Lucie counties will save on his or her property taxes as a result of deep cuts to the South Florida Water Management District's budget.
It's barely enough for a trip for two to the movies.
Here's the thing: Kevin Stinnette didn't ask Gov. Rick Scott or state lawmakers to give him the tax break.
The public school teacher and environmental advocate was perfectly content to keep sending his money to an agency that has the power to do large-scale restoration work on some of the state's most vital bodies of water, including the Everglades.
That's why he plans to give his tax money back. Not back to the district, but back to the cause.
He hopes others will join him.
At Thursday's meeting of the Rivers Coalition — a grassroots organization that has been fighting for more than a decade to stop the release of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River — Stinnette proposed that people use their tax savings to write checks to benefit the group.
"We may even be able to fund our own land acquisition," he said during the Rivers Coalition gathering at Stuart City Hall.
Acquiring land south of Lake Okeechobee to restore the natural flow of water to the Everglades is key to stopping releases to the St. Lucie River. Over the years, the releases have prompted fish lesions, toxic algae blooms and health department warnings.
But many Rivers Coalition members have lost faith that the district will make such acquisitions happen — especially since Gov. Scott has opposed a deal to buy tens of thousands of acres of U.S. Sugar property south of Lake O.
It doesn't help that a federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court's ruling against the Rivers Coalition in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the Lake O discharges.
Melissa Meeker, the director that Gov. Scott hand-picked to lead the water management district through the biggest cutbacks in its history, said Thursday the St. Lucie River is at the top of her priority list.
In an effort to increase water storage south of Lake O, Meeker wants to partner with private firms that can store water on their property, work with farmers to get agricultural land out of production and push the Army Corps of Engineers to hold more water in Lake O during the rainy season.
She asked for patience — but patience wore thin long ago among river advocates.
The state's five water management districts were an easy target for Gov. Scott since much of what they do is never seen by taxpayers. The land it buys and reservoirs it builds tend to be in sparsely populated areas.
By nature, the district's work on water quality, flood control and environmental restoration is so complex that there's an entire language of acronyms devoted to it. It's incredibly complicated, yet it is vitally important to Floridians.
As the district starts executing its cuts, at least one consequence will be immediately visible: The district plans to close its service center in Stuart, which has been open since 1996.
The center was responsible for making sure businesses and residents complied with their permits for water consumption and storm water, among other duties. Though some bare bones staff may remain, most of the 25 to 35 employees who work at the office will be laid off or shipped to West Palm Beach. Enforcement will fall to employees 45 minutes away.
Stinnette's proposal won't save those jobs or the local service center, but it could certainly make a point.
That point: Many Floridians still support protecting environmental resources, even if it means money out of their pockets.


dried up
Drying up Florida.
We are working on it !

Can Florida dry up ?  We seem intent to find out: Wernicke - by Wernicke
July 3, 2011
Droughts come and go, and Florida has always experienced its wet and dry seasons. But natural Florida was fully evolved to wait out the droughts and dry out from the floods. That long-term balance produced the verdant peninsula that, in 1513, an appreciative Juan Ponce de Léon dubbed la Florida — the flowery.
Before people truly understood what made Florida what it was, they tried to dry it out, most famously in the Everglades. They built dredges and canals and dikes, and did their best, coming close to fatally wounding one of the world's great wetland systems.
By the 1960s, enough Floridians recognized the folly of what they were doing to begin a decades-long effort to undo the damage. They sought a new balance that would sustain people without exhausting the land.
The effort was led by people like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, the journalist whose 1947 book, "The Everglades: River of Grass," began to wake Floridians up. Politicians are often the last to wake up, especially in Tallahassee. But by the late 1960s, Democrats like Pensacola's Reubin Askew and Republicans like Nat Reed and Claude Kirk began to get it.
We now appear to have lost a generation of understanding in Tallahassee. The leadership in the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott seem oblivious to the threat. It's almost as if they are determined to prove that Florida can be dried out.
And the problem is, maybe it can.
I expect that Florida will recover, as it always has, from the current drought, which is threatening to be of historic dimensions. And despite the record heat that has accompanied it, and the wildfires rampant across the state.
But like a cancer patient who emerges weakened, but alive, from chemotherapy, how robustly Florida's natural systems will recover is at question. Because each recovery from the latest drought comes on the heels of the growing thirst for water of Florida's growing population.
As water levels in Florida's aquifers, rivers and lakes fall farther with each drought, their subsequent recovery is hampered by the increasing pumping to provide the water for our faucets, lawns, farm fields, factories and power plants.
Meanwhile, as scientists continue to pile up increasing documentation of the threat of global climate change, a pertinent question might be whether Florida is more threatened by rising sea levels inundating its shorelines and salting its coastal aquifers, or a long-term decline in the rains that sustain it.
But absent drastic events that bring rapid change, natural systems decline slowly. Nature is incredibly resilient, and retreats stubbornly and adaptively. It will cling to what is as long as it can, and evolve into something else when it must.
Changes that take years can seem invisible — or become invisible as we ourselves adapt to the change as normal — but today they can also be documented. And those pictures can wake us up to how fast things are changing.
Two modern Florida journalists, writer Cynthia Barnett and photographer John Moran, recently published a piece all Floridians should see — especially in Tallahassee. In it they detail the decline of one of Florida's most iconic symbols, the Suwanee River.
Here's the online link:
The pictures speak for themselves, in stark terms. I'll quote briefly from Barnett's article:
"Long famous for the song, the river is also known for the superlatives: largest watershed in Florida, biggest whitewater rapids in the state, highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world.
"That's what makes the latest images from the Suwannee so disquieting. For the iconic river also embodies Florida's vanishing water. Drought is as inevitable to the state as the waves that shape our coastline. But scientists say its impact is aggravated by overuse that has dewatered the Suwannee's springs and tributaries for half a century. White Sulphur Springs was a booming tourist destination in the early 20th century, gushing up to 46 million gallons a day. In the 1970s, it became the first of the river's springs to dry up."
There's more, and worse, in the article.
Will they read it in Tallahassee ?


My Word: Budget cuts hurt Everglades
Orlando Sentinel - by Allan Milledge
July 3, 2011
On this July 4th weekend, let's reflect on the noble words of our 33rd American president, Harry Truman, from the Everglades National Park dedication ceremony in 1947:
"To maintain our natural wealth, we must engage in full and complete conservation of all our resources."
Truman had the foresight to understand that the ample natural resources of our great country are not unlimited. Resources like clean and abundant water are essential for our nation's wealth and prosperity.
So what would the late President Truman think about a recent law passed in Florida that does not seem to have this foresight?
I am referring to Senate Bill 2142. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott attended another type of ceremony — the signing of the bill that cuts the South Florida Water Management District's funding by 30 percent — or more than $120 million, touting it as a tax cut for the people. Yet, the savings to average property owners is minimal.
In fact, if you don't own property, you save nothing at all. Meanwhile, these cuts severely diminish the water-management district's ability to pursue Everglades restoration projects and provide meaningful water-management services.
Our nation's forefathers were right: The conservation of our resources is essential for our natural wealth. During this year's drought conditions, it has become apparent that there is simply not enough water to maintain a healthy ecosystem and fulfill the needs of citizens and agriculture. The people of Florida, our imperiled ecosystems and endangered wildlife have suffered too much from this man-made and fixable problem.
One goal of Everglades restoration is to increase the quantity of water resources in South Florida for our citizens and the environment. The money cut by Scott could have gone to key projects that would help alleviate our region's annual drought and flooding problems. Water-storage projects north of Lake Okeechobee and throughout the greater Everglades are investments for the future of our state.
When I was a child, I stood with my father, Dade County Judge Stanley Milledge, and watched President Harry Truman dedicate Everglades National Park. I am so grateful that our water-management district is carrying on the tradition to protect and restore the Everglades.
And I sincerely cherish the fact that my grandchildren and Scott's — for that matter — will be able to grasp the wonder of this truly special place, this inimitable piece of America, this pride of Florida.
Allan Milledge is a former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District and is a Florida Audubon Board member.


Nile monitor
Nasty Nile monitors showing up in South Florida
Sun Sentinel - by Robert Nolin,
July 2, 2011
From pythons in the Everglades, to coyotes in the suburbs, to iguanas and Muscovy ducks in any given backyard, South Florida is a magnet for exotic invading species.
Now comes the latest gate-crasher: the ill-tempered, all-devouring Nile monitor, a large African lizard that has discovered in South Florida a splendid place to seek prey and raise a family.
Judging by increased sightings, their numbers here appear to be growing.
"We're trying to determine if we have a breeding problem," said Gabriella Ferrero, spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
To that end, the agency has set out traps where the lizards congregate by the C-51 canal along Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach. That's near where a Nile monitor slipped through a doggie door and into a woman's patio one recent afternoon. The woman blocked the doggie door, trapping the five-foot lizard until three wildlife officers arrived.
They took the dark brown and mottled yellow reptile to a remote area. "I euthanized it with my agency-issued handgun," Officer Jon Garznaniti reported.
Such a fate awaits any of the snake-headed lizards snared in the traps along the canal. The monitors, called "the largest, most dangerous nonindigenous lizard in the United States" by the U.S. Geological Survey, are a threat to native wading birds such as herons or wood storks — or any creature smaller than they are.
"They're opportunistic," Ferrero said. "They eat anything, plants, animals, whatever comes across their radar." Bird eggs are a favorite.
Varanus niloticus, as it's known to scientists, can also pose a threat to people. Monitors will grow up to seven feet, are good swimmers, can run up to 18 mph, and have powerful legs and jaws. They become downright mean if disturbed.
"These are defensive critters, when cornered they can bite, scratch with their claws or whip with their tails," Ferrero said. "They're just not nice."
And like iguanas, their mouths are a trove of nasty germs. "You do not want to get bitten by a Nile monitor," Scott Hardin, the wildlife agency's exotic species coordinator, said from his Tallahassee office. "Their mouths harbor a lot of bacteria."
While perhaps fewer than a dozen monitors lurk along the C-51 canal, Hardin said, the agency wants to make sure it stays abreast of them by gathering as much information as possible: their gender, movements, size, even what they eat. Based on such data, officials will decide whether to try to eradicate the lizards or simply suppress their numbers.
The problem has already reached dire proportions in Cape Coral on Florida's southwest coast, where an estimated 1,000 wild monitors are vexing authorities. They and other free-ranging monitors are the result of released pets, the wildlife agency said. Unless you have a special license, possessing monitors is now illegal. You can, however, send them to lizard heaven.
"It's fine and dandy to kill them," Hardin said, cautioning that one must do it in a humane manner or face criminal charges.


Water district closes Keys regional center - by KEVIN WADLOW
July 02, 2011
Conservationists fear cuts will hurt Everglades plans
Technically still in operation, telephones at the Key Largo Service Center of the South Florida Water Management District went unanswered Friday.
The office's only staffer, Tom Genovese, was among 123 district employees who left the agency Thursday, the final day of the state's fiscal budget year.
As part of budget cuts mandated by the state, the Water Management District aims to close four regional service centers, including the one serving Monroe County.
Other offices slated to be shuttered include county offices for Miami-Dade, Broward, and Martin-St. Lucie.
Until the district's governing board approves the new budget at its July 13-14 meeting, the regional centers are not formally closed.
A call to the Key Largo office goes to voicemail, which does not indicate that it belongs to the South Florida Water Management District.
" We are working to have representatives working on a regional basis to keep the face-to-face contact where he can, " district spokesman Randy Smith said Friday.
A district statement about the center closings reads: " Regional issues remain important to the District. Staff will continue to attend local government meetings, brief communities on district activities, respond to citizens' concerns and serve constituent needs as they arise. "
Smith said the 16-county district's new E-Permitting ability through its website ( will allow residents to more efficiently access information on Environmental Resource Permits and Water-Supply Permits. Most residents in the Keys do not require district permits, which generally apply to larger commercial sites.
" Rather than having to go somewhere in person, you can do it online, " Smith said. " That's really a big benefit. "
By cutting the 123 positions — which includes several managers making more than $100,000 annually — the district plans to save more than $10 million annually in salaries, with an additional $1.4 million in benefits, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Lease payments on the four regional service centers expected to permanently close will save another $1.1 million annually.
A law passed by the Florida Legislature this spring orders reductions in property taxes paid to support four of the state's five water management districts.
The South Florida Water Management District had a $1.1 billion budget supporting about 1,900 employees who " provide for flood control, Everglades restoration and ongoing water supply needs. "
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 by 30 percent to about $35 by the Legislature's mandated reduction.
Conservation groups have expressed concern about the effect on budget cutbacks on Everglades restoration efforts.
The Florida Keys Audubon Society is among two dozen organizations that signed on as supporter of a site titled: " I'd pay $30 more a year for clean water and to restore the Everglades. "
Melissa Meeker, who became the district's new executive director on June 1, said in recent public statements that she expects environmental restoration efforts largely will proceed on schedule.


Are water district buyouts a brain drain ?
Palm Beach Post - by Opinion Staff
July 1, 2011
Facing a big budget cut from the state, the South Florida Water Management district hastily put together a buyout package to reduce payroll.
So Friday was the last day of work for 123 who took the buyout. That will cut payroll by about $10 million. More than a quarter of the employees who took the buyout made more than $100,000 a year.
More workers are expected to leave in August layoffs.
Among those taking the buyouts were 19 scientists with combined salaries of $1.3 million and 12 engineers making a combined $1.1 million.
The question is, can the SFWMD function properly without the talent that just walked out the door ?
The water district has one of the most important and difficult jobs in South Florida. Its task is to manage the water supply so that there’s enough available for drinking and for agriculture, but not so much that homes and businesses are inundated.
The water district, for example, has to respond promptly and correctly to minimize the impact from hurricanes.
It has to do all that while also protecting water quality and the environment.
Critics say the district has been over-staffed and too generous with pay and benefits. Its new chief, Melissa Meeker cut her own pay to set an example. She also cut the number of top management positions from 15 to nine.
Depending on how you look at it, the water district is either right-sizing, or it’s losing institutional knowledge and expertise that will put South Florida at risk.
What do you think ? Are the water district buyouts a harmful brain drain ? Take our poll.


Blame loss of Everglades for S. Florida's drought
Palm Beach Post - Letters to the Editor, by J.A. Marshall
July 1, 2011
Much has been reported regarding the current water shortage and blaming the "extreme drought" on global climatic conditions, such as La Niña, the Bermuda High, and the North Atlantic Oscillation (Palm Beach Post, June 13).
However, those are not the main causes of water shortages in South Florida. The late Arthur R. Marshall called this scenario a man-made drought, and sought to address it back in 1981. The main water shortage cause is the removal and draining of wetlands for development and agriculture, and the reduction of natural water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
A major volume of water that went south to the Everglades now is flushed to tide. One big result is decreased evapotranspiration (ET for short) over what used to be the river of grass, with surface water and plants sending water vapor into the atmosphere, unabated.
When moisture-heavy sea breezes combined with ET, South Florida was subject to rainfall deluges. Art Marshall dubbed this the "rain machine."
The water supply in all of Florida depends on a rainfall-driven system, and ET drives rainfall.
As Art Marshall declared in June 1981: Water is the major concern of our coalition. If Lake O fails periodically to be adequate for all needs, what is to be done? The question persists today.
Knowing that rainfall and its retention are the only satisfactory sources of water in the Everglades system, we support the reestablishment of sheet flow in the basin to the greatest possible extent.
Conservation measures may help alleviate drought situations . However projected population increases, more rooftops and unmitigated destruction of wetlands will only make for more frequent, extreme/exceptional droughts, and increased water supply costs .
Editor's note: John Arthur Marshall is chairman of the board of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation and Florida Environmental Institute Inc.


Florida state workers get pink slips, more cuts ahead
Reuters - by Michael Peltier
July 1, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla, July 1 (Reuters) - To patch a $4 billion budget hole, more than 1,600 Florida state government employees were laid off as of Friday, and another 562,000 began paying into their pension plans for the first time in 37 years.
The 1,600 are a very small fraction of the state's overall government workforce, but additional layoffs and cuts are expected as state agencies and local governments respond to a series of belt-tightening measures approved by lawmakers at the request of Republican Governor Rick Scott.
State agency cuts have been well-publicized. But austerity measures, combined with agency realignments and Scott's campaign promises to reduce corporate income and property taxes, will translate into pink slips for some local government employees as well.
The South Florida Water Management District, which oversees flood control and Everglades restoration, has offered 123 employees severance packages as part of an effort to trim $252 million from the agency's $1.1 billion annual budget.
The agency is expected to lay off 100 more in the next several weeks in response to a legislative decision to cut tax levels for all water management agencies, whose budgets have already been depleted by falling property values.
"The (buyout) was the first step toward streamlining operations and achieving staffing levels that correspond with agency core functions," spokesman Gabe Margasak said in an email. "The new staffing levels for the agency have not yet been finalized but will be in place effective August 17."


1107dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text


1107dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text



  2009-2014, Boya Volesky