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Audubon of Florida releases ‘State of the Everglades’ report
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 31, 2011
Environmental group Audubon of Florida has released its “State of the Everglades” report, a summary of the most important stories and policies to come out of the Greater Everglades during the first half of 2011.
In the report, Audubon applauds a recent announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who pledged $100 million to fund land conservation in Florida through the Wetlands Reserve Program. The funds will go toward compensating ranchers and other landowners who leave portions of their land in natural conditions, retaining water there while continuing their agricultural activities. The report also highlights a January announcement of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who proposed (.pdf) expanding the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in the Western Everglades by at least 50,000 acres.
And though Audubon praises Vilsack and Salazar’s work, its report notes that much remains to be done.
A portion of the report, for instance, calls for greater water conservation in the Lake Okeechobee region, where a recent drought, coupled with controversial water management decisions, led to a massive algal bloom in the Caloosahatchee that hurt businesses and property owners in Southwest Florida. Audubon says it is now advocating for a “more in-depth and robustly funded dispersed water management program, improved agricultural and urban nutrient source controls north of Lake Okeechobee, and cost effective water treatment in the Northern Everglades.”
Audubon is also calling for greater wildlife habitat protections during times of drought. “We continue to advocate for the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and [the South Florida Water Management District] to make lake management decisions that conserve water in the lake to protect critical habitat for the Everglade Snail Kite,” reads the report. “The lake’s Minimum Flows and Levels rule, intended to protect the lake from significant harm, was in violation for the first time in July 2011. Audubon has requested that recovery measures be implemented quickly to emphasize further water conservation.”
The health of the Snail Kite is often used as an indicator of the overall health of Everglades region. The low water levels during the summer caused many to abandon their nests, leaving baby Kites with little suitable habitat and no way to get food.


Presidential nominee
candidate (R)
Bachmann in Florida

Debate on Everglades drilling revived by Bachmann
Associated Press - by MATT SEDENSKY
August 31, 2011
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (AP) — Out here, in the middle of the swamp, dragonflies circle and egrets glide above. When the airboat stops, a blissful quiet falls over Florida's Everglades, little more than the sound of gentle raindrops landing on still waters pierced by sawgrass.
It is a one-of-a-kind place known for alligators, marshland and mangroves. But could it be known instead for tankers, rigs and oilmen?
A seemingly door-shut debate over expanding Everglades oil drilling was singlehandedly reignited by Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, when the Minnesota congresswoman said this week she'd be open to the idea. Though few expect her comments to amount to any actual U.S. policy shift and the amount of oil is not enormous, they have become the topic du jour among environmentalists and others who revere this place known as the "River of Grass."
If drilling sounds like an odd fit for this natural wonder, perhaps it shouldn't. It's been going on in the Everglades for decades.
The story starts with entrepreneur Barron Collier who, beginning in 1921, purchased 1.3 million acres of land in Florida, and became the state's largest landowner. Oil was discovered on the land in 1943. As the environmental movement reached its apex in the 1970s, Congress sought to protect the land and created the Big Cypress National Preserve to the west of most of Everglades National Park.
Through deals and land swaps, though, the Collier family retained drilling rights and continues to pump oil to this day.
"That was part of the Faustian bargain," said Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University.
Collier Resources Co., which controls the mining operations, and its parent, Barron Collier Cos., declined to comment on their drilling interests.
The operations nearly came to an end through a deal negotiated by the administration of President George W. Bush. In 2002, he announced a $120 million plan to buy back oil and mineral rights.
Gale Norton, the interior secretary at the time, hailed it as a victory for the "long-term conservation of the Everglades." But the deal ultimately fell through when Congress refused to approve the down payment amid allegations the government was substantially overpaying.
Since then, Collier Resources has sought to expand its yields through increased exploration and drilling. On its website, the company says its focus is on "further development" and "the exploration of our other mineral assets."
The company says it is committed to balancing energy and the environment and notes that state commissions "have twice concluded that operations have been carried out safely and with minimal impacts to the surrounding environment."
Bachmann hasn't specified what she meant by her openness to Everglades drilling and a spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call or e-mail seeking comment. Bachmann said it would have to be done in a way that doesn't harm the environment, but it's not clear if she was expressing flexibility in expansion of Collier Resources' oil fields or if she was advocating additional exploration outside those grandfathered-in properties.
Federal Elections Commission records show $9,600 in donations to Bachmann's presidential campaign by Miles Collier, who established the family company's real estate and investment arm, and his wife Parker. Miles Collier is Barron Collier's grandson. He and his wife have jointly given nearly $900,000 since 1999 to political causes, mostly to Republicans, though to some Democrats as well, FEC filings show.
Collier Resources is the only company that appears poised to gain — at least immediately — should Everglades drilling be expanded. The question is whether there's much more oil to get.
"The amount of oil there is trivial at best," said Robert Kaufmann, a Boston University professor whose research has focused on world oil markets.
By the Bush administration's own estimate, the area they sought to purchase from the Colliers was home to an estimated 40 million barrels of oil — roughly equal to about two days of U.S. oil consumption. One section — Area 1002 — of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, by comparison, is estimated to have 10.6 billion barrels of available oil, or 265 times the Everglades estimate.
Collier Resources' own estimate shows a marked decline in its yield, saying it now produces about 2,800 barrels of oil a day at their Sunniland field, down from a peak of 14,000 barrels a day in 1977. The Sunniland field is located in Collier County, the southwest Florida locality named for the wealthy family.
A spokesman for the Interior Department, Adam Fetcher, said Wednesday he couldn't comment on Bachmann's remarks but added that Everglades restoration remains the focus. "Our priority is to continue these critical restoration efforts, and we are not aware of any other privately-held mineral rights within Department of the Interior lands in the Everglades region where oil and gas development would be viable," he said.
Still, some insist there is more oil to be had, even if there isn't publicly known evidence of it.
Dan Krish, a vice president at the Institute for Energy Research, which has pushed for increased domestic oil production, said the Everglades show promise, and environmental safety concerns are overstated.
"The Everglades holds huge potential for oil and gas production, which could be done safely while benefiting Florida and producing jobs," he said. "Equating modern energy exploration and production with 100-year-old technology is like comparing surgery today to that practiced in the Civil War."
To environmentalists, there is no method of drilling safely enough to protect the already fragile Everglades. They insist the ecosystem is far more than simply a natural wonder — it is a refuge from hectic metropolitan life, a tourist draw, a magnet for fishers and hunters and, perhaps most importantly, the source of water for an estimated 7 million Floridians.
"They think it's about tree huggers and everyone loving bunnies," said Jerry Karnas of the Everglades Foundation. "But really, it's about saving the ecosystem, it's about drinking water, it's basically a survival project for South Florida."
And, over the last several decades, it has been the site of the biggest environmental restoration project in U.S. history, the source of billions of dollars in federal and state spending. Those very dollars are on display as visitors make their way west from Miami to Shark Valley, one of the most popular Everglades venues. Along Alligator Alley, which runs between suburban Fort Lauderdale and Naples, crews are at work raising the roadway, with the goal of creating a bridge so that dams can be released and some of the Everglades' natural water flow can be restored.
Florida has long rejected most any oil drilling, fearful it could jeopardize the state's massive tourism industry. The bipartisan opposition to drilling off Florida's west coast has shown some splintering in recent years as gas prices have risen and politics have changed, although last year's BP spill tamped that down a bit. But Karnas says Everglades drilling doesn't even compare with Gulf drilling.
"Reasonable people can disagree about the Gulf of Mexico," he said. "I don't think reasonable people can disagree about drilling in the Everglades."
That thinking has been reflected even among some allies of Bachmann. U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Republican who is among the foremost tea party congressmen, supports off-shore drilling, but was critical of Bachmann's Everglades comments. In a town hall gathering Tuesday, he said his colleague made "an incredible faux pas," according to The Palm Beach Post, and said "I'll straighten her out about that."
Bachmann isn't the first to draw fire for such comments. Just four years ago, in the heat of the last Republican primary, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson said he wouldn't take Everglades drilling off the table either.
Kenny Deutsch has heard it all before. He is an airboat driver, making his way on a recent August day through the swamp's well-worn paths of grass. He doesn't care too much for politics. The Everglades, he said, is an escape from such things, the noise, the bickering, all the fury he encounters when he returns home to Miami.
Not here. Here, things are different.
"I get peace and quiet every day," he said.


(mouseover or click
for enlargement

algal bloom
The levee area

Draft report: Levee that guards Palm Beach County from Everglades flooding is in bad shape
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 31, 2011
A 105-mile earthen levee built 60 years ago to keep the Everglades from flooding farmland has been rated "minimally acceptable" for protecting thousands of homes that border it .
In preliminary reports obtained by The Palm Beach Post, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rated much of the East Coast Protective Levee "minimally acceptable" or "unacceptable." Those words bear ominous implications for flood insurance ratepayers - and for all property owners who rely on the levee as a barrier from a collapse of Lake Okeechobee's feeble dike.
The relatively good news is that the 28-mile Palm Beach County stretch of the levee, which nestles up to Wellington and other western communities, poses the least risk, according to the most recent inspection, conducted by the corps between April 27, 2010, and May 6, 2010.
But local officials are still wary.
"Let's call this report a C-plus and everyone hopes to be an A," said John Bonde, Wellington's assistant village manager. "This is not a grave concern, but it needs to be addressed."
The Palm Beach County section, known as L-40, runs from the C-51 Canal at Southern Boulevard to the Hillsboro Canal at the Broward County line.
Ken Todd, Palm Beach County's water resource manager, said he is waiting for the corps to release its final report on the L-40 levee and a separate report on flooding caused by a break in the dike before commenting on the levee's safety: "You can't draw any real conclusions until you have final reports."
District's responsibility
Still, the preliminary findings are especially troubling for the South Florida Water Management District, which is responsible for maintaining the levee. The district is seeking accreditation for the levee from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which determines a community's risk for purposes of flood maps used to set building standards and insurance premiums.
Under the post-Hurricane Katrina levee safety program, communities near uncertified levees are rated as if no levee exists. The agency is reviewing that rule. But if it is not changed, it could result in a significant increase in flood insurance rates for existing policyholders and would require flood insurance for property owners within an expanded flood plain, as far as it might extend; there's no telling yet.
The district is pressed to earn certification as quickly as possible because the Federal Emergency Management Agency is redrawing its flood insurance maps for Broward and Palm Beach counties. The proposed maps for Broward County could be released as soon as October. Palm Beach County maps are due in 2012.
To earn certification, the district has asked FEMA for provisional accreditation, which would give the district up to two years to bring the levee up to acceptable standards. During those two years, there would be no changes to flood insurance rates.
"That's going to be very draconian if they come up and say, at the end of two years, that if it's not up to snuff they are going to treat it as if there is not a levee," Eric Buermann, former chairman of the district's governing board, said at a meeting in January. "That's going to be a draconian calamity on the people."
Compounding the problem is the district's budget crisis. A state law enacted this year that cut the amount of money the district can raise through property taxes resulted in $128 million less revenue and prompted the departure of nearly 300 employees. Although the district has spent $3.8 million in the past three years for repairs and set aside $4.7 million in its 2012 budget for more work, the exact cost of refurbishing the levee is not known.
"You wouldn't expect it to become a $50 million project?" Buermann asked Tommy Strowd, the district's director of operations, maintenance and construction, during a meeting of the Project and Lands Committee in January.
"I'm not going to rule out anything at this point," Strowd said.
Some upgrades done
A day after The Palm Beach Post shared copies of the reports with Strowd, he sent a letter to Col. Alfred Pantano Jr., commander of the Corps of Engineers' Jacksonville district office, detailing improvements the district has made since the last routine report, in March 2009. Among them: Trees within 125 feet of the base of the levee were removed, along with other unnecessary vegetation. Aerial spraying to control plant growth began. Two sections of the levee were raised, culverts were repaired or replaced, fences were mended, exposed iron support rods were removed and excessively steep segments of the levee were corrected, Strowd wrote.
"We propose a joint on-site follow-up inspection to confirm the repairs and to reach a consensus between our agencies for any unresolved issues, if necessary," he wrote.
"Unacceptable" and "minimally acceptable" ratings do not mean that the levee will not be certified. Officials also note that the preliminary reports could change. The corps inspector who examined the L-40 segment in Palm Beach County determined that the deficiencies he found "will not likely prevent the system from performing as designed during the next flood event."
However, "unacceptable" findings in segments of the levee in Broward and Miami-Dade were so serious that the inspector warned: "If not corrected, (they) may impair the functioning of the system during the next flood event and/or pose a risk to public health."
FEMA does not certify particular segments of a levee but not others. It is all or nothing.
Federal funds at risk
That means that even though the flood risk is lower and the levee is in better condition in Palm Beach County, the levee could fail certification because of deficiencies in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Failing certification also means that the district could lose its eligibility to receive federal money to repair the levee after a disaster.
For now, repairs continue and Strowd is waiting for the letter from FEMA granting provisional accreditation. Strowd said it will be a challenge to repair the levee in two years, but he is convinced there is "no significant risk" for residents living near it.
"It has done a great job for 60 years," Strowd said. "Historically, we've never seen a problem."


Drought enables spread of Everglades-choking exotic plants
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 31, 2011
South Florida’s record-setting drought delivered a setback to the fight against exotic plants spreading across the Everglades.
Melaleuca and other fast-growing transplants from other parts of the world are a threat to the Everglades because they overwhelm and crowd out native plants, which hurts wildlife habitat.
Much of the Everglades dried out during what turned out to be the driest October-to-June stretch on record in South Florida.
Particularly hard hit was the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, considered the northern remnants of the Everglades. The refuge, which stretches across western Palm Beach County, at one point was 95 percent dry.
Those dry conditions enabled exotic plants to spread, but cut off airboat access to the interior of the refuge. Without airboat access, contractors hired to kill exotics couldn’t do their work.
"We came to a standstill because we just couldn’t do anything out there because of the low water," said refuge manager Sylvia Pelizza of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "We might have lost some ground."
The refuge extends across 144,000 acres, providing habitat for more than 257 species of birds. The refuge is also one of the three Everglades water conservation areas where levees help contain stormwater that supplements regional supplies.
Summer rains have helped raise water levels in the southern end of the refuge, but the northern portion remains cutoff to airboat access.
Aside from the drought, the refuge suffers from man-made manipulations of water levels.
Providing water and flood control for farms and towns built on what used to be the Everglades siphons away water that would otherwise go the refuge and other remaining sections of the River of Grass. Without that water, the damaging environmental effects of periodic droughts are multiplied.


algal bloom

The Indian River
Research and
Education Center
Aquaculture Research
and Demonstration
Facility in Fort Pierce
consists of 26.5 acres
of land, four quarter-acre
lined ponds, a new
greenhouse, a new
hatchery building and
a large water treatment
system. Commercial
aquaculture facilities,
meanwhile, can be much

Event raises awareness for state's aquaculture
Daytona Beach News Journal - by MARK ESTES, Correspondent
August 31, 2011
MARINELAND -- Aquaculture may bring a vision of tilapia or catfish farms to mind, but the industry includes more than a freshwater foundation. In fact, clams, shrimp, baitfish, tropical fish, aquatic plants and even alligators play a key role in the industry.
Those were a few of the details people from across the state learned about the industry at the "Introduction to Aquaculture" workshop presented by the University of Florida Extension Service and the Sea Grant program at Whitney Labs on Thursday. The 25 participants ranged from aquaculture novices to experienced aquaculturists looking to expand their businesses.
An overview and fish farming was presented by associate professor Cortney Ohs of the UF Indian River Research and Education Center. According to Ohs, $1.1 billion in aquaculture products were sold in the United States in 2005, with $75 million coming in Florida.
"There are opportunities for producing hybrid striped bass -- the market is growing and prices are rising, but the cost of feed is also rising," Ohs said. "There are no feed mills in Florida."
Baitfish, freshwater and marine, are another story. Ohs said Florida consumes more than 40 percent of the baitfish sold in the U. S., and the potential prices can be much higher per pound than for food fish.
"There are opportunities for supplying marine baitfish in off-seasons and supplying different sizes at different seasons to counter to the wild caught fish, " Ohs said. "This allows the grower to get a premium price."
Leslie Sturmer, the UF/IFAS Shellfish Extension Specialist based in Cedar Key, followed up with hard clam production. Cedar Key is the largest clam producing site in the state. Locally, there are lease sites from Marineland north and in southern Volusia County in the Indian River Lagoon. The industry includes supporting business such as seed clam production and mesh growing/harvest bags.
"Clam cultivation was originally promoted by the state in the late '80s as an alternative to fishing," Sturmer said. "There are 300 certified clam growers in Florida. Clam leases of 2 and 4 acres are available at spots around the state."
Craig Watson, UF Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, spoke about marine ornamentals.
"Florida is dominant in ornamentals because we can breed tropical fish in outdoor ponds," Watson said. "There's a line running across Orlando and below that we don't get hard freezes. Tampa has a good transportation system and the Tampa area has flat sandy soil. Holes fill up with water so it's easy to make a pond."
Watson said that producers in Southeast Asia and India are Florida's biggest competitors in this market and they have a labor cost advantage.
"The marine aquarium trade is a segment that is still growing; the freshwater side has stagnated," Watson said. "Today probably 90 percent of freshwater ornamental fish are farm raised. Probably 98 percent of all marine products you see in the stores are collected from reefs."
Pierre LaPochat owns WaterScapes Aquatic Plant Nursery in Seffner and traveled to Marineland to look for diversification opportunities.
"I grow aquatic plants," LaPochat said. "Like he (Watson) said, the market is down now. I'm looking at hydroponics and raising some food fish or shrimp for local markets and use the waste water as fertilizer for the plants. So I thought I'd see what they say, see what is feasible."
In contrast, Brian Sutherland of Gainesville is just considering the possibilities of aquaculture.
"Twenty years ago, aquaculture was going to be the next big thing, then something happened on the way," Sutherland said. "I want to get in small. I was surprised to hear about the potential of the baitfish market."
While the first part of the day offered encouragement to budding aquaculturists, the talk after lunch was grimmer as Watson presented "The Pitfalls of Aquaculture: Disasters and Why They Occur" and Neil Aymond, with the FDACS Division of Aquaculture, discussed State Permitting and Best Management Practices.
"I like aquaculture and I know lots of successful aquaculturists." Watson said. "However, there are lots of aquaculture failures."
He said the two best reasons to get into aquaculture were "money and ... more money." The worst reason was as a retirement job, because it's a job that runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
"I really encourage you to do your homework before you start," he said.
Aymond recommended homework of a different sort as he discussed the various permits and licensing requirements such as water use and disposal and containment of non-native species. Even though state requirements may be handled through the Division of Aquaculture, he suggested attention be paid to local zoning and water management district requirements as well.
Joseph Cavanaugh, president of Tropical Abalone Company in Ormond Beach, offered another perspective on Florida's legal requirements.
"I was an aquaculturist in California for over 20 years and the regulatory environment here is so much better," Cavanaugh said. "To get started in California as an aquaculturist it takes probably two years to get a permit and, if you're in the coastal zone, at least $250,000 in fees and environmental impact statements. What you heard today may have sounded tough but it's a lot better than where I came from."


Potential drug from sea provides “one-two punch” against colon cancer
Science News Examiner – by Phyllis Haugabook Pennock
August 31, 2011
A group of scientists have taken a typically lethal chemical from sea bacteria and altered it for use as a likely weapon against colon cancer.
For years, research has targeted biological substances for help in combating different forms of cancer. In fact, approximately half of anti-cancer drugs are derived from natural substances. For the most part, these compounds are found on land.
However, a group of scientists from the University of Florida have found some success in treating colon cancer using an altered, usually lethal chemical released from bacteria – living in the sea.
 “Sometimes nature needs a helping human hand to further optimize these products of evolution to treat human diseases,” says Hendrik Luesch.
Dr. Luesch is an associate professor of medicinial chemistry at the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy and a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center.
He and fellow colleagues modified a compound known as apratoxin S4; a chemical derived from a class of apratoxins found in marine cyanobacteria. Apratoxins typically aid as a form of defense for cyanobacteria to ward off enemies.
Because of this information, Luesch and colleagues hypothesized that this type of defense may be useful in targeting cancer cells as well.
The UF scientists created several types of apratoxin that differed in their make-up from its natural form; one in particular was found to be extremely effective against treating mice with colon cancer in low and high doses. In fact, this chemical stopped tumor growth without producing any toxic side effects.
The new compound, apratoxin S4, works by preventing cancerous cells from producing chemicals that will help their growth. These are known as growth factors and tyrosine kinases.
Although much more work is in store to test this chemical, the potential to use other compounds from these bacteria is also likely.
“Marine cyanobacteria produce a huge diversity of compounds,” remarks Luesch.
Luesch goes on to note that because most of the Earth – 70 percent – is composed of water, the chance to find other potential cancer-fighting compounds at sea is highly likely.
Dr. David J. Newman, chief of the National Cancer Institute’s Natural Products Branch states, “Luesch has found a novel compound and novel mechanism of action that stops the secretion of the receptor and the growth factor. If nothing else, he has shown us a new way to kill tumor cells and has revealed a new chemistry, and those are important steps.”
The study was described today in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters


Proposed amendment would ban near-shore oil drilling in Florida
News Service of FL - by DAVID ROYSE
August 31, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — A Tampa Democrat has filed a Senate version of proposed constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling within about 10 miles of Florida's coastline.
The proposed amendment (SJR 90), filed Tuesday by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, matches a House version (HJR 23) filed earlier this year by Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. It would ask voters to put into the constitution a ban on exploration, drilling, extraction or production of oil in Florida waters.
"There are people still suffering from the big spill," Joyner said Wednesday. "Do you want to expose Florida to the possibility of another spill - but closer to our shore? I just can't believe people want to bring it that close, after seeing what happens when it's farther out.
"To open up our shoreline to the possibility of oil is ludicrous," Joyner said.
The move, which would need three-fifths approval of both chambers to get the proposal before voters, comes as backers of drilling have begun again raising the prospect of new exploration for both oil and gas to combat high energy prices, as well as and reducing American dependence on foreign sources of energy.
Just over a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, largest oil spill in the history of the United States, Joyner said the push for drilling is regaining strength. She pointed to suggestion this week by Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann to consider new drilling in the eastern Gulf and, possibly in the Everglades, if it can be done safely. When Bachmann brought it up at a South Florida campaign stop, she was greeted by calls of "Drill Baby, Drill."
"It seems like we need it now more than ever," Joyner said of a constitutional ban.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said he has no intention of pushing for new drilling in Florida waters this year. Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was a backer of a bill in 2010 that would have removed a moratorium on drilling in Florida waters, but changed his stance after the BP oil spill began in April of that year. Since then, Haridopolos has said there is a need for new drilling in American waters, but has given assurances that Florida waters - which extend about 10 miles in the Gulf, and closer in the Atlantic - would remain off the agenda in the coming year.
The moratorium on drilling in Florida waters remains, but nothing would prevent lawmakers from lifting it, which is the impetus for the proposed constitutional ban. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist proposed such a ban in the wake of the spill, but the House refused to take it up.
Crist is now, along with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a backer of another push to get the idea before voters, a citizen initiative being pushed by a group called Save Our Seas, Beaches and Shores.
That group is collecting signatures to try to get the issue on the ballot. Its leader, Manley Fuller, conceded Wednesday that it doesn't look like the grassroots group, which relies heavily on volunteers, will be able to hit its mark in time for the 2012 ballot.
"It would be extremely difficult, practically speaking, for us to make the ballot," Fuller said. "It's been a mom and pop operation. We're looking for a major supporter, a major benefactor. We need some people to write some checks.
"It would be great if the Legislature would put it on the ballot," Fuller said. "That would be wonderful."
Gov. Rick Scott, who wouldn't have a say because proposed amendments passed by lawmakers go straight to the ballot without the governor's approval, has recently said he supports additional drilling if it can be shown there's no chance of a major spill, but he hasn't been convinced of that yet.
Opponents of drilling fear the debate over whether to allow it in Florida waters goes beyond the actual question of whether to let new exploration begin in the area. They point to an acknowledgement last year by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Republican backer of drilling, that the issue is in part about trying to expand drilling farther out in the Gulf, in federal waters.
Opposition to drilling in federal waters over environmental concerns would carry less weight, Dorgan has said, if Florida lawmakers were to approve drilling even closer to shore.


Presidential nominee
candidate (R)
Bachmann in Florida

Bachmann's Call for Everglades Drilling Denounced - by Andra Varin
Aug 30, 2011
Read more on Bachmann's Call for Everglades Drilling Denounced
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama's Re-Election ? Vote Here Now ! “Drill, baby, drill” would be a disaster for the Florida Everglades, environmentalists say in response to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s call to explore for oil in the famed wetlands.
Campaigning Sunday in Sarasota, the Republican presidential hopeful advocated drilling for oil in the Everglades and off the shores of Florida.
Read more on Bachmann's Call for Everglades Drilling Denounced
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama's Re-Election ? Vote Here Now ! “Whether that is in the Everglades or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region or whether that's in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is,” the Minnesota congresswoman said. “Of course, it needs to be done responsibly. If we can't responsibly access energy in the Everglades, then we shouldn't do it.”
The Everglades Foundation said drilling for oil in the Everglades would contaminate drinking water for more than 7 million Florida residents.
"Congresswoman Bachmann needs to understand that oil and drinking water do not mix,” the environmental group said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The foundation added that hunters, fishermen, and other outdoors enthusiasts “do not want to see oil drilling in their Everglades wildlife paradise.”
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, also derided Bachmann’s proposal.
 “Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Republican field may think that if we give Big Oil a few more giveaways and take a few risks, we can drill ourselves to energy independence,” Wasserman Schultz told the Sun-Sentinel. “Well, the Republicans couldn’t be more wrong.”


Florida national parks need protecting
Sun Sentinel - by John Adornato III
August 30, 2011
As we commemorated the 95th anniversary of the National Park Service on Aug. 25, it provided us an opportunity to discuss the tremendous value of our Florida national parks and how we might work together to better protect these treasures for the future.
From the iconic Everglades National Park to marine parks like Biscayne — national parks provide the perfect backdrop for reflecting on our American heritage. However, a recent decade-long study shows that many of our shared treasures are in peril and suffering from both long-standing and new threats that are impacting the wildlife, water and air within our parks. In addition, many parks suffer from inadequate funding and staffing shortfalls.
Here in Florida, Everglades National Park is at risk of losing vital park lands to powerlines proposed by Florida Power & Light that would run through sensitive wetlands that are home to a number of endangered species. The coral reefs of Biscayne National Park are under threat from bleaching, disease, and human impacts, yet provide habitat for a wide array of marine life. State and federal plans to rejuvenate Everglades and Biscayne National Parks are jeopardized due to shrinking budgets.With the upcoming 2016 centennial of the National Park Service, there are simple solutions to addressing the challenges that face our national parks. Working together with our elected officials, we must act now to implement a plan that will put our national parks back on track for their second century.
This is a turning point in the history of our parks, and we must not break the promise that past generations made to future generations. America's national parks need our help and it is up to all Americans to help them now.
John Adornato III is the SunCoast regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association in Hollywood.


Press Release

Executive Director

Guillory Named New Director of Swiftmud
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
August 30, 201
BROOKSVILLE Southwest Florida Water Management District's Governing Board on Tuesday named Blake Guillory of Jupiter to succeed Dave Moore as executive director of the regional water agency.
Moore resigned in May and since then Bill Bilenky has served as interim executive director.
Guillory was one of two finalists for the job who was interviewed Monday.
"This was a unanimous choice by the Board. Blake is the right person at the right time for this District and the water resources," said Governing Board Chair H. Paul Senft, Jr. in statement released by the agency. "His extensive experience in the private sector and the contacts he has throughout the state and the nation will serve the District well as we move forward meeting the critical water needs of west central Florida."
Guillory will be paid $165.006 a year, but his official start date had not been established, said Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix.
This is considerably less than the $194,875 Moore was paid, but Gov. Rick Scott recently placed a cap on water management district executive salaries.
Guillory is vice president and Florida area manager at Brown and Caldwell, a consulting firm that provides water supply, wastewater, stormwater, infrastructure, solid waste, construction management, business consulting, and environmental sciences expertise to public and private clients. Before joining Brown and Caldwell, Guillory was with PBS&J, now Atkins North America, where he was vice president and senior division manager for the firm's Southeast water resources division.
Governing Board Selects Guillory as New Executive Director -  SWFWMD Press Release
Southwest Florida water district picks new director - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Swiftmud appoints civil engineer Guillory as executive director -
Swiftmud picks engineer as new executive director -
Blake Guillory Named New Exec. Dir. at SWFWMD -


algal bloom
Turkey Point nuclear facility
is south of Miami,
east of the Everglades

(mouse over or click)

Nuke program wrong move, wrong place
Sun Sentinel – by Philip Stoddard
August 30, 2011
Under our American capitalist model, corporations issue bonds to raise money for new projects. But here in Florida, our Legislature allows a publicly traded utility to take our money, never repay the principal, and charge us 10 percent interest on whatever it builds with our dollars. So long as a "regulated" utility can claim to be planning a new nuclear reactor, it can bypass Wall Street and take the money directly from ratepayers like us ahead of time.
This amazing scam is perfectly legal under FL Statute 366.93, known as the Early Cost Recovery, or officially "Cost recovery for the siting, design, licensing, and construction of nuclear and integrated gasification combined cycle power plants." An electric utility can take our money up front for any and all of the following:
"all capital investments, including rate of return, any applicable taxes, and all expenses, including operation and maintenance expenses, related to or resulting from the siting, licensing, design, construction, or operation of the nuclear power plant, including new, expanded, or relocated electrical transmission lines or facilities of any size that are necessary thereto"
Is this a great capitalist country or what ? More like what.
Here in Florida, the big publicly-traded utilities are drawing up nuclear plans to take full advantage of Early Cost Recovery, plans that include new four-lane access roads across southeastern Everglades wetlands and new transmission lines across the Everglades and eastern Miami-Dade County. How much could FPL charge ratepayers up front for this project? FPL hasn't said yet, but we can make an educated guess based on how much Progress Energy plans to charge their customers for a similar nuclear project in Levy County. Progress Energy has submitted an early cost recovery schedule that peaks out at $69 per 1000 KWH. Adjusted for the difference in number of customers, FPL's monthly rate increases would come to about $50 per 1000 KWH. This charge would add 48 percent to my family's monthly electric bill.
In fact, FPL is already charging us up front for planning, engineering, lobbying, promoting, and litigating for this project. As of today, Florida Power & Light has spent $268 million in Early Cost Recovery funds, and now is seeking an additional $186 million for 2012. And if FPL overcharges us or never completes the project, do we get our money back? Nope. Here's the beauty of it for the shareholders: to get free money for desired infrastructure upgrades, FPL never actually has to build nuclear reactors, just plan them, and convince the state to OK the Combined Operating License Application, or COLA.
So let us contemplate FPL's proposed plan to build two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point on the shore of Biscayne Bay at an "overnight" cost (cost if built tonight) currently estimated at $24.3 billion, a figure that could double with cost overruns typical for the industry. That would make four nuclear reactors on a hurricane coastline at the edge of a metropolitan area with over 4 million people, sandwiched between two National Parks. As my wife used to ask our young daughter, "Is that a good idea or a bad idea?"
It now seems unlikely that FPL would build the Turkey Point 6 and 7 nuclear reactors even if the COLA were approved. Fossil fuels are too cheap to make nuclear plants commercially viable. Natural gas prices are low, and FPL is contemplating replacing their old oil-burning plants TPN 1 & 2 with so-called "clean coal" plants. And, although FPL doesn't like to talk about it, the cost of photovoltaic solar panels is dropping like a rock while the cost of nuclear reactors is taking off like a rocket. This year, the prices crossed over, making solar cheaper than nuclear. Solar is expected to reach "grid parity" by 2016, achieving the same prices as fossil fuel generation.
Nuclear advocates love to remind me that the sun doesn't shine at night, but solar makes a great replacement for the pricy electricity from "peaker" generators that supply the peak demand experienced precisely when Florida's sunshine makes our air conditioners draw the most power.
To build the next generation of energy infrastructure and create a lot of jobs at the same time, there's no better industry than installing distributed solar on the commercial and residential rooftops of South Florida. Make the power where it's used when it's needed the most, and sell the extra back to the grid through "net metering." The municipalities of southeast Miami-Dade County are creating a "Green Corridor" for financing of small-scale solar installations, the brainchild of former Cutler Bay Mayor Paul Vrooman. It's also why we were horrified at the attempt to kill net metering in the recent Renewable Energy bill that (fortunately) died in the Legislature this spring.
At this moment, the best bang for our carbon-free energy buck is neither nuclear nor solar, but rather energy efficiency. Several studies have shown Floridians can reduce energy consumption by 25 to 30 percent just through making buildings more efficient. If we reduced consumption by only 10 percent, we'd never need to add another power plant. Retrofitting buildings makes construction jobs that are sorely needed now. It's carbon-free and good for the environment. What's not to like? "Not in our business plan" an FPL executive explained at the shareholder's meeting.
But it could be in yours. The Harum-Alvarez family built a 2,500 square-foot house that uses $45 in electricity a month for a family of four. It only cost 5 percent more than a regular house. And if you live near the coastline, you might be encouraged by the example of Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn. Her son constructed a wind turbine as a high school science project. The family mounted the turbine on their TV antenna tower and began making electricity. They added a second turbine and got their FPL bill down to $60 per month, impressive for a 3,000 square-foot house.
But even if new nuclear reactors are not approved or built, we still have trouble here in South Florida. FPL is also proposing to "uprate" their existing nuclear plants at Turkey Point and St. Lucie, industry-speak for turning up the heat to make more power. If increasing the heat and pressure inside a reactor vessel that's been bombarded by neutrons for 40 years is such a good idea now, why wasn't it done when the reactors were newer and less brittle? Just to keep these old plants operating at all, the NRC has had to loosen the associated safety standards three times. Is this a good idea or a bad idea? If you haven't seen the photos of the giant crack in the reactor containment structure that wrecked the nuclear plant at Crystal River, Google these three words: Crystal River crack. Or try: Davis-Besse rust hole (click "images"). Or try: Brown's Ferry fire. After 600 gallons radioactive water spilled at Turkey Point, FPL buried the quarter acre spill site under six feet of earth to protect their workers from radiation seeping into the aquifer below. FYI, radiation in water from Turkey Point has been detected in the well field that supplies drinking water for South Dade and the Keys. Nuclear in America.
All of these issues were worrisome before the nuclear plants in Fukushima blew up, spewing radioactive particles as far as California. A spent fuel pool exploded after flooding disabled the cooling system generators for a day. Could that happen here? Could a hurricane swamp lower Biscayne Bay with a larger-than-predicted storm surge? Could backup generators or pressure valves fail as they did in Japan? Could a hurricane eye-wall tornado at Turkey Point toss a truck or barge against a generator room?
Even if FPL never builds another nuclear plant, they still want the state to approve their nuclear license for Turkey Point 6 & 7. This is the hunting license that allows FPL to charge us through Early Cost Recovery for the high cost of beefing up their transmission system with a series of new high voltage transmission lines through the Everglades and heavily populated areas of Miami-Dade County. FPL wants those lines to support fossil fuel powered plants, but rate payers can only be gouged up front for them if FPL gets approval for a license to build new nukes.
So we have serious energy problems in here in South Florida. FPL is seeking to turn up the heat at their old nuclear reactors -- the wrong move in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the recession, the utility-friendly Legislature is none too friendly toward the jobs engine of distributed solar power. And, thanks to Florida's Early Cost Recovery scam, if FPL receives approval on their Turkey Point 6 & 7 COLA, the hunting season will open on our bank accounts. Let the Governor and his Cabinet know your thoughts on Early Cost Recovery, nuclear plants, and "uprates." The Turkey Points at you.



Americans rely on EPA experts
The Free Press – Our View, Anonymous
August 29, 2011
Disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency has become the issue du jour for Republican presidential candidates.
During a campaign swing through Florida, Minnesota candidate Michele Bachmann repeatedly called for eliminating the “job-killing” EPA.
During the same trip, she called for opening the Everglades to oil and gas drilling, if it can be done safely. Bachmann said she’d rely on experts to decide if drilling could be done safely.
Of course, the EPA is the agency Americans rely on to provide the expert advice on environmental issues. Just one reason why Bachmann and other Republicans’ call for its elimination is wrong.
Most, if not all, politicians believe there are regulatory complexities that should be removed to allow for businesses to operate more easily and profitably. President Barack Obama has called for streamlining permitting and regulatory processes wherever possible.
While streamlining the agency is justified, calls to eliminate it is dangerous rhetoric.
People should not disregard what things were like prior to creation of the EPA four decades ago — a proposal made by Republican President Richard Nixon. Waterways were routinely polluted, air fouled, the eagle brought to near extinction and dangerous chemicals buried and dumped — all in the name of jobs and economic growth.
Environmental horrors led to the public and political support for creating the EPA and state environmental protection agencies.
(An environmental catastrophe in Mankato, in which millions of gallons of soybean oil flowed into the river after tanks burst, led to the creation of the state pollution control agency.)    
Many of the current attacks on the EPA are based on conspiracy theories that start with a thread of truth and are blown into proof positive of the EPA’s evil, jobs-killing bent.
Those in farm country have no doubt heard of the EPA’s supposed desire to regulate dust — something that would effectively put farmers out of business.
The EPA did, as required by law, conduct a scientific review of Clean Air Act rules, including looking at current dust control requirements. (The Clean Air Act does require limiting dust from some gravel roads and work sites, and in other cases where it can be a health concern or affect communities.)
Despite the fact EPA chief Lisa Jackson told a congressional panel in March that the agency has no plans to expand dust control regulations, the dire warnings of the EPA trying to eliminate dust coming from combines has not subsided.
There have been similar scare tactics asserting, incorrectly, that the EPA was about to ban lead in shotgun shells and would treat spilled milk the same as spilled oil.
The public remains committed to the EPA. Polls consistently show strong support for the agency and the need for regulation. A recent survey by the American Lung Association found 75 percent of voters support stricter limits on smog and 66 percent believe the agency, not Congress, should set pollution standards.
It may make for good political theater to call for the end of the EPA, but most Americans understand that a powerful federal agency is necessary to counter the powerful economic interests that would pollute in order to make more money.


Herschel VINYARD,
Secretary of the Florida
Dep. of Environmental

CEO Audubon of Florida

Cuts viewed as a threat to ecology
Tampa Tribune - by KEITH MORELLI
August 29, 2011
Environmentalists across Florida are livid about budget cutbacks for the five water management districts, and they predict that the cuts will result in an inevitable decline in the quality of the state's ecology.
It's all, environmentalists say, so the average taxpayer can save $20 to $30 a year on a residential tax bill.
Perhaps the hardest hit will be the ongoing project to restore the Florida Everglades. The proposed slashing of the South Florida Water Management District's budget by Gov. Rick Scott and a Republican Legislature has left scores of scientists working on the project without jobs.
Audubon of Florida spokesman Eric Draper said state-funded initiatives to restore the Everglades will be severely affected. He suspects that eventually the cuts will lead to "the Everglades restoration grinding to a halt."
Across the state, $700 million was trimmed from the proposed budgets of the five water management districts, which are responsible for protecting the state's water resources, and more cuts may be on the way.
"I just don't see how you can cut $700 million and still protect the environment," Draper said.
* * * * *
The cuts were deep for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud, which had submitted a tentative budget to the state that is 44 percent of what it was last year. The district encompasses a 16-county region that includes Hillsborough County.
When Scott was elected last year, the Swiftmud governing board saw changes coming and had begun a review of its organizational and salary structure, which is what Scott suggested in a letter last week sent to the board's chairman.
The Swiftmud board had submitted a proposed operating budget to the state earlier this month of $157.7 million, compared with $280 million in the current fiscal year.
"We had to prioritize," said district spokeswoman Robyn Felix.
She said reductions were made in all areas, including personnel, projects and cooperative funding to local governments.
And more cuts are likely.
Though he praised Swiftmud for its programs and initiatives, Scott, in the letter sent Wednesday to the district's board, said more money must be pared from the reserve funds and from salaries and benefits packages. That could mean layoffs and buyouts.
Already, the district is cutting its staff. Its 897 full-time positions have been trimmed to 796. By Oct. 1, the district hopes to cut 34 more positions by offering severance packages to eligible employees.
If Swiftmud gets to that number, it will have reduced its staff by 14 percent. That puts the workforce at 1995 levels, according to an Aug. 1 letter from Bill Bilenky, the district's interim director, to the governor. Other cost savings include squeezing more life out of vehicles and computers.
Funding for contractors was slashed by $46 million, or 62 percent.
Scott ordered that no executive directors make more than $165,000 a year. Outgoing Swiftmud Director Dave Moore, who announced his resignation in May after eight years, made an annual salary of nearly $195,000.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said last week that the trimming of the budgets won't impact too severely the goal of the districts, which is to protect the state's water resources — rivers, lakes or groundwater reserves.
Though $700 million was cut, he said, there remains more than $1 billion allocated to the districts.
"Effective and efficient water management is essential to a healthy economy and a healthy environment," Vinyard said. "These budget reductions are an important first step in ensuring that the water management districts focus on their core environmental missions, and the reductions reflect a significant savings for Florida taxpayers."
* * * * *
Those savings aren't worth the ultimate cost, say environmentalists around the state.
Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director of the Sierra Club, said: "A cut of that magnitude is really going to hurt the ability of the water management districts to provide services to the taxpayers and it's going to cut out important environmental land resource programs.
"If that's true," he said, "it's a pity."
Jonathan Ullman, spokesman for the Sierra Club in South Florida, in a blog posted last week bemoaned the laying off of hundreds of scientists who have been working on restoring the Everglades.
"We have only one question to ask," Ullman said. "Who will restore the Everglades without them?"
He called the budget slashing "a systematic dismantling of environmental regulatory agencies throughout the state. It was a direct attack on nature."
Jon Steverson, the Department of Environmental Protection's special counsel on policy and legislative affairs, said in a letter to water districts in July that in hard times, it's difficult for residents to pay for programs some consider unnecessary.
"We cannot ask Floridians who are struggling to find work and provide for their families to continue to support the mission of the Department of Environmental Protection or the districts if we are not spending their tax dollars wisely," Steverson wrote.
The districts were advised to spend what they take in and not incur new debt.
The state also does not want districts building massive reserves and wants to limit those funds to two months' operating expenses.
Last year's Swiftmud budget of $279.8 million was more than $19 million less than the year before and represented a 6.4 percent reduction, mainly because of reduced tax revenue.


Presidential nominee
candidate (R)
Bachmann in Florida

Michele Bachmann Says She'd Consider Oil, Natural Gas Drilling In Everglades (+VIDEO)
AP/Huffington Post
August 29, 2011
SARASOTA, Fla. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Sunday that she would consider oil and natural gas drilling in the Everglades if it can be done without harming the environment.
"We do have EPA's in each of the 50 states and I think that it's up to the states," she said. "The states have the right to develop their own environmental protections and regulations, as they all have."
She said she recognizes there is a federal role when environmental issues cross borders, but she added that a big problem with the EPA now is that it does not consider job creation or job losses as part of its role in enforcing regulations. She said the regulations it does have prevent businesses from being able to reasonably create a profit.
"If we create a new department that is focused on conservation and get rid of the EPA, that would send a strong signal about what our priorities are. We believe in conservation, but I also believe at the same time that the EPA has overstepped its bounds," Bachmann said.
Among other topics, Bachmann said the stock market drop after this summer's debt ceiling compromise demonstrated disappointment that Washington had not taken more significant steps to reduce spending.
"We need to get our house in order fairly quickly," she said. "What you saw with the markets was the markets reacting to the fact that Washington, D.C., did nothing to get its house in order."
The St. Petersburg Times reports on the message Bachmann communicated to Floridians at a rally:
She hailed the tea party as being common-sense Americans who understand government shouldn't spend more than it takes in, know they're taxed enough already and want government to abide by the Constitution.
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," said the conservative congresswoman, according to the Times. "We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."
She also said she would consider Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who took office earlier this year, as a running mate.
"Marco Rubio has the hallmarks of, I think, everything that a person would look for in a potential candidate. He's got so much going for him," Bachmann said, also naming South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint as another possibility.
Bachmann signaled to the Times that she is serious about winning the Sunshine State in 2012.


Water district director's last day is Oct. 3
St. Augustine Record
August 29, 2011
Kirby B. Green III, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, said Monday his last day in that position will be Oct. 3.
Green announced his departure on the district's website,
"We have had to make many extremely difficult decisions during the past several months as we right-size the agency and ensure that we are properly aligned with the direction and focus of the governor and legislature," he said. "Since we have successfully completed the tasks to set the proper course for the agency into the next fiscal year, I feel that the time for my retirement has arrived."
Green, 61, has been executive director for 10 years.
He had announced his retirement in July and said he would stay on until a successor was found. However, recent published reports said a district board member had suggested he leave sooner.
The district's leadership and board leadership is developing a draft budget that will include an overall 26 percent reduction in district expenditures as part of the statewide cuts to water districts established by the legislature last spring. An overall $700 million in cuts statewide to water districts have been made, according to an Associated Press story last week.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is comprised of 19 counties along the river.
A new director will be chosen by the district board and is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
"There is still much work to be done, and I leave confident and comfortable that, with the experience and expertise of the district's staff, our work will be carried forward and the agency will continue to provide the water resource protections that are so critical to our environment," he said.
Green's accomplishments at the District, according to the website, 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.
Green oversaw management and operations for the DEP and was instrumental in establishing Florida's Conservation and Recreation Lands program and the nationally recognized Preservation 2000 land acquisition program, the website said.


Broward contract blocking clean sewage plan
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
August 28, 2011
The plan would conserve water, reduce the amount of treated sewage flowing into the ocean and save millions.
But a local water district's proposal to build a high-tech sewage treatment plant on the edge of the Everglades faces a difficult road.
That's because the North Springs Improvement District is locked into a perpetual contract to send its water and money to the Broward County treatment plant on Copans Road. That plant treats wastewater to a lower level of cleanliness than the proposed plant and discharges it through a pipeline into the ocean.
The North Springs district, which handles sewage for Coral Springs and Parkland, says its new plant could make its wastewater clean enough to irrigate golf courses and recharge underground water supplies.
Alan Garcia, the county's water and sewage director, said he supports the plan in principle but can't let the district out of the contract unless its pays its share of the county's bond debt. The district pays the county $1.6 million to $1.9 million a year to process sewage.
"If half the large users pull out, everyone's operating and maintenance fees will double," Garcia said. "If people could easily pull out of the system, then everyone else will have to pay higher costs. It's basically an agreement that runs forever."
The county's pipeline is one of five required to be shut down by 2025 under a state mandate to stop the waste of fresh water and end what many say is an egregious source of ocean pollution. North Springs says the proposed plant, which would treat about 2.5 million gallons a day, or more than 10 percent of what goes into the ocean, deserves the county's support.
"Instead of dumping the water in the ocean, we can recharge our wetlands with good water," said Rod Colon, district director of operations. "We want to take all that wastewater and do something environmentally sound."
Constructed in 1975, the county's treatment system discharges about 22 million gallons a day of treated sewage into the ocean. Other ocean outfall pipes discharge off Boca Raton, Hollywood, North Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. Environmentalists say these discharges pollute sensitive reef ecosystems, fertilizing the growth of algae that smothers corals.


Herschel VINYARD,
Secretary of the FDEP

CEO Everglades Foundation

CEO Audubon of Florida

Everglades cuts split environmental community
Naples Daily News - Capital Column by MICHAEL PELTIER
August 28, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — Having kicked sugar and cut up the credit card, water management districts submitted a budget proposal that is $700 million leaner without jeopardizing critical water supply and Everglades restoration efforts, a move that has split the environmental community.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said decisions to shelve, at least temporarily, a $190 million land purchase from U.S. Sugar and delay the sale of $100 million in bonds to pay for further land acquisition, will allow the state’s five water management districts to continue their core missions while responding to tough budget times.
“The districts will continue to manage and protect Florida’s water,” Vinyard said. “They will still spend more than $1 billion in the coming year for that protection.”
A frequent critic, the Everglades Foundation, agreed with Vinyard’s assessment, saying it was “pleasantly surprised” by the budget proposal that appears to re-focus agencies that during better times had gotten a little fat.
“We’ve certainly been quick to criticize,” said CEO Kirk Fordham. “But it is also our duty as advocates and folks that are fairly independent of the government agencies we work with to point out when they have accomplished something that is worthy of praise.”
Not all environmental advocates agree. Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida executive director, said that while the proposed budgets appear to spare Everglades and other high priority projects for the upcoming year, there’s concern about longer term needs that may not be met, including increased storage and water quality efforts.
The cuts serve only the purpose of “allowing politicians to claim tax cuts,” Draper said in a statement. “The agencies involved and the governor are not being completely candid in telling the public how these cuts will affect water supply, environmental protection and Everglades restoration.”
Draper’s concern was shared by the Sierra Club, spokesmen for whom said such deep reductions would inevitably hurt water supply and quality initiatives overseen by the districts in general and Everglades protections in South Florida in particular.
To reduce costs, the districts will stop buying additional land parcels and will not take on any more debt. The reductions were aided by the fact that a handful of expensive projects are nearing completion, thus requiring fewer financial resources.
The districts will also roll back lucrative compensation packages. In addition to the $700 million in proposed reductions, Gov. Rick Scott rejected another $2.4 million in salaries, benefits, and retirement incentives that were included in the water management district budget proposal.
Prodded by Scott for tax cuts, lawmakers earlier this year passed SB 2142. Among myriad changes, the bill reduced by about 30 percent the property taxes districts could levy in the coming fiscal year. The one-time reduction will reduce collections by $211 million. The bill also gives lawmakers authority over how much the districts can raise through taxes in the future.
The South Florida Water Management District, the largest of the five districts, will experience the brunt of the cuts. Of the $700 million in savings, more than $500 million will come from the district, which is responsible for Everglades restoration efforts as well as providing water to teeming South Florida.
Despite the budget reduction, which includes $120 million in lost tax revenue, Melissa Meeker, South Florida’s executive director said restoration efforts will move forward as planned, with no delays anticipated.
“You will not see a bump in the road,” Meeker said.


Threatening Florida's water - Editorial
August 28, 2011
JEOPARDIZING FLORIDA'S DRINKING WATER, scrapping purchases of sensitive lands, and rubber-stamping permits for agricultural and industrial water hogs puts the state's future at risk. Yet for Gov. Rick Scott's administration, that is reason to celebrate. And for all the damage he and the Legislature already have caused, the governor is just getting started.
Scott's secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Herschel Vinyard, conducted an odd 14-minute news conference last week to praise the dismantling of the state's five water management districts. He hailed the districts' efforts to carry out $700 million in devastating budget cuts, and he echoed Scott's vague talk about returning to core missions. Then Vinyard promptly cut off questions about the damage that already has been done to the state's ability to protect and manage fresh water.
To be sure, the water management districts probably spent too much and expanded too quickly when times were good and tax revenue flowed — just as other state and local government agencies did. Like other government agencies, they were ripe for streamlining. But these cuts go far beyond pruning the staff and reducing salaries and benefits. The vast majority of the savings next year comes from halting the purchase of sensitive lands. And the districts would slash tens of millions of dollars by forgoing new water supply projects and the maintenance and restoration of water recharge areas.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which covers the Tampa Bay area and is commonly known as Swiftmud, would cut its budget for land purchases, restoration and major projects by 67 percent. In northwest Florida, the water management district would cover most of next year's budget with cash reserves. South Florida's water management agency would suffer the biggest hit, $519 million. That has forced more than 100 layoffs and a downgrade in the district's credit rating. The district said it has no plans to borrow, given the governor's pay-as-you-go directive. So much for buying additional land for Everglades restoration in the near future.
The damage likely will be permanent. Several districts have made clear that without reversing the property tax cuts, they cannot sustain their operations beyond four or five years. Yet Scott insists these cuts "are just the first steps." He wants the districts to spend down their reserves, saving just enough to operate for two months. He also wants to cap salaries and make them uniform across the state. None of that makes sense. The regional water management districts are set up along hydrologic boundaries, not political or population lines. The Suwannee River district serves 320,000 people, for example; the South Florida district serves 24 times that number. Arbitrary caps will only hurt an agency's ability to hire and deal with that watershed's unique needs.
The South Florida district already plans to reassess its science and research commitments in the coming year while exploring "opportunities for additional regulatory streamlining" and "further operational efficiencies." See where this is going? Vinyard said the cuts would deliver "regulatory certainty." Translation: water consumption permits on demand.
There is nothing wrong with streamlining spending on the water management districts; in this slow economic recovery, every government agency has taken a cut. But Scott is being dishonest about the damage. He also ignores the reason behind the so-called mission creep; it's been the state over the years that has delegated many new responsibilities to the water management districts, not empire building as the governor suggests.
Water management districts serve an essential role in maintaining the state's ability to provide drinking water, protect against floods and attract tourism and growth. Under the pretense of saving money and cutting regulation to help the economy, the governor is starving them to death.


Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge yet to rebound from water supply woes
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 27, 2011
Drought, draining leave northern reaches of the Everglades dry.
Summer rains that rescued crunchy lawns and filled neighborhood ponds have so far not been enough to boost water levels back to normal in the northern reaches of the Everglades.
Much of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches across western Palm Beach County, remains drier than usual as August fades into September.
That's bad news for wildlife habitat and also bad news for communities in Palm Beach and Broward counties, which rely on water from the refuge to boost the regional groundwater supplies that provide drinking water.
"The rains are helping us, but we are still below (normal)," Sylvia Pelizza, who oversees the refuge for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said about water levels. "It's still a cause for concern."
The refuge extends across 144,000 acres of what remains of he northern reaches of the Everglades.
In addition to providing vital habitat for more than 257 species of birds, along with a large population of alligators, the refuge is also one of the three Everglades water conservation areas where levees help contain stormwater that supplements regional supplies.
Those three water conservation areas stretch across western Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, feeding water into drainage canals that spread throughout South Florida. Water in those canals helps boost groundwater levels, which helps stop saltwater from seeping into freshwater supplies.
Water from conservation areas can also seep its way into the aquifers that provide 90 percent of South Florida's drinking water.
"The (water) conservation areas are critical to everybody in South Florida," said Susan Sylvester, district director of operations controls. "It is part of that groundwater system … the overall regional pot of water that is available."
During the height of this year's drought, the water conservation areas dropped so low that flows to the east were stopped to avoid dropping below thresholds set to protect the environment.
At one point, about 95 percent of the refuge was dry, Pelizza said.
Initially, wading bird populations thrived in the dry weather as vast wetlands drying up and left smaller pools of water that made the fishing easy for birds such as wood storks, spoonbills, white ibis and great egrets.
But as those smaller pools dried up, many wading bird offspring that had yet to leave the nest were left to die for lack of food, Pelizza said.
For much of this year the interior of the refuge was so dry it was inaccessible by airboats.
Man-made manipulations to water supplies add to the strain the drought caused for the refuge. There was less water in Lake Okeechobee to send to the refuge and elsewhere during the drought because hundreds of billions of gallons of water had been drained from the lake during 2010 due to flood control concerns.
Summer rains have helped raise water supplies on the southern end of the refuge and the canoe trail just opened two weeks ago. But the northern end of the refuge remains dry and still inaccessible by airboat.


Residents concerned about sand mine in back yard
News Chief - by MARY HURST
August 27, 2011
DAVENPORT - When Bob Banks, Ed Munson and Jack Bunker moved to 55-plus retirement community in the Ridgewood Lakes subdivision, they hadn't planned on having their retirement disturbed by a sand mine in their back yards.
A group of retirees from Ridgewood Lakes and Deer Creek subdivisions and the Oak Haven mobile home park showed up in force at the Polk County Commission meeting Tuesday to protest the development of a sand mine by Bishop and Buttrey, a large mining concern in Orlando.
The commission approved the mine in a 4-1 vote, despite the residents' emotional pleas and a recommendation against it by the County Planning Commission.
Commissioner Todd Dantzler, who represents Northeast Polk County, voted for the project. He could not be reached for comment, nor could Tim Campbell, a lawyer representing JML Land Development, and Bishop and Buttrey.
The residents have 30 days from the vote to appeal the decision so they are readying for that effort. They are hiring a lawyer to make the appeal in court.
"They think we're a bunch of crazy old people," said Ed Munson, a retired civil engineer.
His wife, Toni Brown, has asthma. She's concerned about the mining of silica sand in the neighborhood because of the health hazards, particularly respiratory problems caused by constant exposure to the fine airborne silica particles.
The company will be mining sand and clay to be placed in a 50-ton silo and mixed with powdery cement to make a mortar-type cement used in road beds.
The 92-acre site is off County Road 547 and part of the 3,000-acre Ridgewood Lakes division owned by JML Development Co.
Dump trucks will haul the cement to road construction sites throughout central Florida. It's used as a road bed in place of limerock.
JML Land Development wants to mine the sand to help defray the cost of the Ridgewood Lakes Golf Course, which the residents claim the developers said they would close next July if they couldn't develop the mine.
Munson said Bishop and Buttery filed for an Environmental Resource Permit in February, which hasn't been acted upon by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Jack Bunker is concerned about the noise involved in mining.
"I don't want to listen to back-up beeping of dump trucks, which are exempted from the county's noise ordinance," he said. "A dump truck is 90 decibels and back-up beeping is 107 decibels."
Mitch Allen, whose well is 200 feet from where the sand mining will start, is worried about what will happen to his water quality and how they will handle the endangered species currently on the land including gopher tortoises, monkey-face fox squirrels and burrowing owls.
Allen also has five rental homes -- two in Oak Haven and three in Deer Run -- and is worried no one is going to want to rent those homes with a sand mine 200 feet away. Previously self-employed in the construction industry, his only income now are his rental homes.
Munson said Horse Creek runs along the border of the mine and there is a 42-acre nature preserve along the creek.
They also worry about the health effects on children who attend schools nearby and wait for school buses.
Then there is the problem of lowered property values. If they sell their homes, they have to notify the potential buyers about the sand mine.
Filing an appeal or for an injunction to stop the project was going to be expensive. Bob Banks, a retired senior engineer with Westinghouse Defense and chief chemist for Eastern Stainless Steel in Baltimore, told the other residents.
"And it's not going to be easy," he said.


Stop Overdevelopment
August 27, 2011
Some of us Floridians have been trying to save at least a part of the paradise we know as Florida for future generations to enjoy. Then they come, and continue to come: many get-rich-quick individuals who try to develop housing projects, shopping malls and pave over every foot of land, fill in all wetlands and water sheds that help to replenish the aquifers that are rapidly being pumped dry by overdevelopment. Water is a renewable resource only if it is properly managed.
The current governor, the state legislature, county commissioners and city commissioners can't seem to understand the fact that the bottom of the wells are in sight if development keeps going at its present pace. The bottom of the wells will be below sea level. Then there will be water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Most of the Florida peninsula is less than 100 feet above sea level and most of the fresh water wells are more than 100 feet deep. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the results of this will soon be if this unlimited growth continues. There has to be a stopping place somewhere and this may be the time to save our Florida.
I would like to appeal to all of my fellow Floridians, laying aside political parties, to make a change. Let us elect a state legislature, county and city commissions that care about the environment and a governor that will stop overdevelopment of our paradise.
AMOS MERRITT, Winter Haven, FL


algal bloom
Algal bloom depletes
oxygen in water,
suffocates fish

(mouse over or click)

Tampa Bay algae bloom threatens the estuary's fish
St. Petersburg Times - by Drew Harwell, Staff Writer
August 27, 2011
CLEARWATER — Look toward the water when you drive across Tampa Bay this weekend and you might see a strange, scummy cloud, the color of rust.
That's an algae bloom, the bay's first in two years. It's big, it's dangerous for fish and it's growing by the day.
The bloom of Pyrodinium bahamense has exploded in the last month, stretching from Safety Harbor to the Howard Frankland Bridge.
"And it's thick," said Tampa Bay Estuary Program executive director Holly Greening. "You can actually see a boat's wake in the bloom."
Small algae balls, called cysts, that rest on the bay floor were awakened by the right mix of summer heat, ample rain and lawn runoff. Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers pollute the water and feed the bloom.
It is so far smaller than a bloom in 2009, which, at 14 miles wide, was one of the largest in bay history. With time and the right conditions, researchers say, it could grow bigger.
That could prove deadly for marine wildlife. At night, the algae absorbs lots of oxygen, stifling the fish. No fish kills were reported in 2009, but a bloom in 2008 killed 10 different species, including catfish, puffer fish, stingrays, blue crabs and brittle stars.
Though the bloom looks like a hazy spill, it is not toxic or viscous like oil.
The algae are great masses of microscopic life forms that float at the surface or, if overheated, swim downward with tiny flagella. When disturbed, they glow greenish-white.
This is the first bay bloom since Pinellas County's ban on the sale or use of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers began in June. Tampa will ban the fertilizers next summer. Hillsborough County allows their sale but bans their use before heavy rainfall.
"It does point to the need to be very careful with what we do in our back yard," Greening said.
The bay's biggest bloom, in 1971, stretched from the Sunshine Skyway into Old Tampa Bay. Thousands of dead fish were found floating in the waters of St. Petersburg.


Wetlands: Losing More at What Cost ?
Bradenton Times - by John Rehill
August 27, 2011
BRADENTON -- You don't have to be an environmentalist, a water works superintendent, or a marine biologist to be concerned about our water, where it comes from and how we can keep a fresh supply. One thing we all have in common is that we all need clean water to maintain a robust and healthy life. It's said, the wars of the future will be fought over water, not oil. Which stands to reason, because we can't live without it. Water is life, that's why if it's found on mars or the moon, that would substantiate the possibility for those environments to sustain life. We might need experts to help us protect it, but we don't need them to tell us of its significance. Mankind does not exist without a viable water supply -- period.
Florida is already struggling with its water's condition, availability and the manner in which it is protected. In addition to sustaining life on a basic level, water has become the throttle to development, industry and commerce. It is the center to our recreation and agriculture, so it should be of no surprise the attention the Manatee  County Boardof Commissioners are getting, concerning the wetland decisions being placed before them. The Planning commission's recommended land development code changes introducing a new wetland protection policy has fallen before a barrage of criticism. 
The controversy surrounding the issue is an ongoing struggle to preserve our most vital resource. It's about what many have thought is an inadequate wetland protection program, being replaced by an even more venerable strategy leaving the county's remaining wetlands in danger. Representatives from many concerned groups spoke on August 16, at the BOCC meeting when these revisions were presented to the public. Speakers from ManaSota88, the League of Women Voters and Sierra Club, were some of the groups that objected to the code revisions. The complaints are mounting about the cost, the science, the dwindling account of wetland left, and the way in which wetlands are graded. But a common thread that runs through all the discontent is that it puts a price on something that is priceless, and opens the door to bargain our remaining wetlands away.
Under the new revisions, there are four categories of wetlands and only the most valuable (category lV) would require a public hearing to approve any impact to it.. The other three categories can be mitigated through the recommended revisions that are designed to approve wetland impacts not prevent them. The sliding scale of 115 to 200% added to the mitigation cost, that's designed to
compensate for any loss, when filing for wetland impact approval, does little to avert the destruction of them. Approval for wetland destruction only requires the applicant to demonstrate it a caveat to profit. 
The process becomes a preempted variance. The decision then rests with whether the bank will forgo investment for the impact ignoring a wetland might yield. There is no cost to the developer, the revisions just increase the appetite for more profit. The required trade-off for a replacement wetland is cheap, it being nonfunctional, and can double as the project's buffer. The language in the "approval of wetland impact" section of the revisions, is so vague that it is open to conflicting interpretations.
Glenn Compton, Chairman of ManaSota88 says "the changes will encourage the developers to design wetlands around projects instead of projects around wetlands." There are many who believe man cannot construct a wetland, that they have to be cultivated over a great deal of time in a natural setting. Man has proven the ability to destroy wetlands and known to dress them up to appear functional, but the chronic declining water level of the aquifer suggests that the patchwork methods adopted aren't working. And that could be due largely to another theme critics share; the unacceptable exemption phosphate mining is getting from having to apply the code to their operations. More wetland has been destroyed from that practice then from any other. Mining companies claim they can "reconstruct wetlands," but records show the numbers are minuscule and there is no evidence of their ability to function as well as a natural wetland. 
At the August 16, BOCC meeting, County Commissioner Joe McClash suggested to Joel Christian, from Manatee Natural Resource Department, that "phosphate mining should be held to the codes," then assistant County Attorney William Clague came forward and said "We need to treat phosphate separately." Clague says "separately" because he claims phosphate companies participate in alternative deals like land swaps and that they reconstruct wetlands, unlike developers. What might be helpful is for him to present adequate evidence of just where and how well these reconstructions function. To date, the only evidence of mining's reconstruction of wetland are statements made by the phosphate companies and their associates.  
Most of those opposing the new changes feel that if Manatee County wishes to change their methodology, to how they grade and manage their wetlands, they need to perform a wetland survey, including the adequate data and analysis designed to provide for their protection. The BOCC could host a workshop and invite at least two wetland experts who specialize in preservation. All studies must come from a baseline approach in order to be creditable. Like County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, "We have to get it right." That might be an honorable slogan to hang over the chamber doors.


Environmentalists: Water district cuts will hurt Florida's ecology
Tampa Tribune - by KEITH MORELLI
August 26, 2011
Environmentalists around Florida are livid about the budget cutbacks for the five water management districts and they predict that the cuts will result in an inevitable decline in the quality of the state's ecology.
All, environmentalists say, so the taxpayer can save about $20 to $30 a year on a residential tax bill.
Perhaps the hardest hit will be the ongoing project to restore the Florida Everglades. The proposed slashing of the South Florida Water Management District's budget by Gov. Rick Scott and a Republican Legislature has left scores of scientists working on the project without jobs.
Audubon of Florida spokesman Eric Draper said state-funded initiatives to restore the Everglades will be severely impacted and suspected that eventually, the cuts will lead to "the Everglades restoration grinding to a halt."
Across the state, $700 million was trimmed from the proposed budgets of the five water management districts, which are responsible for protecting the state's water resources, and more cuts may be on the way.
"I just don't see how you can cut $700 million," Draper said, "and still protect the environment."
The cuts were deep for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which submitted a tentative budget to the state that is 44 percent of what it was last year. The district encompasses a 16-county region that includes Hillsborough County.
When Scott was elected last year, the governing board of the local district saw changes coming and had already begun a review of its organizational and salary structure, which is what Scott suggested in a letter this week sent to the board's chairman.
The board had submitted a proposed operating budget to the state earlier this month of $157.7 million, compared to $280 million this current fiscal year.
"We had to prioritize," said district spokeswoman Robyn Felix. The reductions were made in all areas, she said, including personnel, projects and cooperative funding to local governments.
And more cuts are likely. Though he praised the local district for its programs and initiatives, Scott, in the letter sent Wednesday to the governing board, said more money must be pared from the reserve funds and from salaries and benefits packages. That could mean layoffs and buyouts.
Already, the district is cutting its staff. A workforce of 897 full-time positions has been trimmed to 796 and by Oct. 1, the district hopes to cut another 34 positions by offering severance packages to eligible employees.
If the district gets to that number, it will have reduced its staff by 14 percent and puts the workforce at 1995 levels, according to an Aug. 1 letter from the district's interim director Bill Bilenky to the governor. Other cost savings measures include squeezing more life out of vehicles and computers.
Funding for contractors was slashed by $46 million, or 62 percent.
Scott ordered that no executive directors make more than $165,000 a year. Outgoing Southwest Florida Water Management District Director Dave Moore, who announced his resignation in May after eight years, pulled down an annual salary of nearly $195,000.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said this week that the trimming of the budgets won't impact too severely the goal of the districts, which is to protect the state's water resources — rivers, lakes or groundwater reserves. Though $700 million was cut, he said, there remains more than $1 billion allocated to the districts.
"Effective and efficient water management is essential to a healthy economy and a healthy environment," Vinyard said. "These budget reductions are an important first step in ensuring that the water management districts focus on their core environmental missions, and the reductions reflect a significant savings for Florida taxpayers."
Those savings aren't worth the ultimate cost, say environmentalists around the state.
Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director of the Sierra Club, said: "A cut of that magnitude is really going to hurt the ability of the water management districts to provide services to the taxpayers and it's going to cut out important environmental land resource programs.
"If that's true," he said, "it's a pity."
Jonathan Ullman, spokesman for the Sierra Club in South Florida, in a blog posted this week bemoaned the laying off of hundreds of scientists who have been working on restoring the Everglades.
"We have only one question to ask," Ullman said. "Who will restore the Everglades without them?"
He called the budget slashing "a systematic dismantling of environmental regulatory agencies throughout the state. It was a direct attack on nature."
Jon Steverson, Department of Environmental Protection's special counsel on policy and legislative affairs in a letter to the water management districts in July, said that in hard times, it's difficult for residents to fork over their cash for programs some consider unnecessary.
"We cannot ask Floridians who are struggling to find work and provide for their families to continue to support the mission of the Department of Environmental Protection or the districts if we are not spending their tax dollars wisely," Steverson said in the letter.
The districts were advised to spend what they take in and not incur any new debt. The state also does not want districts building massive reserves and wants to limit those funds to two months operating expenses.
Last year's Southwest Florida Water Management District budget of $279.8 million was more than $19 million less than the year before, representing a 6.4 percent reduction, mainly because of reduced tax revenue.


Sick citrus

Citrus Growers and Scientists Discuss Nutrition Research
THE LEDGER - by Kevin Bouffard
August 25, 2011
LAKE ALFRED | A Florida citrus industry group agreed on Wednesday to spend $350,000 more to study the effect of enhanced tree nutrition on the growth and spread of citrus greening disease with the possibility of more to come.
About 75 citrus growers and scientists assembled at the Citrus Research and Education for a meeting of the Research Management Committee of the Citrus Research and Education Foundation, a growers' group overseeing a roughly $18 million research program against citrus greening during the 2010-11 season. They met for about eight hours to review past research on enhanced nutrition and decide on future directions.
Citrus greening is a deadly bacterial disease threatening the future of commercial citrus growing in Florida. The most recent data from 2010 showed 18 percent of the state's citrus trees are infected and that the rate is doubling annually.
The foundation has spent more than $40 million since 2009 on greening research on a wide variety of topics, but just a few projects involved enhanced nutrition.
The committee decided to fund a project from Phil Stansly, an entomologist at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, to use enhanced nutrition and pesticides on 1-to-3-year-old citrus trees. Another project by Ron Brlansky, a plant pathologist at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, will look at how nutrition affects phloem, the vascular sytems that carries nutrients throughout a plant.
The committee will begin screening new proposals for future projects next month.
Soon after greening was discovered in Florida in fall 2005, Winter Garden-based grower Maury Boyd developed an enhanced nutrition program independent of the state's leading citrus scientists. Boyd maintains the nutritional supplements he developed replace nutrients lost to the disease and keep the tree commercially productive.
But enhanced nutrition became controversial because it means not removing greening-infected trees, leaving in place a source of bacteria that enhances spread of the disease.
That creates a "typhoid Mary" effect, said Tim Gottwald, a plant pathologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Fort Pierce, who presented a study showing nutrition programs are ineffective against greening.
And a lot of the knowledge on nutrition so far is tentative, several researchers agreed.
"You should not trust data for just one or two years," said Arnold Schumann, professor of soil and water science at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, where the committee met. "It does take a long time to get desired effect."
Among the reasons, he added, are that greening is still not completely understood and that citrus trees are subject to "alternate bearing" independent of disease. Alternate bearing means the trees naturally produce big crops for one or two seasons, then "rest" for the following season, producing a smaller crop.
The strongest enhanced nutrition supporter was Bob Rouse, a citrus horticulturalist at the Immokalee center, who has researched Boyd's Felda grove for the past three seasons.
"Nutrition works" in maintaining tree health, Rouse said, but he also acknowledged infected trees, whether supported by enhanced nutrition or not, are less tolerant to other common stresses, such as freezes and drought.
"Adding additional stress puts them over the edge," he said.
Whatever the research shows, most of Florida's roughly 9,000 commercial growers are not removing infected trees because, even with reduced fruit yields, they are still profitable at current farm prices," said Joe Davis Jr., an influential Wauchula-based grower.
"Most of the growers in Florida are not going back to (removing) trees, I can assure you of that," he said. "I think we ought to concentrate on management strategies that produce the most fruit over the long term."
Gottwald agreed many growers cannot afford to remove infected trees because of high infection rates in their groves.
"I'm not suggesting the entire state go with the (tree removal) method. The barn door's been open too long," Gottwald said.


Thirst for water

Drought A Sign Of Our Increasing Vulnerability
The Hartford Courant - by R. Thorson
August 25, 2011
It was a pleasant summer evening in New England, a backyard barbecue with friends. In the background was the mellifluous sound of water cascading down the face of an old mill dam. On my neck were mosquitoes, sucking my blood and possibly exposing me to West Nile virus, a disease detected in 21 Connecticut towns this year.
Following my wife's advice, I decided to give thanks. Our blessing of surface fresh water greatly outweighs the curse of insects sharing that resource with us.
Thing's aren't so blessed in the southern U.S., where record-breaking drought is causing widespread crop failures and major economic disruption, and leaving behind a desiccated landscape with fewer mosquitoes.
No part of New England (according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climatic data center) is experiencing drought. In contrast, 61 percent of the southeastern United States is experiencing moderate drought or worse, with Georgia taking the strongest hit. Things are much drier in the Southern Plains between Louisiana, south Texas, Arizona and Colorado. There, 84 percent of the land is experiencing at least moderate drought, with 47 percent experiencing exceptional drought.
Climate records are falling by the wayside: more than 6,100 records for warmer-than-usual nights, and 2,740 for hotter-than-usual days. Centered over west-central Texas is the largest footprint ever recorded for "exceptional" drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Texas is the launching pad for a presidential hopeful who denies that climate is being changed by human influence, and who seems to have forgotten that having a tea party requires water to make the tea.
This year's drought is exacerbating our already precarious national vulnerability regarding fresh water. Our thirst is "Unquenchable," based on the recent book by Robert Glennon, a professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona. His book contains a geographic and topical litany of our national failure to manage water effectively, a failure that political candidates will probably avoid in campaigns because it is so contentious. For Connecticut, he cites the infamous 2005 case of fish flopping in the sucked-dry Fenton River and reports that 60 Connecticut rivers suffer from "flow impairment."
Biologically, we Homo sapiens are mostly water. Locally, nearly every town and village has water-resource heroes setting good examples or putting pressure on local governments to do the right thing. And technologically, we're very ingenious when necessary. But as a nation, we've screwed up big time.
Politically, our watersheds do not align with government jurisdictions. Demographically, we're uprooting from water-rich states to water-poor ones. Economically, we treat water as if it were free, which is why we use: 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of beef; 1,700 gallons to produce a gallon of ethanol; untold millions of gallons to cool electrical power plants and the hidden server farms giving us air-conditioned Internet connections; and untold billions of gallons of potable water to flush our excrement.
Legally, approximately two-thirds of U.S. states are fighting water wars with neighboring states. This summer, for example, the U.S. Appeals Court awarded Metro Atlanta unlimited use of water from Lake Lanier, a multipurpose reservoir created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two downstream states of Florida and Alabama will appeal because they're feeling robbed, a situation similar to that of downstream Mexico with respect to the upstream Colorado River. These states must be especially galled by Snow Mountain in Georgia, an artificial winter wonderland located near water-hungry Atlanta, where winter high temperatures average between 50 and 65 degrees. There, private corporations use contested water to make acres of artificial snow in order to make oodles of cash.
Water is Earth's most vital substance. As our climate changes, individuals can respond to annoyances like mosquitoes by making personal choices. But with respect to the blessing of water, most of us are hostage to government policy.


Fresh Water
Gulf Coast Business Review - by Jean Gruss
August 25, 2011
Years later, DeLisi, a principal in the engineering firm DeLisi Fitzgerald in Fort Myers, will now have a hand in that effort. In May, Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.
DeLisi, at age 38 the youngest member of the board, is jumping into one of the most contentious regional disputes. To wit: What to do about the discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee River to Fort Myers. “The complexity of this dispute is enormous,” DeLisi says.
DeLisi says he’s enthused to tackle a problem most observers would find nightmarish. “What an opportunity,” he exclaims.
Making his job on the governing board even tougher: DeLisi is the only representative from the west coast of the state. The rest of the board is made up of residents of the east coast. “By and large they feel sorry for me,” he chuckles.
But despite his lone voice, DeLisi is determined to make a difference. As a young engineer, DeLisi was schooled in the politics of regional development on the staff of the Bonita Bay Group, a residential developer that pioneered consensus building with environmentalists and government bureaucrats.
“I have started facilitating meetings between various factions,” DeLisi says, including longtime adversaries in the agriculture industry and environmental movement. He considers it a success when those two groups are talking to each other in the same room. Even some of the more radical environmental groups — DeLisi calls them “stone throwers” — have quieted down.
But don’t assume that DeLisi will compromise for the sake of consensus. “A year ago, I was one of those people who wanted to disband the agency,” he says.
DeLisi says he sought the nomination to the district’s governing board because he was furious with how the organization squandered millions of dollars on questionable land purchases. “We wasted an unreal amount of money we can’t use now,” he says.
For example, the district recently spent nearly $200 million to buy land from U.S. Sugar. “Who knows what we could have done with that money?” DeLisi says. “I never thought they articulated what would be lost in that acquisition.”
What’s more, the district had become a regulatory bottleneck in the development process, particularly when it came to large projects. “There’s no question the water management district was a bloated agency,” says DeLisi, who supported the recent cuts to the district’s budget.
Now, DeLisi says the budget cuts and trimming of the staff have to be accomplished without impacting the district’s core mission, such as flood control. “The problem with cuts is that unless you cut in the right areas, you could still have mission creep,” he cautions.
Despite being overstaffed, DeLisi says the district was the most difficult agency to deal with to obtain approvals for large projects because it had expanded its scope of work beyond its original mandate. What’s more, its senior staff was capricious and unapproachable.
Now, DeLisi hopes the agency will be more responsive and focused. “If people don’t see a difference, I’m going to go ballistic,” DeLisi says. He’s discussed the changes with land planners, engineers and attorneys in the region and welcomes their input. “I enjoy working on these issues,” he says.


Gov. Rick Scott orders more budget cuts at Southwest Florida Water Management District
St. Petersburg Times - by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer and M.E. Klas
August 25, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott complimented the state's five water management districts Wednesday on cutting $700 million from their budgets and laying off hundreds of employees.
Then he told four of them — including the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which controls the water supply for the Tampa Bay area — to cut even more. And he told the agencies exactly where to cut, too: salaries and operating reserves.
In a statement, Scott said those additional cuts "are just the first steps in ensuring that Florida's precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible."
Cutting so much money from the budget will not hurt the agency's core missions of protecting the environment and safeguarding the water supply, state officials said.
Instead they are designed to "give the environment the most bang for the buck," Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said in a 15-minute news conference at which he took five questions from reporters.
But Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida said the announcement was just "putting lipstick on a pig" — trying to put a good face on the fact that the state had slashed the funding of the agencies in charge of making sure there's enough clean water for everyone to drink.
"It's a dark day for Florida's water resources," he said.
And Audubon's Eric Draper said Scott's $700 million figure was inflated, because nearly $300 million of it consisted of money the South Florida water district spent on Everglades-related work last year that wasn't going to be carried over to this year anyway.
The agency commonly known as Swiftmud, which oversees water resources in a 16-county region on the state's west coast, has already cut $122 million from its $279.8 million budget, leaving $157.7 million, and will likely lay off 30 employees.
Scott, in a letter to Swiftmud chairman Paul Senft, ordered cuts totaling another $4.2 million. He cut $2.4 million from Swiftmud's reserve fund and took the rest out of salaries. However, Brett Cyphers, the DEP's water management budget director, said cutting the reserve fund isn't a true cut, because the money will be redirected into other Swiftmud projects.
Emilio "Sonny" Vergara, Swiftmud's former executive director and a Republican, said Scott was forcing Floridians to take "a terrible gamble" by dismantling a regional water district system that had been working for 40 years. "He is centralizing water management at the state level to be controlled from Tallahassee by him."
The only agency Scott did not order to make further cuts was the largest of the five, the South Florida Water Management District, which is in charge of Everglades restoration. That agency laid off 135 employees this month, including such top Everglades scientists such as Christopher McVoy.
McVoy said Scott's cuts at the South Florida district — and the subsequent brain drain from the layoffs — resulted in his tax bill dropping by $4.70, which he said worked out to "three cups of coffee in exchange for trashing Everglades restoration."
Capping top salaries
On Wednesday Scott ordered all five water districts to cap their executive salaries at the same level. Dave Moore, who resigned as Swiftmud's executive director in May, had earned $194,875, and South Florida water district director Carol Wehle earned $202,000 before she quit this spring. But Scott said that now executive directors can make no more than $165,000.
To Lee of Audubon of Florida, setting the pay of the executive directors at the identical level, no matter how big the agency, is "revealing about the governor's lack of knowledge."
Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix said the agency had just received Scott's letter and would work with the DEP "to follow the direction in the letter."
In addition to issuing permits allowing developers, farmers and businesses to tap into the aquifer and wipe out wetlands, Swiftmud also helps pay for projects such as Tampa Bay Water's desalination plant and reservoir. Tampa Bay Water is hoping to get millions of more dollars from Swiftmud to expand the reservoir by 3 billion gallons, but Scott's cuts may jeopardize that plan.


More cuts to water management districts
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 25, 2011
The approval of a slew of additional cuts to water management districts Wednesday has environmentalists more than a little worried about the future of Florida’s waterways.
All of Florida’s five water management districts have recently been subject to 30 percent budget reductions and staff cuts. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott ordered all but one (the South Florida Water Management District) to make even more cuts. Though he praised them for submitting tentative budgets that slash spending by more than $700 million, Scott said that additional cuts (of $2.4 million) are necessary.
The South Florida district’s budget, at $571 million (a nearly 47 percent reduction) met the governor’s approval. During a press conference, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said that Scott wanted the districts to focus on their “core mission responsibilities”: water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural system protection.
In a new video posted by Lobby Tools, Audubon of Florida Director Eric Draper says that additional cuts to state water management districts could have a detrimental effect on water supply.
“I hope that the voters look past these political promises of a $700 million budget savings, and look, and ask the question, in a couple of years: ‘Is my water going to be clean? Am I going to actually have water when I turn on my tap?’” Draper said.
South Florida Water Management District head Melissa Meeker remained optimistic during yesterday’s announcement, saying that her agency remains committed to Everglades restoration and water storage projects, despite the cuts.
“You will not see a bump in the road from the South Florida Water Management District,” Meeker said.
In a statement, Draper said he felt the district heads and the governor were not ”being completely candid in telling the public how these cuts will affect water supply, environmental protection and Everglades restoration.”
Florida Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham had a surprisingly optimistic reaction to the cuts, telling the Daytona Beach News-Journal he didn’t think they would negatively affect Everglades restoration.


Florida Water Districts Wring Out $700 Million in Budget
Southeast Agnet - by Randall
August 24, 2011
From the News Service of Florida:
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, August 24, 2011…….Having kicked sugar and cut up the credit card, water management districts submitted a budget proposal that is $700 million leaner without jeopardizing critical water supply and Everglades restoration efforts, state officials and a key environment group said Wednesday.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said decisions to shelve, at least temporarily, a $190 million land purchase from U.S. Sugar and delay the sale of $100 million in bonds to pay for further land acquisition, will allow the state’s five water management districts to continue their core missions while responding to tough budget times.
“The districts will continue to manage and protect Florida’s water,”
Vinyard said. “They will still spend more than $1 billion in the coming year for that protection.”
A frequent critic, the Everglades Foundation, agreed with Vinyard’s assessment, saying Wednesday it was “pleasantly surprised” by the budget proposal that appears to re-focus agencies that during better times had gotten a little fat.
“We’ve certainly been quick to criticize,” said CEO Kirk Fordham. “But it is also our duty as advocates and folks that are fairly independent of the government agencies we work with to point out when they have accomplished something that is worthy of praise.”
Not all environmental advocates agree. Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida executive director, said that while the proposed budgets appear to spare Everglades and other high priority projects for the upcoming year, there’s concern about longer term needs that may not be met, including increased storage and water quality efforts.
The cuts serve only the purpose of “allowing politicians to claim tax cuts,” Draper said in a statement. “The agencies involved and the governor are not being completely candid in telling the public how these cuts will affect water supply, environmental protection and Everglades restoration.”
To reduce costs, Vinyard said the districts will stop buying additional land parcels and not take on any more debt. The reductions were aided by the fact that a handful of expensive projects are nearing completion, thus requiring fewer financial resources.
The districts will also roll back lucrative compensation packages. In addition to the $700 million in proposed reductions, Gov. Rick Scott rejected another $2.4 million in salaries, benefits, and retirement incentives that were included in the water management district budget proposal.
Vinyard said the state would also look at its land buying programs to ensure that only the most valuable purchases are made with the public’s dime. “We are looking for environmental projects that give the most bang for the buck,” Vinyard said.
Prodded by Gov. Rick Scott for tax cuts, lawmakers earlier this year passed SB 2142. Among myriad changes, the bill reduced by about 30 percent the property taxes districts could levy in the coming fiscal year. The one-time reduction will reduce collections by $211 million. The bill also gives lawmakers authority over how much the districts can raise through taxes in the future.
The South Florida Water Management District, the largest of the five districts, will experience the brunt of the cuts. Of the $700 million in savings, more than $500 million will come from the district, which is responsible for Everglades restoration efforts as well as providing water to teeming South Florida.
Despite the budget reduction, which includes $120 million in lost tax revenue, Melissa Meeker, South Florida’s executive director said restoration efforts will move forward as planned, with no delays anticipated. “You will not see a bump in the road,” Meeker said.
Fordham said critical Everglades projects begun a few years ago are coming to conclusion and will come on line despite the budget reductions. He gave Meeker much of the credit.
“We have been surprised at how Melissa Meeker and her team have been able to squeeze inefficiencies out of the water management district budget without jeopardizing key science and planning personnel and without jeopardizing a number of projects on the Everglades restoration front that we have considered priorities over the last several years,” Fordham said.


Gov, DEP praises water management cuts, then says “Cut more”
Orlando Sentinel - by K. Haughney
August, 24 2011
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection announced the state’s water management districts will see $700 million in budget cuts, but the governor is looking for even more.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard in a press conference Wednesday said the cuts would force the water management districts to focus in on their core missions, while saving taxpayer money. Scott is looking for another $2.4 million to cut statewide on top of the $700 million.
“Where can the environment get the most bang for its buck?. We need to prioritize this process,” he said.
The budget cuts have led to massive layoffs around the state, which Vinyard acknowledged were difficult, but also a part of focusing in on the districts’ biggest priorities.
“The water management district budgets that have been presented, along with my additional calls for further savings, are just the first steps in ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible,” Scott said in a prepared statement following the press conference.”
Jane Graham, Everglades Policy Associate for the Audubon Society, said via e-mail that the DEP’s press conference was an attempt to “put lipstick on a pig.”
“The water management district budget cuts Gov. Scott and the Legislature have orchestrated are devastating to the environment and natural resources,” she said. “The impacts will be felt for years to come.”


Governor proposes even deeper cuts to water management districts, despite environmental concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 24, 2011
Kathleen Haughney of the Sun Sentinel’s Tallahassee bureau reports today that spending cuts could go even deeper at Florida’s water management districts.
The South Florida Water Management District has already laid off 134 employees, slashed employee salaries and benefits, and put construction projects on hold to help cut spending by more than 30 percent.
Those cuts, which amount to about $128 million, have environmental groups concerned about more delays for already-overdue Everglades restoration projects.
The South Florida cuts are among about $700 million in cutbacks for the state’s five water management districts. Now Gov. Rick Scott is calling for another $2.4 million in cuts among the districts statewide.
Here’s what Kathleen Haughney reported about today’s press conference about water district cuts:
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection are calling for additional cuts to water management districts' budgets, amounting to more than $700 million.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard in a press conference Wednesday said the cuts would force the water management districts to focus in on their core missions, while saving taxpayer money. Scott is looking for another $2.4 million to cut statewide on top of the $700 million.
"Where can the environment get the most bang for its buck? We need to prioritize this process," he said.
The budget cuts have led to massive layoffs around the state, which Vinyard acknowledged were difficult, but also a part of focusing in on the districts' biggest priorities.
“The water management district budgets that have been presented, along with my additional calls for further savings, are just the first steps in ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible," Scott said in a prepared statement following the press conference."
Jane Graham, Everglades Policy Associate for the Audubon Society, said via e-mail that the DEP's press conference was an attempt to "put lipstick on a pig."
"The water management district budget cuts Gov. Scott and the Legislature have orchestrated are devastating to the environment and natural resources," she said. "The impacts will be felt for years to come."


State claims to slash water management district budget $700 million this year
August 24, 2011
In response to the legislature's budget cuts, Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday they are slashing spending on Florida's water management districts by $700 million, the bulk of it in South Florida.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said that the cuts in the 2011-12 budget will not interfere with the agency’s commitment to crucial water protection programs such as Everglades restoration.
"We're looking for projects to give the environment the most bang for the buck," Vinyard said at a news conference.
The new budget devotes $110 million to Everglades restoration, taps $350 million in reserves to pay for water quality projects in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Calooshahatchee watersheds. 
Vinyard said many of the reductions were because of the state's decision to halt the sale of bonds to buy land, adjust salary and benefits which he called "among the most lucrative in government," and cut district staff, and reduce membership fees and conference sponsorships.
Scott has touted the fact that the water management district reductions will enable districts to cut local property taxes by $210.5 million in 2012.
But Audubon of Florida director Eric Draper called the savings a false number. "They are inflating their claims by claiming they are saving money they never intended to spend," he said.
Draper called the budget "a political deal that allows policians to claim tax cuts while not being candid about how the cuts will affect the environment." He commended the governor for continuing to keep Everglades restoration a priority but criticized the administration for making a marginal financial commitment to the project.
"Everglades restoration is a program of $10 billion in costs and they're bragging about putting $100 million into it,'' he said. "It's a tiny payment on a huge obligation."
Everglades Foundation CEO Kurt Fordham, however, praised the budget for sparing the Everglades restoration projects and continuing the state's commitment by spending $110 million next year to help with clean-up decades of pollution. In June, he had criticized the 50-cent-a-week tax cut in the face of a water supply shortage as "an insult to the people of South Florida."
"We are pleasantly surprised,’’ Fordham told reporters Wednesday. "Considering what kind of economic climate we’re in right now, I think the district has done a good job cutting the fat out of the budget and maintaining their commitment to Everglades restoration.."
The largest reduction in the SFWMD's revised budget -- $194.2 million -- was because one-time land purchases made by the district last year which are now complete as well as $96.7 million in debt reduction.
The savings also includes $96.7 million in so-called "debt avoidance," which is also not being spent this year because no land will be purchased. Employee benefits also account for another chunk of savings: the district slashed salaries and benefits $35.7 million, $4.2 million in deferred compensation to employees and ended the practice of buying out employee sick leave, saving another $3.9 million.
In addition to the SFWMD's focus on Everglades restoration, he said other districts will focus on the key projects despite the cutbacks:
* The North Florida Water Management District will continue to focus on more reliable regional water supply system.
* The Suwanne Water Management District will continue removing polluting nutrients from their water bodies, increase water monitoring data and and establish minimum flow levels in rivers and streams.
* The St. John's Water Management District will continue water quality improvements in Lake Apopka and the St. John's River and create a 10,000-acre water management area that will provide water quality and quantity improvements.
* The Southwest Florida Water Management District will develop alternative water supplies, including a $4.1 million system for the Tampa Bay.
* The South Florida Water Management District will implement several projects to benefit Everglades restoration from additional water storage project for the northern Everglades to construction of additional treatment areas to improve water qualities.
"We recognize this is a critical first step in ensuring water management districts focus on their core environmental mission,'' Vinyard said, noting that those core responsibilities are ensuring a reliable water supply, flood protection and natural system protection.
But Draper challenged those claims. The budget does not commit money into protection natural systems, for example, when it eliminates district planning departments that kept developers from building in wetlands.
"This is where we see this administration backing away from 30 years of commitment to water protection,'' he said.
Vinyard said that two other priorities he will emphasis are: regulatory certainty, in which the state enforces the law and expects the public to follow it, and "get the water right" by ensuring water quality and quantity.


Thirst for water

Texas Suffers Worst Drought Year on Record
Voice of America – by Greg Flakus
August 24, 2011
Weather forecasters and agriculture experts in the southwestern U.S. state of Texas say there is no relief in sight for what already is the worst drought year on record.  The searing heat and dry conditions have caused devastating wildfires in the western part of the large state and led to crop losses, cattle deaths and water rationing in areas of east Texas that are normally wet at this time of year.
Driving through the countryside northwest of Houston, one sees dried up fields, dying trees and livestock ponds that are not much more than a puddles of fetid, algae-covered water.  In some towns, farmers' markets have been cancelled because local growers have little to offer.  Those with wells for irrigation are struggling with the high cost of fuel to run their pumps.
Debbie Cross, who operates a farmers' market near Cypress, Texas, says people are becoming discouraged by the lack of rain and the high temperatures, which are around 40 degrees most days.
“The drought is hurting everything.  It is hurting all the crops, the cattle, the hay.  There is no grass.  The chickens are miserable.  I mean everybody is just miserable.  We need water,” Cross said.
Cross says local farmers are unable to supply much fruit and vegetables and that she is getting by with produce trucked in from other states where conditions are better.
“We are getting it from the local southern states and southwestern states are kicking in -- Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma.  Everybody knows that the Texas market is a great consumer market, so they are helping out a lot here,” Cross said.
One of the hardest hit agricultural sectors is livestock.  Texas is the biggest cattle producer in the United States and ships beef to many foreign markets.  Earlier this year, ranchers endured one of the worst winters on record, with several days of subzero temperatures in a region where freezes are rare.  The drought has made it even harder, driving up the cost of hay and leaving some areas so dry that cattle have died of thirst in their pastures.  
One rancher who has managed to get through this crisis with most of her stock in fairly good condition is Dorie Damuth, owner of the Flying D ranch near Magnolia, Texas.
Damuth raises prize-winning Texas Longhorns for breeding and she has managed to find hay and enough water to keep them alive.  She says she has seen dry spells before, but nothing that compares to this year.
“The drought is something I, as a cattle woman, and all of my fellow cattlemen and cattlewomen have never experienced before.  This is probably the 100-year drought, just like you can have a 100-year flood.  It is very devastating for all of us ranchers who work so hard to provide beef for our country as well as for around the world,” Damuth said.
In a dried up lake on her property, there is a Longhorn skull sitting on top of cracked earth that is muddy and soft underneath.
“We have had lakes and stock ponds on the ranch that have dried up because of no rain, no rainfall.  They will dry down to a little mucky place in the middle that is still wet and the cattle will sometimes go down and try to get water and they can't.  And they step into that mucky mud and it is kind of like quicksand, and they can't get out.”
Lately, there have been beautiful fluffy clouds floating over the area.  But ranch hand Chris Quinters is not encouraged by them.
“Those are some nice clouds, but it don't look like they are going to bring any rain,” Quinters said.
Forecasts cite the possibility of scattered showers in the days ahead, but such little rain is expected to provide little relief.  This is the time of year here in the Gulf of Mexico region when people usually worry about potentially devastating tropical storms and hurricanes.  But his year, Damuth says she would welcome the rain such storms bring.
“I never thought I would see the day when I would pray for a hurricane to come and that we would get the dirty side of a hurricane.  We have not done that so far, but I think it would be helpful to us,” Damuth said.
Hurricane Irene is now in the eastern Caribbean Basin and could threaten Florida later this week.  But so far, there are no storms moving toward the dried out pastures of Texas.


Florida congressman again defends water hearing critics say was one-sided
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 23, 2011
Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, has been playing defense lately. A recent water pollution hearing he sponsored in Orlando has been subject to scrutiny, mainly because he invited a slew of agriculture and industrial interests to testify, and only one environmental advocate (who was invited at the last minute). In a new op-ed, Stearns again defends himself against claims that the hearing was one-sided, writing that “no environmental groups contacted [his] office or the committee office seeking to testify until after it was final.”
Responding to a recent column in The Florida Times-Union, Stearns writes that claims that “the witness list was filled with the names of polluters” is a lie:
[T]he witness list … included the EPA’s regional administrator, the director of Florida’s Office of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, the Watershed Management Section Manager for Pinellas County, a union representative and a representative from Gainesville’s utility.
In addition, Paul Steinbrecher, director of Environmental Permitting for JEA, testified on behalf of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council.
These are hardly polluters.
Environmentalists would likely disagree. In fact, JEA (formerly the Jacksonville Electric Authority) is well-known as being one of the largest point-source (.pdf) polluters of the St. Johns River, a waterway often inundated with algal blooms and fish kills. Even the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, though a state agency, has continued to protest the implementation of the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria, a set of rules created to more strictly govern state waterways. (Though Stearns’ hearing centered on the criteria, he has made clear his opposition to their implementation.).
According to Stearns, few environmental advocates were included because they didn’t ask to be.
“Even though no environmental groups contacted my office or the committee office seeking to testify until after it was final, I asked that David Guest, director, Florida Regional Office of Earthjustice, be added,” writes Stearns. “In his statement, Guest noted that he was speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.”
As previously reported by The Florida Independent, several environmental organizations say they did indeed request to be included in the hearing, many even before the list of witnesses had been announced, and were flatly denied. Upon learning that the list of witnesses was seemingly one-sided, environmental law firm Earthjustice put out a press release on the matter.
“We put out a press release to let folks know the hearing was going to be one-sided and that representatives who defend the public’s right to clean water were shut out,” says Earthjustice’s Julie Hauserman. “David Guest got a call here in Tallahassee the day before the hearing from a Stearns staffer. The staffer asked him to speak the next morning in Orlando, totally last minute with hardly any time to prepare testimony for the record and travel the five-hour drive down there to south Orlando.”
Hauserman says that Guest did speak on behalf of other environmental groups, because they could not speak for themselves.
Stearns gotten his share of flack over the hearing, but has continually defended himself against claims it was one-sided.
“We’ve been pretty shocked to see Rep. Stearns false public statements on this,” says Hauserman. “But given the polluter influence in Washington these days, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised!”


Cliff STEARN, US Congressman (FL-rep.)

Editorial WARNING:
There are some statements in this writing that may not be quite accurate.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns defends hearing on the river – Opinion, by C. Stearn
August 23, 2011
The column by Ron Littlepage so distorted the facts that I barely recognized my own hearing.
As chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, I am responsible for conducting oversight on federal agencies under the jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
Given that the nation's unemployment is a painfully high 9.1 percent and more in Florida, my panel is targeting regulatory reform to promote job creation.
In meeting Clean Water Act requirements, the state of Florida developed numeric nutrient standards (controversial - no FL Numerical Standards so far ! ) to protect its aquatic resources. The EPA initially accepted Florida's standards, but under pressure from interest groups that filed a lawsuit, the EPA reversed itself and decided to impose its own standards.
In establishing these new criteria, the EPA ignored important, science-based steps when imposing its broad-brush standards. The results are overly broad standards that will cost huge sums to implement, with no clear benefit to the quality of Florida's waters.
The state of Florida estimates that meeting the EPA standards would cost $5.7 billion to $8.4 billion a year - (controversial).
The University of Florida Agricultural Resources Economic Department and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services project that the EPA standards would kill over 14,000 agricultural jobs - (controversial).
On Aug. 9, I held a hearing in Orlando on the impact of these EPA standards on Florida's economy, job creation and communities. Littlepage claimed, "The witness list was filled with the names of polluters."
Yet, the witness list that included the EPA's regional administrator, the director of Florida's Office of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, the Watershed Management Section Manager for Pinellas County, a union representative and a representative from Gainesville's utility.
In addition, Paul Steinbrecher, director of Environmental Permitting for JEA, testified on behalf of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council.
These are hardly polluters.
Even though no environmental groups contacted my office or the committee office seeking to testify until after it was final, I asked that David Guest, director, Florida Regional Office of Earthjustice, be added.
In his statement, Guest noted that he was speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Through this hearing, we learned that Cross Bayou, within the Tampa Bay Estuary System, has an extensive oyster reef that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has described as pristine. Yet the water quality of this area does not come close to meeting EPA's standards.
Furthermore, witnesses representing Pinellas County and Gainesville testified that the EPA standards would actually prevent them from improving the local water quality by diverting funds from ongoing cleanup efforts.
My goal is simple: To have the EPA and the state of Florida work together in enhancing the state's water resources without imposing standards that would further damage the economy and impede job creation (controversial).


Coral reef

Human sewage killing coral species, researchers say
Agence France-Presse and Reuters
August 22, 2011
Bacterial disease causes leprosy-like lesions.
Human sewage is to blame for a disease that is killing elkhorn coral, listed as endangered several years ago because of a massive die-off, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The coral lives in waters off South Florida and the Bahamas and was once the most prevalent in the Caribbean, but has been vanishing due to white pox disease, caused by the bacterium Serratia marcescens that is found in human fecal waste.
The pox produces leprosy-like lesions that eat away at, and kill, the coral, said the report by the scientists from Georgia and Florida universities.
Researchers analyzed the bacteria from a waste water treatment facility in Key West, Fla., and compared it with feces samples from local animals and birds. The type afflicting coral was found to match the kind found in human sewage. In the study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, researchers described their finding as "the first time a human disease has been shown to cause population declines of a marine invertebrate."
"These bacteria do not come from the ocean, they come from us," said co-author James Porter of the University of Georgia.
Serratia marcescens can cause a host of infections in humans, ranging from respiratory to urinary to skin, and has been linked to meningitis and pneumonia.
Porter said the white pox disease caused by human waste, known scientifically as acroporid serratiosis, had contributed heavily to an 88-per-cent decline of elkhorn coral in the Florida Keys over the last 15 years. Hurricanes and high temperature bleaching were other killers of coral.
"Bacteria from humans kill corals - that's the bad news," said Porter. "But the good news is that we can solve this problem with advanced waste water treatment facilities," like one recently completed in the tourist haven of Key West. The entire surrounding area in South Florida is upgrading its waste water treatment plants, which should block the bacteria from reaching to open ocean, the study said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it has been "one of the three most important Caribbean corals contributing to reef growth and development and providing essential fish habitat" over the past 10,000 years.
Coral reefs are among the most critically endangered habitats on Earth and the Florida Keys and Caribbean islands rely on the attraction of their fabulous natural reefs to draw divers, snorkellers and fishermen.
Disease, pollution, predation, warmer water temperatures and storms have contributed to population losses of 75 to 95 per cent of the coral since 1980, NOAA said.
Porter said the research findings highlighted the urgent need for human waste water to receive proper chemical treatment to remove the coral-killing Serratia marcescens bacterium from effluent. This could be a costly challenge in poorer Caribbean states where infrastructure is often badly underdeveloped.
"The lesson is unless we protect the environment, we're killing the goose that lays the golden egg and our discovery shows that we've got the smoking gun to prove it," he said.


In new column, Hiaasen counters GOP attacks on EPA
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 22, 2011
In an opinion piece published Sunday in The Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen says that recent GOP attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency “ignore the problem” and that claims that the agency is a “job killer” are attempts to get campaign donations from petroleum and coal conglomerates.
Conservatives have certainly come out hard against the EPA in recent months. Hiaasen cites a speech by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who recently told an Iowa crowd: “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.” But Bachmann’s claims, contends Hiaasen, are less worrisome that those of Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas, who is widely considered to be a GOP frontrunner.
From Hiaasen’s piece:
“Like Bachmann, Perry refuses to accept that global warming is real. He launched a lawsuit to stop the EPA from enacting rules to limit greenhouse gasses from oil refineries, power plants and other industrial sources.
Perry likes to whine that “EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America,” a statement that draws more cheers in his native state than in the rest of the country. In fact, polls show that a large majority of Americans are worried about air and water pollution, and hold a positive view of the EPA.
Nothing kills jobs like an environmental catastrophe, as the Gulf Coast gravely experienced during (and after) the BP oil spill last year. The true cost of that accident to the economies of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida is probably incalculable, although surely many billions of dollars were lost.
The cleanup wasn’t perfect, but it’s absurd to think that BP would have worked faster or more efficiently if the Obama administration and the EPA hadn’t been leaning on the company, both publicly and behind closed doors.” - (end of quote).
According to Hiaasen, the hostility to the EPA can be attributed to money. “The petroleum and coal conglomerates are huge GOP donors, and they’d love to have a president who would gut the EPA,” he writes. “Second, it’s about politics. To win Republican primaries — the theory goes — a candidate must fire up the Wingnut Right. The easiest way to do that is to brainlessly bash whatever government does.”
Perhaps Hiaasen’s most important point, though, is that the attacks on the EPA are based on an idea that the agency’s regulations cost money and kill jobs. But the fact that pollution costs money and kill jobs goes largely ignored. In Florida, where tourism, fishing and water-based recreation make up such an important portion of the state’s economic sector, the lack of environmental regulation may hinder, rather than help, economic growth.


GOP attacks on EPA ignore the problem
Miami Herald – by Carl Hiaasen
August 21, 2011
Dutifully following their Tea Party scripts, most of the Republican presidential candidates have declared war on the Environmental Protection Agency. They claim that the economy is being smothered by regulations designed to keep our air and water safe.
No iota of evidence is being offered, and in fact the record profits of big energy companies indicate a spectacular lack of suffering.
But listen to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s promise to an Iowa crowd about one of her first presidential priorities: “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.”
Granted, Bachmann is a witless parrot who has no chance — absolutely zero — of being elected to the White House. But her hatred of the EPA is shared by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who is considered a GOP frontrunner.
Like Bachmann, Perry refuses to accept that global warming is real. He launched a lawsuit to stop the EPA from enacting rules to limit greenhouse gasses from oil refineries, power plants and other industrial sources.
Perry likes to whine that “EPA regulations are killing jobs all across America,” a statement that draws more cheers in his native state than in the rest of the country. In fact, polls show that a large majority of Americans are worried about air and water pollution, and hold a positive view of the EPA.
Nothing kills jobs like an environmental catastrophe, as the Gulf Coast gravely experienced during (and after) the BP oil spill last year. The true cost of that accident to the economies of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida is probably incalculable, although surely many billions of dollars were lost.
The cleanup wasn’t perfect, but it’s absurd to think that BP would have worked faster or more efficiently if the Obama administration and the EPA hadn’t been leaning on the company, both publicly and behind closed doors.
Forty-one years ago the agency was formed, and for good reason: Toxins by the ton were being flagrantly pumped into this country’s rivers, bays and oceans, and blown through smokestacks into the air. People were getting sick and dying only because some companies were too greedy to spend money cleaning up their own mess.
The corporate mentality toward pollution has changed because the alternatives are heavy fines, criminal penalties and savage publicity. A reminder of why we still need the EPA was last month’s oil spill on the Yellowstone River, which affected ranchers, farmers, fishing guides and rafting companies. It also occurred seven months after Exxon Mobil insisted that its pipeline would never rupture because it was buried too deep.
Of all the reasons government exists, none is more crucial than trying to keep its citizens safe, whether from a terrorist attack, Wall Street’s recklessness or industrial poisoning.
Not surprisingly, surveys show that most Americans want their children to grow up drinking clean water and breathing clean air. How, then, to explain the radical hostility of Bachmann, Perry, Newt Gingrich and some of the other Republican candidates?
First, it’s about raising money. The petroleum and coal conglomerates are huge GOP donors, and they’d love to have a president who would gut the EPA.
Second, it’s about politics. To win Republican primaries — the theory goes — a candidate must fire up the Wingnut Right. The easiest way to do that is to brainlessly bash whatever government does.
Perry specializes in this, even though almost half of Texas’ vaunted employment growth has been in the public sector — government jobs, in other words. You won’t hear the governor complain about the $200 billion that U.S. taxpayers pump into his state’s economy annually for military bases and related industries.
One thing to emerge from the Republicans’ attacks on the EPA is the early campaign path of Mitt Romney. Clearly, his strategy is to appear less loony and misinformed than his rivals.
Romney says the EPA has an important role, and furthermore he has actually conceded that global warming is a fact. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney expressed interest in a carbon cap-and-trade program, and proposed a plan to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.
Predictably, with the primaries looming, Romney now says he opposes regulating carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change. As he and the other GOP candidates begin piling into Florida for the long campaign, pay attention to their rhetoric about the dreaded EPA.
The economy here would crumble if the environment was left unprotected. Florida can’t survive without tourism, and tourism dies when tar balls and rotting fish turn up on the beach.
What remains of the long-polluted Everglades would also be doomed without a federal regulatory presence, however cumbersome. Doomed, too, would be South Florida’s chief source of fresh water, upon which business growth depends — not to mention the future of about eight million people.
Yet don’t be surprised if Perry and Bachmann arrive here clinging to the Tea Party narrative that government oversight is inherently evil. They’d like us to kindly forget about that little mishap in the Gulf of Mexico last year, and other manmade though preventable disasters.
It’s easier to ignore the past and stick to the script, especially if someone else is writing it


Senate debate: How would candidates rein in federal regulations ?
Florida Independent - by Travis Pillow
August 21, 2011
The candidates at Saturday’s U.S. Senate debate in Orlando spent most of the time agreeing with each other (some wraparound coverage of the debate can be found here and here). The four Republicans are all opposed to abortion (with some nuances), and they all believe taxes should be lower, the federal government should be smaller, the United Nations undermines America’s sovereignty and states’ rights should be paramount.
State Rep. Scott Plakon, who was among the few hundred people seated in the half-full auditorium at Howard Middle School to hear the candidates, said many of their stated positions — being “pro-life,” for example — are basically “mandatory” for GOP primary contenders. One way to set the candidates apart is to look at how they would translate their beliefs into policy.
For that reason, one of the most interesting questions of the debate came at the end, when longtime Central Florida tea party activist Jason Hoyt asked the candidates what “specific legislation” they planned on supporting to curb what Hoyt described as “draconian” federal regulations.
Craig Miller, a Central Florida businessman and former CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, was up first, and led with a specific proposal: a 25 percent, across-the-board funding cut for regulatory agencies.
“If you cut the funding to these agencies, you cut their ability to continue to regulate abusively,” he said.
Having been “on the receiving end of this regulatory madness for decades, I fully understand why businesses are keeping their money on the sidelines,” he added, and sending a signal that the federal government was going to “back off” would allow “the free enterprise system to drive our economy forward.”
He went on to say that doing away with the Department of Education (which did not exist when he was in school) or the Environmental Protection Agency might not be feasible during his first weeks in office. His plan was a viable starting point.
Next up was former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. “These federal regulatory agencies are out of control,” he thundered. “They are stifling economic growth here in our country.”
He pointed to the National Labor Relations Board. “What they’re doing to Boeing in South Carolina is not only anti-competitive, it’s anti-American,” he said. (Background on that issue can be found here and here.) The EPA, meanwhile, is trying “to pass cap and trade around the back door,” and “singling out the state of Florida” with water quality standards.
“These agencies are out of control, and Republicans in Washington need to be more agressive, because it doesn’t just happen under Democrat administrations. It happens under Republican administrations,” he added. Hasner seemed to have glossed over the part about “specific legislation.”
“I’d repeal ObamaCare. That’s the first thing we should do,” offered former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, to thunderous applause.
LeMieux noted that he opposed the federal health care reform law, and that it wasn’t long after its passage that “the American people woke up” and started electing more Republicans.
He said he’s also like to get rid of the Dodd-Frank financial reform package, which he also opposed during his short stint on Capitol Hill. He also noted that he fought the EPA’s water quality standards by helping to delay their implementation and passed legislation to curb Medicare fraud.
Col. Mike McCalister was the last candidate to address the question. One of the first things the country needs is a “comprehensive national security policy,” including tougher immigration laws,” according to him.
As for federal regulations, there are simply too many. “There’s too many laws, and there’s too many rules, and there’s too many departments, and there’s too many positions that are unconstitutional, that just need to go away,” he said.
He’d set his sights on the Department of Education, and perhaps the Labor Department and the EPA, which he said are unconstitutional and preforming functions that should be left to the states.




Top 5 local Southwest Florida Water Management District land purchases since 1991:

1. Myakka ranchlands: $48 million, Sarasota County

2. Deer Prairie Creek: $14 million, Sarasota County

3. Ed Chance Reserve: $10.8 million, Manatee County

4. Myakka River State Park: $9.5 million, Sarasota County

5. Charlotte Harbor Buffer Preserve: $6.7 million Charlotte County

View an interactive
database and map
of water district

Big cuts, smaller projects ahead for water agencies
Herald Tribune – by Zac Anderson
August 20, 2011
The biggest shake-up in state water policy in decades is unfolding this summer as the agencies that supervise everything from drinking water supplies for 19 million Floridians to flood control and environmental restoration undergo unprecedented budget cuts.
The $210 million cut will result in less environmental monitoring, the elimination of conservation land purchases and fewer drinking water projects like the new $128 million water treatment plant and reservoir along the Peace River that supplies Sarasota County and the surrounding region, according to preliminary budget proposals approved this month.
Critics say politicians and businesses hostile to the water management districts' regulatory and environmental policies are using the lagging economy as an excuse to roll back the agencies' power.
State lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott pitched the cuts as tax relief and an effort to rein in agencies that have seen significant budget growth.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District alone -- which governs 16 counties in the Tampa Bay region through Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte -- is slashing $119 million in annual spending.
The 44 percent budget reduction is the largest of any water district in the state.
Lawmakers accuse the water districts of growing fat on property tax money during the real estate boom -- amassing large reserves and bloated staffing.
In Southwest Florida, the district's annual service budget nearly doubled between 2002 and 2008, peaking at $390 million and 897 employees.
The proposed 2012 budget is back to 1999 levels: $161 million and 796 employees.
State leaders ordered the largest cuts to district programs considered inflated or nonessential, including land acquisition, regulatory staff and community outreach.
The owner of a $150,000 house will save $13 a year in reduced property taxes in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and $17 in Charlotte County.
"This property tax cut allows families and businesses to use more of their hard-earned money in the way they see best, rather than having to send it to a government agency," Scott said in a recent statement.
Critics say the cuts are short-sighted.
"Thirteen dollars is a pizza from Sam's Club; it's relatively meaningless for the individual. But when you add it all up it's of huge importance to the future of this state," said former Southwest water district executive director Sonny Vergara.
The cuts affect every district program, including $33 million less for drinking water development in Southwest Florida, $14 million less for water quality efforts and $6 million less for flood protection.
But some programs are being hit harder than others.
Too much land ?
Florida had the most aggressive land conservation program in the country prior to the economic downturn.
Water district leaders managed the purchases with an eye toward protecting sensitive water bodies.
Since 1991, the Southwest district has spent $114 million on 73,000 acres of land in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties.
The money went to purchase property along Charlotte Harbor, the Myakka River, Peace River, Tampa Bay, Shell Creek and the Little Manatee River.
A recent order by the Department of Environmental Protection spelled out the new policy: "No new land purchases."
The DEP memo distributed to water district leaders by Scott's administration instructed that: "Prioritizing our spending requires us to take a much harder look at whether the dollars we spend are congruent with the core mission of the districts."
"We have to go back to the basics," water district board member Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County home builder, said during a recent meeting in arguing that flood control and developing drinking water supplies should take precedence over land conservation.
Local governments that were hoping to partner with the water district on conservation purchases are re-evaluating their plans, including proposals in Manatee County to buy land along the Manatee River and Braden River.
Short-sighted ?
Pulling back too much on land acquisition and environmental restoration is a mistake, said Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton.
The real estate lull has taken the pressure off developing drinking water supplies. Money could be diverted to conservation and fixing impaired water bodies without raising taxes.
Such projects improve water quality, a core mission of the district, Thaxton said.
One local example is Cow Pen Slough east of Venice, which was dredged and channelized years ago to drain agricultural land, destroying wetlands and flooding Dona Bay downstream with too much fresh water.
Sarasota County recently secured $1.8 million from the water district to restore the wetlands but the money was eliminated because of the budget crunch.
Lobbying by county leaders restored the funds, but similar grants will be in short supply going forward.
Thaxton compared environmental restoration to paying off debts.
"We spent 20 years behind the eight ball," Thaxton said. "Now we have some extra money in the account and we should use this opportunity to wipe out our debt and make sure we don't go back into debt when demand returns."
Also included in the DEP memo was a directive to cut the water district's regulatory staff, which is responsible for permitting drinking water supplies and impacts to wetlands.
"Taxpayers and the regulated community become frustrated when government grows in size and scope," Scott's administration wrote.
Such language has environmental advocates calling the water district cuts a backdoor deregulation strategy that will allow allow harmful development practices to flourish.
In the Tampa Bay area alone, the Southwest Florida Water Management District spent more than $300 million in recent years on alternative drinking water methods such as desalination and a new reservoir, Vergara said.
The spending was necessary because regulators allowed excessive groundwater pumping, depressurizing the aquifer and leading to an epidemic of sinkholes, dying wetlands and salt water intrusion.
With deregulation, Vergara fears developers will again take too much groundwater.
Nearly 20 percent of the district's environment resource permitting staff is being cut this year.
Some of the cuts are understandable because permit applications have dropped, Vergara said. But developers have long put pressure on the district to loosen standards.
"You have people who have been regulated for years and years, who really dislike being regulated, and they're taking this opportunity to cut the districts' knees out," he said.


Tallahassee can't repeal law of unintended consequences
Orlando Sentinel – by Aaron Deslatte, Capitol View
August 20, 2011
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers keep getting reminders that the law of unintended consequences is one they can't repeal.
Scott was sternly rebuked last week by the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled he violated the separation of powers by freezing hundreds of proposed rules. Scott's move was a gift to business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, which have lamented for years that Florida "over-regulates."
But Florida's courts remain a last bastion for miffed citizens, beleaguered Democrats, unions and liberal advocacy groups. Scott's lawyers are defending him in nine legal challenges to policies he and the GOP-led Legislature have passed this year.
Scott understands the reality that government is designed to work differently from the business sector. "I took civics class," he joked with reporters last week, adding, "I'm not sure it always works the way it's supposed to work."
But full-throated conservative overhauls that aren't in the courts also are running into bureaucratic barriers.
A push to privatize South Florida prisons is already $25 million over budget, even though nothing has happened, thanks to the exorbitant cost of paying for the vacation and sick leave for the 4,000 corrections employees the move would get rid of. The department last week also scrapped plans to privatize health-care services in its prisons statewide.
Both initiatives were pushed by Republicans to save costs, and opposed by the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
As critical as Scott has been of President Barack Obama and Congress over the nation's credit downgrade, Florida political leaders have one of their own.
After lawmakers' move to cut water-management-district budgets, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating for the South Florida Water Management District from AAA to AA+, a move that will cost taxpayers more when the agency has to borrow money for Everglades and other water projects.
But Scott said he was confident GOP leaders acted responsibly when they limited property-tax authority for four of the state's five water districts.
"We actually did the right thing. We're making sure all our water-management districts go back to their core mission," Scott said, citing the $206 million or so the move will save for homeowners through most of the state. "What's going on with our water-management districts — it's good what's happening."
Asked about the increased cost of selling bonds, Scott was defiant.
"Why should they be out borrowing money?" he said. "They should be doing what the state's doing. ... Especially in tough times like this. What would you do in your households?"
Even something as simple has consolidating the state's email systems has become a big deal.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam complained at a Cabinet meeting that the effort will cost his agency more and provide fewer services.
For years, Florida's roughly two dozen state agencies have been allowed to develop their own information-technology systems. Now the Legislation has mandated consolidation of email and data services, and Florida's IT guru on Tuesday told the Cabinet it would save a minimum of $15 million during seven years. But it would impact some agencies differently than others.
Attorney General Pam Bondi's office, for example, was allowed to opt out because its email system was embedded within a larger IT product that would cost $20 million to replace.
"I understand the theory behind it," Putnam said, "but the reality bites."


10 local positions among 134 layoffs at South Florida Water Management District
Naples Daily News - by ERIC STAATS
August 18, 2011
The budget ax fell this week at the South Florida Water Management District, chopping 10 positions based in Southwest Florida.
The cuts are part of a round of 134 layoffs across the West Palm Beach-based district with duties from Everglades restoration to flood control and water supply in 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys, including Collier and Lee.
A property tax cap imposed by Gov. Rick Scott triggered $103 million in budget cuts at the district and raised concerns from some environmental advocates.
Districtwide, the layoffs will save some $9 million, including almost $609,000 in Southwest Florida, according to district figures.
Besides layoffs, 123 district employees have taken early retirement and another 29 vacant positions will go unfilled, raising the salaries savings to $28 million.
The cuts do not include any employees of the Big Cypress Basin, the Collier County arm of the district.
“For us, we were fortunate,” the Basin’s Executive Director Clarence Tears said.
Layoffs at the Lower West Coast Service Center in Fort Myers include three scientists, a business management analyst, project management analyst, a budget analyst, a construction manager, project manager, public outreach specialist, engineering specialist and a permit technician.
Their annual salaries ranged from $40,000 to $80,000, and they had between two and 26 years of experience with the district, according to a list of layoffs.
Among them was wetland ecologist Mike Duever, a longtime champion of the Picayune Strand restoration project in eastern Collier County.
“That’s a big hit,” Conservancy of Southwest Florida President Andrew McElwaine said.
The project, under construction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is building huge pump stations, tearing out roads and plugging canals to return more natural water flows to an abandoned subdivision south of Interstate 75.
Duever, who has been working on the project since 2000, was part of a team of state and federal scientists overseeing road removal and canal filling to ensure the project meets its restoration goals.
He said he would try to find ways to continue his work at Picayune, maybe with other agencies or as a volunteer.
“I don’t have any intention of stopping,” Duever said.
The district released a statement Thursday saying that it will continue to support the restoration and “direct agency resources, as needed, to help achieve restoration success.”


134 laid off at Fla. water management district
Associated Press (Miami Herald)
August 18, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The South Florida Water Management District has laid off 134 employees.
The Palm Beach Post ( reports that the layoffs will save the district $9 million. Among those cut over the last week are 20 scientists, nine engineers and two attorneys.
The scientists had an average of 15 years of service, and 11 were senior or lead scientists. These cuts, in addition to 19 scientists who took a buyout in June, and others who left beforehand, reduce the staff that handles the most technical projects, like Everglades restoration.
The CEO of the Everglades Foundation says he is concerned about the cuts. A district official says he is confident those who remain are capable of continuing restoration programs.
A new law reduces the amount of property taxes the district can collect.


$9.6M estuarine research center opens in Florida
Associated Press
August 18, 2011
EASTPOINT, Fla. -- A $9.6 million state-federal nature center now is open in the Florida Panhandle.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard cut the ribbon Wednesday at Eastpoint, about 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee.
The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center has 18,000 square feet of learning space and two wet and dry laboratories.
Visitors can observe native plant and animal life in three large walk-around tanks. Each holds more than 1,000 gallons of water.
The reserve covers 246,000 acres. It was established in 1979 to protect the region's biological diversity.
The state contributed $5.4 million toward the nature center's construction. The federal share was $4.2 million.
The state also is spending nearly $1.2 million to operate the reserve this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is contributing $587,190.


(mouse over photos)
Invasive species
Hydrilla verticillata

Hydrilla close-up

Highly aggressive, invasive aquatic plant species, Hydrilla verticillata, discovered in Cayuga Lake Inlet
The Post-Standard – by David Figura
August 18, 2011
The following is a Cornell University Cooperative Extension press release:
ITHACA, N.Y. — The highly invasive aquatic plant, Hydrilla verticillata, known commonly as “hydrilla’”or “water thyme” was detected last week in the Cayuga Inlet by Cornell University staff. hydrilla is an aggressively growing plant that can displace native plants, clog waterways and interfere with boating, fishing, and swimming.
To date, hydrilla appears to be localized in the Cayuga Inlet, with no evidence that it has yet rooted in Cayuga Lake. It has long, slender stems that can grow underwater to lengths of up to 25 feet. If left unchecked, hydrilla can grow up to an inch per day, creating a thick mat of vegetation when it reaches the water’s surface. Hydrilla quickly shades out other aquatic plants, displacing native species.
This is the first detection of hydrilla in Upstate New York waters, and the risk of it spreading to Cayuga Lake and other regional water bodies is substantial. Fragments of the plant, which are easily caught and transported by boats and boat trailers, can sprout roots and establish new populations. Fragments also float and are capable of dispersing via wind and water currents. Native to Asia, hydrilla was first introduced to the U.S. in the 1950s when the contents of an aquarium were dumped into a waterway in Florida. It has since spread from Florida to Maine and into a number of Western states. It is found worldwide on every continent except Antarctica.
Recreational users of Cayuga Inlet are urged to employ clean boating practices to prevent the further spread of hydrilla and other aquatic invasive species. Remove any plants, mud or debris from boats or equipment that came in contact with water. Drain any water from boats before leaving a launch area. Clean and dry anything that came in contact with water including boats, trailers, gear, clothing and dogs. Never release plants, fish or bait into a water body unless they came out of that particular water body.
For more information about hydrilla and other invasive species, visit Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse at


Rock mining
Rock mining is not
ecologically safe in
Florida environment

Lee likely to deny mining request
August 18, 2011
Examiner finds plan has traffic issues.
The Lee County commission will decide Sept. 19 whether to approve construction of a new mine off Corkscrew Road south of Lehigh Acres.
If commissioners make their decision based on the county hearing examiner's opinion, the lime-rock mine will be rejected.
Deputy Hearing Examiner Richard Gescheidt recommended the commission deny the request of Troyer Brothers Florida Inc. to mine 1,800 acres of land that is now, in large part, potato farms. He cited potential traffic problems on State Road 82 as the reason.
The commission usually follows the hearing examiner's recommendation in cases such as this, said Commissioner John Manning.
"Unless there are some strong legal circumstances, we as a board will usually uphold the staff and the hearing examiner's opinion in these types of cases, so it's probably something we'll abide with," Manning said.
The mine would cause a significant increase of traffic along a two-lane section of State Road 82 between Colonial Boulevard and the county line. Traffic hauling out rocks and bringing in supplies would result in 1,640 daily truck trips along a road that can only handle 650 vehicles an hour, according to a traffic impact
Talk back: Want to share your views on this story? You'll find it on our website where you can log in, speak out and be heard.
study presented at the hearing.
If the commission votes to approve the request, Gescheidt recommended Troyer Brothers be required to pay for road improvements along S.R. 82.
Troyer Brothers disagrees, arguing the mine wouldn't generate the traffic the study projects and that the listed capacity rates for S.R. 82 are too low.
Gescheidt heard testimony on the application between November and January and issued his opinion Aug. 2. He determined traffic congestion to be the application's only problem, finding that the mine would not adversely affect the environment, water quality or the health and comfort of neighboring residents.
Troyer Brothers is taking that as a good sign. The company hopes commissioners will see the mine's value, said Tina Matte, a spokeswoman for Troyer Brothers.
"We need limestone to build roads, to build foundations, to build homes - and getting it locally as opposed to trucking it in is actually better," Matte said.
Lee County staff did not agree that traffic is the only problem with the mine application, according to county planner Chip Block. In November, staff recommended the hearing examiner deny the application, claiming the mine could create potential environmental and public harm and increased traffic. The application also failed to show the need for a new mine, their report stated.
At the proposed 1,800- acre site, Troyer Brothers now grows potatoes on 1,000 of those acres. Wetlands with extensive plant and animal species make up the other 800 acres.
Mary Abramson, 59, is worried about how the mine could affect panthers living in the area. Abramson lives next door to the property and she and her neighbors often see panthers nearby.
Abramson, who already lives with one mine about a quarter mile from her doorstep, worries about the day-to-day inconveniences mines bring their neighbors.
"When they blast for mines it rattles the houses really bad, and then when you flush the toilet you get sand coming up through the toilet," she said.
There are now six or seven other outstanding applications for mines south of S.R. 82 and east of Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, Block said. County commissioners denied a mine application by Corkscrew Excavation in May 2010.


Protecting our water supply
Daily Tribune
August 18, 2011
As reported in The Macomb Daily, the Republican-led legislature in Ohio wants to buck the efforts of other states and provinces to protect Great Lakes waters with its plans to increase withdrawals from the lakes, the rivers that feed them and the groundwater in the watershed area. Its rationale is that it will be able to offer help to those industries that require large amounts of water and enable them to bring new jobs to the area.
No one must have told these folks that there is a limit to the water than can be taken out of the Lakes — I think it is around 1 percent — without causing harm. This assumes using the water within the watershed and allowing it to drain back into the system.
Michigan taught Ohio a lesson in the Toledo War of 1835, and it can do it again. After all, we are upstream of them. Maybe we'll just take out all the water we want and attract all those steel mills to Detroit.
If that doesn't work, we have another option. Thanks to Republicans in the House of Representatives — including our own Candice Miller — who passed H.R. 2018, the EPA's ability to deal with water quality will be weakened in favor of giving more control to the states. Pretty soon, we won't have to deal with as many of those job-killing pollution standards. Farmers in Florida won't have to worry about fertilizer runoff, mine owners in West Virginia will be able to blow the tops off mountains and dump the detritus into local streams, and we can send all the waste we want down to Ohio instead of spending money on proper disposal
Ohioans will flock to Michigan to escape the mess, companies will migrate here to take advantage of our lax regulations, and the price of my house will head back toward the figure I paid.
By the way, H.R. 2018 is called "The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011," a title that is designed to showcase a reassertion of the power of the states just like the framers of the Constitution intended back when it was written, the days when our population was 4 million, industries did not gulp water and send pollution across state borders, and most Americans probably never went farther than 10 miles from home.
I'm all for creating jobs and building industry, but I remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. I also remember when Lake Erie died. I also know how important our waters are to the economic well-being of our agricultural and tourist industries; witness the efforts of Mark Hackel and others to promote the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair. We need to work on better, more efficient use of our water supply, not quick solutions which will harm us in the long run.
James Nazarko, Macomb Township


John Fumero

$200,000 bill for water consultant focus of commission debate
August 17, 2011
At a time when local government officials are slashing away at budgets, a $200,000 consultant's contract came under fire Tuesday at the Lee County commission meeting.
For about six years, former South Florida Water Management District employee John Fumero has provided county leaders with advice on water issues. His fee is paid out of the county's tourism fund.
Fumero is an attorney with Rose Sundstrom & Bentley LLP, but the contract refers to him as a water consultant.
The size of the contract and failure to advertise for other bids struck a sour note with some of the commissioners, as well as with other county leaders. The contract was approved, 3-2, with commissioners Frank Mann and Brian Bigelow dissenting.
While legal services are exempt from the competitive bidding process, Bigelow questioned whether Fumero is functioning more as a lobbyist and liaison with the water management district.
Local tourism leader Tamara Pigott said Fumero has provided the community with legal advice on a regular basis, but his expertise on water issues and dealing with agencies is invaluable.
County Attorney Michael Hunt said he was uncomfortable with the size of the contract. So did Roy Hyman, a member of the Golden Goose Committee, a budget watchdog group, and Clerk of Court Charlie Green.
Referring to the contract as a part-time job, Hyman said the county is, once again, overpaying despite efforts to cut back in areas.
The $200,000 is too much for one person to work on water issues, especially because the county has a full-time attorney and staff members, he said.
Green focused on legalities. He said he'd been looking at the ordinance that outlines tourism expenditures and Fumero's services are "a bit of a stretch."
Green suggested cleaning up the ordinance language before renewing the contract.
Noting the contract was a bit pricey, Hunt said he'd asked the board to defer the item. That request wasn't granted.
Commissioner John Manning wanted to give Hunt more time to explore the contract, but commissioners Ray Judah and Tammy Hall pushed for approval.
Judah said some with special interests would like to undermine the contract. Hall questioned Hunt on his objections until Commissioner Frank Mann put a stop to it, calling it "harassment."
Judah and Hall said the commission had looked at his contract in previous years. That didn't satisfy Mann.
"At a time when we have no money, why are we not renegotiating these contracts as they come forward?" Mann asked. "There are lots of people who are willing to take less for what they do. We have not been consistent in the way we do this."
Commissioners negotiated lobbyist Keith Arnold down from his previous $90,000 to $55,000, Mann said. Why not renegotiate with Fumero, he asked.
Further, the water management district has laid off about 200 employees in the past few months and retired another 100. That includes attorneys who are probably "very capable of doing what Mr. Fumero can do," Mann said. "That's what drives me crazy. It's the dollars that drive me nuts."


Cousteau Jr.
Philippe COUSTEAU, Jr.

Cousteau: We all have an echo in the world
JAVMA News - by Susan C. Kahler
August 17, 2011
Conservationist delivers a hope-filled message at opening session
"I'm thrilled to be here, certainly in a room with kindred spirits committed to animal welfare like myself, of course," keynoter Philippe Cousteau Jr., a leading champion of the environment and conservation, said July 16 at the AVMA Annual Convention opening session sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc.
Cousteau connected with the veterinary audience, saying he and his mother combed through old photograph albums for pictures only his family had seen before that he could share with attendees. They show him growing up with assorted animals—including deer, a runt pig, a raccoon, snakes, a prairie dog, poultry, and a squirrel that chose to become a family pet—being cared for by his mother, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. "We spent a lot of time with vets," he said.
People must keep their eyes open, Cousteau said. He described how his famous grandfather, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, dreamed as a young man of becoming a pilot until an automobile accident forced him to change course. Swimming in the Mediterranean every day during his recovery opened his eyes to nature and led him to co-invent the scuba tank.
"Learning about AVMA … you share this idea of looking at the world in a different way, especially (through) 'one health,'" Cousteau said.
As a teenager accompanying his grandfather to remote Papua, New Guinea, he saw "an example of how the golden threads unite everyone on the planet" when, while walking down a dusty jungle path, his group encountered tribesmen in native dress—except for a few who wore L.A. Lakers T-shirts.
"We are all connected. We all have an echo in the world around us," he said. That's why Cousteau and his sister, Alexandra, named the nonprofit they founded EarthEcho International. Its mission is to empower youth to protect the planet's water.
Today a billion people don't have fresh water, and the first genocide of the 21st century—in Sudan—was over water, he said. Cousteau said the world's population of 7 billion is projected to grow to 9 billion by midcentury, bringing water and energy challenges and a need to increase food production by 70 percent. "We're eating 1.5 Earths a year," he said.
No one has the right to sacrifice the clean water and air of the next generation, and whatever one's views on climate change, being open to knowledge is important, Cousteau said, offering evidence that "unprecedented changes" are under way.
Cousteau previewed a clip from the CNN "Extreme Science" documentary in which he joined scientists searching for answers about climate change in the Arctic.
Sometimes environmental change happens slowly, outside today's fast-paced news cycle, he said. To show the extent of just two decades of damage and species loss in the Florida Keys, he contrasted footage of the world's third-largest barrier reef taken by divers in the late '80s with recently shot video. "Ocean acidification will be called the other carbon problem," he said. Species such as coral, shrimp, and oysters can't extract calcium carbonate to make their shells. "A lot of this is caused by us," he said.
Asked what an individual can do, he suggested baby steps such as eating less meat, looking closely at political candidates, and being open to new ideas.
"If there's a universal truth we say at EarthEcho, it's not that you can make a difference; the truth is that everything you do makes a difference. Our choices have consequences. That's a hope-filled message," Cousteau said, "because it means every single one of us has the power to change the world."


Art.R. Marshall Foundation
Arthur R. Marshall

'Graduation Luncheon' honors work of Everglades interns
Sun Sentinel
August 17, 2011
Nancy Marshall, president of the board of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, which champions the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem, saluted the nonprofit organization's four Summer Everglades Interns at a "Graduation Luncheon."
More than 80 supporters of the Marshall Foundation attended the luncheon, which was held on Aug. 4 at the West Palm Beach headquarters of the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin counties. Among those attending were West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Palm Beach County School Board member Jenny Prior Brown and Leslie Lilly, president/CEO of the Community Foundation.
"To the extent possible, the 2011 summer interns calculated the total economic impact of the 2011 drought/water supply shortage, concluding that economic costs of water shortages would be significantly reduced by restoring the Everglades at less cost than the economic impacts of droughts over the next 40 years," said John Marshall, who is board chair for the Marshall Foundation and the Florida Environmental Institute, Inc.
"The costs of recurring drought/water shortages over the next 40 years were calculated to be between $8 - $11 billion; this begins to approach the cost of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) implementation. This cost range provides a conservative estimate, because there were many negative externalities that could not be calculated, such as soil loss. Based on CERP total benefits and costs, including the benefit of drought/water supply shortage cost avoidance, the CERP return on investment or benefit to cost ratio was estimated to be on the order of $10 for every $1 spent…" said John Marshall.
The Marshall Foundation's 2011 Everglades interns were Vanessa Aparicio, who recently graduated from Stetson University with a bachelors of science in biology and environmental science; David Diaz, a recent graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelors degree in environmental science and a minor in international studies in agriculture and life sciences; Judy Hartshorn, who graduated from the University of Miami in May 2011 with a major in marine affairs and minors in biology and communication studies; and Robert Hill, who is in his final semester at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he is majoring in environmental studies with a minor in biology.
"The purpose of this life-changing, career-enhancing summer program is to train the next generation of environmental leaders," said Nancy Marshall. "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."
Based in Palm Beach County, the Marshall Foundation champions the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem through science-based education and outreach programs. Annually, more than 15,000 elementary and high school students in Palm Beach County actively participate in the Marshall Foundation's various education programs.
Founded in 1998, the nonprofit organization has in recent years awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships and internships, planted nearly 100,000 native Florida trees in wetland areas and involved more than 5,000 volunteers in hands-on restoration projects.
For more information, visit


Phosphate Industry Is Challenged on Pollution
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
August 17, 2011
The effects of mining phosphate and manufacturing fertilizer have been controversial for decades, but until relatively recently no one was willing to take on the industry.
That's changing.
The most obvious change has been the preliminary success of a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to limit the expansion of mining further into the Peace River Basin in Hardee County in the absence of a fuller review of the environmental impacts.
That follows earlier challenges that met with mixed results by county and city officials in coastal areas over various mining proposals, some of which were supposedly in conflict with local governments' water supply plans to further tap the Peace River to support coastal development interests.
Although the industry does a better job of conserving water than it once did and some of the marginal companies that were the source of the worst environmental problems have gone out of business, some of the issues won't go away because of the nature of what the industry does.
Mining involves ripping out everything on the earth's surface over thousands of acres, digging deep holes in the ground to get to the phosphate rock and shipping it back to the fertilizer plants via pipelines.
Manufacturing phosphate creates air pollution. Large waste stacks containing toxic chemicals are left behind.
The industry was so powerful that the mining companies were not required to repair some of the damage mining caused to the land for nearly a century after phosphate mining began in Florida.
Even after reclamation was required, there has been disagreement over how well the restoration was done and, frankly, whether any restoration project is as good as leaving things alone in the first place.
The biggest issue has been what the cumulative impact of the digging, pumping and polluting has been.
Environmentalists pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update the environmental impact statement on the impacts of phosphate mining in Central Florida.
At the last public meeting the phosphate companies packed the hall in what I suppose was an attempt to make a statement. Mining company officials, consultants and vendors have been actively submitting comments to the Corps in connection with the study, according to a recent update Corps officials sent.
It's too early to say what the results of that study will be and, more specifically, whether it will result in any changes in the way the earth is altered and repaired in this part of Florida.
In addition to habitat loss and the effects on water supply, another issue is water quality, an issue that is broader than our immediate region.
Water pollution, a process called cultural eutrophication, is the result of decades of pollution by phosphorous and nitrogen runoff.
Locally, some of the phosphorous pollution is naturally occurring and there isn't anything anyone can do to fix it.
But the rest is the result of runoff from yards and farms where the products the phosphate industry makes and sells -- fertilizer -- are used (some claim overused) for everything from food crops to lawns.
One of the side effects of the flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries this year was the massive plume of fertilizer-polluted water that flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, increasing what is known as a "dead zone."
According to one estimate, 80 percent of the phosphorus put on land for plant nutrition is lost to runoff before it ever gets to the plants, which seems a waste of resources and a description of a poorly managed system.
Although the idea is still pending in Polk County, one of these days commissioners may have to grapple with the issue of how to impose fertilizer restrictions to reduce pollution runoff to comply with federal pollution permits.
The fertilizer industry and its allies in the lawn care industry -- the folks who sell this stuff in case the connection isn't clear -- have opposed these restrictions, arguing there's no scientific basis for requiring anyone to cut back on applying chemicals containing known water pollutants.
They've been able to persuade legislators to limit local regulations, so the industry still has some power in Tallahassee.
But when taxpayers are faced with cleanup bill for pollution the politicians allowed to continue for political reasons, that may change.
The influence of the phosphate industry lives on in other ways.
The wording on the soon-to-be-celebrated historic plaque commemorating former Kissengen Spring is vague on the issue of whose heavy water use was responsible for lowering the aquifer and leading to the spring's demise in 1950.
Imagine that.


FL Agriculture

Putnam Fires Shots at Federal Water Policies During Citrus Gathering
The Ledger - by Kevin Bouffard
August 17, 2011
The state ag commissioner spoke to a citrus industry gathering.
FORT MYERS | Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called water the most important long-term issue facing Florida and criticized two federal policies affecting the state's water resources.
Putnam, in a speech Wedneday to a citrus industry group, criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its proposed four-year moratorium to assess repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its attempt to impose new water quality standards on Florida's lakes, rivers and other water bodies.
The Army Corps says it needs the moratorium to assess the effectiveness of dike repairs during the past several years, Putnam said. The dike retains water in the lake, interrupting its natural flow to the Everglades and preventing it from flooding surrounding farms and communities.
"That's unacceptable to communities around the dike. That's unacceptable to agricultural users," Putnam said. "That ought to be unacceptable to anyone concerned about water quality in Florida."
The moratorium would further delay the ultimate goal, already estimated to take 20 years, of raising lake levels and potential water supplies, he said. "When you have more water, you have options. When you have no water, you have no options," Putnam said. "These water issues are vital to the state, and nothing is more important than Lake O."
Putnam, a Republican and Bartow native, spoke Wednesday evening to about 350 members and guests at the 2011 Gulf Citrus Growers Association Industry Banquet in Fort Myers as part of the Citrus Expo. The LaBelle-based association represents more than 130 growers in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties
Putnam ran for agriculture commissioner last year on a platform of addressing Florida's water supply issues.
Earlier this year, the EPA released new regulations setting maximum levels of certain chemicals in the state's waters. Most of the environmentally damaging chemicals come from water running off agriculture and residential land, picking up fertilizers and other chemicals.
Although the regulations don't require specific mediation efforts, communities and agriculture interests worry the standards will lead the federal government into forcing them to adopt expensive treatment measures. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Putnam heads, has sued the EPA to throw out the nutrient standards. "We're committed to challenging the EPA on numeric water quality criteria, which is flawed science," Putnam said.
Putnam warned against efforts to do away with local control of water issues from the five regional water management districts into a single state entity. Over time, it would accelerate the "water wars" between the coastal and interior counties and between North and South Florida, he said.



Rick Scott on WMD's S&P Downgrade: 'It's Good'
Sunshine News – by Michael Peltier News Service of Florida
August 17, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday defended legislative actions that prompted a leading rating agency to downgrade the credit rating of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees billions in debt for a host of issues from flood protection to Everglades restoration.
Following on the heels of its decision to downgrade its debt rating on the U.S. government from AAA to AA+, Standard & Poor's last week did the same for the water management district.
The rating agency cited legislation passed earlier this year that reduces the district's tax base by about $120 million a year by limiting the amount of property taxes the district can levy.
Statewide, the legislation (SB 2142) trimmed $210 million from the budgets of five water management districts.
"The downgrade reflects legislative changes that we believe have significantly reduced the district's financial flexibility," said S&P credit analyst John Sugden-Castillo in a statement.
Pushed by Scott, who campaigned on reducing taxes, lawmakers approved the measure requiring the districts to submit their budget requests to the governor, who would submit the proposals as part of his budget request. The Legislature, however, would ultimately decide funding levels. The plan reduced the South Florida district's taxing authority by 30 percent.
In contrast to his response to the U.S. downgrade, Scott said S&P's ruling was a good thing for the district, which in such financially tough times should not be increasing its own debt.
"I think we absolutely did the right thing," Scott said of the legislation reining in the water districts. "We're making sure that all of the water management districts go back to their core missions. That was $210 million that will go back to taxpayers."
Water management officials said the news was "not unexpected" given the financial conditions in the state and across the country. They also said they plan to live within their means.
"The District has no plans to issue further debt in the foreseeable future and continues to place its credit worthiness and payment of existing debt as one of the agency’s highest priorities,” district spokesman Randy Smith said in a statement.
Despite passing 38-1 in the Senate and 83-34 in the House, some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of reducing the district's tax base, saying the South Florida region has already suffered from lower property values. Further cuts could make it difficult for the district to pay for its most basic duties of flood prevention and water retention.
Despite the downgrade, S&P said the district's financial house was largely in order and would remain so unless it went on a bonding spree in the near future.
"While revenue flexibility has been greatly diminished, the district's low leverage makes this portion of the budget affordable," the agency reported. "Should SFWMD issue additional debt, absent a significant increase in revenues authorized by the governor and Florida's Legislature, we could lower the ratings further."
Tags: Everglades, News, Randy Smith, Rick Scott, SB 2142, South Florida Water Management District


Water district layoff forces Royal Palm Beach commissioner to resign seat
Palm Beach Post - by Mitra Malek, Staff Writer
August 17, 2011
ROYAL PALM BEACH — David Swift's seat will be empty on the dais tonight - and perhaps for many months more.
State rules forced Swift to resign Tuesday from the village council he served on for more than two decades so he can collect retirement benefits from the South Florida Water Management District where he worked for more than three decades.
"It's unfair to the citizens of Royal Palm Beach that he has to go," Vice Mayor Richard Valuntas said, adding that Swift's resignation was a "no-brainer."
The water management district eliminated Swift's position as an environmental scientist during its most recent round of staff reductions. His last day was today .
A 2010 state law says those enrolled in certain retirement programs by Florida Retirement System employers cannot get those benefits unless they don't work for a Florida Retirement System employer for at least six months after they retire. Both the district and the village council are part of the system.
Swift's departure means the council can appoint someone to finish his term or wait for March elections. The village also could hold a special election.
Neither Valuntas nor Mayor Matty Mattioli are in favor of appointing someone.
Appointments can turn into popularity contests, which doesn't necessarily serve the public, Mattioli said.
"I think the people should have a say in who gets to sit there," Valuntas said.
But voting is tough with only four council members, he said. "You come to 2-2, and nothing gets done."
A special election would be expensive, and by the time it probably happens, the regularly scheduled election would be a only few months away, Valuntas said.
Both Mattioli and Valuntas were hopeful Swift might bid for his former seat in March - that would be more than six months after his exit from the water management district.
If Swift did that, though, he would still lose some of his retirement benefits for the following six months.
To that end, he doesn't expect to run, Swift said. Still he'll remain active at Royal Palm council meetings.
"I plan to go and speak on various issues," Swift, 66, said. "I don't plan to go tomorrow. That would be very confusing to people."


Don't Make Us Clean Up The Everglades, But Thanks For The $100 Million – by Scott Slesinger
August 16, 2011
The Miami Herald reported on August 11, 2011, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will use $100 million to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners and help restore wetlands on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades.
Meanwhile the Florida delegation in Congress is telling the federal government to stop trying to clean up the Everglades.  Does this make sense?
Florida politicians were upset that the federal Environmental Protection Agency was forced, after a lawsuit, to (gasp!) follow the law and provide standards that would protect the state waters from nutrient pollution. (Nutrient pollution is one of those phrases in environmental world that sounds good – we all want more nutrients in our diet—but in the world of water pollution, nutrients is the term used for waste matter, measured as nitrogen and phosphorous, from humans, cattle and runoff including fertilizer, such as from sugar plantations in the case of the Everglades.)  A particularly noxious result of excessive nutrient pollution is the proliferation of harmful algae blooms – a situation in which once-clear waters are choked with algae and green with slime creating dead zones. Florida, with its huge sugar plantations, large cattle operations (Florida is second to Texas in cattle, who would have guessed?) and iconic Everglades, needed to clamp down on this nutrient pollution by requiring the polluters to control their runoff into the River of Grass.  The courts agreed that Florida needed to set numeric standards (“you need a 67 to pass”), i.e., limits for pollutants rather than vague narrative standards (“all students should strive to do their best”). 
Florida politicians, as they are famous for doing, decided that EPA was demanding too much, i.e., requiring the vast sugar plantations and cattle ranges to control their pollution.  The sugar plantations are one of the most subsidized and politically connected corporations in the country.  Big Sugar is shielded from global competition by federally mandated import quotas, and provided an ample supply of low-wage labor by federal immigration rules.  But the application of national clean water rules is apparently too much government for this corporate fiefdom to tolerate.  Having caused most of the water pollution problems in the adjacent Everglades, sugar interests use their outsized power to avoid responsibility, as CNN pointed out and which mystery writer Carl Hiaasen has used as backdrops in many of his novels.
During the budget fight, Rep. Rooney (R-FL) sponsored an amendment to the 2011 funding bill to stop EPA from setting standards for nutrient pollution in Florida.  The amendment passed the House 237-189 with only 4 members of the Florida delegation voting against it. The Senate, in the end, got the House to drop this and most of the anti-environmental riders.  Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-FL) offered a similar amendment to the FY2012 funding bill that passed the Subcommittee 26-19.
Then, without a single hearing and citing the Florida nutrient standards issue as the rationale, John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the house committee responsible for curbing water pollution, pushed through a bill to overturn 40 years of environmental law and completely remove the federal government from the Clean Water Act as I discussed in a previous blog.  Seven members from Florida voted against this amendment.
If Floridians don’t want clean water or a restored Everglades as their elected politicians seem to indicate, many states do and could use the money to make real impact in their area.  Or do they only want a clean Everglades as long as someone else pays for it? If Floridians want clean water and want those responsible to pay, they need to let their representatives know.
Posted August 16, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, U.S. Law and Policy
Tags:  cleanwater, Everglades, pnp, riders, waterpollution



Feds Downgraded, Florida Upgraded
Capitol News Service - by Whitney Ray
August 16th, 2011
While the Federal Government’s credit rating dropped… Florida’s soared… climbing from a AA+ to S&P’s coveted AAA rating. This means the state can refinance its old debt and save millions of dollars. It also means, as Whitney Ray tells us, the state is in a good position to attract new businesses.
Roads, school construction, and restoring the Everglades are just a few of the massive projects that the state borrows massive amounts of cash to finance. To date the state owes 23 billion dollars but efforts to refinance those loans are underway. That’s because Florida’s credit rating was upgraded to AAA status.
S&P upgraded Florida in July. Since then Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says the state has refinanced 1.5 billion dollars in bonds, saving 135 million dollars.
“We went through got lower price, because a AAA bond rating can give us that. In this marketplace, there aren’t too many of us out there with that rating,” said Atwater.
Florida’s improved rating comes as the Federal government credit rating is declining. And while Congress was arguing over the debt ceiling, Governor Rick Scott was talking to the rating agency about why he thinks Florida is a good investment.
“I spoke to them over the phone, and I talked about the fact that we are going to be the most fiscally responsible state and conservative state in the country,” said Scott.
And now that the state has the top rating, Scott plans to use it to attract businesses.
“I think the fact that we have now the AAA rating, the fact we have been taken off of CreditWatch is a positive for business people,” said Scott.
State budget cuts and tax reductions helped Scott convince S&P to upgrade Florida. The governor is using the same pitch on out-of-state businesses hoping they’ll also consider Florida a safe bet.
While Scott’s budget moves helped improve the state’s rating, the reduction in property taxes is hurting some of Florida’s water management districts. The South Florida Water Management District’s credit rating was downgraded because of layoffs that resulted from state budget cuts.


The Florida Supreme
Court decision :

Case No. SC11-592:
Whiley vs. Scott

Fla. justices say Scott overstepped his authority
Associated Press – by BILL KACZOR
August 16, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court handed Gov. Rick Scott a defeat Tuesday with a ruling that he exceeded his authority by ordering state agencies to freeze rulemaking and submit planned regulations to his office for review and approval before formally proposing them.
The justices split 5-2 in favor of a disabled woman who challenged Scott's freeze after it delayed the adoption of a rule making it easier for her to apply for food stamps.
The Republican governor suspended rulemaking less than an hour after taking office Jan. 4. His executive order also set up the governor's Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform to review and approve existing and proposed rules to make sure they are in synch with Scott's campaign promise to expand business and jobs.
"The governor has overstepped his constitutional authority and violated the separation of powers," the majority justices wrote in the unsigned opinion.
Rulemaking is an extension of the Legislature's lawmaking authority. Rules must implement a specific law and the Legislature must grant authority to executive agencies to adopt pertinent rules, the justices wrote.
"It's a disappointment," Scott said. "You know, think about it. The secretaries of these agencies report to me. They work for me at will, then I'm not supposed to supervise them? It doesn't make any sense."
The ruling, though, delighted Scott's political opponents.
Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux said in a statement the suspension was part of Scott's "effort to promote his Tea Party agenda. This is the kind of disregard for the law, and the people of Florida, that we have come to expect from this Governor and Republican Legislature."
The high court, though, virtually invited the Legislature to give Scott the authority it says he lacks. The justices declined to order state agencies to comply with their ruling. Instead, they wrote that they trusted Scott wouldn't enforce the suspension "at this time, and until such time as the Florida Legislature may amend" existing law or delegate rulemaking authority to the governor.
"We've always thought if the governor got authority from the Legislature he could have done what he did," said former Florida State University President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, who argued the case on behalf of Rosalie Whiley, a blind Opa-Locka resident.
The Supreme Court noted the Legislature did pass a new law taking a step in that direction. It went into effect June 24 with Scott's signature. The law essentially approved the review process contained in Scott's executive order but only for rules in effect on or before Nov. 16, 2010. It does not, though, authorize the suspension or termination of rulemaking.
Cindy Leann Huddleston, an attorney with Florida Legal Services, which also represented Whiley, said she didn't challenge provisions of the order covered by the law. Huddleston said the ruling will help Legal Services clients whose benefits are affected by state rules.
"It's a tremendous victory for our clients," Huddleston said. She said Whiley was "excited and pleased."
The rule Whiley was concerned about eventually was adopted after a month-and-a-half delay, Huddleston said. It allows blind people to apply orally for food stamps.
Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston, the high court's most reliably conservative members, dissented. They wrote separately but concurred with each other.
Both argued the Florida Constitution gives the governor "supreme executive power." The majority ruled there are limits to that power and noted the Legislature has given rulemaking authority to department heads, not the governor.
Polston also contended the rulemaking "suspension" was a moot issue because Scott later revised the executive order to remove that word. The majority called that argument a "red herring" and wrote that the new order was "nothing more than sleight of hand" because it still had the effect of suspending rulemaking.
The decision also won praise from Audubon of Florida and Disability Rights of Florida, which filed "friend of the court" briefs.
"It secures the place of ordinary people being able to participate in rulemaking," said Audubon executive director Eric Draper. "The governor was trying to make rules in the dark halls of the Capitol out of the sunshine."
Draper said his organization now will push for rulemaking on Everglades restoration and stormwater pollution to resume.
Gov. Rick Scott overstepped authority, court rules – Florida Today
State justices say Scott overstepped his authority – Daytona Beach News Journal (Associated Press)
Florida Supreme Court Ruling - against the Governor (Case No. SC11-592: Whiley vs. Scott)



Gregory M. Munson Appointed as Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration
FL-DEP Press Release
August 16, 2011
Secretary Vinyard also appoints Dr. Ann B. Shortelle as Water Policy Director
TALLAHASSEE — Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. today announced the appointments of Gregory M. Munson as Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration and Dr. Ann B. Shortelle as Water Policy Director. Deputy Secretary Munson and Dr. Shortelle will coordinate state water policy development and implementation, specifically as it relates to the Water Management Districts.  Deputy Secretary Munson will start at DEP on August 22 and Dr. Shortelle will start at DEP on August 30.
“One of my top priorities is getting Florida’s water right, and DEP is committed to helping Florida’s Water Management Districts focus on their core mission responsibilities,” said Secretary Vinyard.  “This means that DEP will take a more active role in Water Management District water supply program development, protection of water resources and regulatory policies.”
On April 12, 2011, Governor Rick Scott directed DEP to exercise statutory obligation to supervise activities of the state’s five Water Management Districts, including their water supply and regulatory activities, to ensure statewide consistency is achieved.  Further, DEP is directed to ensure that the core responsibilities of the Districts are consistent with Chapter 373, FS for managing the state’s water resources.
“It is my intention to collaborate with the Water Management Districts on these types of discussions and decisions as they are being made,” said Deputy Secretary Munson.  “I fully anticipate sitting down with each district and discussing priorities and budget options, so that there is a common understanding of what the focus is going forward.”
The Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration is a new title within DEP.  Previously, DEP had a Deputy Secretary for Policy and Planning.  Those duties have been divided up between the Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration and the Chief of Staff.  The modification of this position confirms Governor Scott’s desire to focus on water and ecosystem priorities.  In addition to working with the Water Management Districts, the Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration will also oversee the DEP’s Office of Ecosystem Projects, which coordinates and assists with the policy development and implementation of a variety of restoration projects, including Everglades restoration.
“I look forward to working with the Water Management Districts to develop clear and consistent policies to effectively manage our water resources across district lines,” said Dr. Shortelle.  “By opening a regular, two-way dialogue with the Water Management Districts, I know we can work together to address flood protection, water supply and quality, and resource protection in a fiscally responsible manner.”
The Water Policy Director is a new position that will work directly with Secretary Vinyard and Deputy Secretary Munson on overseeing Water Management District activities, including water supply, water quality, management and resource regulation, guiding rulemaking activities and evaluating land acquisition programs.  The Water Policy Director will also promote statewide water management consistency taking into account the differing, regional characteristics of Florida’s water resources.
About Gregory M. Munson
Deputy Secretary Munson began his career in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989.  He earned several Aerial Achievement Medals as a Mission Director on the RC-135 intelligence-gathering aircraft, and resigned from the Air Force as a Captain in 1995.  He attended Vanderbilt University Law School.  In 1998, Mr. Munson clerked for the Honorable J.L. Edmondson on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Mr. Munson moved to Florida in 1999 to become an Assistant General Counsel to Governor Jeb Bush, where he served until 2002.  In 2002, Mr. Munson became an assistant United States Attorney for the United States Department of Justice in Miami, Florida.  Mr. Munson became General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2004.  As the state's chief environmental lawyer, he was involved in litigation and negotiations surrounding America's Everglades, Total Maximum Daily Load program, and the tri-state water dispute between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.  He personally participated in the defense of Florida's rules to reduce emissions from utility plants, and the defense of Florida's beach restoration program, ultimately resolved in favor of FDEP by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, in Stop the Beach Renourishment  Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
He became General Counsel for WRS Infrastructure & Environment, Inc., now WRScompass, in February, 2007.  WRScompass is a full-service environmental remediation firm that performs large scale environmental remediation and civil construction projects, including restoration work in the Florida Everglades, cleaning up Superfund sites on behalf of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, expanding levees in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and performing technologically complex remediation for several Fortune 500 clients.
About Dr. Ann Shortelle
Dr. Shortelle has over 25 years of professional experience in lake, riverine, and reservoir management for water quantity and quality, surface water/wetlands restoration enhancing water quality and source water protection, surface water modeling, permitting and environmental assessments.  Since receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Shortelle has worked in the private sector as a consultant, serving recently as MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc.’s (now AMEC E&I, Inc) Chief Scientist in Florida, and Water Practice Leader.  She joined MACTEC in 1988 and has served as a chief scientist, senior principal and senior project manager.
She has managed numerous projects related to restoration, siting/licensing, mitigation planning, source water evaluation, and natural resource damage assessment.  She has served as a technical expert and reviewer, and has served as an expert witness.  She has conducted, participated in, managed, directed, and provided technical oversight for hundreds of projects in the State of Florida, the United States, and Puerto Rico.  She has conducted trainings and workshops related to water quality, quantity, and sustainability, and given numerous papers at professional conferences.  Shortelle has authored/ co-authored more than 40 publications and presentations on environmental and ecological topics.
Dr. Shortelle is a member of the North American Lake Management Society, the American Water Resources Association, and other professional organizations.  She is currently serving on the North American Lake Management Society’s Board of Directors, and was a former two term member of the Florida Lake Management Society Board of Directors and served on the policy advisory committee to DEP for designated use and classification refinement for surface waters.  She holds a Ph.D. in limnology from the University of Notre Dame and a B.S. in biology from Mercer University.


Cliff STEARN, US Congressman (FL-rep.)

Stearns to EPA: Put it in writing - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
August 16, 2011
A week after U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, held a congressional hearing in Orlando to discuss new federal water pollutant standards for Florida, the lawmaker says he wants federal regulators to create written guidelines explaining when exceptions to the new rules should be granted.
He said people who say the US Environmental Protection Agency standards are too onerous would be more accepting if there were formal, written explanations that allowed exceptions for some water bodies and utilities that shouldn't have to meet the standards.
At issue are newly created EPA limits for the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida's rivers, lakes and streams. The new standards are scheduled to go into effect in March 2012, but allow for exceptions when water bodies naturally have high levels of the two nutrients.
Many of Marion County's waters, including Silver and Rainbow springs, would fail the new standards. The pollutants cause excess algae and change the water chemistry and biological makeup of its wildlife.
"The EPA should publish how you're going to … get a variance," Stearns said during an interview Tuesday. He added that he will now urge the EPA to write the guidelines and explain them to affected industries.
"I would step in if I felt the state needed an exemption or variance and they didn't know how to get it," Stearns said.
If there were written rules for exceptions, "it would give some certainty to all these municipalities" that believed they should be exempted, he said.
The EPA says that the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus are so high in Florida's waters that 60 percent of waterways are impaired.
During the hearing last week, EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said her agency's new standards did allow for exceptions, but admitted the agency hadn't yet developed comprehensible, written guidelines.
The hearing last week also gave opponents of the new standards the opportunity to tell Stearns why they think the rules are too far reaching.
They say that many of Florida's waters are naturally high in nitrogen and phosphorus and that EPA's one-size-fits–all standards don't take that into account. They also complain that the cost to individual Floridians to meet EPA's rules would be about $750 annually, including sewer costs.
Stearns said he agreed with critics, arguing that the rules are too stringent.
EPA estimates the cost to utility customers to be about $40 annually, or about $200 million per year throughout the sate.
Until now, Florida used primarily qualitative standards to decide whether its waters were polluted. That meant if the water and its associated wildlife and vegetation appeared healthy, then the water body met Florida's standards, regardless of the level of its nutrients.
But Florida environmental groups sued the EPA in 2008, saying that without the state having quantitative standards, the federal agency was failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. The EPA agreed.
The EPA came to an agreement with the environmental groups a year later and promised to set new standards.
But David Guest, the lawyer who sued the EPA, said he didn't have much faith in either Stearns or industries opposed to the standards to reach a compromise with the EPA.
Instead, Guest says that opponents of the EPA standards will continue to try and scare Floridians into believing their utility rates will increase to meet the standards.
Guest said he's asked several times to meet with EPA opponents and address their concerns but they've rejected his offer. He said that opponents of the EPA's new standards are worried because the new rules will reveal just how much they are polluting rivers and streams, in some cases many times higher than what will be allowed.
He said Stearns' "dog and pony show" hearing was to appease polluters.
"Stearns' [hearing] was a failure to anybody that was watching," Guest said.
Guest predicts that the issue of the standards will likely get settled in court.
In the meantime, Earth Justice was working to dispel the notion that EPA standards will make sewer treatment costs skyrocket.


$100 million
Feds to spend $100
million on improving the
Everglades water quality

$100 Million to Clean Up ‘Chocolate Mess’
FCIR - by Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
August 15, 2011
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in Palm Beach County on Aug. 11 that the federal government will spend $100 million to start the clean-up of the Everglades’ headwaters.
Sure, there’s already the litigated $13.5 billion federal-state partnership called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. But much of the CERP’s focus is on the area south of Lake Okeechobee. This new program, which uses money from the Dept. of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program, will buy development rights to 24,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee, where the River of Grass actually starts.
The devlopment rights — under which the landowner retains ownership of the land but promises to keep it undeveloped — will help engineers restore the former, winding course of the Kissimmee River, straightened out by the Corps of Engineer in the 1920s and ’30s. And it will allow lands to revert back to wetlands, soaking up fertilizers and other pollutants that now flow into Lake Okeechobee.
That pollution, wrote reporter Craig Pittman in the St. Petersburg Times, “turned a popular fishing spot into what one government official described as ‘a chocolate mess.’ The lake is 730 square miles in size but only 9 feet deep, and some of the bottom has three feet of nutrient-packed ooze.”
The plan has drawn accolades from The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, outdoor enthusiasts, Audubon of Florida, The Everglades Foundation, and farming and business interests.
Announcing the funding, Vilsack said that for every dollar spent by the federal government, he expected another $4 in economic activity. Some is already happening. Palm Beach Post reporter Susan Salisbury spoke to the former manager of a ranch that received $42 million for 11,000 acres. He said the money had been used to transform a diseased citrus grove into strawberry and blueberry fields. That move created 400 to 600 seasonal jobs and 20 to 30 full-time ones.
“From my perspective this approach once again demonstrates that our economy and environment need not be in conflict — when managed properly, healthy natural systems are a foundation for a healthy economy,” wrote Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy.
So Central Florida farmers and businesses will receive an infusion of cash, and southwest Florida waterways such as the Peace River have a better chance of staying healthy. The endangered Florida panther’s habitat will grow. And Lake Okeechobee, the drinking fountain for more than 5 million people who live in southeast Florida, will hopefully get a little recharge.
And don’t forget Everglades National Park. The restoration of its health started all this, and it should be a prime beneficiary of the $100 million.
What’s not to like?
The biggest negative, it seems, is the current economic and political climate that places cutting ahead of investment.
But as the Times’ Pittman points out in his article, this is not federal money that the state can reject. Landowners deal directly with the USDA.

Future federal funding, however, is less certain. The folks with the Environmental Defense Fund point out that the Wetlands Reserve Fund is among the conservation programs being targeted


Feds step up to save Everglades, economy – Editorial, Petersburg Times
August 15, 2011
As Florida leaders continue to defend the deterioration of the state's waterways, the federal government continues to clean them up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement last week that it would spend $100 million to buy development rights on working agricultural land north of the Everglades is a boon for the environment and tourism. It is also an important step to providing South Florida with the drinking water the region will need to grow.
The money will be open to farmers and ranchers in four counties — Highlands, Glades, Hendry and Okeechobee — in exchange for them providing conservation easements to 24,000 acres of farmland. That will restrict development along the northern and western banks of Lake Okeechobee — reserving the land permanently for agriculture and open space — and help restore the wetlands that filter pollution that now ultimately flows into Florida's extraordinary River of Grass. The easements also will connect private and public lands into a larger conservation corridor from the Kissimmee River south to the Everglades, helping to sustain the habitats and food supply for a range of animals, from the Florida black bear to the endangered panther.
The Obama administration deserves credit for continuing to focus the nation's conservation resources in a targeted way in these tight economic times. By setting aside land and restoring the wetlands, the government can target pollution at its source, creating a domino benefit as the basin flows to South Florida. The plan also brings private farmers and ranchers into the cleanup as willing partners, giving them a stake in the conservation effort. That can only help to bolster public awareness and support for Everglades restoration over the long term.
Everglades cleanup has never been solely about wildlife or the environment but how to protect both even as Florida provides for an expanding population. The land deal will protect fishing and tourism and help South Florida obtain the clean drinking water it needs to attract new residents and industry. It keeps farms in private hands and helps preserve entire communities dependent on a vibrant ranching economy. And it builds on federal efforts last year to preserve another 26,000 acres of land north of Lake Okeechobee. These moves will give the state a new avenue for continuing the Everglades cleanup without having to rely on costly land purchases. And the investments come even as the state continues to challenge the federal government's call for cleaner water standards in its lakes, rivers and estuaries. This is a victory for Florida's economy and environment that will pay dividends for generations.



S&P lowers water district's bond rating because of new state law requiring tax cuts
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy and Christine Stapleton, Staff Writers
August 15, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — The same new budget-slashing law that resulted in dozens of layoffs at the South Florida Water Management District has also prompted Standard & Poor's to lower the district's credit rating.
"The downgrade reflects recent legislative changes that we believe have significantly reduced the district's financial flexibility," said John Sugden-Castillo, a Standard & Poor's credit analyst, in report dated Aug. 10. The report cites Senate Bill 2142, which caps the amount of revenue that the state's five water management districts can raise through property taxes.
The rating dropped from AAA to AA+. The difference between the ratings is minimal and Standard & Poor's said it expects that the district's debt service, about $44 million a year, "will remain a manageable portion of the district's budget."
The legislation was the biggest tax reduction approved by Florida lawmakers last spring and was quickly signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, who had pushed hard for the measure. For the South Florida district, it has meant giving buyouts to 123 workers, laying off dozens of others and cutting the benefits of those remaining to meet the law's requirement that property taxes be cut by 30 percent -- about $128 million.
The district was not surprised at the downgrade and said in a prepared statement that it will have little impact because it has "no plans to issue further debt in the foreseeable future and continues to place its credit worthiness and payment of existing debt as one of the agency's highest priorities." If the district does borrow money for construction projects, it could cost South Florida taxpayers millions of dollars more in debt payments.
When Scott's office was asked about the credit rating downgrade Monday, Communications Director Brian Burgess answered by asking in an email why the state's media had paid little attention to comparatively good news last month that Standard & Poor's had raised the financial outlook for Florida from negative to stable, which was expected to translate into more favorable interest rates for the state.
"The Governor is pleased with the overall direction of Florida's economic outlook and financial stability," Burgess continued.
When Standard & Poor's earlier this month downgraded the federal government's credit rating -- helping launch Wall Street on a financial roller coaster -- Scott was critical of the federal government.
"It's hard to be mad at a ratings agency when we all know the country is spending more than it should be spending. That's the wrong approach," Scott said last week.
Although he didn't single out President Obama, Scott echoed a common theme of Republicans in Congress. "We've got to live within our means," Scott said, adding, "as we've done in Florida."
Standard & Poor's cited favorable factors for the water management district, including "strong executive and legislative oversight of the budget, ...strong management practices and policies, strong reserves and low direct debt levels."
But it said it would consider lowering the ratings further, if the district took on additional debt without a "significant increase in revenues authorized by the governor and Florida's legislature."
The district issued $546.1 million of the AAA-rated insured bonds in November 2006 to help jump-start construction of Everglades restoration projects.
To comply with the new law requiring it to cut its property taxes, the district's governing board approved a proposal to set a tax rate just under 44 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value, down from this year's rate of 62 cents. Based on that rate, a home with an assessed value of $200,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would save about $27 in water district taxes.
But for some of the state's biggest companies, including several that helped power last year's GOP political campaigns, the tax cut will yield bigger savings. Florida Power & Light and Disney could save more than $1 million each on their tax bills for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. FPL donated $1.1 million to the state GOP, while Disney contributed $854,364, according to an analysis of contribution records by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
They stand to gain the most under the tax cut because they own the highest-valued property in the South Florida district's 16 counties, which range from Monroe in the south to Orange in the north and include Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie.
Also:  “S&P downgrades South Florida Water Management District's credit rating”, – Aug. 16, 2011



South Florida Water Management District's downgraded credit rating could hurt Everglades efforts
Sun Seninel - by Andy Reid
August 15, 2011
Financial handcuffs that the Florida Legislature this year slapped on the South Florida Water Management District could actually end up costing taxpayers more money on future construction projects due to the district’s recently downgraded credit rating.
Just as the U.S. credit rating recently took a hit after the debt-ceiling standoff, Standard & Poor’s this month announced the downgrading of the South Florida Water Management District’s credit rating from "AAA" to "AA+."
That could end up costing South Florida taxpayers millions more in future debt payments if the district borrows more money to pay for long-planned construction projects. Those projects could include anything from Everglades restoration to fixing control structures.
Fed up with past district spending, the Legislature this year put new limits on the district’s ability to spend and borrow money. That has forced the West Palm Beach-based district to cut its budget about 30 percent, which triggered dozens of layoffs and likely delays some already overdue Everglades restoration projects.
Those new financial limits imposed by Senate Bill 2142 were cited in Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the district’s credit rating.
The state diminishing the district’s financial flexibility by capping the amount of property tax revenue it can generate and giving the state a greater role in shaping the district’s budget prompted the reduced credit rating, according to the credit rating firm.
Environmental groups have opposed the state slashing the district’s budget, warning that it will hamper the district’s ability to help protect and restore the Everglades.
Thursday evening, the district started a round of layoffs that is expected to claim about 100 jobs. The district employees more than 1,700 people ranging from scientists to people who help operate flood-control gates.
The district layoffs and downgraded credit rating shows state spending cuts went too far, according to Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida.
"You are losing human capital and now you are losing real capital," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District oversees water supplies, guards against flooding and leads Everglades restoration in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
New district Board Member James Moran last week proposed that the agency limit its future spending even further.
Moran, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointees to the district’s nine-member board, proposed rescinding unused bond financing the district approved for water storage facilities and other construction projects planned for Everglades restoration.
The district has used just under $600 million of the $1.8 billion from previously approved certificates of participation that finance district construction projects. Moran’s proposal would have to be approved by the entire board.
District officials have said they have no immediate plans to take on any additional debt. The district released a statement Monday saying the agency’s downgraded credit rating was "not unexpected given current fiscal conditions."


poisoning us

Poisoned waters, air,
fish - and us.

Environmental hazard -- cleaner water, air under attack in U.S. House
Detroit Free Press – Editorial
August 14, 2011
Republicans in the U.S. House have taken virtually every step they can think of in next year's budget to cripple ongoing protection of the environment.
The damage starts with spending cuts, some of which may be necessary but will surely be noticeable to people who enjoy national parks and other outdoor areas maintained by the federal government. But they didn't stop there.
In committee, House Republicans have loaded up the budget bill with so-called riders that interfere with regulations, research and settled law on issues such as endangered species.
Among the regulations that would be suspended is the one that allowed the recent agreement on mileage goals for vehicles in the 2017-25 model years, which was a major breakthrough rooted in negotiations with the auto industry. Note that this agreement spares the industry from having to deal with separate regulations in California and other states that have adopted California's approach; Republicans may think they are helping U.S. businesses, but that is definitely not the case here.
Also on the GOP's agenda: suspending new or potential rules on mountaintop mining; ending the moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon while an impact study is done; stopping the EPA from regulating toxic ash from coal-fired power plants; preventing the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida; and disallowing almost any activity related to greenhouse gas regulation, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA may do so.
But the 39 anti-environment riders in the spending bill for the Department of the Interior and the EPA are not the end of what Republicans have in mind. They put forward another bill to stop stricter regulation of mercury emissions from burning coal, a matter of huge concern here in Michigan, where fish in most lakes are tainted with methylmercury as a result of rain washing that mercury out of the air and into the water. They have voted to defund or defang many other parts of both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Americans may not have reached a consensus on whether to combat global warming, but it is foolish to stop working toward better air and cleaner water. Voters who believe in those principles can only hope the U.S. Senate will avert the damage that most House Republicans want to inflict on anyone who likes to swim, drink water or breathe.


Florida has a problem too -

New Shellfish Poison Found In U.S. Waters Caused By Algal Bloom
Huffington Post – by Lynne Peeples
August 14, 2011
The bright red skull-and-crossbones signs are hard to miss and increasingly common on Pacific Northwest beaches. A whole new fleet just popped up along the shores of a small bay between the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound.
On Friday, Washington State health officials reported the first U.S. illnesses linked to one particular strain of toxin triggered by an algal bloom. Three people came down with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) after eating mussels from Sequim Bay, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The bay is now closed to shellfish harvesting.
Although the culprit biotoxin hadn't been previously detected at unsafe levels in U.S. shellfish, thousands of people in Europe, Asia and South America have reportedly suffered its unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms in recent years. The long-term health effects from DSP are not yet clear; some experts think they might include an increased risk of cancer.
"Whether this is really the first case of poisoning here, we don't know," said Vera Trainer, program manager of the Marine Biotoxin Group at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "But it certainly looks to me like things are getting worse."
Harmful algal blooms, often called red tides, can occur naturally in both marine or fresh waters, and have been a recognized public health threat since well before humans began significantly altering the environment. In the late 1700s, members of Capt. George Vancouver's exploration crew died after eating mussels contaminated with another toxic strain, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).
Still, experts suggest that some of the toxins released by various algae species are becoming more prevalent, frequent and virulent across the U.S. from the Oregon coast to Chesapeake Bay. They have been known to pose a range of threats to marine environments, local economies and public health.
"The strongest algal blooms occur during very hot weather, where there is lots of sun and not a whole lot of wind," explained Chris Moore of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He pointed to this summer's extreme heat along the east coast as "perfect bloom conditions," and suggested that the high temperatures may have played a role in what continues to be a particularly problematic algal bloom season in Maryland. The local strain does not produce any toxins, but rather suffocates fish and oysters by clogging their gills. But what Moore calls "mahogany tides" can cause devastating damage to economies dependent on the shellfish.
Excess nutrients entering the waterway, including fertilizers, pet waste and sewage, might also contribute to the proliferation of the microscopic marine plants. "A heavy rainfall could produce the last slug of nutrients for algae to start blooming in mass," said Moore.
While experts expect climate change to bring both warmer waters and episodes of heavier rains, they are cautious about making a direct link between global and local phenomena. The role of pollution, and why these microorganisms produce the poisons in the first place, also remains unclear.
What does seem clear is that the Pacific Northwest in particular is getting flooded with the toxins and their consequences: DSP joins the region's potentially fatal PSP and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) strains.
"Poor Puget Sound seems to have pretty much everything," says Trainer. "Although the Florida Red Tide has not yet come out here."
That Florida Red Tide produces a biotoxin that can cause non-fatal Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) through ingestion as well as respiratory troubles through inhalation, in addition to killing fish, marine mammals and seabirds en masse.
While the Florida Red Tide and other algal blooms are often colored a shade of red -- or purple, brown or green -- the term can be a misnomer. Just because the water turns an odd color doesn't mean it will make people sick, though beaches may become less than appealing, like when a bright green bloom took over a beach in Qingdao, China in July.
And microorganisms don't need to concentrate in color-changing levels in order to cause harm. Shellfish that feed upon low levels of them over a prolonged period of time still accumulate enough poison to sicken human consumers.
Researchers are just now starting to understand why the algae excrete the physiologically expensive toxin. "They don't produce it to harm to fish and human, but rather to have better success in their environment," pointed out William Cochlan, senior research scientist of marine microbial ecology and oceanography at San Francisco State University. "How does the toxin make their life better?"
So far, Cochlan's research has suggested that the toxins may allow single-celled organisms to more easily acquire essential elements, such as iron or copper, from the water.
His research lab has also found that the nutrients associated with man-made activities, such as sewage and agricultural fertilizer, only cause certain species of algae to become more toxic. "We cannot generalize to all toxin-producing species," said Cochlan.
"If we can understand what the toxin does, then we can figure out ways that the cell can be happy without the toxin, and ensure that the people and the environment aren't harmed by the species," he added.
That knowledge could increase researchers' ability to monitor coastal areas, and quickly close them before an algal bloom begins to cause harm.
This might then also allow lucrative fisheries to stay open longer. California, for example, shuts down all coastal areas for recreational mussel harvesting between May and October as a precaution. In the Pacific Northwest, many Native Americans living off of Sequim Bay rely on selling shellfish for subsistence.
"They want to know when they can harvest again," said Trainer.


Future of inland port could be decided Tuesday - by Bill Thompson, Staff writer
August 13, 2011
With the Panama Canal expansion nearly finished, Marion may join the race for a huge cargo facility.
Monday marks 97 years since the Western Hemisphere’s most ambitious public works project — the Panama Canal — opened for use and forever altered the world’s shipping industry.
Three years from now, when the expansion of the canal is supposed to be complete, global maritime commerce may be dramatically changed again and plenty of communities, including Ocala, are looking to cash in.
A key decision on that future comes Tuesday when the County Commission and the Ocala City Council consider final adoption of an agreement creating a nearly 500-acre commerce park at U.S. 27 and Interstate 75.
The local governments are partnering with a company called Ocala 489 LLC in a project that would collect freight from deepwater ports for distribution throughout Florida and the southeastern United States.
Representatives of the Ocala 489 project say it would add nearly 5,000 jobs to the community over the next generation.
Steve Gray, an Ocala lawyer representing the developer, said the project is akin to the Meadowbrook Commerce Park near Southwest 20th Street and 38th Avenue — a site that has attracted national employers, such as auto-parts retailer Carquest and Hughes Supply, a large wholesaler of construction supplies that was purchased by Home Depot in a $3.2 billion deal in 2006.
But Ocala 489’s property has an important distinction: It is close to a busy north-south rail corridor through Florida.
If the agreement is approved Tuesday, the developers will begin the design and eventual construction of a $2.4 million rail spur to tie into those tracks.
That could lay the foundation for the creation of an inland port — a portal permitting Ocala to tap into an anticipated surge in global trade.
The concept of an inland port involves “an inland site carrying out some functions of a seaport,” as it was defined in a December 2010 study conducted jointly by the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Until relatively recently, inland ports were towns connected to cities with ocean harbors by a shallower, interior waterway.
In the new parlance, an inland port — or inland terminal — can also now refer to a distribution hub far from a traditional seaport with the capability to accept rail-hauled shipping containers and disperse that cargo on other rail cars, tractor-trailers and in some cases, airplanes.
An inland port is sometimes located hundreds of miles from the ocean in order to take pressure off congested seaports.
For example, an inland port in Front Royal, Va., referenced in a November 2010 report to the Ocala-Marion County Economic Development Corp. as a possible model for the Ocala 489 site, sits roughly 180 miles from the harbor at Norfolk. A similar operation in Cordele, Ga., that broke ground in July 2010 is about that same distance from Savannah.
What makes Florida an attractive place for the development of inland ports is its proliferation of traditional deepwater ports. There are 14 of them in all, located from Pensacola to Jacksonville.
Many of these seaports are hoping to cash in on the $5.25 billion effort to expand the Panama Canal. The widening of the 48-mile canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is expected to be completed in August 2014 — to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the canal’s opening.
In response, port cities up and down America’s eastern seaboard are in a literal race to the bottom.
They want to dig out their harbors to reach the 50-foot depth necessary to accommodate the anticipated flotilla of bigger, broader freighters bound from South America and Asia, especially China.
Government officials and economic development experts believe the revamped Panama Canal will realign trade routes because overseas firms will want to avoid crowded West Coast ports and the additional cost of transporting goods over the continental U.S.
The hunt for that business has prompted East Coast locales — including Miami, Jacksonville and Port Everglades in Broward County — to commit to, or seek approval for, port upgrades that collectively will run into billions of dollars.
Earlier this year Gov. Rick Scott committed $77 million to bridge the gap in federal funding for the Miami dredging project, one already targeted for $137 million in state and local spending.
Deepening Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale is pegged at $321 million, while up in Jacksonville, where the proposal is still being studied, a similar project has been estimated at $600 million.
U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns has helped with the Jacksonville effort.
The Ocala Republican, whose district encompasses part of Jacksonville, has secured about $17 million in federal funding for the dredging.
Elsewhere, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced a $500 million plan to dredge the port of Newark.
Officials in Savannah have said a similar project there could run as much as $600 million. And making Charleston, S.C., ready for the super vessels will cost an estimated $310 million.
Nancy Rubin, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Port Authority, summed up the rationale that has gripped port officials from South Florida to Staten Island.
“These ships are bigger, carry more cargo and ride deeper in the water. We want to be able to accommodate them here, not have them pass us and go to Georgia, Charleston or beyond,” she said in an email.
“The impact for North Florida, of course, from increased cargo volume is increased employment and economic gain in the private sector. What will grow: maritime businesses that lease space at [the port of Jacksonville] or have any connection to moving, storing or using cargo that comes through the port along with all of their connected business partners.”
But while it has an abundance of seaports, Florida is notable for its lack of inland commerce centers that can serve as staging areas for the distribution of goods to other locations.
That will change soon.
The Ocala 489 site is one of at least three efforts under way to build such a facility in the middle of Florida.
“The inland port [concept] evolved from huge changes occurring in the shipping industry,” said Gray, Ocala 489’s lawyer. “My clients didn’t start out to build an inland port, but they did pretty quickly figure out that getting the rail spur was important.”
Besides Ocala, inland ports that are in various stages of planning include a regional facility in Lake City and a massive complex in southwestern St. Lucie County.
The Lake City facility would sit on 500 acres about 90 miles north of Ocala, just east of the I-75 intersection with I-10.
The state has designated the land, part of a larger 2,590-acre tract, a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern.
One of three such areas around the state, the designation permits Columbia County to bypass some economic development requirements and provides money for economic research, site selection and marketing, according to Enterprise Florida, the state’s main business recruiting agency.
The site will also feature a rail spur accessing CSX’s “S” line — the tracks that run through the spine of the state including through Ocala, Belleview, Wildwood and Lakeland.
Representatives of Plum Creek Co., which owns the land, said the project has not yet broken ground.
Plum Creek is working toward finalizing plans for the railroad spur and designation of the site as an enterprise zone and a foreign trade zone.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, the Treasure Coast Intermodal Campus, or TCIC, is planned to span 4,100 acres, or eight times the area of the Ocala 489 project.
The proposed site is situated west of Florida’s Turnpike and I-95.
Project manager Preston Perrone said the facility would feature its own 500-acre rail yard as well as access to rail lines — in addition to space for 29 million square feet of warehouse space.
Supporters are still seeking approval for land-use changes and environmental permits, Perrone said.
If approved, construction is slated to begin in 2013, Perrone added. The rail yard would come first, by the end of 2014, to tie in with the schedule for the Panama Canal. The initial phase of the distribution center would follow, wrapping up about a year after that.
As for Ocala 489, if the project is approved on Tuesday by both the city of Ocala and Marion County developers, the governments are expected to complete their respective road projects serving the interior of the site by March 2013.
The city would extend Northwest 35th Avenue for about 1½ miles into the property, while the county would build a four-lane road to Northwest 27th Avenue.
The rail spur could be completed much sooner, once the last parcel needed for the project is obtained.
Within the next 20 years, Ocala 489 has projected about 4,800 new jobs. Plum Creek’s project would add up to 3,000 for that region, while the TCIC has estimated between 12,000 and 36,000 jobs.
 ■ ■ ■
Nancy Leikauf, executive vice president of the Florida Ports Council, believes that estimates of the economic impact of the Panama Canal project are not overblown.
Leikauf believes Florida could become the key hub along international trade routes running both east and west and north and south.
“I think our state has a great opportunity to create a system that’s better, faster, cheaper. We really can compete from a seaport standpoint,” Leikauf said.
She acknowledged, however, that she’s not sure about the spillover benefits to the interior points of the state hoping to host major distribution centers.
“We have to have an efficient transportation system,” Leikauf said. “The private sector is going to make up their minds about how to distribute goods. But I don’t think we know yet. We still have a lot of work to do.”
While Ocala 489 has been questioned by some local officials for not guaranteeing new job growth, the developers have caught the attention of one major firm.
Gray, the lawyer for Ocala 489, has noted publicly that CSX Transportation has shown plenty of interest in the project, particularly because of its planned rail spur.
Gray recently told the County Commission that the Jacksonville-based company, which is reaping record profits, has deposited Ocala 489 in the top 10 percent of 3,000 top-rated sites nationally for distribution facilities.
CSX spokesman Gary Sease said in an email that the company supports the city of Ocala and Marion County in their efforts to develop the proposed commerce park.
But, Sease said, “It is too early in the process to say exactly what rail infrastructure would be required to meet CSX specifications for additional interchange traffic.”
One plus, though, is that a multimillion-dollar upgrade CSX has planned for the “S” line will enhance its ability to accommodate “incremental traffic,” Sease said.
Incremental traffic refers to both the eight trains a day that are expected to roll through Ocala after SunRail, the commuter train serving the Orlando area, begins operations in 2014 as well as any “potential carloads” generated by the Ocala 489 site or the “additional business that may be generated by the Panama Canal expansion.”
John Rhodes, a Sarasota-area consultant who advises on business park development, including the Ocala 489 property, said Ocala is ideally located both geographically and with its transportation infrastructure to reap benefits from the Panama Canal project.
“You are in kind of a sweet spot,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think having two or three [inland ports] is a big deal.
“You don’t need everything. You just need a piece of the action. And there’s a lot of stuff floating around the world.”


U.S. Government to Invest $100 Million to Protect Florida Everglades
Herald Tribune – Latin American/Caracas
August 13, 2011
MIAMI – The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday it will invest $100 million in a program to restore wetlands in the Florida Everglades.
“Protecting and restoring the Northern Everglades is critical not just to Floridians, but to all Americans,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
The official traveled from Washington to Florida’s Palm Beach County to present the initiative at a press conference in the Winding Waters Natural Area, where he was accompanied by local authorities and heads of agricultural and environmental organizations.
The program will spur Everglades restoration with the aid of farmers and ranchers, who will receive compensation in exchange for pledging not to develop land located in a more than 9,700-hectare ($24,000-acre) area near Lake Okeechobee.
USDA will purchase permanent easements from landowners with the aim of recovering and ensuring conservation of the Everglades, a unique ecosystem that is also the source of drinking water for millions of Florida residents.
“The wetland restoration will reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land, slowing water runoff and the concentration of nutrients entering the public water management system and ultimately Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades,” the USDA said.
The investment represents the largest amount of funding Florida has received through the Wetlands Reserve Program for conservation projects in a single basin.
Private landowners “play a critical role in restoring wetlands and protecting wildlife in this unique habitat,” Vilsack said, adding that the granting of permanent easements represents a “more efficient” use of federal funding in this effort.
“This is a win-win that helps restore the Northern Everglades while allowing Florida ranching traditions to continue,” Bill Nelson, one of the state’s two U.S. senators, said in a statement.
In 2010, Washington acquired 10,520 hectares (26,000 acres) for easement under the Wetlands Reserve Program in the area of Fisheating Creek, the last remaining free-flowing water course feeding into Lake Okeechobee.
These initiatives provide an important push to Everglades restoration, a project that had been stalled for years and seemed further threatened by Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to cut state spending for restoration of that subtropical reserve by 66 percent from $50 million a year to $17 million.
“Our working lands provide abundant food, fuel and fiber and are an essential piece of vibrant and diverse rural communities that are part of the fabric of our nation,” Vilsack said Thursday.
“Well-managed private lands also support healthy ecosystems that provide clean water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and other environmental services that benefit the public,” the secretary said.


Political makeover needs policy moderation
Sun Sentinel
August 13, 2011
THE ISSUE: Gov. Rick Scott attempts a makeover.
Gov. Rick Scott is finally getting out more. Appearing at events other than aimed at tea party enthusiasts. Talking to the press. Doing some workday stints in places he hopes will resonate with the public. The governor's most recent venue? A doughnut shop in Tampa.
We welcome the signs that Scott is opening up and making himself more available. Florida needs – no, deserves -- a viable and accessible governor, even if Scott's overtures might be driven by some profoundly low poll numbers. This month, only one of three Floridians said they approved of the governor.
But, Scott's makeover won't win over more Floridians unless he moderates his business-first-everything-else-is-a-distant-second approach to governing. Florida's hurting. Here are a few places where the governor could make a big difference and improve his poll numbers in the process:
 Restore education funding The governor could do that by calling a special session of Florida Legislature and insist that lawmakers increase per-pupil spending. In February, Scott proposed a budget that would have cut per-pupil funding by $700 per student. He then went on to complain that more modest cuts by the Legislature went too far.
The restored funding could come from the $615 million Scott vetoed in legislative projects. School districts are getting killed right now, and we think lawmakers would be hard-pressed to ignore their local schools if the governor called them back to Tallahassee.
Second, the governor can go easy on the environment. Florida revolted when the Scott administration proposed letting private companies build and operate campgrounds at the 56 state public parks. His administration's idea of using state parks for private golf courses produced a similar outcry.
The lesson? Floridians may be conservative, but they treasure their public parks and open spaces. Scott could gain political points by preserving the environment, which means avoiding such gimmicks like the tax break that will save the average homeowner a few bucks but jeopardize Everglades restoration and Florida's chances at buying more land for open spaces. Calling off state government's fight to thwart federal air and water regulations should also be a no-brainer.
The governor could also ease up a bit on his assault on regulations. Truth is many regulations are simply needed. If more Floridians get ripped off by unethical auto mechanics or telemarketers, they'll be justified in turning their ire on Scott, particularly if he supports some of the misguided anti-consumer proposals floating around the Legislature.
The good news is that both Scott and the state's fortunes could change for the better. It all depends if the governor is truly willing to moderate his views.
Bottom line: Policy changes beat photo-ops in changing poll numbers.


"Brain drain astounding" as dozens depart water district under state cutbacks
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 12, 2011
Officials at the South Florida Water Management District did not release the number of workers laid off by the agency on Friday but there were many, with departures throughout the day. Workers were asked to leave quickly.
An estimated 100 people are expected to be gone when the layoffs are completed Aug. 17.
A plain-clothes sheriff's deputy wearing a bullet-proof vest sat at the security desk near the agency's front door all day Friday. No incidents were reported.
"The brain drain out of this place has been astounding," said Christopher W. McVoy, a senior environmental scientist in the Everglades division, who was laid off on Friday afternoon. McVoy, who has a Ph.D. in soil physics from Cornell, worked at the district for 15 years. "Obviously people losing their jobs is a bad thing but it goes way beyond that. What they are undoing here is big."
Already 123 workers have left the agency after accepting buyouts in June. Of those, 19 were scientists. Several other scientists left earlier this year, finding jobs at other agencies or institutions, after learning layoffs were imminent. The scattering of such highly specialized scientists who devoted years of their careers to the unique problems of South Florida, such as the Everglades restoration, will take its toll, McVoy said.
"Building up that institutional knowledge is invaluable," McVoy said. "It will be much harder to recreate it."
Workers remaining will see reductions in benefits, including medical insurance, tuition reimbursements and a health care subsidy for retirees, along with elimination of the vacation and sick leave buyback program and the matching contributions the district makes to an employee's deferred compensation plan.
The staff and benefit cuts are being made to comply with a new law, strongly backed by Gov. Rick Scott, requiring the district to slash by 30 percent -- about $128 million -- the money it can raise through property taxes
To accomplish that, the board approved a proposal to set a tax rate just under 44 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value, down from this year's rate of 62 cents. Based on that rate, a home with an assessed value of $200,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would save about $27.
"A lot of people talk about it like it's a natural disaster, a fatalistic sense that bad things just happen," McVoy said, standing in the parking lot after losing his job. "This was a very deliberate, very organized effort that didn't have to be -- just to save about $30 a year on your tax bill."
Officials at the South Florida Water Management District did not release the number of workers laid off by the agency on Friday but there were many, with departures throughout the day.


Jackpot of a News Day in Everglades Restoration World - by Nancy Smith
August 12, 2011
In came feds' $100 million for help in Northern Everglades and farmers break records in EAA removing phosphorous from water
Advocates of Everglades restoration might have felt as if they won the Florida lottery Thursday.
First, they wake up to $100 million from the USDA to help with wetlands restoration in the northern Everglades watershed.
Then they learn at a South Florida Water Management District meeting later in the morning that the source controls south of Lake Okeechobee are working up a storm. According to the SFWMD, the farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee “achieved a record-setting 79 percent phosphorus reduction in the water leaving the farming region.”
It was like winning a jackpot.
This year represents the 16th consecutive year that phosphorus reductions in the 470,000-acre EAA farming region are significantly better than the 25 percent reduction required by law.
How good is a 79 percent phosphorous reduction ? Explained Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, it means that by implementing improved farming techniques known as Best Management Practices, farmers actually have scrubbed their own "used" water cleaner than the water in Lake Okeechobee.
Pamela Wade was first at the Thursday board meeting to praise farmers for their achievement. Wade, who is chief of the Everglades Regulation Bureau, presented the annual-update powerpoint presentation to the Water Management District board. "Growers have done an outstanding job to exceed the reductions required in the [EAA] basin," she said.
Throughout Thursday, appreciation for the growers' effort and results was effusive.
"Improving water quality is a key component in the ongoing effort to restore and improve South Florida's ecosystems," Board Chairman Joe Collins said in a written statement. "This is an important commitment made by our region's agricultural community to help in achieving meaningful phosphorous reductions that will benefit the Everglades."
The District explains that in the EAA, the most commonly used BMPs against phosphorus are "more precise fertilizer application methods, refined stormwater pumping practices and erosion controls."
SFWMD scientists expressed their praise primarily by doing the numbers. According to the District press release, "When measured in actual mass, 173.6 metric tons of phosphorus were prevented from entering the regional canal system, which sends water into the Everglades, during the 2011 monitoring period. Over the past 16 years, the BMP program has prevented 2,411 metric tons of phosphorus from leaving the EAA."
Said Putnam, "I applaud the ongoing efforts of growers and ranchers in the EAA, and am committed to the long-term investment in Best Management Practices in the EAA and throughout Florida."
Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and a member of Gov. Rick Scott's transition team on water, took the long view. "When the BMP program was first envisioned in 1991, no one imagined it would be this effective over the long term," she said. "It's an example of the kind of success that can be achieved in partnership with scientists and farmers who roll up their sleeves to get the job done."
Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corp., asked why anybody would be surprised at the farmers' achievements. "They've done it for years," he said. "The sugar industry, the other farmers, we've all supported the Everglades Forever Act from the beginning. Think about it ... We've averaged a 55 percent phosphorus reduction rate for the last 16 years. That takes a lot of effort, and a lot of good people wanting good things to happen to get a result like that."
Cantens said farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area are the only ones in the country who pay a "privilege" tax on their land -- $25 an acre -- $200 million since Everglades Forever first was enacted. "And they never minded, never complained, because it's the right thing to do."
Cantens summed up, "We 've got an old saying: 'You can't cover up the sun with one finger.' And that's how it is. You can't hide the good that's been done by these farmers in the EAA."
Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, admitted that 79 percent phosphorus reductions in 2011 -- and an average of 55 percent over the last 16 years -- is a laudable accomplishment. "But," he said, "Audubon is really looking for even greater reductions. We believe the BMPs need to be revisited and the standards improved. You have to remember, it's not just the percentage of phosphorus we look at, it's the quantity of phosphorus."
Sugar farmers claim that in addition to improving water quality using high-tech, sustainable practices, "more than $200 million has been paid by farmers for the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to further clean water." STAs, they say, are built on 60,000 acres of former farmland and have reduced phosphorus by an additional 1,400 metric tons.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that the Northern Everglades watershed will get $100 million in federal financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetlands restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land.
By purchasing only the development rights, the USDA avoids shelling out the full price for the property it needs for restoration work, officials said. The agency has another $3 million set aside to assist landowners in restoring the wetlands that once existed on that property.
Said Adam Putnam, “Agriculture plays an integral role in the restoration of wetlands in the Northern Everglades. Agricultural lands have some of the greatest natural resources of any private lands in Florida. The open space allows them to protect ground and surface water resources and preserve critical habitat for endangered and threatened species, while remaining working agricultural lands. USDA’s commitment to the Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP) will enable Florida agriculture to continue its important efforts to enhance the natural resources of the Northern Everglades Watershed.”
This is the largest single conservation outlay the U.S. Department of Agriculture has ever made to a single state, according to USDA officials.
Florida leaders remarked on the gift, most of them lauding USDA efforts to protect the Northern Everglades:
Bill Nelson, United States senator: "This is a win-win that helps restore the Northern Everglades while allowing Florida ranching traditions to continue."
John Hoblick, president, Florida Farm Bureau: "Conservation programs provided by NRCS are invaluable and production agriculture stands ready to do its part to maintain green space, wildlife habitat and freshwater recharge areas. The farmer's and rancher's role has never been more important."
Alcee L. Hastings, U.S. representative (FL- 23): "I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack and the USDA for providing the state with much-needed funds for the Wetlands Reserve Program. Since the Everglades are the source of a majority of our fresh drinking water, preserving and restoring this national treasure is vital both for the wildlife calling the River of Grass home and also for our own good. This latest drought we've experienced demonstrates how crucial a reliable supply of clean drinking water is for Florida. ..."
Keith Fountain, Florida protection director, The Nature Conservancy:  "Protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes in the Northern Everglades will pay huge benefits in the future for all of us. The benefits from the Wetland Reserve Program are perhaps the broadest of any USDA conservation program -- permanent conservation of habitat, continued private ownership and economic benefit from cattle ranching, and wetland restoration that revives lost habitats and retains and cleans water for the people of Central and South Florida."
Melissa L. Meeker, executive director, South Florida Water Management District: "The District appreciates the opportunity to work with public and private partners for the common goal of protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes of the Northern Everglades."
This $100 million is not federal money the state can reject. Landowners enroll in the program, sign a contract directly with the USDA, and it's done.
Adam Putnam, Alcee L. Hastings, Barbara Miedema, Best Management Practices, Bill Nelson, EAA, Eric Draper, Everglades, Everglades Agricultural Area, Everglades Forever Act, Everglades Regulation Bureau, Florida Crystals, Gaston Cantens, Joe Collins, John Hoblick, Keith Fountain, Lake Okeechobee, Melissa L. Meeker, Nature Conservancy, News, Northern Everglades watershed, Pamela Wade, phosphorus, Rick Scott, SFWMD, South Florida Water Management District, STAs, Stormwater Treatment Areas, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, Tom Vilsack, USDA, Wetland Reserve Program, Politics


South Florida Water Management District lays off dozens
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 12, 2011
The layoffs of more than 100 workers at the South Florida Water Management District began Thursday evening as the agency continued its efforts to slash $128.3 million from its budget.
The layoffs will continue through Wednesday. Severe budget cuts, including the departure of 123 workers who accepted a buyout, have grabbed headlines in recent months and the 1,750 remaining employees have been awaiting news about which ones will lose their jobs.
In anticipation of the layoffs, the district's executive director, Melissa Meeker, urged the media Thursday to "respect the agency and its employees during this transition."
The cuts are being made to comply with a new state law that reduces the property taxes the district can collect by about 30 percent. Cuts include $57.7 million in operating expenses, $17.7 million in employee benefits and $27.5 million in staffing and salaries.
Nearly 27 percent of the workers who accepted a hastily arranged buyout in June earned salaries of more than $100,000. The annual salaries of those taking the buyout totaled more than $10 million, plus $1.4 million in benefits and about $367,000 in deferred compensation.


Florida leaders applaud water quality efforts
South Farm Press
August 11, 2011
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.
Local leaders lauded USDA efforts to protect the Northern Everglades and reiterated their commitment to the continued restoration and economic opportunities made possible by the Wetlands Reserve Program from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):
Bill Nelson, United States Senator
"This is a win-win that helps restore the Northern Everglades while allowing Florida ranching traditions to continue.”
John Hoblick, president, Florida Farm Bureau
“Conservation programs provided by NRCS are invaluable and production agriculture stands ready to do its part to maintain green space, wildlife habitat and freshwater recharge areas. The farmer's and rancher’s role has never been more important.”
Alcee L. Hastings, United States Representative (FL- 23)
“I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack and the USDA for providing the state with much-needed funds for the Wetlands Reserve Program. Since the Everglades are the source of a majority of our fresh drinking water, preserving and restoring this national treasure is vital both for the wildlife calling the River of Grass home and also for our own good.
“This latest drought we’ve experienced demonstrates how crucial a reliable supply of clean drinking water is for Florida. Unless we address our water infrastructure problems soon, water shortages will become a larger crisis for the State. With this funding, it is my sincere hope that we can better address the water infrastructure problems to ensure Florida has a stable supply of clean water.”
Keith Fountain, Florida protection director, The Nature Conservancy  
"Protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes in the Northern Everglades will pay huge benefits in the future for all of us.

WRP benefits very broad
“The benefits from the Wetland Reserve Program are perhaps the broadest of any USDA conservation program — permanent conservation of habitat, continued private ownership and economic benefit from cattle ranching, and wetland restoration that revives lost habitats and retains and cleans water for the people of central and south Florida.”
Melissa L. Meeker, executive director, South Florida Water Management District
“The District appreciates the opportunity to work with public and private partners for the common goal of protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes of the Northern Everglades.”
“The Wetland Reserve Program offers significant benefits to south Florida and the Northern Everglades such as improvements in water quality, expanded wetlands and connected natural areas that support a diverse array of wildlife.”
Eva Webb, Board of Supervisors, Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District
“Conservation Districts have been and are working with NRCS on various projects throughout the state. NRCS has worked in partnership and cooperatively with this state’s soil and water conservation districts on many meaningful projects, too numerous to name.
“They have offered much needed and valuable conservation programs, technical support, and information to Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local communities.
"NRCS programs such as EQIP and WRP are vitally important to Everglades restoration projects. These programs have helped farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area implement important conservation practices as a part of their Best Management Practices Plans.
“Conservation practices are designed to help reduce nutrient runoff from our farms into the Everglades. To date, farmers have spent millions to comply with water quality standards and conservation practices.
“Without WRP and EQIP cost-share dollars, farmers might not otherwise be able to afford to implement some of these costly conservation practices. NRCS EQIP and WRP programs are vital to Everglades restoration.”


Land conservation expands north of Everglades
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
August 11, 2011
To the delight of Florida environmentalists, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is pouring another $100 million into wetlands restoration on 24,000 acres north of the Everglades.
Ranchers and farmers will be paid to allow some of their land to be used to slow waterflow, reduce runoff and filter out fertilizer and other pollutants. They will still own the land but give up development rights.
The idea is to improve water quality and help restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Backers say the deal helps struggling ranchers retain their way of life while allowing the feds to conserve the land without paying the greater cost of buying it.
The four counties are Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee.
A similar deal -- $89 million to acquire easements on about 26,000 acres nearby – drew so many interested landowners that USDA decided to expand it.
The Interior Department in February announced plans for turning another 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee into a wildlife refuge
This land conservation, combined with Everglades restoration in southwest Florida, will open a "habitat corridor" that will allow the Florida Panther and other species room to roam, said Julie Hill-Gabriel, who tracks federal spending for Audubon of Florida.
"The panther's best chance for survival is to expand the population farther north," she said.
She said some structures may be built on the lands to store water and mimic what was once a natural slow-moving flow while plants filter out pollutants.
The pot of money used for USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program has been targeted for budget cuts in future years as Congress looks for ways to cut government spending.


Layoffs imminent for South Florida Water Management District
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 11, 2011
Layoffs part of effort to cut district spending $128 million.
Layoffs prompted by state-required spending cuts are coming soon to the far-flung South Florida Water Management District.
District officials said Thursday that they plan to cut nearly $28 million by reducing staff and salaries — just a part of a state-required $128 million budget cut.
Those layoffs are expected by the end of next week.
Officials have said they anticipate nearly 100 layoffs by mid-August to accomplish cutting about 280 jobs total through layoffs, buyouts and eliminating vacant positions.
Melissa Meeker, executive director of the West Palm Beach-based district, on Thursday wouldn't clarify how many layoffs would come.
"Like public agencies at the local, state and national levels, as well as private businesses, the district is working diligently to achieve its mission through challenging economic times," Meeker said in a statement released Thursday about what she called the agency's "transition."
The South Florida Water Management District's more than 1,700 employees help oversee water supplies, guard against flooding and lead Everglades restoration in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
The Legislature, critical of past district spending, is requiring the agency to cut its budget by about 30 percent.
In addition to the layoffs, the district plans to cut operating expenses by nearly $58 million and slash another almost $18 million by reducing employee benefits.
Its deep spending cuts have raised concerns about delaying already overdue Everglades restoration projects, such as reservoirs and water-treatment areas.
The district also plans to cut $10 million from the $60 million it usually spends each year to maintain South Florida's aging flood-control system of canals, pumps and levees.
The cutbacks target about 280 jobs. A buyout program in June prompted 123 employees to voluntarily leave the agency, and the district has about 90 vacant positions.
About 25 of those vacancies are to be filled. That could result in the district laying off nearly 100 people.
The district board in September takes its final vote on the budget that takes effect Oct. 1.


South Florida Farmers Achieve Record Year in Water Quality Success
The Sacramento Bee - by Florida Crystals
August. 11, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH/PRNewswire/ -- Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee, achieved a record-setting 79 percent phosphorus reduction in the water leaving the farming region -- more than three times less phosphorus than the state requirement.
The South Florida Water Management District, the agency tasked with Everglades restoration, announced today that the EAA's on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), developed by university scientists in collaboration with farmers, are a resounding success. The District praised EAA farmers for being proactive and often implementing more BMPs than what is required.
"We're proud of farmers' accomplishments cleaning water, with an average phosphorus reduction of 55 percent over the last 16 years," said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. "When the BMP program was first envisioned in 1991, no one imagined it would be this effective over the long term. It's an example of the kind of success that can be achieved in partnership with scientists and farmers, who roll up their sleeves to get the job done."
In addition to improving water quality using high-tech sustainable practices, more than $200 million has been paid by farmers for the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to further clean water. Built on 60,000 acres of former farmland, the STAs have reduced phosphorus to the Everglades Protection Area by an additional 1,470 metric tons. That's in addition to the 2,400 metric tons of phosphorus removed by farmers.
"Along with being stable economic drivers and job providers for our state and county, farmers have a long track record of supporting and implementing Everglades restoration," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corporation. "Today's record-breaking results are another example of the proven success of our sustainable practices and demonstrate the significant role our farms continue to play in protecting and preserving the Everglades ecosystem, as the design was intended."
Florida Agriculture Fast Facts:
•Supports 766,000 jobs
•Generates $100 billion annual economic impact in Florida
•Responsible for $3 billion in tax revenue for local and state government
•Florida Sugar Industry provides 7,000 direct jobs & 23,500 indirect jobs
•Florida Sugar Industry generates $2 billion economic impact
About Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation are two Palm Beach County-based sugar producers and owners of the world's largest sugar company, American Sugar Refining, whose global production capacity is 7 million tons of refined sugar annually. Its products are marketed through its brand portfolio: Domino®, C&H®, Redpath® and Tate & Lyle®. Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, based in Belle Glade, is made up of 46 small and medium size farms in Palm Beach County. The grower members produce approximately 300,000 tons of sugar from 65,000 acres of land. The primary functions of the Cooperative are the harvesting, transporting and processing of sugarcane and the marketing of raw sugar to one of its American Sugar Refining facilities. Florida Crystals Corporation farms 190,000 acres in South Florida, where it also mills, refines and packages sugar and rice products. The company is the only producer of certified organic sugar grown and harvested in the USA, sold through the Florida Crystals® brand. Florida Crystals also produces clean, renewable energy from sugar cane fiber and recycled wood waste in its Palm Beach County biomass power plant.
SOURCE FloridaCrystals
Contact:  Gaston Cantens  Barbara Miedema
Florida Crystals Corporation,  Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative
561-366-5128              561-996-4777  


US Agriculture

USDA leader announces $100 million coming for Everglades restoration in Central Florida counties
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
August 11, 2011
WEST PALM BEACH — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $100 million to acquire permanent easements from agricultural producers in four counties for wetlands restoration on 24,000 acres in the North Everglades Watershed, Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack said today.
Vilsack, who made the announcement at Palm Beach County's 548-acre Wind Waters Natural Area off Haverhill Road north of 45th Street, said it is the department's single largest conservation deal ever in a single state at one time.
"This is an important day," he said. "It's an important day for the United States. It's an important day for Florida and the Everglades."
Vilsack said that every $1 invested in land conservation results in $4 of economic activity, such as tourism.
"It's an economic driver," Vilsack said, adding that the restoration work alone will result in hundreds of jobs. "It will generate more economic activity as people come to the state of Florida to participate in the great outdoors.
"The Everglades is the largest wetland in the lower 48," Vilsack said, and the project will improve the water quality, quantity and flow and provide a habitat for wildlife.
Under the initiative, known as the Wetlands Reserve Program, landowners sell development rights to land and place it in a conservation easement that permanently maintains that land as agriculture and open space.
The planned acquisitions in Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee counties follow the purchase of easements on 26,000 acres in Highlands County for $89 million a year ago.
A.J. Suarez of Henry County Nursery Farms signed an agreement with the USDA at today's event to start the process to acquire the easement rights to 3,782 acres. Suarez is slated to receive a one-time payment of $17 million.
South Bay-based sod producer Lester Woerner, president of Woerner Holdings, said he is negotiating with the USDA regarding 3,200 acres he owns in Highlands County that will become part of the wetlands program.
Ken Smith, a former Blue Head Ranch manager, now with Alico, said Blue Head received $42 million for 11,000 acres near Fisheating Creek in Highlands County. The money was used to remove a diseased citrus grove and replace it with strawberry and blueberry fields.
"That created 400 to 600 seasonal jobs and 20 to 30 full-time jobs," Smith said.
Keith Fountain, The Nature Conservancy's director of protection, said, "The Department of Agriculture has become the leader for conservation in the North Everglades landscape. They are protecting and restoring habitats for wildlife in South Florida. They are doing this while keeping the land in private ownership. They are retaining and cleaning water."
A number of local officials were on hand including Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who thanked the USDA for partnering with the county in the creation of Winding Waters. Taylor said she is concerned about the possibility of not obtaining funding to further enhance Winding Waters. The rules have changed and no longer allow the USDA to fund wetlands restoration on publicly-owned land.
Following his speech, Vilsack toured Winding Waters in a swamp buggy and spotted an alligator. Brenda Hovde, a Palm Beach County environmental program supervisor, told him once exotic plants were removed and lakes and marshes were created, the "little oasis" has attracted wildlife such as white ibis, great egrets and even bobcats.


USDA pledges $100 million toward Florida wetland restoration
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 11, 2011
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  announced $100 million in financial assistance for Florida wetland restoration today, the largest amount of funding the state has received through the Wetland Restoration Project in a single year.
The funds will go toward acquiring easements from eligible landowners in four Florida counties, Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee — maintaining that land as agriculture and open space. The easements will form a conservation corridor from the Kissimmee River to Everglades National Park, and “assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed,” according to a release sent out today.
The effort aims to reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land, and should ultimately lessen the concentration of nutrients reaching Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Nutrients in Florida waterways are a major problem, and contribute to toxic algae growth and massive fish kills. The Everglades suffers from methylmercury poisoning.
“Agriculture plays an integral role in the restoration of wetlands in the Northern Everglades,” said Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam in a press release. “Agricultural lands have some of the greatest natural resources of any private lands in Florida. The open space allows them to protect ground and surface water resources and preserve critical habitat for endangered and threatened species, while remaining working agricultural lands. USDA’s commitment to the Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP) will enable Florida agriculture to continue its important efforts to enhance the natural resources of the Northern Everglades Watershed.”


The Inconvenient Truth -
how ready are we ?

Climate Change Hits Home - by Wendy Gordon
August 10, 2011
Do you live in a climate-ready city? How prepared is your state for the challenges to health and the environment being caused by climate change-from the dangers of extreme heat and increased flooding to the spread of ragweed whose pollen causes allergies or mosquitoes that can spread disease?
NRDC just unveiled an incredible web interactive that lets you see how your state might be impacted by climate change. On the site,, you can see local data and maps detailing extreme weather patterns throughout the country, see local climate change vulnerabilities and learn about health problems in your own community that are connected to climate change.
In my state of New York, I was disheartened to see that:
The state has been declared a disaster area 15 times since 2000, due to
damage from severe storms and flooding.
Heat-related mortality in the metropolitan New York region is projected to increase 70 percent by mid-century as temperatures soar.
518 cases of West Nile virus were reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 1999-2010.
It was extremely hot and dry for much of July in New York State, but nothing like what much of the Midwest and south was experiencing. "This has been one of the hottest and driest summers I can remember in my lifetime" Scott Eckert, a horticulturalist and Harvey County Extension agent, wrote in the
I was sure my garden vegetables and the trees near the house were feeling the heat as well, but it all became clearer when reading Eckert's list of "things to remember about plants and heat":
- Tomatoes like 85 degrees much better than 105 degrees.
- Plants do not grow as much in extreme heat.
- Less pollination and fruit drop can occur in extreme heat.
- Evergreen trees can scorch as well as deciduous trees.
- Containerized plants dry out much faster in high heat.
- And here is one I learned this weekend-extreme heat makes lettuce taste bitter.
I rely on my garden for much of my salad greens and a lot of my vegetables every summer. So to see it in distress made me pause. What sort of crop loss will America's real farmers experience in the face of hotter summers, extended droughts, more intense storms, and new pests?
What of our cities and towns? Global warming renders drinking water supplies more vulnerable. Consider Florida: According to NRDC's web site, about 96 percent of the state's counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change.
Similarly in Arizona, where Lake Powell is only half full and the number of hours per summer day that the temperatures exceeds 100 degrees has doubled in the last 50 years, older Americans are particularly vulnerable. Indeed, heat-related deaths in Arizona are the highest of any state-at three to seven times the national average.
You might be wondering if there are any parts of the country that are more resilient/less vulnerable to climate change than others. According to Jeff Opperman, who wrote "Which cities can best adapt to climate change?", the answer is "yes": the top five U.S. cities that are most resilient/least vulnerable to climate change are Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. As for the bottom five (the least resilient/most vulnerable), his ranking scheme turned up Phoenix, Houston, Sacramento, Las Vegas, and Miami.
Why do Rust Belt cities do so well in his rankings ?  Because Opperman figures, they have a sustainable water supply (in four of the cities, the Great Lakes); their heat stress rankings are relatively low; and they are less vulnerable to natural disasters that will be exacerbated by climate change, such as floods, landslides, and wildfires. One worrisome observation Opperman makes is that "the most climate-vulnerable cities include some of the fastest growing regions of the country."
In the face of all of this bad news, let me leave you with some good news. In late July, the Obama Administration announced "the single largest step we can take to stop our costly addiction to oil": By 2025, all new cars and light trucks will be required to get 54.5 miles per gallon. This means you'll be able to go about twice as far, on average, on a gallon of gas, compared with today's vehicles.
The difference will save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump, reduce our oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day by 2030, cut automobile carbon emissions in half, and create up to 150,000 American jobs, as Detroit shows the world how to build the next generation of energy efficient cars. In fact, whether you are talking about cars, or central air conditioners and furnaces, or lightbulbs, new energy efficiency standards means new manufacturing jobs. Case in point: the Cree high-efficiency lighting manufacturing plant in Durham North, Carolina.
We're all going to have to adapt to a changing climate, but we should also do what we can to mitigate the impact. Making sure our homes are outfitted with the most efficient appliances is one fundamental way we can all be better stewards.
Check out Smarter Living's Top Ten lists for the most efficient appliances on the market today.


'Tomatoland' Explores the Seedy Side of Florida's Tomato Industry - by Cari Wade Gervin
August 10, 2011
Right now, in the height of tomato season, it seems impossible to think that in just a few short weeks, all our gardens’ bounty will be gone and we will once more be forced to turn to tasteless grocery store tomatoes for our culinary needs.
But that time will come. We’ll complain about it, but we’ll still buy them. Even if we don’t, we’ll still eat those bland blobs of red water when we dine in restaurants, whether we’re eating fast-food hamburgers or country club chef salads or bruschetta in an upscale Italian place.
And that—our country’s unquenchable demand for out-of-season tomatoes, no matter how lacking in flavor—is a huge problem, according to Barry Estabrook.
“[A]ny American who has eaten a winter tomato, either purchased at a supermarket or on top of a fast food salad, has eaten a fruit picked by the hand of a slave,” Estabrook writes in his engrossing new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.
To be totally accurate, Estabrook is here paraphrasing what he was told by Douglas Molloy, a United States attorney in Florida, but the facts Estabrook lays out make for a compelling case. The price of those tasteless winter tomatoes is low at the supermarket, but, as it turns out, the human cost is unimaginable.
Estabrook first wrote about modern slavery on tomato farms in Immokalee, Fla., in the March 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. That article later won a James Beard Award (kind of like the Pulitzer for food writers) and landed Estabrook a book deal.
I remember reading the piece when it was published and recoiling in horror; I also remember thinking it was way too short for Estabrook to present his case really well. Tomatoland, however, is 200 pages of research and documentation. It is a must-read for anyone interested in food, farming, or simply eating—and you will never look at the produce in your grocery store the same way.
But the strength of Estabrook’s book, and the reason why I call it a must-read, is that it is not full of outrage, or entreaties to eat local, or even to boycott Florida tomatoes. Estabrook is first and foremost a journalist. Everything he writes about—whether the story of Lucas Mariano Domingo, an undocumented immigrant enslaved in Florida for three years earlier this decade, beaten and locked in the back of a truck when he was too sick to pick tomatoes, or that of Francisca Herrera, whose son Carlitos was born without arms or legs after she was exposed to pesticides while pregnant and working in the tomato fields—is presented without hysteria or drama or overwriting. The facts are horrifying enough on their own, and Estabrook states them without comment. He doesn’t need to write, This is the price of your winter tomatoes—slavery and deformed babies. It’s already clear.
Yet Estabrook’s book is not simply an indictment of modern agriculture, or even agricultural practices in Florida. He gives a fascinating account of how tomatoes went from tiny, wild, bitter Peruvian berries to dominating American cooking. (Did you know some early American colonists thought tomato vines in one’s sheets would get rid of bed bugs?) He details the rise of the Florida winter tomato industry in the 1880s, after an enterprising farmer discovered that if he shipped unripe tomatoes, they would survive the journey from Florida to New York with minimal damage. (Did you know winter Florida tomatoes are picked green and exposed to gas in a warehouse so that their skin turns red?)
Unlike any number of authors who have written about modern agricultural practices, Estabrook also does not give the agriculture industry short shrift. He talks to agricultural scientists working on finding a better tasting winter tomato. He talks to Florida farmers worried about losing ground to Mexican greenhouse (aka vine-ripe) tomatoes. He presents all sides of the story, with balance.
It is because Estabrook is that rare species, a food journalist who actually appreciates the complexity of the modern agricultural economy, that Tomatoland is such an important read. He doesn’t give any pat, easy answers, nor does he suggest we should all start our own farms.
Estabrook does suggest that local, mostly organic farming and heirloom seeds might be the answer to many problems, such as tasteless tomatoes and poisonous herbicides, but he acknowledges there is no clear and simple solution. A giant sector of the Florida economy is not just going to up and walk away—and it seems that many of these issues are not solely the province of the tomato industry or of Florida farms (although they may be worse in both cases).
What Tomatoland does make clear is that out-of-season produce has a cost much higher than its sticker price. Estabrook may not write with outrage, but you’ll be hard pressed to not feel any once you’ve finished his book.


Coral reef

Cold Weather Kills Coral Reef In Florida - by Mark Dunphy
August 9, 2011
An extended period of cold weather in early 2010 has had a devastating impact on inshore reef off Key Largo in the U.S. State of Florida.
Researchers at the University of Georgia say that cold weather can have as much as a negative impact on coral reefs as increased seawater temperatures.
Lead author Dustin Kemp, a postdoctoral associate in the UGA Odum School of Ecology, said the study was prompted by an abnormal episode of extended cold weather in January and February 2010. Temperatures on inshore reefs in the upper Florida Keys dropped below 12 C (54 F), and remained below 18 C (64 F) for two weeks.
Kemp and his colleagues had planned to sample corals at Admiral Reef, an inshore reef off Key Largo, just three weeks after the cold snap. When they arrived, they discovered that the reef, once abundant in hard and soft corals, was essentially dead.
The researchers took samples of Siderastrea siderea—one of the few reef-building corals to survive—from Admiral Reef. They also took samples of three common Florida Keys corals, Montastraea faveolata, Siderastrea sidereaand Porites astreoides from Little Grecian Reef, a nearby offshore reef that had not experienced the temperature anomaly to the extent of Admiral Reef.
Kemp explained that Little Grecian Reef is far enough offshore that the cold-water temperatures were likely buffered by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, which resulted in offshore coral reefs being less severely affected by the cold air mass that was pushed by an unusual weather pattern over much of the U.S. during that two-week period.
Back in the lab, they simulated the temperatures that had been recorded at Admiral Reef during the cold weather event, testing the different corals’ physiological responses at 12 C and 16 C (61 F), and then, after the corals’ exposure to the cold, returned the temperature to 20 C (68 F). They found that although responses varied depending on the coral species, in general the stress of extended cold temperatures had an effect similar to that of high temperatures.
Kemp stressed that the study’s findings should not be interpreted to downplay the major role of higher temperatures on corals’ decline. “The study shows that warming may not be the only climate-related problem for coral reefs in the future,” he said.
He also pointed out that it was not only the corals that were devastated by the cold snap. “The corals provide the framework for the entire reef ecosystem,” he said. “The lobster, shrimp, clams, fish—all the creatures that depend on the reef—were affected too. The potential consequences for coral ecosystems are extremely alarming.”


Everglades common sense eludes ex-water manager
Palm Beach Post – Letter to the Editor by John Arthur Marshall
August 9, 2011
This is in support of the letter "Collins, Scott no friend to Everglades restoration" that was written in response to "With Scott, Everglades restoration back on track," by former South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Michael Collins.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) issued in 1999 was fatally flawed by its failure to provide natural flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. The plan defied scientists' calls, dating to the 1970s, to restore sheet flow and 2001-10 peer review by the National Research Council.
In January 2009, CERP scientists revealed a second deficiency: The Everglades was a much wetter ecosystem than postulated in 1999, requiring a return to the drawing board. Arose then the initiative to restore "the missing link to revitalize the River of Grass" to meet the true water needs of the historic Everglades and the other users. This would also avoid adverse impacts to the estuaries, by moving water from the lake south more than east and west.
The total ecosystem revitalization has three regions, from the Kissimmee River Basin to Florida Bay. There is progress in the north and south. However, until the River of Grass initiative, there was inadequate action for linking the northern and southern parts.
In May 2010, the River of Grass workshops to address the midsection were postponed, to address land purchases needed. Admittedly the economy makes the paltry U.S. Sugar purchase look like a bad deal, but there are options long-term. Additional calculations and connect-the-dots common sense indicate that it will be of great benefit long-term to restore the River of Grass. Restoring the Everglades would restore the natural water supply and moderate droughts.
Why a former governing board member does not see this is left to the judgment of the reader.
Editor's note (Palm Beach Post): John Arthur Marshall is chairman of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation & Florida Environmental Institute Inc.
Armchair colonel can snark, but West deserves to lead
Regarding the Monday letter, "West's vituperation should be enough to limit his tenure," I had to look up vituperation. I knew from the cutting remarks that it was an unpleasant thing to call someone, but hiding behind that word is cowardice in itself.
The letter-writer failed to admonish the shrewish attacks on Rep. Allen West by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The same goes for the retired colonel whose letter appeared the same day, commenting on an incident - Rep. West's actions in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel - of which he has no firsthand knowledge.
I'll tell the retired colonel one thing: I would rather have Rep. West commanding instead of him. The Democratic Party should be proud to have the letter-writer as a member. The pen might be mightier than the sword. It is more biting and hard to defend. But when that freedom needs to be defended, give me the man with a sword willing to use it, not the armchair colonel.
Of course, I know nothing of the retired colonel's military record. I don't need to know. I am using my pen.


Everglades needs more water
Miami Herald – in Other Views, by John C. Ogden -
August 9, 2011
Construction of a 1.5-mile stretch of elevated highway on the Tamiami Trail, along with increased water-storage capacity in the C-111 basin south of Florida City, will make it possible to deliver more water into Shark River Slough and eastern Florida Bay, respectively, in Everglades National Park.
And recently the U.S. House of Representatives included the “Tamiami Trail Next Steps” project in a funding bill for the Department of the Interior. This project would add 5.5 additional miles of elevated highway along the northern boundary of Everglades Park, substantially removing barriers to sheet flow into the park. Everyone, including conservationists, sportspersons, recreationists and the tourist industry, should welcome these essential forward steps in the long-delayed Everglades restoration program.
Yet these projects are only half of the equation for successful restoration.
Because the size of the remaining Everglades is much reduced from that of the pre-drainage ecosystem, and much rainfall over the Everglades is shunted off to sea by lateral canals, the total amount of water in the current Everglades is far less than in the historical past. Computer models estimate that approximately one million additional acre-feet of water should be flowing through the central and southern Everglades than is now the case. Scientists report that these greater flows in the historical Everglades stimulated the tremendous levels of productivity in the southern estuaries, which in turn supported the great abundance and diversity of animal life that once characterized the Everglades.
Everglades scientists and members of the Everglades committee of the National Research Council agree that the ecosystem is deteriorating and will continue to do so until much more water is returned. Damage will become increasingly challenging to reverse. Each passing year increases both the difficulty and expense of success. Yet instead of accelerating the specific restoration projects that can recover historical volumes and patterns of flow into and through the core Everglades, federal and state planning processes show no signs of recognizing the urgency — that the Everglades is steadily dying, and that new bridges without more water will not save this ecosystem.
It’s extremely disturbing that the recent budget proposal by the South Florida Water Management District includes no funding for the Decompartmentalization and Sheetflow Enhancement Project (Decomp), a pivotal restoration project.
Yet if “decomp” fails, it is highly unlikely that Everglades restoration, and the restoration of Everglades National Park, will ever be realized. Urgency demands a new, high priority restoration planning paradigm, with “decomp” and several hydrologically inter-connected projects bundled into an integrated planning and implementation process.
At this point we increasingly ask ourselves this question: What will the Everglades look like 10 years from now, in the absence of a re-prioritization of restoration projects and substantial increases in water?
Unfortunately, extrapolating from what we know about the rates and patterns of decline during the past 10 years provides us with a gloomy picture. And although miles of elevated highways and new water delivery structures are both welcome and essential, we are unlikely to see honest restoration until we are able to use these new structures to convey much more water through the Everglades.
Clearly it is time for a major summit of Everglades leadership and stakeholders to re-direct this failing program.
John C. Ogden is a director of the Tropical Audubon Society and former chief environmental scientist at the South Florida Water Management District.


Lawmakers grill EPA on Florida water rules
Orlando Business Journal - by Abraham Aboraya , Staff Writer
August 9, 2011
Federal lawmakers grilled Environmental Protection Agency representatives Aug. 9 about the costs of implementing federal water standards in Florida, citing closed businesses and lost jobs as reason enough to block implementation.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Ocala) called for the meeting with the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight and investigation, which was held at the University of Central Florida. It was the first field hearing on the economic impact of the EPA putting numerical values to phosphorous and nitrogen levels in Florida’s water.
Lawmakers cited estimates that implementing federal regulations would cost the agricultural industry in Florida $900 million to $1.1 billion annually and eliminate more than 14,000 full- and part-time jobs. The EPA’s estimate put the costs significantly lower, at $135 million to $200 million, while the state of Florida estimates the cost at $5.7 billion to $8.4 billion.
Additionally, a representative from the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council said water bills would rise by $700 per year per house, another figure the EPA disputed.
A counterpoint by EPA representatives is that tourism in Florida depends on clean water, and that the upfront costs will prevent costly cleanups.
“EPA clearly understands there are economic impacts to implementing the rule and this is a tough economic time,” said Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Southeast. “If businesses that rely on clean water don’t have it, their bottom line suffers. It might cost even more jobs later if people no longer come to Florida because they don’t see it as a rich treasure.”
The widely varying costs of implementing the rule center on questions about what the EPA would require businesses and governments to do to meet the new standards, and whether utilities would be able to get exemptions from standards.
At times, the hearing got heated, with Fleming fielding pointed questions from the committee. U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland) said that when it comes to complying, businesses will have to either lay off employees or close their doors.
“What have we done wrong to receive the wrath of the EPA?” Ross asked.
“We were the unfortunate victims of the lawsuit and the settlement,” said Richard Budell, the director of the Florida Office of Agricultural & Consumer Services.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and the only Democrat on the panel, stressed the need for a balanced approach to the issue “so we can afford to move forward.”
Representatives from environmental groups in the audience that felt like they weren’t represented on the panels wore gags and lime green stickers that read “slime crime.”
The hearing is ongoing this afternoon.


US Agriculture

U.S. agriculture secretary, state officials to tour Winding Waters, announce Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
August 9, 2011
WASHINGTON — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and leaders from Florida government, agriculture and conservation will visit the 548-acre Winding Waters Wetland Preserve in suburban West Palm Beach Thursday to announce several major Everglades restoration projects, the USDA said today.
Several major projects designed to restore and protect wetlands in the Northern Everglades Watershed are planned, the USDA said.
The wetland restoration will reduce the amount of surface water leaving the land, slowing water runoff and the concentration of nutrients entering the public water management system and ultimately Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Private landowners must continue to play a critical role in protecting wetlands and enhancing wildlife in this unique habitat, the agency said.
Winding Waters, a project of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, was restored with USDA funds. Construction was completed in December.
Later on Thursday, Vilsack will tour the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility in Vero Beach. The facility applied for a USDA loan guarantee to help build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of electricity.
At INEOS, Vilsack will announce a series of joint USDA and U.S. Department of Energy grants to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops.
This all sounds good but the USDA has not much credibility on conservation issues. USDA has always been the primary government cheer leader for big sugar. USDA is a big part of the Everglades' problems. If USDA is changing its big sugar bias that is welcome. But, based on its history, there is good reason to be skeptical about USDA's intentions


Sierra Club Good for Florida
The - Letters
August 8, 2011
Ryan Houck's op-ed column, "Sierra Club Diverts Public Interest" [July 25], is inflammatory. He has cooked up a conspiracy theory intended to excite anger, animosity and division between fellow Floridians, and attack the reputations of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sierra Club.
He wants readers to think we must choose between clean water and jobs. He wants readers to believe we cannot have both.
Yet thousands of Florida jobs are dependent on tourism dollars. Tourists will not flock to Florida's beaches, resorts and parks if the water is polluted, and unsafe to swim or fish.
Nothing illustrates this point better than the economic injury suffered by Florida hotels, restaurants, marinas and fisheries during, and after the BP oil gusher. And when rivers turn a sickly green from nutrient pollution, real estate values plummet.
Clean water and a healthy Florida economy go hand in hand. We don't have to sacrifice one for the other.
BEV GRIFFITHS, Sierra Club Member


Potable water reuse conference scheduled for November
August 7, 2011
Program and registration details will be published this month for the second specialty conference on Potable Reuse organized by the WateReuse Association.
This specialty conference on 13-15 November 2011 at Hollywood, Florida, will bring leading experts in the field together to discuss critical factors in the success of potable water reuse projects.
Topics will include: addressing regulatory issues, demonstrating environmental and economic viability, and enhancing public understanding and acceptance. Panel discussions will enable participants to discuss the typical barriers to potable reuse and hear perspectives from environmental and business interests in addition to those of water agencies and elected officials.
Enquiries to Courtney Tharpe at WateReuse Association.


US Congressman, FL(r)

Stearns' about-face on water regs - by Frank Jackalone, Special to the Star-Banner
August 7, 2011
Clean-water supporters were very surprised to learn that Congressman Cliff Stearns will hold a field hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the University of Central Florida Alumni Center in Orlando. Stearns, who chairs the subcommittee, chose to title this hearing "EPA's Takeover of Florida's Nutrient Water Quality Standard Setting: Impact on Communities and Job Creation."
This is quite an about-face for Stearns, the only Republican in the Florida congressional delegation who voted a few months ago against the Rooney Amendment to the House Continuing Budget Resolution. The Rooney amendment, rejected by the Senate, would have stopped EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida. Here's what Stearns told the Florida Times-Union at the time of his bold vote:
"I am very concerned about preserving the Silver River in my hometown [Ocala] as well as the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns rivers in my district. ... Although I don't want to see the EPA develop these burdensome and expensive regulations, I do want the EPA and the State of Florida to work together in developing an economical solution to protecting our waters."
The Sierra Club praised Stearns for showing "significant courage, risking retaliation not only from the polluters' cabal and agricultural interests in his rural district in North Florida, but also from the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives which attached dozens of anti-environmental riders to the Continuing Resolution."
Fast forward to Aug. 2 when Stearns announced his upcoming field hearing in Orlando. Stearns sang a different tune in his new press release:
"Although the EPA originally accepted the standards set by Florida, under outside pressure the EPA decided to impose its own standards; numerous studies in Florida indicate that the Washington-imposed standards will have a devastating impact on Florida's job creation, economy and certain agencies."
It looks like retaliation from polluters was, indeed, too intense for Stearns. He caved to the pressure, and one can only wonder what did the trick. Was it campaign contributions, robo calls from the tea party or a threat from deep-pocketed polluters that they would find a serious opponent to run against him in the next election?
It's clear Stearns is now taking sides and no longer sees a role for EPA to make sure that Silver River, the St. John's River and the Ocklawaha River are cleaned up and protected.
Frank Jackalone is the Florida staff director and a senior field organizing manager of the Sierra Club. Jackalone served in 2001-2002 as the national chair of the Everglades Coalition.


The State You're In: Deal with invasive species in Florida at dinner table - by Bill Duryea, St Petersburg Times Staff Writer
August 7, 2011
Few states have been as transformed by its invaders — animal and human — as Florida.
We speak here of the overly ambitious python willing to attempt to swallow an alligator whole, and Nile monitor lizards that have performed so well in the abandoned canals of Cape Coral that one wonders if somehow Egypt wasn't just Peoria to Florida's Broadway.
But by the time these conquistadors of nature start making news, they're already on their way to ecological dominion. They always turn out to be inveterate breeders, voracious feeders and pure predators that don't appear on any one else's menu.
That might be about to change.
The 2011 edition of the Smart Seafood Guide published by Food and Water Watch for the first time recommends turning the tables on invasive species, such as the lionfish, which over the past few years has treated coral reefs in the Keys and the Caribbean like Las Vegas buffets.
"Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm and with your meal make a positive contribution," said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy in a New York Times story.
Turning a pest into protein doesn't happen overnight. But a couple of local chefs are willing to try to change attitudes for the sake of the environment.
"I think that would be a good sales pitch," said Tom Pritchard, executive chef of Salt Rock Grill.
Zack Gross, owner of Z Grille, says if he can find a supplier for lionfish, he'd be more than happy to put it on a menu. "The thought of it is kind of cool."
Why stop there ? How about seared tournedos of lizard in a Brazilian pepper honey glaze ?


Frank Stronach

Fort McCoy, FL
Where is Fort McCoy in
Florida ?

(mouse over or click)
Stronach's properties
Stronach's properties
to become an advanced
cattle ranch

Billionaire to put cattle ranch on property - by Bill Thompson, Staff Writer
August 6, 2011
Car parts magnate and Marion County horseman Frank Stronach seeks to bring a new venture to his adopted community: a sprawling cattle ranch.
The Canadian billionaire plans to establish a state-of-the-art cattle harvesting facility near Fort McCoy that would provide 150 jobs to the economically distressed north Marion community, Stronach's representatives said.
Barring any setbacks, the facility is expected to be in operation by Oct. 1, 2012.
Mark Roberts, manager of Stronach's Adena Springs South farm, said his boss has been on a systematic land-buying spree in recent months.
Stronach has already acquired, or has under contract, roughly 24,000 acres for the Fort McCoy project, Roberts said.
Stronach, meanwhile, is in negotiations to acquire hundreds of additional acres nearby.
Stronach has purchased thousands more acres in neighboring Levy County to create a second cattle ranch that will support the Marion operation, known as Adena Ranches.
Stronach has spent $62 million obtaining land in the two counties, Roberts said. By the time the other acquisitions are settled, his investment will top $80 million.
That excludes another $30 million expense for the 61,000-square-foot abattoir — and a related biomass energy plant that will power it — that would be a larger version of a plant in Edmonton, Canada.
Stronach, Roberts said, is promising a clean, quiet, odor-free operation that would provide a "low-stress" environment for the cattle as well as the neighbors.
Under the plan, the harvesting facility would be located in the heart of the property — 1½ miles west of County Road 315 and at least a mile from the nearest residence.
"You're not going to know it's there unless you work there," said Jimmy Gooding, an Ocala lawyer representing Stronach in the project.
Much of the property is currently wooded, and while some would be cleared for pasture and the harvesting house, Stronach intends to retain trees on as much as 40 percent of the land for commercial timber operations.
"I've never seen this amount of buffer for a commercial facility," Gooding added.
According to Roberts, Stronach's vision is to raise, harvest and sell all-natural, hormone-free, grass-fed beef cattle to supply to his "built-in customer base" in his other operations throughout the country, as well as to restaurants.
Stronach, 78, owns thoroughbred racing tracks in Florida, Maryland and California, and has won the sport's top award for breeders multiple times.
Although he sold off most of his holdings in June, and thus surrendered control of the company, Stronach remains a director of Magna International, the tool-and-die company he started in 1957 and built into the largest auto-parts supplier in North America.
That deal, which took 11 months to complete, netted Stronach $970 million, according to Bloomberg News.
Roberts said Stronach has expressed interest in launching his own chain of restaurants, which would feature his Fort McCoy-harvested beef, dubbed Adena Meats.
Roberts acknowledged that Adena Ranches would be a departure from his employer's usual business model. But, he added, Stronach is a farmer at heart.
"Frank's feeling is that in the times ahead, food production is going to be a major thing. It's just getting harder and harder because of a lack of land," Roberts said.
Besides, Roberts added, "Owning land is never a bad thing."
Yet Stronach also hopes to appeal to a growing demand, as stated by some food providers, for locally produced agriculture.
At the same time, Stronach is targeting a specific market within the industry, according to the Florida Cattleman's Association.
All cattle start out with a grass-based diet and spend the majority of their lives grazing in a pasture. But they don't end up that way.
Most beef cattle, the association points out, are switched to a grain-based diet just before they are harvested, spending between four and six months housed in a feedlot, or a feedyard.
This period is sometimes called the "finishing phase," and the animals are attended by professional nutritionists, veterinarians and employees who daily monitor the cattle's health.
In contrast, "grass-finished" cattle tend to take more time and resources to reach appropriate market weight, and thus tend to cost consumers more, the association notes.
Ashley Hughes, marketing director for the Florida Beef Council, explained in an email that because of the resources involved and the climatic conditions needed, grass-finished cattle constitute a "very small segment" of the beef industry.
Hughes also observed that Florida ranchers tend to ship their cattle to the feedlots in the Midwest because it costs less than raising those animals in Florida.
Cheap corn holds down the production costs, despite the transportation expenses, she added.
"I applaud this company for reaching out to a growing niche market in Florida. However, the majority of Americans still base their decisions on food purchases with their wallets, and commercial beef is humanely raised by cattle men and women who produce an inexpensive, yet safe, wholesome and delicious beef product."
As now planned, the Fort McCoy site would be home to between 6,000 and 7,000 head of cattle, Roberts said.
The Levy County site would contain about the same number.
But the butchering would be conducted only at the Marion facility, which will start slowly but in time could process 300 head daily.
The beef would be quartered and stored in refrigerated units on the site and shipped out to customers, Roberts said.
Further processing could occur there in the future, Roberts added, but is not in the immediate plans.
The offal and the blood would be captured and shipped off for other uses, he said.
Stronach must obtain a special-use permit from the County Commission for the harvesting facility before proceeding.
Gooding said that application would be filed this week.
The project should go to the Zoning Commission for a recommendation in September and to the County Commission for final consideration and approval in October.
If approved, the project could be under way as early as November, with construction ending in fall 2012.
Gooding said the proponents are bracing for opposition, which he anticipates will come from animal rights activists, foes of commercial operations near the Ocala National Forest and those concerned about water usage.
The harvesting facility would use about 50,000 gallons of water a day, with 90 percent of that recycled for irrigating the pastures, according to Gooding.
The amount of water needed for the pastures is unknown at this point because the design of the project is not yet finished, he added.
Stronach is seeking approval for that from state water managers, Gooding said.
Roberts wanted to reassure potential critics that this would not be business as usual for the cattle.
The herd would be bred on-site, and the animals, as they mature, would be gradually shepherded from one end of the ranch to the other until meeting their fate — a moment, Roberts emphasized, that would be stress-free.
"Our philosophy on this is the well being of the animal," he said. "Frank loves animals and doesn't want to see any of them suffer."


Victory for clean water - Editorial
August 6, 2011
Score one for clean water. A federal appeals court Wednesday rejected a bid by polluters and their enablers in state government to block new clean water rules for Florida. The ruling marks an important step toward better protecting the environment, private property, the drinking water supply and the state's fisheries, wildlife and tourism.
The court majority brushed aside an attempt by farmers and utilities to sidetrack an ongoing state-federal effort that would reduce the flow of nitrogen and phosphorus polluting the state's lakes, rivers and estuaries. While the court ruled on procedural grounds, it nonetheless laid out a robust defense for the core issue underlying the case — the federal government's intervention to prod Florida along after years of promises, inaction and now legal interference.
The ruling should motivate state officials to come up with serious, new clean water standards. And it gives a hammer to the federal government to step in if Florida drags its heels much further. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been too tolerant for too long; it, too, has been put on notice by the appeals court that the Clean Water Act is not some hollow ideal but a public health protection that Washington must be prepared to enforce.


Enviros shut out of pollution hearing
The - by Tom Palmer
August 5, 2011
Representatives of major Florida environmental groups, including Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club, are complaining that they’re being locked out of  being able to testify at a  Congressional hearing on proposed EPA anti-pollution rules intended to force pollution limits on discharges into Florida lakes, rivers and bays.
It seems only opponents  of the pollution rules will be allowed to speak.
The hearing is being conducted by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns from Ocala.
The action is no surprise. Florida officials have hardly been objective on the topic.
Much of the Florida Congressional delegation has come out against the rules at the behest of business interests and utilities, who have estimated compliance with the Clean Water Act after years of foot-dragging would be unimaginably expensive and hurt economic recovery.
EPA officials call the numbers inflated and recently convened a scientific panel to come up with numbers to counter the chamber of commerce/agribusiness   propaganda campaign against the rules.
The proposed standards came about, by the way, as the result of a federal court ruling that state environmental regulators , who were under political pressure at the state level, weren’t doing  their jobs.
By the way, there’s an interesting parallel between the Florida  nutrient rules and the efforts by EPA to clean up pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay.
The rhetoric and the opponents are familiar.


Don't dilute the Clean Water Act - Guest column
August 4, 2011
Several weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.B. 2018) sponsored by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D- W.Va., that would severely limit the protections offered to our nation's waterways by the Clean Water Act.
The act was passed by Congress during the Nixon administration to clean up the severely polluted waters across America. With the Environmental Protection Agency and states working together to implement this historic legislation, our nation and its citizens have realized significant economic and public health benefits from clean water.
However, during the past decade, more and more pressure has been placed on regulatory agencies to back off enforcement and on politicians to weaken important environmental safeguards, like the Clean Water Act.
Regulations are seen as "too costly" or "government interference" or more recently, "job killers." Actually, the non-partisan Office of Budget and Management, which is charged with reporting to Congress annually on regulatory costs, reported in 2011 that "the economic benefits of regulations outweigh the costs" by an average ratio of 10 to one.
The cost of business
Most citizens have only to look at the collapse of Wall Street and the BP oil spill to appreciate what the costs of deregulation and a lack of oversight have meant to the vast majority of us.
While some businesses and corporations have lobbied against environmental safeguards, many more have applied their resources towards complying with the laws and becoming more responsible, efficient and sustainable companies.
Part of the cost of doing business includes complying with the law. Most of us accept that sensible regulations, like speed limits, serve us in the long run.
A good example of the battle to deregulate has been played out in Florida with serious implications for the St. Johns River. Thirteen years ago, the EPA advised states to replace vague and insufficient standards with numeric criteria to reduce nutrient pollution levels.
Since that time, the state of Florida has repeatedly acknowledged the benefit and need for numeric nutrient criteria but has failed to fulfill this important responsibility. As a result, the EPA was forced to step in and establish safeguards for Florida's polluted waterways.
St. Johns River is stressed
The governor, state legislators and powerful business interests seem determined to oppose these criteria while excessive nutrients from fertilizer runoff, sewage, and municipal and industrial wastewater continue to trigger toxic algal blooms and fish kills such as we have seen in the St. Johns River.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's 2010 Integrated Water Quality Assessment for Florida, approximately 569 square miles of estuaries, 1,918 miles of rivers and streams and 378,435 acres of lakes were identified as impaired by nutrients.
This water quality data and the fact that our state has failed to implement nutrient pollution protections in a timely manner demonstrate the importance of the Clean Water Act and the benefit of oversight and shared authority to ensure the protection of our waterways.
Mica's bill, which was also supported by Northeast Florida Congressmen Ander Crenshaw and Cliff Stearns, weakens our ability to improve our waterways, including our St. Johns River, by eliminating the oversight provided by the Clean Water Act.
Let's hope this legislation will not pass the Senate and will instead focus attention on the unjustified war on environmental protections and the polluting industries that will benefit.
Barbara B. Ketchum is a board member of the St. Johns Riverkeeper.


My Word: Florida's on top of water monitoring
Orlando Sentinel
August 04, 2011
Unfortunately, in the press, science gives way to hyperbole. We are particularly struck by claims that it is necessary for EPA to step in because the FDEP was not doing its job.
Let's look at the facts:
-We can start with the basics — availability of water-quality data. You can't know how you are doing without some measurements. Nearly 31 percent of the nutrient data and 55 percent of the chlorophyll data (used to measure overall water quality) in EPA's national water-quality database are from Florida. No other state comes close to this level of monitoring.
-Between 1998 and 2005, Florida spent more on the purchase of environmentally sensitive land for its protection than any other state.
-We are one of only 11 states with statewide stormwater-treatment requirements aimed at improving water quality, while providing for flood control. Florida is in the top three states in terms of implementing nutrient-related water-body-restoration projects known as total maximum daily loads.
-We reuse more than 640 million gallons per day of reclaimed wastewater for uses where drinking-water quality is not needed, such as landscape irrigation. This practice reduces the volume of water we need from the aquifer and the volume of treated wastewater discharged to surface waters, and also beneficially recycles the nutrients in reclaimed water. Florida reuses more water than any other state.
Continuing to control nutrients in our water bodies is critical to Florida's future. Controlling nutrients will be a long and expensive process, and we need to get cost-effective results for the resources that will be spent on this effort.
David Ammerman is chairman of the Florida Water Environment Association Reuse Committee.


Court decision
No mining in
sensitive area(s) !

Mining in the Everglades – NOT permitted District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District. No. 4D10-60.
August 3, 2011.
The issue presented for our review is whether the trial court erred in upholding a development order issued by the Palm Beach County Commission permitting mining in the Everglades. The trial court interpreted the relevant land use policy in the comprehensive plan as non-exclusive, thereby permitting mining in an area zoned for agriculture for a purpose that was not enumerated in the land use policy. We find the trial court erred by failing to define "only" as restrictive and thereby failing to limit mining to the purposes enumerated in the future land use element policy. We reverse.
The Palm Beach County Commission issued a development order to Bergeron Sand and Rock Mine Aggregates, Inc., granting the corporation the right to mine within the "Everglades Agricultural Area" in western Palm Beach County. Bergeron sought to expand its mining operations on property designated as "agricultural production" in the comprehensive plan. After a public hearing, the Palm Beach County Commission unanimously granted conditional approval for the development order and subsequently adopted Bergeron's application, finding the mining proposal to be consistent with the comprehensive plan.
After the order issued, appellants filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief to challenge the development order, claiming that the order was inconsistent with a Future Land Use Element ("FLUE") policy of the comprehensive plan. The specific FLUE policy, 2.3-e.3, states that "[m]ining and excavation activities, as applicable, shall be restricted" as follows:
Within the Agricultural Production Future Land Use designation, mining may be permitted only to support public roadway projects or agricultural activities or water management projects associated with ecosystem restoration, regional water supply or flood protection, on sites identified by the South Florida Water Management District or the U.S. Army Corps of engineers where such uses provide viable alternate technologies for water management.
Both at the public hearing and later at trial, the parties admitted that aggregate mined from the property designated as agricultural production within the Everglades Agricultural Area could be used for purposes other than to "support public roadway projects."1 The county submitted to the trial court a staff analysis which stated that "limestone aggregate from the subject property will be marketed to FDOT for road building and construction." The staff analysis further recommended that Bergeron be required to report annually regarding the amount of material mined and that Bergeron be required to provide "[d]ocumentation as to the intended use of the material" and whether the usage of the material "complies with the County requirements, such as but not limited to the quarry's status with FDOT and other usages for the mined aggregate." When the county commission approved the application, it adopted the staff recommendation that Bergeron submit such an annual report documenting compliance with the comprehensive plan.
Appellants argued at trial that Bergeron intended to sell the aggregate mined from the property on the open market. Lonnie Bergeron, in his deposition, conceded that he had no control over whether the material excavated would, in fact, be used for the construction of public highways. Appellants argued that the sale of the excavated material on the open markets without any controls, runs afoul of the comprehensive plan. Because any development order issued by a local government "shall be consistent" with the comprehensive plan, appellants sought to have the development order quashed. § 163.3194(1)(a), Fla. Stat.
The trial court entered a final summary judgment concluding that the proposed mining was proper since "some portion of the material produced by the proposed mine will be FDOT certified material that will be used in road projects." The court concluded that the use of some material by FDOT was sufficient to "support" public road construction. This appeal ensues from the trial court's granting of a final summary judgment on behalf of the county and Bergeron.
We review de novo an order on a motion for summary judgment. Volusia County v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So.2d 126, 130 (Fla. 2000). Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.
The trial court need not defer to the county's interpretation of the comprehensive plan. Pinecrest Lakes, Inc. v. Shidel, 795 So.2d 191, 197-98 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). The parties have agreed that the order permitting Bergeron's conditional use of the agricultural property in the Everglades is a development order.2 The parties have further agreed that the sole issue on appeal is whether the development order, authorizing Bergeron's mining of the "agricultural production" area in the Everglades Agricultural Area, is consistent with FLUE policy 2.3-e.3, which states that mining may be permitted "only to support" public roadways, agricultural activities, or water management projects.
In order to determine if the development order is consistent with the policy of the comprehensive plan, we have to look at the plain language of the policy. We apply the same rules of construction to a comprehensive plan that we would apply to other statutes. Rinker Materials Corp. v. City of N. Miami, 286 So.2d 552, 553 (Fla. 1973). If the terms of the comprehensive plan are not defined, then the language of the plan "should usually be given its plain and ordinary meaning." Fla. Birth-Related Neurological Injury Comp. Ass'n v. Fla. Div. of Admin. Hearings, 686 So.2d 1349, 1354 (Fla. 1997).3 The plain and ordinary meaning of "only" has been explained as "[s]olely; merely; for no other purpose; at no other time; in no otherwise; along; of or by itself; without anything more; exclusive; nothing else or more." Black's Law Dictionary 982 (5th ed. 1979). "It is appropriate to refer to dictionary definitions when construing statutes or rules." Barco v. Sch. Bd. of Pinellas Cnty., 975 So.2d 1116, 1122 (Fla. 2008).
The Florida Supreme Court has determined in a case involving restrictive covenants on real property that "only" can mean "solely" and "nothing else." Moore v. Stevens, 106 So. 901, 904 (Fla. 1925). In Moore, the Florida Supreme Court found that the covenant, "to be used for residence purposes only," meant that the residence can be used solely for one type of occupancy. Id. "The word `only' is a limiting term which qualifies the word with which it is grammatically connected. . . . It qualifies the phrase `to be used,' with like effect as if the covenant had read that the property `is to be used only for residence purposes.'" Id.
As recognized in other Florida cases, "the word `only' is synonymous with the word `solely' and is the equivalent of the phrase `and nothing else.'" White v. Metro. Dade County, 563 So.2d 117, 124 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990) (quoting Thompson v. Squibb, 183 So.2d 30, 32 (Fla. 2d DCA 1966)). In the present case, the word "only" limits mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area to the three enumerated activities: public roadway projects, agricultural activities, and water management projects.
We are persuaded that mining is permitted "only" to support the restricted and exclusive list of activities outlined in the FLUE within the comprehensive plan.4 As aptly stated by another court, "[o]nly means only." Union Station Assocs., LLC v. Puget Sound Energy, Inc., 238 F.Supp.2d 1218, 1225 (W.D. Wash. 2002); accord Nicklos Drilling Co. v. Cowart, 907 F.2d 1552, 1554 (5th Cir. 1990).
The plain language of the text is controlling. "A text should not be construed strictly, and it should not be construed leniently; it should be construed reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means." Scalia, supra, at 23. At oral argument, the county argued that the language requiring mined aggregate to be used "only to support" public roadway projects would conceivably allow mining where only one percent of aggregate is used for public roads (or another enumerated use). We find that particular interpretation of the text in the FLUE policy of the comprehensive plan to be unreasonable in light of the plain language of the text. It would undercut the plain language, as well as the spirit, of the comprehensive plan if only one percent of the aggregate would need to go to public roads while the other ninety-nine percent could go to non-enumerated activities. This construct of the comprehensive plan would eviscerate the clear restrictions outlined in the text, denoted by the word "only."
We find the plain language controlling, but we also point to the canons of construction for further support. One rule of construction, for example, is "expressio unius est exclusio alterius" or "to express or include one thing implies the exclusion of the other." Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009). This maxim supports the argument that the comprehensive plan lists a restrictive and exclusive list of three activities, which excludes other activities by virtue of the fact they were not included in the enumerated list. Thus, if the FLUE policy permitted mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area to support private building construction, policy 2.3-e.3 would explicitly reference private building construction. Because private construction is not listed in the policy, we assume it is not permissible by the fact that it is not enumerated or listed.
Further, "[a]s a fundamental rule of statutory interpretation, `courts should avoid readings that would render part of a statute meaningless.'" Unruh v. State, 669 So.2d 242, 245 (Fla. 1996) (citation omitted). If we accepted the trial court's interpretation, then the word "only" would be superfluous, since "mining may be permitted . . . to support" public roadways, agricultural activities, or water management projects. The removal of the word "only" would make the list of activities non-exclusive since mining would only be required to "support" the enumerated activities.
In summary, we find the development order permitting mining in the agricultural production area of the Everglades Agricultural Area is inconsistent with FLUE policy 2.3-e.3 of the comprehensive plan. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded over one hundred years ago, "[w]hatever the consequences, we must accept the plain meaning of plain words." United States v. Brown, 206 U.S. 240, 244 (1907). Therefore, we reverse the judgment in favor of appellees and remand with instructions for the trial court to declare the development order inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and to enjoin enforcement of the order.
Reversed and remanded with instructions.
WARNER and CONNER, JJ., concur.
Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Robert N. Hartsell and Richard Grosso of Everglades Law Center, Inc., Fort Lauderdale, for appellants.
Robert P. Banks and Leonard Berger, Senior Assistant County Attorneys, West Palm Beach, for appellee Palm Beach County.
Robert P. Diffenderfer, Andrew J. Baumann and Tara W. Duhy of Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A., West Palm Beach, for appellee Bergeron Sand, Rock and Aggregate, Inc.


Director of Natural
Resource Policy,


Alva conservationist: Water mismanagement made Caloosahatchee algal bloom worse
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 3, 2011
("Facts & Fiction: Numeric nutrient criteria and water quality" -, July 27, 2011 )
The recent algal bloom in the Caloosahatchee River has seemingly gone away, but citizens and conservationists alike continue to draw attention to water mismanagement they say made the problem worse.
Water samples collected by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation are still turning up blue-green algal samples, as well as elevated levels of chlorophyll. According to Rae Ann Wessel, director of natural resource policy for the group, both are signs that the problem hasn’t dissipated.
“I’m concerned because the ‘No Swimming, No Fishing’ signs have been taken down, but I’m scared for the people eating the fish that comes out of there,” she says. “Many say that the bloom has disappeared, that it was simply brought on by drought and it left with the rain. … Let’s be clear: You don’t have a toxic algal bloom without nutrients in the water column, and the nutrients that cause toxic algal blooms don’t just ‘disappear.’ They might move from one place to another, but they don’t disappear.”
Wessel says the recent drought conditions in South Florida made it ripe for an algal bloom, but the problem was exacerbated by decisions made by the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. The agencies are both tasked with making decisions about water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the river.
As previously reported by the Florida Independent, the South Florida Water Management District estimates that 1.3 inches of lake water went into the Caloosahatchee during April and May and that the Everglades Agricultural Area (home to U.S. Sugar, among other agricultural interests) received around 15 inches. To many residents of Alva, a small town in Southwest Florida that suffered financially as a result of the bloom, it seems like the District and Corps chose industry needs over everyday citizens.
“Public water should first and foremost go to the natural system, and then what’s left over should go toward consumptive use permits,” says Wessel, referring to industry interests that operate in the Everglades Agricultural Area. She adds that the Water Management District essentially “gave away” water it didn’t have, due to the drought. “The real problem is that the District reissued 20-year consumptive use permits without first establishing a water budget. That’s like saying, ‘I can’t be out of money. I still have checks left.’”
Wessel says state lawmakers are also doing a shoddy job of protecting state waters. State Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, represents Alva, but has aligned himself with many of the industries that are partly responsible for the nutrient-laden waste that creates toxic algal blooms. In a recent interview with the Independent, he called the nutrient issue a “multi-factorial” one that had many culprits and can’t be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach like the EPA’s recently drafted “numeric nutrient criteria.”
“He doesn’t really understand or represent the interests of a great deal of this area,” says Wessel. “And, frankly, I don’t believe he has taken the time to really hear our concerns. He also doesn’t live here, so he doesn’t see it firsthand. It’s not affecting his property values.”
Wessel is a staunch supporter of the numeric nutrient criteria, and says that the lawmakers who dismiss their needs are ”either not well-informed, or they have bought into the misinformation that’s been provided them.”
“State law does dictate that natural systems be considered first; the water left over can be divided among consumptive users,” she says. “Water management districts are responsible to equitably share and deliver water to both the natural system and the agricultural interests. There’s this idea of ‘No Farmer Left Behind’ in the state of Florida, and the system is collapsing as a result.”


EPA is right !
The latest:
dispute about water
pollution criteria,
the EPA's approach
has been confirmed.

Foes of EPA water rules for Fla. lose appeal
Associated Press, Miami Herald - by BILL KACZOR
August 3, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Opponents of tough federal water pollution regulations proposed for Florida lost a court appeal Wednesday while state officials held a public meeting on a less stringent alternative they want to replace the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's rules.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta dismissed the appeal of a settlement between EPA and environmentalists. The case is the first in which EPA has set nutrient criteria for a state without that state's consent.
The 2-1 ruling is a major defeat for opponents including business and agricultural interests as well as state, regional and local government agencies, said Earthjustice lawyer David Guest. The rules are scheduled to go into effect next March unless EPA accepts the state's proposal.
Earthjustice helped represent five environmental groups that obtained the consent decree after suing EPA, alleging it failed to make Florida comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
"This pollution is preventable," Guest said in a statement. "The polluters have been using scare tactics, bogus science, underhanded political bullying and campaign cash to try to get their way."
The agreement, previously approved by a federal judge in Tallahassee, calls for EPA to adopt numeric nutrient standards for Florida waters. The EPA has agreed to give the state another chance to come up with its own numeric criteria after years of delay, but the Florida rules still would have to win approval from the federal agency.
Environmentalists say existing state rules, which lack numeric standards but verbally describe unacceptable water quality, are so lax they've allowed Florida waters to become clogged with algae blooms that can kill fish and make people sick.
Opponents contend it would cost billions to comply with the federal rules. The EPA and environmentalists say those estimates are grossly exaggerated.
Several government agencies and trade associations opposed the settlement but only two, the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, which includes water and sewer systems from across the state, and the South Florida Water Management District appealed.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the water management district, said only that his agency was reviewing the ruling. David Childs, a lawyer from the utility council, said his client also is evaluating the options including the possibility of asking the full 11-member court to rehear the case.
The majority opinion says opponents haven't demonstrated they've been injured by the consent decree so they lack the legal standing to oppose it.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received plenty of technical questions but no pro or con comment on its proposals at Wednesday's public meeting. Additional workshops will be held before a final version can go to the Florida Legislature and then the EPA for approval.
One interested observer was Chris Johnson, chief of water quality technical support for Alabama's Department of Environmental Management. He said if EPA can set standards for Florida it could do it for other states.
"It's certainly kind of precedent-setting," Johnson said. "All states have their eyes on Florida."
Environmentalists have a very different view of what the EPA rules would do than its opponents. That includes state officials.
Daryll Joyner, Florida's chief of water assessment and restoration support, said the state has interpreted the EPA rules to require that water quality must be measured at outfall pipes that discharge industrial or municipal wastewater into rivers, lakes and other water bodies.
Cost estimates for compliance are so high because "no one could meet those criteria at the end of the pipe," Joyner said in an interview.
The proposed state rules would use the same criteria as EPA but take measurements in the midst of each water body where the discharges are diluted.
Guest, though, said the EPA rules do not require end-of-pipe measurements.
"That is the commonest misunderstanding of the EPA rules," he said.
The groups that sued EPA are the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.


Sacrificing the environment for the budget
August 3, 2011
In a mad scramble to avoid default on U.S. debt, Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, a bill to raise the ceiling on public debt limits and simultaneously gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Page after page of legislative riders on H.R.2584 – those wonderful little add-ons that are a vehicle for pet projects and causes of lawmakers to tie their agenda to unrelated bills as a means of getting them passed – were added to the bill before its down-to-the-wire passage. Who knows if half of the 95 Democrats and 174 Republicans voting for the bill were aware of what they were voting on – did Great Lakes states representatives mean to give approval to a measure that would eliminate EPA funding for their home districts? Did Appalachian state lawmakers realize a vote in favor of avoiding default would also give large companies free reign to rape their mountains for coal?
The riders gut nearly all of the environmental advancements made by the Obama administration, including environmental review of mountaintop removal practices for coal mining companies, regulation of air and water emissions on everything from cows to cars to coal burning power plans.
A list of the riders is provided by Rep. Jim Moran, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations. The bill overturns several rules that are in an ongoing process of creation and review by the EPA, and touch on nearly every effort the agency has been pursuing in recent years: Coal mining, greenhouse gas emissions from a myriad of sources including autos and agriculture, power generation pollution, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and sides with Texas in a long-standing dispute between the federal and state environmental agencies.
The EPA has become a paper tiger with these regulations. Over the next few days, will examine many of these riders and how they impact our environment.

  • The full list of riders, as provided by Rep. Moran:
  • Blocks Endangered Species Act Designations [Language on page 8]: Prohibits funding for Endangered Species Act listings or critical habitat designations.
  • Blocks NPS Boat Checks on Yukon River [Section 116]: Prohibits the National Park Service from carrying out boat inspection or safety checks on the Yukon River within the Yukon-Charley National Preserve in Alaska.
  • Blocks Agency Appeal of Grazing on Public Lands [Section 118]: Amends administrative appeal procedures for grazing on public lands to require parties to exhaust all administrative appeals before they may file suit in Federal Court.
  • Blocks Judicial Review of De-listing Wolves in Wyoming/Great Lakes [Section 119]: Protects from judicial review any decision of the Secretary of the Interior to de-list wolves in Wyoming or the Great Lakes region.
  • Blocks NEPA Review of Livestock Movement across Public Lands [Section 120]: Provides that for FY 2012 through FY 2014 the movement of livestock across public lands shall not be subject to NEPA review.
  • Requires BOEMRE Oil & Gas Permit Reporting [Section 121]: Requires Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement to keep detailed records and provide quarterly reports on any oil and gas permit or plan that was not approved by the agency.
  • Blocks Wild Lands Secretarial Order [Section 124]: Prohibits funding for the Wild Lands Secretarial Order announced by Interior Secretary Salazar last December. Proponents of the Secretarial Order argue that the Order is a reiteration of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 requirements for BLM management of federal lands with wilderness characteristics.
  • Allows for Export of Alaskan Western Cedar [Section 414]: Allows Alaskan western red cedar and yellow cedar to be sold for export. Current law requires such cedar to be used domestically.
  • Blocks NEPA Review of Extended Grazing Permits [Section 415]: Allows grazing permits to be extended without the required NEPA review in FY 2012 through FY 2016. In prior year’s appropriations, the extension of grazing permits was only for one year.
  • Extension of Forest Service Stewardship Program [Section 427]: Allows the Forest Service stewardship contracting program which under current law does not expire until September 30, 2013 to be extended through September 30, 2023.
  • Blocks Livestock Emissions Regulation [Section 428]: Prohibits funds for the promulgation or implementation of any regulation requiring a permit for emissions resulting from the biological processes of livestock production.
  • Blocks Greenhouse Gas Rule on Manure Management [Section 429]: Prohibits EPA from implementing a rule requiring reporting of greenhouse gases from manure management systems.
  • Blocks Greenhouse Gas Rule on Stationary Sources [Section 431]: Severely limits EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. For a one-year period EPA is prohibited from proposing or promulgating regulations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from stationary sources. The language also prevents civil tort or common law lawsuits during this one-year period. Furthermore the language states that any permit applied for during the one-year period shall not be federally enforceable.
  • Blocks Update to Mountaintop Removal Mining Rule [Section 432]: Prohibits the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from updating the Stream Buffer Rule. This is for the benefit of companies engaged in Mountaintop Removal Mining.
  • Blocks Mountaintop Removal Mining Policy at Multiple Agencies [Sec. 433]: Prohibits EPA, the Corps of Engineers, and OSM from implementing or enforcing any policy or procedure contained in two specified documents on Mountaintop Removal Mining.
  • Blocks Coal Ash Regulation [Section 434]: Prohibits EPA from regulating Fossil Fuel Combustion Waste (coal ash) under the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
  • Blocks Modification of Clean Water Act [Sec. 435]: Prohibits EPA from changing or supplementing guidance or rules related to the scope of the Clean Water Act.
  • Blocks Clean Water Act Regulations on Cooling Water Intake Structures [Section 436]: Prohibits EPA from developing, finalizing, implementing, or enforcing rules for facilities with cooling water intake structures.
  • Limiting Public Appeals [Section 437]: Changes the general administrative appeal process for the Forest Service to the less rigorous one contained in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.
  • Blocks Storm Water Discharge Regulations [Section 439]: Prohibits regulations or guidance that would expand the storm water discharge program under the Clean Water Act to post-construction commercial or residential properties until after the EPA administrator submits a study to the Appropriations and authorizing Committees. The study must include overall cost as well as a cost-benefit analysis for various options.
  • Financial Break for Big Mining Companies [Section 440]: Amends the 1993 law establishing the Hardrock Mining Claim Maintenance Fee to provide a financial break for placer claims held by an association of two or more persons.
  • Allows for Texas’ Cap-and-Trade System [Section 441]: Provides that the EPA shall take no action to disapprove or prevent implementation of any flexible air permitting program. This provision was for the benefit of the State of Texas.
  • Blocks Grazing Management of Bighorn Sheep [Section 442]: Provides that through FY 2016 no action can be taken to manage Bighorn Sheep if such action would result in a reduction in the number of livestock allowed to graze upon a parcel.
  • Waives Clean Air Act Requirements for Big Oil Companies [Section 443]: Amends the Clean Air Act to (1) preclude EPA from requiring offshore sources to demonstrate compliance with health-based air quality standards anywhere but in a single onshore area; (2) reduce the length of time during which exploration platforms and drill ships are considered emission sources under the CAA, thereby limiting the time when emissions would be controlled; (3) make it impossible to use the permitting program to set emission control requirements for service vessels associated with offshore sources; and (4) replace a relatively fast, inexpensive process for citizens to challenge government action with a longer, more expensive review process in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This legislation passed the House on June 22, 2011 by a vote of 253-166.
  • Blocks Arsenic Cancer Study & Formaldehyde Risk Assessments [Section 444]: New authorization language requiring EPA to improve its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) seeking to draw doubt to the program that highlights health implications from environmental contaminants. The language stops the release of draft or final risk assessments that are not based on improvements in IRIS based on a National Research Council assessment of formaldehyde. Further requires the National Academy of Science to review EPA’s changes to IRIS and review risk assessments undertaken by EPA. The language goes on to limit funds for any action that would lower exposure levels below or within background concentration levels in ambient air, drinking water, soil, or sediment. Report language directs EPA to take no further action to post its draft cancer assessment of inorganic arsenic until the completion of the NAS study.
  • Removes Protection of Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining Claims [Section 445]: Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from implementing a land withdrawal to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims.
  • Blocks Forest Service Travel Management: [Section 446]: Prohibits the Forest Service from implementing Travel Management Plans in California until completion of an assessment of unauthorized routes. It further limits the classification of certain forest roads.
  • Blocks EPA Opinions on Pesticides [Section 447]: Prevents the EPA from using biological opinions related to pesticides and the Endangered Species Act, with a focus on ESA-listed salmon.
  • Blocks Clean Air Act Regulations of Cement Industry [Section 448]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to implement Clean Air Act regulations on the manufacture of Portland cement.
  • Blocks EPA Enforcement of Florida Water Quality Standards [Section 452]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to implement or enforce numeric Florida Water Quality Standards even though the state receives millions in federal funds for water projects.
  • Blocks EPA Greenhouse Gas Standard for Automobiles [Section 453]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to develop or finalize a new greenhouse gas standard for automobiles after model year 2016.
  • Blocks Clean Air Act Regulations of Fine Particles/Soot [Section 454]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to regulate certain levels of particulate matter in the air under the Clean Air Act.
  • Blocks EPA Regulation of Hard Rock Mining Operations [Section 455]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to develop additional financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining operations.
  • Requires BLM Notification of Land Exchanges [Section 458]: Amends the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 to require BLM and the Forest Service to provide written notification of land exchanges to adjacent landowners.
  • Blocks EPA Funds to Great Lake States due to Ballast Water Requirements [Section 459]: Prohibits certain Great Lakes states from receiving any EPA funding if they have adopted ballast water requirements that are more stringent than Coast Guard requirements. The Coast Guard believes this will block at least four Great Lake States from receiving any EPA funds.
  • Blocks EPA Guidelines on Misleading Pesticide Labels [Section 460]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to finalize guidelines on misleading information provided on pesticide labels.
  • Blocks Fictitious EPA Action on Ammonia Emissions[Section 461]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to develop or implement regulations related to ammonia emissions under the secondary standard for NOx and SOx.   EPA has already stated that it has no intention of doing so.
  • Blocks Clean Air Rules for Power Plants and Requires a Study That Ignores Public Health Benefit of the Clean Air Act [Section 462]: Directs the EPA to do a cumulative assessment of the impacts of EPA regulations, and prohibits funding for the “Utility MACT” and “Transport” rules.
  • Blocks Permit Requirements for Pesticide Discharge in Waterways [Title V]: Amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to eliminate requirements for chemical companies and agriculture to obtain permits for pesticides entering waterways.

University of Miami scientists find way to identify manmade biofuels in atmosphere
e!Science News
August 3, 2011
Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science have discovered a technique to track urban atmospheric plumes thanks to a unique isotopic signature found in vehicle emissions. Brian Giebel, a Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry graduate student working with Drs. Daniel Riemer and Peter Swart discovered that ethanol mixed in vehicle fuel is not completely burned, and that ethanol released in the engine's exhaust has a higher 13C to 12C ratio when compared to natural emissions from most living plants. In other words, the corn and sugarcane used to make biofuels impart a unique chemical signature that is related to the way these plants photosynthesize their nutrients.
The team suggests that ethanol's unique chemical signature can be used during aircraft sampling campaigns to identify and track plumes as they drift away from urban areas. The results of their efforts, titled "New Insights to the Use of Ethanol in Automotive Fuels: A Stable Isotopic Tracer for Fossil- and Bio-Fuel Combustion Inputs to the Atmosphere" appears in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.
Giebel collected and analyzed air from downtown Miami and the Everglades National Park and found that 75% of ethanol in Miami's urban air came from manmade biofuels, while the majority of ethanol in the Everglades air was emitted from plants, even though a small quantity of city pollution from a nearby road floats into the park.
Air samples from the two locations were subjected to a precise scientific process, first separating the elements using gas chromatography, and then burning each component. The resulting carbon dioxide was put through a mass spectrometer, where the researchers were able to measure the abundance of each carbon isotope.
"According to global emissions estimates, plants release three times as much ethanol as manmade sources," said Giebel. "However, if the amount of ethanol used in our fuel continues to increase, vehicle emissions should eventually exceed natural emissions. This is particularly critical in urban areas because the majority of ethanol in the atmosphere is converted to acetaldehyde, which is highly reactive and considered to be a toxin detrimental to human health."


Conservation NGOs Necessary to Protect People, Environment
August 2, 2011
Ryan Houck, the executive director of Free Market Florida, a free market think tank, wrote an op-ed column July 25 criticizing the Sierra Club for hampering business in Florida ["Sierra Club Subverts Public Interest"]. He paints a picture of poor businesses, out-of-work miners, disappearing farmers and an economy in shambles — and has the gall to lay blame on a conservation nongovernmental organization rather than the business leaders or government officials who have mismanaged our state for so long. We need NGOs and the power to sue our government in order to protect us from greedy corporations and corrupt, overlobbied officials.
Mr. Houck wrote, "Perversely, environmental interests have a long history of requesting, and receiving, reimbursement from the taxpayers for their litigation." He has no numbers, no details, no specifics, just that taxpayers have to pay for lawsuits when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fouls up. Taxpayers in the end pay for all of our government's mistakes. Usually, however, we pay to clean up the mess left behind by corporate greed.
How much do we taxpayers pay to fix decades of environmental mismanagement in this state? Billions and billions were paid out to fix the Kissimmee River, the Everglades, the Peace River and a long list of other environmental disasters. This is not because of the environmentalists, but because of the short-sighted, profit-driven motives of big corporations and the governments they so easily buy.
If we left business, economic development and environmental protection issues up to people such as Mr. Houck, we would give free rein to big corporations by naively assuming they will make money while not hurting their employees or customers, that they will help their community rather than hurt it and won't do anything to harm the environment.
MIKE CLINE, Lakeland, FL


Groups protest backdoor repeal of host of environmental laws – by Pete Aleshire
August 2, 2011
Riders attached to unrelated bills would strip protections for Colorado River, Rim Country wilderness areas and endangered species
In the midst of the budget gridlock, Republican lawmakers have slipped a host of “riders” to prevent the enforcement of environmental laws into unrelated budget bills — spurring an outcry by many Arizona environmental groups.
One of the riders would repeal a decade-old rule that requires federal agencies to manage some 50 million acres of federal land in a way that will not prevent them from eventually qualifying as protected wildernesses.
That includes about 1.2 million acres in Arizona, including a 17,000-acre tract of land that connects several other nearby protected areas, including Fossil Creek and the West Clear Creek Wilderness area.
“We don’t get any more undeveloped wild areas,” said Jim Stipe, president of the AZ State Council of Trout Unlimited, “so we have to be very careful with those we have left, especially areas that protect migration routes and river headwaters.”
The federal government adopted the roadless rule after 600 public hearings, in part to protect watersheds and wildlife and in part because agencies like the U.S. Forest Service didn’t have enough money to maintain its existing, sprawling network of dirt roads. The rider would essentially repeat the rule without any further hearings.
Sam Frank, central Arizona director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition said “Arizona’s forest are carved up with more than 51,000 miles of existing routes that impact important habitat for myriad species. The Coconino National Forest alone has nearly 6,000 miles of roads — that’s more than the mileage from San Francisco to New York. We don’t need laws that enable more destruction of our forests.”
However, supporters of the rider maintained that the rule locked up too much acreage, by barring new roads that would increase use by off-roaders and campers. The rules concerning wilderness areas allow no structure and no motorized vehicles and effectively bar many activities like mining.
The flurry of anti-environmental riders represented the biggest attempted rollback of environmental laws in decades. House Democrats managed to block last week on a vote of 224 to 202. That provision would have gutted the Endangered Species Act by flatly banning any spending on the listing or any new species or the protection of their habitat.
A passel of other riders attached to unrelated bills are still making their way through Congress. That includes:
— A rule that would overturn a moratorium on new uranium mining on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon and also prevent the government from studying a permanent ban on uranium mining in the canyons that drain into the Colorado River, a chief source of drinking water for about 7 million people. Supporters of the moratorium and the study of the potential impacts of uranium mining have cited the danger of contamination of the Colorado River and downstream reservoirs.
— A rule that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from spending any money for at least a year on developing regulations that would limit the emission of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide by industry.
— Two riders that would substantially weaken regulation of coal mining methods that rely on the complete removal of mountain tops. The repealed regulations were designed to prevent the mining operations from burying or contaminating nearby streams.
— A provision that would essentially overturn an agreement between the EPA and automakers to nearly double the average fuel efficiency of their fleets of new cars for the 2017-2025 model years. The automakers had reversed decades of resistance to higher mileage standards and agreed to the phased-in changes, which would boost the average fuel use of new cars to about 54 miles per gallon.
— A provision that would prevent the EPA from spending any money to strengthen protection of protections for wetlands and small streams under the Clean Water Act. Studies suggest the Clean Water Act has resulted in the cleanup of thousands of miles of streams, many of which supply drinking water. However, a succession of court cases and administrative rulings have weakened wetlands protections in recent decades.
— One rider would prevent the EPA from labeling toxic ash from coal-fired power plants as hazardous waste. This would allow power plants to dispose of the ash more easily, without recycling or use of special precautions in dumps.
— Another rider would prevent the EPA from limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in farm runoff going into Florida lakes and rivers, despite studies suggesting that the buildup of these elements had done mounting damage to the ecology of the Everglades.


New water pollution rules: The DEP wants public input
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton
August 2, 2011
The Dept. of Environmental Protection is hosting a public workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 3 on potential revisions to the state’s controversial pollution rules that opponents say will raise monthly water bills by as much at $75. The rules are aimed at lowering nutrient levels in Florida’s inland waters.  Although the department is considering hosting a similar workshop in south Florida in the fall, the 89-page PowerPoint the department will present on Wednesday, along with proposed definitions and protocols, are available here.
Efforts to limit phosphorus and nitrogen in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals came after Earthjustice, a public interest lawfirm representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper sued the agency in 2008.  In August 2009 the parties reached a settlement, called a consent decree which requires the EPA to set numeric nutrient water quality standards. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution come from stormwater runoff, municipal wastewater treatment, fertilization of crops and livestock manure.
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all standard would not work, the EPA proposed divvying up the state into four regions. Streams within each of these regions have have similar geology, nutrient concentrations and nutrient ratios. The EPA proposed setting separate standards based on each region’s unique factors. In July the agency realized that four regions might not be enough and asked for public comment on setting unique standards for five regions.
The proposed criteria grabbed headlines in October 2010 when the Palm Beach County Commission approved spending $6,900 to insert fliers into utility bills warning customers that the proposed criteria could raise their monthly water bill by $75 a month. County water officials told the commission it will cost between $275 million and $300 million to make the improvements needed to treat its wastewater to meet the proposed standards.
A study paid for by the Florida Water Environment Association, a trade group of water treatment professionals, found that it could cost up to $50 billion to upgrade wastewater plants around the state to meet the new standards. Environmentalists  say the requirements are reasonable and dispute the billion dollar estimates,  saying they are based on the most expensive technology available to clean the water.
EPA will finalize pollution limits for Florida’s freshwaters and lakes in November 2010.  Pollution limits for estuaries and flowing waters in South Florida will be set by August 2012.


SCCF's Anders visits Shell Point for discourse on the Everglades
Sanibel-Captiva Islander - by Tom Russo
August 2, 2011
On Friday, July 29, Kritstie Anders, Education Director with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), gave a presentation to approximately 100 attendees at The Academy at Shell Point concerning the Caloosahatchee River and the Everglades.
Anders gave a comprehensive overview of the delicate nature of the area - "Everglades 101," as she called it. She began with history, all the way from the time of Pangea. Anders explained that what we know as the Everglades once extended from as far north as Orlando and as far west as Cape Coral. Corkscrew Swamp is one of only a few remaining examples that represent what's left of our "Mini Everglades."
Anders continued her geological and ecological history of Florida, explaining that the mineral rich soils found in Central Florida, south of Okeechobee are the result of years of over flow from the lake at the hands of storms and rainy seasons. This yearly overflow created Florida's flood plane.
By the 1880s, the railroad had started up in Florida, allowing people to further populate the southern half of the state. At this time, the Caloosahatchee was little more than a meandering creek that started near LaBelle. Many of these new settlers were farmers from the central United States who had come to Florida because of the longer growing seasons. With the influx of so many farmers and the construction of new farms, a means of shipping the goods out of the middle of the state was needed. The Caloosahatchee was dredged, widened and connected to Okeechobee, resulting in what Anders called an "inland highway of waterways."
The years 1926 and 1928 were particularly bad for hurricanes. In the storm of '28, some 2,000 people were killed in the area around Okeechobee largely because of flooding caused by the overflowing lake. The storm, said Anders, was the catalyst for the construction of a series of levees and waterways around Okeechobee, resulting finally in what we know today as the Hoover Dike. Tomatoes, corn, squash, beans and sod flourished. At one point, mentions Anders, landscaping products were our number one crop.
By the 1970s, a few years after the completion of the Hoover Dike, observers began to notice a steep drop off in bird populations in Everglades National Park. What they found was that runoff from all the farms had essentially poisoned the water, making it unable to sustain marine life. The lock and levee system was built to recycle water and so fertilizers were being recycled through the watershed, eventually winding up in the Everglades. Without fish, the birds left. Everglades National Park sued the federal government and won. The Seminoles and Miccosukee followed suit, winning their cases as well.
As a means of preserving the Everglades, water that was being recycled out onto the flood the plain was diverted in greater quantities into the Caloosahatchee.
Here in Florida, hurricanes are a part of life and, in 2004, the state was hit by a series of brutal hurricanes, that as Anders put it, "had Florida ready to move to Montana." These hurricanes brought water levels on Okeechobee to the brimming point.
"One foot of rain north of the lake raises water levels in the lake two or three feet higher because of the dams," said Anders. "When it reaches a critical point, the Army Corps has to let some out and the Caloosahatchee is this release valve."
Following the 2004 storms, the release valve was engaged, churning years of accumulated chemicals on the bottom of the river, resulting in massive algal blooms.
Now in the present, Anders explained how these most recent years have been drought seasons and, to preserve water for farmers south of the lake, our river has essentially been shut off. What does this mean? The fertilizers are still in the river, causing the algae to multiply and the river isn't moving, resulting in what the SCCF calls a "toxic river." Additionally, without outward flow saltwater has started to seep in, raising the salinity, killing off many plants and wildlife.
Not only have fish been turning up dead in the river, but just recently many washed up on Florida's beaches. The sea grasses that are vital to so many marine animals are perfect places for bacteria to accumulate, denying the grass the ability to photosynthesize. A fine example of the absence of a once common species is the smalltooth sawfish. Anders says there are only two sawfish known to be living in Florida Bay.
Anders and the SCCF's message is clear: "The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) needs to allow more clean water to flow down the Caloosahatchee. Scientists believe that if we were allowed only one additional inch of water to be released into the river during drought, it would help to prevent the stagnant water."
Anders did mention that the SFWMD is purchasing land south of the lake to work on sending some of the excess water through dense marshes that could filter out some of the destructive elements and send the water on its natural track.
According to Anders, many in the tourism and real estate industry are lobbying on behalf of the river. Tourism is a $2 billion industry in Lee County.
"It's in their own best interest to protect the water quality," she added.
In closing, Anders conceded, "This does not fall solely on the SFWMD. If this was an easy problem it would have been fixed and it will take decades. People in Southwest Florida need to speak up about the problems here at the mouth of the river. An ailing Caloosahatchee hurts jobs, business, real estate and our wildlife. This issue should be beyond politics."


Alternative water supplies needed
Sun Sentinel - by Adam Putnam, Agriculture Commissioner, FL
August 01, 2011
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 U.S. 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 two 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 agriculture commissioner.


Amid drought, 10 billion gallons of water drain out to sea in first two weeks of July
Broward Directory Blog – by A. B. Reid, Sun Sentinel
August 1, 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 storm water 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.


Eric Draper
Eric Draper,
Executive Director of
Florida Audubon

Audubon of Florida director defends claims of water mismanagement in South Florida
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
August 1, 2011
A recent column published on Sunshine State News, titled “Lying About Lake O to Win Hearts and Minds: The Eric Draper Story,” alleged that Audubon of Florida’s executive director was lying about the mismanagement of Lake Okeechobee, which has suffered as a result of the recent South Florida drought. In a response, Draper writes that although the column is “derisive,” it brings much-needed attention to the issue at hand.
Sunshine State’s Nancy Smith wrote the piece as a response to a letter Draper penned to the South Florida Water Management District, which he says mismanaged Lake Okeechobee water releases, giving more to Everglades Agricultural Area than to the algae-plagued Caloosahatchee River. (As we previously reported, the South Florida Water Management District has estimated that 1.3 inches of lake water went into the Caloosahatchee during that time period, while the Everglades Agricultural Area received around 15 inches.).
In her column, Smith argued that Draper’s letter was “full-of-baloney” and has a “sinister agenda”:
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.
In his response, Draper notes the importance of balancing water management needs across the state, saying that not only did mismanagement worsen the South Florida drought, it has worsened the situation for fish and wildlife.
“While the exact quantity is unclear, a significant amount of this water was delivered via publicly owned canals to irrigate sugar cane,” writes Draper, who goes on to explain that the lack of water has been especially harsh on Everglades snail kites, a type of bird that is known to be an overall indicator on the health of its surrounding area. According to Draper, the snail kite population has gone from around 3,400 individuals (in 1999) to less than 700.
“Largely as a result of drought and water management there were no successful nests on the lake in 2007, 2008, and 2009,” he writes. “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.”
The solution, maintains Draper, is better water management:
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.


The troubled
Caloosahatchee River
and its estuary

Exclusive: Caloosahatchee River in firing line of area water wars
August 2, 2011
Supply is sent to permitted users, leaving environment high and dry.
It's an old story: In times of drought, some people get water, and some don't.
During South Florida's ongoing drought, water managers have continued to release water from Lake Okeechobee to agriculture, utilities and industry - entities that have what are known as consumptive use permits.
In March, managers stopped sending water down the Caloosahatchee River, which needs fresh water during droughts to maintain proper salinities and prevent environmental damage to the estuary.
Water from the lake is essential to help sustain Lee County's $2.5 billion tourism industry and South Florida's $3 billion to $4 billion agriculture industry.
When water supplies dwindle, animosity can arise between environmental and agricultural interests, with both sides questioning water management policies.
Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the final say on water allocation, the South Florida Water Management District makes recommendations to the Army Corps about who gets water and when.
Water district officials say state law dictates that permitted users must receive water during shortages.
"The state allows the use of water through a permitting scenario that gives the user a certainty that he'll have water available for the duration of the permit," said Terrie Bates, director of the district's Water Resources Division. "If you're building a facility, and you need 2 million gallons of water a day, you won't invest if you're concerned that three years from now, somebody will take your water away.
"Yes, we have environmental problems, but we can't solve them by taking water from permitted users."
Subject to interpretation
There are almost 750,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, including 138,000 in the Caloosahatchee basin.
The biggest piece of the service is the Everglades Agricultural Area, with about 542,000 acres under cultivation. Almost 90 percent of that is sugarcane - the sugar industry is worth $2.5 billion.
Local estuary watchers don't buy the argument state law guarantees water to permitted users, particularly the agriculture industry
"It's a stretch," said Kurt Harclerode, operations manager with Lee County's Division of Natural Resources. "Their attorneys have come up with an interpretation that says if the district does anything that might affect permitted users, they could go after the district. The whole time, the estuary suffers."
2010-11 drought
From Oct. 2 through July 25, the 16-county water district's rainfall was 10.43 inches below average. The Southwest Coast basin, which includes Lee and Collier counties, was 9.51 inches below average.
In October 2010, the Army Corps started environmental releases to the Caloosahatchee estuary and made its last releases March 18. During that time, the Corps released 90,480 acre-feet, or 29.48 billion gallons, of water.
Agriculture, too, suffers during drought, and its interests question water policy.
On May 19, the water district imposed a 45 percent water reduction on agricultural water users.
Many crops are stressed, and Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for U.S. Sugar Corp., said water released down the Caloosahatchee from October to March should have been stored in Lake Okeechobee.
"They released water through the fall and winter, into the spring, well after the forecast predicted extremely dry weather," she said. "It's not as if we haven't been through this before. They know what an approaching drought looks like, feels like and smells like."
Adaptive protocols
Lake Okeechobee is at the center of South Florida's water supply.
As long as lake levels are within what water district officials call "the sweet spot" - 12.5 to 15.5 feet - everything is fine.
When lake levels rise above the sweet spot, added pressure threatens to breach the Herbert Hoover Dike, which was built in the 1930s, and the Army Corps must release water down the Caloosahatchee.
When lake levels drop below the sweet spot, water managers must decide how much water, if any, will be released to the river and how much will go to permitted users.
From the early 20th century to the early 21st century, the Army Corps controlled water levels in the lake based on a series of regulation schedules.
In 2008, the Army Corps adopted its Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, usually called LORS, under which lake levels are kept about 1 foot lower than the previous schedule, thus protecting the dike.
During water shortages, the lake is managed for multiple purposes, including the environment.
To help the Corps decide how much water should be released from the lake, the water district developed a document called Adaptive Protocols for Lake Okeechobee Operations.
Keeping the lake at 1 foot lower in the past means that the lake can't store as much water, which presented a problem for the district.
"When the Corps decided to lower the top end, we said, 'How can we help the estuary when we've lost storage?'" water district engineer Cal Neidrauer said. "We called it 'mission impossible.'
"The adaptive protocols attempt to clarify recommendations to the Corps, primarily for water supply. We had to thread the needle to improve the system as well as we could."
The adaptive protocols, which Tommy Strowd, the district's deputy executive director of operations and maintenance resources called "a document only an engineer could love," is built on a complicated series of if-then conditions based on the regulation schedule.
"We didn't throw out any babies with the bath water," Strowd said of the adaptive protocols. "We considered the lake's health and the estuary's health. We make recommendations, and the corps makes the call."
Only once has the Army Corps not followed the water district's recommendation: On March 4, the district suggested releases to the Caloosahatchee be stopped, but Col. Alfred Pantano, the Corp's Jacksonville District commander, disagreed.
"At that time, Col. Pantano was receiving feedback from various interests, and he wanted to take another look," Corps engineer Sean Smith said. "He felt it was important enough to provide the estuary with available water that would not have a large effect on lake stages. That water would lessen the amount of time the estuary would be exposed to no flow."
State law and water
Meanwhile, no matter what the regulation schedule suggests, permitted users receive water, though, during drought, their allocation can be reduced.
Water district officials say that, under Florida law and the Florida Administrative Code, permitted users are entitled to water during drought when the environment isn't.
Estuary watchers, however, point to a chapter in the code that states, during a water shortage, "the District will equitably distribute available supplies to prevent serious harm to the water resources."
Another issue is the idea of "shared adversity:" South Florida is now in Phase III extreme water shortage restrictions, and according to the code, "Phase III or greater water shortage restrictions shall be implemented allowing for a shared adversity between consumptive use and water resource needs."
But the key rule, Bates said, is found in a chapter of the code that states, "An existing permit will not be subject to revocation or modification" unless the water district has identified "new or alternative water sources" to fill the permitted user's needs.
The district is acting within the law when it reduces a permitted user's water allocation, because a reduction is not a modification of the permit, Bates said.
"Every permit issued is subject to water shortage rules,"she said. "We can temporarily reduce allocations to get through drought conditions."
Minimum flows
Another legal issue is that, under state law, water districts must set minimum flows and levels for most water bodies. A minimum flow is the least amount of water necessary to prevent environmental damage to the water body.
In 2001, the water district adopted a minimum flow of 300 cubic feet per second for the Caloosahatchee. With no releases from the lake, the river is not getting its minimum flow.
"If you look at the law, it says they should be providing minimum flows to the Caloosahatchee," Harclerode said. "They're ignoring the state rule."
District officials realized minimum flows for the river would not be met during droughts because the system has been altered by drainage and development, Bates said.
In other words, water no longer flows naturally into the river from its tributaries, and there is no place to store water during wet periods so it could be released in droughts.
The answer, Bates said, is to create storage areas, such as the C-43 reservoir, which is designed to store 55 billion gallons of water just south of the Caloosahatchee in Hendry County. The $338 million project's implementation plan is finished and ready for congressional authorization and funding.
Looking for change
Nobody is ever satisfied during a South Florida drought.
Permitted users want their fair share of the water pie, while environmentalists want equity and shared adversity.
Many people, including Charles Dauray, former Southwest Florida representative on the water district's governing board, believe the system needs to change. Dan DeLisi, Southwest Florida's district representative, was out of the country and couldn't be reached for comment.
"Here on the west coast, water is not only for the environment, but it's also what sustains our economy," Dauray said. "Do you think ag folks are in the business because they love it? They're in it for the money.
"I fully understand those permits are contracts. You can't deny them that water. But I would like to see water for environmental purposes somehow have the same legal rights as other permits. The adaptive protocols need to be reviewed."
Dave Westra, owner of Lehr's Economy Tackle in North Fort Myers, has been watching and fishing in the Caloosahatchee for 40 years.
He's seen massive releases from Lake Okeechobee turn the river completely fresh, and he's seen the river with high salinities because of low or no releases.
"The river is a tidal river," he said. "To be healthy, it needs decent tidal inflow and tidal outflow. But sometimes it's all salt coming in, and others it's all fresh going out. The river never has time to settle itself up.
"I'm sure the system could be managed better. The only answer I see is to finish the C-43 reservoir, get that thing built and give the river its natural function."


FDEP meet

F-DEP PublicHearing on proposed new water pollution standards: Aug.3, 2011
August 1, 2011
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection holds the second of two formal public meetings to present its proposed draft rule and receive public comments on possible revisions to Chapters 62-302 and 62-303, regarding numeric nutrient standards for Florida’s surface waters. The federal EPA had made rules setting out numeric standards for how much pollution could go into Florida freshwater bodies, but it led to an uproar from Florida businesses and others, and the state DEP backed those who opposed the new federal rules. EPA told Florida it could back off the rules if Florida creates its own numeric standard for nutrients going into streams and lakes. The rulemaking hearing is just that. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, 2600 Blair Stone Rd., Room 609, Tallahassee.)
(See CALENDAR for details)


Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida

Former Miccosukee lawyer says government should pay legal fees
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton \
August 1, 2011
The recent lull in Everglades litigation was interrupted last month when the former attorney for the Miccosukee Tribe filed a motion for attorney’s fees in what is known as the “Gold case.”
The fees stem from a 2004 lawsuit in which the tribe accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. Florida’s Dept. of Environmental Protection later joined the lawsuit as a defendant. In July 2008, U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, concluding that the EPA had violated the CWA. The case is on appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Dexter Lehtinen, the irascible former U.S. Attorney, had represented the tribe from the beginning of the suit. In May 2010 the tribe dismissed Lehtinen, offering no explanation. The tribe immediately hired Miami attorney Sonia Escobio O’Donnell – a former partner of Lehtinen’s.
Jorden Burt, the firm where Escobio O’Donnell works, assigned attorneys Richard Sharpstein and Enrique Arana to the case. Together the attorneys represented the tribe in some of most pivotal hearings in the case.
But on June 27, Escobio O’Donnell and the other Jorden Burt lawyers filed motions to withdraw as attorneys for the tribe. No explanation was given. The same day, the attorneys filed the motions for attorney’s fees. The tribe is now represented by Bernardo Roman, a tribal attorney with an office in Miami.


Congressional PROPOSAL
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Proposal in U.S. Senate would weaken efforts in Florida, nationwide to clean up waterways
TCPalm - Editorial board
August 1, 2011
Is it in the state of Florida's best interests to weaken the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate water quality standards?
No. Not when the state has been egregiously slow to enforce federal water quality standards in Florida waterways.
By way of example, look no further than the decades-long battle by environmentalists to regulate pollutants in the Everglades. The state, the South Florida Water Management District and sugarcane growers have been waging a legal battle to block an EPA plan to regulate pollution in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Thankfully, an appeals court recently upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the EPA plan. Nonetheless, the struggle continues.
The latest skirmish in the battle for cleaner water — and higher water quality standards — is being waged in Washington, D.C. The House recently passed H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park. Among other things, H.R. 2018 would block the EPA's authority to tighten water pollutant limits without a state's consent, and prevent the EPA from overriding a state's determination that a discharge will comply with effluent limitations and water quality standards.
The EPA didn't mince words in its assessment of the legislation, stating the bill would "overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality."
Reps. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, and Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, voted to support the measure. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, voted against it.
In 2009, a federal judge approved an agreement between the EPA and state officials that called on the federal agency to establish science-based, water-quality standards since the state had failed to do so. When the new federal guidelines were unveiled, they elicited howls of opposition from agricultural and other business interests, utility operators and politicians, who claimed the rules were too stringent and compliance was so costly it could cripple the state's struggling economy.
Opponents assert the rules would cost $21 billion to implement. The federal agency strongly disagrees, saying the cost would be more like $130 million to $200 million. And, it says, failure to reduce pollution, which now impacts about half the state's rivers and more than half of its lakes, could be a much greater economic drain on the state than the cost of complying.
Rooney, citing multiple concerns, including those about the potential cost to business and agriculture, has actively supported legislation that would block the EPA from implementing numerical limits to nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters under the federal Clean Water Act. This is disconcerting given that Rooney also portrays himself as a champion of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Water is a precious resource in our state — not to mention our own backyard — and will become even more precious in the future. Enacting H.R. 2018 would be an enormous step backward — not just for Florida, but for every other state where state officials and state agencies have dragged their feet to clean up rivers, lakes and streams.
Bottom line ? H.R. 2018 would preserve each state's authority to make determinations regarding its water quality standards. Closer to home, it would add one more obstacle to efforts to clean up the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Weakening the EPA and shifting this authority to the state wouldn't be a problem if Florida had a good track record on the issue. It doesn't.
The Senate should reject the proposal.


water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades
water & Everglades

WATER: The next great predicament for America - by Frosty Wooldridge
August 1, 2011
When the first Europeans landed in North America, anyone could drink from any lake, river or stream with full assurance of sparkling clean water. Millions of Native Americans drank from clean water sources for centuries.
Inside of the last 100 years, we Americans have polluted our ground water, surface water and most rivers running to the ocean suffer from horrific contamination. We have shoved hundreds of millions of smoke stacks into our skies to pollute the rain into acid rain. It descends upon the land to create acidified soils that kill nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
What doesn’t come down as acid rain, we spray thousands of chemicals into the land, air and water 24/7. We spray billions of gallons of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers onto our foods. We humans have concocted about 80,000 chemicals to date. About two percent of those chemicals are ever tested for long term consequences.
And you wonder why 1 in 3 Americans are affected by cancer in this century?
While we pride ourselves as a nation of clean water consumers and Environmental Protection Agency supporters, most Americans don’t know the half of what they drink.
According to a new report by investigative reporter Larry West, “Public water supplies in 42 U.S. states are contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has never established safety standards, according to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).”
Tainted Tap Water Used by Millions of Americans
“Another 119 regulated chemicals—a total of 260 contaminants altogether—were found by the environmental group in a two-and-a-half-year analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests,” said West. “The tests, which are required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, were conducted at nearly 40,000 utilities that supply water to 231 million people.”
It is the major factor that caused me to buy water filters for my personal drinking water for the past 30 years. Few Americans realize that thousands of gas stations over the decades have leaked their oil and gas products into our ground water all over the nation. Additionally, all those chemicals like Round Up and Weed-Be-Gone that you spray on your sidewalks and gardens ultimately end up in the ground water or rivers. They all travel to the oceans which are being toxified beyond comprehension.
Pollution Threatens Tap Water Quality
“According to a report by the EWG, the top 10 states with the most contaminants in their drinking water were California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois—in that order,” said West. “EWG said the biggest sources of contaminants were agriculture, industry and pollution from sprawl and urban runoff.
Please realize that the more people that inhabit a state, the greater the contamination of their water supplies. It’s simple math. Therefore, a state like Florida with an 18 million population load today can expect to double its water contamination problems as it reaches 36 million in four decades. Additionally, Florida is running out of water as is Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
California, with 38 million and headed for 58 million people—well folks, not only will they not possess enough water; it will be horribly polluted beyond imagination. I’ve bicycled five times the length and width of California in the past 35 years and I saw more poisons being applied to the crops than rain drops in a monsoon. They’re headed for a Poison Katrina the likes that no one can imagine. The crops coming out of the Central Valley reek of chemicals.
Utilities Need More Enforceable Standards for Tap Water
When I canoed the Mississippi River eight years ago, I picked up bags and bags of trash, cans, plastics and old oil cans. I witnessed old cars pushed over the banks and into the water. People threw their couches, electrical cords, trash, garbage, paint and other furniture into the Mississippi by the thousands. I saw bags of God-knows-what emptied into Old Man River. Chemicals, gas cans and oil containers were among my daily pick up chores as I paddled downstream. It made me sick that this country is so lazy, so stupid and so apathetic that it won’t pass a 10 cent deposit-return law like Michigan’s to stop our moral and mental midget citizens from throwing their containers everywhere across the land.
It’s embarrassing that the grandest river in this country is so polluted that it features a 10,000 square mile dead zone at its mouth in New Orleans. (Source: UPI News) That means it’s so poisoned that few vertebrates can live in that dead zone. If you eat shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, think twice before swallowing. Don’t worry, the dead zones at the mouths of the Yangtze and Ganges beat us out at 15,000 square mile zones.
In my own state of Colorado, Peter Coors spent millions to defeat our bottle-return laws (in 1974 and 1988) because it meant more profits for his company. When I wrote him and begged him to “man up for the environment,” he wrote back and told me that bottles, cans and plastic containers were only eight percent of the waste stream. When I invited him to use his $13 million annual salary to hire trucks and pick up crews to clean up that eight percent—he didn’t answer my letter. I have personally picked up a half-million pieces of trash in my life, but I cannot keep up with Coors’ legacy of generated container trash.
Additionally, Coors and his cronies are the reason for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a three million ton (60 to 90 feet thick) island of floating plastic containers the size of Texas out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it grows by 2.5 million containers an hour. Men like Coors are the reason for it. I call him a “Pretend environmentalist.”
"Our analysis clearly demonstrates the need for greater protection of the nation's tap water supplies, and for increased health protections from a number of pollutants that are commonly found but currently unregulated." said Jane Houlihan, vice president for science at EWG, in a prepared statement. "Utilities routinely go beyond what is required to protect consumers from these contaminants, but they need more money for testing, and for protection of vital source waters."
Since contamination and pollution levels are tied to human numbers, it’s going to be interesting if not totally horrifying how we’re going to deal with adding 72 to 75 million third world immigrants to this country by 2035. Third worlders lack any comprehension of personal accountability as to trash, containers or chemicals. They’ll be throwing more chemicals into the environment than you can shake a stick at. So will our own mindless Americans—so it will be even more filth across this once pristine continent. The Indians should have enforced a strict immigration policy.
As I often paint a picture of our future, I expose the little things that add up to the big things. Are we in trouble or what?


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