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

     Search Site:

EvergladesHUB Home > News > Archives > January'12-TEXTS    2011: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC    2010:  Jan Fe Mr Ap Ma Jun Jul Au Se Oc No De



Florida oranges are protected from freezing - by spraying water over the crop.

Farmers should consider alternatives to freezing crops
The Oracle - by Thomas Powers
January 31, 2012
Talking to an insurance company regarding a sinkhole under a home doesn't seem as pleasant as biting into a
perfectly grown Florida strawberry, but for residents of eastern Hillsborough County the two are interconnected.
For decades, Florida berry farmers have pumped water on their profitable crops to form a thin layer of ice, which protects from freezing overnight temperatures.
This usage may seem minor, but according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), a night of pumping can exploit nearly 1 billon gallons of water from Florida's aquifer. In turn, this quickly dries up the aquifer, and this loss of water under the ground can result in a sinkhole.
A near-annual outbreak of sinkholes are blamed on farmers who freeze their berries to insulate them from freezing temperatures, despite alternative methods for protecting the crops.
According to The Grower, a publication directed toward America's farmers, "An 11-day stretch of freezing weather in January 2010 created so much demand for groundwater that more than 140 sinkholes and
750 dry wells were reported in the region."
Strawberry farmers should take advantage of a cost-sharing reimbursement program with SWFWMD called FARMS: Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems. According to Channel 10 News, this program hopes to be an incentive for farmers to use artificial coverings and alternative methods for protecting the crops. Its goals include offsetting millions of gallons of water in district "Caution Areas" and during freezes, according to its website.
Bob McDowell of Fancy Farms in Plant City is already setting an example for other farmers. He has invested in a Haygrove Tunnel, a greenhouse-like tarp structure that traps heat to protect the crops, for part of his 240-acre farm.
"You close the tunnels up,"McDowell told My Fox Tampa Bay, "It acts like an igloo and maintains the heat in the tunnel."
But, at $300,000 an acre, this is a hefty investment for a farmer.
John Stickles of Florida Pacific Farms in Dover has been trying another method: This winter, he covered about 20 acres of his farm with frost blankets, using steel stakes to hold the tarp-like blanket just inches above the crops, a cover that secludes the strawberry plants and traps heat, according to Channel 10 News.
The means for obtaining these protective systems are costly and time consuming, which has many growers turning their backs. But changing a routine that has lasted for generations takes effort from government resources and a willingness to adjust from Florida's cultivators. While spraying the strawberries with our natural
supply of water saves them from overnight freezes, coverings instead can last a multitude of seasons and protect the safety of residents.
With help from SWFWMD, farmers should invest in ways to support both their crops and the environment. Dishing out money for these resources may seem futile, but that's a small price to pay for a salvaged Florida landscape.


(Mouseover/CLICK for
alligator-python fight)



There is certainly an explosion of ARTICLES about pythons today.
Does this tell you something about the media ?
Are there no other news ?

Invaders: How Burmese Pythons Are Devouring the Everglades
Time - by Bryan Walsh
January 31, 2012
Burmese pythons are eating machines. An adult snake can grow to nearly 20 ft., and it can eat everything raccoons to bobcats to deer to alligators, killing its prey by constriction and then swallowing them whole. On the jungle food chain, Burmese pythons rest near the top.
Burmese pythons are also—as the name might suggest—not local to the U.S. But they are a popular pet, imported to this country from their native habitat in India and Southeast Asia. And sometimes those pets escape from their owners or are simply let go—especially in Florida, a nexus of the imported wildlife trade and one of the few parts of the U.S. with a climate and landscape to which the pythons can easily adapt. That’s how hundreds or even thousands of Burmese pythons have managed to establish themselves in the Florida Everglades—the vast protected wetlands in the southern Florida—where they’ve become a persistent challenge for local officials tasked with protecting endangered wildlife.
Now a new study published in this week’s Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences suggests just how big a threat the invasive Burmese pythons have become. Researchers led by Michael Dorcas of Davidson College in North Carolina looked at the distribution of mammals in the Everglades nearly 20 years ago—before Burmese pythons established themselves in the area—and then more recently. They found a drastic reduction in the number of small mammals that are typically part of a python’s diet, and they also discovered that the remaining mammals tend to be most abundant in areas that are either clear of pythons or where the snakes have only recently been spotted. The evidence is strong enough to suggest that invasive Burmese pythons are causing significant wildlife loss in the Everglades—and that the problem could worsen as the snakes continues to grow.
MORE: Lake Invaders
Dorcas told the BBC that the Burmese pythons are rearranging the food chain in the Everglades:
Any snake population – you are only seeing a small fraction of the numbers that are actually out there. They are a new top predator in Everglades National Park – one that shouldn’t be there.
We have documented pythons eating alligators, we have also documented alligators eating pythons. It depends on who is biggest during the encounter.
While the snakes have been spotted in the Everglades for at least the last 20 years, they were only recognized as fully established in 2000. Wildlife officials have tried to remove the snakes—400 were taken out in 2009—but the damage may already be done. The PNAS researchers looked at data from detailed nighttime road surveys of the Everglades between 2003 and 2011, and compared that data to similar roadkill surveys taken between 1993 and 1999 and road surveys done in 1996 and 1997. They found:
A 99.3% decrease in the frequency of raccoon observations.
A 98.9% decrease in the frequency of opossum observations.
A 87.5% decrease in the frequency of bobcat observations.
A total failure to detect any rabbits.
MORE: The Benefits of Stopping Invasive Species Before They Invade
Since all of those animals can serve as a python’s dinner—and given the fact that the mammals were more common in areas where the pythons hadn’t been seen—it’s reasonable to infer that the Burmese pythons are treating the Everglades as an all you can eat buffet. Here’s U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt:
Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America’s most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems. Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action.
The trouble is that it’s much easier to prevent invasive species from establishing themselves in new territory than it is to root them out once they’ve gotten comfortable. The Obama Administration recently banned the import and interstate commerce of Burmese pythons and a few other foreign snakes, but under pressure from the pet industry, other snakes including the boa constrictor are still allowed to be imported into the U.S.
The wildlife trade is big business, and importers will resist any new rules. Reptiles alone are worth more than $2 billion, and according to American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, some 11 million reptiles were kept as pets as recently as 2005. Andrew Wyatt, the head of the trade group Reptile Keepers, told the Washington Post that the study’s authors had jumped to conclusions, and that other work has shown that mercury pollution in the water may be playing a major role in the deaths of small mammals.
Perhaps—though the study is backed up by years of data and is published in one of the most reputable peer-reviewed journals in the world. In any case, invasive species pose a major threat to the U.S.—as I learned when I visited the Illinois to see invasive Asian carp—costing the country some $120 billion a year. And those pythons may not be standing still—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that they’re adapting to colder climates and may be expanding their range. Watch out—after all, humans are small mammals too.
MORE: Mississippi Floods Could Spread Invasive Carp. Bryan Walsh is a senior writer at TIME.
Burmese Pythons Devastate Everglades Mammal Population, Study Says - - 4 minutes ago
Sssscary Burmese Pythons Are Taking Over the Everglades - The Stir - 11 minutes ago
Burmese Pythons: What to Know - Zimbio - 11 minutes ago
Nation: Pythons have stranglehold on Florida Everglades - Delmarva Daily Times - 38 minutes ago
Burmese Python and Other Invasive Species Wrecking the Ecosystem - International Business Times - 49 minutes ago
Invaders: How Burmese Pythons Are Devouring the Everglades - TIME (blog) - 1 hour ago
Florida grapples with persistent python problem - GlobalPost (blog) - 1 hour ago
Burmese Pythons Picking Florida's Everglades Clean - Fox News - 1 hour ago
Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline - BBC News - 1 hour ago
GOP's Pro-Python Policy Devastates Florida's Everglades - ThinkProgress - 1 hour ago
Florida pythons find foe in the form of Sen. Bill Nelson - The State Column - 1 hour ago
Burmese Pythons Taking Over The Everglades - RedOrbit - 2 hours ago
Predatory pythons shift Everglades ecology - Science News - 2 hours ago
Pythons apparently wiping out Everglades mammals - Newsday - 2 hours ago
Pythons strangling the Everglades - USA TODAY - 2 hours ago
Mammal Massacre: Pythons Feasting on Florida Everglades Wildlife - KARK - 3 hours ago

Study: Giant snakes devastate mammal populations - Charleston Gazette (blog) - 3 hours ago
Study: Pythons Putting The Squeeze On Everglades Animals - CBS Local - 3 hours ago
Pythons wreaking havoc on Everglades wildlife - The Spokesman Review - 3 hours ago
First, Kill All The Burmese Pythons - National Review Online (blog) - 3 hours ago
Pythons wiping out mammals in Everglades, researchers say - CNN (blog) - 4 hours ago
Pythons hunt Florida mammals to brink of extinction - New Scientist - 4 hours ago
Invasive Burmese Pythons are devastating native mammal populations ... - The Earth Times - 4 hours ago
Pythons endangering wildlife in the Everglades - Local 10 - 5 hours ago
Burmese pythons squeezing the life out of Everglades - Sydney Morning Herald - 5 hours ago
Alligator explodes in python's belly, it farted! - The Spoof (satire) - 5 hours ago
Burmese Pythons Gulping Down Mammals - French Tribune - 6 hours ago
Hungry Hungry Pythons Decimate Mammal Populations in Everglades - Broward-Palm Beach New Times (blog) - 6 hours ago
Pythons Are Wiping Out Mammals in the Everglades - The Atlantic Wire - 6 hours ago
Study: Mammals vanishing as python spreads - Outcome Magazine - 6 hours ago
Biologist says pythons kill off Everglades' mammals - - 6 hours ago
Pythons suspected of killing mammals - News24 - 7 hours ago
Fla. snakes eating their way up food chain - Newsday - 7 hours ago
Pythons Blamed For Everglade's Disappearing Animals - NPR - 8 hours ago
Pythons Squeezing Life Out of Everglades -Newser - 9 hours ago
Pythons feasting on Everglades' mammals - - 12 hours ago
Pythons Lead to Mammal Decline - Daily Beast - 13 hours ago
Snakes blamed for 'severe declines' in Florida wildlife - Yahoo!7 News - 13 hours ago
Pythons likely wiping out Glades mammals, study finds - - 17 hours ago
Where have all the bunnies gone? - - 16 hours ago
Pythons kill off native animals in Everglades - Washington Post - 19 hours ago
Severe Declines in Everglades Mammals Linked to Pythons – US Geological Survey (press release) - 19 hours ago
Huge pythons annihilating Everglades wildlife, report scientists ... - Christian Science Monitor - 20 hours ago
Pythons apparently wiping out Everglades mammals - KSN-TV - 21 hours ago
Invasive Pythons Put Squeeze On Everglades' Animals - NPR - 21 hours ago
Pythons Eating Through Everglades Mammals at "Astonishing" Rate? - National Geographic - 21 hours ago
Pythons apparently wiping out Everglades mammals - Deseret News - 21 hours ago
Study: Pythons, other big snakes apparently killing off huge ... - Newser - 22 hours ago
Study: Pythons destroying Everglades, mammals decline linked to snakes - Naples Daily News - 22 hours ago
Pythons wiping out Everglades mammals, study finds - Sun-Sentinel - 22 hours ago


St. Johns River water-siphoning debate likely to resume soon
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
January 30, 2012
An important debate about the future of the St. Johns River — and Central Florida's growing thirst for its waters — resurfaces soon.
Discussion was muted for years by a legal fight and a costly study brought about in large part by a Jacksonville-based environmental group called the St. Johns Riverkeeper. The group joined North Florida governments in a 2008 lawsuit to prevent Seminole County from siphoning 5 million gallons a day from the river.
Seminole prevailed, and its new water plant is to start operating next month. That's also when theSt. Johns River Water Management Districtwill release the results of a four-year, $3.7 million study — triggered by the Seminole County controversy — that's designed to help quantify how much water Central Florida can take from the river without harming it.
Meanwhile, there's a change at the top of the river-protection group: Neil Armingeon, who sparred often with Seminole County and the water district during the first river-pumping debate, is stepping down as the group's leader, or "riverkeeper." Taking over is Lisa Rinaman, a former senior adviser for environmental issues in the Jacksonville mayor's office and a member of Riverkeeper's water-policy group. They both spoke recently with staff writer Kevin Spear.
Question: Has your North Florida group changed attitudes in Central Florida toward the river?
Armingeon: Certainly in your readership area, I think most people came to know about us and the river because of the Seminole County water-withdrawal issue. When an organization like Riverkeeper stands up, we may not win in the clearest sense of the word — obviously we didn't stop Seminole County, but we won in other ways. We, in effect, changed the whole dialogue. I'm not suggesting that battle won't come back again — you and I both know it will.
Q: What are your parting thoughts on state control and protection of water?
Armingeon: No one probably has called out the water district more than I have, but at the same time I still believe the [state's five water] districts are necessary, and I don't think people realize the threat they are under. I don't have nearly as much confidence in the districts anymore, because they've been emasculated. Their budgets have been cut, they've been totally politicized.
Q: What's the biggest threat to the St. Johns?
Armingeon: The demagoguery of people saying that 'taking care of the environment costs us jobs and is a job killer.' With the economy the way it is, it's so easy to convince people that we can't afford to take of and-or protect our resources. But the only thing we really have going for us in this state is our natural resources. They are, in many ways, unlike anything in the country, and yet we are hell bent on destroying them.
Q: What problems lie ahead?
Rinaman: We still have the GP [pulp mill in Palatka] pipeline-permitting issue to work on, as well as the legislative session, where there have been real attempts, and some successes, to erode environmental protections. We want to make sure we don't lose any more ground.
Q: How does North Florida's view of the river compare with Central Florida's?
Rinaman: Obviously, it's important that we all appreciate what the river means. It's going to be important for me to understand the attitudes up and down the river. When I take my kids to school in the morning, I drive over three bridges — it's hard not to have a sense of how important the river is. I can see where it might be different when you don't have that intimate feeling with the river everyday.
Q: Are you worried the water district's new report will be used to justify heavy pumping from the river?
Rinaman: There's a lot of good information in the [early drafts of the] report. However, there are still unanswered questions, and a lot of things that will impact the equation that aren't taken into consideration. I do not see this study as a clear ticket to withdrawing from the river.
Q: Will Riverkeeper take on future battles like the previous one with Seminole County?
Rinaman: If necessary, most definitely. Not only did you have a citizens-advocacy group come to the table, but it brought along local governments very concerned about the impacts of withdrawals. We are able to work together and raise awareness. When you have that citizen action coming together in one voice, it will change opinions.


HB 7051:
Rules Establishing Numeric Nutrient Criteria

See also:
"EPA NNC Rules"
"ISSUES - Legal"
by the

Fight over water pollution rules continues in Tallahassee, D.C.
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 30, 2012
The fight to allow Florida to write its own water pollution rules continues at both the state and federal level this week.
A bill designed to establish the state’s version of nutrient criteria for its waters passed its final committee last week and is headed for a floor vote in the House.
House Bill 7051 (sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers) would approve the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards designed to restrict waste in Florida waterways. The state rules were drafted as a lower-cost alternative to more stringent regulations proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which mandated that Florida implement a set of nutrient rules following a lawsuit bought by environmental groups. Environmentalists, who argue that the state version is less protective than having no rules at all, favor the EPA’s version, but both industry and state lawmakers have fought tooth-and-nail against them.
The Senate version of Caldwell’s bill will be heard by that chamber’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee later today.
In an interview with Southeast AgNet, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee Chair Rep. Steve Crisafulli said Caldwell’s bill takes the “common sense approach.”
“It is a compromise based on what EPA has sent down to us,” said Crisafulli. “We would certainly be happy keeping things as they are, using the TMDL program, but given the circumstances that we’re in, we certainly feel that this is a better alternative than what EPA has placed on us for numeric nutrient and we’re hopeful that the Senate sees it that way and we can pass this out and move on without having any more impacts from EPA on the rule moving forward.”
Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen (which are present in commercial fertilizers and industry waste) are both fiscally and environmentally detrimental to state waterways; they lead to large-scale algal blooms that choke off oxygen to other forms of marine life, leading to fish kills and devastating waterfront property values.
According to AgNet, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, is expected to unveil a piece of federal legislation today that will further empower Florida officials to set the numeric nutrient standards for state waters.


Florida super algae growing bigger, staying longer
Tampa Bay Business Journal
January 30, 2012
An enormous algae "super bloom" floating a span from Melbourne to Titusville is baffling biologists in the Indian River Lagoon.
The bloom could have devastating consequences for seagrass and fish, according to a report by Florida Today.
Algae blooms, often called Resultor, usually last only a few weeks, but this one has been around since April. The algae is not believed to be toxic to fish or humans, but can kill fish by using up all of the oxygen in the water. It also can kill seagrass by blocking it from the sun during the growing season, according to the report.
Government scientists and researchers from the University of Florida University of Florida - Latest from The Business Journal Photo Gallery: 2012 CFO AwardsCFO Awards: Small Private Company CFO Medicaid cuts could trim jobs Follow this company are researching the algae and are planning to produce a paper on it. Officials say it is the largest Resultor on record.


Indian River Lagoon algae 'super bloom' studied
January 30, 2012
Biologists baffled by Resultor extent, duration since spring.
Biologists had never seen anything like it in the Indian River Lagoon: a massive green algae “super bloom” spanning from Titusville to Melbourne, maybe farther.
Scientists with the St. Johns River Water Management District described a bloom of unprecedented proportions and duration, with fatal consequences for fish and seagrass. Usually, such blooms of the algae, called Resultor, last a few weeks. This one began in April, worsened for months and still lurks nearly a year later, although at lower levels.
“This was probably the biggest one that we have on record,” Troy Rice, director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, said of the Resultor bloom. “It’s starting to clear up a little bit south of Merritt Island.” But the algae still blooms near Titusville and the southern Mosquito Lagoon. “It seems to be dying back a little bit but the water’s still pretty green up there,” Rice said.
Resultor — which propels itself with whiplike tail — is not known to be toxic to fish or humans. But too much of any algae can starve fish of oxygen in the water. And by blooming this past spring and summer, the algae blocked sun from seagrass beds during their prime growing time.
Seagrass is vital habitat for fish, crabs and other marine life and is considered the best barometer of the lagoon’s ecological health. Each acre can provide food and hiding spots for thousands of fish.
The result or “super bloom” startled district officials into recently creating a coalition of university and government scientists to study the bloom and suggest ways to prevent similar algae onslaughts in the future. They plan to produce a position paper toward the end of this year.
Resultor is thought to occur worldwide and may have popped up in lagoon samples — at much lower levels — in 2005, 2006 and 2010, district officials said. It took an electron microscope at the University of Florida to identify the bloom definitively as Resultor. UF researchers found the species in high densities in samples collected in June
Until then, the fish toll had been mild and sporadic. But on July 12, about 300 red drum, mullet, catfish and trout washed up dead between Mims and Scottsmoor, according to a state fish-kill database. The same database cites mullet, sand bream and other fish dying by the thousands from algae blooms in Sykes Creek from September through December.
But officials say the fish kills could have been much worse, and worry they might be next time.
“For this type of bloom, it’s the most intense and the longest duration that any of us have seen,” Joel Steward, technical program manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District, said back in mid-July, as Resultor peaked. “We’re venturing into totally new territory.”
Extreme winter cold spells and drought may have set the stage for Resultor, officials said.
Lagoon water samples last year showed salt content in some portions of the lagoon as high as 5 percent, twice what’s considered ideal for seagrass growth and fish larvae. Ocean water is around 3.5 percent salt.
The impact to lagoon life remains uncertain.
This time, Resultor spared most fish, but not their most important habitat. The algae grew so thick, so long, it stunted seagrass beds, causing a 50 percent die-back, according to the district’s field biologists.
“We’ve had significant die-outs of seagrasses in the lagoon,” Rice said. “What long-term impact that’s going to have on fisheries is still to be determined. We don’t know.”


State unveils lagoon health plans this week
January 30, 2012
Public can offer input on reducing toxic runoff
State environmental officials will host two meetings in north Brevard County on Wednesday to get public input on landmark plans to protect the Indian River Lagoon from toxic algae-inducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has split the lagoon into three large segments for the so-called Basin Management Action Plans: the Banana River Lagoon and the north and central Indian River Lagoon.
A meeting for the Central Indian River Lagoon plan is today in Indian River County Commission Chambers.
On Wednesday, at meetings in Cocoa and Cape Canaveral, DEP will brief local government officials on how the new stormwater pollution limits will work.
The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that flows into the lagoon drives the frequency and intensity of toxic algae blooms and fish kills. Algae cling to and smother seagrass and form mats on the lagoon’s surface, which blocks seagrass from getting sunlight it needs to photosynthesize.
Seagrass is vital habitat for fish, crabs and other marine life and is considered the best barometer of the lagoon’s ecological health.
The action plans spell out what local governments, the military and others that contribute to nitrogen and phosphorus runoff will have to do to comply with the new limits. Some municipalities may get credit toward nutrient reductions for stormwater or other projects already completed.
The plans will be phased, with only a portion of the total nitrogen and phosphorus reductions required in the first five years.
The biggest challenge may be the Banana River, which DEP officials have said will require large reductions to reach water quality goals.
Kennedy Space Center’s land contributes the most nitrogen, 70,110 pounds, or 25 percent of the total, into the Banana River annually, followed by Brevard County, with 68,350 pounds (24 percent), according to DEP documents.
For phosphorus, Brevard County contributes the most (26 percent), or about 14,202 pounds per year. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is second, with 11,073 pounds.
“Anything we can do to reduce nutrient loadings into the lagoon will prevent future algae blooms from occurring,” said Troy Rice, director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.



Everglades ballet

On a beautiful day, in a beautiful place, hours from the nearest road, deep in the Everglades we went. And what we found is something you'd never, ever expect to see in this place routinely full of surprises.

Dancers create ballet video in highly unusual setting
January 29, 2012
Dancing. In a most unlikely setting.
Amid barking orders of "rolling," "take 14," and "action," a small crowd of film crew members, national park rangers and photographers are watching the graceful dancing of an attractive young woman and a handsome young man, locked in a slowly undulating embrace, barely clothed.
They are dancing on a wooden platform built a few feet above the water, ten yards from saw grass and trees, in the warm glow of a setting sun.
A film crew is capturing this dance as part of a performance that integrates the video with live performers on a stage at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts near Washington, D.C., part of Wolf Trap National Park.
It's a means of portraying the beauty of nature and the challenges of environmental protection.
"What we're trying to do with these projects," explains Terre Jones, the president of Wolf Trap Foundation, "is to capture the spirit, the essence of the park itself. And tell that story in a way that people might not normally look at it. So, through dance and music, we're able to evoke emotions - help people understand the issues in a different way. And I think if we can help people see it differently, I think we can wake them up."
Indeed, the romance, grace, dignity of the dancers is parallel to the romance, grace and dignity of the very nature surrounding them.
Choreographer David Parsons guides the dancers in their own special language. No music needed. The dancers feel it instead. They are music.
"It's amazing," says Parsons, "because we're all in concrete all the time! You know, we're all in buildings."
Parsons sweeps his arms across the breathtaking panorama of the endless Everglades and says, "And so it's been great for the dancers because we've been digging down deep, you know, and gettin' primal. Seriously, man! You forget, we're animals!" He laughs with glee.
Again, Parsons sweeps the horizon. "We forget where we come from. And this is where we come from."
The shoot represents the seventh time the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts has done a special performance in one of America's national parks - paid with private donations.
Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball has seen a lot of things in the park. "But we've never had dancers in the park," he says with a smile.
Asked what he thinks, he replies, "Spectacular!"
"And we're trying to connect with people. And I think this will connect this park with a whole, new audience," he says.
The dance and film crew told Kimball and his team they wanted the best spots no matter how remote or difficult to reach.
"Yeah, they wanted to go way deep," Kimball says. "And we told 'em the right season to come. We recommended they not come in mosquito season."
Kimball chuckles and looks again toward the dancers, surrounded by the beauty of his park.


Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition Finds "Civilization" Hard to Escape
WUSF – by Carson Cooper
January 29, 2012
AUDIO - Interview
TAMPA (2012-1-30) - A group of wildlife conservationists are currently traversing the length of Florida by kayak, bicycle - and on foot. It's one thousand miles in one hundred days, and WUSF is keeping up with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. They're calling attention to the need to connect the state's disjointed wild areas into a contiguous wildlife corridor.
They began two weeks ago at the tip of the Everglades, and they've paddled through some of the remotest swamps in Florida. But still, they say even places people seldom visit have been affected by the hand of man.
That includes invasive plants sprouting in the middle of the Everglades' famed River of Grass, noise from nearby construction and even planes stacked up to land in nearby Miami. WUSF's Carson Cooper talks with Elam Stoltzfus, a cinematographer who's documenting their journey.


State Should Not Be Giving Away More Public Land – Letter by Marian Ryan, Winter Haven, FL
January 29, 2012
The history of Florida is shamefully replete with examples of the Legislature giving away state land to special private interests. This year HB 1103 and SB 1362 propose to hand over an estimated 500,000 acres of public land to private interests by changing the definition of the ordinary high water line.
The public has the right to fish, boat, picnic, hunt, camp, hike or otherwise enjoy the lands and waters below the ordinary high water line. If passed, these bills would make those public uses illegal. As everyone knows, the water levels of our lakes and rivers change during the year.
Florida law states that sovereignty submerged (public) lands go up to the ordinary high water line. This is defined as the normal reach of water in the high-water season (in Florida, ordinary is used to distinguish this high water level from "flood" level). These bills would change the definition and lower this boundary to the water level that a water body is in an ordinary condition. Ordinary condition is not the highest reach, it is a lower level that exists the rest of the year.
Passage of these bills would mean the control of these public lands and waters used by millions of Florida's residents and tourists will be given over to the few people who own land adjacent to public water. Those owners would then be able to post "their" property and prevent recreational users from enjoying what was once a public shoreline. Hunters would be especially at risk because possession of a firearm while trespassing on private property is a felony.
Please voice strong opposition about these bills to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Hopuse Speaker Dean Cannon and our legislative-delegation members.
MARIAN RYAN, Winter Haven, FL


Martin County Taxpayers Association: Florida Gov. Rick Scott appeared to win over some of his toughest critics at Everglades Coalition conference
TCPalm – by Richard Geisinger Jr., President of the Taxpayers Association
January 28, 2012
To keep tabs on important issues affecting Martin County taxpayers, we attended Gov. Rick Scott's participation in the Everglades Coalition's 27th annual conference this month on Hutchinson Island. This is a report on the discussions that took place during this important event.
A discussion took place regarding the cost of Everglades restoration and the investments made over several decades as well as potential future investments required to complete the project. The primary challenge appears to be not only the funding, but how to determine the return on investment to taxpayers for the huge amount of dollars it will take going forward. Another issue raised was that the size of the dollar amounts needed could dwarf the gross domestic product of many countries. Since 2000, taxpayers have contributed $1.5 billion, in addition to the $765 million contributed by the federal government. Unfortunately, much of the past investment had been devoted to undoing (or redoing) decades of digging, dredging and diking to tame what was then considered a mass natural nuisance.
Thus, there is an important assumption that any future investments would produce significantly better results — or so it would seem.
Advocates of the Everglades believe in the environmental benefits of investing in this project, but speakers also lauded the economic contributions of the project. A report by Mather Economics cited the fact that for every dollar invested in Everglades restoration generates $4 in economic benefits. Mather also projected that investing $11.5 billion into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan over the next 50 years would provide $46 billion in benefits and create 442,664 jobs. Gaining political support is the challenge facing Gov. Scott, and some believe he is off to a good start in winning over some of his toughest skeptics.
While Scott's predecessors — former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist — appropriated a combined $325 million for Everglades restoration, Scott faces a much more difficult road ahead in earning the trust of the conservationist community. His cuts to state parks and water management districts are two examples of what environmentalists see as a cultural divide in the priorities of his administration. At the conference, Scott announced budgetary proposals to spend $40 million on Everglades restoration in 2012 — $23 million more than he requested from the Legislature last year. This statement met with rousing approval from the attendees.
In essence, the governor has to gain support for this budget and will need the help of more business leaders, the chambers of commerce and other fiscally minded individuals to inspire the public and taxpayers on the economic advantages of the project and future protection of this bountiful natural resource. The taxpayers association is willing to help and support the project. We are hopeful that any broad-based alliances, such as the Everglades Coalition, can accomplish what they expect to achieve. However, we will support only funding mechanisms that have measurable outcomes in economic and environmental benefits and gains.
We will continue to monitor the project as it evolves, but reserve the right to object if the stated objectives do not meet the expectations or if the returns on investment are not met. We will keep you advised.


Water into land
Gainesville Sun – Editorial
January 28, 2012
For much of Florida's modern history, developers have been turning water into land — draining and filling swamps and marshes to build subdivisions and shopping centers.
Now the Florida Legislature seems ready to try a new trick: turning public waters into private lands.
What legally defines public and private ownership along thousands of miles of navigable rivers and lakes in Florida is something called the “ordinary high water” mark. Basically it means that all land that's submerged during the “high water season” is sovereign and accessible to the public.
Pending legislation would change the definition to set the “ordinary high water” mark much lower. In effect, it would turn thousands of acres of what are now submerged public lands over to adjacent private property owners.
“This legislation could lead to barbed wire and ‘no trespassing' signs keeping Florida kayakers, canoeists, boaters, birdwatchers, hunters and sports fishermen away from their favorite places at the edge of our lakes and rivers,” warns the Florida Audubon Society.
The legislation, HB 1103 and SB 1362, is being pushed by agricultural interests and large property owners who stand to see their holdings increase under a lower water mark definition.
Not surprisingly, opposing the measure are hunters, fishermen, hikers, boaters and others who enjoy Florida's rivers and lakes.
“Boaters could be arrested for standing on the shore fishing,” Charles Pattison, of 1,000 Friends of Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Hunters could get arrested for hunting in marshes that are dry in the low water season.”
Florida's definition of the “ordinary high water” mark that separates public from private lands has stood legal muster for decades. Lawmakers who now want to turn public waters into private lands do a disservice to Floridians who want access to their state's greatest natural treasures.



See also "LEGAL" by

Coalitions Unite in Opposition of HB421
Sanibel-Captiva Islander, Island Reporter, Captiva Current,– by Bill Schiller
January 26, 2012
Opposition to legislation that would reportedly undermine local government's ability to implement ordinances, designed to curtail hazards posed from the runoff of fertilizers and agriculturally-based chemicals into Florida waters, prompted a series of press-conferences last week.
Coalitions comprised by state, county and community representatives, as well as environmental advocates and professionals affiliated with marine-based industries, joined together in an effort to quash House Bill 421, a bill that would effectively render local fertilizer ordinances as "close to meaningless" says local Sierra Club Representative Katie Parrish.
This issue is of particular importance to Sanibel, as well as the entirety of Florida, as many have pointed to its potential negative impact on the Florida ecosystems and tourism-based economy.
Where confusion as to certain realities existed not too many years ago, today it is generally understood (and scientifically substantiated) that lawns and farm lands laden with nitrogen and phosphorous-enriched fertilizers create detrimental run-offs into area waters during seasonal rainy periods. The chemicals combine, and flow down systems like the Caloosahatchee River to emerge within the Gulf (or right off the coast of Sanibel) and produce a toxic chain-of-tidal events that manifest in the form of expansive algae blooms that annihilate marine life in their wake, litter area beaches with bluish-green slime and red-drift algae, and provoke annoying physical reactions in beach goers with respiratory sensitivities.
In recent years, coalitions of concerned citizens, environmentalists and commercial forces (spurred largely by interests from this community) helped establish a system of protocols regulating the use of fertilizers which ultimately met with widespread municipal support throughout the region. At present, these ordinances provide a crucial system of tools to mitigate the hazards posed by such fertilizer run-off, but opponents of HB421 claim those protocols would be vanquished if the bill is passed.
On the other side of the argument, lobbyists representing corporate interests of fertilizer producers, agriculture and lawn care concerns, have garnered support from a few legislators that believe local ordinances should not prevail over less stringent State regulations.
Cris Costello, the regional representative for Sierra Club, says there has been five previous legislative attempts to undermine existing rules, but each time, the measures met with resounding defeat with what she describes as critical support from Southwest Florida. Costello is among a number who claim legislators are more concerned with catering to corporate donors than acting in the best interest of those throughout the state who stand to be impacted by poor water quality.
"It is clear that we cannot depend on these Representatives to remember why they voted unanimously against preemption during the last session," says Costello. "Especially disappointing is that Reps. Ray Pilon (Sarasota, Manatee) and Shawn Harrison (Hillsborough, Pasco) are among those looking for some type of compromise bill. We have a lot of work to do."
Passage of House Bill 421 was initially being considered for passage two weeks ago during deliberations of the Florida's Community & Military Affairs Committee. At that time, Sanibel Vice Mayor Mick Denham traveled to Tallahassee to confer with local representatives and asset his strong opposition to the bill. His, and a crescendo of other voices, successfully helped prompt a delay in the vote which was put off for consideration this week.
During a news conference held at Centennial Park in Fort Myers on January 23, Vice Mayor Denham joined Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Public Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel and representatives that included those affiliated with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Snook Foundation and Conservancy of Southwest Florida, to outline rationale for opposition to the bill.
Denham said the beaches of Sanibel have been distinguished among the most beautiful known in the world, but these would be negatively impacted should the bill be passed. He said only "a noisy few" were pushing the bill's passage. He reminded that "fertilizer companies do not elect anybody," nor, said Denham, do they represent what is in the best environmental interest of this state.
Commissioner Judah asserted that HB421 would not only kill jobs, but also result in the raising of taxes. "We would have to raise taxes to restore our local water bodies in order to comply with the Clean Water Act," said Judah. "We don't need the state government telling local government that they know best how to improve our waterways. The science demonstrates that land-based nitrogen and phosphorous run off deteriorates our waterways, causing red tide and fish kills."
Judah said Florida's multi-billion dollar tourism industry would be devastated if efforts to ensure water quality were crippled. He said tourism represents more than $2.5 billion to Lee County's economy. "People don't come here to see our waters filled with blue and green slime; they come here to fish, to swim and to enjoy our beaches... we must beseech state legislators to say 'No' to this bill," said Judah.
Lisa Beever, director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, credited local ordinances with helping restore previously compromised waters. "We are seeing results. Nutrients are decreasing- not only that, but dissolved oxygen is increasing, which is so important for fish and other animals in our estuaries," said Beever. "Any preemption of local fertilizer ordinances will undermine these results," she added.
Noting that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said fertilizer restrictions are the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce the pollution threatening area waterways. "These restrictions have reduced the clean-up costs to taxpayers in those communities that have enacted them by tens of millions of dollars- over 13 million dollars in savings already in Lee County," said Hecker.
Those participating in the news conference went on to praise Legislators like Gary Aubuchon and Matt Caldwell, both described as being supportive of local efforts to oppose HB421.
As of press time, the outcome of pending vote is undetermined. While local opponents are hoping the bill will meet with a defeat similar to previous occasions, most acknowledge that they are at odds with a well-funded lobbying effort that is acting on behalf of powerful corporate interests.
Should HB421 be passed by the current committee in which it is being deliberated, Costello of the Sierra Club says doesn't automatically result in ultimate passage. The legislative process would see the measure passed to yet another committee where it would be considered all over again. She, along with other opponents, would prefer to see the bill killed as quickly as possible.
Sanibel Vice Mayor Denham, along with the others, is encouraging citizens throughout Sanibel, Captiva and Lee County, to contact legislators and express opposition to HB421, as Denham maintains it poses too great of an adverse impact in environmental and economic proportions.
"This Bill takes away our right to protect and ensure the quality of our beaches and local waterways," says Denham. "It is a detriment to the well being of our community and state; and must be defeated."


Florida water pollution legislation on fast track
Associated Press
January 26, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Water pollution rules supported by business, agriculture and utility interests but opposed by environmentalists, who say they are too weak, appear headed for quick passage in the Florida Legislature.
A bill (HB 7051) approving the Department of Environmental Protection's rules is headed for a floor vote in the Huse after sailing through a final committee Thursday.
A similar Senate bill (SB 2060) is scheduled to get its first and only committee hearing in that chamber on Monday. The two rules also need approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and are being challenged in an administrative law case.
The state nutrient rules were drafted as a lower-cost alternative to more stringent regulations proposed by the federal agency.
Environmentalists favor the EPA version. They say the state's rules would do little or nothing to prevent or clean up algae blooms that are choking Florida waters. Both would replace existing rules that rely on imprecise verbal descriptions of what constitutes pollution with numeric standards for phosphate and nitrogen.
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen told the House State Affairs Committee that under the state rules if numeric limits are exceeded, a river, lake or other water body would just be put a study list but there's no requirement for an examination to be done. Also, the object of the study would be to determine whether the water body is out of biological balance, he said.
If there is no biological harm, no action would be taken even though the nutrient levels exceed the state standards.
"In other words, it brings us right back to the current situation in Florida, which is the use of narrative criteria as opposed to numeric criteria, which are clear and obvious and enforceable," Cullen said.
Associated Industries of Florida lobbyist Kenya Cory urged lawmakers to act quickly so the EPA can decide whether the state or federal rules will apply to Florida. In either case, everyone in Florida will be paying higher water bills, she said.
"Floridians need to know who's going to set those standards and what the cost is going to be," Cory said. "We cannot recruit companies to the state of Florida and we cannot ask our Florida companies to expand without knowing the cost of doing business."
A study conducted for DEP by Florida State University estimated compliance with the state rules would cost between $51 million and $150 million a year. The range for the federal rules was $298 million to $4.7 billion.
EPA officials have disputed that estimate, saying their own study pegged the cost at $135 million to $206 million.
Lawmakers are considering the rules because of a law requiring legislative approval for administrative actions that increase private sector costs more than $1 million over a span of five years.
EPA drafted its rules for Florida to settle a lawsuit by environmental groups. They had accused the agency of failing to enforce its own 1998 order under the federal Clean Water Act for states to set numeric standards.
The administrative challenge was filed by the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper.
They argue the state rules are arbitrary and capricious and violate existing state law. A hearing is set for next month.



Former SFWMD Executive Director Carol Wehle Joins URETEK Holdings, Inc. Team
January 26, 2012
URETEK Holdings, Inc., a Florida-based company specializing in soil densification and stabilization in the Southeastern US, announces the hiring of former South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Executive Director Carol Wehle. Carol will join URETEK Holdings to guide business development efforts.
Tampa, FL - - URETEK Holdings, Inc., a Florida-based company specializing in soil densification and stabilization in the Southeastern US, announces the hiring of former South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Executive Director Carol Wehle. Carol will join URETEK Holdings to guide business development efforts.
"Carol's resume is impressive and her experience with diverse infrastructure systems will help educate the marketplace about the advantages of URETEK's superior and cost-effective product offerings to the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation and government sectors,” says Kathleen Shanahan, Chair and CEO of URETEK Holdings. "The addition of Carol to the URETEK Holdings team displays our commitment to offering the most experienced and professional organization for dealing with geotechnical issues throughout the Southeastern United States."
Carol was the first woman to hold the CEO position at any of Florida’s five water management districts. A civil engineer, Ms. Wehle initially joined SFWMD in 2001, following nine years of service with the St. Johns River Water Management District, and was responsible for a staff of 1,771 and a budget of $1.1 billion in a 16 county geographical area. Additionally, Ms. Wehle served as a Brevard County Commissioner and served five years on the Sebastian Inlet Tax District Commission. Prior to her public service posts, Ms. Wehle worked at the Kennedy Space Center and other private-sector firms. She received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"URETEK Holding's footprint and process are ideal for the Southeastern U.S. market," notes Ms. Wehle. "I look forward to providing our customers the most cost-effective and unobtrusive solution for their infrastructure rehabilitation needs. Whether it is the timely repair of residential foundations due to damage caused by sinkholes or rehabilitation of public infrastructure due to soil subsidence, now is the perfect time for all sectors to engage with URETEK.”
The patented URETEK Method is ideal for fixing subsurface structural issues with water and waste water pipes, transportation facilities, bridge approaches, seawalls, airport facilities and water control structures in a minimally disruptive and cost effective manner. “The URETEK repair process can be used in such diverse settings that most every government agency and industrial corporation could benefit from a relationship with URETEK,” Wehle affirms.
About URETEK Holdings, Inc.
URETEK Holdings, Inc. is a Southeastern United States focused, Florida-owned company. URETEK specializes in improving the weight-bearing capacity of subsurface soils through the injection of patented, lightweight, expanding polymers. The patented URETEK Method provides the industry’s best, most cost-effective, fastest and safest solution for soil stabilization and densification. For 20 years, URETEK has safely provided leveling, lifting, sealing and stabilization for structures of all sizes. For more information, please visit


(mouseover to enlarge)
Wildlife corridor

Four explorers embarked Jan.17 from the Florida Everglades, kicking off a 1,000-mile, 100-day journey north to Okefenokee Swamp
in Georgia.

In campaign season, a tale of two Floridas – by Russell McLendon
January 26, 2012
As the 2012 campaign trail winds south through Florida, four explorers are headed north on a very different trail: Florida's 1,000-mile wildlife corridor, an ancient chain of ecosystems that's in danger of disintegrating.
America's political attention is focused on Florida this week, thanks to the state's upcoming presidential primary on Jan. 31. And while that attention will likely fade by Groundhog Day, the Sunshine State is enjoying its time in the sun for now.
On top of the media spotlight, Florida is reaping a windfall in mud-slinging money: Groups supporting various Republican candidates have already spent about $16 million on campaign ads in the state, part of a national trend funded by Super PACs. With a different candidate winning each state so far, Florida could finally provide some clarity in a long, rambling race.
Recent polls show Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich virtually tied in Florida, and both are now filtering their attacks through the lens of local politics. That means a barrage of bickering about some of Florida's top political issues, namely home foreclosures, unemployment, immigration and even space travel.
But as the campaign trail winds through Florida, the candidates have spent relatively little time on another topic that always resonates there: the environment. The state is a mosaic of ecosystems with few parallels on Earth, yet humans have a spotty record of protecting it, spending much of the past century draining wetlands, diverting rivers and dividing habitats. Many people loathed places like the Everglades in the 1800s and early 1900s; Napoleon Broward was elected governor in 1904 on a promise to "drain that abominable, pestilence-ridden swamp."
Florida also has a long legacy of conservationism, though, and recent decades have seen more state politicians express an interest in local ecology, including some prominent Republicans like former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. As Jerry Karnas of the Everglades Foundation told the Associated Press this week, discussing wetlands restoration or offshore drilling with passionate voters has become a campaign-season tradition in Florida. "It's almost like eating fried cheese in Iowa," he says.
And now, on a very different campaign trail, four Floridians are hoping to channel that passion into action. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition kicked off Jan. 17, sending the four explorers — a biologist, a conservationist, a photojournalist and a filmmaker — on a race of their own across 1,000 miles of dwindling wilderness. The 100-day journey aims to publicize the need for linked habitats in Florida, and ultimately for "a viable corridor from the Everglades to Georgia." This video unveiled the idea last year:
The project was inspired partly by Lawton Chiles, a former U.S. lawmaker from Florida who promoted his 1970 Senate bid by hiking 1,003 miles from Pensacola to Key West. Chiles won the election, although the Florida Wildlife Corridor Initiative says it's only borrowing his method, not his political motivation. Also citing conservationists John Muir and J. Michael Fay as inspirations, the FWCI offers this explanation:
"The corridor addresses the fragmentation of natural landscapes and watersheds from the Everglades ecosystem north. Contributing to the fragmentation problem is a disconnect between perceptions of Floridians and the real need to keep natural systems connected. The Florida Wildlife Corridor is positioned to mend the perception gap through an education and awareness campaign that demonstrates the connection between landscapes and watersheds. If we show Floridians the panthers, bears, native cultures, ranchlands and rivers, and how they are all connected, then they can help us make the Florida Wildlife Corridor a reality."
One week into the expedition, the explorers are "in the middle of our route through the Everglades" and headed north to Big Cypress National Preserve, according to their official blog. The team is reportedly on schedule and food supplies are "holding up well," but it still has a long way to go, as the map shows (click to enlarge):
After the Everglades, the foursome will move north into Big Cypress, followed by the Everglades Agricultural Area and Okaloacoochee Slough. They'll then cross the Caloosahatchee River, trace Fisheating Creek toward Lake Okeechobee, and follow the Kissimmee River to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. After passing Orlando and Ocala National Forest, the last leg of their trip will traverse the "O2O" (Ocala to Osceola) corridor into Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
The team is led by Carlton Ward Jr., a photojournalist and co-founder of the FWCI. Joining him are bear biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus, who's filming the expedition for a documentary. In addition to reporting their progress via blog posts, photos and videos, the explorers have also issued an itinerary for the entire trip. If they can stay on schedule, they should arrive in Okefenokee by late April (just in time for Earth Day).
Of course, the GOP presidential race may already be in the bag by then, with 32 states having cast their votes. Americans will likely be paying far less attention to Florida at that point — unless another, quieter campaign trail can recapture their interest.



Dr. D.L. DeAngelis
University of Miami
US Geological Survey

Full PDF text of the scientific article

Living on the edge: An innovative model of mangrove-hammock boundaries in Florida
January 26,2012
University of Miami and US Geological Survey researchers team up to create a model to describe effects of weather and sea level rise on Florida's coastal landscape
CORAL GABLES, FL. -- The key to understanding how future hurricanes and sea level rise may trigger changes to South Florida's native coastal forests lurks below the surface, according to a new model linking coastal forests to groundwater. Just inland from the familiar mangroves that line the coasts lie hardwood hammocks that are sensitive to salinity changes in water found in the soils.
University of Miami (UM) Ecologist Donald L. DeAngelis, who is also a researcher for the U.S Geological Survey (USGS), has worked with collaborators to develop a novel computer model describing the underlying forces that maintain this vegetative boundary. The findings, published in the current issue of the journal Landscape Ecology, indicate that large pulses of saline water into the hammock vegetation may cause mangroves to invade areas now populated by hardwood hammocks.
"A high level of salt in the soil favors the mangroves and stresses the hardwoods," says DeAngelis, professor in the Biology Department at the UM college of Arts and Sciences and one of the principal investigators of this project "Hardwood hammocks are a unique feature of the Everglades, they are home to many species, and if they decrease in numbers that will mean a loss of habitat for some organisms."
During storm surges, the salty winds and waves rush into areas of brackish water. The likelihood of such salt water overwash from the coast is expected to increase as sea level rise affects the natural coastal processes in the region.
The study is one of the first to couple vegetation dynamics with hydrology and salinity of the area in order to study the factors affecting the forest boundary. The work reveals that the sharp mangrove-hammock boundary, or ecotone, is defined by a combination of factors such as water levels during the dry season, tides, changes in the land's features, and trees own ability to alter the environment to their benefit (a process known as positive feedback).
"Ecotones are of great interest to ecologists because many species like to live along the edges between different vegetation types, so you can get rich diversity in those areas," says Jiang Jiang, doctoral student in the Biology Department at UM College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study.
Changes in water management, such as the expected increase in freshwater from the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, may help offset the possible effects caused by future salt water overwash and inundation.
"The USGS project that we are working on will include a big landscape hydrology model that will predict the freshwater flow into the southern Everglades and at the same time take into account sea level rise," says DeAngelis.
The study, supported and funded by the USGS, lays groundwork for a larger investigation in which the agency is developing models to look at how sea level rise will affect coastal regions in South Florida. Other co-authors are Thomas J. Smith III, ecologist at the USGS and co-principal investigator of the project; Su Yean Teh, lecturer at the School of Mathematical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia; and Hock-Lye Koh, professor at the School of Civil Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia.
The scientists hope to extend the application of this model to include other ecotones and other parts of the world that experience frequent storm surges. The researchers would like to be able to predict if salt water intrusion will have a long-lasting effect on vegetation, and on fresh water supply.
The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.
The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life


Reservoir for Broward, Palm Beach counties could cost $1 billion
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 26, 2012
Costs would be passed to water customers.
A reservoir price tag ballooning to near $1 billion — more than twice the cost once expected — could soak water bills in Broward and Palm Beach counties in exchange for boosting drinking water supplies.
New cost estimates released this week are raising new doubts about the push to build a reservoir in Palm Beach County and share the water with utilities in Broward and possibly Miami-Dade County.
Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, Boynton Beach, Margate and Palm Beach County are among a coalition of utilities exploring construction of a reservoir to deliver 185 million gallons of water a day during times of need.
Utility leaders plan to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to move forward, which would eventually mean adding construction costs onto water bills.
"We really need to lock down … who's willing to put forward funding," said Jennifer Jurado, Broward County director of natural resources planning and management. "We have the potential to substantially expand the [water supply] for future demands."
But this push for a new reservoir comes after South Florida taxpayers already paid nearly $500 million for two reservoirs in Palm Beach County that were left incomplete — one right next to the site of this proposed reservoir.
Opponents of the reservoir question whether it would deliver the water promised; they say taxpayers already sunk too much money into reservoirs that aren't working.
Instead of building another costly reservoir, the Sierra Club advocates boosting water supplies by increasing conservation requirements and restoring wetlands.
"I can't imagine how in this time of limited resources anyone could consider spending … that on a reservoir that may not end up being successful," said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club.
Initial estimates projected a $300 million to $400 million cost for the reservoir. After changes to the design and a more thorough look at potential expenses, the study released this week puts the cost at $700 million to $1 billion.
"It's way too much money. … I'm just totally not sold," Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus said.
The new reservoir would collect some of the stormwater that now drains out to sea.
Projections show a new reservoir could provide 185 million gallons of water that could restock drinking water well fields.
One plan calls for a 24 billion-gallon reservoir west of Royal Palm Beach at Palm Beach Aggregates, the rock mining company that also built a smaller $217 million reservoir for the South Florida Water Management district.
Palm Beach Aggregates proposes building the new reservoir over seven years, with three phases of increased water storage.
The existing 15 billion-gallon reservoir at Palm Beach Aggregates has been plagued with problems since it was turned over to the water management district in 2008. It's full of water but still doesn't include $60 million pumps needed to deliver the water as planned.
The cost of the new reservoir spiked because it now would be shallower and built with costly embankments, allowing some of the water storage to extend above ground level. Originally, it would have been deeper and below ground level.
Its expense could end up being less than other costly water-supply alternatives, such as building water plants to tap deeper, saltier underground aquifers, said Patrick Martin, engineering director for the Lake Worth Drainage District.
"It is the best alternative water supply for the future growth of the lower East Coast of Florida," Martin said about the reservoir. "Are we going to do this or not ?  We are at that point."


Restoring Everglades should help cleanup Treasure Coast rivers
TCPalm - by Cynthia Washam
January 26, 2012
STUART — While local environmentalists are calling for cleaner St. Lucie and Indian rivers, officials restoring the Everglades are working to reduce the source of the rivers' pollution. That's the message some 60 attendees at a meeting Thursday of the Rivers Coalition heard from Shannon Estenoz, director of Everglades Restoration Initiatives for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"We're just starting to identify potential obstacles to water flowing south," she said.
South is the direction water historically flowed through the river grass. That changed several decades ago when fringes of the Everglades were drained to develop land to the south, and canals were created to divert water from Lake Okeechobee east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee rivers. That diversion fouled local waterways with pollutants from the lake and points upstream.
Plans to restore the Everglades date back to 2000, when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved. Estenoz empathized with Rivers Coalition members over the frustration at the effort's slow pace. But, she assured them their pleas for action would bring results.
"It took us 15 years just to define the problem," she said. "It's much bigger than anything we could have imagined."
In a nutshell, the plan is to minimize water rushing east and west by allowing it to flow slowly south through wetlands built on former agricultural lands.
"We're never going to get the whole Everglades back," Estenoz told the group. "It's lost a lot of its dynamic storage."
Rivers Coalition members pressed her on phosphorous and other nutrients that caused fish kills and algae blooms in the St. Lucie River. Pollutants from industry, residences and agriculture carried into Lake Okeechobee are whisked into local rivers in water pumped through the canals. Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said the water quality is good now because water has not been pumped from the lake recently.
"There will be a time when the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) has no option but to dump into the estuaries," he said.
Estenoz acknowledged that pollutants in the lake muck are there to stay.
"The problem of water quality in the lake is enormous," she said. "The idea that we would scrape it is not feasible."
Estenoz ended her talk by encouraging listeners to advocate for Everglades restoration at public hearings and workshops organized by the Central Everglades Planning Project.
"Get in the wheel and push to keep our momentum going," she said. "It's better to be skeptical and involved than to be skeptical and uninvolved."


Everglades Foundation

GASP! Paul Tudor Jones Called Florida's Agriculture Commissioner A ****
Business Insider – by Julia La Roche
January 25, 2012
Better not piss off hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, the founder of Tudor Investments, or he'll go Dan Aykroyd on you.
That's what happened last week at the Everglades Summit when Florida's Agriculture Commissioner Dan Putnam expressed his approval of the agriculture industry helping restore the everglades, The Palm Beach Post reported.
Jones, who also serves as the chairman of the Everglades Foundation,

didn't think the agriculture industry is doing enough since they contribute the most pollution. From The Palm Beach Post:
But Jones wasn't satisfied, and responded with an off-the-wall reference to a "Saturday Night Live" skit lampooning "60 Minutes" co-hosts Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.
"Shana, you bitch," Jones said to Putnam.
In case you're not familiar with this SNL throwback, here above is a clip of one of the skits.

State, environmental groups continue to wrestle over water cleanup plan
Herald/Times - by Brittany Alana Davis
January 25, 2012
A House committee unanimously accepted a proposal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to bypass stricter federal water pollution rules and instead apply its own state standards.
TALLAHASSEE -- A lawsuit-fueled four-year battle over safety and health standards for Florida waters inched toward a possible resolution in the Legislature Tuesday.
A House committee unanimously accepted a proposal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to bypass stricter federal water pollution rules and instead apply its own state standards.
The proposal — which proponents say attempts to balance environmental concerns against additional burdens on businesses and homeowners — still must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and withstand a legal challenge from a statewide environmental advocacy group.
At issue is fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns combined with waste from old, faulty septic tanks. Those and other contaminants, such as sewage and manure, can lead to water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, known as nutrients.
Waters with high nutrient levels can suffer permanent pollution and bloom enough toxic algae to harm wildlife and cause epidemics such as red tide.
“We can ask farms to implement best-management practices, but the real challenge today is urban runoff,” said Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. “How do you regulate every single person’s yard?”
Environmental groups say the current standards are weak and the changes would make them weaker. In Lake Okeechobee, for example, the water periodically turns green and all the fish die, said Eric Draper of Audubon.
That water becomes drinking water for Palm Beach, Broward and some parts of Miami-Dade counties, he said.
Even the Tampa Bay area, which has made more water restoration gains than most other parts of the state, sees yearly consequences.
As recently as August, a slimy, brown algae covered a large swath of Tampa Bay north of the Howard Frankland Bridge.
“If you see a brown, red spot where the water should be blue … that’s algae that consumes oxygen and kills fish” said Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director of the Sierra Club.
Earthjustice, which represents a coalition of environmental groups, has sued to block the proposed rules, saying they require that Florida waters reach a dangerous and potentially toxic level before they are deemed unsafe. A ruling is expected in March.
Another lawsuit filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi on behalf of the state is also pending. That suit contends that federal regulators are asking the state to do too much too soon to clean up Florida’s waterways — to the possible peril of Florida businesses, local governments and utility companies that manage waste.
Tuesday’s debate before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee rang of an issue that has dragged on too long.
Environmental groups testified that the state’s rules don’t address downstream waters or adequately protect drinking water. “Millions of people in the state rely on our water for drinking, and there are not enough protections,” said Stephanie Kunkel of Clean Water Action.
Yet, the debate among lawmakers — who seemed determined to accept the proposal and move on — was short.
“When this issue first came up, I made a comment, ‘How can we resolve this issue without seceding from the union ?’ ” said Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City. “We obviously found a way to do that.”



Shannon SHEPP,
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services deputy director

Florida agriculture facing water, immigration, research challenges
SouthEast Farm Press - by Julie Douglas, American Seed Trade Association
A Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services representative outlines water availability, immigration and agricultural research as top threats for Florida agriculture.
“Current projections anticipate a total water demand for the state of 9.3 billion gallons a day by 2020, an increase of nearly 2 billion gallons a day from 1995 levels,” said Shannon Shepp, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Deputy Commissioner. “Water is a limited resource and we must find alternative supplies.”
Shepp who spoke at the American Seed Trade Association’s 51stVegetable & Flower Seed Conference said agriculture plays an important role in Florida’s water use and supply.
“Florida has one of the most effective and progressive water management programs in the country,” she said. “Through conservation efforts and recommendations made by the department, agriculture is using less water.
“With more precise application of fertilizer, less is needed. Water control structures have been implemented and many operations and landowners are recycling water and cleaning it up as it passes through their land.”
There is a huge battle over water between constituents who are growers and those who are not growers, Shepp explained. We have a lot of statistics that back us up saying that agriculture has reduced their water consumption and is reusing it for multiple purposes, she noted.
Immigration another serious challenge
Not only are people battling over water, but also immigration. Immigration plagues the future of Florida agriculture, Shepp said.
 “Many industries in Florida demand a stable legal workforce and there are gaps in the industry,” Shepp said. “Agriculture among a few others is one of those gaps.
“Florida alone cannot solve this problem. We must work with the federal government to develop a comprehensive program to solve these problems. A comprehensive solution to immigration must not only provide a stable legal workforce but protect our borders and the United States must remain a land of opportunity.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends a temporary worker program, which is not a new concept. This program would allow workers to pay their taxes and support social security, and will allow the US to track them — ensuring that they are here for a defined period of time.
Budget cuts to research from the federal government are the other issue threatening Florida agriculture. Most of the new pests and diseases coming into the United States are introduced in Florida, Shepp said.
“On average, we find 12 new pests per year,” she said. “For example, our most recent find was the Giant African Land Snail and this is a triple threat.
“This snail consumes stucco on people’s homes. It consumes more than 500 varieties of plants and is known to carry meningitis. As you can see research is our best weapon against any pest and disease introduction into Florida.”
Shepp said they receive or have grants from the federal government, research dollars for university projects and researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service that have been invaluable through the years.
Research is how the state finds solutions to its most pressing challenges. This is a serious problem facing not only Florida, but the entire nation.


Fla. seeks 90-day court delay for Glades talks
MyFox Orlando
January 24, 2012
MIAMI (AP) - The state of Florida is seeking a 90-day delay in any federal court action to allow time for negotiations on cleaning up the Everglades.
The request was made Monday in a motion filed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and South Florida Water Management District. A federal judge overseeing the case did not immediately rule.
Florida and federal agencies are negotiating over competing plans aimed at reducing the flow of phosphorous-laden fertilizer from sugar farms and other entities into the Everglades. Both plans involve construction of large marshes to filter the water.
The state's attorneys say the ongoing discussions are productive and could be interrupted by continued court litigation. The state has said its plan is less time-consuming and costly than one proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


House takes step toward resolving water-pollution feud
Miami Herald Blog – by Brittany Davis
January 24, 2012
A years-long lawsuit-fueled dispute over the health standards for Florida waters moved toward resolution Tuesday after lawmakers approved a proposal put forth by the state environmental agency.
A House committee unanimously accepted a measure that would allow the state to apply individual health standards to each body of water.
The changes, which would allow Florida to override federal water protection rules, cannot take effect until the Environmental Protection Agency approves them.
At issue is fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns combined with waste from old, faulty septic tanks. Those and other contaminants can lead to water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, known as nutrients.
Waters with too many nutrients can be permanently polluted and bloom enough algae to damage entire ecosystems.
Experts have worked for decades trying to restore damage to the Everglades caused by high nutrient levels. The Miami area, which traditionally cleans its wastewater and sends it to tide, also struggles to meet environmental standards.
Ambitious wastewater management in Tampa, on the other hand, has partially reversed damage to Tampa Bay.
“We can ask farms to implement best-management practices, but the real challenge today is urban runoff,” Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said before the meeting. “How do you regulate every single person’s yard?”
Although lawmakers' approval paves the way for the federal government to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, implementation must be postponed until an administrative court rules in March on a lawsuit against the federal government led by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
Another 2010 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi on behalf of the state is also in limbo.
That suit arose after the EPA settled with environmental groups in 2009, and asked Florida to maintain uniform nutrient levels across waters. It contends that the EPA asks the state to accomplish too much too soon, to the possible peril of Florida businesses, local governments and utility companies that manage waste.
The debate before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee rang of an issue that has dragged out too long.
Environmental groups testified that the proposed rules offer loopholes and don't do enough to protect downstream waters.
“Millions of people in the state rely on our water for drinking, and there are not enough protections in this rule to protect our drinking water,” said Stephanie Kunckle of Clean Water Action.
Yet, the debate among lawmakers—who seemed determined to accept the proposal and move on—was short.


Invasive Species: Why Not Just Eat Them ?
Discovery News – by Tim Wall
January 24, 2012
Many invasives aren't an easy sell on the plate -- or fashion runways. But for some animals, that could change.
● Hunters could help wipe out troublesome invasive species like the nutria.
● An obstacle is selling these animals as good food to the public.
● Other invasive animals, like the python and feral hog, may be dangerous to eat.
Americans hunted many valuable and delicious animals like the beaver, turkey and bison until they were wiped out in many areas. Yet, fur-bearing and edible invasive species now run rampant, damaging native North American ecosystems.
Why haven't American hunters wiped out the nutria, Burmese python, feral hogs and other non-native outlaw species? It turns out that many non-native species aren't valuable enough or are too hard to catch to easily root out.
Increased demand for invasive species products could overcome those difficulties, for example if more people develop a craving for nutritious meals made from nutria, the large aquatic rodent, or make Everglades python purses the next must-have accessory. But cultural and logistic hurdles remain.
PHOTOS: Invasive Species Cookbook
"The problem with the nutria is it looks like a giant rat, but it tastes like a giant rabbit," said Dave Linkhart, a 50-year veteran trapper and director of national and international affairs for the National Trappers Association in an interview with Discovery News from his camp in the backwoods of Louisiana.
Nutria pelts aren't valuable -- only fetching about three dollars -- but the animal can weigh up to 20 pounds and make a hearty meal.
"I ate nutria for lunch, I've got two more right in front of me. I am encouraging people to eat nutria, but there's cultural stigmas you have to overcome," Linkhart said.
BLOG: Invasive, Tasty Tiger Prawns Prowl Gulf Waters
Cajun culture has made raccoon and other swamp critters into meals for centuries, but the nutria is a newcomer and hasn't made its way into the local gastronomic culture, Linkhart said. But the barriers to culinary acceptance are not insurmountable.
"They did overcome those stigmas with alligator. People didn't order alligator in restaurants, but now you see lots of place that have gator," Linkhart said.
Alligators are native to the American south, but another rapacious reptile now residing in Florida is an invader. Burmese pythons have set up shop in Florida within only the last few decades.
The main difficulty for python hunters in Florida is that the snakes are masters of camouflage, Jenny Novak, wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told Discovery News. Although they regularly reach 12 feet long, they disappear into murky water and dense vegetation.
BLOG: Florida Python Invasion Could Spread
Last year, Florida started an official python hunting season. From March 5 to April 12, hunters can shoot pythons with firearms, as long as they have a hunting license, a python permit and correct game tags.
Permits allow hunters to brave taking the snakes by hand all year long, but the reptiles must be immediately euthanized by humane means, Novak said.
Could hands-on python wrangling become the next extreme sport?
"Folks call from other states and want make a fortune (in python skins), but that's just not feasible... . There aren't pythons simply everywhere in the everglades. It can take one to two days to find one," said Novak.
Python skins can be sold, but Novak recommends against eating the meat. Research found some pythons in the Everglades contained high levels of mercury, she said.
Also dangerous to eat is the invasive feral hog, said Edmond Mouton, biology program manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"Feral swine are riddled with diseases that can be detrimental to humans, like brucellosis, and a suite of diseases that affect wildlife," said Mouton.
The New York Times reported on a movement by foodies to put local invasives on the menu, but since even feral pork chops have a downside, the movement may have to watch what it eats.


U.S. Bans Import of Burmese Pythons
Courthouse News Service - by Travis Sanford
January 24, 2012
WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned importation of four species of pythons and the yellow anaconda to the United States after adding the snakes to its list of "injurious" reptiles.
The South Florida Water Management District petitioned the agency in 2006 to ban import of the Burmese python after large numbers of the snakes, which had escaped or been released from captivity, began to establish wild populations in the Everglades National Park.
The USFWS barred the Indian and the Northern and Southern African pythons and the yellow anaconda after finding that large numbers of the nonnative constrictors were escaping or being released, and posed a threat to native wildlife, and occasionally to human beings.
The USFWS admitted that the problem with Burmese pythons in south Florida might have been prevented had it acted sooner to ban their import as pets.
Under the Lacey Act, a species may be labeled as "injurious" if they are likely to prey on and compete with native species, there are areas in the U.S. climatically suited to the animals, they are likely to escape captivity, and it would be difficult to prevent, eradicate, or reduce large populations.
According to the USFWS, the problem with the snakes is that they get much bigger than their owners anticipate. In captive conditions, being fed chickens and rabbits, a Burmese python can reach 25 feet in length in just five years.
As a result, overwhelmed owners release the snakes, or given their size and the need to soak for long periods of time, usually in their owner's bath tub, the snakes escape.
Pythons can live for up to 25 years, and adult females can produce as many as 107 eggs per mating season.
The ban goes into effect on March 23.


Wasting the wastewater
New York Times
January 24, 2012
Each day, American municipalities discharge enough treated wastewater into natural sources to fill Lake Champlain within six months. Growing pressure on water supplies and calls for updating the ancient subterranean piping infrastructure have brought new scrutiny to this step in the treatment process, which is labeled wasteful and unnecessary by a spectrum of voices.
“As the world enters the 21st century, the human community finds itself searching for new paradigms for water supply and management,” says a report released this month by the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. The report investigates the potential for establishing a more resilient national water supply through the direct recycling of municipal wastewater.
“Law and practice have always been that water goes back into a river or into groundwater or the ocean before it returns for further treatment,” said Brent Haddad, founder and director of the Center for Integrated Water Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the committee that wrote the report. The critical question, he said, is “whether that natural stage of treatment is actually an efficient stage of treatment.”
Sixteen experts representing industry, government, and research fields in the social sciences and hard sciences collaborated over three years to produce the study, examining everything from pathogenic risks to public attitudes about reuse.
The committee ultimately concluded that the reuse of municipal wastewater can safely and significantly increase the nation’s available water resources – potable and non-potable – without intermediate discharge into the natural environment. “The technology for treating wastewater is good enough that we don’t need that intervention,” Dr. Haddad said.
The non-potable reuse of wastewater is not a new idea, especially where water is a historically stressed resource. For decades, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has used recycled wastewater in industry, agriculture and commerce. Ten percent of total water use district-wide now comes from recycling.
By contrast, less than three-tenths of 1 percent of total water use across the United States involves recycling.
Despite Florida’s national leadership in water reuse, not one drop is ever poured from a pitcher or sipped from a glass; it is instead used to keep lawns and golf courses green or to cool industrial machinery and drive steam turbines. A stigma tilts against the idea of drinking recycled wastewater, though experts say that this is largely unwarranted.
“The fact is, people already drink reused water,” said Ken Herd, the water supply program director for the southwest Florida district. In a process known as “de facto reuse,” municipal water facilities are commonly sited on rivers or reservoirs downstream from other wastewater treatment facilities, which leads to a progression of unplanned and unregulated water reuse, from one plant down to the next.
The report found that levels of chemicals in existing water supplies and recycled water are essentially equivalent. Pathogen levels were also equivalent, and sometimes even lower, in recycled water, it said.
“Nonetheless, when reuse becomes the primary intention of water management, this tends to create public pause,” Mr. Herd said.
Legal and regulatory hurdles to widespread wastewater reuse persist. The report notes that wastewater plants that make discharges into ocean and estuaries, like many in Florida, are most suitable for recycling retrofits; high recycling rates along inland rivers could inhibit stream flow and raise legal questions over access rights for downstream users. Of the 32 billion gallons of wastewater discharged every day, 12 billion gallons is discharged into oceans and estuaries.
Regulation of water reuse programs could prove a contentious issue. State- or district-level programs could be upset or overturned if a federal agency were charged with setting public or environmental health guidelines, for example.
“Many state and local officials are leery of a new national standard, either written or implemented as one size fits all,” said Ben Grumbles, the president of the Clean Water America Alliance and a member of the Water Science and Technology Board.
The costs and benefits of water reuse depend on context, he argues, and federal mandates could prove unnecessarily costly in many areas. “That’s why so many people believe that water issues are always local,” he said.
It is not clear whether the federal Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to impose national water reuse standards, as this kind of water management falls into a gray area between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Despite these challenges, Mr. Grumbles asserts, “the future of water is the reuse movement.” The nation’s swelling population and increasing urban density are driving up demand as climate change slowly destabilizes the supply, he noted.
Desalination and long-distance imports are energy-intensive and costly. Aquifers are being overdrawn, and most dammable rivers are already at the limits of exploitability, he added. “All of this puts a premium on water reuse,” Mr. Grumbles said.
Though reuse is not a silver bullet – such efforts must be accompanied by less costly conservation and efficiency programs – recycled water will inevitably become a “very important part of our national water management portfolio,” Mr. Herd predicts.
Mr. Grumbles agrees. “In essence, there is no wastewater,” he said. “Just wasted water.”



at this time, one of many Republican contenders for presidential candidacy nomination - where does he stand ?

Environmentalists see reason for alarm in GOP race
Associated Press - by Matt Sedensky
January 23, 2012
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. --     Four years after the GOP's rallying cry became "drill, baby, drill," environmental issues have barely registered a blip in this Republican presidential primary.
That's likely to change as the race turns to Florida.
The candidates' positions on environmental regulation, global warming as well as clean air and water are all but certain to get attention ahead of the Jan. 31 primary in a state where the twin issues of offshore oil drilling and Everglades restoration are considered mandatory topics for discussion.   
    "It's almost like eating fried cheese in Iowa," said Jerry Karnas of the Everglades Foundation. Drilling has long been banned off Florida's coasts because of fears that a spill would foul its beaches, wrecking the tourism industry, while the federal and state governments are spending billions to clean the Everglades.
Though most expect the candidates to express support for Everglades restoration - as Mitt Romney did in his 2008 campaign - environmentalists are noting a further rightward shift overall among the GOP field. The candidates have called for fewer environmental regulations, questioned whether global warming is a hoax and criticized the agency that implements and enforces clean air and water regulations.
"A cycle ago, there were people who actually believed in solving some of these problems," said Navin Nayak of the League of Conservation Voters. "Now we're faced with a slate that doesn't even believe in basic science."
The candidates, of course, dispute such a characterization. But their stances have generally grown more conservative. And even when they haven't, they often offer positions that aren't in line with conservationists.
-Romney heralded the passage of stricter limits on carbon emissions in 2005 when he was governor of Massachusetts but last year said it was a mistake. He previously agreed with the scientific consensus on global warming and humans' contribution to it but now says "we don't know what's causing climate change."
-Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported tougher environmental regulation early in his congressional career and appeared in a 2008 TV spot with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleading for action on climate change. Now he's says appearing with the San Francisco liberal was "the dumbest thing I've done in the last couple of years" and is calling for lifting restrictions on offshore drilling and branding the Environmental Protection Agency a "job killer" that must be replaced.
-Texas Rep. Ron Paul said during his 2008 campaign that "human activity probably does play a role" in global warming. Now he calls the science on manmade global warming a "hoax."
-Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum shows fewer signs of a shift on such issues. He has called for more drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and doubts research that points to a human role in global warming, calling it "junk science."
An analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found about $2.8 million in campaign donations were made by those in the energy and natural resources sector, according to Federal Elections Commission data, with about 84 percent of it going to Republicans.
Meantime, the EPA, which is responsible for policing environmental rules, has been singled out for Republican criticism this campaign season. Paul has called for its outright elimination as part of his plan to drastically curtail the federal government. Romney has said it's "out of control." Santorum has railed against the EPA's limits on mercury from coal-fired power plants. And Gingrich has called for overhauling the EPA, saying it should be converted to an "environmental solutions agency."
Nayak says: "There's no doubt that this kind of slate of presidential candidates is one of the most regressive and most closely tied to polluters that we've seen at least in decades."
Some Republican presidents and nominees have been strong environmentalists. Teddy Roosevelt was seen as a role model to environmentalists, using his presidency to establish wildlife refuges, preserve forests, and conserve water. Richard Nixon helped create the EPA that has been vilified by his successors on the campaign trail today. And the last Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, was the chief co-sponsor of a bill that sought mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
Michelle Pautz, a political science professor at the University of Dayton who focuses on environmental policy, said the current slate of Republicans may not be giving much reason to applaud their environmental stances, but it may not matter much overall with the economy taking center stage.
"The bottom line is both with the GOP primary and looking to Obama and the general election, the green vote is a non-issue," Pautz said. "There are too many other issues crowding out the environmental ones."
But Tony Cani, the national political director for the Sierra Club, said taking what he calls "extreme" views on the environment won't play well come Nov. 6.
"They're going to be hurt with young voters, women, families, Latino voters," Cani said.
Jim DiPeso, of Republicans for Environmental Protection, said he hopes to see a shift as Election Day draws closer, but that the state of politics right now has made ecological issues untouchable.
"A lot of the more pragmatic mainstream Republicans just are trying to steer clear of the issue because it's become so politically fraught," he said.


Decisions based on science, not propaganda
Las Cruces Sun-News - Their View: by Peter Goodman
January 22, 2012
The Endangered Species Act requires officials to use the best available scientific information. Steve Pearce and his chief of staff, Todd Willens, would like to do away with the law, but for now it is the law.
(Willens was legislative director for California Congressman Richard Pombo, who received abundant supplies of oil and gas money and sought to repeal the Endangered Species Act. Pombo was on the Sierra Club's "Dirty Dozen List" because of his ties to oil and gas, and was close to Jack Abramoff, who was later jailed for his illegal influence-peddling. Pombo lost his congressional seat in 2008; but industry's fight to eradicate the Endangered Species Act lives on, with Pearce playing a major role.)
A 2007 episode in Willens' career is instructive: the Florida Everglades were on the U.N. World Heritage Committee's list as an endangered site. A National Park Service report advocated keeping the Everglades on the list. Willens, the deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, led the U.S. delegation to the committee meeting. He vetoed the scientific opinion of the Park Service and the committee's scientific advisors. He urged the committee to take the Everglades off the list.
There's a pattern here:
Responsible scientists advising the U.N. said the Everglades should stay on the "Endangered Sites" list. Willens got it removed.
Responsible scientists say that the dunes sagebrush lizard is endangered, and that "voluntary" agreements by some landowners won't suffice
 to save it. Pearce disagrees, but without scientific support.
Responsible scientists — and the U.S. military — say global warming is a serious problem. Rep. Pearce calls it "something that can't be validated."
Where responsible science is inconvenient for oil and gas or Pearce's other financial backers, he wishes it away.
The best example of this is Pearce's ostrich-like reaction to climate change. (Maybe the Republican Party should switch symbols, from elephant to ostrich.) Pearce proclaims (on his peopleforpearce website) that "scientist Tim Ball . . . testified that the science is very unclear on whether the carbon in the atmosphere is manmade. The fact is that scientists are still deeply divided on the issue." Pearce proudly states that he called Ball to testify, and he claims Ball was the only real scientist who testified; but Ball's lack of credibility is almost comical.
Ball is a Canadian climate change skeptic. He chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project. Two of its three directors are executives with a lobbying company, the High Park Group, which represents energy clients on energy policy. Before that, he was with an oil industry-backed organization, Friends of Science.
Ball and his industry-backed sponsors are as careless with his resume as they are with science. Ball was a professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg between 1988 and 1996. NRSP has billed him as "retired professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg." In 2006, Ball wrote a letter to the Royal Society identifying himself as "Professor of Climatology, University of Winnipeg." But that university had never had a climatology department; Ball has never been a professor of climatology; and his stint as a active geology professor had ended 20 years earlier. His affiliated groups have frequently called him Canada's "first Ph.D in climatology" — but his Ph.D was in historical geography.
Space doesn't permit further details here, but Ball isn't the eminent scientist Pearce wishes he were. Ball has published only four pieces of original research in his entire career, none in the last 11 years. He has published in "Energy and Environment" described by one expert as "a journal skeptics can go to when they are rejected by the mainstream peer-reviewed science publications." In legal pleadings, the Calgary Herald stated that "The Plaintiff (Dr. Ball) is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist." (Ball then withdrew his somewhat dubious lawsuit against the Herald.)
This is the industry hack Pearce dragged in to testify to a congressional committee. This is the man Pearce cites as "scientific" authority for Pearce's disbelief in climate change. Sorry, Steve. Not even close.
Ball's just a guy who's figured out how to make a decent living off saying what the oil and gas industry wants to hear - kind of like Steve Pearce, actually.
The present dunes sagebrush lizard issue is also classic Pearce.
I don't claim to know whether the lizard is endangered or how best to preserve it. The experts say one thing. Pearce says another, because the scientific view doesn't suit him — or his backers.
He can't fight on scientific grounds.
Therefore, Pearce tries scare tactics. Apparently the lizard's range overlaps about 1 or 2 percent of the oil and gas leases in the Permian Basin.
One or 2 percent. Pearce screams that protecting the lizard could cost us "most of the oil and gas jobs in southeast New Mexico." (Government officials in charge of implementing the Endangered Species Act don't agree, of course.)
"The delta smelt listing as endangered put 27,000 farmers in the San Joaquin Valley out of work. It shut them down cold," Pearce protests — inaccurately.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (not a bunch of environmentalists) has estimated that job loss was more like 5,000. Meanwhile, continued drought conditions cost 16,000 jobs, but Pearce can't make political capital out of addressing the drought, which appears to be exacerbated by weather change due to greenhouse gasses we create.
If there are solutions to these complex issues, we'll find them through honest examination of the scientific and economic facts, and reasoned debate.
Fear-mongering is a time-honored tool for demagogues. It's a whole lot easier and sometimes more politically effective than serious examination of troublesome issues.
But it's a lousy way to run a government.
Peter Goodman, a former journalist, moved back to Doña Ana County this year with his wife, Dael. He blogs at



journalist and author

Environmental green movement should include blue, author says
TCPalm – Monday Chat by Keona Gardner
January 22, 2012
VERO BEACH — The environmental push to go green missed an important color: blue, says journalist and author Cynthia Barnett.
Barnett, who is the speaker at the 7 p.m. Thursday Florida Humanities lecture at The Emerson Center, 1590 27th Ave., said the movement left out water conservation and its impact on the environment.
"We live an illusion of water abundance," said Barnett, 45, who has written two books, "Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S." and "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis," about water shortages. "Despite the evidence all around us, Floridians and Americans still view water as an endless resources. We still flush toilets with potable water that has been treated at great expense to meet drinking-water standards. We still pour large amounts of this same potable water on lawns."
Tickets are free for the lecture.
Q: Florida has an abundance of freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. How can the state be facing a water shortage?
A: Yes, the shame of Florida's water woes is that we were blessed with such abundant freshwater resources compared with many other states and we did this to ourselves. At statehood in 1845, the entire peninsula was half submerged. The Cliff's Notes for my first book, "Mirage," are that we set out to get rid of water but we got rid of too much. In the 19th century, we perfected the art of draining swampland. We've drained a total 9 million acres of wetlands statewide, never realizing how much we would miss these storehouses for freshwater, safe houses for flood water. In the 20th century, we became really good at pumping groundwater up from the Florida Aquifer. Now, even that vast aquifer is showing the strain, from saltwater intrusion in coastal areas to drying springs where I live in North Florida.
Q: How much water do Floridians use?
A: We use about 158 gallons per person per day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That's a little higher than the U.S. average. It is far more than every other country in the world. The equally affluent residents of Perth, Australia, who I write about in the new book, "Blue Revolution," use about 75 gallons a day. Londoners about 42 gallons. The water-rich Dutch about 33 gallons a day.
Q:: What can the public do to prevent a shortage?
A: The most important thing we can do is use less. But it's important that this ethic not be confined to the general public. We know that agriculture represents the largest demand on freshwater resources, for example, so the shared nature of this responsibility is really important. The ethic is much bigger than asking citizens not to over water the grass. It's a new way of living with and valuing water in every sector of the economy.
Q: Is this shortage unique to the state?
A: The new book, "Blue Revolution," is a national look at these issues that describes the illusion of water abundance in the U.S. and its impacts, from the shrinking Colorado River to the mining of the High Plains Aquifer in the Midwest, an area of the country so crucial to agriculture. I try to balance the problems with inspiration, showing how cities such as San Antonio, Texas, are living dramatically differently with water today than 25 years ago. Perth, Australia is another good case study. They were once just as wasteful as we and they've really changed the way they value and use water in just 10 years


Robert Connors: The great Florida wildlife expedition
The Sun, - Special by Robert Connors
January 22, 2012
On Jan. 17, a small group of scientists and conservationists set off on foot to explore a pathway through the backwoods, swamps and rivers of Florida. Starting near Flamingo, at the southern tip of the Everglades, they will wind their way for 1,000 miles over the course of 100 days, ending their journey at the Okeefenokee Swamp, on the Georgia border.
While they don't expect to discover new species, lost worlds or cities of gold, they will no doubt encounter treasures along the way.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, as the effort is named, is intended to demonstrate and define the primary pathways that allow for the survival of many of the animal species that have called Florida home since before the first humans arrived here perhaps 15,000 years ago.
While Florida no longer hosts giant sloths, saber-toothed tigers, giant armadillos or even the tiny Dusky Seaside Sparrow, the wildlife that remains is a valuable heritage. Without our attention, it may soon be lost.
The brainchild of wildlife photographer and conservationist Carlton Ward Jr., the expedition also includes bear biologist Joe Guthrie and conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt. Together the three, joined at intervals by other scientists, volunteers, property owners, and local and state officials, will slog through knee-deep muck, glide in kayaks and camp under the stars.
Award-winning cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus will document the expedition and produce a film about the journey.
So why, you may ask, is this a wildlife corridor, and why do animals need corridors, anyway? The answer lies in the genetic make-up of virtually every species, including humans.
Animals wander in the course of their lives for a variety of reasons: to find a mate, to find food, to seek shelter or just because, as Robert Frost reminds us, they sometimes follow “the path less taken.”
In wandering, animals also provide an essential function: they disperse their genes. Animals within small breeding populations often develop specific traits and weaknesses due to the lack of genetic diversity. Florida panthers, reduced to very small numbers in isolated locations, began to exhibit abnormally low sperm counts, congenital heart defects, and even failed sexual development among male panthers. Those conditions threatened their reproduction and survival.
Florida black bears face many of the same challenges. Scattered into five generally isolated populations, their future is full of challenges, Areas with too few bears may soon have none at all. Florida bears have been tracked wandering as far as 200 miles through rural areas of the state.
Not only large predators, but small animals and even plants diversify their genes over generations of movement, sometimes on a glacial scale, as breezes carry pollen from tree to tree.
Dr. Tom Hoctor is a research scientist at the University of Florida. It was his presentation about Florida's need for “greenways” that inspired Ward to conceive of the Expedition. Both men are associated with the Conservation Trust for Florida, Hoctor as a part-time employee, and Ward as a member of the advisory board of the trust.
Protecting the diversity of Florida's fauna and flora is only one part of the mission of the Conservation Trust for Florida. While they work principally through providing for the permanence of open space and working lands, creating corridors is an important benefit.
In the absence of local, state and federal funds to purchase important parcels, the Conservation Trust for Florida often assists land owners with the creation of “Conservation Easements.” These easements allow the land owner to continue the productive use of the land, often as a farm, ranch or timber-producing property.
In exchange for permanently surrendering the right to develop the land, owners receive income tax benefits, as well as potential savings in land and estate taxes. Major land owners such as Plum Creek find benefit in protecting their extensive working forests, and all citizens benefit.
Although Florida has numerous large preserves where animals are allowed to remain, those parcels are not connected. Much of the course of the Expedition will travel through private lands, most still subject to development. Maintaining a corridor through what remains will not be easy.
The Conservation Trust for Florida is determined that future Floridians will be able to enjoy sharing our state with as many of our present species as possible.
For more information, visit
Robert Connors is executive director of the Conservation Trust for Florida.


South Florida drying out
Sun Sentinel - by Ken Kaye, Staff Writer
January 22, 2012
After dealing with drought conditions for most of 2011, much of South Florida already is abnormally dry, the National Weather Service in Miami said.
Unless heavy rains arrive over the next few months, another widespread drought could be in the offing, possibly resulting in more water restrictions and low water supplies.
Moderate drought conditions already have developed across the southern tip of the state and wildfire danger already has increased, the weather service said.
"We might see some showers over the next week, but nothing extremely significant," said meteorologist Robert Molleda.
Since the beginning of November, most of South Florida has received between 2 and 3 inches of rain, or about 20 percent of the normal rainfall.
West Palm Beach has received 7.9 inches less rain than normal, Fort Lauderdale 5.56 inches less than normal and Miami 3.41 inches less than normal. Last year at this time, the region was experiencing about the same rain deficits.
The primary culprit is La Niña, which prevents the polar Jet Stream from dipping this far south and keeps winter storms farther to the north. It also is drying up a secondary jet stream that delivers moisture from the Pacific Ocean, Molleda said.
La Niña, best known for nurturing tropical storm formation during the summer, is born out of an abnormal cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean. While it is expected to fade away, possibly as early as the spring, it is the main reason the weather service expects this winter to be warmer and drier than normal.
For now, the weather service said underground water reservoirs still are running slightly above normal, except in Miami-Dade County, where they are below normal. Lake Okeechobee, the region's backup water supply, was 1.3 feet below normal as of Friday.
The South Florida Water Management District has issued a warning, saying that without significant rainfall in the next one to three months, there could be a water shortage.



died Tuesday Jan 10, 2012, in Orlando, FL, at age 88. A true "public servant, he became a champion of water and land conservation and was frequently referred to as the Jeremiah of the citrus belt.

We Were Warned About Water
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
January 22, 2012
Henry Swanson was among the chorus of people who warned us decades ago about the water shortages we're now facing.
Swanson, who did much of his work after retiring as Orange County's agriculture extension agent, died recently. He was 88.
He did more than lecture and advocate though — Swanson actually tried to do something.
In 1981, during the first of what turned out to be a series of serious droughts, he proposed something called the Bluebelt Amendment.
The Bluebelt Amendment was a constitutional amendment that authorized county property appraisers to provide tax incentives to landowners who leave land important for water recharge undeveloped.
Recharge is important because the only source of fresh well water in most of the Florida peninsula is rainfall that hits the ground and sinks in and reaches the aquifer.
The idea languished in the Florida Legislature for years before finally making it to the ballot in 1988. Voters approved it overwhelmingly.
Legislators took their time drafting a law to implement it until sometime in the mid-1990s.
This was before the current atmosphere in Tallahassee that sees tax breaks as the solution to everything.
In those days, tax breaks were not popular among the political establishment.
As a result, despite voter approval, Swanson's idea came to naught.
That's because the law legislators eventually passed to enact the Bluebelt amendment left it up to local officials to approve ordinances authorizing the tax break in their counties or cities.
Polk officials never approved the idea. I couldn't find any evidence that officials in surrounding counties went along with the idea, either.
That's despite the fact that Polk County contains some of the best high-recharge land in Florida along our ridges that sends water into the aquifer in places like the Green Swamp — a vast plateau between the Lake Wales and the Brooksville ridges — to create the high point in the Floridan aquifer near Polk City.
Swanson had hoped for more.
I met him a few times when he came to Polk County to speak.
He was obviously frustrated by the Legislature's efforts to torpedo his idea. He told Florida Bipartisans Civic Affairs Group in Babson Park 1991 that the public should demand action from the Florida Legislature.
Swanson said if we didn't protect recharge areas, we ran the risk of robbing our future. He compared water policy at the time with overdrawing a bank account.
In fact, sustainability — not pumping water from the aquifer more quickly than it can be replenished — has been one of the challenges of water management in Florida and all around the world.
Fast forward to today.
The water restrictions that began sporadically in the Tampa Bay area in the 1980s when Swanson began his crusade have now spread to much of the Florida peninsula and have become permanent.
A plan to curtail new aquifer withdrawals in Central Florida until 2013 to prevent further unsustainable withdrawals appears to be on hold.
The budgets of the water management districts, which supplied some of the money for alternative water supply efforts to avoid pumping more water from the aquifer, have been slashed by Gov. Rick Scott.
The fear is that there will be more pressure to further mine the aquifer after the alternative water supply methods — conservation, reclaimed water, pumping from lakes, rivers and stormwater ponds — reach their limits.
Lawmakers have given tentative approval of plans to make water permits good for 30 years without additional provisions to make sure the water use doesn't harm natural systems.
Swanson always said that Florida officials would live to regret some of their water decisions and he would have the pleasure of saying he told them so.
Death may have silenced his voice, but the idea that land use and water use are inextricably linked will not go away.
Florida's natural landscape is immeasurably poorer.
Last week, fire destroyed a 3,500-year-old, 118-foot-tall bald cypress tree called The Senator. The tree had for decades been the feature attraction of Big Tree Park in Seminole County.
It was one of the oldest and largest bald cypress trees known.
The Senator somehow survived the wholesale logging that took other swamp giants to sawmills generations ago only to be felled by a mysterious fire.
I had visited the park periodically since I was a boy and never failed to marvel at this monument to what once was.
It's like a lot of things in Florida that you feel lucky to have seen before they're gone forever.


Wind turbine
The Missouri-based company Wind Capital Group proposes building a “wind farm” with 114 power generating wind turbines in western Palm Beach County, similar to these turbines at the company’s Lost Creek Wind Energy Project in DeKalb County, Missouri.
(Photo courtesy of Wind Farm Capital Group)

Birds at risk from South Florida 'wind farm'
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
January 21, 2012
Generating 'green' energy near Everglades creates danger for birds
Splattered birds make going green a tough sell.
The risk of birds flying into fast-spinning blades atop wind-catching turbines the size of the Statue of Liberty threatens to torpedo a proposed "wind farm" that could produce non-polluting energy on the edge of the Everglades.
The same environmental groups that advocate wind and solar as alternatives to using polluting fossil fuels to produce electricity also oppose the wind farm planned on Palm Beach County sugar cane fields.
The location, between Lake Okeechobee and Everglades, poses too great a threat to everything from migrating ducks to the endangered Everglades snail kite, according to Audubon of Florida.
"You insert this field of whirling blades (and) you basically have a Cuisinart that is spinning," said Charles Lee, of Audubon of Florida. "You have the real potential to splatter the birds."
There's little dispute that 500-foot tall wind turbines, spread across 13,000 acres of farmland that was once part of the Everglades, would kill birds.
How many birds would die, and whether that sacrifice is worth fostering alternative energy in South Florida, are big factors in determining whether "Sugarland Wind" and its 114 towering turbines moves forward.
In the long run, climate change fostered by polluting power plants poses much more risk to birds and the environment as a whole than the wind farm, project director Robin Saiz said.
"Look at the big picture," Saiz said. "We are helping to clean the air. It's something we can affect locally now."
Tall, spinning blades generating wind-powered electricity already dot the agricultural landscape from California to Texas.
Now the Missouri-based Wind Capital Group wants to build Florida's first wind farm on sugar cane fields beside the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the northern reaches of the Everglades.
The Sugarland Wind project could produce 200 mega watts of electricity, enough to power more than 60,000 South Florida homes.
That's enough to potentially offset the 320,000 tons of carbon emissions a year that comes from producing the same amount of electricity at fossil-fuel-driven power plants.
"It's clean energy. There are no emissions. There's no carbon footprint. No solid waste. There's no water usage," Saiz said. "It's the cheapest form of renewable energy in Florida."
Wind-farm consultants conducted a year-long study of bird populations but have yet to provide an estimate of how many birds would be killed.
Project backers expect the mortality totals to be close to the national average of three to four bird deaths per tower per year, Saiz said. That could be nearly 500 birds killed per year at Sugarland Wind.
But environmental groups contend that estimate is way too low for a site near the Everglades, which is a haven for wading birds, birds of prey and water fowl.
Three to four birds per tower per year may not sound like a lot, but if each tower kills three to four endangered Everglades snail kites each year, that could wipe out the snail kite population in one or two years, said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club.
The environmental groups want a three-year study of potential bird effects. They also have called for building a few test turbines to try to get a more accurate estimate.
But the company has opted to press forward with development plans filed in December that go before the Palm Beach County Commission in March.
"It's a shame. We want to see alternative energy," Martin said. "We just don't want to see something happen that is going to destroy the whole purpose of the Everglades."


Nature Conservancy

Conservancy Donates Land to Help Launch New Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge & Conservation Area
January 20, 2012
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar establishes new refuge on Conservancy’s Hatchineha Ranch.
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FL The Nature Conservancy assisted this morning’s authorization of the new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe by donating land to facilitate the legal establishment of the new refuge and conservation area.
“We believe so strongly in the incredible value of this refuge and conservation area for people, wildlife and the ranching and agricultural communities of the Northern Everglades, crucial today and long into the future, that we donated part of our nearby Hatchineha Ranch so that the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge & Conservation Area could not only be authorized here but established today as well,” said Nature Conservancy Chief Operating Officer Brian McPeek at the announcement ceremony near Haines City.
The Nature Conservancy has worked in close partnership with the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Defense, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Northern Everglades agricultural and ranching communities, sportsmen, and private landowners in the effort to establish the refuge and conservation area. It is a key part of its Northern Everglades Initiative, a vision of interconnected conservation sites protecting critical water and habitat resources for people and an amazing diversity of plants and animal in the headwaters of the Everglades. For more than 20 years, the Conservancy has partnered with these key stakeholders toward this goal.
The Conservancy is also supporting today’s release of the final Land Protection Plan/ Environmental Assessment for the refuge and conservation area. It is being released by the USFWS to authorize the new refuge and conservation area after a rigorous public scoping and public comment period on this document, with significant changes made to the proposal to incorporate the Conservancy’s and others’ comments.
The Conservancy also thanks the USFWS and the FFWCC for their efforts to develop a joint MOU in partnership with the sportsmen community aimed at balancing resource management with recreational access within this conservation landscape.
Hatchineha Ranch is a key part of a chain of private lands and public conservation lands stretching down the west side of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to the Avon Park Air Force Range. The Conservancy’s 2008 alliance with the previous owner that preferred conservation to development will allow for the protection of the most important conservation values of the 5,134-acre Hatchineha Ranch. The ranch contains imperiled natural communities and species, and provides for animal movement through the upper Kissimmee River basin.
For years, public agencies had hoped to acquire the Hatchineha Ranch through public land acquisition programs.
“We are protecting imperiled lands in the absence of public funding by using a strategy that includes mitigation banking and conservation banking,” said Rebecca Perry, the Conservancy’s Florida land protection manager. “We are in the process of reversing impacts from years of fire suppression and wetland drainage to restore Hatchineha Ranch as successfully as we restored the former Walker Ranch that is now our Disney Wilderness Preserve, and hope much of this ranch can be part of the refuge and conservation area in the future.”
Restored wetlands in the Everglades headwaters hold critical freshwater on the land rather than that water – containing high nutrient levels - draining rapidly through ditches, canals and streams into Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. This benefits both south Florida’s productive estuaries, which are stressed by seasonal pulses of freshwater and associated nutrients, and our wetland systems, which now are often dry – depriving both wildlife and people of critical water.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at


District Reorganization Will Save $15 Million Annually
Targeted News Service,
January 20, 2012
The Southwest Florida Water Management District issued the following news release:
The Southwest Florida Water Management District ( this week completed its organizational restructuring which is expected to reduce District expenses by more than $15 million a year. The reorganization increases efficiencies, reduces operational costs and meets the District's core mission responsibilities in the areas of water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems.
"We are funded with taxpayer dollars," said Executive Director Blake Guillory. "Especially during difficult economic times, we must use sound business principles to provide maximum value to the taxpayers of our District."
Guillory and his executive leadership team reviewed each division and program to identify opportunities to improve processes and combine programs for efficiency and effectiveness.
"We were able to accomplish our goals while still retaining all of our major programs," Guillory said.
Many of the organizational changes were driven by a workload and staff analysis conducted by an independent consulting firm. This report identified the potential to increase the District's efficiency and reduce costs by restructuring the organization and improving its technology, processes and procedures.
Part of the changes includes realigning staff based on the types of work they do to increase efficiency and reduce duplication. For example, the creation of the Operations, Maintenance & Construction Division pulled together all the field operations, maintenance and construction of the District under one Division. Under that Division, the Land Resources and Operations bureaus were combined, and a Data Collection Bureau was created to consolidate all data collection efforts.
Significant savings will also result from the reorganization of the Regulation Division. Permitting review processes will be centralized in the District's Tampa office to ensure that permit applicants throughout the District are treated consistently. Grouping staff by programs in a central location will increase efficiencies, eliminate duplication of services and reduce costs.
The District will continue to maintain a local presence in the existing service offices to maintain quality customer service and to ensure that the public has convenient access to District staff. Also, online permitting services are being enhanced and improved to make it easier and more convenient to submit permit applications and access permit data.
"The District is committed to provide quality service in a timely, convenient and consistent manner to our customers while continuing to protect our precious water resources," Guillory said.
Reduction in Force
As part of the reorganization efforts, the District staff is being reduced by 148 people, most of whom agreed to voluntary separation plans. The remaining reductions include primarily temporary, contractual and student staff. The District will continue to employ 615 by Oct. 1, 2012.
"Despite the reductions in force, we still have a large, talented pool of employees remaining at the District. I am confident that we can continue to protect the water resources of our region and meet the needs of our citizens."
Moving Forward
Thanks to its pay-as-you-go philosophy, the District has reserves available to help balance the budget. However, projecting limited growth in our area and slightly declining property values for 2013, the District will continue to look for savings.
"Just as every business and family has done, we too will be taking a closer look at everything we do, and finding ways to create efficiencies or streamline our operations," said Guillory.


Feds dropped the ball on banning only four exotic snake imports
Highlands Today - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
January 20, 2012
Another great example of what's wrong with our government was exposed this week when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that four exotic types of snakes are being banned from being sold in the U.S. We support the ban, but five other snakes also needed to make that list and for reasons unknown to anyone, they weren't included.
Salazar announced that Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons cannot be legally bought or sold in the United States. What was not included were five other species of constrictors that cause just as much harm and make up two-thirds of the exotic reptile trade.
Some of these snakes are infesting the Everglades and moving into other parts of Florida. Because they are not native to our ecosystem, they wreak havoc on birds and other animals. They also can be deadly to humans. We've all been sickened of stories about giant pet snakes killing children when they get out of their enclosure.
Everyone understands that much goes into banning the sale of anything, but this is a no-brainer. Exotic reptiles that threaten our ecosystems should not be allowed to be sold here. It's common sense, so why weren't the other five, including boa constrictors and reticulated pythons, part of this ban ?
The U.S. Geological Survey in 2009 issued a science-based report saying that all nine species of large, constricting snakes pose a threat. Water districts complained and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson testified to the damage being done in Florida's most treasured wild places by these species. But somewhere during the process someone put a stop to banning all nine species.
One reason this might have been slashed is because the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers spent $120,000 lobbying against the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal. Then they used the "jobs" angle, claiming that banning the trade would hurt their $100 million industry. The amount of losses to their business has been called absurd by folks who know better.
What no one mentions are the many millions of dollars that will be spent trying to control these snakes that make their way into the wild and thrive because they have few if any predators.
The Obama administration dropped the ball on this one. There is no logical reason why all of these snakes were not banned. Once again, a simple solution to a real problem was not dealt with completely, and we'll all pay the price in the long run.


The public's water rights could be up for sale - by Pam McVety
January 20, 2012
Last year's legislative session was a disaster for Florida's environment.
Funding for managing water, our most valuable natural resource, was severely cut, as was funding for purchasing important environmentally sensitive lands. The agency that had oversight over growth management was eliminated.
The legislative assault on your land and water resources continues this session. House Bill 639 excludes reclaimed water from being managed as waters of the state for the public good, and HB 1103 redefines the boundary between state and private lands along freshwater bodies, giving your public lands to private landowners.
These bills propose to privatize public water and lands, but it is nothing more than legalized theft.
Florida has a long and distinguished history of managing its water resources for the common good. Our water law recognizes that water is not a property of individuals or corporations, but a vital part of our natural heritage to which all, both human and nonhuman, must have free access. Water cannot be treated as a commodity. Individuals and corporations have rights to use water, but only under the supervision and oversight of our five water management districts.
This could change, because Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, the sponsor of HB 639 (its companion bill is SB 1086), has redefined waters of the state to exclude reclaimed waters. Simply put, domestic wastewater that has been treated by a utility is reclaimed water, and currently utilities can manage this water, but only with the oversight of a water management district. This is a good thing, because the state and the water management districts make sure that the water goes where it is needed. This role is especially important during times of drought, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult as our population grows and the water pie pretty much stays the same.
This bill would remove a slice of the water pie from the public domain, putting its use under the sole discretion of a utility. If there were a prolonged drought and this water was needed for other uses, it might not be available with this proposed change. The utility having sole access to this water could sell it to the highest bidder with no oversight. It might go to a golf course while farms wilted. Legalizing the removal of a slice of the public water pie is not in the public interest. Water is a common good that is managed for all of us.
Another bill, HB 1103 (sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge) and its companion SB 1362 (sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla), would change the definition of the ordinary high-water line — which is the boundary between public and private lands — to the "ordinary condition."
How sneaky is this? This definition change removes half a million acres from public ownership, land used by you to fish, picnic and camp. This could make it illegal for you to get out of your boat along the shore of freshwater bodies in Florida to pursue these activities.
What is galling is that this issue and others in this bill have been the subject of court actions that have been prolonged and costly but were decided in favor of you the public. Past legislatures and the courts have recognized that what is being proposed is not in the best interest of Floridians. Why would it be now?
Ask yourself, why are we seeing all these attacks on the environment and public interest? Why are the public's resources being proposed for privatization? Who benefits? Who is harmed? If you are concerned, contact the bills' sponsors and your legislators and let them know your views. What you think really does matter.


Everglades Headwaters NWR questions remain
The - by Tom Palmer
January 19, 2012
Now that the photo op and the official announcement are over for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, there are nagging questions for which we probably won’t have answers for years.
The real question is what kind of follow through will occur and when. Much of that will depend on whether Congress agrees to spend the money.
In the back of some people’s minds might be the Lake Wales National Wildlife Refuge, the last federal refuge established in Polk County.
If it hadn’t been for state and local land-acquisition efforts, the result would have been a lot more modest. Also, the federally-owned tracts have no public access because there’s really no local management staff because there’s no money to pay for them, leaving a lot of the work to volunteers.
I was told things will be different this time because this project is tied to the Everglades restoration, which has more political support where it counts.
It also appears that the heart of this project involves buying conservation easements on private ranches because that can be done in cooperation with U.S. Department of Agriculture, providing that part of its program survives the current debate over the reauthorization of the Farm Bill in Congress.
  Refuge location
The conservation money in the Farm Bill may be in danger of being cut, Iíve read recently, though things are so fluid in Washington, especially in an election year, itís hard to know from a distance how things will turn out. The other issue is that hunting groups have opposed the purchase of land for the refuge unless they get assurances they’ll have access. According to Congressional testimony I read recently, the hunting lobby is still sore that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restricted hunting in other refuges in Florida or at least restricted the use of swamp buggies and other off-road vehicles whose use has been controversial because of the damage they do. They also complained inexplicably about the end of commercial fishing in one refuge.
Federal wildlife officials say they’ll work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has a reputation for being pretty sympathetic to hunters’ demands, on this issue.
That brings me back to a comment Sen. Bill Nelson made Wednesday during the presentation. He said one of his frustrations in Washington has been the absence of common sense in the deliberations.
I can’t help but wondering whether arguing over the use of land that hasn’t been bought and may not be bought for years rather than discussing the conservation value of preserving land in this part of Florida ahead of the bulldozers falls into that category.

New national wildlife refuge south of Orlando gets its 1st land donation
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
January 19, 2012
Decades of abuse have left Florida'sEverglades ecosystem in a "state of crisis," but new efforts to protect vast landscapes, a war against invading python snakes, and the world's largest restoration effort are not too late, the head of the U.S. Department of Interior said Wednesday.
During a tour in Florida, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the long-awaited establishment of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which is envisioned as eventually comprising 150,000 acres of ranch land scattered from just south of Orlando to Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.
 The refuge had existed on paper only until the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted the donation of a 10-acre parcel of piney woods that had been part of the Hatchineha Ranch in Polk County and was owned by the Nature Conservancy environmental group.
Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado, later spoke to the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board, praising his agency's decision earlier this week to ban importation of Burmese pythons, which infest the Everglades and are the focus of mounting eradication efforts there.
He also said that the federal agencies involved in Everglades restoration have accelerated the pace of the work in recent years.
"We are in a state of crisis, but if we didn't think we could address the critical issues, which are water flow and water quality and land preservation, we wouldn't be into this," Salazar said. "We think we can succeed, and I think we've seen tremendous progress."
The Everglades ecosystem starts with the tiny Shingle and Reedy creeks in Orange County and includes Osceola County's big lakes. Farther south, the ecosystem encompasses landscapes along the Kissimmee River and around Lake Okeechobee, as well as the celebrated "River of Grass" at Florida's southern tip.
The Everglades refuge is to include 50,000 acres purchased outright and another 100,000 acres for which the Interior Department will buy only development rights.


Yes, this is different.
Personal attacks do not represent very good journalism,
do they ?

Everglades Foundation

Nathaniel REED
Founder of 1000
Friends of Florida

Paul Tudor Jones: Pot Calling the Kettle Polluter
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith (
January 19, 2012
“I Beg to Differ”:
Environmentalists can be such hypocrites. Especially the rich ones. Closet flimflammers.
Maybe you saw Paul Tudor Jones Tuesday at the Everglades Water Supply Summit.
Now, I wouldn't exactly call this multibillionaire a faux philanthropist. But I think it's only right that the people of Florida understand that the Everglades Foundation chairman and benefactor at the podium, the one hurling insults at Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam for coddling "polluters," was once slapped with a $2 million fine for destroying wetlands.
It happened in the 1990s, while the hedge fund king was building his $30 million "wildlife preserve" on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (Actually, it was a private hunting club, but when you're worth $3.3 billion, you can call it a botanical garden with a cranberry bog and a beanstalk if you want, nobody is going to argue.)
Jones' environmental planner, hired to create 10 duck ponds on the property, was convicted of knowingly in-filling 86 acres of wetlands without a Section 404 permit. Jones ponied up the $2 million, the planner got two years in jail.
Maybe Jones didn't think anybody would remember, and maybe I wouldn't have either if he hadn't jumped all over Putnam for praising Florida agriculture, including sugar growers. The last thing Jones wanted was for the summit to turn into a cheering section for ag -- even if growers did cut by half the flow of polluting nutrients into the Everglades. And even if that was more than double the amount the law calls for.
So what did he do ?  He exploded. His tantrum, his glib use of the word "bitch" to mimic a "Saturday Night Live" segment and show Putnam up, his comparing agriculture's "pollution" of the Everglades to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- the whole P.T. Barnum act was to convince Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to stick ag for the cost of Everglades restoration.
Putnam had none of it: "A lawful $100 billion industry in the state of Florida that's supporting rural communities is hardly comparable to the Deepwater Horizon," he said.
The agriculture commissioner is way too polite to say it, but he had to be looking at Jones and thinking, now I know why they rarely let this big spoiled, embarrassment of a kid out in public -- a lawbreaker, to boot. I bet they can't get him stuffed back in his cushy jet fast enough.
Paul Tudor Jones isn't the only rich environmentalist who can't see The Cause when his personal interest is at stake. I first caught sight of this particular species of hypocrite-environmentalist bird 30 years ago in Martin County -- in the form of Nathaniel Reed.
Nat Reed has conservationist credentials up the wazoo -- Florida's first governor's adviser on environmental matters, former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, founder of 1000 Friends of Florida, and for many years a force on the South Florida Water Management District Board.
But like his mom and dad, Joseph and Permelia Reed when they came to Florida, Nat Reed was in the bulldozer business. He was a land developer
In 1992, in between castigating county commissioners for allowing somebody else's development to go ahead, Reed perhaps decided the law did not apply to him. He pruned the mangroves at his Jupiter Island Golf Course in violation of two state rules. For each offense, or for illegally trimming the mangroves, Reed could have been fined up to $10,000 a day. But he wasn't.
Instead, he somehow got the law changed, arguing that property owners have a right to the use and enjoyment of their coastal views.
Reed never paid a dime. Broke the law, got the law changed to have his own way, came out smelling like a rose.
The Reed decision led to the 1995 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act. It substantially changed Florida's mangrove protection statutes, reducing the paperwork and permitting required to trim these coast-protecting trees. Not necessarily a bad thing.
But this is something I particularly remember when Nat's 1000 Friends organization complains in that hypocritical, stumbledy-bum way it does that growth management laws have been weakened.


Privatizing wastewater a whole new spin on cash flow
Palm Beach Post – by Frank Cerabino, Staff Writer
January 19, 2012
It's hard to keep track of all the privatization news going on in Florida.
We seem to be in the constant state of hostile takeovers of public assets. Schools. Prisons. Roads.
What's next ?
Apparently, we've been missing out on some good opportunities to introduce more cash flow into the state's water flow.
But that's being addressed in a proposed law that would strip public control over water once it's treated at a wastewater treatment facility.
Under existing law, all of this reclaimed water is considered "waters in the state."
It's not the property of the private or public utility that treats it. Instead, the water is a public resource that is often returned to the state's waterways, replenishing aquifers, lakes and rivers.
The state's water management districts have been entrusted in making sure this reclaimed water is used wisely. And water that isn't returned to the state's waterways is allowed, under the state's permitting control, to be sold by local utilities to customers who want it to water golf courses, lawns or for industrial uses.
There's a lot of money in water.
"The severity of droughts in Florida is getting worse, and with people continuing to move here, there will be more competition for water," said Eric Draper, executive director of the Florida Audubon Society.
That competition for water has been refereed by the state, which balances its economic and ecological value. But the new law would remove the state from having a say-so.
House Bill 639 gives wastewater treatment facilities ownership of the water they treat.
"This is not wastewater. It's a $3.5 billion commodity in Florida," Draper said. "When you see a scarce commodity that's an asset, the big money people will see it. That's going to be the future of this."
In the short run, yanking state control from reclaimed water would be a boon to city governments, who would be able to sell all the water they treat to their customers.
One of the big proponents of the bill is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is trying to expand the use of reclaimed water in his city and explore the possibilities of converting it to drinking water in a process known as "toilet to tap."
Buckhorn has called treated water "a manufactured product" and thinks that ownership of the water is essential in order to make investing in treatment facilities more viable.
But environmentalists worry that turning a public resource into what may end up a commodity controlled by private-for-profit businesses in the future will spell trouble in the long run for Florida.
"Utilities don't have any responsibility for the protection of the environment," Draper said. "This is one of those situations where you have to look at the what-ifs. And if down the road, if the state needed the water, we'd have to pay through the nose to get it."


Trek to highlight need for wildlife corridor
Miami Herald - by Susan Cocking
January 19, 2012
Tampa wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr. returned home from a shoot in Africa a few years ago and was disappointed to find that formerly open lands in his home state had become suburbs.
Not long afterward, Kentucky wildlife biologist Joe Guthrie, studying bears in Central Florida’s rural Highlands County, was dismayed to learn that one of his tracking-collared subjects was blocked in its journey north to look for a mate by busy Interstate 4 that crosses the middle of the state. The bear turned back and walked all the way south to Lake Okeechobee.
For the two men, those were the “a-ha!” moments that led to a 1,000-mile, 100-day intermodal trek from the Everglades to Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp that began Tuesday. Together with conservationist Mallory Dimmitt, a native of Dunedin, and cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus of Blountstown, the explorers plan to walk, paddle, bicycle and ride horses through Florida’s heartland to highlight the importance of establishing a wildlife corridor by connecting the state’s natural lands and waters.     
 “There’s a lot of pressure from development on the east and west coast and it’s creeping toward the middle,” Stoltzfus said. “You still have the heartland, the middle part, for wildlife and conservation. The middle part truly is our natural heritage.”
Although the team will spend much of its time in the wilderness, it also plans to visit working farms and ranches.
Ward, who began photographing cattle ranches more than six years ago, says they are key to connecting natural areas so that places like the Everglades don’t become islands.
 “The future of Florida’s ranchlands has more to do with what Florida will look like in 50 years than anything else,” Ward said. “It’s one of the most pivotal landscapes in the state.”
He believes that people, as well as wildlife, will benefit from a protected network of land and water resources.
Before launching kayaks from the Flamingo campground at Everglades National Park on Tuesday, the group conducted a video interview with former Gov. Bob Graham, who was in Tallahassee for the Everglades Water Supply Summit sponsored by the Everglades Foundation.
They plan to paddle north on Florida Bay through the Wilderness Waterway, then into the Shark River and the soupy Shark River Slough, emerging around Jan. 24 on Tamiami Trail. Water levels have been dropping in the slough, which could make for some rough going.
 “If it’s really bad, you have to get out and pull,” Stoltzfus said. “That’s part of the challenge. This is an expedition.”
The team will document its travels on film and video and post updates on social media websites and also on Followers will have opportunities to join them on many of their stops.
From Tamiami Trail, the explorers will continue north through the Big Cypress National Preserve and adjacent wilderness to the Lake Wales Ridge in Highlands County and onto the Everglades Headwaters, which originates near Disney World. The U.S. Interior Department has proposed a huge national wildlife refuge and conservation area in that region, which members of the team support. From there, they plan to paddle the St. Johns River, tour Alexander and Blue Springs in north Florida, hike the Ocala National Forest and celebrate Earth Day on April 22 at Stephen Foster State Park near the Florida/Georgia border. Then they’ll cross into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the end of the road.
The team has a small support crew towing food and supplies in a trailer, but it won’t be able to join up with them everywhere they go.
 “We have to have our wits about us,” Guthrie said.
 “We enjoy challenges. We’ll definitely be tested.”


Water rights shift in Florida could foreshadow debates to come
Bellinham Herald – by Jim Malewitz
Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012
WASHINGTON -          Is reclaimed water a basic public resource or a privately manufactured product? That's the question before the Florida legislature this session, as it decides how to classify the state's large supply of wastewater that's treated and used again, often for lawn irrigation or recharging aquifers.
Environmentalists are nervous as lawmakers prepare to enact the largest overhaul to state water law in 40 years, changing the state's very definition of water.
Current Florida law subjects all state waters to permitting based upon "beneficial use" in the public interest. But the bill up for debate would exclude reclaimed water from "waters of the state," granting sole ownership of the resources to the utilities that produce it. Many of these utilities are public entities, but some are privately owned.
Under the bill, state water management districts could not dictate how reclaimed water is used, even during an emergency shortage. Backed by several powerful interest groups, the bill appears destined to become law.
Supporters say the overhaul would protect Florida's dwindling water supply by incentivizing production and use of reclaimed water through eased restrictions.
"Local governments need the certainty," says state Rep. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican who teamed up with city representatives to write the bill. "If they build the system, they need guarantees that they can use the water as they see fit."
But environmentalists describe the shift as a business-friendly legislature's attempt to erode state water protections, placing much of the resource in the hands of private interests.
"It has the potential to be the first step toward eventual privatization," says Bob Graham, the former Democratic governor and longtime U.S. senator. Graham and other environmentalists say they too favor the reuse of water as a means of conservation, but not through redefining its ownership.
Reclaimed water accounts for less than 1 percent of water use across the United States. But it's becoming more viable for dangerously dry communities, thanks to technological advances that have lowered treatment costs and improved its quality, according to a study released last week by the National Research Council.
Water questions loom large in Florida, where climate change and decades of residential development have eroded the coastline, enabling saltwater to seep into aquifers and contaminate the basic water supply. Those conditions, along with recent drought, have stirred fears the state may one day struggle to slake the thirst of the nation's fourth most-populous state.
Reclaimed water is a key to dealing with this problem in Florida; the state leads the nation in its use. Each day, Florida reuses over 660 million gallons - about 10 percent of the state's total demand for water. No longer a commodity to be disposed of, used water is increasingly seen as a moneymaker, sometimes netting as much as $3.50 per thousand gallons.
But those who want to cede reclaimed water rights to utilities say that too much state authority has retarded investment in the technology. Though the state's five water management districts rarely assert their power over reclaimed water, they have tried to do so on recent occasions, critics say, causing uncertainty for utilities that treat wastewater.
In 2009, a water shortage prompted the St. Johns River Water Management District to consider placing limits on the use of reclaimed water. Florida's other districts were set to follow, says Jan McLean, a Tampa attorney working on the issue. But the City of Tampa, along with several other utilities, objected and eventually put a stop to the plan. Under the restrictions, McLean says, millions of gallons of water fit for reuse would have been wasted.
Young's bill would prevent this by letting utilities make their own choices about how to use the reclaimed water they generate. As McLean sees it, "The city just wants to have some certainty over what we view as an asset."
But environmentalists worry about the consequences of that assurance, saying the move would lead others in farming and industry to clamor for ownership of their wastewater. Mary Jean Yon, who works with the Audubon Society in Florida, says the change would be part of the "continual erosion of power" of state water managers.
Indeed, Republican Gov. Rick Scott slashed state funding for water management districts by more than $700 million for 2012, a decrease of 40 percent. And Florida's Republican-dominated legislature will take up a separate bill this session that would extend the life of some water consumption permits to 30 years, up from 20.
"That's an incremental privatization of water," says Richard Hamann, a professor of water law at the University of Florida.
Young, the bill's author, says complete privatization is not the goal.
"This bill is narrowly tailored to deal with a narrow question," she told Stateline.
Environmentalists also question whether the bill would protect the water supply as advertised.
"We need to encourage reuse, but not all reuse is equal," Hamann says. The shift could give utilities more incentive, for instance, to sell reclaimed water to a golf course for irrigation than to use it to recharge an aquifer.
Robin Craig, a water law expert at Florida State University, says predicting the effect of the shift in water policy is difficult.
"It's going to depend on how much reclaimed water is flowing back into the system, compared to return flows now," she says.
Florida wouldn't be the first state to privatize some of its waters. Utilities in most Western states - with the exception of Utah - retain absolute rights over reclaimed waters under the long-held doctrine of prior appropriation. But public officials in those states tend to monitor closely the way the recycled water is used. In Washington state, for instance, the Department of Ecology recently drew up new rules that would prohibit reclaimed water use from interfering with rights downstream.
Supporters of the Florida bill say the state would still oversee reclaimed water use through a detailed permitting process in the lead-up to its production. McLean, the Tampa attorney, says the change would require more foresight from water planners who issue the permits, prohibiting them from changing the rules for utilities after the fact. Additionally, the bill would allow water management districts, under some circumstances, to require utilities to use reclaimed water in lieu of making withdrawals from an aquifer.
Nevertheless, environmentalists in Florida tend to see the legislation in their state as creating more problems than it is likely to solve. "(Reclaimed water) is the same as all other water," Hamann says. "We should use it wisely."


Bob Graham Sees New Threats To Everglades
News Talk Florida (The Associated Press)
January 18, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham says bills that would allow for water privatization and redefining of public and private land threaten the progress of Everglades restoration.
The retired Democrat spoke Tuesday at the inaugural meeting of the bipartisan Everglades Legislative Caucus in the Capitol.
Graham said “the Everglades is water” and “water belongs to the people of Florida” and not private interests.
The South Florida Everglades have suffered from the gradual intrusion of housing developments and farms and have been polluted by urban and fertilizer runoff. State lawmakers cut Everglades restoration funding last year.
Gov. Rick Scott was noncommittal about privatizing water later in the day at an Everglades panel held at Florida State University. He would only say the question “requires a lot more study.”

Feds establish Everglades headwaters refuge
Sun Sentinel - by William Gibson
January 18, 2012
An Everglades refuge and conservation area was officially established on Wednesday when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar accepted the first donation of land for the project in south-central Florida
The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area is designed to provide a low-cost way to filter out pollutants, preserve wildlife, stave off housing developments and control waterflow into Lake Okeechobee. It depends on ranchers and other property owners making easements available for restoration while still using it to raise livestock or grow crops.
If fully realized, the refuge and conservation area will span 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee. Two-thirds of it, or 100,000 acres, will be protected through conservation easements purchased from willing sellers. The easements would prevent the land from being subdivided or developed.
“Working in close partnership with landowners, we are taking a major step to safeguard the long-term health of the Everglades in the Kissimmee Valley, while ensuring the area’s ranching and farming heritage and economy remain strong,” Salazar said.
“This effort will restore wetlands in the headwaters area, preserve working ranches and support a healthy environment for central and south Florida, as well as increase opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, bird watch and learn about the importance of this landscape.”


Everglades Summit

Post: Everglades summit gets testy
Orlando Sentinel (Aaron Deslatte) - by Palm Beach Post, Dara Kam, Staff Writer
January, 18 2012 8:29 AM
TALLAHASSEE — An Everglades love-fest turned nasty Tuesday afternoon when Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Everglades Foundation Chairman Paul Tudor Jones sniped about whether the agriculture industry is meeting its obligation to pay for restoring the “River of Grass.”
Everglades Summit moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s national correspondent, launched the dust-up by asking a panel including Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Putnam and Jones about a constitutional amendment approved by voters more than 15 years ago requiring polluters to pay for the primary costs of Everglades cleanup.
Putnam praised the agriculture industry, including sugar growers, for cutting back on the amount of nutrients flowing into the Everglades by half, more than double what the law calls for.
“We are seeing a much better conversation between agriculture and the environmental community because all of us have watched in the last 10 years the development just explode,” Putnam said.
But Jones wasn’t satisfied, and responded with an off-the-wall reference to a “Saturday Night Live” skit lampooning “60 Minutes” co-hosts Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.
“Shana, you bitch,” Jones said to Putnam.


Everglades Summit

Scott, Salazar Express Optimism for Everglades
Sunshine State News - by: Jim Turner
January 18, 2012
State and federal leaders Tuesday expressed “optimism” and the need for cooperation for the future of the Everglades, calling for more partnerships with -- rather than continuing to punish -- ranchers and farmers who work alongside the River of Grass.
Gov. Rick Scott downplayed the increase in funding he’s requested for Everglades maintenance, saying the key is to spend any money correctly, during a panel discussion that was part of the Everglades Water Supply Summit at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center in Tallahassee.
“We put something on the table, and basically all the federal agencies have to go through it,” Scott said during a panel discussion on the future of the water system.
“We’re sharing all our modeling, all our information, and I’m sure they’re going to have ideas that will improve what we put on the table.”
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said progress is being made as governments work together rather than fight over the restoration efforts in court.
“The governor and I have many conversations about this,” Salazar said. “We’re not interested in litigation, we’re not interested in finger-pointing; what we’re interested in are results that matter and for us having success in the restoration is very important to the president of the United States. It’s very important to this governor and it’s very important to me.” Earlier Tuesday, Salazar attended an announcement about the federal government supporting the $97 million Tamiami Trail Bridge project, which is designed -- by raising a one-mile section of the road into a bridge -- to help restore freshwater flows to Everglades National Park and the South Florida ecosystem.
On Wednesday, Salazar will hold a similar announcement at the Central Florida headwaters of Lake Okeechobee in Haines City, to announce a $45 million project to improve the water quality in the Kissimmee River.
Still, state leaders say they expect Florida will be relied upon more and more to undertake the needed repairs to the national treasure to maintain freshwater quality and quantity for the 7 million South Florida residents.
Not every panelist expressed bipartisan kumbayahs.
Paul Tudor Jones, chairman of the Everglades Foundation, compared the decades of damage that has been done mostly by agricultural interests to the Everglades to a slow but steady version of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The only difference is that this has been incremental and invisible, so you don’t get that fantastic shot of the tremendous pollution coming out of the broken well,” Jones said.
The comment drew a quick rebuttal from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who noted the Jones analogy ignores the sprawl west of Florida's Turnpike in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Agriculture in Florida is a partner in land stewardship and conservation, and there is not enough money, there will not be enough money, and it is not good public policy to eradicate them, because what will follow them ?” Putnam said. “Do you really think you’re going to buy up everything south of Lake Okeechobee ?”
Putnam noted that the 1996 voter-approved Everglades Restoration Act has generated $200 million from growers, while the majority of farms around Lake Okeechobee have agreed to best management practice to reduce nutrient loads that reach area waters.
“The important thing that has changed is that we are seeing a much better conversation between agriculture and the environmental community because all of us have watched in the last 10 years when development just explodes,” he said.
Putnam also was adamant in his opposition to a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take two years off from restoration of the dike around Lake Okeechobee to study the effectiveness of past repair efforts.
“For the St. Lucie Canal, for the Caloosahatchee, for the health of the Everglades, for the needs of people and industry, the most important piece of this puzzle is to get Lake Okeechobee right so you can hold water levels where they can be effective,” Putnam said.
Meanwhile, House Speaker-designate Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the state needs to follow through on plans already out there, adding that with federal money drying up, it’s up to the state to assume responsibility for the Everglades.
“Florida has to take ownership of this problem; it is a national problem that we have to protect, but I don’t think we can rely upon Washington, D.C., or any other group or entity to solve this problem,” Weatherford said, sitting on a panel focused on water supply.
“This is our state, these are our people, these are our resources we need to protect," he said. "We need to find a way to prioritize the Everglades.”
On top of the $142 million Congress has authorized to restore the headwaters into South Florida and the freshwater flow through the Everglades basin, Scott -- who in October unveiled his own plan for the Everglades -- has proposed boosting the state’s funding for the Everglades to $40 million in the next fiscal year budget.
A year ago, Scott proposed $17 million, with the Legislature setting aside $30 million.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project and related projects have cost the state more than $4 billion.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said the struggling economy is forcing officials to be creative when budgeting for the Everglades.
South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker said she’d love to immediately do everything that those attending the conference want for the Everglades. However, she said, everyone must understand that any plan to improve water quality or improve water conservation will require collaboration with businesses that own land throughout Central and South Florida.
“I can’t accomplish anything without having industry as a partner,” Meeker said. “The water runs through their area, I have to bring them to the table.”

Everglades Summit

Environment dramas play out in Tallahassee
Palm Beach Post - by Dara Kam , Staff Writer
January 17, 2012
TALLAHASSEE — An Everglades love-fest turned nasty Tuesday afternoon when Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Everglades Foundation Chairman Paul Tudor Jones sniped about whether the agriculture industry is meeting its obligation to pay for restoring the "River of Grass."
Everglades Summit moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC's national correspondent, launched the dust-up by asking a panel including Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Putnam and Jones about a constitutional amendment approved by voters more than 15 years ago requiring polluters to pay for the primary costs of Everglades cleanup.
Putnam praised the agriculture industry, including sugar growers, for cutting back on the amount of nutrients flowing into the Everglades by half, more than double what the law calls for.
"We are seeing a much better conversation between agriculture and the environmental community because all of us have watched in the last 10 years watching as development just explodes," Putnam said.
But Jones wasn't satisfied, and responded with an off-the-wall reference to a "Saturday Night Live" skit lampooning "60 Minutes" co-hosts Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.
"Shana, you bitch," Jones said to Putnam.
Jones said the agriculture industry contributes up to 87 percent of the pollution in the Everglades but picks up only about 13 percent of the clean-up costs.
"Really the question is what is fair. What should be the actual cost that they're going to pay?" Jones said. "When it comes to enforcing the will of the people of the state and the constitution what kind of leadership are we going to get from the executive department?"
Jones then provoked Putnam by equating the Everglades pollution to the Deepwater Horizon oil blast. The only difference, he said, is that the waste is incremental.
"So you don't get that fantastic shot of that tremendous pollutant coming out of the broken well. But trust me it's happening as we speak. So the question is again, when at some point are we going to get the leadership to enforce the state's constitution?" Jones said.
"A lawful $100 billion industry in the state of Florida that's supporting rural communities is hardly comparable to the Deepwater Horizon," Putnam said.
Putnam blamed much of the contamination of the Everglades on development in western Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
"Agriculture in Florida is a partner in land stewardship and conservation. There is not enough money. There will not be enough money," he said.
Putting farmers out of business won't help, he went on.
"What will follow then? Do you really think you're going to buy up everything south of Lake Okeechobee ?" he asked Jones.
Jones said environmentalists want "more equitable treatment" and said he is not trying to kill the sugar industry.
"It's a fairly anti-ag statement," Putnam said.
The flare-up overshadowed an otherwise friendly gathering of unlikely allies -- Scott and one of President Obama's top administration officials Salazar.
Scott is pushing a new strategy to clean up the Everglades, in part in response to two Miami judges who condemned the state's "glacial" pace of restoration. Scott included $40 million for Everglades restoration in his budget -- more than twice the amount he proposed last year -- but far less than the $100 million minimum previous administrations have spent.
Salazar and other federal officials are skeptical of Scott's plan, saying it may not go far enough to meet water quality goals.
But on Tuesday, Scott and Salazar stood side-by-side and praised each other at a brief media availability after the meeting.
"He's done a great job with conservation. We have had a very good working relationship," Scott said of Salazar on Tuesday.
Scott said Salazar and other federal officials are cooperating "in good faith" to get an agreement.
"These opportunities to do something are always short-lived. I know we both want to get something accomplished and I know everybody else involved in the process does also," Scott said.
Salazar said his agency is still reviewing Scott's plan but applauded the first-term governor's efforts.
The South Florida ecosystem is important not only for the state but for "the entire world," Salazar said.
"We need to do it for jobs. And we need to do it for water supply and water quality. At the end of the day, we have spent a lot of our time to make sure we can make the Everglades everything it can be. I know we have a long ways to go but we're very proud of the progress that we're making," he said. "Gov. Scott has been a great leader in bringing us together and we very much look forward to continuing our work together."


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushes water privatization proposal that has its critics
Times/Herald - by Brittany Alana Davis
January 18, 2012
TALLAHASSEE — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, hope their water privatization legislation will help replenish Tampa's water supply by allowing the city, and other local governments, to hang on to the water they treat.
Under current law, treated wastewater returns to the control of state-run water management districts to be allocated throughout the state.
"I want to remind you that this is a conservation bill," Young told a House panel Tuesday. "It's designed to encourage the treatment of water to help preserve this precious resource for everybody."
HB 639 advanced on a 12-2 vote of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee, but only hours before the heated debate, former Sen. Bob Graham urged a group of mostly-Democratic lawmakers to oppose it.
Graham argued the bill would have unintended consequences, and he equated it to several "damaging" environmental laws passed last year.
"The history in Florida is that water belongs to the people of Florida, wherever it is and under whatever process it may be undergoing," Graham said. "It is a fundamental resource of all Floridians."
Buckhorn insisted the bill is no "slippery slope."
"If I were to significantly enhance our reclaimed water infrastructure, I would be spending millions on pipes ... on infrastructures," he said in a phone interview. "I need to be able to control the product that we helped chemically manufacture and know that I'm going to have something our customers can use."
Treated water is used in place of potable water for watering lawns and irrigating agriculture. The proposal would help address Tampa's chronic water shortages and the fact that the city drops hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated water into Tampa Bay, Young said.
Several speakers echoed Graham's sentiment, saying the bill would be the first step toward privatizing an increasingly scarce water supply.
They argued that local governments and private utility companies may take a profit-driven approach to dispensing water, allocating to those who can afford it and leaving everyone else dry.
"The day this bill becomes law, those privately owned utilities would have full control of that water," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "In fact, take a utility that delivers water to the Everglades. They can say, 'Nope, we'll use this for a new development that's coming in.' "
He also warned the policy could have broader implications for other parts of the state. Once the bill becomes law, for example, Disney would own all of its reclaimed water "which is now discharged into the Everglades."


The myth of wood stork success in South Florida – Guest Opinion by Jason Lauritsen, Assistant Director at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Jan. 18, 2012
Wood storks are not making a comeback in South Florida.
Contrary to a growing perception, wood storks feeding in ditches, canals and along golf course lakes are not signs that this endangered species is recovering. The storks you see this winter running their bills through the steep edge of a deep canal are not nesting birds, they’re biding time, waiting for quality wetlands to come on-line.
Throughout Florida, wood storks have lost most of the natural shallow wetland habitat they depend on for foraging early in their breeding season. This is the underlying cause of the wood stork decline and its federal and state status as “endangered” since 1984. Loss of shallow wetlands has delayed nesting and reduced success.
Last April, an article heralding a wading bird boom was picked up by a number of news organizations. The heretofore untold epilogue to that story reveals that the vast majority of those celebrated nest starts ended in failure. . Late nesting storks face steep risks, and failure is the norm. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been committed to restore the Everglades, widely recognized as a global ecological treasure.
  Watch wood storks feed in south Fort Myers on Tuesday 1/10/2012, The fate of the endangered species is in the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency is expected to make a decision on reclassifying the birds.

A healthy population of wood storks breeding in the Everglades is a sign that we’ve spent our restoration dollars wisely.
Increases in the stork population have prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider downlisting the wood stork to “threatened”. These increases are not a result of conservation actions anywhere, and have not been realized in South Florida. In fact South Florida, once the wood stork breadbasket, is now the least stable region for nesting in their range. Four of the past five years have resulted in dismal wood stork nesting productivity throughout the greater Everglades, the only exception being on the heels of tropical storm Fay which set the stage for an excellent nesting season in 2009. Reducing nesting success to seasons marked by isolated and unusual weather events is not a recipe for sustainability.
Another myth worth debunking is that wood storks are holding our economy hostage by retarding building. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Florida has the highest home vacancy rate in the country. The study found approximately one in three homes in both Collier and Lee County vacant. One might argue from these statistics that over-building was the cause of our deep housing recession, rather than permitting obstacles related to endangered species protections.
I recognize and celebrate wood stork population gains resulting from the significant but little-understood nesting increase in the northern part of their range — the numeric threshold for reclassifying the stork as threatened has been met.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The species is far from meeting the criteria to be considered fully recovered, which would lead to taking it off the imperiled list altogether. We have a lot of work to do here in South Florida before that can happen. When we reach those recovery goals, the wood stork will be returned to its iconic Everglades rookeries, and it will be because we have been good stewards of your tax dollars in restoring the Everglades.

Everglades Summit

Everglades Water Supply Summit kicks off today
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 17, 2011
The Everglades Water Supply Summit will kick off today in Tallahassee and will feature appearances by industry executives, environmentalists and lawmakers. The summit will be headlined by Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and other top government, business and civic leaders.
NBC News’ Chuck Todd will moderate the summit. Also on hand at the event will be Florida Power & Light Vice President Mike Sole, who will participate in a panel on water supply.
The event will be comprised of three panels: “Water Supply,” “Water Quality” and “What’s Next”.
In other Everglades-related news, the Florida Everglades Legislative Caucus convened its first meeting at 9 a.m. today in Tallahassee. Former Sen. Bob Graham will act as keynote speaker, and is expected to discuss the importance of Everglades restoration.
As previously reported by The Florida Independent, the Everglades has been faced with its fair share of problems in recent years. The area is suffering from methylmercury pollution, but no regulations exist to stymie the problem.


Everglades Summit

Everglades panel discusses water quality, environmental regulations
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 17, 2011
Participants in a panel on water quality spoke today as part of the Everglades Water Supply Summit, highlighting the importance of working with both lawmakers and environmentalists to ensure the health of state waterways.
Panelists included Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard; Jim Harvey, a marine biologist with the Guy Harvey Research Institute; Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County Tourism Board; and EPA Region 4 Administrator Gwendolyn Fleming. Below, some highlights from the discussion.
On the importance of water quality:
When asked about the economic value of boating, hunting and fishing in Florida, Vinyard said he understands the importance all too well. “I guess the good news is: I hunt, I fish and I boat, so I know firsthand the importance of it,” he said. “It’s obviously part of everyhting we do. … Florida’s the largest recreational fishing state in the entire country. It has a $5 billion annual impact on our state.”
“There are no fish if there is no habitat,” said Harvey, an avid fisherman, who said that the health of the Florida Bay has been “bad to terrible.”
“We’re surrounded by opportunities — reservoir storage, cleaning up water, people working together … we’re all polluters,” he said.
Fleming argued that cleaning up the water requires “a collective effort” among all agencies — both state and federal — and that it needs to be done in “a time frame that respects the urgency to prevent further degradation, while taking into account scientific credibility.”
Pigott agreed, arguing that Florida needs to “sell” its economic resources. “I’m an economist by training [and] what we sell is our natural resources,” she said, adding that she has “no tourism product” if the water isn’t healthy.
On Scott’s budget:
“The governor put forward a plan to clean up the Everglades,” Vinyard said. “He’s put his reputation behind it, he’s put $40 million in his proposed budget behind water quality improvements.” Vinyard also added that the state Department of Environmental Protection is working to ensure the health of Florida waterways, which is a nonpartisan issue. “These aren’t McCain scientists or Obama scientists, these are people who care a great deal about water quality.”
On the price of living in Florida:
According to Vinyard, environmental regulations, which many argue are needed to ensure the health of state waterways, will come at a cost to state taxpayers: “If you own a toilet, you will be paying more.”


Everglades Summit

Everglades summit participants debate over-development, Big Sugar, Scott’s budget
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 17,2011
The Everglades Water Supply Summit kicked off in Tallahassee today with a panel that included West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, state Rep. Will Weatherford, Florida Power & Light VP Mike Sole, South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus. They spoke about the need for better policy, restoration efforts and the importance of not pointing the finger at any one particular industry when it comes to pollution in the area. Below, some of the highlights.
On the industry’s need for water:
Nicklaus, who called golf a$ 7.5 billion industry in Florida, said that “years ago, we weren’t paying much attention to water. … Water was available; it was never an issue.” But now, the issue of water supply has come front and center. “You cannot do a golf course without water,” Nicklaus said, adding that the first question asked by golf course designers is: How much water is available?
Irrigating golf courses with saltwater or recycled/effluent water, has become increasingly popular — but according to Meeker, only about 30 percent of golf courses currently use it.
“The more effluent water we get, the better we are. It puts it back into the system,” Nicklaus said.
On over-development:
“I think Miami-Dade has already gone far enough,” Mitchell said. “[We need to] learn from the South and learn not to aggressively pursue building out into the Everglades.”
For Weatherford, development boils down to “finding a balance between private property rights and protecting natural resources.” The rep. touted the importance of ”empowering local governments” to make decisions about development while remaining “cognizant of the fact that resources are finite.”
On privatizing the water supply:
Meeker defended a controversial bill that aims to give utilities more power over reclaimed water, arguing that “the proposed legislation that people are calling ‘privatization’ is not privatization.”
“Creating an incentive is a positive thing,” Meeker said. Moderator Chuck Todd interjected that such bills would “create a market for [reclaimed water], essentially.”
FPL’s Mike Sole, whose company would be directly affected by the bill, said that “Florida has done a good job of balancing the needs of water users and protecting natural resources.”
On pointing the finger at agriculture:
“We have to co-exist. … The question is, of the parts per million that we’re worried about, where is it really coming from?” said Weatherford. “To me, it doesn’t make sense to blame one industry. … [Sugar] has as much to lose as anybody.”
Meeker agreed, saying, “All of us are part of the problem, but also part of the solution. I can’t accomplish what this crowd wants me to accomplish without the industry as a partner.”
On Gov. Rick Scott’s budget:
Weatherford applauded Scott’s recent budget proposal, which included $40 million for Everglades preservation.
“I got to give him credit,” he said. “We can’t just look to the federal government and expect them to bail us out. That piggy bank is probably going to run dry someday soon.” Mitchell spoke of the importance of private sector investment in the Everglades. “Is there a role for the private sector to step up and help us? I think we’ve tried everything else already. …


Everglades Summit

More Everglades Water Supply Summit participants weigh in: Scott, Putnam, Salazar
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Gov. Rick Scott, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and Everglades Foundation chairman Paul Jones were the final panelists to speak during the Everglades Water Supply Summit, which kicked off today. Below, some of the highlights from their conversation with moderator Chuck Todd.
On the importance of water conservation:
Salazar, calling the Everglades a “crown jewel” for America, called the pathway to restoration, and Scott’s recent proposal of $40 million for Everglades restoration in the budget, a good start. “I think the future is bright,” he said.
Though he called Scott a “change agent” for Everglades restoration, Jones said the area could use even more funding. “We have so many shovel-ready projects,” said Jones. “We could take $1 billion from your budget.”
“During the ’90s and the first part of this decade, [there was] a huge amount of talking, but not a whole lot of activity,” he said. ”Now we’re seeing the ground being broken on a lot of projects.”
“[Restoration] is good for business, good for real estate values,” Scott said, adding that it needs to be done in “a cost-effective manner that uses logical science.”
“I think what weve got to do is, whether the number is $40 million or $200 million,” Scott said, “we’ve got to spend the money well. We all want to get this done, as cost-effective and as quickly as we can. Whatever we do, we have to constantly measure to make sure that it works.”
On the approval of a Tamiami Trail project (which currently has no funding):
“It’s a bifurcated process,” said Putnam, who played a key role in getting the project approved. “You have to get the plan authorized … then get the money to get it funded. It’s sort of a bait and switch. Having said that, I dont want to diminish the importance of [its approval]. … It’s in the queue, so that eventually the money will be available.”
On Florida’s python problem:
“Snakes are injurious and they are dangerous,” Salazar said. “All of this great work we’ve been doing on the Everglades … we need to make sure that the investments we’re making are not for nought. The wildlife of the Everglades’ most treasured symbols … and [Burmese pythons are] out there killing the native habitat.”
Putnam concurred, adding that it isn’t just Burmese pythons that are an issue. “The python issue is the most glamorous problem, but there are thousands of these things,” he said, citing other creatures like giant snails that are making their mark on Florida habitats.
On industry’s impact on the Everglades:
Putnam defended the impact of the agricultural industry, arguing that the Florida Forever Act has led to a vast majority of farms implementing best management practices. “Frankly, they’re running ahead of where the government is,” he said.
He and Jones sparred a bit over the sugar industry, however, with Jones arguing that, although the industry has made strides, more needs to be done.
“Do you really think you’ll buy up everything south of Okeechobee?” asked Putnam.
“No one is advocating that,” said Jones. “We’re looking for more equitable treatment, more fairness.”
“I’m saying, when you’ve got an industry that clearly has enormous private margins … maybe the highest enjoyed by any agricultural practice in the United States, there’s room for give,” said Jones. “There’s a saying … ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ The problem that we’ve had is that there are no fences. We, as America’s taxpayers, our home is Everglades National Park. That’s our property. … Imagine if your neighbor dumped his trash in the yard, that’s a sign of disrespect. And then he only cleaned up 70 percent, and left 30 percent. … Man’s intrusion into that environment is clearly going to cost each of us.”
On over-development:
“There’s plenty of places in Florida that could be developed, that would have no adverse effect on the environment,” said Scott. “Tourism is up almost 100 percent in some counties along the Panhandle. … There is so much discussion now, it’s so much more transparent, all of us that are in these positions, it’s exciting. Better things are happening with development now.”
On privatizing the water supply:
Scott was hesitant to speak out on legislation written to incentivize the use of reclaimed water by privatizing it. “I think it’s something right now that we need to put more study into,” said Scott. “Right now, it requires a lot more study.”
But Putnam spoke in favor of such efforts. “It’s essentially water-farming. … It’s costing you a lot less per million gallons of reclaimed water than it would to build a giant reservoir. … That’s nothing like privatizing or commoditizing water,” he said. “That’s a different way of accomplishing an environmental goal at a lower price.”



former US Senator
and FL Governor

Graham urges opposition to lawmaker’s reclaimed water bill
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 17, 2011
During this morning’s inaugural meeting of the Everglades Legislative Caucus, former Sen. Bob Graham spoke out against a bill that would privatize the reclaimed water used by utilities.
State Rep. Dana Young’s bill would redefine reclaimed waters and prohibit water management districts from requiring a permit for their use. Under the bill, utility companies would still have to obtain a Consumptive Use Permit from a local water management district, but, once they draw the water and use it, it would be theirs and no longer subject to additional permitting.
The bill has the backing of the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, a coalition that has been known to oppose state environmental regulations. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also supports the bill, and has said that the measure would help expand his city’s reclaimed water system in order to ensure that Tampa residents have a reliable source of drinking water for years to come.
But environmental groups say the bill would make water a commodity, rather than a resource. According to Graham, bills like Young’s would not only be “the camel’s nose,” but “the camel’s neck and shoulder in the tent of ultimate privatization of water.”
Speaking to the Everglades caucus, Graham warned legislators against supporting bills that would adversely affect the Everglades.
Via the Florida Current:
The bill also declares that such “reclaimed” water is not “waters of the state,” as defined in state law, until it has been discharged into a waterway.
“I think that policy has served us well for over 150 years,” Graham said. “I think the Legislature should be resistant to any proposals no matter how benign they may appear that would change that.”
Young said her bill doesn’t allow the private ownership of water, saying there was “unfortunate” misinformation about the bill. She said the bill provides certainty for cities and counties for allowing the reuse of treated wastewater.
Saying that she and Graham “go way back” with her knowing Graham’s daughter, Young said, “I think he has every right to come out and speak on the bill.”
“I think it would be a good idea if we sat down and talked about it,” she said. “I think unfortunately he has been fed some information that is inaccurate.”


Graham blasts water ‘privatization’
Palm Beach Post - by Dara Kam
January 17, 2012
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham cautioned lawmakers and environmentalists this morning that “privatizing” state waters would cause “considerable damage” to the Everglades and cause Floridians to lose control of thousands of acres of wetlands.
“There’s no project in Florida that would be more adversely affected,” said Graham, who was a member of the legislature more than four decades ago and then governor when some of the state’s water and conservation policies were first created.
Graham was in town as environmentalists, government officials – including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Gov. Rick Scott – and others gathered nearby for a day-long Everglades Water Supply Summit.
Speaking to the Florida Legislative Everglades Caucus, Graham called on them to reject two water measures he called “not just the camel’s nose but the camel’s neck and shoulders under the tent of privatization of water.
The first (HB 639) would allow utilities to have permanent ownership of water they have used and treated. The other (HB 1103) would change the definition of the “high water line” that determines where private property ends and state-owned waters begin. Critics, including Graham, say the measure would cause the state to lose hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands after years of litigation determining what the water line means.
“When we privatize ownership of Florida’s water resources, it takes water away from the Everglades. It’s just pure and simple. You can spend a bunch of money trying to get water into the Everglades but if somebody owns it, you’ll never get it there,” said Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper.
Graham also urged lawmakers to undo a move that gave the legislature more control over the state’s five water management districts, to boost money to the state’s land conservation program Florida Forever.
But the biggest threat to the River of Grass would be an end to the cooperation between state and federal officials to restore the state’s ecological treasure, the former governor advised. The protracted Everglades restoration projects have caused fear that the effort is unraveling.
“The thing that would be the most fatal to Everglades restoration is if this marriage between the state of Florida and the federal government were to be broken. Neither partner alone either has the financial or legal capabilities of carrying this off,” Graham said.
A poll released this morning found that 64 percent of voters surveyed favored increased spending on Everglades restoration, up from 51 percent who supported increased funding in a February 2011 survey.


Graham warns against proposed water bills
January 17, 2012
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham warned environmentalists today that business interests are trying to gain control of Florida's water resources in the current legislative session.
Graham, who was a member of the Legislature and governor when the state developed some of its major development laws, spoke at a morning meeting of an Everglades coalition of South and Central Florida legislators and representatives of conservation organizations. He said Florida has always had a legal tradition that water belongs to the public, but that there are two bills in the current session that would begin to change that.
One is a proposal saying that utility companies that use water, then clean and treat it, have permanent ownership of the water. The other bill, Graham said, would redefine the dividing line between private and public ownership of lands bordering waterways -- moving the line from the "mean high water line" to the "ordinary high water line."
Graham said he's not sure what that means, but that it would result in shifting hundreds of thousands of acres of flood plains from public to private ownership.
He praised Gov. Rick Scott for including in his budget $40 million for Everglades reclamation. But Graham said the two bills are a threat to the "river of grass."
"Personally, I think the greatest jeopardy that seems to be emerging this session is privatization of water," Graham said. "This legislation would not just be the camel's nose, but the camel's head and shoulders into the tent."
State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, who co-chairs the Joint Everglades Coalition with Rep. Steve Perman, D-Boca Raton, said "the Everglades is a bellwether for the state of Florida." With state and federal money, he said, "we hope we can get back on track" in protecting the system from pollution and development.
"We know the Everglades is the single greatest focus for environmental protection in Florida," said Altman.


Interior secretary bans invasive pythons
Associated Press
January 17, 2012
MIAMI – Officials are announcing new rules banning the importation of four snakes that have been plaguing the Everglades.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday announced the ban on Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons.
The snakes are also now banned from being transported across state lines.
Pythons have become a growing problem in Florida's revered swampland. Many are believed to have been pets that were dumped once they grew too big; others may have escaped from pet shops battered by 1992's Hurricane Andrew and have been reproducing ever since.
The snakes can grow to be 26 feet long and more than 200 pounds and threaten indigenous species. Last year, one even killed a deer.


Poll: Romney and Obama even in Florida; 64% want more Everglades spending
Palm Beach Post - by George Bennett
January 17, 2012
A new poll commissioned by the Everglades Foundation shows President Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in a dead heat in Florida.
Obama gets 46 percent and Romney 45 percent, with 9 percent undecided, in the poll conducted by the Republican firm The Tarrance Group. The poll of 607 likely voters has a 4.1 percent margin of error. Obama holds a 44-39 lead among independents and a 50-41 lead among Hispanic voters. Romney holds a 54-37 lead among white voters and leads among voters who are 45 and older while Obama leads with voters 44 and younger.
Voters were asked if “funding for Everglades restoration should be increased because protecting the water supply is critical to the future economic success of the state” or if “funding for Everglades restoration must continue to be cut because the state is facing a massive budget crisis and cuts must be made to every program.”
By a 64-to-28 percent margin, voters favored increasing Everglades funding. That’s up from 51-to-41 percent support for more Everglades spending in February 2011.
The poll was released today to coincide with the opening of a two-day Everglades summit in Tallahassee.


Explorers Launch Historic 1,000-Mile Trek from Everglades to Okefenokee
WCTV - Reporter: Press Release
January 17, 2012
100-day Expedition to promote Florida Wildlife Corridor Project.
Tallahassee, FL - A team of explorers paddled into the serene waters of the Everglades on Tuesday, January 17th beginning the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a 1,000-mile journey that will take them from the River of Grass to the Okefenokee National Forest in South Georgia. For the next 100 days, photographer Carlton Ward Jr., biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus will travel by foot, kayaks and bikes to raise awareness of a functional ecological corridor that spans the entire state of Florida. The Florida Wildlife Corridor aims to connect the natural lands and waters from Florida to southeast Georgia.
“Despite extensive fragmentation of the landscape in recent decades, a statewide network of connected natural areas is still possible,” said Ward. “The first step is raising awareness about the opportunity we have to connect natural and rural landscapes in order to protect all of the resources that sustain us, and wildlife.”
 Before launching, the expedition team conducted a video interview with former Florida Governor Bob Graham that was broadcast during the kickoff luncheon for the Everglades Water Supply Summit hosted in Tallahassee by the Everglades Foundation [].
Throughout the expedition, the explorers will utilize technology to send daily updates on their trip – posting photographs, videos, radio reports, social media posts and blog entries (see online links below) to keep followers informed and engaged. Stoltzfus, an award-winning cinematographer, is documenting the journey to produce a film about the expedition and the Florida Wildlife Corridor for public television. It will result in a comprehensive and informative insider’s view into the remarkable ecosystems that make Florida one of the most diverse and beautiful natural areas in the country.
“Documenting this expedition is a tremendous opportunity to place a spotlight on Florida’s delicate and diverse landscape,” Stoltzfus said. “It is an opportunity to showcase the many natural resources that make up Florida beyond the state’s beautiful and well-known sandy beaches.”
The trek will include various means of travel from hiking to horseback riding. Along their journey, the team will host various activities for reporters, landowners, celebrities, conservationists, politicians and other guests. Their far-reaching expedition will take them through some of Florida’s most treasured natural lands.
The team will make stops in over 50 locations including: Everglades National Park, Big Cypress, Okaloacoochee Slough, Caloosahatchee River, Babcock Ranch, Seminole Tribal Lands, Lake Okeechobee, Kissimmee River, Lake Green Swamp, Disney Wilderness Preserve, Ocala National Forest, St. Johns River and many others.
To follow the expedition, view the calendar of activities, and download photos and additional media materials about the Florida Wildlife Corridor project, visit
Connect with the expedition team during the trek on its social media pages:
· Facebook -
· Twitter -
· YouTube -
· Google+ -
For opportunities to join the explorers on the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, contact Melissa Zuckerman at, (850) 681-3200. The team is also available for live and taped interviews during the expedition via Skype, satellite and cellular phone.


Everglades Summit

Everglades Water Supply Summit promotes help for South Florida
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 16, 2012
Everglades restoration and South Florida’s water supply needs are the focus of a two-day summit involving state and federal leaders converging this week on Tallahassee.
Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam are among the featured government officials expected to attend the event, organized by the Everglades Foundation environmental group.
Foundation backer and golf great Jack Nicklaus is also scheduled to attend.
After a year where South Florida struggled through one of its worst droughts on record, the Everglades Water Supply Summit seeks to emphasis the link between Everglades restoration and South Florida’s water needs.
The Everglades provides much of South Florida’s drinking water, which makes boosting efforts to replenish water supplies in Florida’s famed River of Grass more than just an environmental concern, according to the foundation.
Everglades advocates are trying to jump start the multi-billion-dollar effort to store more of the stormwater now drained out to sea for flood control and to build treatment areas so the water can be cleaned of pollutants and redirected to the Everglades.
The water supply summit is being held at the Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, at 555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee, FL.


Rep Dicks wants to tighten rules on pet pythons
January 16, 2012
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Congressman Norm Dicks wants the administration to stop imports and interstate transport of Burmese pythons and eight other types of big snakes.
He says they threaten the huge investment the nation has made in restoring the Everglades and will cost taxpayers millions to control if they continue to spread through other southern states.
Dicks told The News Tribune of Tacoma ( the pythons are killing a lot of other species, "and they're dangerous."
The senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee sent a letter to the president urging tighter restrictions on the constrictors.
The proposed rule is opposed by snake traders and some Republicans who say it's anti-business.


Interior chief plans Glades announcements
The Associated Press
January 15, 2011
MIAMI --  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar plans to visit Florida next week to make several announcements regarding restoration of the Everglades.
The White House says Salazar will make one announcement Tuesday along the Tamiami Trail west of Miami. A section of the highway near Everglades National Park is being raised to improve water flows into the park.
Salazar also will attend an Everglades water supply summit Tuesday in Tallahassee. That summit is to discuss next steps on restoring the vast wetlands that has suffered from years of pollution and development threats.     
On Wednesday Salazar will visit Haines City to discuss new plans for the proposed Everglades Headwaters wildlife refuge north of Lake Okeechobee.


Thumb up: Everglades Coalition in Stuart 'gives people hope'
TCPalm - by Editorial Board
January 14, 2012
HOPE FOR 'GLADES: No big, bold new initiatives emerged from the 27th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition.
Still, the fact that an estimated 300 representatives of government and nonprofit agencies dedicated to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem convened in Stuart in an atmosphere of teamwork is terrific news. As an Army Corps of Engineers leader puts it, "It gives people hope."
Teamwork is crucial when money is tight. Lobbying has to be focused and execution seamless. There is no room for overlap and every possible efficiency merits exploitation.
A personal appearance and remarks by Gov. Rick Scott, who has become a supporter of finishing the massive and already expensive Everglades project, bodes well.
It is good to see the Everglades getting the footing it deserves among other causes competing for limited resources these days. For the sake of our wildlife and future water supplies, all the efforts are worth it.


Nike missiles

Free tours of Cold War Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park
Sun Sentinel - by Doreen Christensen
January 13, 2012
Since the weather’s going to be a bit chilly, it’s appropriate to learn more about South Florida’s fascinating Cold War history with a free tour of the HM 69 Nike Missile Base inside Everglades National Park.
The park service is waiving fees at more than 100 U.S. parks Saturday through Monday in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Entry fees are usually $10.
Explore the some of the 22 buildings and structures of the A Battery site which is located 160 miles from Cuba. It was one of four built in Florida, where the U.S. Army defended against the tense Cuban Missile Crisis during the 1960s.
The 1.5 hour, ranger-led expeditions through this well-preserved relic start at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The three other Nike Hercules missile sites were operated in Key Largo Hammocks State Park; C Battery in Miramar and D Battery, which is now the Krome Detention Center, according to the site.
Other fun things to do in the 1.5-million-acre park include taking a bike or tram tour through Shark Valley or strolling down the Anhinga Trail. Both are teaming with gators and millions of migratory birds.
Click here the list of Royal Palm ranger-led tours.

Other parks you can visit for free on the Florida list: Dry Tortugas National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and Gulf Islands National Seashore

<< Nike-Hercules missiles on launching docks
(archive photo)



Everglades Foundation

Kirk Fordham: Glades restoration can be a bipartisan success story
 Jan. 13, 2012
Many people watching Washington last year wondered whether Democrats and Republicans were able to agree on anything. Fortunately, because of the hard work of Florida's congressional delegation, partisanship was forgotten and major progress was made toward restoring America's Everglades.
Funding for restoration during a tough budget year was not going to be easy. But with the leadership of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the Everglades received substantial funding toward desperately needed restoration.
Congress agreed to invest $246 million this year in Everglades restoration projects throughout the state. Many of these projects are designed to increase water flow into some of Florida's most important fisheries. Other projects now under construction will also restore wetlands that replenish our aquifers — which supply 1 in 3 Floridians with their daily supply of fresh drinking water. Finally, a portion of this investment will move the enormously successful effort to restore the Kissimmee River closer to completion.
Just as promising is the congressional authorization for building 5.5 miles of bridges along the Tamiami Trail. This is in addition to the mile of bridging already under construction. Combined with water quality projects being proposed by the state of Florida, these bridges will restore a sizable portion of the natural water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. This benefits wildlife habitat in the park and the economy of the Florida Keys — which is almost entirely dependent on a healthy diving, boating and recreational and commercial fishing industry.
We are also beginning to see glimmers of hope in Tallahassee.
Gov. Rick Scott doubled his request for Everglades funding in his recommended budget. We believe this demonstrates the governor's conviction that restoring the Everglades is good for business and the long-term health of Florida's economy.
Now, it is up to the Florida Legislature to do its part.



Lake Okeechobee wading bird population plummets
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 13, 2012
Lake Okeechobee wading bird populations took a steep decline between 2011 and 2010 due to drought-strained water levels, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
The state counted 2,750 heron, egrets, ibis and other wading birds on the lake in December. That was down from 8,700 wading birds on the lake in December 2010.
Lake Okeechobee in 2011 dropped to its lowest point in three years, following a record-setting drought that came after decisions to release Lake Okeechobee water out to sea for flood control.
The 730-square-mile lake provides vital wildlife habitat and also serves as South Florida’s back-up water supply.
Low lake levels last year dried out marshes that provide prime wildlife habitat.
Lake levels have rebounded, but the long dry period diminished the small fish and other prey species wading birds feed on, sending the birds elsewhere, according to the water management district.
Summer rainfall combined with near-record rains in October washed away South Florida’s drought and boosted Lake Okeechobee water levels.
Lake Okeechobee on Friday was 13.52 feet above sea level. That was about 1 foot higher than this time last year.
The Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level.
The Army Corps of Engineers during 2010 drained more than 300 billion gallons of lake water out to sea to ease the strain on the dike that protects lakeside communities from flooding.
Those lake water releases worsened the water-supply effects of the driest October-to-June stretch on record, which prompted the district to impose emergency watering restrictions from Orlando to the Keys.


Earth Justice

The Florida Everglades--A Jewel Preserved By Litigation
January 13, 2011
Twenty years of Earthjustice legal work praised for its impact in Florida
Twenty years after we settled our first lawsuit in Florida, one thing is crystal clear: Without litigation, the Everglades would be left with whatever protection the agencies and the Florida Legislature would be willing to provide under pressure from Big Sugar and other powerful polluters. In other words: not much.
Litigation has empowered the community to press for real restoration gains and has forced governments to deliver. These truths were reinforced earlier this month at the 27th annual meeting of the Everglades Coalition sponsored by Earthjustice this year.
A lot of heavy hitters came to the conference, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and senior members of the Interior Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
I was especially proud of all the accolades heaped on our lead Florida attorney, David Guest, who is revered by the people we work with on matters concerning the Everglades, among many other Florida environmental issues. Other members of David’s legal team—Monica Reimer and Alisa Coe—were praised to the heavens as well. Check out our special report on what these tenacious fighters have accomplished over the last two decades.


Judge GOLD

Judge A. GOLD,
US-Federal Judge.

See his far reaching case concerning the Clean Water Act and Florida Everglades :

Judge urges progress on Everglades pollution fixes
Miami Herald - by Curt Anderson, AP Legal Affairs Writer
January 12, 2011
Related:           Judge Demands More Action In Everglades Restoration (CBS Local)
                         Judge offers qualified praise for state Glades efforts (Miami Herald)
MIAMI --         A federal judge on Thursday urged federal and state environmental officials to take real, concrete steps toward reducing pollution in the Florida Everglades and move away from the endless court battles that have stalled progress for more than two decades.
Saying he is committed to holding government's "feet to the fire," U.S. District Judge Alan Gold pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida to work out the differences in competing Everglades restoration plans and come up with a guaranteed way to pay for the costly work.
"Elsewise, what we're doing is going around in circles, again, trying to fine-tune something without the ability to implement it," Gold said. "We ought to be able to state clearly what we can do and can't do."     
      The hearing was the latest of many in a lawsuit originally filed in 2004 by the Miccosukee Indian tribe - whose reservation is in the Everglades - claiming state and federal agencies have repeatedly failed to enforce Clean Water Act standards in the vast wetlands. An even older lawsuit over many of the same issues dates to 1988.
Last year under Gold's watch, the EPA proposed a new $1 billion restoration plan focused on expanding huge manmade, buffering marshes used to filter phosphorous from the water before it flows into the Everglades. The phosphorous comes from fertilizer used on farms such as sugar plantations and suburban yards, promoting growth of unhealthy vegetation and choking out native plants.
A few months later, Republican Gov. Rick Scott proposed an alternative that the state's attorneys described Thursday as less time-consuming and less costly. The EPA is reviewing that plan to see if it meets federal water quality standards, even as the agency tussles with the state over authority to issue water discharge permits.
"We want to get on with the business of restoring the Everglades," said Christopher Kise, attorney for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "We haven't lost any momentum. To the contrary, we have gained momentum in the past several months."
Anyone who has followed the Everglades lawsuits has heard similar sentiments before, usually with less-than-desirable results. Paul Schwiep, attorney for the Friends of the Everglades, noted that the state's new proposal came only after the EPA seemed poised to take over much of the control of restoration following orders issued last year by Gold.
"We do have some skepticism about this, but we are willing to talk," Schwiep said.   


Florida (DEP) proposes redirecting Everglades restoration efforts to focus on creating a few water storage and treatment areas that could get more clean water flowing to the Everglades National Park.

New Everglades restoration plan faces cost, timetable concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
January 12, 2012
Federal, state officials this month decide whether to pursue governor's revamped plan.
Gov. Rick Scott's push to revamp Everglades restoration faces new cost concerns as well as questions about potential delays in already overdue help needed for Florida's famed River of Grass.
Scott in October surprised the environmental community by flying to Washington, D.C., in a bid to redirect the slow-moving state and federal plan to restore the Everglades.
The new plan calls for focusing on using existing state land to try to cut costs in a push to build a core group of reservoirs and treatment areas to clean stormwater to help replenish the Everglades.
It's also intended to resolve litigation over Florida's failure to meet water-quality standards without the state paying as much as $1.5 billion under a federal Everglades restoration plan.
But state officials said Thursday that changing course would take another 18 months of planning and could include new costs for the South Florida Water Management District.
The district, which leads Everglades restoration for Florida, saw its current budget slashed by 30 percent by the Legislature at Scott's urging.
The state and federal governments are supposed to share the costs of Everglades restoration, but district officials Thursday questioned whether Congress would deliver.
"I'm concerned how much that is going to cost and where that money is going to come from," district board member James Moran said. "Any new cost is outside our means at this point."
The Everglades proposal faces a key hurdle Jan. 27, when state officials return to Washington to try to convince federal officials to support moving ahead with the new approach.
The district contends it would take six months just to come up with the proposed price tag for the mix of reservoirs, filter-marsh treatment areas and other improvements to be positioned between Lake Okeechobee and Everglades National Park.
Construction likely would not start this year, as once hoped.
"Plan, meeting, plan. I've been coming to (meetings) for eight years," said Newton Cook, of United Water Fowlers, who questioned the need for more delays.
Other environmental advocates have said they are encouraged by Scott's attempt at getting Everglade restoration back on track.
"This is just speeding things up," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida. "This will help reverse ecological decline."
At the urging of a federal judge fed up with Florida's failure to meet water quality standards, the Environmental Protection Agency has called for Florida to almost double the 50,000 acres of man-made filter marshes that use aquatic plants to absorb polluting phosphorus washing off agricultural land and development to the north.
Scott's approach seeks a more modest expansion of treatment areas while also building new water- storage areas nearby to try to more effectively clean up stormwater that could be redirected to the Everglades.
The new proposal also would extend the already-delayed 2016 deadline for achieving water quality standards to 2022.
Lack of federal funding, legal fights and shifting state priorities have combined to bog down restoration.


Col. Pantano

Corps of Engineers' Patano receives award for Everglades work
Florida Times Union - by Dan Scanlan
January 11, 2012
Col. Alfred A. Pantano, Jr., the district commander of the Corps of Engineers, received the Bill Sadowski Award from 1000 Friends of Florida at the 27th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Stuart.
The Jan. 7 award was one of several special recognitions and honorable mentions Pantano received during his last Everglades conference as the district commander before changing command in June.
The award was presented to Patano by Nathaniel Reed, chairman emeritus, founder of 1000 Friends and a Sadowski recipient himself.
The award is a framed original watercolor by Quincy artist Dawn McMillan depicting wetland grasses fringed by cypress trees, a symbolic ibis in the foreground.
The award is reserved for a public servant at the regional or state level whose work exemplifies the high level of commitment to growth management and the philosophy of negotiation for which Sadowski, former Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, was known.
Col. Pantano Receives Bill Sadowski Award


Pulling together for the Everglades - Editorial
January 11, 2012
No big, bold new initiatives emerged from the 27th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition.
Still, the fact that an estimated 300 representatives of government and nonprofit agencies dedicated to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem convened in Stuart in an atmosphere of teamwork is terrific news.
As an Army Corps of Engineers leader puts it, "It gives people hope."
Teamwork is crucial when money is tight. Lobbying has to be focused and execution seamless. There is no room for overlap and every possible efficiency merits exploitation.
A personal appearance and remarks by Gov. Rick Scott, who has become a supporter of finishing the massive and already expensive Everglades project, bodes well.
It is good to see the Everglades getting the footing it deserves among other causes competing for limited resources these days. For the sake of our wildlife and future water supplies, all the efforts are worth it.


Stormwater treatment area becomes bird watchers paradise
Sun Sentinel  – by Nadia Sorocka
January 11, 2012
Bird watchers in the western communities have a new place to keep an eye out for various ducks, spoonbills, egrets and hawks. Through an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District the Audubon Society of the Everglades will provide monthly tours at the Stormwater Treatment Area 1 East on Flying Cow Road.
"The last tours here were in 2008," said Bijaya Kattel, the district's senior recreation planner. "When we do not have staff to lead tours we look for partners in the community. Who better to lead a tour like this than members of the Audubon Society?"
The first tour was Jan. 7 with and came to fruition because residents started voicing interest about going into the area, said Audubon Society of Everglades president Linda Humphries. The second tour is scheduled for Feb. 4.
"Each monthly tour will have a different leader," she said. "Each tour can take up to 40 people."
The tour program is modeled after the popular partnership with the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society, Kattel said. These tours have served more than 5,000 bird watchers from across the globe at Stormwater Treatment Area 5 in Hendry County, according to the district.
"We are always looking for a chance to educate the public about the beautiful birds that can be found in our area," Humphries said. "Our goal is to help people enjoy nature and to preserve areas as natural wetlands."
During the tours guests carpool to the different compounds located within the stormwater treatment area, according to Humphries. The public has not been allowed out there for some time so the site is really an untapped location, she added.
Stormwater treatment areas are the water-cleaning workhorses of Everglades' restoration. These expansive wetlands utilize plants to naturally remove phosphorus from water flowing into the Everglades, becoming renowned havens for wildlife and the community.
"These areas are natural magnets for the birds," Kattel said, adding that the next step is for the district to go into a formal agreement with the Audubon Society of the Everglades. He said that Humphries' plan is that during season from November to April the group will have tours twice a month and then during the off season only once a month.
"This is a win-win situation for everyone involved," Kattel said. "With the public benefiting the most."
The Audubon Society of the Everglades has more than 2,500 members from all over Palm Beach County.
To reserve a space on the next tour call 561-742-7791.


See also

Flooding - etc.

Dear Coastal Citizens: If You Love the Place You Call Home, Please Read On
January 10th, 2012 › Climate Action › ccarnevale ›
Dear Coastal Citizens:
If you love the place we call home, please read on.
I sympathize with those who feel that sea level rise sounds like “doomsday scenario” scare tactics or with the thought that a rising sea enveloping our beloved communities sounds like futuristic science fiction. I must assure you, however, that sea level rise is a very real phenomenon and that it’s happening as you read these words.
In fact, two detailed and very revealing reports were released in 2011 confirming why sea level rise is becoming a major mainstream issue that coastal communities must address. Just a few highlights from those recent reports will illustrate the magnitude of what’s at stake if we do not adequately prepare for the impacts of sea level rise in the coming years.
In October 2011, the Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University published a report called “Southeast Florida’s Resilient Water Resources,” which details the challenges that sea level rise brings to water management infrastructure. It points out that a few of the major problems associated with sea level rise include reduced capacity for water drainage out of human-use areas, thus leading to flooding and major economic damage, saltwater intrusion of drinking water supplies, and conversion of freshwater wetlands to saltwater wetlands. The report notes that water managers are already starting to face these challenges, which will only increase in frequency and intensity as time passes. In addition, saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies will be accelerated as the water table is lowered by increased population pressures as well as climate change fueled droughts. South Florida, like many, if not all, other places in the United States did not account for sea level rise when it originally installed its water drainage infrastructure. As a result, that region must now rapidly update its systems in order to retain the intended functionality of providing freshwater to and removing wastewater from communities. The report’s authors offer a note of caution: the price tag to upgrade water management systems will be very expensive; however, the cost of inaction will be even greater since communities may experience severe floods or freshwater shortages and then need to upgrade their systems anyway.

FIGURE (click) This diagram from the Florida Atlantic University report illustrates the linkages between water management challenges posed by climate change and sea level rise.
Excerpted Points - from the Florida Atlantic University report (click).

How much sea level rise can we along the Southeastern coast expect? That question is addressed by a May 2011 report, released by four counties in southeast Florida and serves as a unified multi-jurisdictional projection for sea level rise. The collaborative report projects we may experience sea level rise of between 3-7 inches by 2030, 9-24 inches by 2060, and 19.5-57 inches by 2100. According to the previously mentioned FAU study, it would only take 3-9 inches of rise to disable 70% of the drainage system capacity of southeast Florida. And as I mentioned in my last blog post, an 18-inch rise, expected by mid to late century, will likely result in $3.5 trillion dollars of damage in the Miami area alone, and billions more in damage all along our southern coast.
TABLE (click)This table is from the Southeast Florida Climate Compact Unified Sea Level Rise report. It compares a few different projections for sea level rise. The projection adopted by the four counties is the 2009 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers line.

In addition to the projections, which are themselves quite compelling, another aspect of the report is confirmation that sea level rise is not a phenomenon we will see in the future, but rather a factor already happening in real time. The Florida counties’ sea level rise projections are actually based upon the historic tide data from Key West, which have documented a ~2 mm rise per year, or approximately 9 inches per 100 years. Even the staunchest climate deniers must acknowledge that if we simply continue along in this historic tide trend, without allowing for any additional rise attributable to climate change, we will soon be facing a serious problem that requires immediate action in coastal communities throughout the region. [However, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that almost every peer-reviewed, scientific study suggests that sea level rise will be hastened by ice sheet melt and thermal expansion due to rising temperatures. The science specific to this topic is constantly growing and, unfortunately, it seems that the more we learn, the higher we can expect sea levels to rise.]
It should come as no surprise that both of the reports I highlighted came from south Florida, arguably the region most vulnerable to sea level rise in the world. But make no mistake, other low-lying coastal regions in the united States and other parts of the world are not exempt from the risks. New Orleans, Charleston, the Chesapeake Bay and New York City areas are just a few of the major metropolitan areas extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, as well as many other smaller cities and towns up and down the coast, too.
Perhaps in part because of Charleston’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, it was selected to host the only Southeast Climate Conversation forum this Friday, January 13 as part of the third National Climate Assessment process. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will participate in this forum along with other stakeholders and community members to learn about and discuss a range of regional issues, such as sea level rise, which may be affected by climate change in the coming decades. The event is open to the public but advanced registration is required.
There is no question that low-lying coastal communities are at risk from rising seas and our coastal infrastructure is not currently designed to withstand these impacts. Local governments will need to get prepared and an important first step for many communities (coastal or otherwise) is to draft and implement a climate action plan, formulated with community input and adopted by local governments. ICLEI-USA (Local Governments for Sustainability) is an organization that provides assistance in this process. These climate action plans will featured a range of adaptation measures including stronger building code enforcement, predictive climate risk-based insurance regulation, shoreline armoring, retreat, water resource management and land use planning to name a few. As the expression goes, “the tide waits for no man,” and higher tides and rising seas are climate change impacts that coastal residents like myself can ill afford to ignore
A worthy article. Having spent the last two years researching sea level rise and coastal impacts, I have no doubt that if anything, the forecasts are conservative. I have just written a book (not yet available) that looks at sea level in the context of what has happened before, when temperatures and CO2 levels have been this high. Over the next few centuries we face an unprecedented crisis, as the shoreline again starts moving. We built along the coasts, largely ignorant of the fact that sea level goes up and down almost 4oo feet with each ice age. The last time it was at a low point, was just 20,000 years ago. Now it is rising due to the warming atmosphere and ocean temperatures. The forecasts cited in this article are conservative. They do not account for the accelerating melt rate of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. It will still be a few more years before scientists can responsibly plot the curve (connect the dots) of the increasing melt rates, projecting to the end of this century. Few have dug deep enough to understand that the current projections do not incorporate that data. While it is true that climate and sea level have changed before, it is about 40 million years since the current conditions existed. The rate of change now is faster than any known previous era. And just about 14,000 years ago, the ocean rose 65 feet in four hundred years–just to show what can happen naturally. According to the natural historic cycle, things should be getting cooler now, with a gradual drop in sea level for tens of thousands of years. In fact, for the last century, temperatures and sea level are increasing–reversing the natural cycle. We are in an unprecedented era as this article suggests. South Florida is particularly vulnerable as the porous limestone means that sea walls will not prevent the ocean from moving through the bedrock and bubbling up inland. The sooner we anticipate the future, the better prepared we will be.


Everglades Coalition's Priorities For 2012 Include Better Water Conservation, Land Acquisition
Nat.Parks Traveler - by NPT Staff
January 10, 2012
During its 27th Annual Conference the Everglades Coalition announced its priorities for 2012, priorities that range from better water conservation in the landscape that surrounds Everglades National Park to prioritization of land acquisition.
The conference last week brought together business leaders, elected officials and environmentalists to discuss opportunities and challenges for restoring the Everglades’ unique ecosystem.
The 2012 priorities build upon the Coalition’s first-ever statewide legislative education effort, launched in November to educate policymakers and community leaders about the tremendous economic and ecological value of restoring America’s Everglades. This year’s conference was hosted by Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm that has represented environmentalists in many key legal cases to protect the Everglades over the past 24 years.
“Everglades restoration is a sound investment that generates at least four-to-one return on every dollar spent,” said Dawn Shirreffs, national co-chair for the Everglades Coalition. “Restoration projects provide key water supply protections, and have generated more than10,500 jobs in the last three years.”
“The unprecedented progress on Everglades restoration continues, bringing with it ecological benefits that make Florida a unique natural wonder,” added Julie Hill-Gabriel, state co-chair for the Coalition. “The economic return on investment in restoration is just another strong argument to continue funding for projects like bridging Tamiami Trail.”
2012 priorities for the Everglades Coalition include:
• Secure sustained and adequate funding to agencies and for projects to ensure restoration momentum continues, including the 5.5 miles of additional bridging for Tamiami Trail. Congress and the Florida Legislature must continue to fund Everglades restoration to demonstrate their commitment to real environmental and economic progress. There is no longer a divide between saving the environment and promoting business interests.
• Protect water resources through strong statewide conservation policies and improved water quality standards that safeguard Florida’s most important resource – America’s Everglades.
• Prioritize the acquisition and conservation of land needed to protect and connect wildlife habitat, and provide water storage and treatment. Complete planning and authorization of critical projects, including the Central Everglades Planning Project, to increase the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of critical freshwater flows into the central Everglades, Everglades and Biscayne Bay National Parks and Florida Bay.
“Getting water flow right is enormously important,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. “And so is protecting the water quality in Lake Okeechobee and in the rivers, streams and canals that flow into the Everglades. That’s why we continue to fight for clear, enforceable clean water standards.”
Joining the Coalition for this year’s 27th annual Conference were U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, famed novelist and Miami Herald Contributor Carl Hiaasen, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, Department of the Interior's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson, Chair, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.



Fitch Downgrades South Florida Water Management District COPs to 'AA-'; Outlook Stable
Press Release – Fitch
January 10, 2012
NEW YORK, Jan 10, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Fitch Ratings has taken the following rating actions on South Florida Water Management District, Florida's (the district, or SFWMD) outstanding bonds:
--$500.2 million certificates of participation (COPs) downgraded to 'AA-' from 'AA';
--$25.1 million special obligation land acquisition refunding bonds affirmed at 'A'.
In addition, Fitch assigns the following rating:
--Implied general obligation (GO) bond rated 'AA'.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
The COPs evidence undivided proportionate interests in lease payments made by the district to the district from legally available funds budgeted and appropriated for such purpose. In the event of non-appropriation, the district must surrender all facilities lease purchased under the master lease agreement to the trustee who may re-let or sell the facilities for the benefit of certificate owners.
The district's special obligation bonds are secured by a first lien on pledged revenues, which include all payments received by the district from a water management lands fund trust (the trust fund) and the generated interest. The payments consist of a designated portion of revenues derived from excise taxes on documents (the documentary stamp tax) imposed by the state on certain document filings including mortgages, original issues of stock, bonds and debentures, promissory notes or other written obligations to pay money.
REDUCED FINANCIAL AUTONOMY: The downgrade of the COPs reflects the district's inability to implement revenue raising measures as a result of the state's newly implemented limitation on ad valorem collections. Substantial declines in this revenue source have necessitated steep expenditure reductions and the planned use of reserves to achieve budgetary balance in fiscal 2012 and 2013.
PLANNED DIMINISHMENT OF RESERVES: The district has begun to implement a five-year draw-down of reserves, primarily to fund one-time capital expenditures, minimizing a once considerable short-term financial cushion. Pay-as-you-go capital financing, a mark of financial flexibility, will ebb in future years.
STRONG AND DIVERSE SERVICE AREA: The service area, encompassing 16 south and central Florida counties, is an important commercial center with a broad and deep employment base. The area's centrality in Latin America commerce buttresses its economic growth prospects.
DEBT POSITION CREDIT POSITIVE: Debt levels are moderately low, supported by a vast tax base. No future debt is currently planned.
COMPLEX INTERLOCAL EFFORT: Everglades restoration is a highly politicized undertaking necessitating substantial intergovernmental cooperation and financial commitment.
COPs SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION: The COPS are payable from lease payments subject to annual appropriation by the district. Fitch believes the highly essential nature of the lease purchased assets for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem and the potential financial and operational consequences of a lease default provide sufficient incentive to appropriate.
DOCUMENTARY STAMP TAX BONDS - ADEQUATE COVERAGE OF VOLATILE REVENUES: The rating incorporates the legislature's history of altering the tax rate and distribution formula of a pledged revenue stream that is already narrow and economically sensitive. Coverage remains adequate, statutory restrictions prohibit the issuance of additional bonds, and the current issue reaches final maturity in 2015.
The district is the largest of five regional water districts created by the state in 1972 to provide regional flood control, water supply and water quality protection, ecosystem restoration, and to operate and maintain Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The governing board of the district is composed of nine members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate for staggered four-year terms.
The district is the local sponsor of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a series of projects designed to protect and enhance the Everglades ecosystem. The cost of the CERP, presently estimated at approximately $12.5 billion over a 30-year time period, is divided between the federal government (50%), the state (25%) and the district (25%). Through June 30, 2010, the state and SFWMD have invested approximately $2.4 billion toward this effort, including approximately $315 million in construction, with the remaining primarily funding asset acquisition. In 2004 the district entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the state to accelerate development of eight critical components of the CERP largely by leveraging future taxpayer dollars through the issuance of up to $1.8 billion in COPs.
The downgrade of the district's COPs reflects the district's loss of significant revenue raising capacity due to recently enacted legislation that authorizes the state legislature to determine annually the district's ad valorem revenues. Fitch also notes that state law subjects the district's annual budget to approval, in whole or in part, by the governor of the state. Though not legally pledged, ad valorem collections are the primary source for lease payments and, at a combined $270.7 million in fiscal 2012, represent an extremely concentrated 94% of revenues available for debt service. The 32% legislatively imposed ad valorem revenue decline in the fiscal 2012 budget follows several years of revenue weakening attributable to deterioration in the housing market, resulting in a sharp 50.8% drop in collections from audited fiscal 2007. Revenues currently remain considerable relative to $35.5 million maximum annual debt service (MADS) on the 2006 COPs.
In response to the revenue reductions, the district reduced fiscal 2012 budgeted operational expenditures by about $104.5 million by streamlining non-mandated activities, most notably through the elimination of around 286 positions (about 16% of staff), as well as by benefit and programmatic cut-backs. The district stated it has the room to reduce other expenditures, including recreational programs, additional administrative costs, and some monitoring and scientific studies. Fitch will monitor the district's ability to adjust spending without reducing core functions in coming years.
Fitch notes that the risk inherent in revenue raising restrictions may well be amplified were the district to receive unfavorable rulings in on-going lawsuits regarding water quality and condemnation procedures. The district cannot quantify its potential financial exposure.
The district has developed a five-year plan to spend down about $350 million in fund balance accumulated in all funds. The district will reduce the anticipated $146 million total operational fund balance by approximately $23.8 million in fiscal 2012 and nearly $12 million in fiscal 2013 in an effort to prop up recurring expenses while the district attempts to obtain less onerous monitoring requirements. Fitch is cautious concerning the district's ability to achieve the proposed changes, but notes that even so, strong fiscal management could allow the district to return to structural balance.
The remainder of the accumulated fund balance will primarily finance capital projects. Although a significant portion of the reserves are booked in capital funds and had largely been designated for subsequent years' capital expenditures, these reserves had traditionally provided a considerable source of near-term flexibility.
At the end of fiscal 2010, the $158.5 million unreserved fund balance in the two primary operating funds, the general fund and the Okeechobee Basin fund (OBF), equaled an ample 40.4% of spending. An additional $203.7 million in unreserved fund balance was available in the CERP fund, a capital projects fund which receives transfers from the general fund and OBF to carry out the pay-go portion of the district's CERP program. Preliminary fiscal 2011 results indicate that total fund balance in the two operational funds will decline by $30 million. The total fund balance in the CERP fund will decrease by $155 million, as the fund was the primary source for a $194 million cash purchase of land from U.S. Sugar, in lieu of a previously planned debt issuance. The district anticipates that by fiscal 2016 reserve levels will be $54 million for general needs and emergencies, which coupled with a $10 million capital reserve would equal around 19.6% of fiscal 2012 revenues.
The district covers all or parts of 16 south and central Florida counties and a total land area of 17,930 square miles. The counties of Miami-Dade (rated 'AA', with a Negative Outlook by Fitch), Broward (rated 'AAA', Stable Outlook) and Palm Beach (rated 'AAA', Stable Outlook) account for approximately 66% of the district's tax base. Major employers encompass a wide variety of sectors, including education and health services, tourism, retail, and finance and the MSA is home to more than 1,000 multinational corporations. Future economic growth prospects are strong, underscored by the $900 million Port of Miami Tunnel and increased trade possibilities with Latin America and China following the completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2014.
Taxable assessed value (TAV) has declined around 29% since fiscal 2008 to $665 billion in fiscal 2010. The district expects mild tax base decline of 3.8% in fiscal 2013. Further tax base deterioration, if not severe, will not necessarily translate into a major credit concern due to the state's control over the tax levy. The combined population of the district's service area increased over 16% since 2000 to nearly 7.7 million people in 2010. The ability to grow population over the near term will be challenged by the area's high unemployment rate and lowered property values.
MORE DETAILS – click here.


Water district to discuss sale of local conservation land
Herald-Tribune - by Kate Spinner
January 10, 2012
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.
Regional water managers will hold a meeting tonight in Sarasota on their plan to potentially thousands of acres of public conservation land in Southwest Florida.
The meeting, one of several being held across the Southwest Florida Management District, begins at 6 p.m. at 6750 Fruitville Road.
In a state-mandated effort to cut costs, the district, which provides water supply and flood control to 4.7 million people from near Ocala to south of Punta Gorda, is planning to sell some of the public land it owns.
The water district owns 447,417 acres of conservation property, including 72,000 acres in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
Tonight's meeting will focus on land in the southern part of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Only properties solely owned by the district, a total of about 16,300 acres in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte, are up for consideration now.
Those properties include Prairie and Shell Creek in Charlotte; Frog Creek, Edward W. Chance Reserve, Little Manatee River Southfork Tract and Flatford Swamp in Manatee; and the Myakka River Schewe Tract in Sarasota.
Residents are invited to attend the two-hour meeting and make public statements.
Environmental advocates worry that politicians are pressuring the board to sell land that is important for wildlife and recreation. There is a "political drumbeat behind the scenes" from some politicians and state legislators who would like to do away with public ownership of conservation land in general, said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida.


Mouseover for location.


(US-DOI Secretary) at
the new Tamiami Trail
bridge construction
The bridge is a very
environmentally based project.
It will allow more water
flow into the water-
starved Everglades
National Park

Can a cleaner environment create jobs ?
CNNmoney - by Steve Hargreaves@CNNMoney
January 9, 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The tactic du jour for environmentalists trying to sell a skeptical public on tighter regulations is this: spin the thing as a job creator.
Last week a Maryland-based environmental group said efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay would actually create 240,000 jobs over the next several years, mainly by employing people to upgrade sewage systems.
In a recent report defending stricter mercury pollution limits on power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency said 8,000 more people would be needed to build and run the pollution control equipment than would be laid off as a result of older plants shutting down.
Economists that aren't aligned with either industry or activist groups say that, when it comes to creating or destroying jobs, environmental regulations come out somewhere near neutral -- adding costs to industry but producing benefits in public health or other areas.
But they say framing the argument just in terms of jobs is misleading, at least in times of economic expansion. This applies not only to environmental groups but also industry, like recent claims that the controversial Keystone pipeline expansion will create 20,000 jobs.
"That's monkey math," Trevor Houser, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "They assume that if the money isn't spent on that project, it will get burned in the street."
Keystone oil sands pipeline: Obama's hot potato
If the new sewage systems aren't built in towns neighboring the Chesapeake, the local governments would likely spend it on something else, creating just as many jobs. If they instead returned it to tax or ratepayers, those people would likely spend it on something else.
Same is true with the pipeline. If Keystone can't be built then another project would likely go forward. If no other projects are in the works, the company might book the cash as profits and return it to shareholders in the form of dividends, which could then be spent on Bentleys or burgers or whatever it is that shareholders buy.
The one exception to this, said Houser, is in times of recession or extremely slow economic activity. Then companies may just sit on the cash, like they are now.
There is one important difference between, say, a new pipeline and a project that seeks to clean the air or water.
The pipeline would create a new service -- in Keystone's case an extra 700,000 barrels of oil a day brought to the Gulf Coast.
The bay project or the air pollution rules don't offer anything new. No more sewage is being disposed of. No more electricity is being made. An existing service is simply being made pricier.
"Environmental regulations do make the cost of doing business more expensive," said Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody's Analytics specializing in energy issues. "If you want to make the air quality better or water quality better, that is not free."
Despite EPA's prediction that its new mercury rules will have a net effect of creating 8,000 more jobs, Lafakis said it's rare that additional regulations will result in more jobs than will be lost in regulating the industry.
But that's not where the calculations should end, he said. Cleaner air and water do benefit the economy.
Fewer people get sick, lessening the burden on the nation's health care system. Fewer people stay home from work. Cleaner water can often mean new jobs in other industries, like fishing. And the search itself for cleaner technologies can often translate into new products being discovered or processes invented that improve productivity in other sectors of the economy.
Does a healthy environment harm jobs ?
"There are tangible benefits to removing [pollution] from the environment, and they should not be minimized" said Lafakis.
Jim Glassman, a senior economist at J.P. Morgan, agreed.
"Imposing regulations doesn't lead to jobs, but jobs aren't why we do it," said Glassman. "There are benefits -- cleaner air, better health."
In fact, the EPA is required to do a cost benefit analysis that encompasses just such things before every new rule it proposed.
In the recent mercury ruling, EPA said it would cost just under $10 billion for power plants to install the necessary equipment but yield $30 to $90 billion in health benefits each year. That's not even counting the 11,000 lives each year EPA says the new rules will save.
Lafakis said there's constant bickering between environmentalists, regulators and industry about just what numbers EPA uses in its analysis, with environmentalists constantly saying the health benefit estimates are too low and industry arguing that their estimates for the compliance costs are also too low.
In general though, he said EPA's current studies are usually pretty accurate. Historically, he said both industry and the government have usually overestimated how much it costs to clean the environment.



DEP's focus: Regs, water, parks
Gainesville Sun - by Greg Strong, Director of the Department of Environmental Protection's Northeast District
January 9, 2012
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is charged with protecting Florida's precious natural resources — our water, land and air — for all of us. As the state's lead environmental agency, we are focusing on three priorities: ensuring a more efficient regulatory process that is interpreted consistently across the state, getting the water right in Florida, and giving Floridians and visitors more opportunities to enjoy Florida's award-winning state parks.
During these challenging times, it's easy to see that environmental protection and economic growth are complementary. Florida's beautiful natural resources are a big reason that people want to visit, live and do business in Florida.
First, we are fostering a culture of exceptional customer service and greater regulatory efficiency. This doesn't mean that we're relaxing our standards. Instead, we're taking a closer look at how we do things, to make sure our processes make sense for both the environment and for the citizens of our state.
The Northeast District is now offering targeted training, customized workshops and new online tools that make our processes more easily understood and our work more transparent.
DEP also is committed to getting the water right in Florida. The future of our state's environment and economy depend on the health of our water bodies. For the hundreds of businesses that thrive around the St. Johns River to the residents and visitors who enjoy fishing and boating, we understand that our waterways play a vital role in our way of life here in Northeast Florida.
That's why with the help of numerous local stakeholders and partners, DEP has developed and put in place a series of plans to substantially reduce the level of nutrients and bacteria in the Lower St. Johns River and its tributaries. Thanks to these partnerships, we are removing nearly 6 million pounds of nutrients per year from the river, and many of our area tributaries are already showing 50 percent less bacterial contamination.
These reductions are the direct result of important local projects. For example, Orange Park, Atlantic Beach, Clay County Utility Authority and JEA upgraded their wastewater treatment facilities to reduce nitrogen loads. The U.S. Navy, Green Cove Springs and the city of Palatka are implementing reuse projects that reduce both nitrogen and phosphorous. We have taken important steps to restore our river, and will continue to work with our stakeholders and our community to get the job done.
Finally, we want to give Floridians more opportunities to enjoy the best state park system in the country. Florida's state parks are more than just a source of fun and recreation, they also benefit our state's economy. Last year, more than 200 million visitors headed outdoors to enjoy Florida's natural resources at a state park, contributing nearly $1 billion to our local economies.
From Inverness to Fernandina and from Jacksonville to the Suwannee River, the DEP's Northeast District includes 34 parks with something to offer everyone. Special to this area are numerous freshwater springs, which are perfect for canoeing, kayaking or a picnic along the banks. At certain times of the year, you can even take on the challenge of Class III rapids.
The DEP is committed to ensuring a healthy environment, and we believe we can effectively protect our natural resources and help support the economy in the process. By focusing on our three priorities of regulatory efficiency and consistency, getting the water right, and getting Floridians outdoors to enjoy the amazing resources that we're working hard to protect, the DEP is ensuring that our environment is protected for future Floridians to live, work and play.


Environmental groups push Florida Legislature to make Everglades a priority
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 9, 2012
The Florida Legislature convenes Tuesday and a coalition of environmental groups wants state lawmakers to keep the Everglades and other environmental priorities at the top of their to-do list.
The Everglades Coalition over the weekend held its annual conference where the group unveiled its priorities for 2012.
Those priorities include: more funding for Everglades restoration, tougher anti-pollution water-quality standards to protect water supplies and buying more land for conservation and restoration.
The coalition also wants the state to follow through on plans to kick-start Everglades restoration projects aimed at storing and cleaning stormwater needed to replenish both the River of Grass and South Florida’s drinking water supply.
"Getting water flow right is enormously important," said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice which is part of the coalition. "And so is protecting the water quality in Lake Okeechobee and in the rivers, streams and canals that flow into the Everglades. That’s why we continue to fight for clear, enforceable clean water standards."
Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed state budget includes $15 million to buy land for conservation and $40 million for Everglades restoration, but that requires the approval of the Legislature.
The state in the past spent as much as $200 million a year on Everglades restoration.
More money for the Everglades could be a tough sell this year, when lawmakers face more potential budget shortfalls due to the struggling economy.
In addition to pushing for more Everglades funding, the environmental group 1000 Friends of Florida has raised concerns about proposed legislation that could lessen regulation of septic tanks, limit local regulations on polluting fertilizer and strip away more state growth management oversight.
1000 Friends of Florida also objects to a proposal to change regulations of treated wastewater, which the group contends could result in privatizing part of the state’s water supply.


Everglades Coalition

CLICK for details
on Everglades Coalition Conference, etc.

Everglades Coalition conference represents start of new phase of restoration, participants said
Naples Daily News - by Tyler Treadway
January 8, 2012
STUART — They didn't exactly all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya," but people who attended the 27th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition last week say the proceedings were unusually congenial and cooperative.
Several participants said the conference represented the start of a new phase of Everglades restoration, moving from planning and permitting to shovels in the ground on projects including the $400 million C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment project in western Martin County, and the first mile of bridges designed to raise the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County and allow more water into the Everglades.
Cooperation from state and federal governments was shown in a pledge by Gov. Rick Scott, who addressed the group Friday evening, to seek $40 million for Everglades restoration in this year's legislative session and the spending bill recently approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama that contains $142 million for restoring the Everglades and the Kissimmee River.
"It gives people hope," said Col. Alfred Pantano, head of the Army Corps of Engineers district that includes South Florida, "that even though ... every government agency has an extremely tight budget, things are still moving forward. We've got seven Everglades projects under way right now. People can see big, yellow pieces of equipment digging holes and moving dirt rather than just talking about it."
The conference at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina attracted about 300 representatives of government and nonprofit agencies dedicated to restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. Besides Scott and Pantano, big names from state and federal government included Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"In the past you'd see a lot of groups at odds with each other," George Jones of Port St. Lucie, the Indian Riverkeeper, said as the conference wound down Saturday afternoon. "This year, I've seen a lot of that easing up. It's just that sometimes people are so passionate about their beliefs that it gets a little personal."
Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, called it a case of "everyone wanting to do good, to do the right thing. We just have to try to figure out what that is, and then get it done."
Attending her 11th coalition conference, Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard said each year "has dynamics shifts. This is one of the more collaborative meetings. That's the mood."
Heard said representatives from federal agencies were particularly out in force this year, and being particularly cooperative.
"The federal leg of the stool seems to be all in," she said, "saying that the (Obama) administration is prioritizing restoration. And that's great, because that hasn't always been the case. The federal government has been a good partner (in restoration efforts), but not a great partner. Now they're making joyful noises that they're going to do more."
Julie Hill-Gabriel, state co-chairwoman of the coalition and director of Everglades policy for Audubon of Florida, agreed that participants were excited that "we're no longer just in the building-up-to stage, we're getting things in the ground. Now that we're actually implementing some of these plans, it makes it easier to recognize that we can be successful."
Hill-Gabriel said it was exciting to see the various groups represented at the conference "saying they're going to work together to get things done, to take the challenges of Everglades restoration head-on. I don't think it's ever been like this in the past. In the past there's always been this, well, tension. Is it really a 'Kumbaya' moment ?  C'mon. But there really has been a concerted effort to get face-to-face, eye-to-eye and work things out."


Global warming and water shortages
Blast - by E - The Environmental Magazine
January 8, 2012
Climate change promises to have a very big impact on water supplies in the United States as well as around the world. A recent study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group, and carried out by the consulting firm Tetra Tech found that one out of three counties across the contiguous U.S. should brace for water shortages by mid-century as a result of human induced climate change. The group found that 400 of these 1,100 or so counties will face “extremely high risks of water shortages.”
According to Tetra Tech’s analysis, parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas will be hardest hit by warming-related water shortages. The agriculturally focused Great Plains and arid Southwest are at highest risk of increasing water demand outstripping fast dwindling supplies.
While the mechanisms behind this predicted dwindling of water supplies is complex, key factors include: rising sea levels and encroaching ocean water absorbing lower elevation freshwater sources; rising surface temperatures causing faster evaporation of existing reservoirs; and increasing wildfires stripping terrestrial landscapes of their ability to retain water in soils.
Researchers have already begun to notice dwindling water supplies across the American West in recent years, given less accumulation of snow in the region’s mountains as temperatures rise. According to a 2008 study out of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography and published in the journal Science, Western snowpack has been melting earlier than it did in the past thanks to global warming, leading to markedly longer dry periods through the late spring and summer months in states already suffering from extended droughts. Given that the length and strength of these changes over the last 50 years cannot be explained by natural variations, researchers believe human induced climate change is the culprit.
The upshot of these changes is that Americans of every stripe need to curtail their water usage—from farmers irrigating their crops to homeowners watering their lawns to you and I taking shorter showers and turning off the tap while brushing our teeth. Even more important, water and resource policy managers need to conceive of new paradigms for the management of freshwater reserves to make the most of what we do have. And all of us need to work together to cut down on the emissions of greenhouse gases that have led to global warming in the first place.
Analysts also worry that warming-related water shortages could erupt into conflict, especially in parts of the world where one country or group controls water resources needed by others across national borders, such as the Middle East where already five percent of the world’s population relies on just one percent of the world’s fresh water. Parts of Africa, India and Asia are also at risk for water-related conflicts. American policymakers hope that the situation won’t get that dire in the U.S., but only time will tell.
CONTACTS: NRDC,; Tetra Tech,; Scripps Institute for Oceanography,


Reservoir fight: Cocoa would sell water to Orange — but for a profit
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
January 8, 2012
As tensions in Florida rise over the control of scarce water supplies, the Brevard County city of Cocoa, a heavy user of water pumped from rural Orange County, is offering to sell the increasingly precious resource to Orange County's utility — for a profit.
The proposed deal, rejected so far by Orange officials, is just one aspect of a tangled and protracted competition over rights to pump from a little-known lake in southeast Orange and northwest Osceola counties called Taylor Creek Reservoir.
For years, Cocoa and several local governments, as well as the owner of adjoining property, have struggled to come up with an agreement for sharing the reservoir's waters.
More than any other river or lake, Taylor Creek Reservoir is being counted on to make sure there is enough water for Central Florida's population growth.
"Orange County is still working on closing the gap between all the parties in doing a regional project," said Teresa Remudo-Fries, deputy director of Orange County Utilities, who said Cocoa's demand to profit from sales of Taylor Creek Reservoir water is one of many reasons Orange has not signed on. "The details on how the business deal is going to be done are still not presented."
For nearly a decade, the 10,000-acre lake has been the leading candidate as the cleanest and cheapest new source of water for Central Florida's population growth. Most of the region now relies on wells that tap the massive Floridan Aquifer, which authorities think is now being pumped so aggressively in some areas that interconnected springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands are being harmed.
But while Cocoa, Orange County, Orlando and other local governments want Taylor Creek Reservoir water, so does the owner of all the land surrounding the lake: Deseret Ranches.
The 450-square-mile Deseret Ranches is among the nation's largest producers of cattle and has been owned for almost 60 years by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church.
Last week, farming partners of Deseret Ranches began planting a potato crop on several hundred acres of ranchland that will be irrigated with water from Taylor Creek Reservoir.
With Cocoa already pumping millions of gallons from Taylor Creek Reservoir, ranch managers — anxious over outsiders' efforts to claim water within their boundaries — also are seeking to expand their rights to pump water from the lake to irrigate far larger crops of potatoes, beans, wheat and corn.
But who will get to tap Taylor Creek Reservoir for more water is hard to predict. Competition and conflict over access to the lake include:
•A lawsuit filed by the St. Johns River Water Management District to have a judge declare that the agency has the right to access the reservoir, which was built in the 1960s by the federal government as part of an ill-fated attempt turn the nearby St. Johns River into a massive drainage ditch.
•Pending applications, requiring costly and extensive preparation, filed with the St. Johns district by Orange County Utilities and Deseret Ranches for permits to pump from the lake.
•The city of Cocoa's efforts to position itself as the sole provider of reservoir waters to Central Florida.
With local supplies contaminated by salt water, Cocoa's utility has pumped water from an increasing number of wells on Deseret Ranches property in Orange County since the 1950s. Even those wells turned somewhat salty, so the city also began to pump from the reservoir in 1999.
Cocoa, Deseret Ranches and Orlando Utilities Commission recently agreed to form a partnership to withdraw all the remaining water available in Taylor Creek Reservoir, a quest that apparently would leave the thirstiest local government — Orange County — with nothing.
To do that, the partnership must first obtain a permit from the St. Johns water district, a move that could force the district into a politically perilous task of picking sides in the competition over the reservoir.
Under the agreement, Orlando utility officials appear willing to pay Cocoa a profit for water it would provide. They did not return calls for comment.
Cocoa officials would not discuss the aspects of Taylor Creek Reservoir proposal that Orange rejected as incomplete or unacceptable.
However, Cocoa lawyer Anthony Garganese emphasized that Orange is still welcome to join the partnership.
"The memorandum of agreement between OUC and Cocoa and [Deseret] does contemplate additional parties in this regional endeavor," he said.


CLICK map for Climate Change, sea rise -

sea rise

Sea rise is affecting
fresh water supplies,
beaches, roads,
tourism, ecology - -

South Florida prepares for rising seas
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
January 8, 2012
Action plan calls for protecting roads, wells and property.
Sea levels in South Florida could rise by one foot by 2040-2070 and two feet from 2060 to 2115, according to an analysis prepared by the scientific staff of the four counties, using federal, state and academic studies.
Palm Beach County Commission Chairwoman Shelley Vana said the draft Regional Climate Action Plan is an attempt to adapt early, allowing the region to armor itself against a more watery world as smartly and cheaply as possible.
"The bottom line is we need to have responsible planning in place to deal with whatever the future will be," she said. "We don't want to go out on a limb and panic, but we have to be responsible. It will have a much smaller impact on the way people live and what they have to pay to live that way than if we did nothing."
The plan calls for the designation of areas of particularly high vulnerability, called Adaptation Action Areas, which would have stricter building codes that would discourage development in the most vulnerable places, more spending on drainage systems and other infrastructure to protect property, and the acquisition of land for use as buffers.
It would attempt to reduce the region's emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by encouraging more walkable development, improving public transportation and promoting the use of renewable energy. It calls for assessing underground sources of drinking water for vulnerability to contamination from encroaching salt water, protecting them where possible and replacing those that can't be protected.
There would be new design standards for roads and bridges in low-lying areas, and vulnerable areas would be assessed to see whether roads should be rerouted. Existing roads could be modified to make sure they're high enough and have adequate drainage. This could be done in the course of road improvements that take place anyway in areas with poor drainage, except that under the plan roads would be modified for anticipated sea levels rather than just for current drainage difficulties.
"We need to make sure our transportation corridors are functional in future conditions," said Jennifer Jurado, Broward County's water resources director. "We would modify it to provide not only for today's circumstances, but tomorrow's as well."
The public has until Feb. 10 to comment on the plan, which can be seen in full at Comments may be submitted to
After that, the plan staff will incorporate public input, prepare a document setting out how recommendations will be implemented and bring the final plan to the four county commissions for approval.
Jon Van Arnam, assistant county administrator of Palm Beach County, who is on the plan's steering committee, said an analysis of the costs will take place over the next few months. He said there was "no question" that elements of the plan would require "significant public investment" and cooperation by all levels of government.
In Broward County, a one-foot rise would affect property with a current taxable value of $403 million to $828 million. In Palm Beach County, which is generally at higher elevation, properties valued at $396 million to $557 million would be vulnerable.
The climate-driven rise in sea levels has taken place primarily because water expands at it warms, although melting glaciers are expected to contribute more to the increase in coming decades. In the past century, sea levels have risen 4.9 to 8.8 inches, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The vast majority of climate researchers have concluded that global warming is taking place and is caused by human activities. Among the organizations endorsing this view are the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and World Meteorological Organization.
But among the general public there remains considerable skepticism, and this has generated opposition to efforts elsewhere in the United States to develop local plans for rising sea levels. In Virginia, for example, The Washington Post reports that a plan to rezone land for a coastal dike against sea-level rise generated harsh opposition from local residents who said climate change was a hoax being used by the United Nations to seize land and redistribute wealth.
Tony Coulter, a member of South Florida Tea Party, said there's a lot of skepticism about climate change among the group's members but said the issue is not high on their agenda, which focuses on shrinking government, protecting Constitutional rights and lowering taxes.
"A lot of us think it's bogus science," he said. "I personally do. Global warming is a natural cycle of the earth. But I'm all about being prepared. Let's monitor this. Let's gauge what's happening."


A healthy St. Johns River is an essential asset
Florida Times Union - by Ron Littlepage
January 7, 2012
Redistricting. Budget deficits. Education funding. Casino gambling.
Ready or not, here they — and a host of other issues — come as the Legislature kicks off its annual session on Tuesday.
As you know, the start is earlier than usual this year because of the once-a-decade exercise of redrawing lines for House, Senate and congressional districts.
Although the process appears to have proceeded smoothly so far, that could change as the reality of incumbents being drawn out of their districts or having to face off against another incumbent comes into focus.
One certainty is that the lines will be redrawn. In all likelihood, they will be challenged in court. And because of redistricting, every Senate seat will be on the ballot in the fall.
After redistricting, filling the gap in the state budget — as of now standing between $1.2 billion and $2 billion — will consume much of the session.
Republican leaders are dead set against any new taxes or fees and have drawn a line that if any new revenue comes in — such as collecting sales taxes on online purchases — it will have to be offset by cuts elsewhere.
Since Gov. Rick Scott is proposing a $1 billion increase in spending on public education, there will have to be cuts elsewhere if the Legislature goes along.
Some senators, including John Thrasher, are considering delaying a vote on the budget until the summer when there will be a better idea of how much revenue the state can hope to collect.
With the economy showing signs of improvement, a delay could mean fewer cuts would have to be made.
The latest version of the casino bill would allow three destination casinos. Local voters would have to approve, and the sites wouldn’t be limited to Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The bill also would clamp down on Internet cafes and new parimutuel betting operations. The latest version also would allow slot machines at dog tracks.
Any casino bill could have difficulty getting out of the Senate’s Rules Committee, which is chaired by Thrasher. He’s not keen on any more gambling in the state.
Scott is asking the Legislature to set aside $40 million for restoration of the Everglades, which is drawing cheers from environmental groups in South Florida.
Now if Scott only would start paying attention to another natural resource critical to the state’s economy and quality of life — the St. Johns River.
Last year, Scott vetoed $10 million that the Legislature had approved for work in the river’s lower basin.
During a meeting of the Everglades Coalition in Stuart last week, Scott said the state’s $60 billion tourism industry and $62 billion agricultural industry both depend on clean water.
“The Everglades are a national treasure and a job creator,” Scott said, according to “They really are worth every penny we spend.”
If Scott would actually spend some time on the St. Johns, which he has yet to do, he would know that the river, which stretches 310 miles through Florida, is just as important.


Everglades Coalition

CLICK for details
on Everglades Coalition Conference, etc.

Coalition partners seek to streamline Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post - byChristine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 6, 2012
STUART — The "rock stars" of Everglades restoration managed to discuss new plans to revive the River of Grass this morning without mentioning the effort's most controversial and litigated topics: Phosphorus, source controls and storm water treatment areas.
Instead, speakers at the Everglades Coalition's annual conference discussed, "streamlining," "process reform" and "adaptive management."
"We keep chasing a perfect solution and there is no perfect solution," said Stu Applebaum, chief of policy and planning at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - a partner in restoration efforts. "Again, we are not trying to go speedily for the sake of getting it done quicker and bypass stakeholder involvement. What we're trying to do is cut down on bureaucracy."
The morning panel included Hershel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Shannon Estenoz, director of Everglades restoration initiatives at the U.S. Department of Interior, and Terrence "Rock" Salt, deputy assistant secretary of the Corps, who has been involved in restoration efforts for many years.
The conference is the first opportunity the top players in the decades-old restoration effort have publically discussed the recent, unprecedented collaboration between state, federal and environmental groups prompted when Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his own restoration plan in October.
Marred by years of tension, skepticism and costly litigation, stakeholders are warily encouraged by the new partnership. But rather than focus on their differences, the speakers honed in on one of the top hurdles - endless years of research and planning.
"We plan like we have all the time in the world and we don't," Estenoz said. "An exhaustively planned cure administered to a dead patient is not a cure."
Estenoz, an engineer and former member of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board, singled out "modeling" - the science of studying various scenarios in a controlled environment - as a practice that should be scaled back.
"When you're primary planning tool is a computer, running it 100 times does not inject more certainly than running it three times," Estenoz said, recalling a conversation she once had with a scientist. "If fact it can give you a false sense of precision."
As for what works, Meeker said research has shown that controlling the flow of water to the Everglades is crucial to cleaning the water.
"When we study these systems in the lab we have control," Meeker said, encouraging efforts to build water storage projects to help control water flows. "Mother nature does not give us control."



U.S. Sen. Bill NELSON

Nelson promising legislation to speed up Everglades restoration
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
January 7, 2012
STUART — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked the members of the Everglades Coalition to "imagine what Florida looked like" when the first Spanish explorers saw it: pristine beaches, verdant forests and water flowing from the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee and south through the "River of Grass" into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Why we're here today," the Florida Democrat told the coalition, "is that we want to preserve what the good Lord has given us, and what those early explorers saw, ... so that our children can inherit these natural wonders."
Speaking at a luncheon Saturday during the 27th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition, a group dedicated to restoring the Everglades ecosystem, Nelson also said he's "developing legislation to speed up the restoration process, to eliminate the hurdles projects are now facing. The need and the benefits are so great that restoration can't wait for permission at each step along the way."
The statement drew applause from the audience. Afterward Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, said, "That's huge. To cut through all that red tape would be fantastic."
Nelson gave a history lesson to the more than 200 representatives of local, state and national conservation organizations. (He also gave a detailed description of how a python kills, eats and digests its prey to the just-finished diners.)
"Modern engineering has fundamentally altered our state's natural plumbing," Nelson said, noting that the meandering Kissimmee River was straightened into a ditch, and a dike was built around Lake Okeechobee "first for flood protection and then for agriculture. But as a result, a habitat was lost; and the Everglades were shrunk to one fifth its original size."
When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved in 2000, Nelson said, "it was the first large-scale ecosystem restoration plan of its kind."
Nelson said that after a too-long first phase of designing projects, getting them approved and appropriating money for them, construction is under way several projects, including the first mile of the project to raise the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County to allow increased water flow into the Everglades. Ultimately, the project calls for 5.5 miles of bridges at an estimated cost of $324 million.
Nelson also could have mentioned that work has begun on the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment project in western Martin County, a roughly $400 million component of the $2.13 billion Indian River Lagoon South Project designed to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades.


Water conservation essential, Everglades restoration overseer says
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 7, 2012
STUART — After three days of serious discussions about the science, politics and litigation of cleaning, moving and storing water needed to restore the River of Grass, the Everglades Coalition's annual conference ended with lively debate on water conservation.
"If you sit there and brush your teeth with the water on, shame on you," said Col. Alfred Pantano, district commander of the Army Corps of Engineers. Pantano, the Corp's no-nonsense, shaved-head overseer of Everglades restoration, jokingly chided women in the audience with long hair about the amount of water they use to shampoo and rinse their hair.
"I do believe as Americans we got to get real about conservation," Pantano said. "If you water your lawn every day, shame on you. You're a hypocrite."
Pantano's comments came amid a panel discussion about managing Lake Okeechobee's water: "Who gets what, when and how much?" The Corps is responsible for the lake's level, which dropped so low during last year's drought that gravity could not pull the water south to the Everglades or through the canal that provides West Palm Beach with its drinking water.
Competing interests for what little water was left in the lake heightened tensions among agriculture and environmentalists, perennially at odds over the lake's water quality and supply. Echoing Pantano's warnings, Maryann Martin, owner of Roland and Maryann Martin's Marina and Resort in Clewiston, offered her own gritty opinion.
"There's going to come a day when you turn on the tap and nothing comes out," Martin said. "We are spoiled rotten - rotten fat people."
Lake Okeechobee is considered the heart of the Everglades. Water flowing from as far north as Orlando feeds the massive lake, which, in turn feeds man-made canals at the south end of the lake. Those canals supply water - polluted by runoff from farms and urban areas - to the region's billion dollar agriculture industry and the Everglades.
When asked to identify the biggest hurdles facing the lake, Pantano turned his back to the audience and faced the panelists, which included representatives from environmental groups and agriculture.
"I think your greatest challenge is your relationships," Pantano said. "I think you get too consumed in fighting your battles. You gotta win the war here. You all are gonna have to figure out how to get along, children."
That theme permeated the conference, which brought together an unprecedented contingent of environmental officials from Washington, including Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; state leaders, including Gov. Rick Scott; and environmental groups.
"It's not that we don't have enough water, it's that we waste it," said Paul Gray, the Lake Okeechobee science coordinator for Audubon of Florida. Billions of gallons of storm water is flushed to the ocean every year because there is no storage. "The biggest barrier is we are boneheads."


At conference in Stuart, EPA chief calls for cooperation but stringent guidelines for Everglades restoration - by Tyler Treadway
January 6, 2012
 STUART — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pledged Friday to work with Florida officials to make sure clean water, and plenty of it, flows into the Everglades.
But EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also told about 200 environmentalists at the 27th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition that any state-backed water quality plan for the Everglades has to meet criteria called for by her agency and the federal courts.
"We want to agree on a set of remedies and an enforceable framework with time frames that all parties can support as soon as possible," Jackson said, adding that any plan "must also reflect the urgency all of you (the Everglades Coalition members) have put into restoring the Everglades ecosystem."
Jackson said in response to a 2010 order by U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold, the EPA submitted "a strong blueprint for action" based on thorough analysis and outlining specific steps and time lines "to clean up the waters that protect and sustain the Everglades."
To reduce the flow of phosphorus into the Everglades, the plan called for an extra 42,000 acres of water treatment areas, Jackson said, prompting a round of applause from the assembled environmentalists.
Noting that Florida officials offered a proposal for meeting water quality standards in the Everglades in October, Jackson said, "We are reviewing that plan on a fast track. It contains critical differences from the (EPA's proposal) and we do have concerns that it may not be as effective in facilitating the water quality improvements this ecosystem needs."
After the speech, Mark Perry, executive director of the Stuart-based Florida Oceanographic Society, said he was "glad to hear that (Jackson) is going to be strong on that (making sure the state plan meets water-quality criteria ordered by the court). I think she said that loud and clear."
Perry, a former co-chairman of the Everglades Coalition, called Jackson "strong and confident, and she knows the right thing to do. Plus, I'm glad she comes from a coastal area, so she knows our issues."
A native of the New Orleans area, Jackson told coalition members she understands "the importance of the local wetlands and waters, and the deep need to preserve and protect such an important ecosystem."
Jackson admitted she's a newcomer to Everglades-specific issues, having been confirmed to head the EPA in January 2009. But thanks to a helicopter tour of the "River of Grass" on Friday morning, she said she "can see clearly why this is such a unique and important ecosystem, and why it is that all of you are so dedicated to its restoration and protection."
The fundamentals of Everglades restoration, Jackson said, are "improving water quality and increasing water flows to the ecosystem. Without greater amounts of water reaching the right places at the right times, coupled with reductions in pollutants and the achievement of water quality standards, we won't be able to restore the diversity that is essential to the Everglades ecosystem."
Jackson said the federal and state governments have "made strides" in improving both water quality and quantity, and the Obama administration is "now redoubling our efforts. ... We have important work to do, and plenty of it."


EPA administrator fires back against GOP attacks
Associated Press, Bradenton Herald - by Matt Sedensky
January 6, 2012
The nation's top environmental official fired back Friday against Republican presidential candidates' relentless criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency, saying those who call for its demise don't understand the work it does.
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, appearing at the annual Everglades Coalition conference, said her agency keeps the country's air and water clean and it doesn't make sense that it has been so maligned by GOP presidential candidates.
"If you want to get rid of the EPA you don't understand what the EPA does," she told The Associated Press.     
Jackson said the Clean Air Act has saved "literally hundreds of thousands of lives" and that the economic impact of the legislation was in the billions.
"Optimistically, I would say that I hope that folks understand the importance," she said, "and not take the environmental cop off the beat."
EPA has become a dirty word in the Republican contest, with candidates calling for severe curtailing of its powers.
Texas congressman Ron Paul has called for the EPA's elimination, while other candidates have both vilified the agency and called for massive changes to it. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has pledged to end the EPA's "regulatory reign of terror" and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said it's "out of control." Texas Gov. Rick Perry proposed repealing the agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases and said programs to restrict carbon dioxide emissions should be eliminated. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has railed against the EPA's limits on mercury from coal-fired power plants. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has called for overhauling the EPA, saying it should be converted to an "environmental solutions agency."



EPA Chief and other Obama Administration Officials to Discuss Progress and Plans for Everglades Restoration at Everglades Coalition Conference in Stuart, FL
EPA News Release
January 6, 2012
Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421,
ATLANTA, GA – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will give keynote remarks at the 27th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference. During the conference, she and other government officials will discuss plans for continuing historic progress in Everglades restoration. Business leaders, elected officials and environmentalists will gather to discuss opportunities and challenges for restoring the Everglades’ unique ecosystem.
Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, DOI
Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA
What: 27th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference
When: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 12:30 PM (EST)
Where: Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina
555 NE Ocean BoulevardStuart, Florida 34996 USA
The Everglades Coalition Conference is the largest annual forum for Everglades conservation and restoration, bringing together the Coalition’s 54 allied organizations with local, state and federal partners. This year’s conference theme is Everglades Restoration: Worth Every Penny. Building on recent successes, panelists and attendees will discuss strategies for advancing Everglades restoration through strengthened and new partnerships.
For additional information, please visit:


Gov. Scott Dedicated To Restoring Everglades – Associated Press
January 6, 2012
Governor Speaks At Annual Conference
‎            Environmental advocates praise Gov. Rick Scott's commitment to ...
‎            Gov. Rick Scott pledges support at Everglades Coalition meeting
‎            Scott 'optimistic' on resolving Glades disputes
‎            Scott says Everglades projects 'worth every penny'
‎            Scott says Everglades restoration efforts 'worth every penny ...
‎            Scott tells environmentalists he's 'committed' to Everglades ...
‎            The Everglades: It's all business
‎ STUART, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott said spending money to restore the Everglades is "worth every penny."
Scott spoke at the opening session of the Everglades Coalition's annual conference in Stuart on Thursday night.
He said he's committed to getting the River of Grass restored, adding that he's optimistic the legislature will approve his budget request for Everglades projects.


Gov. Scott's multi-million dollar Everglades promise
January 05, 2012
STUART, Fla. -- Governor Rick Scott is in Stuart, a keynote speaker talking about Everglades restoration. But it's more than just words. His local visit comes just weeks after promising to double the amount of money to help some of the most important Glades projects on hold.
"People depend on us doing these restorations and making sure we have clean water. We have millions of people who rely on what we're doing here. So it's very important to us," said Gov. Scott.
A new, more expensive commitment coming from Gov. Scott when it comes to Everglades restoration. In the 2012 state budget Scott calls for $40-million for important projects

to protect the Glades and the communities relying on the resources that come from the region. That's up more than $20-million from what he proposed in the 2011 budget.
On his way into Everglades Coalition's 27th annual conference at the Hutchinson Island Marriott, Gov. Scott explains his change of heart.
"Last year I walked in to a $4-billion budget deficit. A state that had stopped growing. We were losing job. Now we are in a much better position, still not where we want to be," said Gov. Scott.
But some environmental groups want more, saying that protection of this state treasure is money well spent.
"It's not as high as we used to have in years before and in prior administrations. But we understand everyone is facing economic challenges," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades Coalition.
Many of the Glades projects get bipartisan support, but the cash that used to flow through the state is just hasn't returned yet. That's why the governor says it would be impossible to return to pre-recession restoration spending.
"I think all of us would like to allocate more dollars. Unfortunately i'm walking into a $1.7-billion deflect," said Gov. Scott.
This conference runs all weekend long in Stuart. The state Legislature will have to sign-off on the governor's budget and the spending in the Glades.

Carl HIAASEN, Author

Hiaasen entertains, motivates on protecting 'Glades – by Christin Erazo
January 6, 2012
HUTCHINSON ISLAND — Best-selling author and newspaper columnist Carl Hiaasen kept audiences in stitches Friday night with his satirical view on politicians' involvement with the Everglades and the plight of environmentalists to restore and protect the ecosystem.
Along with his usual comedic commentary, Hiaasen also solemnly emphasized the importance of educating future generations on the environment.
He served as keynote speaker to a crowd of about 250 people at the Everglades Coalition's 27th annual conference dinner at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina. The Coalition is made up of more than 50 government, science and non-profit agencies involved with restoring the entire Everglades ecosystem from the Kissimmee River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hiaasen, a Vero Beach resident and long-time Floridian, has made a name for himself by poking fun at politicians and did not hold back from sticking it to the previous night's speaker, Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott garnered applause from the Coalition Thursday after announcing he budgeted $40 million for Everglades restoration this year, $23 million more than in 2011.
Hiaasen said he'd wait to see the results.
The Miami Herald columnist noted how Scott and other politicians have now realized the economic and social importance of addressing the Everglades and other ecosystems.
"In 1976, the Everglades was not a political issue in this state," Hiaasen said. "It was somewhere you took (out of state) relatives to see Seminole Indians wrestle alligators. It was not on the front burner and that's a whole different issue now. He has discovered people are extremely passionate about the Everglades."
Amid eruptions of laughter from the audience, Hiaasen joked about how some politicians stage photo-ops to act like they care about the Everglades. But he spoke seriously on the importance of environmentalists standing up to politicians who are too quick to sell out to oil companies and other large corporations at the risk of threatening the environment.
"The thing that drew all of us here was the natural beauty of the place," he said. "You can't sell it out and turn your back on it."
Hiaasen, who has become well-known for his "ripped from the headlines" racy novels, has most recently ventured into children's novels. He touches upon the beauty of the environment and the importance of protecting it; a message he said has had a visceral reaction in children.
The 3-day conference ends Saturday with speakers U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. and Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard and Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
He said he answers hundreds of letters from children from all over the country and encourages each of them to continue to stand up to protect their natural surroundings.
A message which resonated with conference attendee and West Palm Beach resident Nancy Marshall.
"Getting kids connected to nature is the key," she said. "It's about being a steward of the environment."


Leave Scott no wiggle room
Palm Beach Post – by Randy Schultz for the Editorial Board
January 6, 2012
Florida will learn soon whether the Environmental Protection Agency wants to make the state fulfill its promise to clean up the Everglades.
In an interview Thursday with The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency will issue in six to eight weeks its first evaluation of Gov. Scott's proposed alternative plan for cleaning water that moves from state farmland to federal land: Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. In 1994, after a federal lawsuit against the state, Florida passed the Everglades Forever Act, the plan to make water clean enough to not harm wildlife.
The governor made his proposal, though, after drastically cutting the budget for the South Florida Water Management District - the agency that must carry out the Everglades Forever Act. Getting to the accepted anti-pollution standard could mean asking more of sugar growers. For now, though, Gov. Scott seems to be hoping that the EPA will buy his argument that the state can clean water using less land.
That strikes us as a reach. The EPA should not let the governor reach too far.


South Florida prepares for rising seas
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
January 06, 2012|,
Action plan calls for protecting roads, wells and property.
A battle plan for an anticipated assault by seawater has been drafted by four South Florida counties, attempting to protect one of the nation's most vulnerable regions from the impact of climate change.
The proposal by Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties calls for 108 actions to deal with rising sea levels and other consequences of global warming.
Among the steps: Redesigning low-lying roads to keep them above water, restricting development in vulnerable areas and relocating drinking-water wells inland to protect them from contamination by salt water. The plan contains no cost estimates.
Sea levels in South Florida could rise by one foot by 2040-2070 and two feet from 2060 to 2115, according to an analysis prepared by the scientific staff of the four counties, using federal, state and academic studies.
Palm Beach County Commission Chairwoman Shelley Vana said the draft Regional Climate Action Plan is an attempt to adapt early, allowing the region to armor itself against a more watery world as smartly and cheaply as possible.
"The bottom line is we need to have responsible planning in place to deal with whatever the future will be," she said. "We don't want to go out on a limb and panic, but we have to be responsible. It will have a much smaller impact on the way people live and what they have to pay to live that way than if we did nothing."
The plan calls for the designation of areas of particularly high vulnerability, called Adaptation Action Areas, which would have stricter building codes that would discourage development in the most vulnerable places, more spending on drainage systems and other infrastructure to protect property, and the acquisition of land for use as buffers.
It would attempt to reduce the region's emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by encouraging more walkable development, improving public transportation and promoting the use of renewable energy. It calls for assessing underground sources of drinking water for vulnerability to contamination from encroaching salt water, protecting them where possible and replacing those that can't be protected.
There would be new design standards for roads and bridges in low-lying areas, and vulnerable areas would be assessed to see whether roads should be rerouted. Existing roads could be modified to make sure they're high enough and have adequate drainage. This could be done in the course of road improvements that take place anyway in areas with poor drainage, except that under the plan roads would be modified for anticipated sea levels rather than just for current drainage difficulties.
"We need to make sure our transportation corridors are functional in future conditions," said Jennifer Jurado, Broward County's water resources director. "We would modify it to provide not only for today's circumstances, but tomorrow's as well."
The public has until Feb. 10 to comment on the plan, which can be seen in full at Comments may be submitted to
After that, the plan staff will incorporate public input, prepare a document setting out how recommendations will be implemented and bring the final plan to the four county commissions for approval.
Jon Van Arnam, assistant county administrator of Palm Beach County, who is on the plan's steering committee, said an analysis of the costs will take place over the next few months. He said there was "no question" that elements of the plan would require "significant public investment" and cooperation by all levels of government.
In Broward County, a one-foot rise would affect property with a current taxable value of $403 million to $828 million. In Palm Beach County, which is generally at higher elevation, properties valued at $396 million to $557 million would be vulnerable.
The climate-driven rise in sea levels has taken place primarily because water expands at it warms, although melting glaciers are expected to contribute more to the increase in coming decades. In the past century, sea levels have risen 4.9 to 8.8 inches, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The vast majority of climate researchers have concluded that global warming is taking place and is caused by human activities. Among the organizations endorsing this view are the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and World Meteorological Organization.
But among the general public there remains considerable skepticism, and this has generated opposition to efforts elsewhere in the United States to develop local plans for rising sea levels. In Virginia, for example, The Washington Post reports that a plan to rezone land for a coastal dike against sea-level rise generated harsh opposition from local residents who said climate change was a hoax being used by the United Nations to seize land and redistribute wealth.
Tony Coulter, a member of South Florida Tea Party, said there's a lot of skepticism about climate change among the group's members but said the issue is not high on their agenda, which focuses on shrinking government, protecting Constitutional rights and lowering taxes.
"A lot of us think it's bogus science," he said. "I personally do. Global warming is a natural cycle of the earth. But I'm all about being prepared. Let's monitor this. Let's gauge what's happening."


Which wetlands to save ? All of them
Palm Beach Post - by Sally Swartz
January 6, 2012
If God hadn’t liked wetlands, former Martin County commissioner Maggy Hurchalla told more than 50 residents at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen Beach Tuesday evening, “He wouldn’t have made so many of them.”
And all of them, even the little ones developers want to destroy because they’re not perfect, not pristine or considered non-functional, are worth saving. “They are invaluable in the Florida landscape,” she said. “They are the key to making natural systems work.”
Ms. Hurchalla, speaking at the Native Plant Society’s first 2012 meeting, gave a quick lesson on wetlands and Everglades restoration issues a few days before this weekend’s Everglades Coalition Conference.
Gov. Rick Scott, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and a stellar cast of state and federal officials involved with Everglades restoration attended the Conference. The event runs through Sunday at the Hutchinson Island Marriott.
Ms. Hurchalla’s talk on wetlands and why Everglades restoration is critical for a healthy Indian River Lagoon was a fitting start to the long weekend conference.
Martin is one of a few counties in Florida that protects wetlands. The Indian River Lagoon portion of Everglades restoration is unusual because it includes returning large pasture areas to a natural state, by filling in ditches and removing man-made drainage.
“Man-made plumbing still will have to be used,” she said, “but the Indian River Lagoon plan has this addition.”
Ms. Hurchalla was involved in crafting Martin wetlands protections, and she also helped create the Indian River Lagoon plan, which calls for buying land to restore in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
“Florida buys the land,” she said, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds the projects. “If you want to save the Everglades, you have to buy the land in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Harmony Ranch and Hobe Grove, two proposed controversial developments that would create a city larger than Stuart west of Hobe Sound, also came up for discussion. Harmony’s land, Ms. Hurchalla said, was supposed to be part of the natural area purchased for Everglades restoration. Hobe Grove is at the headwaters of the Loxahatchee, Florida’s only federally-designated wild and scenic river.
Protecting Martin’s wetlands helps keep the water table high, helps stop salt water from intruding on water wells, provides protection from wildfires and saves the estuaries from damaging runoff. Even small, isolated wetlands or “ephemeral ponds” help clean water.
What about mitigation, allowing a developer to build a new wetland to replace one destroyed to make way for a condo or other development?
“The developer can offer to give you something better,” she said, “but if he decides not to, you can’t make him. Half the projects never get done. Or they don’t work.”
Restoring pasture lands to create large wet prairies helps deal with excess water in a more natural way than man-made reservoirs, she said. The prairies allow shallow water to warm and quickly evaporate; reservoirs are deep and cold. “These self-sustaining natural systems are better than anything man-made we can build.”
Plus, “wet prairies are beautiful,” she said. Drive along State Road 711 at different times of the year to see wildflowers and wildlife. In the spring, watch for wild birds feeding in ponds that have dried down over the winter months, concentrating all the fish and other food into a small space.
That’s the cool thing about Martin environmental talks. They often lead residents outdoors to experience the natural world for themselves, far from a crowded classroom on a cold night. The Everglades conference is no exception; it includes a beach walk and a boat trip.
Sally Swartz is a former member of The Post Editorial Board. Her e-mail address is



EPA proposes delaying Florida water-quality standards
American Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 05, 2012
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed delaying the implementation of a set of Florida-specific water quality standards for 90 days, allowing for the approval of a set of replacement rules drafted by the state.
Though the rules were mandated following a lawsuit brought by environmental firm Earthjustice on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, the EPA has allowed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop and implement its own set of rules.
The environmental groups that initially sued to force the implementation of a more stringent set of water rules (on the grounds that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act) recently filed a legal challenge to block the state version of the rules. Environmentalists say the state’s regulations are poor, and only acknowledges pollution after it has degraded waterbodies.
In a statement released shortly after the state Environmental Regulation Commission unanimously approved the state’s rules, Earthjustice attorney David Guest said the rule “was basically written by lobbyists for corporate polluters” and won’t clean up state waterways “by any stretch of the imagination.”
Department of Environmental Protection representatives have defended their rules, arguing they aren’t much different from the federal version. “Essentially, if you look at the numbers in EPA’s rule and the numbers in DEP’s rule, they are the same,” said Drew Bartlett, the director of the state’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, in a recent interview with The Florida Independent.
Bartlett also says that the state’s rules contain “a lot of checks and balances,” and argues that they are “absolutely more comprehensive” than those drawn up by the EPA.
In an interview with the Florida Current, Earthjustice attorney Guest said his group hasn’t yet taken a position on the EPA’s proposal to delay the standards. ”The question is — is this a breach of the settlement agreement?” Guest said, according to the Current. “We haven’t decided.”


survival fight

Saltwater May Not Deter Florida’s Pythons
New York Times - by Felicity Barringer
January 5, 2012
The python, a staple creature in the tales of Rudyard Kipling’s India, is poised to move to Ernest Hemingway’s Florida Keys, and a new study by scientists at the United States Geological Survey indicates that it may happen sooner than later.
On Christmas Day, a Dade County family called the local rescue service after discovering a 13-foot python in their swimming pool, The Miami Herald reported. In Everglades National Park, 600 pythons have been picked up in the last decade; the total population is estimated to be more than a thousand.
The original snakes are assumed to be onetime exotic pets whose owners decided that they had bought more pet than they really wanted after all; the National Park Service’s Web site indicates that 112,000 Burmese pythons have been imported since 1990. Their ability to flourish in the River of Grass, as the Everglades is known, comes as no surprise. What is surprising is their potential for surviving the salinity levels of estuaries and even the ocean.
Working with python hatchlings that were more than seven months old, the new study, done entirely in the laboratory, found that salinity levels had a major impact in decreasing their survival rate. Nonetheless, “Hatchling pythons exposed to full-marine salinity did not die immediately,” the study’s abstract reported.
The implications of the study, which was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, is that the water-loving snakes will not be confined to the freshwater environments of South Florida but may survive a trip through ocean waters to the Florida Keys.
“Because reptiles, in general, have poor salinity tolerance, it was hoped that saltwater would naturally hinder pythons’ ability to expand their range beyond the Everglades,” Kristen Hart, a research ecologist and the study’s lead author, was quoted as saying in an agency press release. “Unfortunately, our results suggest saltwater alone cannot act as a reliable barrier to the Everglades python population.”
Hatchlings survived about one month at the highest level of marine salinity and about five months in brackish water, the authors wrote in the abstract summarizing the study. They added that their data might underestimate the ability of hatchling pythons to survive in saline habitats in the wild.
In an interview, Dr. Hart said she and her colleagues were also studying the movements of adult snakes, 31 of which have been fitted with radio transmitters. The group has received reports of python sightings well to the west, near Naples.
Scientists have not yet evaluated the possibility that a hatchling could catch a ride on floating debris and reach the Keys, she said. Still, “this study shows we need to consider the sea and saltwater pathways as important pathways that can get them to other places,” Dr. Hart suggested.
The snakes (actually cousins of Indian pythons like Kaa, Mowgli’s benefactor in Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”) are capable of swallowing their prey whole. In October, Everglades Park personnel captured and killed a snake that had just ingested a 76-pound doe. Its girth at the time of capture was nearly four feet.
Their standard diet, however, is “small mammals, medium-size mammals — and certainly birds are vulnerable,” Dr. Hart said. She also cited “sensitive critters” like Key Largo wood rats.


Scott's helpful new spirit on Everglades
January 5, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott is beginning his second year in office with a markedly different and more helpful tone on Everglades restoration. The governor will speak tonight at the annual conference of the Everglades Coalition, by far the most high-profile event for the multitude of groups promoting the cleanup of Florida's River of Grass. Scott's appearance sends the right message in advance of the 2012 legislative session about the importance of a healthy Everglades in the state's economy and quality of life.
The coalition has presented the conference since 1986, and it has long been a place for activists, policymakers and elected officials to network and showcase their environmental credentials. Scott's participation marks a turnaround from last year, when he broke a tradition reaching back a quarter-century of a new governor speaking at the conference as one of his first major public events.
For Scott, the speech marks an opportunity to build support for the $40 million he has proposed for Everglades restoration next year. That amount is more than double what he proposed in his first budget and $10 million more than what the Legislature ultimately approved for 2011. It is critical that Florida step up even in these tough economic times to maintain the cost-sharing with Washington for the cleanup effort. Congress' authorization for $142 million next year clears the way for essential restoration of the headwaters into South Florida and the freshwater flow through the Everglades basin.
Scott's appearance is also an opportunity for representatives of the 54 local, state and national conservation organizations to have a first-hand exchange with the governor over his proposal to modify an Everglades pollution cleanup plan. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed concern in November that Scott's plan called for "significantly smaller" cleanup marshes and that it would delay water cleanup another two years. Those are serious concerns that will need to be addressed.
Whether Scott's participation heralds a greater sensitivity to environmental issues overall remains to be seen. But he has been educated in the past year about the economic impact of restoring a basin that provides drinking water to one of every three Floridians — along with an ecosystem that supports tourism, growth, flood control and tens of thousands of jobs. The governor intends to follow up tonight's speech with a visit to another Everglades summit later this month. His new embrace of the project well serves the state. Scott should continue to show leadership to keep the restoration timetable on track — and the federal money flowing. Both sides should use the conference as an opportunity to build a new level of trust and a genuine working relationship as the legislative session kicks off next week.


Scott to address Everglades Coalition today
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 5, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott will be the keynote speaker for the opening reception of the 27th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Stuart, which begins today.
The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 54 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. According to the group’s website, the conference is the “largest annual forum for debate of Everglades conservation and restoration” and will be attended by a host of environmental leaders and policy-makers.
Though Scott has been sharply criticized for his environmental decisions in the past, he recently received high marks from environmentalists — telling a crowd in Treasure Coast of the need for more funding for Everglades restoration projects. Scott recently proposed $40 million toward Everglades restoration in his budget — nearly double what he proposed last year, and $10 million more than what the state Legislature eventually approved.
His outlook on environmental restoration might be different, but not everyone is a fan. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently said that the state’s plan to clean up the Everglades falls short. Four federal agencies involved in Everglades restoration penned a letter to Scott in November, outlining their initial concerns with his strategy. Scott’s plan, they wrote, calls for “significantly smaller’’ cleanup marshes than the EPA plan. It would also push back the cleanup deadline another two years, to 2022. (The original deadline, of 2006, has been pushed back several times by the state.)
Despite the criticism, the state has said it is pleased with the “collaborative approach” of working with the federal government on the cleanup project.
The Conference will run through Jan. 8; Scott’s speech will begin at 6 p.m. tonight at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort and Marina in Stuart


EPA chief to visit Miami tomorrow
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 4, 2011
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be in Miami tomorrow to discuss the agency’s “WaterSense,” an initiative that brings together local water utilities, governments, product manufacturers and retailers to “promote water efficiency, and enhance the market through innovation and product design for water efficient products, programs, and practices.”
Jackson will meet with local green business leaders and tour the Brownsville Transit Village, “a new environmentally sustainable building project in an underserved community that incorporates water and energy-saving features.”
According to a press release, Brownsville is being developed by Carlisle Development Group, a company that specializes in environmentally sustainable affordable housing, and is a partnership with Alterna Corp., an EPA WaterSense partner and leading distributor of green building products. The project is estimated to save more than 5 million gallons of water per year and roughly $50,000 per year in utility savings.
The EPA WaterSense program has so far helped Americans save 125 billion gallons of water and more than $2 billion in water and energy bills. The program has also reduced 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Jackson’s agency has been a major target during the lead-up to the 2012 presidential race. A particular subject of criticism is the EPA’s goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Though the EPA planned to go forward with new, more stringent air- and water-quality rules in 2011, the White House overruled the agency in December, following an intense lobbying campaign by industry groups that argued the rules would cost millions of jobs and billions of dollars.
In Florida, Jackson has been a target for her role in the agency’s “numeric nutrient criteria,” a set of state-specific rules governing pollution in Florida waterways.
The EPA mandated the rules, but has since handed over the reins to the state Department of Environmental Protection and, just this week, proposed delaying the implementation of the rules. Agricultural and utility groups waged a fierce lobbying campaign against the rules and the agency mandating them. Barney Bishop, the president and CEO of lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, was quoted last year as saying that Jackson “thinks she talks to God” and is “killing jobs quicker than the president can create them.”


Mouseover to enlarge.


Tamiami Trail bridge,

1-mile span first, located
close to Miami.

Tamiami Trail culvert

This is the Tamiami Trail
at the L-31N canal.

The first tall bridge to
open the waterflow is
under construction.
There could be 5.5 miles
more of bridge to go,
environmentalists hope.

Feds OK 'Glades money, Tamiami bridges a priority - by Kevin Wadlow
January 4, 2012
Millions of dollars in federal money will flow this year to help restore the water flow through the Everglades to Florida Bay. Now conservation groups and government supporters want to maintain the momentum, primarily to add more bridges to U.S. 41, better known as the Tamiami Trail.
"Once we get that water flowing through Tamiami Trail, it will be so much better for everybody," said Mark Perry, president of the Florida Oceanographic Society and a board member of the Everglades Coalition. "It's important to get and keep that water moving in that direction."
The Everglades Coalition holds its annual convention this week in Stuart with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar among those expected to attend. Author and columnist Carl Hiaasen, a former Islamorada resident, will be the keynote speaker at the three-day event opening Thursday.
And on Jan. 17 and 18 in Tallahassee, Florida Keys residents will be featured in presentations made to Florida legislators at the first Everglades Water Summit hosted by the Everglades Foundation.
"There is a whole new generation of lawmakers who don't have the institutional memory from when [former] Gov. Jeb Bush made Everglades funding and restoration such a centerpiece of his legacy," said Jerry Karnas, spokesman for the Everglades Foundation.
"It's important for them to understand how critical Everglades restoration is to the economy, our water supply and the health of Florida Bay," Karnas said.
The 2012 federal budget approved in December secures more than $142 million for a range of Everglades restoration projects ranging from the Kissimmee River to South Florida.
"That money will put people to work and start moving dirt," Karnas said. "If Washington can get together to forge bipartisan legislation for the Everglades, we're very hopeful that the state can."
Congress also has passed formal authorization of a key $324 million project to build an additional 5.5 miles of bridges on U.S. 41 to replace pavement and restore natural water flow to the southern Everglades and Florida Bay.
A one-mile bridge now under construction on Tamiami Trail, scheduled for completion in 2013, cannot provide enough flow to achieve the restoration goals, experts say.
Money for the additional bridges has not been appropriated but getting authorization is a critical step. "I think we're on the way," Nelson told reporters.
"This still has to go through everybody on Capitol Hill but we need to make it work," Perry said.
The road now known as the Tamiami Trail was completed in 1928 to link Miami with Tampa. An unintended effect was that it created a dam that blocks the natural sheet flow of fresh water through the Everglades and into Florida Bay.
In addition to depriving the Everglades and Florida Bay of needed fresh water, the highway causes massive fresh-water buildup in Central Florida. With no way to store the water, it must be flushed into the ocean.
"When they make those discharges to the east and west coasts because there's no other outlet, it destroys natural estuaries that provide a huge habitat for shellfish and a lot of other species," Perry said.
Gov. Rick Scott said in his recommended budget that state Everglades funding should be increased to $40 million this fiscal year. Last year, Scott recommended $17 million but the Legislature increased the amount to nearly $30 million.
"The fact that Gov. Scott is willing to more than double his previous request for Everglades funding demonstrates his understanding that protecting the Everglades and our water supply is a necessary ingredient to growing our state's economy," said Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Kirk Fordham.


Florida journalist to discuss Florida's water sustainibility at Emerson Center
TCPalm – by Beverly Paris
January 4, 2012
VERO BEACH —The Emerson Center Florida Humanities Series, sponsored in part by Marine Bank & Trust, continues on Jan. 26 with Blue is the New Green: Water Sustainability and the Future of Florida with long-time Florida journalist Cynthia Barnett.
Barnett is the author of "Mirage: Florida & the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.," which has been named by the St. Petersburg Times as one of the top 10 books that every Floridian should read. Her new book, "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis," is the first book to call for a national water ethic and a powerful meditation on water and community in America.
The Florida Humanities Series is presented by The Emerson Center at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vero Beach. Four acclaimed speakers and performers will be presented free at the center now through April 2012, with all presentations relating to Florida history and issues. Admission to each is complimentary and all performances will begin at 7 p.m.
Other performances in the Humanities Series will include: Feb. 16 – Alex Stepick, Ph.D. - Immigration's Impact on Florida and the United States; March 22 - Seth Bramson - The Florida East Coast Railway: For More Than 110 Years America's Speedway To Sunshine; and April 19 - Carrie Sue Ayvar, Florida Stories with Latino Sabor (Flavor).
Funding for these programs was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these program do not necessarily represent those of the Florida Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The capacity of the Emerson Center is more than 800; free admission will be offered on a first-come first-served basis. Reserved seating for season ticket holders of the Celebrated Speakers Series will be offered with prior telephone arrangements. The Emerson Center is handicapped-accessible and is conveniently located at 1590 27th Ave., on the southeast corner of 16th Street and 27th Avenue in Vero Beach.
For more information, contact (772) 778-5249.


Hope on Everglades' horizon - Editorial
January 4, 2012
Despite their political differences, key Florida leaders are showing a united front on behalf of the Everglades, which should encourage citizens who care about the state's natural wonders.
The recent spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president included $142 million for restoring the Everglades and the Kissimmee River. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill Young of St. Petersburg teamed on the effort to ensure the funding remained in the bill.
The spending is justified. The Everglades, a vast watery network that stretches from Central Florida to Florida Bay, produces most of South Florida's drinking water. But the unique resource also provides critical habitat, offers countless recreational opportunities and attracts tourists from around the world. The water that flows through the Everglades helps sustain the sport and commercial fishing industries.
But the River of Grass, as author Marjory Stoneman Douglas called it, was damaged through the years by ill-conceived projects – drainage canals, dikes, roads, subdivisions and an array of water-control projects. The natural flow of water through the Everglades was disrupted. Runoff from agricultural operations polluted its waters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized the Kissimmee River. The meandering, vegetated river naturally filtered pollutants; the channel flushed the junk straight into Lake Okeechobee.
Fortunately, outdoors enthusiasts protested, and elected officials came to their senses. A plan was launched to save the Everglades. Washington and Florida would share the costs, since both were responsible for most of the harmful projects.
There is no undoing all the damage, but the plan to develop water-filtering reservoirs, restore the Kissimmee River and other renovations should ensure the Everglades a more natural flow of clean water.
Indeed, $97 million of the appropriations will go toward Everglades' restoration work while $45 million goes to repairing the Kissimmee. The measure also includes authorization for bridges along the Tamiami Trail that would allow more water to flow to the Glades, though funding will have to be won later.
It's also good news that Gov. Rick Scott, who often boasts of Florida's natural appeal, requested $40 million in his proposed budget for Everglades work.
Last year he gave it short shrift, asking for only $17 million. Lawmakers ended up allocating $30 million.
The governor's mandated cuts to the water management districts will likely jeopardize Everglades cleanup work in the coming years, but at least the governor is signaling an appreciation for the Glades' value.
Too often of late, politicians have acted as if environmental preservation were an example of government waste.
In fact, conservation is, as its name implies, conservative. It preserves environmental and economic assets and avoids costly problems later.
Protecting Florida's water supply, its natural beauty, its tourism industry and its fishing industries is a smart investment — the reason conservation and Everglades preservation should always be a bipartisan cause.


Why the delay ? - Editorial
January 4, 2012
As a new year begins much unfinished business remains in Washington D.C.; the deficit, tax reform, keeping exotic snakes out of the Everglades.
In regard to that last item: We can't understand why the Obama administration is dragging its feet on Florida requests to ban the interstate sale of several dangerous exotic snake species that already have an harmful impact on our state's ecology.
It has been nearly five years since the South Florida Water Management district petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare nine species of large pythons, anacondas and boa constrictors as "injurious" under federal law, thereby prohibiting their interstate sale and transport.
Early last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed just such a rule. But it has yet to be approved by the Obama administration, despite the fact that nine members of the state's Congressional delegation have urged quick action on the ban.
"These exotic predators are now fighting with alligators and killing untold numbers of native animals for food," said Michael Markarian, of the Humane Society. "There's no good reason for the White House to be weak-kneed simply because they've been hearing some complaints from the reptile industry lobby."
Much of the unfinished business in Washington is of such a complex nature that delays are understandable. But there is no such excuse for the failure to act on this sensible ban


Gov. Scott to speak at Everglades restoration conference in Stuart
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
January 3, 2012
STUART — Gov. Rick Scott will address a slew of environmental leaders and policy makers Thursday on Hutchinson Island to kick off a packed annual weekend-long conference on Everglades restoration.
Scott's 6 p.m. keynote speech at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina will lead off the Everglades Coalition's 27th annual conference, which runs Thursday through Saturday. His Treasure Coast appearance comes a month after he called for the state to step it up on Everglades dollars.
"His working with us to make sure he can be here is just another example of him looking at the Everglades as a priority, and how important they are for all of Florida," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, state co-chairwoman of the coalition, which includes 54 local, state and national conservation organizations.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright confirmed the governor's appearance Tuesday.
"Governor Scott will discuss Florida's commitment to Everglades Restoration and highlight his new water quality plan and partnership with the federal government," Wright said.
Before the 2011 state legislative session, Scott included a mere $17 million to care for the "Sea of Grass" in his first proposed governor's budget. But in his Dec. 7 plan for next fiscal year, Scott has beckoned state lawmakers to shell out $40 million for the Everglades, a $10 million bump from the current spending plan.
Scott also went to Washington in October to unveil his own take on Everglades restoration — plans to build reservoirs, unblock flow ways, control seepage and expand man-made wetlands over 10 years. In a Nov. 10 letter, however, federal officials criticized the plan for pushing back the Environmental Protection Agency's project end date by two years, and questioned if the plan would "compromise achievement of water quality goals."
With the theme "Everglades Restoration: Worth Every Penny," the upcoming conference seeks to reassure lawmakers and officials that Everglades restoration works out best for Florida's environment and its economy.
About 300 big names from government, science and nonprofit agencies are expected to attend. The conference will address all levels of Everglades restoration, including local, state and federal impacts ranging from the Kissimmee River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, will attend the conference. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., also is scheduled to attend, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is sending a representative.
Author and columnist Carl Hiaasen will also speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday evening.


(mouseover to enlarge)
A-1 reservoir

Infamous A1 reservoir
location along highway
27 north of Miami
(Lake Okeechobee
at the top). Unfinished
and with work
suspended, this
moonscape already
cost taxpayers $280

Schizo reservoir policies
Sun Sentinel
January 3, 2012
It's easy to see why skepticism is growing about resolving South Florida's water problems with reservoirs. With three reservoir projects either unfinished or in the planning stages, taxpayer dollars are seemingly being dumped to sea like excess water from Lake Okeechobee.
The doubts should be aimed at the management of the reservoir projects, however, and not the need for reservoirs.
Currently, the South Florida Water Management District oversees the unfinished Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a sound objective that has become a $280 million boondoggle. The district has also spent another $217 million on the L-8 Reservoir in Palm Beach County. The reservoir is built but remains inoperable because it lacks pumps, which will cost an additional $60 million. That's $497 million to do little more than dig holes in the ground.
Now the district is proposing to build a new reservoir next to the L-8 in Palm Beach Aggreates. The cost figures aren't in yet, but the district's inability to build and operate at least one reservoir belies the idea of its role as a water manager.
The reality is that South Florida needs better water storage. Just last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee Estuary to keep the lake at manageable, safe levels. The release, an all too familiar ritual, carries potential damage to estuaries, not to mention wasting water that could be recycled for commercial and residential use, especially now as we head into the critical months of the dry season.
Conservation, critics insist, could serve as a substitute for the more expensive reservoirs. While conservation remains a key component to preserving potable water, it alone won't meet the needs of one of the nation's most populous urban areas.
The problem that dogs the region is the inability of its leaders to decide on a strategy and see it to completion.
Remember the early Everglades restoration idea pushed by then Gov. Jeb Bush to inject untreated water deep underground as an alternative to new reservoirs ? The idea didn't fly. Once the state settled on the Everglades reservoir, former Gov. Charlie Crist suspended construction on the project to instead spend $2 billion to acquire U.S. Sugar property.
Before the district embarks on yet another reservoir project, water managers must get one of its already non-functioning reservoirs up and running. Buy the pumps, complete the construction — just finish the job. One job.
There's no doubt South Florida needs active reservoirs. The question is, can the state and water district actually produce one?


Work On Long-Range General Management Plan For Everglades National Park Slows Down
Nat.Parks Traveler - by NPT Staff
January 3, 2012
The country's fiscal fitness, or lack thereof, is forcing Everglades National Park officials to re-examine the direction of development at Flamingo and Everglades City, and that, in turn, is slowing work on the park's long-range general management plan.
At this point, park officials anticipate release of the draft GMP for public review and comment in 2013. The final GMP is expected to be completed in 2014. For more information about the GMP, you can visit this page on the park's website.
It's been more than six years since a hurricane destroyed Flamingo's old lodging facilities, which was a collection of motel-like buildings dating to the early 1960s. Back in August 2010 when the park released the master plan to guide rebuilding of the Flamingo area, officials envisioned a $15 million-$18 million lodge. The plan called for a 30-unit lodge (2 elevated buildings) that would replace the series of motel-like units. The facility was to be built within easy walking distance to the visitor center, marina, restaurant, pool, and amphitheater. Two-dozen one- and two-bedroom cottage units also were in the plan.
But after going over the lodging aspect of the master plan with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and considering the relatively short season for peak occupancy, the cost of building in the Flamingo area, and the threats posed by hurricanes and sea-level rise tied to climate change, park officials decided to return to the drawing board.
Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball says revised options for facilities at both Flamingo and Everglades City will incorporate more cost-effective and sustainable approaches for improving these park destinations.
Establishing long-term direction for the Flamingo and the Gulf Coast sites that is realistic and feasible is fundamental to the GMP effort, say park officials. This requires taking into account existing and projected budget constraints, the susceptibility of these low-lying coastal sites to intense storms and flooding, and providing future concessioners at both sites with viable business opportunities.
The Flamingo and Gulf Coast segments of the GMP are evolving on separate tracks.
Flamingo Redevelopment
Redevelopment of this area will be scaled back from the plans developed in 2008 and 2010 and will culminate in a new, long-term concessions contract that will be developed based on a financial and market analyses that informs the scope and terms of the Concessions Prospectus (or Request for Proposals) that will go out to potential bidders. The ultimate contract negotiated between the NPS and the selected concessioner should be awarded in late 2013 and will identify the facilities and services that will be provided at Flamingo.
Though the scope of the Flamingo redevelopment is being scaled back, the analysis informing the next concessions contract is tied to the important principles and public involvement that occurred in the 2008 Commercial Services Plan and the 2010 Master Plan that provided additional details.
Gulf Coast Site Redevelopment
The park is seeking the public's ideas and suggestions for how best to provide visitor opportunities, meet park operational needs, and support future concessions operations in the Gulf Coast District. The existing facilities and related infrastructure were constructed in 1966 and have undergone minimal changes and few improvements over the years. These facilities have become functionally obsolete, structurally unsound, and are at-risk in this low-lying coastal setting.
The park is holding a public meeting on the Gulf Coast project:
Thursday, January 19, 2012 5:30-8:00 p.m. at
Big Cypress National Preserve Welcome Center
33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141
(2.5 miles east of Tamiami Trail and Route 29 intersection)
The first hour will be an open house to give everyone an opportunity to review project information, talk with staff and provide comments. At 6:30 p.m. there will be a short presentation about the project followed by additional public comment and discussion.


Rock mining

Rock mining in the
vicinity of the
Everglades (and
people's properties)
is, for multiple reasons,

Groups seeks end to rock-mining plans
Miami Herald - by Andres Viglucci
January 2, 2012
Rural Miami-Dade residents and environmentalists have sued Miami-Dade County to stop a rock-mining expansion which they say was approved in violation of state law.
Three residents of rural Southwest Miami-Dade and three leading environmental groups have sued the county to stop an expansion of rock mining on agricultural land outside the urban development boundary that the plaintiffs say was approved in violation of state law.The suit, filed in December in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, is the latest sally in long-running conflicts among homeowners and environmentalists on one side and companies that use blasting to extract limestone rock used in construction from a vast network of open mines on the western end of the county. Property owners have long contended that the blasting damages homes and swimming pools and scares farm animals, while environmentalists raise concerns about the mines’ effects on water quality on farmlands and in the adjacent Everglades National Park. In this case, say homeowners Andres Fernandez, Angel Santos and Charles Boyd in their complaint, the expansion would bring mining operations by Cemex Construction Materials, a Florida subsidiary of the giant Mexican cement company, either within a few hundred feet of or right up to their property line. The planned mine would create a 172-lake excavation pit on a 400-acre property owned by developer Masoud Shojaee, principal in Shoma Homes. The property sits west of Krome Avenue at about Southwest 90th Street and is within several hundred feet of the Everglades National Park boundary.The homeowners allege the newer mine would only worsen longstanding problems from an existing Cemex mine nearby that include cracks in their homes and pools, bright lights illuminated around the clock that make sleep difficult, and blasts that have forced them to give up raising large animals frightened by the noise. Water seeping into their property from the mine also clogs and damages irrigation equipment, they say.The county commission approved the mine on a 10-3 vote in October, granting Cemex a special use permit so that the industrial operation could occur on land zoned for agriculture. The suit, filed by attorney Robert Hartsell, contends that in doing so the commission violated the county’s own comprehensive development plan, which has set aside that land exclusively for agriculture or compatible uses. According to the suit, that means the county has violated state law, which requires localities to abide by their comprehensive plans.A county spokeswoman said she had no information on the suit late last week. Kerri Barsh, an attorney representing Cemex, which is not a party in the lawsuit, declined to comment.The special permit also amounts to an end run around restrictions on where rock mines can operate, Hartsell said in an interview. The county has delineated a large special district in the area for such mines, but this new operation would sit outside it. County planners, who opposed the expansion, said there is ample mining capacity inside the district for years to come.“Here they are permitting rock mining outside the special district, which makes no sense if they already set aside an area for it," Hartsell said.The environmental groups Tropical Audubon, 1000 Friends of Florida and Clean Water Action, meanwhile, say the mining expansion threatens water quality in the area and would destroy valuable agricultural land. Audubon director Laura Reynolds said in an interview that such mines could suck water from the Everglades at a time when billions of dollars are being spent to retain more water inside the park boundaries.“It’s short-sighted," Reynolds said. “We want to keep this buffer in place for the park. Once you dig a hole, that’s it. You can’t use the land."


Mouseover to enlarge.


Recent dismantling
of FL growth-planning
agency gives a green
light to developers.
What will that do to
the environment ?

Nocatee, FL

Nocatee, FL

development plan.
Its progress has
been slowed by the

What sprawl costs Northeast Florida
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
January 2, 2012
The dismantling of the Department of Community Affairs by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature has put more power into the hands of local governments — a good thing, argues the governor, for development and growth. But just how much growth is too much ?
With the economy still in flux, local governments continue to approve tens of thousands of acres for use as attractive communities — communities that come with their own fire stations, grocery stores and, in some cases, water parks.
The reform of growth management laws has eased the process for building new communities, but some say developers were getting their way long before talk of reducing the state’s role in land-use planning. While some argue that sprawl is good, and can lead to jobs and economic development, many — like Lesley Blackner, the president of 2010's “Hometown Democracy” movement — say it’s hurting local environments and community water resources.
Blackner has teamed up with friend Janet Stanko to launch The Price of Sprawl, a website detailing the consequences of sprawl in counties across the state. Stanko says that Northeast Florida’s St. Johns County is a poster child for over-development — with many large-scale communities sitting empty, and others approved but not yet built.
According to Stanko, recent build-out projects in St. Johns contain enough properties to house 182 percent of the current population. Eight percent of homes in the area sit empty; property values have declined 31 percent since 2006.
Even Stanko, who obtained her information from a variety of sources, finds the statistics to be almost unbelievable. But, she says, other estimates fall in line with hers.
“Other information sources show the overall picture is the same: too much development approved and built, too much cost to the taxpayers and not enough water,” says Stanko.
One community that has Stanko and others like her especially worried is Nocatee, a neighborhood between Jacksonville and St. Augustine that has grown at a staggering pace in recent years. What was once just a parcel of land along County Road 210 is now freshly paved and dotted with palm trees, and the community even boasts a water park complete with a “lazy river” and water slide. But the current number of homes in Nocatee is nowhere near what was originally projected.
Nocatee’s story is fragmented across dozens of newspaper and web articles, spanning several years, making it difficult to grasp the whole picture — especially for residents who, says Stanko, “have no idea what’s happening to them.”
Stanko points to a 2000 article appearing in the St. Augustine Record, in which St. Johns County Budget Officer Joe Vonasek cited an estimated $692 million in taxes that would be used to offset the then-proposed Nocatee development, over the 25 years it would be built out.
At the time, the 15,000-acre planned community — which was set to be located on land owned by the Davis family, the founders of Winn-Dixie — seemed like an attractive idea, especially with talk of taxes offsetting infrastructure costs. “They always fudge numbers at the beginning of the negotiation process to make it appear that the proposed development will pay for itself,” says Stanko.
By 2004, the story had changed: Those who purchased property in Nocatee would be the ones picking up the tab for infrastructure.
“The St. Johns County Commission gave the Nocatee developers permission in November to re-configure County Road 210, a $100 million job that’s scheduled to begin this year,” reads a 2004 Florida Times-Union article. “The developers had said when asking to do that work that they would cover the cost. At last week’s hearings, however, they said a community development district would eventually assess Nocatee property owners to reimburse bonds used to pay for the infrastructure.”
Around 2007, the bubble burst, making it more apparent than ever that the approval of communities like Nocatee should be more thought out. “The ultimate result of approving over-development is a fiscal crunch from over-borrowing to pay for infrastructure,” says Stanko.
Of all of the components of building a community like Nocatee, schools are arguably the most expensive. According to Stanko, school construction costs for Nocatee at the time of build-out were around $82 million
But the problem extends beyond the cost of infrastructure. According to The Price of Sprawl, there simply aren’t enough resources for these large-scale communities. “There is much political double talk to mask the true facts that we do not have enough water for the over-development in Northeast Florida,” says Stanko.
A regional review published in 2009 by the St. Johns River Water Management District warned that Northeast Florida could become a “caution area” for water use across the country. If a growing population doesn’t use less within the next 20 years, said the report, aquifer levels could drop considerably — causing harm to the environment and drawing saltier water into utility wells, making some of the water unfit for human use.
As early as 2000, a concerned Ponte Vedra resident penned an op-ed for The Florida Times-Union titled “GROWTH MANAGEMENT: Nocatee is an urban sprawl issue.”
“There is myth and then there is fact. The myth is that growth pays for itself,” read the piece.
Sierra Club officials lobbied fiercely against Nocatee, arguing it would harm the environment. The group eventually settled with developers after two unsuccessful legal challenges against the neighborhood.
Nocatee is zoned for 10,000 single-family and 4,000 condo-style properties. But by 2009 (.pdf), only about 400 homes were built and occupied. According to the Nocatee website, homebuilders started construction of 189 new homes in Nocatee in 2010, “55 percent more than any other community in Northeast Florida.”
According to the Nocatee welcome center, the area currently houses more than 850 resident families in its seven communities — approximately 3,500 people total. The amount of vacant homes is unclear, but developers promise that the number of homes built (and bought) will rise. Nocatee is, after all, projected to be a 35-year development, and is only in year six.
But despite the country’s housing crisis (which hit Florida harder than any other state in the nation), Nocatee’s development company, the PARC group, is currently building a second community park — one that will provide residents with “about 10 acres of wooded and cleared greenspace, and will feature a large gazebo for events, a playground, soccer field, dog park and nature trails.” The PARC group could not be reached for comment about the Nocatee development.
According to Federal Election Commission records, PARC President Roger O’Steen has been a prolific political donor in years past — giving to the campaigns of John McCain, Katherine Harris, Bill Nelson and recently donating $2,500 to the Mitt Romney campaign. He has also given at least $10,000 to the Americans Nationwide Dedicated to Electing Republicans PAC.
Even though large-scale build-out projects like Nocatee were approved years before Gov. Rick Scott took office, his administration has emphasized the need for further deregulation.
Despite the fact that the Department of Community Affairs approved 1.5 billion square feet of new commercial and office space and almost 600,000 housing units since 2007, Scott often referred to the department as a “job killer.” In a 2010 interview, Scott was quoted as saying that the department “really impacted people that want to build things,” adding: “Their attitude is, ‘How can somebody in Tallahassee tell my local community what we want, and DCA sits there and tells us we can’t do it?’ … I’ll tell you, it’s really killing jobs.”
Developers are selling more than their large-scale communities filled with homes, manicured lawns and dozens of amenities. They are selling the idea of a healthy economy. Blackner, for one, isn’t buying it.
“Development in Florida is a Ponzi scheme,” she says. “Local governments are constantly pushing new developments, saying it will generate great tax money and jobs. But the jobs are construction jobs — they are temporary. They can’t be the main driver of your economy. And the costs to these proposals are to the taxpayers, to the voters. Undeveloped land has no costs associated with it.”


Drought returns to South Florida's far west areas
Sun Sentinel
January 1, 2012
Because of a lack of rain in recent weeks, drought conditions have returned to the interior of the state and South Florida's far western areas, authorities say.
Mainly, that means residents should be careful not to start wildfires with cigarettes or vehicle exhaust, officials said. For now, the drought conditions are not affecting regional water supplies, the South Florida Water Management District said on Friday.
Most of the region had been in an extreme drought for much of the year, with some areas experiencing "exceptional" drought conditions, the worst category. Fort Lauderdale, for instance, saw a rain deficit of more than 30 inches below normal.
Although heavy rains in October ended the drought, little rain has fallen for the past two months. A total of .9 inches fell across the southern third of the state in December, according to the water district. On Friday, Lake Okeechobee, the region's backup water supply, had a level of 13.68 feet, or about a foot below normal.


2011 Environmental News Wasn’t All Bad - by Tom Palmer
January 1, 2012
As usual, it was a mixed year for the environment in 2011. The continuing economic problems gave environmental opponents additional openings to undermine growth management, water management, pollution control and land conservation.
And that was just the Florida Legislature, which will be making additional runs at these issues when the next session opens in January.
Thankfully, local environmental news was sometimes better.
In January, federal officials unveiled plans for a new national wildlife refuge in the Everglades headwaters in the Kissimmee River Basin. It will be a mixture of public recreation land and conservation easements on private land in a further effort to protect that part of the watershed, which is under renewed development pressure.
In March, meetings resumed on a study on phosphate’s environmental impact in the Peace River Basin, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The first report is due in the spring.
Meanwhile, litigation by environmental groups continued stop phosphate mining in southern Polk and northern Hardee counties until a more complete environmental review can be conducted.
In April the Florida Trail Association, in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service, completed construction of a new trail bridge across Reedy Creek in the Arbuckle unit of Lake Wales Ridge State Forest near Frostproof.
Also in April Polk County opened a new boat ramp and park called Heritage Peace River Landing on the Peace River near Homeland, helping to create a better blueway network along this section of the river in hopes of promoting more ecotourism.
In May, Swiftmud Executive Director Dave Moore resigned.
In June, Colt Creek State Park north of Lakeland added improved fishing facilities and a new building for family gatherings and similar events.
In July, a debate erupted over whether to expand hunting on more lands owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Hunters were demanding more access and other user groups, particularly equestrians, pushed back, arguing hunters already have enough land and the gunfire would interfere with horseback riding, hiking and other outdoor recreation activities. The issue was resolved in December with a compromise that opened a few sites for limited hunting, but kept other sites –particularly the Hampton Tract in the Green Swamp–closed to hunting.
In August, Gov. Rick Scott announced major cuts in the budgets of Florida’s water management districts and capped executive salaries. The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s basin boards were abolished as part of the cost-cutting move. The Governing Board named Brian Guillory to succeed Dave Moore.
Also in August, local history buffs unveiled a historical marker to recognize Kissengen Spring, a one-time natural spring south of Bartow that quit flowing in 1950 because of excess pumping from the aquifer. The marker was later installed at Mosaic Peace River Park downriver from the spring site.
In September, Polk County officials opened the Marshall Hampton Reserve on Lake Hancock to the public for the first time. Also that month work began on a project to clean up some of the water in Lake Hancock before it flows downstream to the Peace River.
In October, local tourism officials sponsored Polk County’s first multi-day nature festival. The event was a mixed success, but will become an annual event to promote all of the diverse natural places that area available for ecotourism in Polk County.
In November, Coleman Landing at Shady Oaks was dedicated, providing better boat access to Lake Kissimmee and expanding Polk’s park system.
Also in November a controversy erupted at Saddle Creek Park, one of the most popular birdwatching sites in Polk County, when county officials took action to shut down a cat colony that was being maintained by a local group called Feral Fanciers. Feral Fanciers and Polk officials reached an agreement in December to remove as many cats as possible and find good homes for them. The rest of the cats will be removed by Polk County Animal Services.
In December, the County Commission voted down a proposal to build a pedestrian bridge over a planned truck bypass that will intersect the trail, dismissing safety concerns and focusing instead on the $1.3 million price tag and alleged conflicts with nearby Bartow Ford.

120101- HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012 - from the


1201dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text


1201dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text



  © 2009-2014, Boya Volesky