Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by dhtml-menu-builder.com
Go to the Everglades-Hub homepage

Press
     Search Site:

EvergladesHUB Home > News > Archives > February'12-TEXTS        2012: JAN      2011: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC    2010:  J F M A M Jun Jul A S O N D

yymmdd-  
DATE-code
FULL TEXTS OF ARTICLES
   
120229-a






120229-a
Florida lake perks up after restoration
Bradenton Herald - by Susan Cocking, McClatchy Newspapers
February 29, 2012
MIAMI — Dale Handshoe dabbled his 10-foot, telescoping crappie rod next to a stand of cattails in Lake Trafford, pulling the bobber attached to the line slowly across the surface. Suddenly the bobber disappeared, so Handshoe lifted the rod and swung a 12-inch crappie into his skiff. He unhooked it from the chartreuse jig it had bitten and placed it in a bucket with 15 others.
"It's good most of the time," the 73-year-old retiree from northern Indiana said, referring to the crappie, or speckled perch fishery. "(We were) out here the other morning at 10 minutes to 7 and we got our limit by 9."
Handshoe has been fishing for crappie and largemouth bass in this 1,500-acre lake since 1980 and has witnessed its many ups and downs, mostly downs.
"I've seen the lake change from all weeds to where they killed it and the fish died," he said. "I watched 'em dredge it. This lake changes every year. It's going to be a wonderful bass lake one of these days. They released a whole bunch of fingerlings. Now they're 13 inches and fat as butterballs."
Handshoe was referring to a 10-year, $20 million restoration of the largest natural freshwater lake south of Okeechobee by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Florida Water Management District and other agencies. The project, completed about a year ago, was aimed at bringing what used to be one of the state's best bass fishing lakes back from the dead. So far, it seems to be working.
Back in the 1990s, Lake Trafford suffered from algae blooms so severe that smelly, dead fish floating belly-up clogged acres of the water body. The fish kills affected mostly largemouth bass; crappie and other species such as bluegill and red-ear sunfish fared a little better.
The local community begged for help to restore the lake, and eventually the state came through - dredging six million cubic yards of muck from the lake bottom, planting 50,000 bulrush plants and other vegetation, and stocking more than 500,000 bass fingerlings from the Florida Bass Conservation Center in Richloam.
"Now we got areas where bass can breed, so hopefully everything's going to start picking up soon," said Ski Oleski, owner of Lake Trafford Marina.
Meanwhile, anglers such as Handshoe are catching some bass by accident on their crappie rigs. They have to release most of them because special regulations set an 18-inch minimum size, with a bag limit of five per person, and an allowance to keep one fish 22 inches or larger.
"Effectively, it's a catch-and-release regulation right now," said FWC freshwater fisheries administrator Barron Moody.
Waiting for the newly stocked bass to grow up, crappie anglers are doing very well. Many are able to catch their daily bag limit of 25 per person. While there's no minimum size, Handshoe won't keep anything under nine inches. The fishery is so strong that the FWC named Lake Trafford one of its top crappie destinations for 2012.
"We feel like the crappie fishing's come back," Moody said. "The spawn of 2009 for crappie was particularly strong. Last year and this year, people are catching good numbers of fish."
Moody said some of the stocked bass will grow big enough to keep about a year from now. It can't happen too soon for Oleski, who began offering airboat tours in 1996 to make up for lost fishing revenue.
"Business, as far as fishing, is still slow," Oleski said. "When the bass come back stronger, I'll see business come back."

120229-b







summary

The court invalidated
the criteria for streams
but did uphold some of
EPA's standards for
springs and lakes.



120229-b
Judge Rejects Criteria for Florida Stream Nutrients
CourtHouseNews.com - by Marimer Matos
February 29, 2012
(CN) - A federal judge has thrown out water nutrient criteria that the Environmental Protection Agency set for Florida streams, but most criteria for other bodies of Florida water can remain.
With nutrient contamination, mostly nitrogen and phosphorous, steadily rising, the EPA acknowledged beginning around 1998 that Florida's standards to control water pollution were insufficient under the Clean Water Act.
Though the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has agreed with the EPA's findings since 2003, it kept extending the completion date for a solution.
In 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson determined Florida needed to change its nutrient narrative criterion to numeric form. The narrative criterion is a general statement that outlines a regulation, and the numeric criterion relies on specific numbers.
The ruling provided an analogy for the two types of criterion: a narrative speed limit would be "don't drive too fast," and a numeric, "70 mph."
Florida's longstanding narrative criterion was "in no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna."
The 2009 determination required Florida to create and implement the new criterion, or Jackson would. Jackson stepped in and adopted numeric criteria for nutrients in Florida lakes, springs and streams.
The wastewater treatment, power generation, and cattle ranching industries, which contribute to nutrient contamination, filed suit claiming that the standards were too harsh. Environmental organizations meanwhile claimed that the criteria did not do enough.
Eventually the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee consolidated 13 complaints involving 25 parties.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle upheld most of the criteria in an 86-page decision filed Feb. 18.
"This order upholds the administrator's determination that numeric nutrient criteria are necessary for Florida waters to meet the Clean Water Act's requirements, upholds the administrator's lake and spring criteria, invalidates the stream criteria, upholds the decision to adopt downstream protection criteria, upholds some but not all of the downstream protection criteria, and upholds the administrator's decision to allow - and the procedures for adopting - site-specific alternative criteria," Hinkle wrote.
Hinkle disagreed that Jackson set the new criteria with the intention of merely settling a July 2008 lawsuit that five environmental groups filed against the EPA. "The administrator had been asserting for more than 10 years that numeric nutrient criteria were needed," he wrote. "If my role were to divine the administrator's true purpose - it is not - my conclusion would be that the administrator's purpose was to apply the Clean Water Act on the merits based on the agency's long and sincerely held belief that numeric nutrient criteria were necessary to restore and maintain Florida's waters."
But Jackson arbitrarily adopted criteria for streams and downstream-protection, the court found.
"The administrator did not adequately explain the decision," Jackson wrote, referring to the stream criterion.
Downstream-protection criteria similarly failed to meet the court's standards.
"Here, as with the stream criteria, the administrator shot at the wrong target, seeking to identify not just a harmful effect on downstream waters, but any change in nutrients at all," Hinkle wrote. "As with the stream criteria, this portion of the rule is arbitrary or capricious."

120229-c






120229-c
Protecting the environment
Jacksonville.com - Letter by David E. Bruderly, Jacksonville, FL
February 29, 2012
Cost is worth it.
The naïve capitalists at FreeMarket Florida fail to understand that government has a duty to regulate water quality to protect the public interest, not private profit. Florida’s water quality standards are not a “tax” on business; any cost to comply with environmental standards is a legitimate cost of doing business.
According to the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, Florida regulatory policy must be designed to protect “the Commons.” This means standards that actually prevent pollution, not accommodate it for short-term profit. Shortsighted accommodation in the past has destroyed the quality of too many of our rivers, lakes and estuaries.

120229-d






120229-d
Senate agrees to another round of Everglades cash
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy
February 29, 2012
Senate budget negotiators sided Wednesday with the House and agreed to steer $35 million toward Everglades restoration this year, drawing praise from advocates for the longterm cleanup effort.
Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, even held out the possibility that more cash could emerge as lawmakers continue to wrangle on a roughly $70 billion state spending plan.
“As Senate and House budget conferees continue to negotiate, with strong support from Gov. Scott, we are confident the state will begin to shift back to the historic levels of investment in Everglades restoration made during the Jeb Bush years,” Fordham said. “Every dollar we invest on Everglades is an enormous benefit for Floridians who depend on this natural resource for their livelihoods.”
Scott has unveiled wide-ranging plans to build reservoirs, unblock flow ways, control seepage and expand man-made wetlands by 2022, as part of the restoration effort. He sought $40 million in state cash for the coming year.
Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, had indicated a few weeks ago that his side planned to come up to House levels of Everglades funding, after zeroing out spending in its budget plan.

120229-e






120229-e
State thwarts costly federal water rules
TBO.com - by Lloyd Brown
February 29, 2012
State government has succeeded in ducking an attempt by the federal government to impose water rules that would give Floridians a real hosing.
The subject is numeric nutrient criteria, the bureaucratic way of describing regulations to limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that flows into the state's freshwater bodies.
There is an acknowledged problem. Florida farmers use nutrients to be productive and generate large crop yields at relatively low cost. But Mother Nature sends rain, which washes those nutrients into lakes and streams.
Too much of a good thing produces algae blooms and can harm fish.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has worked for years to determine how much runoff is harmful and how to reasonably regulate it.
But lobbyists and lawyers who make big bucks from rushing things sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force it to impose regulations.
There is a large constitutional question involved as to whether the federal government has such power, but it didn't matter because the EPA caved in.
The agency is still imbued with the spirit of Carol Browner, the ultraliberal protégé of Al Gore who headed the agency during the Clinton era.
The draconian limits subsequently drawn by the EPA would have cost $1 billion, the agency claimed.
Others said the cost was more likely to be near $50 billion. No body of water in the state would have met the new limits.
One authority said 80 percent of streams designated "pristine" would have been declared "polluted" overnight and there was no known technology to meet the standards.
Average water and sewer bills could have risen an estimated $62 a month.
So the Legislature enacted a bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, allowing new standards developed by DEP and approved unanimously by the state Environmental Regulation Commission to move forward.
The law directs the DEP to submit its rules to the federal government for review and approval immediately

120228-a






120228-a
Consumer must act for water conservation
St. Augustine.com - by Henry C. Warner
February 28, 2012
Recent letters in the Times Union lead one to believe that further tapping of surface water resources, i.e. rivers and lakes, will become a necessity to meet current potable and future (drinking water) “demands.” The “demands” reflect the desires of many of the public and the industrial community to continue “as is” and not change habits to reduce those “demands.”
Currently, in many Florida rural counties approximately one-half of the groundwater usage is by producer: agriculture use. That usage is diminishing by the introduction of “best management practices.” This is intended to provide more efficient and productive use of water /fertilizer to maximize production.
In the Feb. 25 edition of The St. Augustine Record, a guest column by the St. Johns Riverkeeper highlighted water issues; a column by Keith Fuller outlined the new fertilizer rules to reduce pollution runoff, and a Real Estate section landscape article focused on native plants. Hopefully, readers of these publications have begun to believe that water conservation is a serious issue for the State of Florida.
Generally, throughout Florida, the second largest use of groundwater is for residential use. Approximately 50 percent or more of that usage is for lawns and landscape. We also can count on another year of below-average rainfall (drought) that can have an impact upon our groundwater resources, both public and private wells. Projected enduring drought and intermittent heavy rains can cause flooding and well- water contamination (NASA).
The Water Supply Plan of the Water Conservation Planning Committee, St. Johns River Water Management District, believes that the goal of 90 gallons per person per day, down from 160 gallons per person per day, is possible to achieve. Let’s all keep this in mind as our goal to achieve and reduce the “ need” to prevent the further pollution our rivers, lakes and streams. Keep in mind that the average healthy body only requires about 2.2 liters of drinking water a day (a large Coke bottle). Let us try and prevent the further salt-water intrusion into our water resources. Salt-water intrusion does not need to happen. The primary goal of utilities is to provide water as you demand it and are willing to pay the price. It’s the consumer who must act in their best interest.
Henry C. Warner is an elected supervisor of the St. Johns Soil and Water Conservation District board. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily the St. Johns Soil and Water Conservation District board members.

120228-b






summary

The court invalidated
the criteria for streams
but did uphold some of
EPA's standards for
springs and lakes.



120228-b
Court Invalidates EPA Rules
Farm Futures – by Jason Vance
February 28, 2012
Judge strikes down arbitrary water quality standards on lack of scientific basis.
The U.S. District Court in Tallahassee, Florida, has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency-imposed numeric nutrient criteria for Florida streams and unimpaired lakes are unlawful because they are arbitrary and have no scientific basis. This case was the result of the EPA imposing water quality rules on Florida.
"They essentially came in and took the authority away from the state to set their own water quality standards and actually did it for them," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon. "They did all of this while the state of Florida was actually in the process of developing their own revised standards, which the EPA had approved their plan to do so. But after settling a lawsuit with environmentalists EPA decided they would impose their own standards."
Last April NCBA and the Florida Cattlemen's Association challenged the rules on the basis that EPA did not follow proper procedure, did not make a determination that Florida standards were inappropriate, and they did not rely on the best available science.
The court invalidated the criteria for streams but did uphold some of EPA's standards for springs and lakes.
"We were encouraged by his decision to invalidate that portion of the rule," Lyon said. "We were also disappointed that he upheld the administrator's authority to come in there and usurp the state's rights as she did."
Lyon says that the decision in this case sets some precedents that may be important for other states.
"That stream decision really set a precedent that is positive that the EPA cannot just use pseudoscience or bad science in this case to base a rule on," Lyon said. "They actually have to have the science to base the standard upon. So for the rest of the country it set the precedent that the agency has to follow the science and has to have the science behind it before it can regulate like this."
However, Lyon says that the portions that were upheld open the door in other areas for lawsuits by other environmentalist groups and EPA could set standards in those states.
Another piece to the puzzle is that Florida has completed its own water quality standards that have been ratified by the state legislature. It now must be approved by EPA.
"The administrator has said if the agency approves that rule they will pull all their federal criteria from the state," Lyon said. "We hope the ruling will go a long way in encouraging the administrator to approve Florida's rule and pull the rest of the federal criteria from the state of Florida."

120228-c






120228-c
Don't let funding for Everglades dry up
News-Press.com – Opinion by Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation
February 28, 2012
Shortly after the Florida Senate released its proposed $70.7 billion budget, we learned that not a dime had been set aside to pay for Everglades restoration.
This is not the time to delay the vital work that needs to be done. More than 7 million Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water. Any delay threatens the welfare of 1 in 3 Floridians and the economic well-being of our state.
Gov. Rick Scott has proposed spending $40 million during the next fiscal year. The Florida House of Representatives proposed $30 million. Both figures are well below the $100 million annual expenditure that was approved during the Jeb Bush years. We understand that Florida legislators are struggling with sharp decreases in revenue but Floridians cannot afford a complete retreat from the work necessary to restore the Everglades.
Last year, Florida suffered through one of its worst droughts. Two Florida cities (West Palm Beach and Palm Beach) came within weeks of running out of water. Saltwater intrusion threatened the water supply of other cities. Florida rainfall continues to be severely below normal and weather experts predict another extreme drought in the coming months.
Restoring the Everglades has never been more imperative than it is now. Florida’s water supply depends on a healthy Everglades as well as continued construction of needed water storage areas that both restore the Everglades and protect our water supply.
Recently, Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said he is, “seriously considering” funding for the Everglades, and Senate Budget Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations Chairman Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said Everglades funding is “definitely in play.”
A Tarrance Group poll found that 64 percent of Florida voters favor increased funding for Everglades restoration. They understand that the Everglades is the water they drink. We hope that Everglades funding is, “definitely in play” and that the Senate agrees to appropriate the $40 million dollars that Gov. Scott requested. The future of our water supply depends on it.

120228-d





(CLICK to enlarge)
3500 years !
A firefighter sprays
water on the smoldering
base of what remained
of a 3,500-year-old
cypress at Big Tree Park
in Longwood, Fla., on
Monday, Jan. 16, 2012.
The 118-foot-tall bald
cypress tree named
"The Senator" collapsed
after it caught fire.


Sara BARNES
Barnes
(Shouldn't this lady be
rather planting trees
for the rest of her life ?)




120228-d
Florida woman charged with setting fire to 3,500-year-old cypress tree
MSNBC - US News
February 28, 2012
A central Florida woman has been charged with setting a fire that burned one of the world's oldest cypress trees, local media reported.
Investigators said that two witnesses identified 26-year-old Sara Barnes as the person who caused the 118-foot-tall bald cypress tree named "The Senator" to burn and collapse Jan. 16. It was a tourist attraction in central Florida long before Disney World was built.
The Seminole County parks department said the ring samples showed the tree was roughly 3,500 years old.
Authorities said the tree burned quickly after twigs and branches were piled at the base as if someone was starting a campfire.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Barnes also took photos of the fire with her cellphone.
The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement searched Barnes' Winter Park home on Tuesday and confiscated her cellphone and laptop.
Authorities also reported finding methamphetamine, scales and drug paraphernalia. Barnes reportedly told investigators she set the fire while trying to use illegal drugs.
According to the Sentinel, another person apparently was with Barnes when the tree was set on fire, though that person has not been publicly identified or charged.
Jail records didn't say if Barnes had an attorney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Woman charged with burning 'The Senator' says she did it 'to use illegal drugs'
Orlando Sentinel - by Susan Jacobson,
February 28, 2012
A woman on Tuesday was charged with setting a fire that burned The Senator, one of the world's oldest cypress trees -- and she told authorities she did it because she was wanted light to see the drugs she was doing, investigators said.
Two witnesses identified Sara Barnes, 26, as the person who set the fire, authorities said.
Barnes took photos of the flames with her cellphone and told one of the witnesses that she started it, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said.
"She did not call the Fire Department or 911 to report the fire," said Sterling Ivey, an agriculture-department spokesman.
The tree, which had twigs and branches piled at the base, burned quickly.
"It's a great fuel source," Ivey said. "Unfortunately."
Investigators searched Barnes' apartment near Winter Park Tuesday and confiscated her cellphone and laptop computer. Authorities found methamphetamine, a glass pipe and other drug paraphernalia, they said.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office arrested Barnes late Tuesday on charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. Another woman with Barnes at the apartment was arrested on charges of drug and paraphernalia possession.
Her Facebook page, which describes her as a model who attended Winter Park High School, contained several profanity-laced comments late Tuesday. One decried her for "destroying a global treasure,"
The Senator, which stood at Big Tree Park north of Longwood, burned a little after 5:30 a.m. Jan. 16. Known as "The Big Tree," it was thought to have been more than 3,500 years old. With a height of 118 feet and a diameter of nearly 18 feet, the tree was a tourist attraction long before Walt Disney World.
A tip to Crimeline Jan. 17 led to Barnes' arrest. She is being held in the Seminole County Jail.
Another person was with Barnes when the interior of the tree was set on fire, Ivey said. That person has not been publicly identified or charged.
Seminole County will spend nearly $30,000 to install fencing at Big Tree Park near the site where The Senator stood, county commissioners decided today. The fence is designed to prevent someone from stealing the remains of the tree or damaging Lady Liberty, another cypress tree that is an estimated 2,000 years old.

120228-e






120228-e
FPL could help pay for reservoir sought by Broward, Palm utilities
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 28, 2012
Power company could then tap into the water intended to boost drinking water supplies
Florida Power & Light Co. could help bankroll a costly reservoir intended to boost drinking water supplies in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Support for building a new water-sharing reservoir has waned since estimates released in January showed it would cost South Florida water customers $700 million to $1 billion – more than twice once expected.
On Tuesday, reservoir backers said they may include FPL in the deal so that the power company could share the cost of building the 24-billion-gallon reservoir with area water suppliers.
FPL has agreed at least to consider helping pay for the reservoir, which it then could draw from for water to help operate South Florida power plants.
FPL's involvement would help share the cost of the reservoir with customers of the utilities that use its water.
FPL has a power plant next to the reservoir site west of Royal Palm Beach, but the water could go to other FPL facilities.
Reservoir planners also are pushing the Legislature to include money for it in the state budget.
They also plan to ask for financial support from the South Florida Water Management District.;
After years of talk, the next step is to determine if there is "enough interest for this project to go forward" said John "Woody" Wodraska, project consultant for the Lake Worth Drainage District.
Utility leaders met Tuesday in Delray Beach to discuss the future of the reservoir. It would be built in Palm Beach County with existing canals moving the water as far south asMiami-Dade County.
Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, Boynton Beach, Margate, Broward County and Palm Beach County are among a coalition of utilities that have pledged initial support for building a reservoir and sharing the water.
But those utilities have yet to commit to paying for construction.
For now, they would share about 45 percent of the reservoir's 185 million gallons a day, Wodraska said.
Each of the utilities is being asked to $25,000 for more reservoir planning. If the project moves forward, long-term financial commitments and water-sharing details would be determined.
"Unless utilities want this project, it's not going to happen," Wodraska said.
The Lake Worth Drainage District would borrow money to build and own the reservoir, and move water south through its canals.
On Tuesday, project backers suggested hiring the South Florida Water Management District to operate the reservoir.
The problem is, South Florida has a troubled history when it comes to completing reservoirs.
This new reservoir would be built at the Palm Beach Aggregates rock mining company, where the water management district already spent $217 million on a 15-billion-gallon reservoir that is full of water but doesn't have the $60 million pumps needed to deliver the water.
The water management district also invested nearly $280 million in an unfinished 62-billion-gallon reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County that the agency shelved after changing Everglades restoration plans.

120228-f







120228-f
Pythons moving from Everglades to concrete jungle
WTSP-10 News
February 28, 2012
MIAMI, FL (CBS4) - Pythons have been getting a lot of attention lately. The snakes have spread across South Florida, and the nuisance has lead to a ban which has spiked a campaign from those in favor and those against the reptiles who are not native to Florida.
Some groups are grateful for the ban, which begins in late March, others feel it will not do anything but create unnecessary panic.
Pythons are hard to find, tough to capture and impossible to control. Proof can be seen in pictures obtained by CBS4 across South Florida of python sightings: from a farm in Homestead, to an African python found south of Bird Road, to one found in Kendall and another in Miramar. The pictures taken by various trappers and government agencies uncover a new reality: snakes are popping up across south Florida.
"We don't know if it's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands," said Eric Stienmetz, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who patrols for pythons in the Keys.
The mangrove swamp area provides endless pathways where pythons can move freely and eventually spread across even more urban areas. Under a watch for almost ten years by government agencies, the python population has grown.
New numbers from Everglades National Park show that in 2002, it stood at about 20, in 2006 it jumped to around 175 pythons captured, it peaked in 2009 at about 375 and then dropped in 2010 to 325.
Besides being a nuisance, studies show pythons have proven to be damaging to our eco-system.
"They eat our local deer, hogs, raccoon, possums, the key largo wood rat," said Steinmetz.
If not properly fed, they can also pose a danger to people and pets.
A scenario that is all to familiar to the Moore family in Key Largo.
"Next thing I know, my wife is shaking me and said John, John, get up, get up. What's wrong? What's wrong," said John Moore.
He awoke to find a snake slither onto his couch in his docked house boat.
"I saw a python with its head looking at the cat and the cat was looking at it. It looked like it was going to get it at any time," said Moore.
The cat survived and the snake got away. Further north, off Biscayne Blvd. and 71st street, a snake was discovered just this month in the yard of a house in the upper east side of Miami.
Professionals with Expert Wildlife Trappers Inc. are responding to more snake calls from unsuspecting families worried for their safety.
"If a snake gets inside the house, they don't know how to handle it," said Osmar Silva, owner of Expert Wildlife Trappers.
Maps also show that the snakes are spreading.
Tracking from the website, www.Eddmaps.org shows hundreds of reported incidents across Florida.
To help control the population, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission now has a hotline, 1-888-Ive-got1.
"The goal is to be able to find exotic wildlife out in the environment and to be able to respond and take them out of the environment," said Jenny Ketterlin Eckles, a biologist with FWC.
The group www.SavetheBurms.org addresses the overpopulation. They work closely with FWC to find homes for pythons.
"If someone wants to get rid of the animals, we have to provide a home for them it is necessary," said Matthew Passman.
People have had them for pets for years. According to experts, the secret to maintaining a healthy python is to properly feed it. By doing so, you ensure the python will not go on the attack for food. Gathering food is the main reason why experts say pythons become aggressive. Pythons are believed to have escaped into the wild for two reasons: people may have released them after not realizing how to take care of them, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The storm may have done damage to pet shops in its path, sending snakes to roam free in the Everglades.
So with hundreds of acres of Everglades, extermination is not an option, according to experts.
"They are very good at hiding. Even a 16 foot snake can disappear in the saw grass," said Ketterlin Eckles.
Experts feel we need to make policies for proper management of a majestic species which is thriving in the Florida landscape.
"They are going to reproduce faster. We are going to have more of them," said Steinmetz.

120228-g







120228-g
Special interests trump Florida's environment in wetlands bills
TampaBay.com
February 28, 2012
It would be one thing if Florida lawmakers genuinely tried to improve an ineffective wetlands mitigation policy. But elevating a single private industry's interests over the state's long-term water needs is not the answer. Changing state law so that the Department of Transportation is more likely to purchase wetland mitigation credits from private mitigation banks is another government giveaway masquerading as environmental protection. Private mitigation banks may have a role to play, but they should not be allowed to corner the market.
Under the little-noticed mitigation bills (HB 599/SB 824), the Department of Transportation — the largest destroyer each year of aquifer-recharging wetlands in Florida — would be required to give a preference to private mitigation banks when spending wetlands mitigation money. That would be a boon to the industry, which has seen the prices it can command fall with the rest of Florida's real estate-based industries. If this unfairness is not enough to kill the legislation, this should do it: The House amended its bill to make taxpayers liable for potential accidents caused by Amtrak on the 61-mile SunRail commuter line in Orlando.
Mitigation banks are created when a landowner agrees to hold restored wetland property in perpetuity, thereby creating "credits" that can be sold to developers destroying wetlands elsewhere. It's a different option than on-site mitigation, for example, which the water management district can require under current law.
The state's own record with mitigation banking is nothing to boast about, as detailed in a 2006 investigative series by the Tampa Bay Times. And in 2007, a study done for the state Department of Environmental Protection found fewer than half of the mitigation banks reviewed had achieved the goals required in their permits. Even the federal government's Government Accountability Office raised concerns in 2005, saying regulators failed to follow up after issuing mitigation bank permits.
Nothing in these bills adequately addresses those concerns. Instead, they further undermine the 40-year mission of the five water management districts. Under Gov. Rick Scott, the districts have seen a steady erosion of resources and autonomy. The governor and the Legislature slashed their tax rates, and the local basin boards have been eliminated. Then there's the demise of Florida Forever, the state's once-heralded conservation program that helped water management districts buy and preserve land needed to protect watersheds.
This plan would make it far less likely that water management districts would receive a share of mitigation dollars — which totaled $116 million over the past four years — from the Department of Transportation. It so favors the private mitigation option that sounder environmental options stand little chance.
Florida needs a better policy for monitoring mitigation efforts — including inside the water management districts. But this plan isn't it. It's just more special interest spending at the expense of all Floridians' interests in long-term water protection.

120228-h






120228-h
The mauling of Florida's environment
Tampa Bay Times - by Pam McVety, special to the Times
February 29, 2012
Let's take a minute to assess how the Legislature would like to maul the environment.
So far this session bills have been proposed to: steal public lands and waters; drill for oil and gas on public lands; put advertising signs on greenways and trails; eliminate septic tank inspections; eliminate concurrency for schools and transportation for new development; support water quality rules that will allow continued nutrient degradation of our water; move control of water management funding to Tallahassee; and stop registering greenhouse gas emitters. Also, funding has been withheld for Florida Forever environmental land acquisition and Everglades restoration, two programs that have been the hallmark of Florida's environmental programs for decades.
Every company, business or landowner in the state of Florida, represented by high-paid lobbyists, who wants something that otherwise would not be legal or acceptable has come out from under a rock with a bill written to get what he wants at the expense of the public. It is insane.
Legislators are acting like the boys in Lord of the Flies. They need adult supervision. Hypocrisy is rampant. The Climate Protection Act doesn't protect us from our changing climate. It undoes more of what Gov. Charlie Crist got passed to make Florida a leader in responding to climate change. Environmental Resource Permitting makes it easier to get a permit and does not advance the protection of our natural resources as the name might imply.
The sad thing is that the public understands very little about what is happening. But what is going on is bad for Florida. It is bad for you, and over time the cost of doing business in this state will increase because of the decisions made by this Legislature.
Your waters will continue to deteriorate. Do you like beach closures Memorial Day weekend or on July Fourth because of high bacterial counts or slimy green algae? North Florida's waters will end up in South Florida. Hope you don't mind paying for water supply for Polk County. Your taxes will go up as you are asked to cover the cost and impacts of development that developers will no longer pay. Oil and gas wells will appear on public lands and the associated pollution will make it very unpleasant and unhealthy to visit these sites, not to mention that an oil well will never look or smell like a tree.
Advertisers will place sponsorship signs at trail heads and you will be reminded to eat your Twinkie. And, to heck with a zen experience in state parks. There will be no more public land acquisition, and paving will gradually stretch from coast to coast and north to south and with all the paving will come increasing electric bills. You think all this is an exaggeration? I wouldn't bet against these predictions.
Here is the real rub. Florida has some serious environmental problems that need to be fixed, but our Legislature is busy undoing the past 40 years of environmental safeguards that have served us well. This anti-environmental agenda is bad for Florida's economy. It is bad for jobs. It is bad for our children. In the future as things worsen in this state, as they will with these kinds of bills, businesses will not want to locate here. Where is Gov. Rick Scott in all this? Oh that's right: He hasn't read the bills yet.
Pam McVety worked for the state of Florida for 30 years and retired from the Department of Environmental Protection in 2003. She has a master's degree in zoology from the University of South Florida. She is a member of the Florida Conservation Coalition, a biologist and native Floridian.

120228-i






120228-i
U.S. House Judiciary Committee passes exotic snake bill
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 28, 2012
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee today passed H.R. 511, a bill that will add nine species of large constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species under the Lacey Act.
H.R. 511, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, would ban the import or interstate trade for use as pets of the Indian python (including Burmese python), reticulated python, Northern African python, Southern African python, boa constrictor, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda. Those nine species have been identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing “high” or “medium” risk of becoming established in the wild as an invasive species.
Supporters of the legislation say its passage could help thwart Florida’s exotic snake problem, specifically in the Everglades, where an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 pythons currently live.
The Humane Society of the United States commended the bill’s passage in a press release sent out today. “The House Judiciary Committee recognized that the trade in large, constricting snakes is reckless and irresponsible, putting people, ecosystems and the animals that live in them, and the snakes themselves at risk,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “We hope that the bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor soon, and that the Senate takes up the matter expeditiously.”
Exotic pets, like snakes, pose a major threat to native wildlife and can cost the government millions of dollars to address.
According to one recently-published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ever-proliferating pythons in the Florida Everglades appear to be wiping out large numbers of small mammals.
In March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule to ban the nine species outlined in Rooney’s bill, which were identified by the United States Geological Survey report as posing a “significant risk.” In January 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a final rule restricting trade in just four of the nine species - a move that environmentalists say isn’t enough. By including only some species, critics say the trade will simply shift to other species, like boa constrictors and reticulated pythons. Unless all nine species are banned, threats to public safety, animal welfare, and the environment will continue unabated.

120227-a







120227-a
ARA Applauds Judge's Decision On Water Quality
CropLife.com
February 27, 2012
A significant ruling in a Florida District Court possibly sets a precedent for federal water regulations in other parts of country.
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) applauds the U.S. District Court decision, issued Friday, February 18, that restricts the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to impose numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) in the state of Florida.
The decision was handed down by Judge Robert L. Hinkle and found that biological harm, not just an increase of nutrients above background concentrations, must be the basis for EPA’s numeric nutrient standards.
The court determined that the EPA’s final stream criteria for the state of Florida, as well as certain aspects of the downstream protection values (DPV) for Florida lakes, are both arbitrary and capricious, and therefore invalid. The judgment was in response to litigation challenging EPA’s efforts in Florida filed by The Fertilizer Institute, ARA, and other stakeholders in the agriculture community.
An important part of the Court’s ruling that may set a precedent for similar cases in the future found that the agency did not demonstrate that nutrient increases result in a harmful increase in flora and fauna in streams. A significant and potentially precedent setting part of the ruling found that the agency did not demonstrate that increases in nutrients result in a harmful increase in flora or fauna in streams. This decision carried great significance because it potentially sets a precedent for Federal water quality regulations in other parts of the country.
“ARA is pleased with the Court’s decision because it’s important for the EPA to use sound science in their regulation of water quality nationally,” said Daren Coppock, ARA president and CEO. “This case is a big win for ARA members and represents a perfect example of what the agriculture industry can accomplish through a coordinated effort.”
It is rare for so many agriculture groups to file a case of this nature. However, the EPA rule posed significant potential harm to Florida’s phosphate industry and agriculture in that state. It also set a potentially dangerous precedent for the industry. Now, the authority to protect Florida’s water resources has been returned to the state.
Crowell & Moring provided legal representation in the court challenge to EPA’s NNC rule. The fertilizer and agricultural retail and distribution industries support sustainable nutrient use based on 4R stewardship (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time and in the right place). Through 4R nutrient stewardship, farmers are implementing best management practices (BMPs) that optimize the efficiency of fertilizer use by matching nutrient supply with crop requirements and to minimize nutrient losses.

120227-b







120227-b
Court Agrees EPA Went Too Far
Farm Bureau
February 27, 2012
A U.S. District Court agreed with the American Farm Bureau’s challenge to water quality standards that the EPA set for the state of Florida. AFBF Chief Legal Counsel Ellen Steen explains the complicated in this story from AFBF’s Johnna Miller.
Miller:

A U.S. District Court in Florida recently ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency imposed water quality standards in Florida that are arbitrary and unscientific and therefore unlawful. Ellen Steen is chief legal counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, which filed a challenge against those EPA standards.

Steen:

EPA has a tendency to overstep its bounds. The federal Clean Water Act has set up a system where states are in the driver’s seat. States set water quality standards. States decide how clean they want their waters to be, how they’re going to get there. It has very big implications for land use, especially when you’re talking about nutrient levels or sediment. Agriculture is affected. Homebuilding is affected. Municipalities that discharge from septic systems are all affected. So it touches everyone.

Miller:

The court agreed that the Clean Water Act gives the states the power to determine their quality standards and rejected EPA’s standards that prohibited any increase in nutrient levels.

Steen:

Florida has been trying to translate what it’s had in the past, which were “narrative” standards for nutrients and transfer those into numeric limits and there had come a point in time when EPA stepped in and said, “No we’re going to set those numeric limits for you.” Nutrients exist in nature. Nutrients are not, in and of themselves, harmful. They can be increased to levels that would cause harm and of course no one wants that and the state has set a standard to prevent that. But nutrients and increases in nutrients aren’t by definition harmful.

Miller:

Steen says this ruling could have an impact in several states dealing with similar issues and AFBF will continue to weigh in.

Steen:

This is going to continue to be an issue. We’re going to continue to play a role. It’s a difficult role to play, but we think we’re doing the right thing and we’re going to continue to do what we do in the courts just the way farmers continue doing what they do to improve their environmental stewardship.

Miller:

Johnna Miller, Washington.

Miller:

We have two extra actualities with AFBF Chief Legal Counsel Ellen Steen. In the first extra actuality she talks about why the American Farm Bureau challenged regulations EPA set for Florida. The cut runs 41 seconds, in 3-2-1.

Steen:

The Florida standards were in a narrative form: we don’t want to alter nutrient levels to the point that they cause harm, that they cause an imbalance to aquatic life. EPA came in and said we’re going to translate that into a number, but they tried to set a number that was based on the most pristine in natural conditions. So in other words, EPA found that any increase in nutrient levels was harmful and they set the numbers to prevent that. We argued and the court agreed that the state is actually the one that controls how clean they want their waters to be and EPA can’t override that and try to impose standards that basically try to go back to conditions before man existed in these areas.

Miller:

In the second extra actuality Steen explains an important aspect of the court’s ruling on this case. The cut runs 27 seconds, in 3-2-1.

Steen:

The big news coming out with this court opinion is that the court found that EPA had acted unlawfully in choosing the numbers that it set for Florida streams and also for certain lakes that were already meeting water quality standards. The biggest piece of it is that the court recognized that when EPA translated Florida’s narrative standards into numbers, EPA was way too aggressive and that was one of the big issues that we had raised in the briefing.

For more information on Newsline, contact: Johnna Miller, Director of Media Development, American Farm Bureau Federation johnnam@fb.org
120226-a







120226-a
Environmentalists applaud clean-water ruling against EPA, take on state next
Naples Daily News - by Aisling Swift
February 26, 2012
NAPLES —Southwest Florida environmental groups are applauding a federal ruling setting contamination limits that will help clean up Lake Trafford and other Florida lakes, and are next heading to trial to challenge state pollution limits.
The federal ruling sets enforceable new limits on pollution in streams, lakes and springs that go into effect March 6, but doesn't set limits on estuaries, rivers and streams, including the Golden Gate Main and Cocohatchee canals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has until May 21 to revise that provision, which the judge ruled "arbitrary and capricious."
In a ruling handed down in mid-February, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle likened the EPA's standards to a speed-limit sign that provides a fair warning, agreeing it was necessary and good for the environment. The limit replaces a 35-year-old Florida rule that requires studies only if algae outbreaks occur, but took no action to prevent them.
"Florida political and environmental leaders have been struggling for 20 years to come up with a way to stop huge green toxic algae outbreaks that plague Florida lakes and rivers," Earthjustice attorney David Guest said in a prepared statement. " Floridians are disgusted at seeing more and more lakes and rivers turn pea green and smell like sewage. Today, we are going to start preventing that from happening anymore."
Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials, who won two of their arguments in the case, also claimed a victory, contending the ruling doesn't change its intent to adopt numeric nutrient standards.
"DEP developed our nutrient rules based on sound science and decades of research and we believe that implementing our nutrient standards is the right thing to do for Florida," said DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller, whose agency submitted two proposed rules to the EPA on Tuesday, hoping they would be adopted instead.
This week, Earthjustice heads to trial before a state administrative law judge to challenge DEP's "ineffective standards."
The federal judge's ruling came four years after Earthjustice filed a Clean Water Act lawsuit on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John's Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club.
They argued sewage, manure and fertilizer were causing toxic algae outbreaks that cover waterways with green slime, prompting rashes, breathing problems, stomach disorders and other health issues. They also can kill fish, livestock and pets and have prompted health officials to shut down drinking water plants, beaches and other swimming areas.
In 1998, the EPA told all states to set strict limits on nutrient pollution and 11 years later, it set numeric limits for the phosphorus and nitrogen caused by sewage, fertilizer and manure in the water. But business, agriculture and utility interests fought the rules, contending they would be too expensive to implement.
Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, praised the ruling, which will help Lake Trafford in Immokalee.
"The judge ruled the EPA acted properly and was within its authority and was right to intervene because Florida was not acting in compliance with the Clean Water Act," McElwaine said. "We were successful in getting the EPA to set a number of hard and fast standards that have to be met. It's a substantial change from very vague criteria and it will make it easier to enforce. Before, it was very difficult."
Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, considered the ruling good for the environment, but was troubled by two points, the site-specific alternative criteria, which she called "loosey-goosey," and a ruling involving discharge permits she maintained makes it too easy to achieve lower standards.

120226-b







120226-b
Florida agriculture conserves the state's natural resources
News-Press.com – Guest Opinion by Adam Putnam, Florida commissioner of agriculture
February 26, 2012
Florida agriculture not only feeds and clothes Florida families and others throughout the world; this centuries-old industry is a critical pillar of Florida’s economy.
It employs nearly 1 million people and has a $100 billion economic impact. Perhaps even less commonly known is the industry’s efforts to preserve and conserve our natural resources.
As a result of efforts by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help agricultural producers implement best practices and utilize new technologies, Florida agriculture is using less water and fertilizer and reducing farm runoff into our water resources. The latest technologies yield more efficient, low-volume irrigation; more precise application of fertilizer so less is needed; integrated pest management to reduce the use of chemicals; erosion control measures; water control structures; and more.
In some parts of the state, the department is helping ranchers take conservation and environmental protection efforts a step further. They are growing the state’s water supply by storing water on their land and/or actively removing pollutants from water that flows across their land through a natural filtering process.
One Florida grower recently installed a weather station system to monitor soil moisture and administer prescribed watering and freeze protection, enabling the farm to conserve its water use.
The grower also implemented a tailwater recovery system to reduce the pumping of groundwater by using surface water for irrigation. With this technology, this 88-acre farm saves 158,000 gallons of water per day, half of the total water used on the farm and more than the average amount of water a family of four uses in one year.
Across the state of Florida, more than 3 million acres of farm, ranch and nursery lands are taking advantage of the programs the department offers to protect and conserve water resources, and the number continues to grow. The department has deployed mobile laboratories to travel the state to advise farmers on how to improve their irrigation system efficiency and irrigation scheduling by applying new technologies. By implementing the department’s recommendations, Florida’s agriculture industry saves nearly 8 billion gallons of water each year.
In addition to conservation efforts on farms, ranches, and nursery lands, nearly 6 million acres of forestry lands also protect water quality and practice water conservation, bringing the total to 8.5 million acres, with more to come. Even Florida aquaculture operations, about 900 farms that grow aquatic species such as fish, plants, mollusks, crustaceans and reptiles, must acquire a certificate of registration and abide by a set of guidelines designed to ensure that aquaculture remains environmentally friendly.
Agriculture is vital to Florida’s economy and its environment. Through its water protection and conservation programs, the department will continue to assist farmers and ranchers in their efforts to keep the state financially and environmentally strong.
For more information on agricultural efforts to protect and conserve water, visit: FloridaAgWaterPolicy.com/BMP

120226-c






Cichlids are considered as one of the world’s most diverse and specialized group of fish. There are more than 1300 species, with a surprising number of color and size combinations. Many people have come across a cichlid without even knowing it. Common aquarium fish, such as freshwater angelfish and Oscars, are actually cichlids.

cichlids

120226-c
Nature has thinned invasives to make way for native fish
Orlando Sentinel - by William D. Balgord
February 26, 2012
What comes to mind when you hear "invasive species" ? That all depends on where you happen to be.
Eighteen-foot Burmese pythons, released by fickle owners when the pets grew too large to handle safely, now roam the Everglades, accompanied by hungry offspring. Waterways of Florida have been clogged for decades with various exotic fish — originally released from private aquariums.
Expansive cichlids, including tilapia and oscars, and the voracious snakehead and walking catfish are alleged to be displacing bluegills, crappie and bass from their native habitats.
Cichlid explosions prevailed before the winters of 2009 to 2011, when inland water temperatures fell precipitously. Frigid temperatures left behind massive kills among fish, snakes and iguanas. The native West Indian manatee had steadily expanded its range into Central and North Florida during the 20th century, thanks to warm-water sanctuaries provided by power plants during the winter months. But some plants have closed and the prolonged cold in recent years took its toll on these curious mammals that formerly migrated between Florida and the Bahamas.
But here's the good part. The cold weather thinned out enough of the undesirable invasives that native fish are making a comeback. Large-mouth bass, crappie and bluegill are now showing up in greater numbers and larger sizes than before. Several factors contribute to the rebound, but it's generally agreed the absence of competition by invasives is playing a role.
Not all exotics are bad for native fish stocks. German brown trout were introduced from northern Europe during the 19th century and have since provided a dependable cold-water fishery in Northern states. Coho salmon from the West Coast were successfully transplanted to lakes and streams in the Midwest and Northeast alike.
In the 1960s, the state freshwater-fish commission, searching for a solution to burgeoning cichlids in Florida's man-made canals, conducted research on the butterfly peacock (also known as peacock bass), a highly regarded game fish native to the Amazon basin.
The first attempts to introduce peacock bass failed when conditions did not favor reproduction. Further research produced a version compatible with Florida's canal system.
So successful was the 1984-85 introduction of these gaudy exotics, fishermen began transporting them to lakes convenient to their homes in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
But the recent cold temperatures that killed off unwanted cichlids also took a heavy toll on the peacocks and threatened to undo the successful experiment. By summer 2010, these fish were rarely being caught in waters north of Miami-Dade County. Reliable peacock bass fishing is currently restricted to the deep canals nearby and south of Miami International Airport.
Freshwater guide Alan Zaremba in Hollywood, Fla., responding to complaints that peacocks displace native large-mouth bass, says they are exaggerated. In their native Amazon basin, peacocks prefer weed-free waters similar to Florida's man-made canals and diet almost exclusively on fish.
By contrast, large-mouth bass frequent weeds and shallower water to feed on a variety of forage. Both benefit from additional feed. There is little evidence of competitive displacement of high-value bass from their native habitat in the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee or the shallow waters of the Everglades by the peacocks.
Florida's inshore tropical fish also take hits during cold winters. Large numbers of the prized common snook, which normally ranges as far north as Mosquito Lagoon, died during 2010 and 2011. Thirty years of general warming in the region since the late 1970s had favored snook pushing farther northward along with other cold-sensitive species.
The pruning caused by occasional outbreaks of frigid temperatures can be understood as Mother Nature's hand at "culling the herd," by stopping further expansion of exotics and re-establishing the original limits to the northern ranges of the snook and the perennial favorite of tourists, the manatee.
William D. Balgord, a consultant and writer, heads Environmental & Resources Technology in Fort Pierce.

120225-







Harmony project

Proposed Harmony
residential project in
Martin County
(CLICK for location)

120225-
Nothing harmonious about proposed Harmony development in Martin County and environment
TCPalm – by Maggy Hurchalla
(Maggy Hurchalla was a Martin County commissioner 1974-94. She has received numerous state and national awards for her work on restoration of the Everglades and Indian River Lagoon).
February 25, 2012
Development would threaten Everglades, Indian River Lagoon restoration efforts
Since Toby Overdorf ("Harmony's commitment puts environmental leaders' desires into action in Martin County," guest column, Feb. 11) quoted me on why the Harmony development is good for the environment, I felt I should reply.
The Harmony Project is not good for the environment.
It will hurt the St. Lucie River and the estuary.
It will make it impossible to complete Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan improvements part of the Congressionally approved Indian River Lagoon Plan.
The area in question is a significant piece of the Palmar Natural Area restoration, part of the Indian River Lagoon Plan. The natural areas will be acquired and fully restored to natural water levels and natural habitat.
The owner of the Harmony property refused to sell to the state when funds were available. He gambled that he could break the rules and change the land use from agriculture to urban and make a windfall profit.
The owner has a right to develop his property according to our comprehensive plan. That calls for agricultural use and no more than 1 unit per 20 acres. He does not have the right to demand 40 times the density for a new city in the boondocks.
Toby paints an idyllic picture that suggests a new city that meets Martin County's minimum environmental requirements will fully restore the environmental values of the property. What's more, it will cost the taxpayers nothing.
That's flat-out wrong. Martin County's environmental requirements for development are the best in the state, but they still don't begin to make a new city into a fully restored natural area.
Our rules require that all wetlands be preserved and restored "to the maximum extent practical." Unfortunately, what is practical is limited when you place an urban development on a flat cow pasture originally 50 percent wetlands.
Harmony will not provide a fraction of the benefits that the area can provide if it is acquired and restored under the lagoon plan. Pretending it will is not honest.
Toby has been an effective lobbyist for developers. Where developers disagreed with environmentalists, I don't ever remember Toby siding with the environment. Calling himself "Mr. Environment" of Martin County is audacious at best.
In discussing Harmony's costs and benefits, pretty pictures and pretty words don't help.
The biggest problem with Harmony economically is that it is in the wrong place outside the urban service boundary. That will cost existing residents and taxpayers a whole lot of money for a long time. Growth does not pay for itself. Growth in the wrong place costs much more than growth inside the urban boundary.
The biggest problem for Harmony environmentally is that it removes a key piece of the IRL restoration plan. There is not another piece of land in the right place to substitute for it.
Harmony is not a harmonious asset to Martin County's environment. The impacts of putting a city in a wet cow pasture can't be adequately mitigated.
It would be wonderful if we all truly agreed Martin County is and should stay different. It would be great if pro-development commissioners, lobbyists and consultants would recognize that our comprehensive plan, its urban boundary and its environmental and neighborhood protections, have made our economy stronger and more resilient than our neighbors'.
But then they couldn't keep trying to do away with the urban boundary and weaken our environmental rules. They couldn't keep telling us that we have to re-create the housing bubble to restore the economy.
It's encouraging to have all sides saying that Martin County is a good place to live and we should keep it that way. Changing the rules for Harmony won't do that.

120224-a







120224-a
Anti-environmental bills make me want to scream
Miami Herald – by Pamela Mcvety
February 24, 2012
Being an adult I can’t throw myself on the floor and scream, but I sure would like to after reviewing the anti-environmental legislation proposed by the Florida Legislature during the current session.
Bills have been proposed to:
• Steal public lands and waters.
• Drill for oil and gas on public lands. Put advertising signs on greenways and trails.
• Eliminate septic tank inspections.
• Eliminate concurrency for schools and transportation for new development.
• Support water quality rules that will allow continued nutrient degradation of our waters.
• Move control to Tallahassee of water management funding.
• Stop registering greenhouse gas emitters.
And, funding has been withheld for Florida Forever environmental land acquisition and Everglades restoration, two programs that have been the hallmark of Florida’s environmental programs for decades.
Every company, business or landowner in the state of Florida, represented by high-paid lobbyists, that wants something that otherwise would not be legal or acceptable has come out from under a rock with a bill written to get what he wants at the expense of the public. It is insane.
Legislators are acting like the boys in Lord of the Flies. They need adult supervision.
Hypocrisy is rampant. The Climate Protection Act doesn’t protect us from our changing climate. It undoes more of what former Gov. Charlie Crist got passed to make Florida a leader in responding to climate change. Environmental resource permitting makes it easier to get a permit and does not advance the protection of our natural resources as the name might imply.
The sad thing is that the public understands very little about what is happening. But what is going on is bad for Florida. It is bad for you and over time the cost of doing business in this state will increase because of the decisions made by this legislature.
Your waters will continue to deteriorate. Do you like beach closures Memorial Day Weekend or on July 4th because of high bacterial counts or slimy green algae?
North Florida’s waters will end up in South Florida. Hope you don’t mind paying for water supply for Polk County. Your taxes will go up as you are asked to pay for the cost and impacts of development that developers will no longer pay.
Oil and gas wells will appear on public lands and the associated pollution will make it very unpleasant and unhealthy to visit these sites, not to mention that an oil well will never look or smell like a tree.
Advertisers will place sponsorship signs at trail heads and you will be reminded to eat your Twinkie. And, to heck with a Zen experience in state parks. There will be no more public land acquisition and paving will gradually stretch from coast to coast and north to south and with all the paving will come increasing electric bills.
You think all this is an exaggeration ?  I wouldn’t bet against these predictions.
Here is the real rub. Florida has some serious environmental problems that need to be fixed, but our legislature is busy undoing the past 40 years of environmental safeguards that have served us well. This anti-environmental agenda is unacceptable. It is bad for Florida’s economy. It is bad for jobs. It is bad for our children.
In the future as things worsen in this state, as they will with these kinds of bills, businesses will not want to locate here.
Where is our governor in all this ?  Oh that’s right, Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t read the bills yet.
Pamela McVety, who worked for the Department of Environmental Regulation and various other environmental agencies in Tallahassee over 30 years, retired in 2003. She is a member of the Florida Conservation Coalition.

120224-b






Browner

Carol Browner
,
the former director of
the White House Office
of Energy and Climate
Change Policy, delivers
her keynote speech at the UF Law School
during the 18th annual Public Interest Environmental Conference, in
Gainesville on Feb. 24

120224-b
Environmental ‘disaster' looms for Florida, Browner warns
Ocala.com - by Cindy Swirko, Staff writer
February 24, 2012
GAINESVILLE — Florida as we know it — beaches, fresh drinking water, the Everglades — will disappear unless action is taken to curb climate change, national environmental leader Carol Browner said at a dinner Friday night.
"Doing nothing simply spells disaster," said Browner, a University of Florida law graduate, Miami native and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. "We have to get started. Further delay will only make it more difficult and more expensive."
Browner spoke at a dinner Friday night as part of the UF Levin College of Law's annual environmental conference, which this year was titled "Fishable? Swimmable? 40 Years of Water Law in Florida and the United States."
Browner is the former secretary of Florida Department of Environmental Protection and most recently was director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. She also served as President Bill Clinton's EPA administrator.
Browner said the National Academy of Scientists estimates that 98 percent of scientists believe climate change is real, man-made and under way.
If it continues, Florida stands to lose its beaches from a rise in sea levels, salt water intrusion will reduce fresh water, severe storms will increase and other damage will occur, Browner predicted.
"It kind of begins to sound like a disaster movie, but unfortunately, it's not. It's reality," Browner said.
Conversely, spurring industries such as solar and wind power to combat climate change will create new businesses and lead to economic growth, she said. The U.S. is already a leading exporter of such technology to Europe and China, Browner said.
The U.S. must be willing to set strong anti-pollution standards, even if it is not known how the country will meet those standards, she said.
American innovation and ingenuity must be used to solve environmental challenges, and the nation should be prepared to accept the costs of protecting American lives by stemming pollution, Browner added.
"The benefits to society will outweigh the costs," Browner said. "I believe we will rise to the challenge."
The conference began Thursday night and continues through Saturday. Other speakers include law professors from UF and other universities, and authors of books on water issues, including Gainesville's Cynthia Barnett.
Panel discussions were held on themes of "Water+Quality," "Water+Quantity" and "Water+Change."
Saturday's sessions will be devoted to the current practice of water law and on the future of Florida's water resources, including a forum led by the newly established Florida Conservation Coalition and a jobs session for Florida's future environmental and land-use lawyers.

120224-c






Mosaic Co.

120224-c
Environmental Groups Settle South Fort Meade Extension Lawsuit with Mosaic
The Bradenton Times - by Doug Hayes, Sierra Club
February 24, 2012
Press Release: ST. PETERSBURG – Sierra Club Florida, People for Protecting Peace River (3PR) and ManaSota-88 announced today that they have entered into a settlement with The Mosaic Company to resolve their Federal Court lawsuit challenging Mosaic’s South Fort Meade Extension (SFM extension) phosphate mine in Hardee County, Florida. The US Corps of Engineers permit for the mine allowed more than 7,000 acres of phosphate strip mining in the Peace River watershed. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit was filed in June 2010 in the United States District Court in Jacksonville and charged that the Corps permit was issued in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing mining under the challenged permit in July, 2011.
When entered by the District Court the settlement will allow mining to proceed at the SFM extension. In return there will be major changes in the mining plan providing significant additional protections for the Peace River watershed. Among them:
● Most significantly, pursuant to the settlement discussions, Mosaic purchased the Peaceful Horse Ranch (PHR), a property of some 4400 acres at the confluence of the Peace River and Horse Creek, with nearly 8 miles of the Peace River frontage and nearly 6 miles of Horse Creek frontage, including largely pristine wetlands. PHR, which has some 3500 acres of wetlands, is on the State’s Florida Forever list as a property which is desirable for protection by the state. It is vital to the region’s water supply, water quality, flood protection, and management of natural system. It has been identified as central to the strategy of providing connected conservation areas as well as wildlife corridors along the Peace River for the Florida Panther. Pursuant to the settlement, as additional mitigation for the wetlands lost to mining in the challenged permit Mosaic will donate PHR to the state for a state park, along with $2 million to cover startup and initial maintenance costs. This acquisition and donation will make PHR a destination for hiking, boating and wildlife viewing, will provide long term protection to the Peace River watershed and the Charlotte Harbor estuary and will supplement the Florida Forever protection program which has been hobbled by lack of funding.
Link to Florida DEP's description of Peaceful Horse Ranch: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/FFAnnual/B_PeacefulHorseRch.pdf
● At the SFM extension mine, mining will be set back from the Peace River and onsite perennial streams, creating additional buffers of approximately 42 acres.
● An additional 7 bayhead wetlands and buffers, comprising over 70 acres, will be removed from the mine plan and preserved in a Conservation Easement. Bayheads are key to the ecosystem and are very difficult, if not impossible to restore or recreate.
● Some 400 acres of land between the southwest mine border and the Peace River will be placed into Conservation Easement, providing additional protection for the river.
● An area northwest of the site, and bordering the west side of the Peace will be placed into Conservation Easement.
● Two onsite streams will be enhanced with wetland treatment areas.
Mosaic will enter into a long term water monitoring program, and an independent panel will be created to review Mosaic’s monitoring and restoration over time and to make recommendations where desirable.
The Peace River Watershed provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Floridians and the State of Florida, the EPA and Congress have designated the Watershed, and the downstream Charlotte Harbor estuary, as a Priority Watershed, an Aquatic Resource of National Importance and an “estuary of national significance.” It is home to endangered and threatened wildlife and fish and depends on freshwater flows from the Peace River.
Commenting on the settlement Bev Griffiths of the Sierra Club Florida Phosphate Committee said, “This is a victory for everyone in Florida who values protecting the Peace River and increasing Florida’s State Park System. We are pleased to be able to come to an agreement with Mosaic on these matters. Our settlement requests were based on the items which USEPA had identified as desirable prior to issuance of the Corps permit. We are very pleased to be able to implement these provisions in our settlement agreement.”
Percy Angelo of the Sierra Club committee added, “Under this agreement some 5000 additional acres of land will be preserved and put into Conservation Easement along the Peace River and Horse Creek. “
Dennis Mader of 3PR added, “Our lawsuit argued that the SFM extension permit should not have been issued without an environmental impact statement (EIS) under NEPA and other review under the Clean Water Act. It was unfortunate that we were required to file suit to implement these statutory protections, but it is positive that Mosaic has agreed to adopt these very significant protections and we look forward to the addition of the PHR to our state park system.”
The settlement will be final when approved by the District Court and when the lawsuit and pending appeals have been dismissed by the District Court and the Appellate Court.
For a copy of the settlement agreement, email doug.hayes@sierraclub.org. ounty must now consider is how many tourists and potential residents will begin to feel the same.

120224-d







120224-d
Message is clear: Clean up Florida waters
Tampa Bay Times
February 24, 2012
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and her legal allies from polluting industries are doing a victory dance over a U.S. District Court ruling that set back the federal effort to clean up the state's waterways. They might want to read the ruling again, for it amounted to a full-throated rejection of the campaign of falsehoods and fearmongering that monied interests and their Tallahassee enablers have waged at the expense of Florida's environment and economy.
At issue are new standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to reverse the pollution that now taints the state's lakes, springs and streams. Even before taking office last year, Bondi, Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam signed on to a withering disinformation campaign aimed at browbeating the EPA to drop or weaken its effort. The group threw anything against the wall: The EPA, they said, was jumping the gun, abusing its authority, singling out Florida and using junk science.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, who is overseeing the case, dismissed the assault as mostly bunk in an 86-page order last week. Hinkle noted that the EPA had called for the cleanup standards 14 years ago, that the state had agreed and that EPA had supported Florida doing the job — despite its repeated foot-dragging. The judge found the EPA was not only appropriate to intervene, but had a obligation to under the federal Clean Water Act. With pollution fouling some 1,000 miles of rivers, 902 square miles of coastal area and 349,000 acres of lakes, the evidence of the need for the new cleanup standards was "overwhelming," the judge wrote. The state was acting so slowly, he noted, "there was no end in sight."
Hinkle also threw much-needed retardant on the effort by opponents to inflame the case as a states' rights issue. He said the EPA played it by the book, and it was natural to focus on Florida, given the state's fragile ecosystem. He also did a public service by not overlooking in his ruling the impact to surface waters by the power companies, ranchers and sewage utilities — "whose trade associations are participating in this litigation."
In the end, Hinkle upheld all but two of the EPA's new cleanup rules, rejecting those largely on technical grounds. In practical terms, it was not a convincing victory for the environment, given that the EPA has agreed to work with Florida and provide even more latitude. But Hinkle's ruling establishes that the federal government was right to move ahead, and it highlights how Florida's Republican leaders stood with the wrong side. That example of bad faith should not be forgotten, and it should guide the EPA as it enforces Florida's compliance with the new rules.

120223-a







Obama

120223-a
Everglades restoration needs bipartisan buy-in
Orlando Sentinel
February 23, 2012
President Obama wants to spends $232 million on restoring the Florida Everglades, a vital project stalled by sporadic government funding.
Now Florida's elected officials, who insist they have their state's best interests at heart, will have put aside any ideological differences and support that funding. The president's budget proposal is in the hands of Congress, and Republicans, including those in Florida's congressional delegation, are already sniping at the spending plan — some declaring it dead on arrival.
We share some of the skepticism, but Everglades funding ought to remain a nonpartisan issue, considered on its merits and not sacrificed to political infighting.
Restoring the River of Grass remains a critical goal. The Everglades is a unique environmental treasure, not just for Florida, but for the nation. The idea that such an essential program might fall victim to the political crossfire is disappointing at best.
And Florida badly needs the benefits from completing the water projects outlined in the president's budget. The projects include ones that would help restore the Everglades' natural water flow, ensuring water supplies for South Florida.
The president's budget, laudably, includes dollars to complete a long-delayed reservoir in Palm Beach County, which will go a long way in storing stormwater that typically drains out to sea, and boost water supplies to residents living in neighboring counties. The lack of funding and some dubious decisions to forgo construction to pay for a large land purchase deal with U.S. Sugar have stymied progress.
Equally important are funds for construction of a bridge over the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade Countyto allow more water to flow into the Everglades National Park. For decades, the ground-level roadway has acted as a dam for the River of Grass' natural flow, and has negatively changed portions of the park's landscape and threatened wildlife living there.
Word out of Washington on funding couldn't come at a better time. The state of Florida, a partner with the federal government, is having a hard enough time scrounging up its own restoration funding in another tight budget year. The Florida House has proposed $30 million, while the Senate would provide no money to restore the Everglades in next year's budget.
But as the November elections draw closer, members of Congress are digging in their ideological heels. This threatens Everglades restoration, and Florida's future.
Getting behind the president's funding proposal should be an easy call for every member of the state's congressional delegation, no matter the party affiliation.

120223-b







120223-b
Fix last year's water supply mistakes
Gainesville.com – by Eric Draper, Executive Director, Audubon Florida
February 23, 2012
The time has come to correct a major mistake in Florida's system of managing water resources. Last year the Legislature and Governor Rick Scott cut more than $700 million from the state's five water management districts. Hundreds of scientists, regulators, land managers and support staff were let go. Since then the water districts have moved to sell off public lands, cut back on water supply projects, and scrimped on Everglades restoration.
After the cuts took place some legislators admitted that they went too far. Now the Florida Senate has proposed to repeal the water management district's spending limits while still capping the districts' ability to levy property taxes. It seems likely that the mistake will be corrected and the water management district governing boards will once again be able to plan for and finance clean and abundant water resources.
Financing our blue and green infrastructure, as water resources are often called, is just as important as roads, schools and health care. When Florida faced its first water supply problems nearly forty years ago, voters gave the water management districts the power to tax to pay to manage the aquifers, floodplains, springs, and rivers that provide our water supplies.
Organized around the state's major watersheds, the water management districts did exactly what was expected: Bought up sensitive environmental lands such as the Green Swamp, from which much of Tampa Bay's water comes. Began the long process of restoring the Everglades ecosystem, which provides drinking water to six million Floridians. Built projects to protect the vast watershed of the St. Johns River so communities from Orlando to Jacksonville would enjoy the benefits of both flood control and clean water.
However, the water management districts also made some people angry. Utilities and some large farmers hated being told to conserve water. Developers did not take kindly to being told that building in wetlands required permits and replacing damaged wetlands. Water bottlers were not happy about limits on tapping Florida's springs.
But the real offense, the one that made water management districts a target for Tea Party activists, was the sin of holding money in reserve to pay for water projects. Funds reserved to build water supply projects near Tampa Bay and restoration projects for the Everglades suddenly became the low hanging fruit for the Governor's campaign promise to cut taxes. When he signed the law SB 2142 that put the cuts into effect his agency leaders cheered the result as a promise delivered. Governor Scott was correct that the water management districts could take haircuts. But he was wrong to cut so deep.
Now the Florida Senate's willingness to repeal the spending caps and replace them with a new budget process offers an opportunity to correct a mistake and allow water management districts to assume the responsibility for financing the protection and use of Florida's water resources. By lifting the spending caps while retaining limits on overall taxing authority, the Legislature can provide a dependable source of local revenue for water supply. The money helps protect water sources such as the Green Swamp and restore watersheds including the Everglades and the St. Johns River.
The Legislature can both mend a mistake and improve public confidence that tax dollars are being spent wisely. Floridians support focusing money on conservation, restoration, natural systems and water supply. It is time for a new start to make sure that our state has the fresh water needed to attract new business and jobs while protecting the springs, rivers and bays that makes Florida such a special place.

120223-c







120223-c
State Water Act proposed
GulfBreezeNews.com
February 23, 2012
LEGISLATION
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio last week introduced The State Waters Partnership Act, a bill that would force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt Florida’s science based Numeric Nutrient Criteria on water-quality regulation.
This is the Senate companion to a bill introduced in January by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland.
“Florida has one of the most aggressive water-quality protection programs in the nation implemented by the people who know our state best. It’s time the EPAstop bullying us into accepting another Washington contrived mandate that would devastate job creation,” Rubio said.
“This legislation simply reaffirms that states and the federal government should be partners in making sure our water is clean, and prevents Washington overreaches from harming our economy.”
Southerland said the legislation would save up to 14,500 Florida agriculture jobs while building on the successes already achieved on the state level to keep the state’s water clean.
The State Waters Partnership Act would ensure that Florida maintains the primary role for establishing and implementing water-quality standards for its waters by compelling the Administrator of the EPA to formally accept the state rule that passed both the Florida House and Senate unanimously this month. The bill is supported by the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida League of Cities.

120222-a







120222-a
Environmentalists fighting more state limits for South Florida Water Management District
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 22, 2012
Environmental groups are trying to roll back budget handcuffs slapped on the South Florida agency that leads Everglades restoration.
The Florida Legislature last year cut the South Florida Water Management District budget by more than 30 percent and set new Legislature-controlled spending limits for the district.
In addition to leading Everglades restoration for Florida, the water management district guards against flooding and protects water supplies from Orlando to the Keys.
Environmentalists’ plan during the ongoing legislative session was to try to lift the spending limits imposed last year. But the groups led by 1000 Friends of Florida now say that new legislation would leave in place the same spending caps they contend shortchange Everglades restoration
Also, a new concern is that the Legislature will further strip the power of the regional boards appointed by the governor to lead Florida’s five water management districts.
The new Florida Conservation Coalition is urging the Legislature to keep regional water management practices in place.
The Coalition, led by former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, is calling on environmental advocates to contact state lawmakers and oppose efforts for the state to take more control of the water management districts.
In addition, new legislative maneuvering, including renumbering the proposed state Senate bill, could mean “the fate of regional water management will probably be decided in fairly smoky rooms,” according to the Coalition.
The legislation number has changed from Senate Bill 1834 to SPB 7092 and most recently to SB 1986, making it harder for the public to keep track of proposed changes, according to 1000 Friends of Florida

120222-b








summary

See Judge Hinkle's
full Order document



120222-b
Federal Court Issues Mixed Ruling On Criteria for Florida Nutrient Standards
Bloomberg BNA - by Drew Douglas
February 22, 2012
TAMPA, Fla.—A federal judge has upheld a 2009 formal determination by the Environmental Protection Agency that numeric nutrient standards are necessary for Florida's waters, but invalidated certain aspects of the water quality criteria the agency developed (Florida Wildlife Federation v. Johnson, N.D. Fla., No. 4:08-cv-00324, 2/18/12).
Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in a mixed decision Feb. 18 said EPA was correct in determining that standards were needed.
Hinkle upheld the criteria for lakes and springs, but invalidated the criteria for streams, saying they were arbitrary and capricious. Moreover, he upheld the decision to adopt downstream protection criteria and upheld some, but not all, of the criteria EPA set.
The judge also backed the EPA administrator's decision to allow site-specific alternative criteria and the procedures for adopting them. He also upheld a March 6 deadline, or an extended date approved by the court, for the validated portion of the rulemaking.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2008 by Earthjustice on behalf of five environmental groups alleging EPA had failed to comply with its nondiscretionary duty to set numeric nutrient criteria for Florida as directed by the Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit sought a court order to require the agency to impose quantifiable and enforceable limits for nutrient contaminants in the state. EPA in January 2009 issued its determination that Florida should set numeric nutrient standards (11 DEN A-11, 1/21/09).
In making the determination under Section 303(c)(4)(B) of the act, EPA said the action also would help identify waters impaired because of nutrient pollution, establish total maximum daily loads and basin management action plans, and derive National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits.
Judge Rules on Criteria
EPA adopted lake and spring criteria based on modeling and field studies to determine the level at which an increase in nutrients ordinarily causes harmful effects on “sound science and are not arbitrary or capricious,” Hinkle wrote.
However, he said EPA was unable to develop acceptable stream criteria based on modeling and field studies and thus adopted stream criteria using a different approach.
EPA “identified a representative sample of minimally-disturbed streams for which nutrient data were available, calculated annual geometric means for each stream and in turn for the sample set of streams, and set the criteria at the 90th percentile,” he said.
“The Administrator apparently concluded only that an increase above this level ordinarily causes a change in flora and fauna—not that it causes a harmful change. If there is a basis in sound science for disapproving a nutrient increase that causes any increase in flora and fauna, not just a harmful increase, the Administrator did not cite it,” Hinkle wrote.
“And even if the Administrator's conclusion was that an increase in nutrients to a level above the 90th percentile ordinarily causes a harmful change in flora and fauna, the Administrator again did not cite a sound science basis for the conclusion,” Hinkle said. “Without a further explanation, the stream criteria are arbitrary or capricious.”
Both Sides Claim Win
The decision had both supporters and opponents claiming victory.
Earthjustice said a “decade of delays in setting limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in Florida waters ended” with Hinkle's ruling. Earthjustice also said that enforceable new limits on such pollution cannot be delayed and must go into effect March 6.
“Florida political and environmental leaders have been struggling for 20 years to come up with a way to stop huge green toxic algae outbreaks that plague Florida lakes and rivers,” Earthjustice Attorney David Guest said in a statement. “Today, we finally turned the corner.”
Earthjustice also termed Hinkle's decision about streams “two technical defects in EPA's rule, and ordered them to be fixed by May.”
Called ‘Major Victory' for State
Opponents disagreed with the characterization.
Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) said the state has prevailed on a “key” issue.
“This is a major victory for the state because the bulk of the compliance costs associated with EPA's numeric nutrient criteria would have stemmed from the stream rule,” Bondi said in a written statement. “This ruling will give Florida an opportunity to enact rules to protect our streams without crippling our economy. Yet another instance of federal government overreach has been prevented.”
Bondi continued, “The Court upheld the site specific alternative criteria, or variance, process. Under this provision, if an applicant for a permit can show that the particular water body at issue should be governed by different numeric criteria, then a variance can be issued.”
Bondi and other officials also noted the state was submitting to EPA two numeric nutrient criteria rules (62-302 and 62-303) proposed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). A bill (H.B. 7051) approving the rulemaking, in effect, was signed Feb. 16 by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) (27 DEN A-12, 2/10/12).
The rules would cover water quality in state lakes, streams, rivers, and certain estuaries.
Rulemaking Submitted to EPA
, FDEP said Feb. 21 that it has submitted the rulemaking to EPA.
“Florida advanced its efforts in setting numeric nutrient standards for our waterbodies, by presenting our rules to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final review,” FDEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said in a written statement. “A healthy environment depends on getting Florida's water right, in terms of both water supply and water quality. No one knows our water better than Floridians, and these rules will allow us to effectively protect water quality in our state.”
Vinyard continued, “Our rules provide a clear process for identifying waters impaired by nutrients, preventing harmful discharges and establishing necessary reductions. They provide a reasonable and predictable implementation strategy, and avoid unnecessary costs for Florida's households and businesses.”
Both sides in the Northern District lawsuit agreed that Hinkle's ruling would play a role in the state rulemaking.
The rules are under administrative challenge from Earthjustice (233 DEN A-7, 12/5/11).
“Like the old rules, the proposed rules only require studies when an algae outbreak takes place. No corrective action can be required until the studies are completed, a process that takes five to ten years,” Guest said in the statement.
Attorney Chides EPA
Attorney David Childs, with the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping Green & Sams, said Hinkle's order “echoed a key criticism that opponents of EPA's rule have made from the outset of this case: that EPA adopted overly restrictive streams criteria that would misallocate limited government and private resources to reduce nutrient loads below levels necessary to protect Florida's streams.”
Childs also said in a memorandum on the case that Hinkle's ruling likely could substantially impact EarthJustice's administrative challenge.
“FDEP's springs and lakes criteria are virtually identical to EPA's criteria, and a federal court has upheld those two sets of criteria under the same legal standard of review that applies in the state hearing,” Childs wrote.
“Also, FDEP's streams criteria use the same numeric values as EPA's criteria, but the difference is that FDEP's streams criteria also have a biological confirmation step, while EPA relied solely on raw numbers,” Childs wrote. “It could be argued that FDEP's more detailed streams criteria rule truly interprets FDEP's narrative criterion and thus squarely addresses the fatal flaw in EPA's streams criteria that led Judge Hinkle to invalidate that portion of the EPA rule.”

120222-c







120222-c
Gov. Scott is sticking to his word on Everglades funding — but will lawmakers listen ?
TCPalm - by Eve Samples
February 22, 2012
It's time to check in on Gov. Rick Scott, who professed his newfound commitment to Everglades restoration last month during a visit to Martin County.
Is the former health-care bigwig doing his part to push for the $40 million in restoration projects and $15 million in land conservation proposed in his budget?
"I actually believe he is," Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Everglades Foundation, told me Wednesday.
If only we could say the same of the state Legislature.
Lawmakers, of course, are the ones charged with passing an annual budget — and their line items for the Everglades don't align with Scott's.
The House budget recommends $35 million for restoration, but no money for the land-buying program Florida Forever.
The Senate's proposed budget tagged no money for Everglades restoration or Florida Forever.
This money would do more than preserve beautiful parts of our state. It would help maintain the water supply for an estimated 7 million Floridians.
Our hometown senator, Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is vice-chair of the Senate Budget Committee. I called him Tuesday and Wednesday to ask about the lack of funding from his chamber. He didn't get back to me.
"His district is ground zero for impacts of water pollution," Fordham said of Negron, noting the Treasure Coast economy is heavily dependent on clean water.
"I would love to see him become even more engaged," Fordham added.
As the Legislature heads into its final weeks of session and the two chambers work toward a compromise, Fordham gives them a 50-50 chance of matching Scott's recommendations for Everglades restoration. He is less optimistic about Florida Forever.
"Florida Forever, I think, is in even greater peril because there seems to be an aversion to funding land conservation programs in this Legislature," Fordham said.
Many lawmakers still aren't connecting the dots between land conservation and Florida's vital water supply — even though local governments, including West Palm Beach, have come dangerously close to running out of drinking water during recent droughts.
Yes, it's a tight budget year in Florida. But the House found enough wiggle room to pass a bill allowing $121 million in tax cuts and exemptions for Florida businesses, and the Senate is poised to follow suit.
Time is tight too this session, with the giant task of redistricting at hand. But the Legislature found time to take up casino gambling. This week, state senators have spent some of their time debating who should be Senate president in the coming years (Negron's name gets tossed around in that discussion).
"There seems to be a lack of focus on priorities that matter most," Fordham said.
Scott and his staff, however, have been surprisingly vocal and visible about Everglades restoration.
"I think they initially thought this was a big science project that benefited birds and gators," Fordham said. "In fact, the primary beneficiaries are the people who live here."
Scott's budget doesn't come close to former Gov. Jeb Bush's allocations for the Everglades, which were as high as $200 million (during some cushy budget years). Still, they keep up the momentum for restoring the River of Grass.
To voice your opinion on Everglades restoration, call our local lawmakers' offices:
Sen. Joe Negron, 772-219-1665 or 850-487-5088; Rep. Gayle Harrell, 772-398-2786 or 850-488-8749; Rep. William Snyder, 772-221-4904 or 850-488-8832; and Rep. Steve Perman, 561-470-6596 or 850-488-5588.

120222-d








summary

See Judge Hinkle's
full Order document




120222-d
State working to put new water rules in place
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 22, 2012
In a letter sent to EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requests that the agency “return to Floridians the responsibility for protecting Florida’s waters.”
The state department submitted new proposed water pollution rules to the EPA late Monday, along with several technical support documents, a memo from the department’s general counsel and other supporting materials. According to a recent judicial order, the new set of water pollution rules must be implemented by March 6.
According to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, the state’s “commitment to set numeric nutrient standards is underscored by [the state's] extensive investment in the development of both nutrient standards and biological metrics that are the basis for these rules.”
“Florida advanced its efforts in setting numeric nutrient standards for our waterbodies, by presenting our rules for to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final review,” Vinyard says in a statement. “A healthy environment depends on getting Florida’s water right, in terms of both water supply and water quality. No one knows our water better than Floridians, and these rules will allow us to effectively protect water quality in our state.”
Many environmentalists disagree — arguing that the state has done a poor job of managing its own water.
In 2008, a group of state environmental organizations filed suit against the EPA, alleging that Florida was violating the Clean Water Act since its water pollution rules weren’t stringent enough and, as a result, were leading to algae blooms and fish kills.
That suit was settled in 2009, with a mandate from the EPA requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. But the EPA’s criteria have been criticized for being too costly, with industry leaders arguing they could cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Eventually, the EPA announced that it would allow Florida to develop its own rules. State officials say those rules are just as stringent as the EPA’s version, but environmentalists continue to cry foul, alleging that the state’s rules are less protective than having no standards at all.
“Our rules provide a clear process for identifying waters impaired by nutrients, preventing harmful discharges and establishing necessary reductions,” Vinyard says. “They provide a reasonable and predictable implementation strategy, and avoid unnecessary costs for Florida’s households and businesses.”
According to Vinyard’s statement, the EPA has indicated that it supports the state’s draft rules, and the state department is looking forward “to getting these rules on the books and implemented as soon as possible.”

120222-e






CLICK to enlarge
Mosaic


120222-e
The battle over phosphate mining has shifted
Herald-Tribune - by Kate Spinner
February 22, 2012
When Southwest Florida local governments gave up the fight four years ago against a phosphate mine that could have threatened the regional water supply, three small environmental groups pressed on.
The groups' persistence paid off Tuesday in a compromise with Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate mining company, that protects more land from mining, adds buffers around streams and wetlands and preserves more than 4,000 acres near a major water utility that supplies drinking water to tens of thousands of people in three counties.
The settlement marks a shift in a legal dispute that has been waged for more than a decade over the extent of mining, and practices for extracting phosphate to make fertilizer, in the Peace River basin.
The 11,000-acre South Fort Meade mine proposal is only the latest front in the battle, and one of the most contentious because of its size and proximity to the Peace River, which supplies not only drinking water but vital fresh water to the Charlotte Harbor estuary downstream.
"From a water flow standpoint this is really, really helpful," said Percy Angelo, a member of the Sierra Club Florida Phosphate Committee, which fought the mine along with Manasota-88 and People for Protecting Peace River.
In the past, Charlotte County led the battle against mining's march south from Polk County, spending more than $13 million over the last 10 years in legal fights over various permits seeking to make sure mining did not ruin its primary water supply or the health of its prized Charlotte Harbor. Sarasota and Lee counties, and the four-county Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority joined the fight at various points.
But in 2008, the local governments wearied of spending money in an increasingly volatile economy. State courts were not sympathetic to their arguments.
The state that year issued Mosaic a permit to mine the South Fort Meade extension, allowing the removal of 600 acres of wetlands and 11 miles of streams. Charlotte, for the first time in years, decided not to sue. Sarasota and Lee counties challenged the permit without Charlotte, but a state judge dismissed the case.
"The counties had done a tremendous amount of work, but they concentrated on doing things in state court. We decided that was an uphill battle," Angelo said.
Any project that the destroys wetlands needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Environmental groups argued in federal court that the agency had not done the required environmental reviews before issuing its permit.
The argument was strong enough that a judge halted mining activity at the site. That delay lasted a year and a half. It created enough uncertainty for Mosaic workers and investors to prompt settlement negotiations, said Russell Schweiss, a Mosaic spokesman.
The halt in work at South Fort Meade left 140 people temporarily unemployed until negotiations last year allowed work on a small portion of the property. To make up for lost momentum, Mosaic shifted work to its other mines. It did not lose any production.
In the second quarter of this fiscal year, Mosaic sold $2.2 billion worth of phosphate, an essential ingredient for fertilizer. Those sales were up 10 percent from last year, according to a company investor's report.
The price of processed phosphate also skyrocketed this year to $611 per ton, up from $461.
Mosaic owns an additional 40,000 acres in Southwest Florida that it wants to mine over the next 30 to 40 years.
Although Schweiss insists that the settlement sets no precedents, it could prove to some that Mosaic can afford to take additional measures in the future to protect the environment.
"This settlement demonstrates that there are many more improvements in the way phosphate is mined in Florida, that it can be done much more responsibly and still be economically viable and still keep the country in food," said Jon Thaxton, a Sarasota County Commissioner.
Key to the settlement is the preservation a 4,171-acre ranch that borders the water authority's intake on the Peace River and an important river tributary, Horse Creek. The utility provides drinking water to customers in Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties and the city of North Port.
The Peaceful Horse Ranch, with about 3,500 acres of wetlands and eight miles of Peace River frontage, has been on the state's list of environmentally sensitive lands targeted for acquisition. The state's land acquisition program, however, has virtually ground to a halt.
The settlement calls for Mosaic to donate the land to the state for a park, along with $2 million to help with costs.
Combined, the agreement protects about 5,000 acres of property along the Peace River and its tributaries, Horse Creek and Little Charlie Creek.
Related in Herald-Tribune:
Mosaic reaches settlement over Fort Meade mine
Manatee phosphate mine expansion advances
Mosiac ordered to stop mining at South Fort Meade  - July 12, 2011

120222-f






120222-f
Will political bullies decide water policy in Florida ?
Tampa Bay Times - by Dan DeWitt, Times, Columnist
February 22, 2012
Maybe you thought the state's water management districts had been picked on as much as possible, that they had been left so broke and powerless they were no longer worth anyone's trouble.
After all, the Legislature had already slashed the districts' budgets, and Gov. Rick Scott had stocked the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District with politically beholden folks — including two former members of his transition team — and then stood by as Swiftmud's basin boards were dismantled.
But it turned out all this was just a warm-up for the real bullying.
Later this week, the state Senate is expected to take up a piece of legislation (SB 1986) that will restructure the way the districts' budgets are set and, along the way, undermine the founding principle behind the formation of a statewide network of districts 40 years ago.
Water management wasn't centralized, said former Department of Environmental Regulation (now Environmental Protection) Secretary Vicki Tschinkel, because state leaders at the time believed local representatives would have the most knowledge about their region's water supply and the most interest in protecting it. Governing board members weren't elected so they could be spared from direct political influence.
This bill, on the other hand, gives direct control for every line item in the districts' budgets to the governor and Legislature. And to see how this also means control of policy, consider what this bill says about regulation — that it should no longer be one of the districts' core missions, but a fringe duty funded separately by the Legislature.
So what happens if a district tries to make a powerful industry or landowner follow its rules? It can be punished, of course, and punished in a way that lets it know exactly what it's being punished for.
Expect lots of empty desks in the districts' regulatory offices, said Tschinkel — who has studied this issue for the bipartisan Florida Conservation Coalition — and a distinct chill for anyone who thinks seriously about protecting lakes, rivers and the aquifer.
What other duties would no longer be among the districts' central mission if the bill becomes law? Buying and restoring natural lands. Of course.
Also outreach, which doesn't sound like such a bad thing until you consider that this has always included trying to teach Florida residents that they can easily use less water.
And instead of that very cost-effective way to ensure water is available for future growth, the Senate bill opts for a much more expensive method: "water supply, including alternative water supply, and water resource development projects."
That might include potentially beneficial but very costly projects such as desalination plants. Or it might mean pumping water from places where it is relatively plentiful, such as northern Hernando County, to places where it isn't, including most of Central Florida.
It definitely means there will be a scramble among lawmakers to get their legislative districts' share — or more than their share — of projects and water. And it means the distribution of these resources won't be determined by the needs of residents or the environment, but by political muscle.
So it's no surprise that this bill was diverted from one Senate committee that might have voted it down and instead appeared and quickly passed through the Appropriations Committee headed by JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales.
We can't say for sure that this bill will allow Alexander to bring home an expensive pipeline project that his district needs for future development. After all, this is his last session.
But you know his most publicized pet project, the independent university he wants for his district, and how the battle over it has been ugly and messy and contrary to the interests of just about everyone involved?
Well, if this bill passes, setting water policy in Florida could look lot like that.

120221-a







summary

See Judge Hinkle's
full Order document



120221-
Both sides claiming win from Fla. pollution ruling
WINK News
February 21, 2012
TALLAHASEE, Fla. (AP) - Both sides in a dispute over water pollution are claiming victory from a federal court ruling that ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the new regulations for Florida's lakes and springs by March 6 but not for rivers and streams.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, meanwhile, on Tuesday submitted a pair of proposed state rules covering both types of inland waters to the EPA. State officials want the federal agency to adopt their rules instead.
Business, agriculture and utility interests favor the state rules, contending the federal versions would be too expensive to implement.
Environmental groups support the EPA, saying the state's proposal would be too weak to curtail toxic algae blooms that are choking many Florida waters, killing fish and causing breathing problems and skin rashes for humans.
Both sets of rules would set numeric limits for nitrogen and phosphorus contained in such pollutants as sewage, fertilizer and animal waste that feed the algae, but they differ in some key details. Either would replace existing state rules that use words to describe what's considered pollution instead of setting numeric limits on the nutrients.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle upheld the federal rules on Saturday but gave EPA until May 21 to revise the river and streams provision because he found it to be arbitrary and capricious.
David Guest, an Earthjustice lawyer who represents the environmental groups, called that a "technical defect."
"How you can tell who won or lost is by who appeals and we're not going to appeal," Guest said.
He noted Hinkle rejected arguments that numeric nutrient limits aren't needed.
"That was a categorical defeat for our opponents," Guest said.
David Childs, a lawyer for a coalition that opposed the rules, said his clients have not yet made a decision on appealing.
Attorney General Pam Bondi called the decision "a major victory for the state because the bulk of the compliance costs associated with EPA's numeric nutrient criteria would have stemmed from the stream rule." Her office, though, has not yet decided whether to appeal.
Childs said the state and federal rules are nearly identical for lakes and springs while the state's version "should address the very reasons that the EPA rules were invalidated. That's where the action is so to speak."
Guest said his clients, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southeast Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club, would ask Hinkle to reject the state's numeric rules if the EPA should adopt them instead of its own version.
"We already know what to do: stop the sewage, stop the fertilizer, stop animal manure, and do it now," Guest said.
EPA drafted the rules to settle a lawsuit by the environmental groups. The agency did not have an immediate comment on the court ruling Tuesday.
The environmental groups also have filed an administrative law challenge to the state rules. A hearing is set to begin in that case on Monday.

120221-b







Rinaman

Lisa RINAMAN,
St.Johns Riverkeeper

120221-b
Environmentalists say new St. Johns study ‘not a green light’ to approve water withdrawal projects
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 21, 2012
A week ago, the St. Johns River Water Management district released the results of a four-year study on the potential impacts of water withdrawals on the state’s largest river. Environmentalists are applauding the district for undertaking the project, but argue that many questions and legitimate concerns about the impact of water withdrawal on the St. Johns remain.
According to the report, which the district called its “most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous analysis” of the river yet, the St. Johns could serve as an alternative water supply without significantly damaging the environment. But the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the river’s longtime watchdog, argues that the study shouldn’t be viewed as a green light to proceed with withdrawals.
“While the study has its merits and has provided us with a greater understanding of the St. Johns River watershed, it certainly doesn’t adequately address all of the concerns and potential impacts associated with water withdrawals,” says the Riverkeeper’s Jimmy Orth. Despite some reports to the contrary, Lisa Rinaman, the newly minted St. Johns Riverkeeper, says that the report “does not set absolutes” and “does not authorize water withdrawals.”
In fact, Rinaman says, the report is flawed, and the Riverkeeper argues that more research is needed. According to some views of the study, “there are only negligible or minor impacts to withdrawing water,” Rinaman says. “We don’t agree with that, nor does the National Research Council.”
A 150-page peer review of the study conducted by the National Research Council (and commissioned by the water management district) revealed that the study has its limitations.
The report didn’t include the Ocklawaha River, the largest contributing tributary to the St Johns. According to Rinaman, the Ocklawaha contributes over one third of the freshwater flow to the St. Johns, making it a “substantial piece of this very dynamic equation.”
Another issue, Rinaman says, is that the study was designed to focus on issues underneath the control of the water management district — so issues like future sea level rise, urban growth, potential dredging or extreme events (like back-to-back droughts) were also not included.
“We believe it’s a good body of work, but … there are many questions that have not been answered,” says Rinaman.
In January, the water management district presented its report to the Jacksonville Waterways Commission, noting that the report “does not set absolutes” and “does not authorize water withdrawals.” The district did note, however, that the report would “be used to guide District permit evaluations, planning and policy.”
Those companies looking to apply for a permit allowing water withdrawal from the St. Johns might use the report to defend their request, but the normal permitting process will still apply. Those requesting a permit will have to conduct their own additional analysis on potential effects of withdrawing from the St. Johns — using what’s been produced in the report, and filling in the gaps with additional science.
“[The report] is definitely not a green light to withdraw additional water,” Rinaman says

120221-c






120221-c
Fla. environmentalists target Rodman reservoir dam
Associated Press -- by BILL KACZOR
February 21, 2012
Two environmental groups notified the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday that they'll sue the agency if it doesn't agree to remove the Rodman Reservoir's dam because it is imperiling manatees and shortnose sturgeon, both endangered species.
Efforts to remove the George Kirkpatrick Dam in Putnam County, drain the reservoir and restore the Ocklawaha River have met resistance in the past from the Florida Legislature, the St. Johns River Water Management District, local government officials and bass fishing interests. The dam is a vestige of the ill-fated Cross Florida Barge Canal project, which was to cross Central Florida and link the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
The dam is named for a former state senator who fought to preserve the 9,600-acre, 15-mile-long reservoir that attracts anglers from across the nation.
The environmentalists filed the 60-day notice of their intent to sue four decades after President Richard Nixon halted the cross-state barge canal project because it was a "failed boondoggle" that threatened to cause serious environmental damage, said Florida Defenders of the Environment president Stephen Robitaille. Much of the project area is now the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.
Florida Defenders and the Florida Wildlife Federation contend the dam violates the federal Endangered Species Act by blocking the migration of the sturgeon and manatees, keeping the latter from reaching warmer waters during the winter months. The groups are being represented by Earthjustice, an environmental legal organization.
"We believe that the Rodman (reservoir) dam is a ridiculous relic that no longer serves any useful purpose," Earthjustice lawyer David Guest said at a news conference. "The dam is harmful to the river and the species that live in it. ... This has been a sore on the conscience of every Florida environmentalist."
After restoration, the Ocklawaha, a tributary of the St. Johns River, could also be traversed by other fish that once were plentiful and it would be a boon for recreation such as kayaking, hiking and camping, the environmentalists say.
Previous drawdowns of the reservoir indicate nature would do most of the restoration so the cost would be low, said Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller.
"The baby cypress trees sprout by the millions," Fuller said. "What happens when they pull the water back up, they drown."
Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Rains said she couldn't comment on the potential litigation but that the river's restoration has been a longtime agency goal. A portion of the Ocala National Forest has been submerged by the reservoir. Berms that form part of the dam are on federal property although its metal structure is on state property, Rains said.
The environmentalists say the Florida Department of Environmental Protection no longer has valid permits for the dam. Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Diaz said the agency couldn't comment because it has not received a copy of the notice.
Putnam County Commissioner Ed Taylor, who also heads a group called Save Rodman Reservoir, said removing the dam would cause nutrients now removed from the water by aquatic plants in the reservoir to pollute the Ocklawaha and St. Johns downstream.
"If they try to move forward, then we're going to take them to court," Taylor said. "We're not going to let it go down without a fight."
Sean Rush, a Rodman bass fishing guide, disputed the environmentalists' contention that there are plenty of other lakes in north central Florida for bass fishing. Rush said Rodman is the only one that hasn't been dried up. He also argued the reservoir has become a wildlife paradise that would be lost if it were to be drained.
"It's forever changed," Rush said. "There are millions of animals that rely on this place. It would be an environmental catastrophe."
One of Rush's customers, Paul Bickel of Louisville, Ky., said he and his wife usually come to Florida twice a year to go bass fishing and spend a couple thousand dollars on each trip.
Bickel said he considers himself an environmentalist and that the reservoir abounds with a variety of species including eagles and sandhill cranes.
"The Rodman Reservoir is a fabulous treasure in terms of a wildlife habitat," he said.

120221-d





hog

120221-d
Hogs will solve snake problem
Dothan Eagle – Letter by Riley Barnes, Dothan
February 21, 2012
As boas and pythons eat their way through the Everglades, their next target will be the nearby neighborhoods and people’s pets. Pray it’s not someone’s child. But it’s already happened. A pet python has killed a two-year-old.
Before it happens in someone’s back yard, now is the time to act before they spread. The best way to get rid of a non-native species is with another that hunts them for food.
There are places in Florida and the South that are run over with an animal that loves to eat eggs and snakes – the wild hog. I’ve personally watched hogs go after a very large rattlesnake. After killing it, the hogs fought over the meal.
Large wild hogs can be trapped and made infertile, then released in the snake-infested area, where they will smell out the eggs and eat most of the snakes they come across. Not only killing off the snakes, it will thin out hogs where they cause problems, and it will cost less than it does for experts to study the problem.
A few more mild winters like we’ve had so far, and there is no telling how much farther north they will be able to come.

120221-e






120221-e
Homes, businesses using more reclaimed water
Gainesville.com - by Morgan Watkins, Correspondent
February 21, 2012
Although the use of reclaimed water locally dipped in 2009, its use has risen since then, with an average of 2.47 million gallons of reclaimed water flowing daily via Gainesville Regional Utilities in 2011, according to the utility.
The 2011 figure is the result of an increase from 2010 of 460,000 gallons of reclaimed water available per day, which in turn was a 230,000-gallons-a-day increase from 2009, according to data from GRU.
Reclaimed water can be used by homeowners and business owners as an alternative to ground water for needs such as lawn irrigation, thereby decreasing the demands on other water sources, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It can also be used to recharge ground water and eliminate discharges that could pollute surface waters.
“Water supplies are diminishing, so anything we can do to conserve water is a good thing,” said Agustin Olmos, water resources manager for Alachua County. “Reclaimed water is just as important as any other source of water.”
GRU’s reclaimed water use rose from 1998 to 2007 before slightly diminishing in 2008 from a high in 2007 of 3.15 million gallons per day to 3.08 million per day.
But in 2009, the amount of reclaimed water flow had its biggest drop in 17 years, plummeting from 3.08 to 1.83 million gallons per day.
Rick Hutton, GRU supervising utility engineer, wrote in an email that the decline is due in part to customers using water more efficiently.
Also, GRU hasn’t been connecting new customers to the reclaimed water pipe network as rapidly as it had in previous years because construction has slowed due to the U.S. economic downturn.
As the economy improves, however, Hutton said the customer base should increase.
GRU’s reclaimed water use began to climb in 2001, with a large increase of 1.15 million gallons from the previous year.
Since then, GRU has expanded its customer base for reclaimed water and now serves about 1,000 people who use it for irrigation. About 900 of them are residential customers, according to Hutton.
“Generally, it’s very desirable because people are able to use it to water their yards, and it’s less expensive than potable irrigation,” Hutton said.
GRU has two water reclamation facilities, one bordering Lake Kanapaha off Tower Road and one on Main Street, Hutton said. Some of the water that cycles through each plant eventually flows back into the Floridan aquifer.
“It’s probably over 100 years before it ever reaches somebody’s tap, but the Floridan aquifer is part of the drinking water supply,” he said.
GRU is also working with the City of Gainesville Public Works Department on the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration project, a $26 million program that aims to use reclaimed water and stormwater to improve water quality and restore more than 1,300 acres of wetlands on the prairie.
Reclaimed water use is regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and at the regional level by water management districts. Florida’s Reuse Program, which was created in response to the objectives regarding water reuse listed in a 2011 state statute, requires oversight of permitting.
The St. Johns River Water Management District’s consumptive-use permitting program requires the use of reclaimed water and stormwater where feasible, such as if a golf course needs water for irrigation, said Teresa Monson, public communications coordinator for the district.
“We recognize that there is not just a single solution to solving our water supply challenges, so what we believe is that there should be a combination of sources along with conservation to help stretch our traditional freshwater supplies,” she said.
The Suwannee River Water Management District requests that applicants for consumptive-use permits who have the opportunity to use reclaimed water do so, or else show why that isn’t feasible, said Executive Director David Still.
“We want to know (why). As it stands today under the current law, reused water is still a resource of the state. It doesn’t belong to the utilities, it belongs to people,” he said.
An ongoing drought in Florida raises the question of how much water will be available for use. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor website, all of Florida is experiencing some level of drought as of Feb. 2. Alachua County is experiencing a severe drought.
Florida is still pumping a lot of water for consumptive use despite the drought, said Chris Bird, environmental protection director for the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department.
“As we get further into this drought ... we’re reaching a more concerning situation where we might actually get to the point where wells are running dry and it gets more expensive to supply water to people,” he said.

120221-f








summary

See Judge Hinkle's
full Order document



120221-f
Judge orders state water pollution limits to go into effect by March 6
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 21, 2012
A U.S. District judge on Saturday ruled that limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in state waters must take effect by March 6. Judge Robert Hinkle supported a set of federally mandated criteria for Florida waterways in his ruling, but argued that two portions of the EPA-drafted rules are “arbitrary and capricious.”
Though Hinkle’s ruling found that the EPA’s standards for lakes and springs are necessary to combat state algal blooms and fish kills caused and exacerbated by excess nutrients in waterways, those who supported a set of state-drafted standards also claimed victory after the ruling was announced.
In a statement, Tom Feeney — president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida — said that Saturday’s ruling “[supports] the position that Florida knows how best to manage its own waters and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indeed overreached its authority when it comes to the protection of our state’s streams and rivers.” One of Florida’s most well-known business groupsand one of the most vocal opponents of the criteria, Associated Industries reported spending at least $630,000 on lobbying in 2011.
Saturday’s ruling, however, will ensure that the EPA’s version of the criteria be implemented by March 6, unless that rule is superseded by the state’s version. The ruling also includes a March 21 deadline for rules on state streams and default downstream-protection criteria for unimpaired lakes, “unless by that date the [EPA] Administrator has filed a notice that she has decided not to propose or adopt such criteria, together with an explanation of the decision.”
Some background on how Florida got to this point: In 1998, the federal government gave the state until 2004 to develop nutrient criteria as a way of limiting phosphorus and nitrogen in waterways, which often lead to algal blooms and fish kills. 2004 came and went, without any new standards for Florida, so a group of state environmental organizations filed suit, alleging that Florida was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
That suit was settled in 2009, with a mandate from the EPA requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. But the EPA’s criteria have been criticized for being too costly and, eventually, the EPA caved to demands from industry and lawmakers who argued that Florida should develop its own rules.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has since developed a set of standards it says will be less costly than the federal version. The problem, according to environmentalists, is that the state’s version is weaker than the federal regulations — and weak water rules are what got Floridians into this mess to begin with.
Many Florida lawmakers have chosen to side with industry groups, supporting the state’s standards and arguing that the federal regulations would be a “job killer.” Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill that would force the EPA to scrap its set of Florida water quality standards and instead accept the rules drafted by the state.
Environmental law firm Earthjustice is currently challenging the state’s version of the criteria, which it says will prove ineffective. “Like the old rules,” argues Earthjustice, “the proposed rules only require studies when an algae outbreak takes place. No corrective action can be required until the studies are completed, a process that takes five to ten years.”
The Department of Environmental Protection continues to defend its rules, arguing that they aren’t any less stringent than the rules drafted by the federal government.
“DEP’s rules are not weaker than the federal rules,” a department rep wrote in a statement to the Independent. “In fact, they are identical numerically to the rule established by the EPA, and when adopted. The DEP rules go beyond the federal rules by including additional criteria which measure biological health, coverage for numerous additional waterbodies, and provisions action for any adverse nutrient trends regardless of levels.”

120221-g






120221-g
The Mosaic Company Announces Settlement of South Fort Meade Phosphate Mine Litigation
PR NewsWire, Press Release
February 21, 2012
PLYMOUTH, Minn., Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Mosaic Company announced today a settlement agreement with the Sierra Club, Manasota-88, and People for Protecting the Peace River in litigation challenging the company's federal wetlands permit at the South Fort Meade mine. This permit allows mining of the Hardee County Extension near Bowling Green, Florida. The settlement, which is subject to approval by the courts, will resolve the pending appellate and trial court proceedings regarding the permit in their entirety and allow mining at the South Fort Meade mine to proceed.
"Mosaic is pleased to have reached a reasonable agreement to end litigation that has loomed over the employees at our South Fort Meade mine for more than a year and a half. This settlement provides certainty around our South Fort Meade mine and we look forward to bringing it back to full production. We're hopeful this agreement provides the foundation to continue our constructive dialog with these interested stakeholders as we look to the future," said Richard Mack, Mosaic's Executive Vice President and General Counsel. "It's especially encouraging that this settlement includes a significant public benefit by conserving the Peaceful Horse Ranch property."
Upon approval of the courts, Mosaic will soon begin mining the Hardee County Extension of its South Fort Meade mine in accordance with federal, state and local permits and approvals. The Hardee County extension will allow 10 additional years of mining at the South Fort Meade Mine, which employs more than 220 Central Floridians. The facility is one of the most efficient and cost effective phosphate mining operations in the world, historically accounting for nearly 20 percent of U.S. phosphate rock production. Since 2010, the mine has operated at a reduced capacity due to the permit challenge. Today's settlement agreement will conclude that litigation and allow the mine to return to its full operating capacity. Any financial charges incurred as a result of the settlement are not expected to be material.
The agreement requires the plaintiffs to dismiss their challenge to the South Fort Meade permit in exchange for certain commitments by Mosaic, including:
Preservation of approximately 130 acres of land otherwise eligible to be mined by Mosaic
Donation of the Peaceful Horse Ranch in DeSoto County to the State of Florida or, alternatively, a not-for-profit organization for permanent conservation
Certain mitigation, monitoring and site enhancements
Additional efforts to obtain permanent conservation easements along the Peace River
In December, Mosaic acquired at auction Peaceful Horse Ranch, which comprises 4,171 acres located in DeSoto County at the convergence of Horse Creek and the Peace River. The property is located immediately adjacent to existing conservation lands as well as the water intake for the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority. The Company purchased the property for approximately $10 million.
Peaceful Horse Ranch is on the State of Florida's list of priority projects for its Florida Forever land conservation program. Upon conveyance, Mosaic will also provide up to $2 million for startup and recurring expenses to operate Peaceful Horse Ranch as a state park in accordance with the State's Florida Forever program plans. Its conservation will expand wildlife corridors and preserve vital habitats and floodplain, while protecting a vital water resource from approaching development.
Mosaic's South Fort Meade Hardee County Extension is 10,856 acres, of which approximately 3,200 acres are to be preserved under the permits authorizing Mosaic's mining activities. The existing permits preserve more than 73% of the site's wetlands and 60% of all streams on-site. Under the terms of the settlement, Mosaic will now have access to mine more than 7,000 acres of land containing viable reserves.

120221-h






120221-h
This Legislature is enough to make you scream
Tallahassee.com – by Pam McVety
Feb. 21, 2012
Being an adult, I can't throw myself on the floor and scream, but I sure would like to after reviewing the anti-environmental legislation proposed by the Legislature during this session.
Bills have been proposed to steal public lands and waters. Drill for oil and gas on public lands. Put advertising signs on greenways and trails. Eliminate septic tank inspections. Eliminate concurrency for schools and transportation for new development. Support water quality rules that will allow continued nutrient degradation of our waters. Move control to Tallahassee of water management funding. Stop registering greenhouse gas emitters.
In addition, funding has been withheld for Florida Forever environmental land acquisition and Everglades restoration, two programs that have been the hallmark of Florida's environmental programs for decades.
Every company, business or landowner in the state of Florida who wants something that otherwise would not be legal or acceptable has come out from under a rock with a bill written to get what he wants at the expense of the public.
It is insane.
Legislators are acting like the boys in "Lord of the Flies." They need adult supervision. Hypocrisy is rampant. The Florida Climate Protection Act doesn't protect the climate. It undoes more of what Gov. Charlie Crist got passed to make Florida a leader in responding to climate change. The Environmental Resource Permitting bill makes it easier to get a permit and does not advance the protection of our natural resources as the name might imply.
The sad thing is that the public understands very little about what is happening. But what is going on is bad for Florida. It is bad for you, and over time the cost of doing business in this state will increase because of the decisions made by this Legislature.
Your waters will continue to deteriorate. Do you like beach closures on Memorial Day weekend or on July Fourth because of high bacterial counts or slimy green algae?
North Florida's waters will end up in South Florida. Hope you don't mind paying for the water supply for Polk County.
Your taxes will go up as you are asked to pay for the cost and impacts of development that developers will no longer pay. Oil and gas wells will appear on public lands, and the associated pollution will make it unpleasant and unhealthy to visit these sites, not to mention that an oil well will never look or smell like a tree. Advertisers will place sponsorship signs at trail heads, and you will be reminded to eat your Twinkie.
And, to heck with a Zen experience in state parks. There will be no more public land acquisition, and we will pave the state from coast to coast and north to south.
Florida has some serious environmental problems that need to be fixed, but our Legislature is busy undoing the past 40 years of environmental safeguards that have served us well. This anti-environmental agenda is unacceptable. It is bad for Florida's economy. It is bad for jobs. It is bad for our children. In the future, as things worsen in this state, as they will with these kinds of bills, businesses will not want to locate here.
As I reflect on all this, I think I will throw myself on the floor and scream, because the Legislature is sure not going to listen to me.

120220-a






120220-a
Craftsmen seek profit in Everglades python boom
Sun Sentinel - by Justine Griffin
February 20, 2012
Invasive Burmese pythons are a threat to Florida's ecosystem but a boon to local leather craftsmen who are turning their tanned skins into pants, boots and purses that sell for as much as $1,200 at one South Florida store.
The python skin is a hot look in apparel and accessories this year, said Andre West, fashion director for the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. So, reptile skin processors like Brian Wood of All American Alligator Products, in Hallandale Beach, are gearing up to make a profit on the big snakes found in the Everglades.
The unusual pattern on the scaly snake skin makes for unique shoes, clothes and even furniture.
"These pythons are right here down the road," Wood said. "Might as well start using them."
Inside the All American Alligator Products store in Hollywood is a pair of python-skin pants, priced at $800. A custom-made python-skin purse can be ordered for $1,200.
The expense stems from the scarcity of snake skins compared to calfskins or even alligator hides.
Python skins make up about 5 percent of Wood's current reptile skin processing business, which focuses mainly on alligators.
"I've opened the door to this business," he said. "The invasion of these snakes is definitely a foreseeable problem in the future, and I'm ready for it."
Over the past 12 years, 1,825 pythons have been captured in South Florida. Although the total population is undetermined, wildlife experts estimate it has reached tens of thousands and is still growing.
Stephen Wolfson, from Bonita Springs near Naples, uses snake skin to customize fishing rods. Although he mainly uses rattlesnake skin, Wolfson said he's beginning to notice a demand for python skins.
"The python population just isn't the same on this coast as it is on the East," Wolfson said. "I would be using more python skin now if I were seeing more of them here, without question."
The non-native snakes arrived in the Everglades more than a decade ago after release by pet owners and breeders. Out of the 32 people in Florida who are licensed to remove Burmese pythons, more than 20 of them hunt the snakes in the South Florida Water Management District areas.
Wood pays a $50-$100 bounty on the snakes, depending on the size and quality of the skin. He accepts them whole, then skins the animals and sends the hide to be tanned nearby.
Exotic hide wholesalers are reaching out to South Florida reptile hunters to meet a growing demand for python skin products worldwide.
Bert Slocum, a permitted python hunter from Weston, said he gets calls from overseas companies "all the time" wanting to purchase snake skins from him.
"But they only want to pay you a couple of dollars for each skin," Slocum said. "That's not something I can pay my rent on."
David Leibman, better known as "Python Dave," hunts pythons three to four times a week by air boat, four-wheeler and truck.
"The Florida Burmese python is starting to develop its own unique color, different from the Asian ones," said Leibman, who lives in Weston. "I think the Florida snakes have a prettier color."

120220-b






120220-b
Governor signs bill supporting state-run water quality standards
PressZoom.com
February 20, 2012
Tallahassee, Fl- Governor Rick Scott this week signed a bill supporting the state’s right to direct and establish its own set of scientific criteria for its water bodies. Sponsored in the Florida Senate by the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee chaired by Senator Charlie Dean, R- Inverness, Senate Bill 2060 / House Bill 7051
 (PressZoom) - Tallahassee, Fl- Governor Rick Scott this week signed a bill supporting the state’s right to direct and establish its own set of scientific criteria for its water bodies. Sponsored in the Florida Senate by the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee chaired by Senator Charlie Dean, R- Inverness, Senate Bill 2060 / House Bill 7051 supports proposed state water quality rules regarding numeric nutrients and would replace controversial federal rules which would be difficult and costly to meet.
“I’d like to thank Governor Scott for signing the Numeric Nutrient Standards Ratification bill today,” said Dean. “His quick action continues the momentum, so DEP can submit its rules to the EPA quickly for the review process. Florida is one step closer to replacing unreasonable federal standards with a unitary, state-run nutrient program designed to protect public health and preserve Florida ecosystems.”
Dean explained the EPA’s standards would illogically hold Florida’s drainage canals to the same water quality standards as the state’s lakes and rivers. In December, the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) unanimously approved DEP’s own, state-run nutrient control program. More scientifically defensible than the EPA’s recently finalized federal nutrient rules, the DEP rules were based on years of research and designed to protect public health and preserve well-balanced Florida ecosystems. The DEP’s rules create nutrient reduction expectations where necessary to protect Florida water bodies, while the EPA’s do so regardless of water body health. The state rules would also eliminate unnecessary procedures which do not add to water body protection and restoration.
“Florida has one of the most aggressive water quality protection programs in the nation implemented by the people who know our state best,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. “It’s time the EPA stops bullying us into accepting another Washington-contrived mandate that would devastate job creation. Today’s legislative efforts in Florida and Washington simply reaffirm that states and the federal government should be partners in making sure our water is clean, and prevent Washington overreaches from harming our economy. The EPA needs to step back and realize that Florida will not simply stand by as their policies negatively impact Florida’s consumers, agriculture producers, municipalities, small businesses and other job creators.

120219-a






120219-a
Congressional logjam threatens Broward water preserve
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 19, 2012
Everglades restoration project could also boost Broward drinking water supplies.
A proposed Broward County water preserve that could boost local drinking water supplies and help the Everglades may get sunk again by congressional inaction.
Local backers had hoped to get Congress this year to sign off on the long-planned, nearly $900 million Broward County Water Preserve Area, bordering Weston, Pembroke Pines, Southwest Ranches and Miramar.
Supporters are still pushing for a vote, but with election-year fighting adding to partisan paralysis in Washington, plans for the water preserve threaten to remain stuck on the shelf.
“Clean water is a No. 1 concern of voters. … If we can just get (Congress) to see that," said Cara Capp, of the environmental group Clean Water Action.
The project calls for building two above-ground impoundments that cover more than 3,600 acres and installing pumps and water control structures. It also includes creating man-made wetlands that total more than 800 acres. The preserve would hold onto more stormwater, then clean it up and use it to replenish the Everglades.
  map
The plan has been more than a decade in the making, and South Florida taxpayers have already invested about $250 million buying up more than 6,000 acres in southern Broward and northern Miami-Dade counties.
Making better use of that stormwater as well as Everglades water that seeps under levees in western Broward would help recharge the aquifers that provide Broward County's drinking water. In addition, the preserve could reduce the amount of water drawn from Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to supplement regional water supplies.
It's a prime example of how investing in saving the Everglades has direct benefits for South Florida's drinking water supply as well as a tourism industry that benefits from clean water, according to environmental groups.
"It's not just ecosystem restoration," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, of Audubon of Florida. "There are benefits to people in addition to benefits to the environment. … Action is going to have to happen."
Still, the likelihood of getting congressional approval this year, given the political climate, "is very uncertain," she said.
The water preserve is one of a host of overdue Everglades restoration projects that were part of a federal-state plan approved in 2000.
The landmark deal called for the state and federal governments to share in Everglades restoration costs. It envisioned Congress every two years passing a water resources development act that would include funding for phased-in Everglades restoration projects.
But since 2000, Congress has approved funding for just one water resources development act, leaving proposals such as the Broward preserve waiting for money to start construction.
Federal Everglades restoration funding has picked up under President Obama, allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to break ground on more restoration projects. But changing cost estimates for the preserve as well as shifting state priorities on the Everglades has also contributed to delays.
"It has been frustrating," Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said. "Our [Everglades] projects have just been kind of kicked down the road."
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., blamed Republicans in the House of Representatives for bogging down the latest efforts.
"What's going on here is House extremists are trying to kill Everglades restoration by treating it as an earmark," Nelson said Friday.
U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Republican whose district stretches across Broward and Palm Beach counties, supports considering a water resource bill and "believes in the importance of Everglades restoration projects," according to his spokeswoman Angela Melvin.
West encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to work with its existing funding and contends restoration should be "a top priority" when deciding on future funding for water projects across the country, Melvin said.
Hope remains for congressional action this year, despite the political hurdles.
The long-stalled project has gained speed as it tries to work its way through the Army Corps bureaucracy. By June, it is expected to reach a milestone key to getting it before Congress this year.
Also, the Water Management District is working toward an agreement with Broward County about where to build man-made wetlands that are part of the preserve.
Jacobs called that "huge movement" and remains hopeful the preserve could still get approved this year.
"There are so many moving parts," Jacobs said. "The politics are continually evolving."

120219-b







EPA Nutrient Criteria now confirmed

120219-b
Federal judge rules on Fla water pollution limits
WEAR-ABC-3 News
February 19, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A federal judge in Florida has ruled that specific limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in state waters must take effect March 6.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling Saturday in Tallahassee ended years of delays in setting those limits.
The pollutants feed algae blooms on lakes and streams. The blooms can cause health problems in humans and can be fatal to wildlife.
Earthjustice filed a Clean Water Act federal lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of environmental groups seeking limits on the pollutants in Florida.
Hinkle's ruling upholds limits set in 2009 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency said the limits were necessary to meet Clean Water Act requirements.
The federal limits replace a state rule requiring studies of algae blooms but no preventive measures.

120219-c






120219-c
Judge orders Florida water pollution limits
News-Press.com
Feb. 19, 2012
A Southwest Florida conservation official is calling a federal judge’s ruling on clean water limits a total victory for the environment.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s ruling in Tallahassee on Saturday ended years of delays in setting and enforcing specific limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in Florida waters. The rules must take effect March 6, Hinkle ruled.
“It was a victory on everything we wanted, except for a few technical details,” said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, one of several plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“For us, on our coast, it was particularly important,” McElwaine said. “Between the Caloosahatchee and Peace rivers we really need these standards. We are on the receiving end of so much pollution.”
McElwaine said the ruling sets standards on the amount of the foreign substances permitted in state waters; before, the rule simply urged polluters to set their own limits.
“This defines trouble,” he said. “And the Caloosahatchee is nothing but a troubled river.”
McElwaine said that what will likely happen next is an appeal and possibly a request for a stay of the ruling. “It will be interesting to see what will happen with the appeal, given how emphatic the judge was,” he said. “And I would be surprised if a stay is granted.”
McElwaine said that the plaintiffs’ two requests not granted, minor technical details, were assigned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and are to be decided by May.
The pollutants mentioned in the ruling feed algae blooms in lakes and streams. The blooms can cause health problems in humans and can be fatal to wildlife.
Earthjustice filed a Clean Water Act federal lawsuit in 2008 on behalf of environmental groups seeking limits on the pollutants in Florida.
Hinkle’s ruling upholds limits set in 2009 by the EPA. The agency said the limits are necessary to meet Clean Water Act requirements.
The federal limits replace a state rule requiring studies of algae blooms, but no preventive measures.
Besides the Conservancy, joining Earthjustice in the challenge was the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and St. Johns Riverkeepers.
The 2008 lawsuit filed by Earthjustice argued that the federal Clean Water Act wasn’t being enforced in Florida, despite a ruling in 1998 ordering states to comply with an EPA edict to set verifiable limits on nutrient discharges that are largely responsible for algae blooms and other degradation of inland waters.
In 2009, the EPA set numeric limits for the phosphorus and nitrogen that come from sewage, fertilizer and manure in Florida waters. But in November, the state DEP sent Washington an alternative, a slate of draft rules for state numeric measuring of nutrients, and EPA announced that it was likely to approve them.
Opponents of the EPA rules said there’s no scientific reasoning behind numeric limits on pollution, and contend that the criteria would force costly upgrades of facilities such as sewage-treatment plants, which discharge water into rivers and streams.
Related:
Judge: Water Pollution Limits Must Take Effect in Two Weeks (WMFE)
Federal judge rules on water pollution limits (CrestView news Bulletin)
New limits on water pollutants on the way for Florida (NBC-2 News)
New limits on water pollutants on the way for Florida (WZVN-TV)
Federal judge rules on water pollution limits (WJXT Jacksonville)

120219-d






120219-d
Pull together and pony up for the Everglades
Sun Sentinel
February 19, 2012
President Obama wants to spend $232 million on restoring the Florida Everglades, a boon for a public works project that has been stalled by sporadic government funding.
Now some of Florida's elected officials, who claim to have their state's best interests at heart, will have to put aside their ideological differences and support the appropriation. The fate of the president's proposed budget is in the hands of Congress, and Republicans, including those in the Florida congressional delegation, are already sniping at the spending plan — some declaring it dead on arrival.
We sympathize with some of the skepticism, but Everglades funding ought to remain a nonpartisan issue and should be considered on its merits, and not victimized by political infighting.
Everglades restoration remains vital and the idea that such an essential program might fall victim to the political crossfire is disappointing at best. Florida needs the benefits from completing some of the badly needed water projects outlined in the president's budget.
The projects include ones that will help restore the Everglades' natural water flow, and ensure water supplies for South Florida, one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.
The president's budget, laudably, includes dollars to complete a long-delayed reservoir in Palm Beach County, which will go a long way in storing storm water that typically drains out to sea, and boost water supplies to residents living in neighboring counties. Estimates show the new reservoir could deliver roughly 185 million gallons of water a day. The lack of funding and some dubious decisions to forgo construction to pay for a large land purchase deal with U.S. Sugar has stymied progress.
Equally important are funds for construction of a bridge over the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County necessary to allow more water to flow into the Everglades National Park. For decades, the ground-level roadway has acted as a buffer squelching the River of Grass's natural flow, and has negatively changed portions of the park's landscape and threatened wildlife living there.
Word out of Washington on funding couldn't come at a better time. The state of Florida, a primary partner along with the federal government, is having a hard enough time scrounging up restoration funding in another tight budget year. The Florida House has proposed $30 million, while the state Senate has provided no money to restore the Everglades in next year's budget.
The outlook is about as dim at the federal level. As the November elections draw closer, members of Congress are digging in their ideological heels. This doesn't bode well for restoring the River of Grass, or Florida's future.
Pushing for the appropriation should be an easy call for Florida's congressional delegation, no matter the party affiliation.

120219-e






120219-e
Taking care of Earth big job for some
Times Daily – by Scott Morris
February 19, 2012
The thought that humans should be caretakers for the natural world is as old as Genesis.
“Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” sayeth the King James Version.
A quick look around makes one wonder if we’re smart enough to handle the task.
Consider Real Fact No. 882 from my favorite source of trivia, a Snapple bottle cap:
“In 1859, 24 rabbits were released in Australia. Within 6 years, the population grew to 2 million.”
Who knew rabbits would reproduce like rabbits?
Today, the bunnies that European settlers introduced as a source of meat cause widespread economic and environmental damage.
The same could be said for any number of non-native species that people have accidentally or intentionally set loose upon an unsuspecting landscape.
The Florida Everglades is among the latest victims. It is fighting an infestation of huge pythons, freed by not-so-smart pet owners when the snakes got too big.
Who knew cute little baby pythons would grow up to be 26-foot-long, 200-pound killers?
The big snakes are wiping out raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals, according to a recent study. Authorities believe tens of thousands of Burmese pythons are slithering through the Everglades, growing large enough to swallow whole alligators.
Auburn University is trying to help by using specially trained Labrador retrievers to hunt the serpents. Let’s hope the dogs find the snakes before the snakes find them.
Closer to home, wild hogs have rooted up everything from the baseball fields of Florence to the wildflowers of Bankhead National Forest. Some of these wild boar escaped from farms. Others were turned loose in a brilliant move by hunters.
Even wildlife experts have joined in the fun, doing everything from releasing 50 alligators at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to stocking freshwater lakes with giant saltwater bass. Who knows the ultimate outcome?
The National Invasive Species Information Center lists 30 animals, 46 plants and 20 microbes that have been introduced into the United States with not-so-good results.
From kudzu to fire ants, zebra mussels to hemlock woolly adelgids, Russian knapweed to Chinese privet, Africanized honeybees to mile-a-minute weed, sudden oak death to thousand cankers black walnut disease, we seem determined to mess up this whole dominion-over-the-earth thing.

120218-a






120218-a
Obama wants $232 million for Everglades restoration
KeysNet.com - by Kevin Wadlow
Posted - Saturday, February 18, 2012
A White House budget issued Monday contains nearly $232 million for Everglades restoration efforts in 2012-13 but some projects deemed critical to Florida Bay remain on the wish list.
The federal budget drafted by President Obama's administration includes money to finish a one-mile Tamiami Trail bridge now under construction, and funding that should complete a C-111 Canal project at the border of Everglades National Park in south Miami-Dade County.
Not listed is money for additional Tamiami Trail bridges to improve water flow, or for a C-111 spreader canal system.
"We wish we had made better progress" on the spreader canal, said Tom Van Lent, a Key Largo resident who is chief scientist for the Everglades Foundation. The spreader canal would direct water from the canal into wetlands flanking the 18-Mile Stretch.
"But there is progress," Van Lent said. "The projects they're talking about are good for [Everglades National] Park, good for Florida Bay and good for Monroe County."
The one-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), a three-year project costing $81 million, is scheduled to open in 2013.
Another 5.5 miles bridges on the highway have been approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior to increase the natural water flow to the south Everglades and Florida Bay, but money has not been appropriated.
"Other than the one-mile bridge, nothing further on the bridges is mentioned specifically," said Julie Hill Gabriel, Everglades specialist for Florida Audubon. "We're not sure yet where that money is going to come from."
The White House budget -- which must be approved by Congress -- does include $20 million to finish the C-111 South Dade Project, intended to keep water inside Everglades National Park and out of the C-111 Canal that would dump it into the ocean.
"It does not create any new water but it keeps water from leaving the park," van Lent said. "The park needs water to raise spoonbills and fish."
Ideally, that water will flow south toward the bay, he said.
"It does not create any new water and eventually we will need projects that do create new water," Van Lent said. "But it is a piece of the puzzle."
The proposed federal Everglades budget also allocates money for restoration of the ecosystem at Picayune Strand, an undeveloped but subdivided area east of Naples.
Also on the work list is money for the Site 1 Impoundment/Fran Reich Preserve, a 1,700-acre water storage area in Palm Beach County "to reduce seepage from adjacent natural areas, prevent saltwater intrusion and reduce demands on the natural system in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge."
"President Obama has known from the start that the Everglades is not only critical to the Florida environment but for creating jobs," said John Adornato, regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.
The fate of Everglades money in the Florida state budget now being hammered out in Tallahassee remains uncertain. Gov. Rick Scott proposed $40 million for Everglades restoration, and the Florida House agreed to a similar figure.
However, a Florida Senate budget proposal included no money directed for the Everglades. The Senate passed its budget Friday afternoon. Whether Everglades money was added could not be determined at press time.
Since the House budget differs markedly from the Senate version in other respects, a conference committee will be called to negotiate compromises.

120218-b






120218-b
St. Johns River study helpful, leaves questions
Jacksonville.com – by Ron Littlepage
February 18, 2012
In 2007, a runaway train was barrelling down the tracks to begin pumping as much as 262 million gallons of water a day out of the St. Johns River and its largest tributary, the Ocklawaha.
The St. Johns River Water Management District argued that stress on the Floridan aquifer from burgeoning growth, especially in Central Florida, required finding alternative water supplies to quench the thirst and water the lawns of new development.
After much argument, the district did approve a permit for Seminole County to take water from the St. Johns but also agreed to conduct a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study of the environmental effects of withdrawing water from the river.
Four years and $3.6 million later, that study is complete.
For the non-scientists and non-engineers among us, which includes me, reading the study can make your head hurt.
But it’s clear that the district’s scientists and engineers who were involved are excited about new things they learned about the river and models that were created to gauge the effect of water withdrawal.
The bottom line from the study is that withdrawing 155 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns and 107 million gallons of water a day from the Ocklawaha would have little effect on the health of the St. Johns.
The study received heaps of praise when it was presented to the district’s board last week, but concerns that were raised by the National Research Council, the arm of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences that conducted the peer review, were barely mentioned.
While generally complimentary of how the study was conducted, the research council wasn’t completely sold.
The study found three factors that would mitigate withdrawing 155 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns.
One was that projects being completed in the river’s upper basin to recapture water that should be going to the St. Johns but instead is being sent through canals to the Atlantic Ocean would add millions of gallons of water to the river’s flow.
Additional water would be added through sea level rise and from storm water runoff that will come from increased development.
The council noted the difficulty in predicting the impact of those two factors; just look at all the argument over climate change and how much sea levels are going to rise.
The council also was concerned about the additional pollution that would come with the storm water runoff. While the district said that was not part of the study and outside the district’s scope, that’s not an acceptable answer.
The council also raised a concern that should be of particular interest to Jacksonville: JaxPort’s plan to deepen the river’s channel.
“It is important to note that simulations for this scenario indicated that dredging would have a much larger effect on up-river movement of salinity than any of the water withdrawal scenarios the district examined,” the peer review report said.
Where do we go from here?
When the district uses the new tools, they must use the latest information. The effects of additional pollution must be determined. And conservation — the more suitable alternate water supply — must be pushed.
As the research council asked, what happens after utilities spend millions of dollars on facilities to withdraw and treat water that new development depends on, and then severe back-to-back droughts occur?
“Water suppliers might not be able to withdraw water from the river for months or even years on end,” the report said. “It is not obvious that this would be socially acceptable.”
For the sake of the St. Johns River, we have to get this right.

120218-c






120218-c
Technology has its problems on Everglades fishing trip
GreenBayPressGazette.com – by Pat Durkin (column)
February 18, 2012
CHOKOLOSKEE, Fla. — The tide was out and oyster bars glistening Feb. 9 as Mike Harkins weaved his 22-foot boat through narrow channels between mangrove islands in Everglades National Park.
Harkins said his boat drafts about 12 inches of water, but every inch matters during low tide in coastal waters bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Even when we had a half-mile of water on all sides, Harkins dodged left, veered right and raced between shallow, unseen sandbars with the confidence of a Mississippi riverboat captain.
Perhaps sensing my admiration for his navigation skills, Harkins tapped the boat's large-screened GPS unit. He reminded me that he had fished this area the previous two days with Ray Van Horn, a well-known guide and fishing guru.
At Harkins' request, Van Horn transferred several navigation routes into Harkins' GPS unit. The routes appeared as long yellow threads zigzagging between islands on electronic navigational charts. The screen also displayed water depths, which vary with the tides.
"All I have to do is keep us on the yellow lines and we should be fine," Harkins said. "It won't be much fun if we hit a sandbar."
Harkins, a Wisconsin native, has lived and worked in Venice, Fla., for the past 25 years. We had planned this trip since opening day of November's gun-deer season at the Duren family farm near Cazenovia. When hearing my daughter Leah and I would be near the Everglades for my daughter Karsyn's wedding in February, Harkins marked his calendar to take us fishing.
Unfortunately, when Feb. 9 arrived Leah was fighting a virus, so I drove alone to Chokoloskee after dawn. Harkins and I wasted no time at the boat landing, and he soon had us skipping between islands at 30 mph. We intended to fish about 10 miles away where Harkins and Van Horn caught speckled sea trout (specks) and a few silver trout (sugar trout) the day before.
Winds were gusting from the north that morning, prompting Harkins to predict difficult fishing at sites that produced trout 24 hours earlier. We soon had bigger concerns when Harkins' big Ranger boat bumped softly a few times and smooshed to a stop.
I glanced at the GPS screen, which indicated we were still straddling our route's yellow line. Then, as if realizing we demanded an explanation, the boat's icon on the GPS screen jumped left into 1-foot depths.
"I guess we got ahead of the GPS," Harkins said before raising the engine and stepping onto the sandbar to push. I followed to help. After much grunting and groaning, but surprisingly no swearing, we moved the boat about 75 yards to navigable waters and resumed our trip.
About a mile later I saw a big splash to our right, and an osprey shot from the water and into flight. Its empty talons soon tucked beneath its tail and the big predator resumed fishing.
White-capped waves greeted us at the first sandy reef we tried fishing. We cast plastic shrimp behind "popping bobbers" for several minutes before Harkins caught our first trout, a "speck."
He explained that the bobber imitates splashing baitfish as anglers jerk it across the surface, hoping to attract bigger fish seeking prey. Trouble is, the waves were so rough and the tide so low that few fish fed or swam nearby. We moved to the lee shore of a nearby island, joining four other boats working calmer waters.
We caught a couple of more specks and then a sugar trout or two, but nothing Harkins deemed worthy of dinner. After breaking for lunch, we moved northward and fished in calm waters near an osprey perched atop its nest in a swaying tree, and several brown pelicans roosted in sheltered foliage below.
It was then early afternoon, and warm enough to shed my lightweight vest. I laid it on the floor behind us and gave it no more thought, even as we sped across a bay to another sheltered cove two miles away.
We caught and released some more specks before stowing our gear for the ride back. When I stooped to retrieve my vest, it was gone. Thinking we might have stowed it without remembering, Harkins and I inspected every compartment in the boat.
No luck. The vest had vanished, along with my wallet crammed with credit cards, driver's license, family photos, insurance cards, Wisconsin patron's license, Florida fishing license and about $85 in cash. We assume a wind gust caught the vest and flung it overboard as we motored between locations. My wallet, zipped "safely" inside a pocket, hadn't been fat enough to anchor the vest.
When I conceded no amount of cursing would raise my wallet from the depths, Harkins pointed his boat toward Chokoloskee. With the tide now high, we reached port with no further groundings or hard labor.

120217-a






120217-a
Florida lawmakers vote against measure to prevent Everglades drilling
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 17, 2012
House Republicans — including Florida GOP lawmakers Allen West, Vern Buchanan, David Rivera, Tom Rooney, Steve Southerland, and C.W. Bill Young — voted against a measure that would have prevented oil and gas exploration in the Great Lakes and the Florida Everglades.
The measure was part of a plan to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and expand offshore drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A motion introduced yesterday would have required the bill be reported back to the House with an amendment to “restrict permits for new oil and gas slant, directional, or offshore drilling around the Great Lakes or the Florida Everglades.”
That motion was shot down in a largely party-line vote (232 Republicans and nine Democrats voted against it) of 241-176.
“The treasured Everglades that are key to Florida’s tourism, economic success, and way of life would be ruined by oil rigs if Rep. Allen West gets his way,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a press release about the vote. “West will stop at nothing to protect Oil corporations and is showing reckless disregard for everyone who depends on the Everglades for tourism and the tens of thousands people who count on this natural resource for jobs.”
In August, then-presidential candidate Michele Bachmann caught heat for remarks she made supporting drilling for oil in the Everglades. “The United States needs to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy and more dependent upon American resourcefulness,” she told the Associated Press. “Whether that is in the Everglades … we need to go where the energy is.” She later elaborated on her comments, arguing that those who oppose the idea are likely just “radical environmentalists.”
At the time, Rep. West reprimanded the Minnesota congresswoman for her comment, promising to “straighten her out” for what he called an “incredible faux pas.”
Environmentalists have argued that opening the Everglades to oil drilling would likely see resistance from more than just “radical environmentalists.”
“NRA card-carrying hunters, fishermen, waterfowlers and other outdoors enthusiasts do not want to see oil drilling in their Everglades wildlife paradise,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham, in a statement to the Independent in August. “In addition, the Everglades is the source of fresh, clean, drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians.”

120217-b






120217-b
Jobs and the 'Glades
Naples Daily News – Letter by Dawn Shirreffs, Hollywood, FL
Everglades Restoration Program Manager National Parks Conservation Association
February 17, 2012
In response to your Feb. 12 article on Everglades funding in trouble in budget talks, we must urge Florida lawmakers to maximize our investment in one of America's most treasured places.
Over the last three years, Everglades restoration projects have generated 10,500 jobs, with more than 442,000 jobs expected to be created over the next several decades in tourism, real estate and commercial and recreational fishing industries, which would benefit and continue to thrive from a strong commitment by our state legislators.
Everglades National Park alone generates more than $165 million in visitor spending each year. For every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, $4 is generated in economic benefits to the public.
We applaud the leadership demonstrated by President Barack Obama's budget proposal released earlier this week calling for $232 million for Everglades restoration. The federal government recognizes the importance for restoring America's Everglades, and the state must not be seen as wavering in its commitment.
Gov. Rick Scott proposed $40 million for Everglades restoration. The Florida Senate should immediately restore Everglades funding, currently zeroed out in their budget, and not jeopardize drinking water supply for 7 million Floridians.
Each time we turn dirt on an Everglades restoration project, we are protecting our drinking water supply, creating jobs and fulfilling a promise to protect our national parks, wildlife and family memories for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

120217-c






120217-c
Sixteen Foot-Long Python Captured At Everglades National Park
Nat.Parks Traveler - by NPT Staff
February 17, 2012
A Burmese python more than 16 feet in length and tipping the scales at 140 pounds has been captured at Everglades National Park, evidence of the problem park officials face with the spread of these non-native constrictors.
The female snake was captured Monday after a park staffer came upon it while spraying non-native vegetation.
  16ft python
Park officials say that "many national parks struggle to manage the impacts on resources by invasive exotic animals and plants, but it seems that the Burmese python in the Everglades has captured the attention of the media and the public on this issue, which may help to focus attention on the larger invasive exotic problem that many land managers are grappling with."
"The park has spent the past few weeks emphasizing to the media and the public the importance of not letting unwanted animals or plants loose," notes Everglades spokeswoman Linda Friar. "It is important to focus on what we have learned from this experience to prevent future invasive exotic infestations and improve our ability to react quickly before a species becomes impossible to eradicate."
While pythons have been a problem in Everglades National Park for much of the past decade, the situation garnered heightened media interest recently due to a study blaming the snakes for a "precipitous declines" in mammals that once were commonly seen in parts of the park.
Though members of the park’s staff are working on containment and science to better understand the impacts of this newest exotic in the park, it appears that eradication is currently not possible on a landscape the size of the park (almost 2400 square miles), Ms. Friar wrote in a release.

120216-a







Brockovich

US environmental
activist
Erin Brockovich-
Ellis
attends Culinary
Cinema as part of the 62nd Berlin International
Film Festival, in Berlin,
on February 15, 2012 .
The film ‘Erin Brockovich’
by US director Steven
Soderbergh shows her
story exposing an
environmental scandal in
the US. The 62nd
Berlinale, the first major
European film festival of
the year, kicked off on
February 9, 2012, with
23 productions
screening in the main
showcase.



120216-a
Being Erin Brockovich
The Vancouver Sun – by Jay Stone
February 16, 2012
BERLIN - Erin Brockovich comes into the room carrying what looks like a glass of water. On closer inspection, it turns out to be vodka and tonic. Erin Brockovich is nobody's fool.
Not that there's anything wrong with the tap water in Germany, although there could be. Brockovich is careful that way. She won't drink the water in any community that gets it from wells - as 40 million Americans do - because it's not tested and she doesn't trust it. She doesn't like the sulphuric taste of water in Florida, so she drinks bottled water when she's there. Once, in Indonesia, she was so suspicious of the water that she brushed her teeth with beer.
Brockovich became forever associated with the issue of water pollution after the 2000 film - for which Julia Roberts won an Oscar - based on the true story of how she fought Pacific Gas and Electric for allowing dangerous chemicals into the water supply of Hinkley, California. She has become the public face of public outrage. She's now working on the case of a Le Roy, N.Y., school where there is a cluster of children with unusual neurological symptoms. Some people think it's because of dirty well water, so someone called Brockovich.
"People can't trust anybody, which is why I get so many e-mails," she says. "People don't know where to report information."
She is also one of the experts in the new documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which is being screened at the Berlin film festival. It's a warning about the dwindling supply of clean drinking water in the world: dry lakes, farmers in Australia killing themselves because draught has destroyed their agriculture, Las Vegas on the verge of a water emergency, and much more.
Last Call at the Oasis was produced by Participant Media, which has previously grown alarmed by the crises of global warming (An Inconvenient Truth), agriculture (Food, Inc.) and American education (Waiting for Superman.) Director Jessica Yu (the Oscar-winning Breathing Lessons) talked to experts ranging from hydrologists to an expert in how a cocktail of pharmaceuticals are finding their way into the water supply.
But it is Brockovich - the legal assistant who became a household name - who carries the ball when the time comes to talk to the press.
"There are people in our country who don't get water, and that is a shocker for people," she says. "Because they think everybody gets water. It's not true. In the United States of America we have people who are not getting water. That's the eye-opener for me."
"I got emails from 124 countries and territories with polluted water. Larger number of children with cancer. It's something we hope the film will wake people up to, so they'll be inspired to want to do something to make changes."
Brockovich still works as a consumer advocate, but she's also something of a motivational speaker. "I grew up as the underdog and everybody told me I couldn't do something. And I would be that way if I chose to see myself that way. And I saw people everywhere, no matter what walk of life they were, feeling they didn't count."
Last Call At The Oasis sounds like a frightening warning, but Brockovich says there's plenty people can do about it.
"The first step is to make a recognition that when I turn on my tap, to not take it for granted," she says. "I'm always pleasantly surprised by the numbers of e-mails I get, even from Canada where the tarsands are, for example, where the community isn't waiting for an agency to make it right. They're trying to mobilize among themselves to get to council meetings, to get involved in local politics.
"They're informing their neighbours . . . in the absence of information, everyone becomes defenceless to stand by themselves. If you see something, say something. Did you notice your water smelled funny? Don't be afraid to talk about it."
Last Call at the Oasis touches on the issue of bottled water, but it doesn't address the problem of the used bottles (for that you have to watch other documentaries, such as Addicted To Plastic). Yu compares it to the American debate over public vs. private schools - people think it's better if they pay more for it. Strangely, she found that Americans pay almost exactly as much for bottled water, $11.2 billion a year, as they would pay to improve the public system.
But even that is a growing cost. Brockovich said she pays $400 a month for water in California. "Poor people can't afford that," she says. "It's a hardship on me. Is water going to become that moment where poor (people) die of dehydration because they can't afford it? It's supposed to be a human right to have water."
Yu says that if anyone in the world has the right to be suspicious of the water she's drinking, it's Brockovich. The film made her famous - she's says it's "weird" having a name that's the same as a popular film - and the lessons she learned from the case were mostly about corporate responsibility.
"I think about Hinkley, California all the time and PG&E," said Brockovich. "Had PG&E had a little more morality and put money second, and come out and been respectful and transparent with the community - we had a disaster and we need to get you out of here - they would have had full co-operation. Instead, they chose to hide and to conceal it, which caused them a lot more problems."
She said the company has faced several lawsuits that, combined with defence fees and cleanup bills, have cost the company $2 billion, not to mention the destruction of the environment and lost lives.
"A new business model has to come into play," she said. "Some morality has to come from corporations. And that's where you'll find your solution . . . we have to find new ways to be our own heroes and companies to find their morality."
It was a call to arms from a woman who proved that the little guy can take on the big companies and win. I asked her how the water is in Hinkley these days.
"Not good" she said

120216-b







EPA

120216-b
EPA fails to defend Clean Water Act, allows appointment of industry insiders
Examiner.com – by Judson Parker
February 16, 2012
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “see-no-evil” posture on federal law barring appointment of state permit issuers with recent financial ties to regulated industry has effectively gutted the Clean Water Act's key anti-conflict safeguard, according to a group of environmental advocacy organizations.
The organizations, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Florida Clean Water Network, and the Androscoggin River Alliance, say EPA is ignoring blatant violations of this important protection and thereby encourages states to violate it, pointing to two recent cases: In Florida, EPA has dithered for nearly a year without action. In Maine, the administrator resigned due to a parallel state law which has since been weakened while EPA stayed silent.
The federal Clean Water Act bars appointment of any state decision-maker on pollution discharge permits who “has during the previous two years received a significant portion of his income directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants for a permit.” Nonetheless, at least two states have recently done just that. Both conflicted environmental nominees were confirmed and then challenged by environmental groups; one was ousted and one remains but in both cases EPA remained on the sideline.
Nearly a year ago, on February 23, 2011, PEER and Florida Clean Water Network filed a legal complaint with EPA that Herschel Vinyard, Florida’s environmental secretary, and another top appointee should be legally barred from issuing water pollution permits due to Vinyard’s prior employment on behalf of shipyards. The groups even submitted Vinyard’s sworn filings that he had worked for a regulated industry immediately prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
In the ensuing months, EPA has issued three status letters, each more noncommittal than its predecessor. The last letter from EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes-Fleming on January 19, 2012 states:
“We are continuing to evaluate the information included with your letter, and the significant issues raised by that information. In light of the significant issues raised, we are coordinating our response on the matter with appropriate staff and management, both within the EPA Region 4 and offices in EPA’s Headquarters.”
“This should be a simple call to make. By Vinyard’s own sworn statements he is in violation of federal law,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney. “By all appearances, EPA is trying to run out the clock – if it stalls for another year the recusal becomes moot.”
“EPA demonstrates its total disregard for the Clean Water Act everyday by pandering to polluters, ignoring our requests for enforcement actions, and turning a blind eye to Florida’s deliberate debasing of federal laws,” said Linda Young, Director of the Florida Clean Water Network. “Region 4 is essentially telling Floridians that we don’t have a right to the protections promised in the Clean Water Act.”
Meanwhile, in Maine, Governor Paul LePage appointed Darryl Brown, who owned a development company, as DEP Commissioner. Following Brown’s confirmation, the Androscoggin River Alliance petitioned EPA on February 7, 2011 to act on his conflict.
Unlike Florida, Maine had a parallel state law on this precise issue. On April 26, Maine Attorney General William Schneider informed Brown that “it appears that you are unqualified to serve as commission of the Department of Environmental Protection under Maine law.” Shortly thereafter, LePage moved Brown to another state job but also introduced legislation to weaken the state law by eliminating the ban on employment and replacing it with a limited recusal process. This past June, the Governor’s bill became law.
“Maine’s late, great Senator Muskie wrote the Clean Water Act in 1972 because states had allowed industry to completely foul our waterways. He had a keen sense that the fox shouldn’t guard the hen house,” stated Neil Ward of the Androscoggin River Alliance, contrasting the quick action by Maine’s Attorney General with the molasses-like pace of the EPA. “The EPA’s inaction weakens the integrity of the law it is charged with enforcing".
Continue reading on Examiner.com :
EPA fails to defend Clean Water Act, allows appointment of industry insiders - Tallahassee Environmental News | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/environmental-news-in-tallahassee/epa-fails-to-defend-clean-water-act-allows-appointment-of-industry-insiders#ixzz1mhjsj2NW
Read about the Vinyard case in Florida
See EPA uninformative responses
Compare the letter from the Maine Attorney General
View the new Maine law
Look at recent EPA IG report decrying weak state oversight

120216-c







Snail kite

The endangered
Everglades snail kite
is enjoying a population
resurgence thanks in
part to fast-reproducing
South American apple
snails, larger than their
Florida native
counterparts, which ard
providing the finicky
birds a more stable food
source.
(South Florida Sun Sentinel file photo)


120216-c
Invading, jumbo snails helping endangered Everglades bird
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 16, 2012
The endangered Everglades snail kite is making a surprising rebound, and an invading bird delicacy that’s the size of a baseball may get the credit.
Preliminary estimates show the Everglades snail kite population increasing by 200 heading into this year’s nesting system, according to Audubon of Florida. And that’s after last year’s drought dried up the endangered bird’s key feeding grounds rimming Lake Okeechobee.
The snail kite’s resurgence is at least partly thanks to South Florida’s influx of a larger, exotic version of the native apple snails that are the finicky bird’s primary food source, according to Audubon.
These larger snails reproduce year-round in quantities that dwarf their diminutive native counterparts.
A native apple snail, the size of a golf ball, produces about 30 to 50 eggs at a time during the spring. But the super-sized exotic version that can grow as big as a baseball produces 300 to 500 eggs at a time and keeps churning them out year round.
For environmentalists who usually advocate stopping the spread of species not native to Florida, the benefits of this fast-multiplying snail kite snack create quite the environmental conundrum.
"It’s baffling," said Audubon scientist Paul Gray, who specializes in Lake Okeechobee environmental conditions. "Here’s my endangered species being saved by an exotic species."
Gray estimates there are about 900 Everglades snail kites living in a territory that stretches from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Heading into last year’s drought, populations of the medium-sized bird of prey plummeted from 3,000 a decade ago to about 700.
More trouble was expected last year when Lake Okeechobee dropped to its lowest level since 2008, drying out the marshes around the lake and killing off much of the native apple snail population.
Amid Lake Okeechobee’s decline last year, snail kites began abandoning their nests, leaving some of their young to die.
While the birds struggled on Lake Okeechobee, they had more success nesting along the Kissimmee River and the Kissimmee chain of lakes to the north.
Now the larger apple snails, originally from Argentina and Brazil, are providing a more steady food source.
The exotic snails called "island apple snails" are popular features of the aquarium trade. They end up in the wild when people dump them in canals or other waterways, said Mike Bodle, senior scientists for the South Florida Water Management District.
"They’ve almost overwhelmed Lake Okeechobee," Bodle, who specializes in invasive species, said about the larger snails. "They lay (eggs) year round. … It’s providing this bigger food base."
Welcoming a modest snail kite recovery doesn’t mean scientists are ready to completely shed concerns about the larger snails.
Young snail kites might end up wasting too much energy trying to get the larger snail out of its shell, which could be a long-term detriment, Bodle said.
Also, while the smaller, native apple snails eat algae off aquatic plants; the larger snails eat the plants as well, which could create long-term habitat concerns.
"The jury is still out on what the final effects will be," Gray said.

120216-d






120216-d
Next up, Supreme Court: Failed water-war negotiations have produced inevitable result
The Anniston Star – by the Editorial Board
February 16, 2012
The 20-year-long battle over how much water should flow downstream from Georgia to Alabama and Florida appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That comes as no surprise.
Recall that a federal judge ruled in 2009 that Lake Lanier was not created to supply water to the metro Atlanta area. Unless an agreement was worked out between Georgia and the states into which the water from Lake Lanier flows — Alabama and Florida — then the 3 million people in metro Atlanta would lose their main source of water.
Faced with this draconian decision, Georgia appealed. Last summer, the U.S. 11th District Court of Appeals ruled that the federal judge had erred and metro Atlanta could use Lake Lanier as its main source of water.
Lawyers from Alabama and Florida have appealed that ruling, and the whole mess seems bound to land in the lap of the nine justices in Washington.
Assuming the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, it will be an interesting and important case.
Alabama and Florida are arguing that the law is on their side.
Alabama’s argument is that the 1946 Rivers and Harbors Act authorized Buford Dam and Lake Lanier for hydropower, navigation and flood control, not for drinking water. Therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not have the authority to reallocate water for that purpose.
Florida argues that the Water Supply Act of 1958 requires congressional approval for any “major operational change” in the reallocation of water from the reservoir, and since this reallocation is “major,” the Corps should have sought a congressional OK. It didn’t.
Georgia argues that reducing the amount of water metro Atlanta can withdraw from the lake would have a devastating economic impact on the state and its people.
Alabama and Florida claim that continuing to allow metro Atlanta to siphon off water will have a devastating economic and environmental impact on cities, factories and endangered species downstream.
When it looked like Alabama and Florida had the upper hand, those states were ready to negotiate. Georgia appealed.
When Georgia got the upper hand, Gov. Nathan Deal announced he was ready to negotiate. Alabama and Florida appealed.
No matter what happens next, the appeals have run out.
It all could have been — should have been — settled long ago. This is what happens because it wasn’t.

120216-e







sugar
sweet money


See "Sugarland" by EvergladesHUB.com



A. Fanjul
Alfonso FANJUL




120216-e
Not So Sweet: The Intricacies of Big and Little Sugar
InTheseTimes.com - by Kari Lydersen
February 16, 2012
The lead on a story by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) attacking import limits and other government protections for the U.S. sugar industry was an attention-grabber: "That Valentine’s Day hand on your back pocket billfold is not your sweetheart’s, it’s the sugar lobby’s."
There are plenty of reasons for less-than-sweet feelings about the sugar industry, from the big sugar cane producers that have decimated large swaths of the Everglades to American Crystal Sugar Company, the sugar beet producer which has locked out 1,300 workers at its North Dakota plant this winter. On February 22, those workers are joining other locked out workers for a 1,000-mile-plus "Journey for Justice" from Fargo, N.D. to the site of a tire factory that's locked out workers in Findlay, Ohio. (In These Times staff writer Mike Elk will be along for the ride.)
But the AEI doesn't usually ally itself with labor or environmental causes, so I was surprised to see the conservative, pro-business think tank attacking the powerful sugar industry with a recent study saying import limits and other federal protections for sugar beet and sugar cane farmers are costing jobs and hurting consumers. AEI’s position does fit with its larger politics, once one considers that artificially high domestic sugar prices increase costs significantly (or so they say) for other parts of the food industry. AEI authors Michael Wohlgenant and Vincent H. Smith explain in their article:
The "no-romance" sugar program has largely been ignored by legislators and groups concerned with tax burdens because there are no direct federal subsidies for the sugar industry. Instead, U.S. sugar policy raises prices indirectly by taxing consumers through the marketplace. A system of import quotas and domestic supply controls works to raise sugar prices for households and food processors to a target level of 23.3 cents per pound of raw sugar when world prices fall below that amount. This system drives up consumer food prices and destroys jobs in the food processing sector because of reduced competitiveness in the global marketplace… In most years, the program also hurts many of the poorest farmers in developing countries by lowering the world price of sugar and reducing their already meager incomes…
In 2006 I wrote in The Washington Post about Chicago-area candy companies closing or moving out of the country; they blamed sugar price supports.
But it’s possible attacking the government sugar program is partly an excuse to justify outsourcing that would have happened anyway. That’s the view expressed by U.S. Sugar spokesperson Judy C. Sanchez, who spoke to a group of reporters I was part of touring sugar cane fields and refineries in Florida in October.
She said U.S. producers make about 1.5 million to two million tons of sugar a year, compared to about 32 million tons in Brazil, which it could "dump on the world market" and in the U.S. if it was allowed to.
"We’re all for global free trade, but other countries have subsidies," including the European Union and Brazil, Sanchez told the group, part of the Society of Environmental Journalists conference. In contrast to the American Enterprise Institute’s report, she said sugar costs make up such a small part of total food prices that the sugar program doesn’t have a significant impact. She said it might mean a 5 cent price difference in a box of cornflakes or 2 cents on a Hershey bar. She said the price of a bag of sugar in a grocery store "hasn’t gone up in 30 years."
About half of the sugar we use in the U.S. is produced from sugar cane and half from sugar beets. The cane sugar industry is dominated by a few large powerful companies, including U.S. Sugar and the Fanjul Corp. Opponents often highlight the sugar lobby’s power by pointing out that then-President Bill Clinton reportedly interrupted an infamous encounter with Monica Lewinsky to take a phone call from sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul.
Based on my October tour and another one in 2008 (thanks to the Scripps Howard Institute on the Environment), it was hard to feel the Florida cane sugar industry was deserving of government protection.
The refineries and growing operations are highly automated, employing fewer workers than in the past, and even when they did have more workers the industry was infamous for hiring low-paid immigrant guest workers who lived in rural slums like Belle Glade, once home to the country’s highest HIV rate. The industry has also been notorious for displacing and polluting huge swaths of the Everglades, leaving the future of the "River of Grass" in doubt and costing millions in restoration funds.
Much Florida state money has been lost in an ill-fated attempt to buy back sugar plantation land. Since the economic crisis hit and the state was unable to complete the deal, the land in question has largely remained sugar plantations.
However Sanchez noted that U.S. Sugar has improved its environmental practices, including using bagasse – the detritus of the cane – as a clean-burning biofuel to power its refinery. And she described the company as an important job-creator, adding that U.S. Sugar has recently invested $600 million in its Florida operations, which employ about 300 people, "so we can compete with foreign producers paying their workers 20 cents a day."
The AEI study notes that 60 percent of the sugar cane industry is in the hands of a few major producers; while sugar beet farms are much smaller and there are about 4,000 of them nationwide.
American Crystal Sugar, a cooperative of sugar beet growers that also owns sugar beet refineries around the country, is not necessarily representative of the entire sugar beet industry. In many cases sugar beets are grown by true family farmers who struggle to make a living amidst the general hardships of farming and controversies over the use of GMO sugar beets.
During years of controversy raging over the possibility of genetically modified sugar beets being grown on public land in Boulder, Colorado, social justice and sustainability advocates not normally known for allying with big agriculture have spoken out in support of the generations-long, family sugar beet operations.
Sugar has long been intricately linked to tense international relations and geopolitics. Cuba provided a third of the U.S.’s sugar before the revolution and embargo, and Mexican sugar has been prominent in controversy over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
While sugar protections have bolstered mainland U.S. sugar producers, the policies actually wreaked havoc on Hawaii’s economy and environment in the first half of the 1900s, before statehood, when Hawaii was home to many sugar plantations who sold sugar to the U.S. as foreign producers. The industry ultimately meant an influx of immigrant workers, declines in Native Hawaiian well-being, and the clearing and pollution of delicate natural areas – many now standing desolate as the sugar operations have closed.
The American Enterprise Institute used Valentine’s Day as a light-hearted peg to point out how consumers are paying for the price supports enjoyed by the sugar industry. But the fact that sugar is best-known as a largely non-essential, often unhealthy though also highly enjoyable component of food, it is ironic to think of all the labor and social strife and environmental harm the industry has wrought.
If the government ends the current sugar support program, as the AEI is demanding, production may be shifted increasingly to other countries. That might be a good thing for consumers and the environment in the United States. But such a shift would do little or nothing to change the historical legacy of big sugar; or to improve the environmental and labor practices of major sugar companies, wherever they end up.

120216-f







Rubio

Marco RUBIO
US Senator (R-FL)

120216-f
Rubio introduces bill to force EPA to implement state-drafted water pollution rules
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 16, 2012
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., today introduced a bill that would force the EPA to scrap its set of Florida water quality standards and instead accept rules drafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The bill is the Senate companion to a measure introduced in the U.S. House in January by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City.
The numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards designed to restrict waste in Florida waterways, were initially mandated by the EPA, following a lawsuit bought by environmental groups. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has since drafted its own rules as a lower-cost alternative to the more stringent federal regulations. Environmentalists say the state-drafted rules aren’t strict enough, and prefer that the EPA implement its version.
Though Southerland says his bill would “empower Florida officials, rather than bureaucrats at the EPA” to implement water pollution standards, environmentalists call it a “gift to polluter-lobbyists.”
In a press release, Rubio echoed Southerland, saying that “it’s time the EPA stop bullying us into accepting another Washington-contrived mandate that would devastate job creation. ”
“Florida has one of the most aggressive water quality protection programs in the nation, implemented by the people who know our state best, and it’s time the EPA stop bullying us into accepting another Washington-contrived mandate that would devastate job creation. This legislation simply reaffirms that states and the federal government should be partners in making sure our water is clean, and prevents Washington overreaches from harming our economy,” Rubio said in a press release. “The EPA needs to step back and realize that Florida will not simply stand by as their policies negatively impact Florida’s consumers, agriculture producers, municipalities, small businesses and other job creators.”
Southerland says his bill and Rubio’s would “save up to 14,500 Florida agriculture jobs while building upon the tremendous successes already achieved on the state level to keep our water clean.”
While industry representatives and lawmakers argue that the EPA’s criteria will cost the state both jobs and money, representatives from the agency disagree, arguing that the nutrient criteria will actually “save Florida money in the long run by making implementation faster and easier, thereby preventing future expensive clean-up costs and a decline in Florida’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry that is an engine of job growth in Florida.”
If enacted, the bill would compel the EPA administrator to formally accept the state-drafted rule.
Bills that would pave the way for Florida to implement its own version of the criteria passed both the Florida House and Senate unanimously this month, and were signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott today.
“The future of our state’s environment and economy depend on the health of our water bodies, and the state’s rules will ensure the protection of both,” Scott said in a statement. “The state’s rules are scientifically sound, protect the environment and avoid unnecessary costs for Florida’s households and businesses. Once approved by EPA, they will further enhance the State’s nationally recognized nutrient control programs.”
Rubio’s bill is supported by the Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida League of Cities — all of whom have long been critical of the federally mandated nutrient criteria.

120216-g






120216-g
Scott signs water pollution bill, but battle may still rage
Miami Herald
February 16, 2012
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill today that paves the way for Florida to reject federal water pollution rules and set individual standards for each water body.
"The future of our state's environment and economy depend on the health of our water bodies, and the state's rules will ensure the protection of both," said a press release from Scott's office.
The move may only fuel the years-long battle between at least a dozen stakeholders, including environmental groups and large businesses and farmers that pollute. At issue is the level of "numeric nutrients" in the water, caused by runnoff from farms and yards.
Attorney General Pam Bondi's office, which led a lawsuit against the federal government opposing the standard, also weighed in.
"Florida has always had the best expertise and resources to determine how to protect our waters," she said in a press release.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency must approve the state standard before it can be implemented. For more, click here.

120216-h







Roseate spoonbill

120216-h
Spoonbills return to Everglades mangroves
BellinghamHerald.com – by Curtis Morgan, The Miami Herald - McClatchy Newspapers
February 16, 2012
With plumage pink as a blushing cheek and a bill that resembles a wooden kitchen utensil, the roseate spoonbill always stands out — even among the many and beautiful wading birds of the Everglades.
But its striking appearance is not why National Audubon Society scientists like Jerry Lorenz have spent nearly 80 years monitoring the bird’s habits in a shallow bay wedged between the southern the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
The spoonbill, which nests on mangrove islands, serves as something of a flying barometer of the health of the bay and the Everglades system that flows into it. So a sudden, mysterious plunge in nesting last year to the lowest numbers in more than a half century had Lorenz and fellow scientists anxious about what might unfold this year.
The prognosis midway through breeding season: Spoonbills are back — though still in numbers far too small to suggest its future is rosy in the bay.
“I’m encouraged,’’ said Lorenz, after snaking through mangroves to check spoonbill nests on an island near Audubon’s research lab in Tavernier. “Last year, we had a massive abandonment of Florida Bay and I have no idea why. I’m hoping it was just a weird blip.’’
Other pink birds, a flock of 19 migrating flamingo, also have been popped up in Lake Ingraham in the western reaches of Everglades National Park this winter. But unlike the native spoonbills, these sporadic visitors have only feeding, not breeding, on their minds.
In an Everglades system driven by ever-changing water levels, weird blips are sort of the norm. Even before development chewed up half the historic wetlands and canals and levees altered the flow of the River of Grass, wildlife and bird populations often rollercoastered with rainfall, said Sonny Bass, supervisory wildlife ecologist at Everglades National Park.
“The system here is really a boom or bust system,’’ Bass said. “You can either have a really good year when everything comes off right or you can have a really bad year. Historically, that’s been the case but it’s probably exaggerated now on both ends.’’
The last few years alone illustrate that. In 2009, coming off a deep drought, wading birds across South Florida went into a breeding frenzy, producing nearly 78,000 nests — the most since the 1940s. The next year, heavy rains flooded out many nests, producing some of the lowest nesting numbers in decades. Last year, another drought — but no corresponding jump in breeding activity this time. Instead, it proved mediocre, with nesting across the region down by 40 percent from the 10-year average, according to an annual survey compiled by the South Florida Water Management District.
The working theory is that two droughts sandwiched around a very wet year threw off the timing of seasonal drying cycles across much of the Everglades that concentrate fish and other tiny things that wading birds fatten up on during breeding.
But that doesn’t explain the spoonbill’s decline in Florida Bay, Lorenz said.
Spoonbills have historically foraged where freshwater Everglades meets brackish Florida Bay, methodically sweeping their bills through shallow pools in tidal flats and coastal estuaries to snatch minnows and crabs. Audubon surveys showed those areas were packed with record amounts of prey, Lorenz said.
Even so, most spoonbills, which Lorenz said typically return to nest on the islands where they were born, took wing from Florida Bay last year. The birds built only 69 nests in the bay, roughly a third of the previous year, which had been an all-time low. In an unusual move, some went north to try nesting in the water conservation areas of western Broward County.
“What was so scary was that it was such a precipitous drop,’’ said Lorenz, Audubon’s state director of research.
He doesn’t have a good explanation. A record cold spell in early 2011 is a possibility, he said, but one he mostly discounts because birds have nested in colder weather in the past.
Whatever the cause, many spoonbills have returned. Since January, at least 160 nests have been spotted on bay islands, more than double the number last year, and there may be more. Just last week, Lorenz and his small team of researchers tallied another 160-plus nests in Taylor Slough, first spotted during a fly-over by Everglades National Park biologists.
Nesting spoonbills are rarely seen from the air. The species builds its nests so deep under the mangrove canopy, it’s hard to catch even a glimpse of pink from a boat or plane. So several times a month during breeding season, Audubon researchers head out in small boats to wade through shoe-sucking mud and crawl through tangles of mangroves to count birds, eggs and fledglings.
Wading quietly onto East Key, Lorenz heard the spoonbills before he spotted them, a deep croaking not unlike a bullfrog.
“Hear that?” he said. “They’re barking at me.”
Audubon’s spoonbill studies date back to the 1930s, when the society dispatched an ecologist named Robert Porter Allen to help rescue a bird nearly obliterated by poachers who sold the prized pink plumes to hat makers. Allen would devote 38 years to studying their habits and flight patterns, producing a 1947 book, “The Flame Birds.’’
If the colorful name didn’t stick, Allen’s research showed the birds to be key gauges of the Glades’ complex and interconnected ecosystems. He charted the birds’ comeback after hunting was halted and Everglades National Park was created in 1947. Then he chronicled the birds’ decline again, as a building boom swept the Florida Keys in the 1970s, dredging up once rich feeding grounds.
Lorenz has been monitoring spoonbills for Audubon since 1989, linking the species’ continuing decline to roads, development and drainage projects that have siphoned off and altered the flow of fresh water to Florida Bay.
One project, the C-111 canal, has been particularly damaging. Dug in the 1960s to carry rockets from the defunct Aero-Jet plant in South Miami-Dade and increased in capacity in the 1980s to protect farms from flooding, the canal diverts fresh water that once flowed down Taylor Slough into Florida Bay, instead funneling it 20 miles east into Barnes Sound.
The C-111, which left the park’s southern wetlands too dry and northeast Florida Bay too salty, is now undergoing state and federal alterations to return water to areas abandoned by the spoonbill — help that Lorenz says can’t come soon enough.
Spoonbills, while ranked as a “species of special concern’’ by the state, aren’t considered endangered. Another population around Tampa Bay has steadily grown and now outnumbers the one in Florida Bay, which has steadily declined for decades.
Audubon’s annual surveys show that since a peak nesting count of 1,260 in 1979, nesting numbers fell to an average of around 500 from 2000 to 2005 and have continued slipping since. The 300-plus nests this year by no means amount to a major rebound but after last year, they do represent a pink flash of hope.
“It’s not just the birds we’re concerned about,’’ he said. “The spoonbill is the canary in the coal mine for Florida Bay.’’

120216-i







oil

120216-i
State lands drilling a bad idea
PNJ.com – Editorial
February 16, 2012
We know that the environmental movement has had an impact on Florida politicians. Because today, when they want to do something bad for the quality of our water, the health of our forests or the integrity of wildlife habitat, they are always sure to say that they want to protect the environment.
Then they go ahead and do the bad thing.
So in the interest of protecting Florida's natural resources, state Rep. Clay Ford, R-Gulf Breeze, is restricting his bill to open state lands to oil and gas drilling only to the Panhandle. State Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.
Ford is willing to put the Everglades off limits — we can be thankful for small favors — but apparently doesn't see his home-county Blackwater River State Forest, with its creeks, rivers, wetlands and pitcher plant prairies, and its endangered plant and animal species, as environmentally sensitive.
Of course, on the upside, maybe local tourism promoters can add "oil field tour" to the hunting, fishing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, biking, bird watching and camping they tout the forest for today.
There was a time that even conservative legislators understood that areas like the Blackwater were put aside to preserve remnants of Florida's natural landscape (which does not include the extensive industrial tree farms many Floridians mistake for natural forests).
Healthy, natural wildlands produce myriad direct benefits for Florida residents, including the many recreational activities. But preserving natural forests, wetlands, watersheds and other habitats preserves both water quality and quantity, air quality and wildlife in a growing state.
These lands were originally protected precisely to be a natural asset that belongs to all the people — including future generations.
Now, with the state rapidly cutting back on services to residents, from education to health care, and the Legislature clearly identifying its role as serving corporations (after all, the Supreme Court says corporations are people), the pace of legislation is increasingly sweeping aside anything that impedes corporate interests, while the interests of state residents get put next in line.
So naturally business lobbies and the Florida Petroleum Council support Evers' and Fords' legislation. And if you lose a favorite hunting area or camping spot, or a once-pristine creek is dirtied in what you thought was protected public land, well, so it goes.

120216-j






120216-j
Study: St. Johns River a suitable backup for drinking water
TCPalm.com - by Jim Waymer, Florida Today
February 16, 2012
A landmark study released Tuesday reaffirms that hundreds of millions of gallons could be pumped daily from the St. Johns River to ease stress on groundwater supplies — without significantly harming the environment.
The research culminates decades of concerns and debate over how much water utilities should be allowed to pull from the river to deal with Central Florida's growing population.
St. Johns River Water Management District officials called the four-year study "the most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous analysis" of the river ever conducted. More than 80 technical staff and consultants studied impacts to the river's fish, plankton, bottom organisms, wetlands, submerged plants and other wildlife. The district governs Indian River County water.
The study's results will drive how much water ultimately gets drawn from the river, holding the future growth of Cocoa, Titusville, Melbourne, Orange County and much of the rest of Central Florida in the balance. District officials have warned Central Florida communities for years they would stop allowing additional groundwater withdrawals in 2013 to protect existing groundwater supplies and wetland habitats.
"The amount of water that may ultimately be withdrawn will depend on the proposed location, design and timing of proposed withdrawals, as well as the numerous permitting criteria considered when permit applications are submitted," stated Hal Wilkening, director of the district's division of water resources, in a release.
The district's governing board released the final report on the study Tuesday during its meeting in Palatka.
The district had the National Academy of Sciences review the project as it unfolded over the past four years. The National Research Council, the academies' operating arm, completed its peer review in December, concluding that most of the district's methods were solid.
But the district's projections failed to take into account what the ecological impact would be if Central Florida suffered consecutive years of a severe drought, as has happened within the past decade, according to NRC.
The NRC reviewed the data as part of the larger $3.5 million study. The goal was to explore the impact of drawing up to 262 million gallons a day from the St. Johns and its major tributary, the Ocklawaha River.
Pumping hundreds of millions of gallons from the St. Johns daily raises few ecological red flags, the NRC found, but could shrink wetlands, as well as fish and bird populations in the 310-mile sprawling waterway.
The district anticipates "moderate" effects overall — meaning no significant change to natural resources. The "moderate" effects in the upper St. Johns will be because of water level declines and in the lower St. Johns because of declines in the rate of water flow and increases in salt content.
District officials have urged local governments for years to use the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers for future water supplies to protect groundwater. Using too much groundwater can cause saltwater intrusion into wells and dried-up wetlands.
Alternative water supplies include reclaimed water, brackish groundwater and seawater.
Among the NRC panel's biggest worries is fish. Better designs that avoid spawning hotspots, reduce the speed of the water being drawn out of the river, or lower withdrawal rates during spawning could minimize the impact, district officials said.
Florida Institute of Technology biologists have been trying to identify the river's most crucial spawning spots.
Officials expects the 18-county district to increase from today's 4.7 million people to 7.2 million by 2030. The district's water demand was 1.13 billion gallons a day in 2009.

120215-a





oil

120215-a
Bill Aims to Open Up Oil Exploration in Florida
MyFoxPhoenix.com
15 February, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A bill that would encourage public-private partnerships in exploring for oil and gas in Florida now has been restricted to the state's Panhandle.
The amended bill (HB 695) cleared the House Appropriations Committee along party lines Wednesday.
Bill sponsor Clay Ford said he changed the bill after hearing concerns over possible drilling in the Everglades and other environmentally-sensitive areas. The Pensacola Republican wants to encourage revenue for the state while protecting its natural resources.
Environmental advocates oppose the bill. They have concerns over exploration in Panhandle conservation lands. The bill would not allow offshore drilling.
The measure allows oil companies to approach the state first instead of having to wait for land-leases on the open market. Business lobbies and the Florida Petroleum Council support the bill

120215-b






120215-b
Is $1.8 million to rebury Indian bones too much ?
Palm Beach Post
February 15, 2012
Talk about an expensive mistake. South Florida taxpayers this week learned they will have to pay nearly $2 million for the South Florida Water Management District to rebury the ancient remains of 56 Native Americans dug up during an Everglades restoration project south of Lake Okeechobee.
The $1.8 million price tag comes because, even though Seminole and Miccosukee tribes agreed to let government-hired archeologists exhume the remains, no one knew their extent, and archeologists never bothered to tell the tribes. When they learned out later that the workers had dug up a pre-Columbian burial mound instead of a few teeth and bones, they insisted that they be returned.
But that’s going to be pricey, partly because the remains have already been reburied. The tribes insist that to dig them up again, the district must use flat shovels at first, then hand-trowels, in order not to inflict damage. When they are reburied, the remains could be surrounded by a berm with a pump installed so the burial site is not under water when the Everglades restoration project is completed.
Is the water management district doing the right thing ?  Or is it spending too much taxpayer money to accommodate the tribes ?  
What do you think ?
Taxpayer says: February 15th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
I say we should set up entry toll system to the Indian casinos to pay off this debt. Charge gamblers and casino employees $2 fee. Once the fees pays off this debt and expenses related to this, take down the tolls.
Or we could wipe out the entire Florida Indian nation and throw their bones with the rest of the bones we dug up.
Human Being says: February 15th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
laughable. extreme stupidity. we are spending money on the most ridiculous things. stop the insanity. quit living in the past. what the heck are these bones going to do for us. need i say more.
Melody says: February 15th, 2012 at 4:23 pm
This sounds SO much like the various “deals” our county had to make with “Trumpsellopers”! Maybe county could just let some wealthy dinosaurs along the water in Jupiter cut down more mangroves or cut some sea grapes or build some sea walls to pay for “them bones them bones them dry bones”!
Rick says: February 15th, 2012 at 4:35 pm
Are You Kidding Me??? Give the tribe the bones in a dignified container and let them re-bury their ancestors at their expense and then give them a tax-credit to be deducted from the millions they owe the State in unpaid taxes!
Simon says:  February 15th, 2012 at 4:50 pm
That is ridiculous! This is taxpayer money we are talking about here. SFWMD just had to lay a bunch of people off. They acted in good faith and in a respectful manner in this case, now they are being told to drop a couple million dollars by a tribe that has more money than they know what to do with. If the burial site is truly pre-Columbian these remains in all likelihood pre-date the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes arrival in Florida.
Melody says: February 15th, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Between those five archeologists in the photo they are not able to come up with enough funds from their malpractice insurance to cover the bones bungle ? I also wonder why the Seminoles and Miccosukee tribes have not been fined for obvious improper disposal of human remains centuries ago now that the state has stumbled upon these bones. The interest on the obviously centuries old fine should more than cover entire Everglades restoration.
JupiterVoger says: February 15th, 2012 at 5:02 pm
The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes agreed to let SFWMD dig and they now want $1.8M–even though it can’t be shown that the pre-Columbian remains belonged to either tribe? Doesn’t pass the smell test.
OMFG says:  February 15th, 2012 at 5:21 pm
This is absolutely outrageous.
Obviously, the nimrods at the SFWMD think they are working with an endless supply of money.
And the archeologists? Would it have been too much trouble to pick up the phone and call Chief Sitting Bullsh_t and let him know that they were finding all these bones instead of just a handful ? What are the names of these rocket scientists ?

120215-c






120215-c
Scientists Measure Carbon And Mercury Coming Out Of South Florida Mangroves
USGS Press Release: 2/15/2012
Contact Information: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
Brian Bergamaschi (916-396-923412201) & Laurel Rogers (619-980-6527)
Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119, Reston, VA 20192
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- For the first time, scientists have measured the amount of dissolved organic carbon and mercury moving from a southwest Florida mangrove swamp via tides to coastal waters.
  mangrove
The scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that a large amount of mercury and methylmercury–the form of mercury that is most toxic and the form that accumulates in fish–flows from mangroves into the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, over 50 species of fish in Florida's coastal waters have elevated concentrations of mercury, and human health advisories regarding consumption have been issued by the Florida Department of Health for several fish species in Florida coastal marine areas. A greater understanding of the sources and environmental pathways resulting in these elevated methylmercury concentrations in fish will help environmental managers, policy makers, and regulators lower human and wildlife mercury exposure.
"Previous USGS research has revealed that these swamps transform mercury to its toxic methylmercury form far from the coal-burning plants that are the original source of the pollution," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "Now we are learning that the threat to wildlife and human health does not stop there, but is carried out to sea on the ebb tide."
Scientists pioneered a new high-frequency measurement method to measure dissolved organic carbon, mercury and methylmercury in an extremely complex tidal estuarine environment. The study originated from the need to measure the flux of dissolved organic carbon, but scientists realized that they could simultaneously measure mercury and methylmercury using the same techniques. Previous USGS research in the Everglades has shown that methylmercury and mercury bind to dissolved organic carbon.
Study results revealed that mercury from the mangroves could account for over 90% of the methylmercury and almost half the total mercury supply to the near-shore coastal waters of southwestern Florida. The study's findings represent an important first step in identifying and quantifying a significant source of mercury and methylmercury for coastal fish in southwest Florida-Gulf of Mexico region. The findings are published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Although almost all of the mercury entering the Gulf of Mexico originates from the atmosphere, it is not understood how or where this mercury undergoes the necessary conversion to its more toxic form, methylmercury. Scientists do not understand the relative contribution, but generally agree that the conversion to methylmercury occurs in the following three areas:
1- in the landscape, where it could be flushed into coastal areas by runoff and tidal pumping;
2- in the estuarine zones, which in southwest Florida often contain mangroves, where it could be flushed into the coastal areas by the tides; or,
3- in the deep open waters and/or bottom sediments of the Gulf of Mexico.
Until now, the amount of methylmercury coming from estuarine mangrove zones into the coastal areas was unknown because making accurate measurements of this type is extremely challenging. The tide waters that flow in and out of the estuary twice a day must be measured in addition to the constantly changing dissolved organic carbon, mercury, and methylmercury concentrations that result.
"Once we understand where the mercury is being methylated, and how much methylmercury is coming from various environments, resource managers, regulators, and decision makers will be better able to anticipate how the Gulf of Mexico will respond to reductions in mercury loads. It's a very important start that we at least have one of the rivers, the Shark River, flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, quantified as to how much mercury, methylmercury and dissolved organic carbon, is flowing into the gulf," said USGS researcher David Krabbenhoft.
Researchers believe that a relatively unique combination of circumstances result in the large amounts of methylmercury they measured flowing from mangroves into the coastal ocean. Mangroves forests capture gaseous mercury from the air through their leaves and drop them into the brackish swamp waters, where methylmercury is produced in the presence of seawater sulfate.
"Measuring the amount of mercury that mangrove swamps contribute to coastal waters will help us understand and model the sources of mercury that enter the food web," said lead researcher Brian Bergamaschi with the USGS.
This study is the work of scientists from the USGS, Florida Gulf Coast University, and the State of Florida. The high-frequency dissolved organic carbon measurement methodology was developed for a previous study in San Francisco Bay.
The USGS has studied mercury in the Everglades since 1994. Previous USGS research discovered that mercury in the Everglades was coming from atmospheric releases and deposition, and not from natural land sources such as rocks. They also found that the formation of methylmercury in the Everglades is strongly influenced by land and water uses, including the delivery of sulfate from up-gradient agricultural lands. This study represents a significant contribution to the knowledge about the risks of mercury exposure in south Florida, but additional studies are necessary to better understand how mercury accumulates in coastal fish.
For more information about mercury, please visit the USGS Mercury in the Environment webpage. For more information about carbon cycling and sequestration in terrestrial and marine environments, please visit the USGS LandCarbon website.
120215-d






120215-d
Study solifidies St. Johns a suitable backup
FloridaToday.com
February 15, 2012
River could be tapped for drinking water without serious harm to habitat
A landmark study released Tuesday reaffirms that hundreds of millions of gallons could be pumped daily from the St. Johns River to ease stress on groundwater supplies — without significantly harming the environment.
The research culminates decades of concerns and debate over how much water utilities should be allowed to pull from the river to deal with Central Florida’s growing population.
St. Johns River Water Management District officials called the four-year study “the most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous analysis” of the river ever conducted. More than 80 technical staff and consultants studied impacts to the river’s fish, plankton, bottom organisms, wetlands, submerged plants and other wildlife.
The study’s results will drive how much water ultimately gets drawn from the river, holding the future growth of Cocoa, Titusville, Melbourne, Orange County and much of the rest of Central Florida in the balance. District officials have warned Central Florida communities for years they would stop allowing additional groundwater withdrawals in 2013 to protect existing groundwater supplies and wetland habitats.
“The amount of water that may ultimately be withdrawn will depend on the proposed location, design and timing of proposed withdrawals, as well as the numerous permitting criteria considered when permit applications are submitted,” stated Hal Wilkening, director of the district’s division of water resources, in a release.
The district’s governing board released the final report on the study Tuesday during its meeting in Palatka.
The district had the National Academy of Sciences review the project as it unfolded over the past four years. The National Research Council, the academies’ operating arm, completed its peer review in December, concluding that most of the district’s methods were solid.
But the district’s projections failed to take into account what the ecological impact would be if Central Florida suffered consecutive years of a severe drought, as has happened within the past decade, according to NRC
The NRC reviewed the data as part of the larger $3.5 million study. The goal was to explore the impact of drawing up to 262 million gallons a day from the St. Johns and its major tributary, the Ocklawaha River.
Pumping hundreds of millions of gallons from the St. Johns daily raises few ecological red flags, the NRC found, but could shrink wetlands, as well as fish and bird populations in the 310-mile sprawling waterway.
The district anticipates “moderate” effects overall — meaning no significant change to natural resources. The “moderate” effects in the upper St. Johns will be because of water level declines and in the lower St. Johns because of declines in the rate of water flow and increases in salt content.
District officials have urged local governments for years to use the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers for future water supplies to protect groundwater. Using too much groundwater can cause saltwater intrusion into wells and dried-up wetlands.
Alternative water supplies include reclaimed water, brackish groundwater and seawater.
Among the NRC panel’s biggest worries is fish. Better designs that avoid spawning hotspots, reduce the speed of the water being drawn out of the river, or lower withdrawal rates during spawning could minimize the impact, district officials said.
Florida Institute of Technology biologists have been trying to identify the river’s most crucial spawning spots.
Officials expects the 18-county district to increase from today’s 4.7 million people to 7.2 million by 2030. The district's water demand was 1.13 billion gallons a day in 2009.

120215-e







UW-FL

United Waterfowlers Florida

120215-e
UW-F Supports Gov. Scott’s Everglades Funding Plan
FloridaSportsman.com - by Jeff Weakley
February 15, 2012
Action Alert from United Waterfowlers-Florida
Just a few weeks ago, Governor Rick Scott promised and proposed a plan that included $40 million in funding for the ongoing restoration of the Everglades ecosystem in this year’s budget.
That plan is in jeopardy…
Duck hunters, anglers and other sportsmen understand the importance of the Everglades System to Florida and the importance of clean water.
The Everglades is the watershed and recharge area that provides the water supply for South Florida… one out of every three Florida citizens relies on the Everglades for their water supply.
A large network of guides, sportsmen and outdoors business interests rely on the Everglades for their livelihood. In-state and out-of-state sportsmen and tourists spend big bucks to visit this unique place that exists in only one place on earth.
We owe it to our children, and to their children to do the right thing now!
“The Everglades are a national treasure, an economic engine, a job creator and the future of Florida depends on its health…”
Improvements are required throughout the system, improvements needed to hold water and filter it before reaching the Everglades. And restoration is required to save the native tree islands and other habitats that still exist in the Everglades.
Clean water is vital to all Floridians now and in the future. We must repair what man has changed to save our heritage and economy.
United Waterfowlers – Florida
Dennis Dutcher – UW-F President
John Hitchcock – UW-F Chairman
Newton Cook – UW-F Executive Direct

120215-f






120215-f
Water district to move Native American bones back to ancient site in Everglades
P alm Beach Post - byChristine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 15, 2012
Three years after the South Florida Water Management District infuriated the Seminole tribe by allowing archaeologists to exhume and relocate the ancient remains of 56 men, women and children to make way for an Everglades restoration project, the district has agreed to dig back up and relocate all 901 bones and 235 teeth to their original resting place.
The cost to taxpayers is estimated at $1.8 million but the cost to the district's reputation among the region's tribes -- the Seminole and Miccosukee -- remains to be seen. In a written agreement made public Monday, the district's executive director, Melissa Meeker, said the district is "strongly committed to working with our partners in the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Everglades restoration in a way that protects both the ecosystem and the region's history."
The burial sites are within a 4,656-acre project that the district had planned on flooding with 18-inches of water in its efforts to restore the Everglades. The controversy over the relocation of the more than 500-year-old burial site has halted construction of some of the $248 million man-made wetland, which was scheduled to be completed this summer.
The rift began after the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes signed off on the exhumation and relocation project, after being told that archaeologists hired by the district would carefully and respectfully re-bury the miscellaneous collection of bones and teeth that had been found at a remote location in Hendry County.
But the more the archaeologists dug, the more they found and they updated the district, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Historic Preservation Office. While the district often encounters archaeological artifacts and remains, water managers tried to keep this case quiet, because the find was more extensive than expected and the remains had already been moved and reburied by the time the tribes learned the extent of the find.
When the tribes learned that what they had been told were some teeth and bones was actually a pre-Colombian burial ground, they demanded the remains be returned to their original resting place.
Tribal representatives walked out of a meeting on May 12, 2010 with the district, the corps and state archaeologists when the agencies tried to unravel what happened rather than focus on the fate of the disturbed remains. The Seminoles have insisted that all the remains be returned to their original resting place, positioned exactly as they were found.
The tribes, district and other agencies agree that all of the remains "may not be fully recoverable" due to damage by animals and other natural events but that the district "will makes its best efforts to recover all cultural items and excavated materials." The agreement reached this week requires the district to follow the tribes' rules: Flat shovels must be used to scrape the soil until white sand covering each burial site is exposed. Then, a hand-trowel must be used.
To ensure the remains are not mixed, only one burial site at a time can be worked on. The bones should be reburied within two days and the orientations must match the original position. For example, some of the bodies were lying face up, other face down and some on their sides. Most were buried with the head facing east.
Archaeologists working on the excavation, transportation and relocation also must meet standards set by the Department of Interior and if new remains or artifacts are discovered, the district "will immediately halt all activity within the vicinity of the discovery" and notify all parties, according to the agreement.
Besides the archaeological challenge of digging up and reburying the remains, engineers have been working on a plan to build a berm around the original burial site and install pumps to keep the site dry when the surrounding area is flooded. Recent timelines show the archeological work beginning in the fall -- after the rainy season -- and ending in the summer 2013.
Stephen Walker, attorney for the Seminole Tribe, said in a written statement that the agreement "demonstrates that it is possible to achieve ecological restoration in a manner that respects the importance of the tribe's cultural traditions, and we hope that this cooperative effort will become the model for future restoration projects."

120214-a







(mouseover-CLICK
to enlarge MAP)

FIU swap

FIU Land SWAP
:
Florida International University is proposing
a land swap that would
give it a 99-year lease
on 350 acres of land
now owned by the SFWMD. FIU wants to
give that land to the county in exchange for
an existing fairground
site next door to its
Tamiami Trail campus.



120214-a
FIU expansion plan hinges on controversial land swap
The Miami Herald - by M. Vasquez and Curtis Morgan
February 14, 2012
With a fast-growing medical school on a built-out campus, the university is pursuing state-owned land bordering the Everglades to exchange for the existing county fair grounds; environmentalists question the plan.
Florida International University is pursuing a complicated land swap that would allow it to expand into the county fairgrounds next door.
The key to the deal: 350 acres of West Miami-Dade wetlands the state bought 13 years ago for $3.7 million as part of an Everglades restoration project since scrapped by the South Florida Water Management District.
FIU’s plan calls for securing the parcel at an attractive price — a free, 99-year lease — and then giving it to Miami-Dade County in exchange for the existing 87-acre fairgrounds. A new home for the 60-year-old Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, as well as a county park, would then be constructed on the new site.
FIU pitches the proposal as a win-win, helping a university with a fast-growing medical school that has run out of real estate while also preserving undeveloped land near the Everglades.
Environmentalists haven’t been won over.
They contend the plan would destroy wading bird habitat, encourage building beyond the county’s urban development boundary and short-change the state’s cash-strapped Everglades restoration efforts. They’re also concerned FIU is trying to fast-track a deal that has undergone little public scrutiny, pointing to legislative language circulating in Tallahassee that would authorize the transfer.
“FIU is flexing its political muscle to try to push this,” said Laura Reynolds, executive director of The Tropical Audubon Society.
Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, FIU’s senior vice president for external relations, said she wasn’t certain who wrote the proposed legislation but insisted FIU was not trying to ram through a deal. She also acknowledged the proposal faces legal and political hurdles, including possible conservation covenants and wetlands development restrictions. Under the county charter, voters would have to approve the plan in a countywide referendum before FIU could build on the old fairground .
“We are in a discovery and exploratory phase right now, so there are many questions that are still unanswered,” she said, adding that FIU welcomed public review of the proposal.
With the school projecting attendance to grow by 10,000 over the next five years, she said FIU must find more space. Even with planned additions at its North Miami campus, FIU needs more room for labs, its new Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and med student housing.
For FIU, the fairground has an obvious advantage of being next door to its main campus at the junction of Tamiami Trail and Florida’s Turnpike. The fair moved there in 1972, a few years after FIU’s establishment.
The university broached the expansion about a year ago, meeting with Miami-Dade’s Parks and Recreation Department, which owns the fairgrounds, and the non-profit company that runs the fair under a 90-year lease signed in 1995. Both agreed to join a group to evaluate potential new fairground locations, evaluating 16 sites that fit the criteria of at least 250 acres, most needed for parking up to 18,000 cars. The fair, which attracts more than 500,000 patrons each March and ranks as the largest in the state, also rents three exhibition halls many weekends.
Manny Rodriguez, chairman of the board of Miami-Dade Fair & Exposition Inc. and a regional director for Florida Power & Light, said the fair’s board was open to helping FIU — “a valuable entity in this community” — if the right spot could be found.
“We’re happy where we are but also realize FIU is land-locked,’’ he said.
Kevin Asher, supervisor of special projects for the parks department, said the aim was to accommodate the fair’s needs as well.
“No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head,’’ he said. “It’s an open exploration.’’
The top choice: a chunk of wetlands along Tamiami Trail a few miles east of Krome Avenue that the water district was considering selling as “surplus.” The agency, which manages Everglades restoration for the state, has been downsizing staff, programs and projects in an effort to balance its shrinking budget.
The 350 acres, purchased in 1999 for about $3.7 million under the state’s Preservation 2000 conservation land-buying program, was intended to be part of a much larger project called the Bird Drive Recharge Area. The goal was to create a sprawling basin that could hold stormwater and groundwater seeping from Everglades National Park, help recharge Miami-Dade’s nearby drinking water wells and expand wetlands habitats bordering the park.
But the project was plagued with problems. The district encountered difficulty finding willing sellers and faces a slew of lawsuits from other area landowners. Water managers dropped it after engineers in 2008 deemed the project “unfeasible’’ and not worth the high costs — largely because holding water in the area could raise flood risks to surrounding properties.
That decision left the agency with a checkerboard of some 930 acres.
FIU formally expressed its interest in acquiring the largest pieces in a Dec. 7 letter from school president Mark Rosenberg to the district. He said the school was interested in acquiring about 500 acres through a “state-to-state transfer,” spelling out the proposed fairgrounds move and the creation of a county “environmental legacy park’’ that would protect much of the remaining wetlands. The request has since been reduced to 350 acres.
Water managers did not respond to calls for comment. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing FIU’s proposal but has not yet taken a position, said spokeswoman Jennifer Diaz.
Parks officials, fair executives and FIU see the site as promising but insist the idea remains preliminary.
“It’s a lovely parcel... but there is still a long way to go,’’ said Asher.
Though the land could come free, the cost of building new facilities could be problematic. Asher said one estimate put a $12 million price on wetlands mitigation, which typically involves restoring wetlands elsewhere to compensate for development. It’s also unsettled who would pay for the move.
FIU’s Gonzalez-Levy called the new site superior to other options and not so far west from current fairgrounds to be inconvenient.
“What’s it going to take, five more minutes, the driving time?" she asked.
The property sits just west of the urban development boundary (UDB), she said, but FIU would not ask to move the line established to discourage suburban sprawl. She also noted that parts of it are already degraded, over-run with exotic plants, rutted by off-road vehicles and used as a dumping ground.
Environmentalists stress they don’t oppose FIU’s expansion but they argue it should not come at the expense of Miami-Dade’s disappearing wetlands.
Megan Tinsley, Everglades policy associate for Audubon of Florida, said her group has been pressing the district to find new ways to use land originally purchased with the intent of preserving habitat for wildlife, including endangered wood stork, which feed in the area.
“Even if you’re not going to build the project you previously envisioned, there needs to be a more robust evaluation of what to do with it,’’ she said.
She also said FIU’s plans conflicted with county land-use restrictions as well as state and federal covenants tied to land purchase programs. She also questioned whether state and federal regulators would approve a massive parking lot on wetland outside the UDB .
“We definitely wouldn’t want to see a lot of asphalt poured out there,” she said.
Tinsley believes environmentalists’ call for re-evaluating the district land sale had been getting traction — at least until FIU stepped in with proposed legislation and “changed the game.”
Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, chair of Miami-Dade’s legislative delegation and House Republican leader, said he was aware of FIU’s desire for the land swap, and is supportive.
“I believe that FIU does their due diligence before they bring issues to elected officials from their community,” Lopez-Cantera said.
But he cautioned against assuming lawmakers would act with the legislative session more than half over. It’s too late for a individual bill to be filed but language still could be tacked onto an existing bill as an amendment.
“Is it guaranteed to happen? That is uncertain,” Lopez-Cantera said.

120214-b






120214-b
Florida Conservationists File Sunshine Lawsuit over Fisheating Creek Plan
EarthJustice.org
February 14, 2012
In closed-door meetings, state bows to Lykes Brothers pressure to block public’s access to river.
Tallahassee, FL — Earthjustice today filed a Government-in-the-Sunshine suit against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission because the agency illegally held closed-door meetings to craft a plan which would cut off the public’s boating access to part of Fisheating Creek in Glades County.
The state’s ill-advised plan is to build roads through wetlands and dump 50 million pounds of sand into Fisheating Creek to permanently block the public navigation channel.
“It’s unconscionable to see a state agency—which runs on our tax dollars—illegally bar the public from meetings which should be public. It’s even worse when the state agency is behind closed doors hatching a plan to let a politically powerful agricultural company illegally shut off ordinary people’s rights to run their boats down a public waterway,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.
Earthjustice filed suit in Leon County’s Second Judicial Circuit on behalf of Save Our Creeks and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida.
Those two groups were part of a landmark 1997 suit about Fisheating Creek, which was one of the most important victories for the public’s right to access on Florida waterways. Agribusiness giant Lykes Brothers had fenced the creek’s channel off so boaters could no longer go down it. Conservationists sued and won, when a jury concluded that Florida law provides that the navigation channel through Fisheating Creek should rightly be open to the public. The public’s right to access on Florida waterways dates back hundreds of years, when the state’s waterways were its only public “highways.”
As part of that 1997 settlement, the FWCC agreed to keep Fisheating Creek’s channel open for public access. But the agency ignored its duty, and, instead, let a portion of the creek fill in with exotic vegetation and overgrowth.
“The problem here is that the FWCC didn’t do its job keeping the navigation channel open for the public,” Guest said. “They were required to do it, they had money appropriated by the state Legislature to do it, but they just didn’t.”
In 2008, conservationists threatened to sue unless the FWCC performed its duty to keep the creek open to the public. The FWCC at that point brought in an “Agitator,” a boat fitted with a blade that’s commonly used to clear boat channels in vegetation-choked waterways throughout the state.
Lykes Brothers complained to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Corps referred the matter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA expressed concern that removing the vegetation was causing a new water flow pattern which drained too much water out of the creek and marsh. The EPA then asked the state to come up with a solution to keep more water in the marsh and creek. Possible solutions included earthen dams and weirs, which would keep the creek open so people could run their boats up and down the public waterway.
That’s when the FWCC convened a technical working group which examined a number of alternatives, and shut the public out. A representative of the public tried to attend one meeting, but the closed-door committee directed her to leave.
The FWCC then announced its preferred plan: to build roads and staging areas across the marsh and then backfill the navigation channel with 50 million pounds of sand.
“The FWCC’s plan is a shameless giveaway to Lykes Brothers and a kick in the gut to the public. People have a legal right to use this waterway and they also have a right to give input on the state’s plan to spend their tax dollars,” Guest said.

120214-c







(mouseover-CLICK
to enlarge corridor MAP)

Carlton Ward, Jr.

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



120214-c
Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition
Examiner.com – by Steve Daniels
February 14, 2012
A Photographer, a Biologist, a Conservationist, and a Filmmaker walk into a Florida swamp...
Although this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, these people are serious about what they are doing for the fragile ecosystem of Florida. If you haven't heard about it, you can't drive from east to west through the state of Florida without crossing a portion of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. 'The corridor is a collaborative vision to connect remaining natural lands, waters, working farms and ranches from the Everglades to Georgia, protecting a functional ecological corridor for the health of people, wildlife and watersheds,' according to the FWC Website
On January 17, 2012, Photographer Carlton Ward Jr., Biologist Joe Guthrie, Conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, and Filmmaker Elam Stotzfus left Florida Bay in the Everglades for a 1,000 mile trip from the southern tip of the peninsula to the Georgia state line. Although you can get there much faster and by a much shorter route, this trek is more like a Lewis and Clark event than a road trip. About 300 miles of the trip will be by canoe, and the other 700 miles will be on foot. The trip will take 100 days (if all goes according to plan) through public lands like the Everglades National Park, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area (Proposed), the St. Johns River, and the Ocala National Forest, ending at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at the Georgia border. Along the way, they will cross over private land areas that are presently in negotiation with landowners for future conservation.
The four, along with others they will meet along the way, will be studying and preserving, digitally and on film, the animals, their habitats, the ecosystem, and plant life. This not only benefits wildlife and plant life, but will help protect farmers and ranchers in central Florida, and help keep a safe and plentiful drinking supply of fresh water. They expect to see Florida leaders such as U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The team is well suited for this trek. They have all been involved in conservation efforts throughout Florida. Here is some information about them:
Carlton Ward, Jr.- Carlton is a conservation photographer from Tampa, FL. He is an eighth generation Floridian, and knows the state and its history well. He is a Founding Fellow of theInternational League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), and founded the Legacy Institute for Nature and Culture (LINC). Carlton has a Master's degree in Ecology, and is an author, writing and photographing for many books, including 'Florida Cowboys' in 2009. Florida Cowboys won a silver medal in the Florida Book Awards. Popular Photography named him one of three photographers working to save vanishing America.
● Joe Guthrie - Between earning his B.A. in English from Centre College in Danville, KY, where he worked to document the population of Florida Black Bears in Highlands and Glades counties, and completing his Masters degree from the University of Kentucky, Joe spent time studying nature in the western United States, spent time as a rafting guide, and even played Professional Football overseas. Since then, he has worked primarily as a researcher of bears and the functioning of highways and land corridors. With cooperation from landowners such as ranchers and property stakeholders, the project continues today. Articles and features about Joe and his project have appeared in/on Audubon Magazine, Natural Geographic Television, CNN, and the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times).
Mallory Lykes Dimmitt- Mallory comes from a family with deep roots in Florida. From a young age, she spent much of her time exploring the lands and waters of Florida. She specializes in landscape scale conservation, natural resource management, ecosystem service markets and water and energy issues. She worked for a time for The Nature Conservancy in Telluride, Colorado and served as a member of Telluride’s Town Council, working with local, regional, state and federal agencies and organizations on natural resource issues. She is a Director, Vice‐chair of the Corporate Responsibility Committee and a 5th Generation Committee member of the Florida‐based family agri‐business company, Lykes Brothers Inc. She also serves on the board of LINC, the Legacy Institute for Nature & Culture, where she previously filled the role of Interim Executive Director. Mallory is an avid adventurer having hiked the Appalachian Trail through Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. Mallory earned her B.S. in Natural Resources from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, was awarded a Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship at Duke University's Nicholas School of Environment, where she also earned her Masters of Environmental Management (MEM) in Environmental Economics and Policy, and a certificate in Non-profit Management.
Elam Stoltzfus- Elam is a Producer, Director, and Cinematographer of documentaries and educational and corporate training programs featuring environmental issues. He owns and manages Live Oak Production Group, Inc., a High Definition professional broadcast video production company. He also freelances as a film and video producer. Elam's video footage has been broadcast on the Weather Channel, CNN, MTV, Inside Edition, HGTV, ABC, Travel Channel, Jefferson Pilot, and PBS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Communications/Media from Florida State University. Elam has won many awards, among them nine Telly Awards and two Emmy nominations for his work in cinematography.
The reason the Florida Wildlife Corridor is so important is that there needs to be a contiguous path through the entire state of Florida to allow wildlife to migrate as development continues to grow. If there are areas of development that block the path of wildlife, it is potentially dangerous to the animals. There are other concerns. Here are the key issues the Florida Wildlife Corridor project address, and that the Expedition will bring to the attention of all involved including conservationists, the Florida Legislature, and the public:
●  Protecting and restoring dispersal and migration corridors essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife, including wide-ranging panthers and black bears and all of the game and other species that live on the same land.
● Restoring the Everglades watershed, protecting the Everglades headwaters, and sustaining water supply to southern Florida.
● Safeguarding the St. Johns River and water supply from near Orlando north to Jacksonville.
● Sustaining the food production, economies and cultural legacies of working ranches and farms
● Giving people and wildlife room to adapt to climate change.
You can keep track of the team's progress by watching their Geostory here. A Geostory is a visual journal of an event by National Geographic that progresses as it takes place, showing you the progress through photographs, videos, and interactive maps. The photographs in this Geostory are by Carlton Ward, Jr.
The main website for the expedition can be seen here.
To follow the expedition route and see their Storypoints, download a .pdf of their Expedition map and list of highlights here. You will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you don't have Adobe Reader, it is a free download and can be downloaded from Adobe here.

120214-d






120214-d
Obama budget includes Everglades restoration funding
Tampa Bay Business Journal
February 14, 2012
Environmentalists in South Florida are excited about President Barack Obama’s proposed budget that includes $232 million in spending on the Everglades in the next fiscal year.
If Congress approved the measure in the budget, the funding would enable projects aimed at creating natural water flow and ensuring water supply for almost a third of Floridians, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The projects include a reservoir in Palm Beach County, a canal in Miami-Dade County and lagoon restoration on the Indian River in Martin County.
A broad coalition of project supporters helped secure the budget funding, according to the report.

120214-e






120214-e
Obama putting $232M in 'Glades
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
February 14, 2012
WASHINGTON ——
President Barack Obama's proposed budget on Monday called for spending $232 million on the Everglades in the next fiscal year, a sign that the massive restoration work in South Florida remains a high priority even when federal money is tight.
If approved by Congress, that should be enough to continue projects intended to create a natural water flow, nurture wildlife and ensure water supplies for one in three Floridians.
South Florida environmentalists hailed the budget and plan to stress to Congress that restoration creates jobs and boosts the local economy.
"We had some challenges last year to get the numbers up," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, who tracks federal spending for Audubon of Florida, "but I think the broad coalition of support that got us funding then will keep it a high priority."
The projects would include a reservoir in southwest Palm Beach County; a spreader canal in Miami-Dade County; a bridge over Tamiami Trail; and restoration of Indian River Lagoon in the Martin County area.
Related:
Orlando SentinelNaples Daily NewsWCTV -

120213-a






120213-a
Environmental group: South Florida Democrats vote green, Republicans don't
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
February 13, 2012
The Democrats who represent South Florida in Congress love the environment and the Republicans hate it, at least according to a scorecard just released by the League of Conservation Voters.
The LCV rated the nation’s senators and representatives by their votes on global warming, wildlife protection, off-shore drilling, reducing air pollution from power plants, proposals to roll back environmental rules and other issues.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston, earned a 100 percent rating, and Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, received 11 percent. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, scored 100 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, scored 9 percent. The votes came during a legislative session that the League said was unprecedented in its attempted assaults on environmental protection.
“We applaud those members of the Florida delegation who opposed the countless attacks on vital public health and environmental protections in 2011, such as Senator Bill Nelson, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (20th Dist.) and Rep. Kathy Castor (11th Dist.),” said Mary Munson, executive director of the Florida Conservation Alliance, the League of Conservation Voters’s Florida affiliate, in a written statement. “Among proposals successfully fought off was an attempt to weaken Florida water quality standards that prevent toxic green slime in our lakes, rivers and streams.”
The lowest scores came from members of Congress in northern, central and southwestern Florida.
“It's deeply disappointing that Jeff Miller (1st Dist.), Steve Southerland (2nd Dist.), Dennis Ross (12th Dist.), Connie Mack (14th Dist.) and Bill Posey (15th Dist.) tied for the lowest score (6%), reflecting the fact that they chose to put corporate polluters and other special interests ahead of the health and well-being of Floridians,” Munson said.
Here’s how South Florida legislators fared:
Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, 89%
Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, 11%
Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, 94%
David Rivera, R-Miami, 14%
Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, 11%
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, 20%
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston, 100%
Allen West, R-Plantation, 11%
Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, 80%

120213-b







EPA

120213-b
EPA disputes Free Market Florida claims, says water rules will save state money ‘in the long run’
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 13, 2012
In a new statement to The Florida Independent, the EPA defends its Florida-specific water pollution rules against charges in a new ad by the group Free Market Florida that the standards will cost the state “billions” and “eliminate 14,000 farming jobs.” Instead, according to the EPA, the regulations will ”save Florida money in the long run.”
“EPA estimates that the annual cost to address additional waters listed as impaired under the final Florida inland waters rule is between $135 and $206 million,” says an EPA representative, in a statement to the Independent. “This estimate assumes that wastewater treatment plants discharging to impaired inland waters may need to install advanced treatment — but not reverse osmosis — and that agriculture operations will need to implement a range of state-recommended best management practices to address impaired waters.”
According to Free Market, the new ad was meant to “draw attention to the job-killing consequences of excessive federal regulation and litigation under the guise of environmentalism.”
But the EPA maintains that the nutrient criteria will actually “save Florida money in the long run by making implementation faster and easier, thereby preventing future expensive clean-up costs and a decline in Florida’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry that is an engine of job growth in Florida.”
Cost discrepancies have plagued the nutrient criteria since their inception. Members of industries likely to be affected by the criteria (utilities, agriculture, etc.) say that the rules will cost billions and would be nearly impossible to implement.
Some lawmakers, like Sen. Charlie Dean, contend that the EPA rules would hold Florida’s drainage canals to the same water quality standards as the state’s lakes and rivers. That claim echoes strikingly similar ones made by Free Market Florida. PolitiFact rated that charge “mostly true,” but noted that “there are several caveats that could impact the validity of that claim.”
Just last week, the Florida Senate passed a bill supporting the state’s right to direct and establish its own set of scientific criteria for its waterbodies. The EPA is allowing the state to develop its own criteria (which environmentalists argue are not as strong as the federally mandated version), but the agency must approve them before they can be implemented. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection currently estimates that the cost of compliance for its version would be between $50 million and $130 million per year.
According to the EPA, the resolution of the varying cost estimates associated with the rules is crucial in moving forward with their implementation.
“The resolution of cost discrepancies is critical to moving forward with implementation of numeric criteria in Florida, whether they are EPA’s federal criteria or state criteria that are approved by EPA as meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act,” reads the EPA statement. “For that reason, EPA requested that the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council review and advise EPA on our economic analysis of the final Florida inland waters rule. The National Research Council report will be published in March 2012. EPA will continue to work with the state and stakeholders to determine the most affordable, common sense methods to plan for and achieve these numeric standards so that Florida’s waters can be restored in the most cost-effective and flexible way possible.”

120213-c






120213-c
New EPA budget proposals unveiled
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 13, 2012
The federal government today released a proposed $8.344 billion budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for fiscal year 2013. Florida environmental groups applauded the announcement, arguing the money would help ensure that job-creating restoration projects (like some underway in the Everglades) will not come to a halt.
The budget proposes $1.2 billion in categorical grants for states that are “on the front lines” in implementing environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. That includes nearly $66 million for State and Tribal Air Quality Management grants, nearly $27 million for Pollution Control grants, and about $29 million for the Tribal General Assistance Program. The proposal also provides $2 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds, which will finance over $6 billion in wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects annually.
The proposal also includes $755 million in funding for the Superfund Cleanup program (which supports cleanup at hazardous waste sites), $576 million to support research and innovation and a $10 million increase to the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory for certification and compliance testing programs and to evaluate new biofuel technology.
The EPA has proposed $68 million, an increase of $11 million from fiscal year 2012, for “[reducing] chemical risks, [increasing] the pace of chemical hazard assessments, and [providing] the public with greater access to toxic chemical information.”
According to a press release sent out today, the budget includes $50 million in savings “by eliminating several EPA programs that have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts.”
Overall, the Obama administration’s proposals would trim the EPA’s budget by about 1.2 percent, likely reducing aid to many states.
But the budget received high praise from Florida environmentalists for its inclusion of $231.75 million in funding for Everglades restoration. The proposed funding builds upon recent federal commitments to protect and restore the Everglades, such as the recent establishment of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area North of Lake Okeechobee.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last month that the government would list four species of invasive exotic snakes currently plaguing the Everglades as “injurious” species that cannot be imported or sold across state lines — another (partial) victory for environmentalists.
“We have progressed farther than any ecosystem restoration program in the nation. Our top priority is to make sure that the investment in the largest ongoing construction project in South Florida reaps benefits for wildlife and people,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon of Florida’s director of Everglades policy, in a press release sent out shortly after the budget proposal was unveiled. “The funding proposed today would make sure that job-creating projects under construction do not come to a halt.”

120213-d






120213-d
State funding for Everglades restoration at risk
 Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 13, 2012
Everglades restoration could suffer – again – from Florida’s budget squeeze.
Environmentalists are sounding the alarm over the proposed state budget that emerged from the Florida Senate, which includes no money dedicated to the protecting what remains of Florida’s famed River of Grass.
That sets up a political showdown with the state House budget proposal, which calls for setting aside at least $30 million for Everglades restoration.
The Senate and House will have to reconcile the discrepancies in their spending plans before the scheduled March 9-ending of the legislative session.
Zero is not an acceptable alternative, according to Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
Investing in water storage and treatment areas needed to get stormwater flowing to the Everglades benefits the environment as well as tourism and South Florida’s drinking watering supply, according to the Everglades Foundation.
“Without a clean and healthy Everglades, there is no wildlife, no fishing industry, dramatically fewer tourists … and no water for our growing population,” Fordham said in an email calling for foundation supporters to make their voices heard in Tallahassee. “It’s that simple.”
Florida lawmakers once again are looking for places to cut spending or reallocate money to avoid raising taxes amid the struggling economy.
Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed state budget called for the Legislature to set aside $15 million to buy land for conservation and $40 million for Everglades restoration, but the Legislature gets the final say.
The state in the past spent as much as $200 million a year on Everglades restoration.
The Everglades Foundation is pushing for the Legislature to commit to at least the $40 million Scott suggested for Everglades restoration.
Last year, at Scott’s direction, the Legislature cut the funding for the South Florida Water Management District by more than 30 percent. The water management district leads Everglades restoration for the state.
The district’s Everglades Policy Director Ernie Barnett said he doesn’t expect the final state budget to leave the Everglades "zeroed out."
"The issues are very much alive. … I’m hopeful," Barnett said.
The Obama administration on Monday gave Everglades backers reason for optimism, by proposing to include $231.75 million in next year’s federal budget for Everglades restoration.
But that would require the approval of Congress, which has not been able to agree on much during the past year.
Still, Audubon of Florida called it another sign of progress. Federal funding for Everglades restoration has increased under the Obama administration.
"Today, the federal government has demonstrated its continued commitment to Everglades restoration," Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said in a statement released Monday.

120213-e






120213-e
UF Water Institute symposium will examine nutrients and Florida waterways
UofF News
February 13, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Water Institute will host a symposium Wednesday and Thursday to explore emerging issues related to water nutrient dynamics, management and policy from a variety of professional and institutional perspectives.
The “3rd Biennial Symposium: Sustainable Water Resources, Complex Challenges, Integrated Solutions” will be held in the Reitz Student Union on UF’s campus.
This symposium provides an unparalleled venue that will link nearly 400 leading researchers, educators and students with resource managers, policymakers, local governments, industry and the public interested in nutrient issues. Throughout the symposium participants will explore the science of nutrient dynamics, as well as challenges to, and creative solutions for, protecting and restoring Florida’s waterways.
The program includes more than 175 contributed oral, panel and poster presentations looking at complex issues from multiple perspectives. The symposium theme is especially timely, considering the challenges Florida is facing with regards to nutrient management and regulation.
An opening plenary session includes guest speakers Ellen Gilinsky, senior policy adviser in the Office of Water of the Environmental Protection Agency, professor Larry Band from the University of North Carolina, professor Andrew Sharpley from the University of Arkansas, and professor Dan Childers from Arizona State University. A reception and poster session with more than 70 posters, featuring a poster competition for students, will close the first day. An art exhibition, “Just Add Water,” is also being presented in conjunction with the 3rd UF Water Institute Symposium at the Reitz Student Union gallery.
The closing plenary will bring together staff from state agencies, environmental groups, industry and academia to discuss recent progress and new challenges to understanding and managing nutrient dynamics in watersheds, as well as future research, education, policies and programs that should be developed to ensure successful nutrient management for the coming decades.
For more information, go to http://waterinstitute.ufl.edu/symposium2012/index.asp.

120212-a






120212-a
Everglades/environmental funding could dry up in budget talks
NaplesDailyNews.com - by MICHAEL PELTIER
February 12, 2012
Funding for environmental programs including Everglades restoration efforts appears tied up in the budget end game, according to budget documents that show a huge gulf in the position of House and Senate negotiators.
The House spending plan has set aside more than $40 million in funds to pay for restoration efforts in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the northern Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
The Senate, so far has balked at funding much of those programs, a lack of support that environmental groups see, at this juncture anyway, as being more strategic than philosophical.
Included in the House's $69.2 billion budget proposal, approved Thursday, is a host of earmarks for restoration efforts supported by Gov. Rick Scott, whose budget proposal called for spending more than $40 million on Everglades related water projects.
Included in the House appropriations bill is $30 million for water projects targeting Lake Okeechobee, Central Everglades Restoration Plan, commonly referred to as CERP, and water quality projects in the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida and the St. Lucie River farther east.
The House also sets aside $19.6 million for Everglades debt payments and $4.8 million for new debt load. Finally, the chamber sets aside $5 million for what is expected to be environmental easement payments in the northern Everglades.
Senate budget allocations released this week show some comparable funding item. The Senate pays the debt load and $4.4 million fund shift to the South Florida Water Management District for Everglades related work. But for many environmental groups, the minimal levels of funding have raised concern.
"We are disappointed that the Florida Senate has decided to risk the future of Florida's water supply by refusing to provide any funding for Everglades restoration," said Kirk Fordham, president and CEO of the Everglades Foundation, to members earlier this week. "We urge the Florida Senate to follow the lead of Gov. Rick Scott by providing a minimum of $40 million to restore the Everglades."
Neither budget has set aside funds for the Florida Forever program, which before the housing market collapse and subsequent revenue free fall was receiving hundreds of millions a year for environmental land buying programs. In recent years, lawmakers have turned their attentions to the Everglades in an effort to focus attention on water supply concerns and take advantage of critical federal support.
"This is not the time to delay the vital work that needs to be done. More than 7 million Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water," Fordham said. "Any delay threatens the welfare of 1 in 3 Floridians and the economic well-being of our state."
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said Friday's he's confident that the Senate plans on putting some funding into the budget for Everglades projects, but has chosen not to for strategic reasons.
"The word we're getting is they are going to do something but that they are going to give themselves some flexibility going into conference," Draper said.
The Senate Budget Committee meets Wednesday to consider its spending package. A Senate vote is likely the week after. Everglades funding is likely to be tied into those talks.

120212-b






Division of FL Forever Lands to Agencies :

FL Forever Lands

l Division of State Lands - 35%
l Water Mgmt Districts - 30%
l Florida Communities Trust - 21%
Division of Recreation and Parks - 1.5%
Office of Greenways and Trails - 1.5%
Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) - 2%
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - 1.5%
Florida Forest Service, DACS - 1.5%
Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront - 2.5%
Rural & Family Lands, DACS - 3.5%

1202012-b
Florida Forever Remains in Limbo
TheLedger.com - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
February 12, 2012
Two major environmental initiatives hang in the balance as lawmakers move toward passing a new state budget.
At this point, neither the Senate nor the House will fund the Florida Forever land-buying program — which has led to the acquisition of some 2.4 million acres of critical conservation lands since it began in 1990.
With an ongoing budget crisis, lawmakers have failed to fund the program two out of the past three years — including this year.
But with the financial pressures easing a little and with support from Gov. Rick Scott, who recommended $15 million for the program in his budget plan, it appeared lawmakers may revive the program in the 2012-2013 budget year, which begins July 1.
But the $69.2 billion state budget adopted by the House last week contained no funding for the initiative and the preliminary Senate budget proposal, which heads for a committee vote in the coming week, also has no Florida Forever funding.
However, Senate leaders said support for Florida Forever remains a possibility and House leaders said they are willing to negotiate on the issue.
Despite arguments from some critics that there is no pressing need to acquire more land, environmental advocates say Florida Forever funding remains critical for the state's future.
"The economy is starting to recover and as that happens there's going to be land that is on the Florida Forever list to be purchased that will end up getting developed," said Eric Draper of Florida Audubon. "Every year that Florida Forever is not funded, there is a greater risk that really important environmental land is lost — lost to development or converted to other uses."
Aside from Florida Forever, lawmakers have also not reached any agreement on funding in the coming year for the Everglades restoration project. The House budget includes $35 million for Everglades projects, while Scott has called for $40 million — which has the backing of the Everglades Foundation, an advocacy group for the vast South Florida wetlands.
The Senate budget currently contains no money for the project.
Draper said the state's Everglades funding is critical since it would be used to draw down a larger share of federal funding for the restoration project.
SENATE'S ROAD PLAN
It's another tight year for Florida's road-construction budget — which has been hit in recent years by declining gas-tax revenue. Since 2006, the transportation program has seen a drop of more than $8 billion in revenue.
But the Senate is advancing a plan that could provide a significant boost to transportation projects around the state.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, chairman of the Senate budget subcommittee that oversees transportation funding, unveiled a spending plan that would shift $417 million in tag and title fees back into the road building budget.
Lawmakers endorsed some $500 million in tag-and-title fees in 2009 but used the money to fund nontransportation issues in the budget as they struggled with a deep decline in state revenues during the Great Recession
Now, the Senate wants to shift a large portion of those fees back to the transportation program — which Benacquisto said would result in a $2.8 billion boost in the Department of Transportation's five-year work program. The funding shift would also benefit the Florida Turnpike system as well as the state's seaports.
WINNER OF THE WEEK
Charter schools. The schools won a significant victory when the Senate Education Committee backed a measure that would require Florida's 67 school districts to share their local taxes raised for building construction and maintenance with the charter schools in their areas.
LOSER OF THE WEEK
Fertilizer industry. The annual fight over weakening local regulation of fertilizer resulted in a defeat for the industry when a Senate committee rejected a bill that would have allowed professional landscapers to ignore the regulations.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Florida may be a great place to visit, but if you are the middle class it stinks to live here right now," said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, as one of the Democrats opposing the House vote on the new state budget.

120211-a






120211-a
Environmental programs’ funding remains in doubt
TheLedger.com - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
Saturday, February 11, 2012
TALLAHASSEE -- Two major environmental initiatives hang in the balance as lawmakers move toward passing a new state budget.
At this point, neither the Senate nor the House will fund the Florida Forever land-buying program, which has led to the acquisition of some 2.4 million acres of critical conservation lands since it began in 1990.
With an ongoing budget crisis, lawmakers have failed to fund the program two out of the last three years, including this year.
But with the financial pressures easing a little and support from Gov. Rick Scott, who recommended $15 million for the program in his budget plan, it appeared lawmakers may revive the program in the 2012-13 budget year, which begins July 1.
But the $69.2 billion state budget adopted by the House this week contained no funding for the initiative and the preliminary Senate budget proposal, which heads for a committee vote in the coming week, also has no Florida Forever funding.
However, Senate leaders said support for Florida Forever remains a possibility and House leaders said they are willing to negotiate on the issue.
Despite arguments from some critics that there is no pressing need to acquire more land, environmental advocates say Florida Forever funding remains critical for the state’s future.
“The economy is starting to recover and as that happens there’s going to be land that is on the Florida Forever list to be purchased that will end up getting developed,” said Eric Draper of Florida Audubon. “Every year that Florida Forever is not funded, there is a greater risk that really important environmental land is lost — lost to development or converted to other uses.”
Aside from Florida Forever, lawmakers have also not reached any agreement on funding in the coming year for the Everglades restoration project.
The House budget includes $35 million for Everglades projects, while Scott has called for $40 million, which has the backing of the Everglades Foundation, an advocacy group for the vast South Florida wetlands.
The Senate budget currently contains no money for the project.
Draper said the state’s Everglades funding is critical since it would be used to draw down a larger share of federal funding for the restoration project.

120211-b







Orange Lake ramp

Orange Lake, Lake Weir
are at record lows, and
Silver Springs' output is
down, too
.

120211-b
Missing water has the experts all at sea
Ocala.com - by Joe Callahan, Staff writer
February 11, 2012
Orange Lake, Lake Weir are at record lows, and Silver Springs' output is down, too.
All across the Ocklawaha River Basin, there are signs of distressed lakes, ponds and streams, as well as a huge reduction in the discharge of Silver Springs, the area's most famous water body.
Orange Lake and Lake Weir are at or near historic low levels. On Orange Lake, only a small, dredged canal connects the dry bank to what's left of the lake.
On Lake Weir, the water at Gator Joe's has receded far past the dock at which boaters once parked their crafts while they went for food and drink.
The discharge at Silver Springs has declined by 50 percent recently. That discharge plays a key role in keeping the Ocklawaha River at navigable depths.
When water levels drop, debates among environmentalists and state officials escalate. And both groups have supporting evidence.
Environmentalists say the water district is issuing too many water withdrawal permits.
Roy “Robin” Lewis III, a wetland scientist, said overpumping is affecting the underground cavern that becomes Silver Springs and eventually feeds into the Ocklawaha River.
“When you have an underground river and there are a lot of straws (water wells)” in that river, then Silver Springs will be affected, he noted.
St. Johns River Water Management District officials say climate is the biggest factor.
“This (low water levels and low springs output) is primarily driven by rainfall,” said Hank Largin, a district spokesman. “Groundwater withdrawal has not made a significant impact on the these water levels.”
There are even experts who occupy the middle ground. One prominent hydrologist says climate does share most of the blame, though water withdrawal during dry periods adds to the problem.
Because the Ocklawaha River Basin is such a complex system, which experts say is unlike almost every system on Earth, it is virtually impossible to concretely prove who is right and who is wrong.
Environmentalists
Lewis, who also is a board member of the Putnam County Environmental Council, said research provides substantial proof that overpumping is affecting the levels of rivers, lakes and springs.
Lewis said the St. Johns water district is allowing too much pumping, drastically affecting the Lower Ocklawaha River Basin. He said an underground river comes out at Silver Springs and provides 50 percent of the water flow of the Lower Ocklawaha River. When people and businesses take from the source, the discharge must be affected.
One study by Robert L. Knight, the director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, was presented by the Silver Springs Restoration Alliance in January. It concludes that water withdrawal is playing a role.
The report states that while there was 15 percent less rainfall between 1965 and 2009 near Silver Springs, discharge from the spring has fallen by 50 percent during the same period.
The report concludes that the 35 percentage point difference “may be due to factors other than rainfall.” The report states that Silver Springs' discharge declined at the same pace as rainfall from 1965 until 1990.
It was between 1990 and 2009 that the Silver Springs rainfall and discharge disparity rose dramatically. Silver Springs' discharge declined between 1965 until 2009 by 480 cubic feet of water per second. One cubic foot is equivalent to 7.48 gallons.
As for Orange Lake, the Star-Banner took a look at nearby rainfall data at Boardman, the associated lake levels, and permitted water withdrawals allowed in Alachua and Marion counties by the St. Johns water district.
In 2003, Boardman received 49.5 inches of rain and Orange Lake rose by 2.59 feet. That same year, the St. Johns water district permitted 19.7 billion gallons of water to be pumped in Alachua and Marion counties.
In 2007, Boardman received 43.8 inches of rain and Orange Lake's level dropped by 2.1 feet. In 2007, the water district permitted 24.7 billion gallons of water to be pumped in Alachua and Marion counties.
Though that may indicate overpumping may be to blame, experts say it is much more complicated than just looking at a few rain gauges.
“You cannot look at just a few years,” said Phil Davis of SDI Environmental Services Inc. in Tampa. Davis said more studies of underground water caverns need to be explored before a true determination can be made.
He noted that west of Interstate 75, in an area monitored by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Rainbow Springs actually has ample discharge, outperforming Silver Springs.
Davis was commissioned by the Putnam County Environmental Council to conduct an independent hydrology study. The report's conclusion was that the St. Johns water district may need to lower its daily threshold of water withdrawal.
The safe yield estimate was set in 1995 and upheld in 2005. The study concluded that with better information available today, the St. Johns district should reduce its safe yield estimate.
He said there's too much “uncertainty” that the yield is truly accurate.
Meanwhile, the Putnam environmental group will continue to monitor the controversial request by a Canadian businessman to pump 13.27 million gallons of water per day for a proposed cattle operation near Fort McCoy.
Frank Stronach, the owner of Adena Springs, is seeking the permit.
“That's the equivalent of what the city of Ocala uses on a daily basis,” Lewis said.
Water district's belief
Largin, the St. Johns water district spokesman, said his agency believes the low Orange Lake level and dropping Silver Springs discharge are due to climate, using rainfall shortages in Alachua County as a prime example.
Largin said Alachua County has had six consecutive years of below average rainfall. In those six years, there has been 54 fewer inches of rain — 17.6 percent below normal.
In 2011, Largin said, Alachua received about 33 inches of rain, or 18 inches below normal. By the end of 2011, Orange Lake had dropped to near record levels, Largin noted.
“All indicators we have is that exceptionally below average rainfall” is the primary cause of the Orange Lake low levels and the Silver Springs declining discharge.
Using rainfall and Silver Springs discharge data from 1940 to 2003, which was included in a nitrate study, discharge rates fall below the 799 cubic feet per second average whenever annual rainfall drops below 50 inches.
The further below 50 inches, the more dramatic the discharge drop. When there's three consecutive years of below 50 inches of rainfall, the Silver Springs discharge rate plummets.
In the mid-1950s, there were three consecutive years when annual rainfall fell below 50 inches, including one year below 40 inches.
That's when Orange Lake hit its historic low level, thanks to a large sinkhole.
From 1984 to 2001, annual rainfall hit 50 inches in only seven of 18 years.
In 2000, rainfall did not even reach 30 inches. By January 2001, Orange Lake had again hit its lowest level on record. That year Silver Springs also hit its lowest recorded discharge of about 360 cubic yards of water per second.
Largin said “water levels of the area are a result of many factors,” including rainfall, evaporation, watershed evapotranspiration, surface water inflows and outflows, and groundwater levels and inflows.
“Rainfall and pumpage are factors, but not the only two factors.” he said.
Hydrologist's view
SDI's Davis said his company was hired by the Putnam group to conduct an independent study of the Lower Ocklawaha River Basin.
Davis said he believes climate is the biggest culprit, but water withdrawal also is a contributing problem. It really is the basic principle of supply and demand.
In rainy periods, area residents don't need as much water for lawns. Farmers don't need as much water for crops. It's a time when the water table fills because more rain is falling than is needed.
But when droughts come, there is less rain filling and more demand is needed to keep lawns and farms alive. That's when Floridians begin withdrawing from the “water savings” established during wet years.
In the end, pumping is blamed for low water levels when there's a drought.
“I would say that climate and rainfall has more of an impact on Florida (water levels),” Davis said. “Does pumping have an impact? Yes.”
Davis said during a wet period from 1930 to the late 1960s, there were many more days of daily rainfall amounts exceeding 1½ inches than during the dry period from the late 1960s through the 1990s.
Beginning in 2000, the state was supposed to be in a wet period. But that has been the case only for a few years. There have been many dry years, especially recently, that have furthered the water level debate.
“Every gallon of water you take out of the ground was going somewhere else,” he noted.

120211-c






120211-c
Nesting spoonbills return to Florida Bay
UPI.com - Outcome Magazine
February 11, 2012
MIAMI, Feb. 11 (UPI) — The number of roseate spoonbills nesting in Florida Bay has jumped this year after falling to a 50-year low last year, scientists say.
Researchers studying the wading birds of Everglades National Park are unsure why the spoonbill population plunged in 2011 and why they appear to be on the rebound, The Miami Herald reported.
“The system here is really a boom or bust system,” Sonny Bass, the park’s supervisor wildlife ecologist, said. “You can either have a really good year when everything comes off right or you can have a really bad year. Historically, that’s been the case but it’s probably exaggerated now on both ends.”
In 2009, a year of drought, the birds reproduced at their highest rate since the 1940s, followed by a baby bust in 2010 when many nests were flooded by heavy rains. Last year, the drought returned, but not the nesting frenzy and the number of spoonbill nests fell by one-third from 2010′s low levels.
Bass and Jerry Lorenz, a scientist with the National Audubon Society, are unsure why spoonbills did not recover last year. This year, they have counted twice the number of nests they saw in 2011.
“I’m hoping it was just a weird blip,” Lorenz told the Herald.

120210-a






Snail Kite

Endangered Snail kite

120210-a
Army Corps announcement could bode well for endangered Everglades species
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 10, 2012
The Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday approved a South Florida Water Management District request for authorization to use temporary forward pumps to pull water from Lake Okeechobee lower than gravity-flow will allow, and now, the Corps has agreed to reduce that permit extension to one year only, in part to allow for a thorough analysis of the impacts of the pumps on the endangered Everglades snail kite. The announcement is an important one for the environmental group Audubon of Florida, which has long fought for the snail kite habitat.
The health of the snail kite is known to be indicative of the overall health of the Everglades system. Because the species’ diet consists almost solely of apple snails, the survival of the snail kite depends directly on the hydrology and water quality of the watersheds near which they live. Water conservation measures are imperative in order to comprehensively protect not only the kite habitat, but the greater Everglades ecosystem as a whole.
According to the National Park Service, the range of the Florida population of snail kites is restricted to watersheds in the central and southern part of the state. The species was listed as endangered in 1967.
“With three severe droughts hitting Lake Okeechobee in less than a decade, it is crucial for state and federal agencies to look closely at impacts of low water levels on the Everglade Snail Kite,” Everglades Policy Associate Jane Graham said in a press release sent out Thursday afternoon. “The Corps’ decision to renew the permit pending an evaluation of the impact of forward pumps on Lake ecology is an encouraging step in the right direction.”
Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said that regulatory agencies (like the South Florida Water Management District) need to “rethink how water from Lake Okeechobee is being used throughout the year to put the environment on par with the sugar industry and other users.”

120210-b







LO marshes

Lake Okeechobee
marshes


120210-b
Army Corps decides to maintain lower level Lake Okeechobee water releases
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 10, 2012
The Army Corps of Engineers on Friday agreed to keep discharging Lake Okeechobee water to the West Coast, but not increase the amount 44 percent as previously suggested.
The corps since December has been using infusions of freshwater from the lake to help marine habitats in the Caloosahatchee River that are suffering from rising salinity levels due to lack of rain.
While that lake water is good for sea grass and oyster beds in the Caloosahatchee estuary, sending the water west leaves less backup water for southeast Florida if severe drought conditions return.
The corps had considered increasing those western discharges, but instead decided to stick with current release levels for at least another week.
That will mean sending about 290 million gallons of lake water per day into the river. That’s enough to fill more than 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
While that seems like a lot of water, the corps contends it equates to taking only a few tenths of an inch off the 730-square-mile lake that serves as South Florida’s primary backup water supply.
Safety concerns about the 70-year-old dike that protects lakeside communities from flooding limit how much water the corps is willing to store in Lake Okeechobee.
Lake Okeechobee on Friday was 13.20 feet above sea level, more than one foot below normal but within the 12.5 to 13.5 foot range that the Army Corps of Engineers tries to maintain.
Decisions to discharge Lake Okeechobee water to the east and west during 2011 and 2010 dumped hundreds of billions of gallons of water out to sea. That ended up worsening the water supply effects of a drought that last year triggered emergency watering restrictions from Orlando to the Keys.
Lack of reservoirs and other water storage options lead to dumping much of the stormwater that drains into Lake Okeechobee out to sea, to avoid flooding South Florida farms and neighborhoods built on land that used to be part of the Everglades.

120210-c







120210-c
Fla. Water Pollution Rules Clear Legislature
Associated Press
February 10, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The lingering dispute over new water pollution rules for Florida is moving to an administrative law court following final legislative action.
The Florida Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill (HB 7051) that waives a requirement for legislative approval of the two rules. It goes to Gov. Rick Scott who supports the rules.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection drafted them as a lower-cost alternative to similar numeric nutrient standards the federal government has proposed for Florida.
Business, agriculture and utility interests support the state's rules, contending the Environmental Protection Agency's version would be too costly to comply with.
Several environmental groups support the federal rules, arguing the state's proposal is too weak to stop algae that's clogging Florida waters.
They are challenging the state rules through an administrative complaint.

120210-d






120210-d
Florida Senate, House far apart on Everglades
News-Press.com
February 10, 2012
Negotiators will wrangle over funding restoration.
Funding for environmental programs including Everglades restoration efforts appears tied up in the budget end game, according to documents available Friday showing a huge gulf in the positions of House and Senate negotiators.
The House spending plan has set aside more than $40 million in funds to pay for new restoration efforts in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the northern Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.
The Senate, so far has balked at funding those programs, a lack of support that some environmental observers, at this juncture anyway, say may be being more strategic than philosophical.
Included in the House’s $69.2 billion budget proposal approved Thursday is a host of earmarks for restoration efforts supported by Gov. Rick Scott, whose own budget proposal called for spending more than $40 million on Everglades related water projects.
Included in the House appropriations bill is $30 million for water projects targeting Lake Okeechobee, the Central Everglades Restoration Plan, commonly referred to as CERP, and water quality projects in the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida and the St. Lucie River farther east.
The House also sets aside $19.6 million for Everglades debt payments and $4.8 million for new debt load. Finally, the chamber sets aside $5 million for what is expected to be environmental easement payments in the northern Everglades.
Senate subcommittee budget recommendations produced this week show no comparable funding levels, a void that led some staunch environmental leaders to raise the alarm.
“We are disappointed that the Florida Senate has decided to risk the future of Florida’s water supply by refusing to provide any funding for Everglades restoration,” said Kirk Fordham, president and CEO of the Everglades Foundation, to members earlier this week. “We urge the Florida Senate to follow the lead of Gov. Rick Scott by providing a minimum of $40 million to restore the Everglades.”
Neither budget so far has set aside funds for the Florida Forever program, which before the housing market collapse and subsequent revenue free fall was receiving hundreds of millions for buying environmental land. In recent years, lawmakers have turned their attentions to the Everglades in an effort to focus attention on water supply concerns to gain critical federal support.
“This is not the time to delay the vital work that needs to be done. More than 7 million Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water,” Fordham said. “Any delay threatens the welfare of 1 in 3 Floridians and the economic well-being of our state.”
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said Friday’s he’s confident that the Senate plans on putting some funding into the budget for Everglades projects, but has chosen not to for strategic reasons.
“The word we’re getting is they are going to do something but that they are going to give themselves some flexibility going into conference,” Draper said.
The Senate Budget Committee meets Wednesday to consider its spending package. A Senate vote is likely the week after. Everglades funding is likely to be tied into those talks.
Remarks criticized
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, apologized Friday for using hanging imagery in reference to lawsuits challenging new maps for legislative and congressional districts approved Thursday by the Senate.
“My father used to say, ‘Some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope,’” Gaetz said Thursday, referring to his belief that some groups planned to sue no matter what maps the Legislature drew. On Friday, Gaetz apologized after three black lawmakers angrily said the remarks were insensitive.
“I’m sorry if any offense was taken,” Gaetz said. “Those who know me and those who work with me are well aware that no offense was meant.”
Among those calling for Gaetz to apologize was Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “The use of his analogy reflects back on an extremely violent period in our country’s and our state’s history,” Joyner said Friday. “And it shows an insensitivity on the part of the Senator about the hard-fought passage of Blacks from slaves to citizens.”
Court gets maps
Attorney General Pam Bondi filed the legislative redistricting proposals with the Florida Supreme Court on Friday, starting the justices’ review of the once-a-decade redrawing of the boundaries for the House and Senate.
The filing, which was expected, means the court now has 30 days to review the maps and decide whether or not they meet state requirements. Gov. Rick Scott still has to sign the congressional map for them to take effect, but the Florida Democratic Party has already filed a lawsuit against that proposal.

120210-e






Alexander

J.D. ALEXANDER
Florida Senator
(R - Lake Wales)

120210-e
Senator ‘seriously considering’ matching House funding for Everglades
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 10, 2012
Despite the fact that a Senate budget draft distributed on Wednesday includes no money for either Everglades restoration or the Florida Forever program, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander says he is “seriously considering” matching the House’s line item for Everglades restoration.
The Florida House passed its proposed budget yesterday, in a 79-38 vote. It includes $30 million for Everglades restoration, but nothing for Florida Forever, the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program that has long been a top environmental priority. Gov. Rick Scott had requested $15 million for Florida Forever and $40 million for Everglades restoration in his proposed budget.
Alexander’s remarks come after some lawmakers expressed concern about the lack of Everglades funding in the Senate’s budget proposal.
Via Post on Politics:
“We’re looking at it. We’re trying to figure out if we can afford it this year,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said, adding that he’s supported that and the Florida Forever land-buying program for his 14 years in the legislature soon coming to an end. “So it’s something I’d love to see us be able to do. I would hope we’d be able to eventually get there…If we can do something it won’t be a lot, but we’d certainly like to provide some funding for preservation of Florida’s ecological needs.”
Alexander said he doesn’t foresee much trouble reconciling the two spending plans. The Senate’s proposal includes deeper health and human services, more spending on schools and road projects and dips into state universities’ reserves.
“There aren’t a lot of differences. It should be fairly easy to get to something we both can agree to,” Alexander said.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said he expects his chamber to wrap up its budget by next week.

120209-a







Romagosa


Auburn University
researcher Christina Romagosa led a study
in which detection dogs
were used to find
Burmese pythons in
Everglades National Park
in Florida.
(Courtesy Melissa Miller, Auburn University)

120209-a
Auburn researchers conduct python-tracking study using specially trained dogs
AL.com - by Natalie Wade
February 09, 2012
AUBURN, Alabama -- Two black Labrador retrievers nosed their way into a scientific study, and were hired by Auburn University to do so.
The dogs, 5-year-old Jake and 6-year-old Ivy, were part of the first-ever attempt to train canines to sniff out Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades National Park. The dogs were used in a study on ways to manage and eradicate the snakes, which are eating native wildlife, mostly mammals and birds.
"The ultimate use for detection dogs is to suppress the expanding python population and to eliminate them to small areas, such as an island. Our main concern is their impact on other wildlife," Christina Romagosa, of Auburn's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said in a release. "Interaction with humans is also a problem. The snakes, like alligators, can get in swimming pools, eat small dogs and cats, and could injure a human."
Romagosa, Auburn doctoral student Melissa Miller and Auburn alum Robert Reed were among 11 scientists who composed a report on the increase of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, which was published by the National Academy of Sciences Jan. 31.
The Army Corps of Engineers contacted Auburn's EcoDogs program in 2010 about the possibility of using dogs to help find the pythons, which led to the pilot study funded by the National Park Service's Everglades National Park, South Florida Water Management District and Auburn's Center for Forest Sustainability.
Jake and Ivy are part of the EcoDogs program, which is a collaborative project between the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine's Animal Health and Performance Program. Dogs in the program are owned by the university and are specially trained for a variety of projects throughout the year, including a recent project on tree fungi.
Terry Fischer, chief canine instructor, said the dogs can be trained to search out anything that has a scent.
The dogs spent six months physically training with Craig Angle, associate director of the Metcalf Veterinary Sports Medicine Program, as well as training to pinpoint the pythons' odor with Fischer and Bart Rodgers.
"Mentally, the dogs had to learn multiple operational tasks like how to track, how to utilize different search patterns and how to work different wind currents," Angle said. "It is quite complicated to take a green dog and train it to locate a moving target like a snake."
The dogs helped researchers capture 19 pythons, most being 6 to 8 feet in length, including a pregnant one with 19 viable eggs. The dogs would alert Rodgers by sitting down when they got within five meters of a python, then Auburn biological sciences doctoral student Melissa Miller, along with several volunteers, would capture the python. Miller recorded data such as location, time, habitat type, humidity level and air temperature. Although the dogs were able to sniff out snakes in water-filled canals, researchers did not allow them to get in the animal-infested water.
Miller said the pythons are habitat general, which means they can typically adapt to any warm climate. The Burmese python problem started years ago, with the first being spotted in Florida in 1979. The number of Burmese pythons in Florida is estimated in the tens of thousands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made it illegal to import Burmese pythons or transport them across state lines Jan. 17.
The National Park Service has counted 1,825 Burmese pythons that have been caught in and around Everglades National Park since 2000.
The Auburn study found that dogs and their sense of smell were two-and-a-half times faster than people visually searching, but people did have the advantage in extreme humidity. Searches by detection dogs are ideal in the cooler months when dogs can work longer period of time without overheating.
Auburn researchers are hoping the findings will encourage the use of detection dogs in conjunction with traditional search and trapping methods.
"Dogs cannot eradicate Burmese pythons but can be used in conjunction with other tools such as human searchers and snake traps to help manage the population," Romagosa said. "We hope these tools can be used to identify new locations and to suppress the expanding population."

120209-b







FM-FL

120209-b
Free Market Florida releases new ad attacking EPA water rules
Forida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 9, 2012
Critics of federally mandated water pollution standards continue to challenge the costs and benefits of implementing the new water rules, while environmental groups maintain that the standards are necessary to ensure the health of Florida’s waterways, and its economy.
In 2008, the environmental law firm Earthjustice filed suit against the EPA on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club — alleging that the agency was failing to meet requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The group won the suit, but the fight has persisted, with agricultural and utility industry reps arguing that the rules will be too expensive to implement. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has since drafted its own set of rules as an alternative, which will likely be implemented after approval by the EPA. Last week, the the Florida House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that would ease approval of the state’s proposed standards.
Free Market Florida, a group that sprang up from the ashes of the political committee that ran 2010’s successful “No on 4″ campaign, set its eyes on the EPA last year, releasing videos urging viewers to oppose the implementation of the agency’s criteria.
On Monday, the group unveiled a new ad aimed at the EPA, part of a series which Ryan Houck (Free Market’s executive director) says is meant to “draw attention to the job-killing consequences of excessive federal regulation and litigation under the guise of environmentalism.”
According to Houck, the EPA’s version of the nutrient criteria would cost the state “billions” and “eliminate 14,000 farming jobs.”
Calling Free Market Florida a “polluter lobbyist group” in a press release sent out yesterday, Earthjustice says the ads are “an affront to millions of Floridians who are living with the sad reality of polluted drinking water, toxic algae outbreaks and fish kills in their favorite rivers, springs, lakes, as well as on our tourist beaches.”
“Our tourism economy depends on clean water, and this group actually has the audacity to fight against that? It doesn’t make any sense,” Earthjustice attorney Alisa Coe says in the press release. “It is just common sense to set limits on the amount of sewage, manure and fertilizer that’s allowed in our water. … You would think that’s something everyone can agree on.”

120209-c







Sherman

W.C. SHERMAN, CFA
Okeechobee County
Property Appraiser


120209-c
Official's daughter gets no-bid deal for 10-year lease on water district land
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 9, 2012
Without public notice, without competitive bidding and a full four months before a cattle-grazing lease was to expire, the South Florida Water Management District in December granted the daughter of the Okeechobee County property appraiser a 10-year extension for that lease of public land - at a reduced rate.
The lease extension for Alisa Sherman was among five the district signed that month, just 33 days after complaints about no-bid lease renewals led it to impose a moratorium on the practice.
Sherman, it turns out, is one of many tenants whose long-term leases are routinely renewed without offering other ranchers and farmers a chance to bid on the land - and possibly pay the public higher rent. Critics say that longtime policy conflicts with a state law that requires advance public notice of renewals and encourages open, competitive bidding.
"State statute is silent on whether renewal of an existing lease in good standing requires three weeks of public noticing," district Executive Director Melissa Meeker said about the public notice requirement. "It has been the district's practice, as well as other water management districts, to publicly notice new leases only."
But Meeker, who joined the district last June, said she plans to push during the governing board's meeting in March for "a revised policy that will greatly increase the amount of competitive bidding."
An audit in 2002 harshly criticized the district for this practice but the no-bid renewals remained the norm.
Sherman's lease came about after the district investigated a claim that her father, W.C. "Bill" Sherman, the Okeechobee County property appraiser, was grazing cattle on district land without a lease. Questions about the Shermans' cattle surfaced in April 2010.
Joe Collins, a member of the district governing board and a vice president at citrus, forestry and cattle corporation Lykes Bros., received a call from an Okeechobee citrus grove manager. The grove manager complained that cows from former Lykes property were straying into the grove.
Collins referred the complaint to Ruth Clements, the district's chief real estate specialist. According to a report written by Steve Coughlin, a land management supervisor at the district, Sherman had a grazing lease with Lykes Bros. Lykes sold part of its property to the district in 2006 for $35 million. As a condition of the sale, Lykes was allowed to keep its cattle on the land until the district built a fence.
Although Lykes agreed in the sale contract that there were "no other parties other than seller in occupancy or possession of any part of the premises," Sherman's cattle continued grazing on what was now district land. Because the district failed to build a fence as promised, the cattle occasionally wandered onto a nearby citrus grove.
The cows belonged to "Mr. Bill Sherman" - Okeechobee County's longtime property appraiser, Coughlin wrote in his report.
Coughlin and Clements met with Sherman in Okeechobee on May 12, 2010, to sort out whether, in fact, Sherman had been grazing cattle on the public land without district permission - or a lease, for several years.
Sherman admitted he had, Coughlin wrote.
Sherman was given an opportunity to "pay back rent and a penalty for his unauthorized use of the property in addition to a possible two-year lease on the property," Coughlin wrote. Sherman "declined due to cost," Coughlin added.
But within a few months, his daughter, Alisa, had worked out an agreement that covered back rent and allowed her to graze cattle there.
Neither Bill Sherman, who is running for re-election after 37 years as property appraiser, nor his daughter returned several calls for comment.
In an interview with The Palm Beach Post this week, Coughlin, with Clements, disputed much of Coughlin's report. Both vehemently denied the public official himself got a freebie on the public land use - despite what Coughlin wrote. It was Alisa's herd all along, they said.
Clements said Alisa Sherman was allowed to graze her cattle on the former Lykes land because she had a lease with Lykes and Lykes was allowed to graze its cattle on the district's land. Coughlin said when he wrote his report he was unaware of that agreement. He said his report was "not supposed to be a comprehensive document."
In any event, on Dec. 3, 2010, the district entered into an agreement allowing Alisa Sherman to graze cattle on district land. The negotiated fee included use of the land for the prior year. Alisa Sherman now has two leases with the district, both for land in Highlands County.
Both land deals, totalling 488 acres, were publicly bid. But since then, one that was not scheduled to expire until April 2012 was renewed by water district staff in December - without public bid. Under the new lease, she will pay $10,400 a year for 262 acres. That's about $3,000 less than before. Though the lease allows a renegotiation after five years, as it stands it potentially amounts to a $30,000 discount over the full 10-year term.
The new lease expires in 2022.

120209-d







Judge Moreno

US Federal Judge
Federico MORENO


120209-d
Progress reported in settlement talks in decades-old Everglades lawsuit
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 9, 2012
Settlement talks in the oldest, costliest and most contentious lawsuit over Everglades restoration are going so well that the case should be put on hold to give negotiators more time to talk, government attorneys said in recently filed court papers.
Using phrases never before heard in the 24-year-old lawsuit, such as "substantial progress," "productive discussions" and "ongoing positive dialogue," attorney Parker D. Thomson asked federal Judge Federico Moreno for a 90-day stay.
"There is, remarkably, significant consensus between and among these varied interests, but despite same, certain issues remain," wrote Thomson, who was hired by Gov. Rick Scott to settle the case. Without a stay, pending deadlines will "distract attention and resources away from the negotiations and towards pointless, expensive and time consuming litigation."
Although attorneys for the Environmental Protection Agency agreed with the state's request for additional time, environmentalists did not. In a 5-page response filed Monday, attorneys for seven environmental groups involved in the lawsuit said while the groups "support and encourage settlement discussions among all the parties, the state's discussions to date have completely excluded the Conservation Interests who represent the voices of millions of Americans, including roughly 100,000 Floridians."
"A stay would only further delay the proceedings in this case, to the detriment of the Everglades," wrote David Guest and Alisa Coe of EarthJustice, the environmental public-interest lawfirm representing the groups.
The motions are the latest action in 24-year-old lawsuit brought by the federal government against the South Florida Water Management District over the Everglades clean-up. Scott travelled to Washington in November to unveil his own plan for Everglades restoration and recently met with U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to discuss his plan.
To bolster their request for a stay, attorneys for the water district and Florida Department of Environmental Protection attached a letter dated Feb. 1 from Scott to President Obama. In it, Scott praises the ongoing settlement efforts and his own plan, which "focuses our efforts and resources on achieving restoration goals, rather than ongoing litigation."
The judge has not yet ruled on the request.

120209-e







120209-e
West Coast could get more Lake Okeechobee water
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
February 9, 2012
That could leave less backup water for South Florida.
More Lake Okeechobee water may soon be directed to the West Coast, leaving less water for South Florida needs if severe drought conditions return.
Lake Okeechobee is South Florida's primary backup water supply, relied on to irrigate farmland and boost regional drinking water supplies in addition to providing key wildlife habitat.
Lake water also gets discharged east and west out to sea. That's usually for flood control, but also to provide an infusion of freshwater during the dry season to protect marine habitat in the Caloosahatchee River.
Those Lake Okeechobee water releases west into the Caloosahatchee River have been ongoing since December and this week the Army Corps of Engineers is considering sending more lake water into the river.
The proposal would increase those lake discharges 44 percent, averaging more than 400 million gallons of water per day from the lake to the Caloosahatchee. That's enough to fill more than 600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
"Even though it sounds like a lot … it only takes a few tenths of an inch off the lake," corps spokesman John Campbell said. "(The water releases) are very important for the Caloosahatchee River."
Lake Okeechobee on Thursday was 13.22 feet above sea level, more than one foot below normal but within the 12.5 to 13.5 foot range that the Army Corps of Engineers tries to maintain.
Releasing lake water into the Caloosahatchee River during dry times helps counterbalance rising saltwater levels in that coastal estuary, which threaten the health of sea grass and oyster beds that provide vital marine habitat.
But the push for increased lake releases to the west comes after South Florida saw its driest January since record keeping began in 1932. South Florida averaged just .16 inches of rain last month, about 9 percent the average total.
Rainfall picked up this month, with South Florida averaging almost 1 inch during the first week February. That included rainfall totals of 3 to 4 inches in parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
South Florida regional water supplies from the Everglades to Lake Okeechobee are still benefiting from the effects of a rainier than usual fall. Yet, water supplies could shift back to the water shortage rain by mid April if rainfall doesn't improve, District officials said Thursday.
Decisions to discharge Lake Okeechobee water to the east and west during 2011 and 2010 dumped hundreds of billions of gallons of water out to sea. That ended up worsening the water supply effects of a drought that last year triggered emergency watering restrictions from Orlando to the Keys.
Safety concerns about the 70-year-old, earthen dike that protects lakeside communities from flooding prompt the Army Corps of Engineers to limit how much water can be stored in Lake Okeechobee.
Lack of reservoirs and other water storage options lead to dumping much of the stormwater that drains into Lake Okeechobee out to sea, to avoid flooding South Florida farms and neighborhoods built on land that used to be part of the Everglades.

120208-a






(mouseover-CLICK
to enlarge corridor MAP)

Carlton Ward, Jr.

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



120208-a
A walk in the woods: Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition traipsing through the state
Naples Daily News - by Anne Claire Shilton
February 8, 2012
Team of four taking 100-day, 1,000-mile trek through Florida to prove green spaces are connected and need to stay that way
When Joe Guthrie tries to explain why a statewide wildlife corridor is important, he starts like this:
“Imagine you’re a bear. A bear living in Collier County. And you’ve been out-competed for resources. You need to move to survive, so where do you go?”
Once upon a time, that answer was simple: anywhere you wanted to go.
Today, with developments and roads crisscrossing more and more of Florida, the answer to that question has become increasingly complex. Sure, state and federal agencies have worked diligently to set aside protected lands, but those protected areas are mere shards scattered haphazardly across the sunshine state’s broad landmass mosaic.
Shards and fragments that are becoming increasingly isolated from one another.
Or are they?
As you read this, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is traipsing through the woods, trying to prove that Florida’s green spaces are in fact connected. The team of bear biologist Joe Guthrie, photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr., conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus will traverse more than 1,000 miles from the soggy swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, north to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia.
The team is paddling, biking and hiking for 100 days, through both public and private lands, documenting its journey and spreading the word on why connectivity matters, whether you’re a bear, a Florida panther or a human.
“If you have these areas of wilderness without connections between them, if you don’t have those connections you essentially have a zoo without bars,” says Chuck Collins, regional director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “It’s important for biodiversity to have these connections.”
Scientists and environmentalists have long touted the need for biodiversity within an ecosystem. The idea that species within an area are dependent on other species within that same area is nothing new. But genetic diversity within a species is important too.
With increased genetic diversity comes better tolerance to disease, better reproductive survival rates, and more genetic variation, which ultimately translates to better adaptability. It’s the reason marrying your cousin is outlawed in some states, and the reason species like the cheetah, who are down to tiny numbers, face an uphill battle to repopulate.
But if you’re a bear, separated from other bears by highways, condo complexes and shopping malls, finding others — besides your den mates — to breed with can be tough. And so, bears wander. They wander into neighborhoods, they amble across ranches and occasionally, tragically, they end up in front of passing tractor-trailers on the highway.
Exactly how Florida black bears roam from one spot to the next isn’t entirely known. Collaring, tracking and mapping where bears move and why was the lifework of David Maehr, Guthrie’s esteemed graduate professor at the University of Kentucky.
Maehr was tragically killed in a small plane crash in 2008, while conducting an aerial survey of the Florida black bear habitat in Highlands County. But during his time working at Archbald Research Station and surrounding Highlands County, studying the bear population on both public and private lands, Maehr laid important groundwork for the expedition that’s currently trekking through the state.
“Maehr and I studied under the same professor, Larry Harris, at the University of Florida,” says Tom Hoctor, cofounder of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Initiative. “Larry, along with another Ph.D. graduate student, Reed Noss, were the ones to push the need for functionally connected conservation areas across the state of Florida, starting back in the mid-1980s and their work had a strong influence on both Dave and myself. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the work Larry and Reed did in the 1980s, there almost certainly would not be something called the Florida Wildlife Corridor today.”
In fact, the whole Florida Wildlife Corridor Initiative team — both those currently on the expedition and those working behind the scenes to make the expedition happen — are quick to lob any credit for this project off of their own shoulders and into someone else’s court.
“We’re not really doing anything new,” claims the team’s photojournalist, Carlton Ward Jr., saying, “This really is just the end result of a 25-year process, and we’re just trying to bring awareness to it.”
The group says that without the work of state, local and federal agencies, along with initiatives like the Florida Forever Coalition and the Conservation Trust For Florida, taking up this trek would have been nearly impossible.
But the other thing they credit for making the expedition a reality is neither a person nor an advocacy group. Instead, it’s a bear.
Bear number 34, who was tagged and monitored by Guthrie and a few of his colleagues at the University of Kentucky, provided critical information that made the concept of a totally connected wildlife greenway more concrete (or, well, less concrete).
“There was one bear in particular that we tagged, and he traveled all the way from Highlands County to the Interstate 4 corridor. These kinds of movements helped us understand that these landscapes are still connected. It was one of the things that gave us some encouragement that we could make this trek a reality,” says Guthrie.
If bear 34 could traverse land that wasn’t necessarily set-aside as conservation space, then so too could the team.
But it’s one thing to hike across the Everglades and Big Cypress, two huge tracts of public land. It’s another thing entirely to travel across hundreds of miles of private property.
Yet that’s exactly what the team is currently doing. Amazingly, though the journey itself has taken two and a half years to plan, they’ve met almost no resistance in gaining access to any of private ranches they need to cross to complete the trip.
Once again, the theme comes back to connectivity. The expedition never would have known which ranchers to ask (and perhaps more importantly, which not to ask) if not for some well-made connections.
The credit for this is in part due to Maehr, who always worked closely with ranchers in his research in Highlands County and the areas near Archbald Research Station. But it’s also thanks to Ward, who specializes in conservation photography. Ward takes a panoramic view of the word conservation; not only has he dedicated his life to documenting threatened flora and fauna, but he’s also worked extensively to document a vanishing way of life — the life of the Florida cowboy.
“I’m an eighth-generation Floridian, I grew up in a ranching family,” says Ward, whose 2009 book, “Florida Cowboys,” won a silver medal at the Florida Book Awards. “Ranchers have a natural interest in conservation, they depend on the land, and they realize that conservation is a key tool for protecting their land.”
Just as conservation is a key tool for ranchers looking to protect their land long-term, it’s also an integral piece for creating what the expedition calls “critical linkages.”
Critical linkages, as described by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Initiative, are the pieces of private land that link the public lands together. And they’re maybe the most important part of the whole network.
“It’s critical that we have agriculture and ranchers on board because they own the bulk of the land that would provide these critical linkages,” says Collins, the FWC regional director. “Public agencies would never be able to buy all the land necessary to link current conservation areas together, and even if they could buy it, managing it would be cost prohibitive.”
Leisa Priddy, owner of JB Ranch in Immokalee, is one of the private landowners in support of the wildlife corridor, allowing the expedition to cross her land last Wednesday.
“I think this expedition is important to ranchers and property owners in general because it spotlights how important our lands are in all of this,” she said. According to Priddy, who is also a commissioner for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, she sees panthers and other critters on her land regularly, which she doesn’t mind, so long as they don’t wreak too much havoc on her herd of cracker cattle.
“Sure, we have some interactions with them that aren’t always positive, but as long as it doesn’t negatively impact our operation, I don’t mind them being on our land.” Priddy adds, “I don’t care how many times you’ve seen a panther before, each time I see one it still takes my breath away.”
And not only does seeing a Florida panther or a Florida black bear take your breath away, it also generally bodes well for the health and well-being of the entire ecosystem.
“Bears and panthers are what’s considered an umbrella species. What’s good for them is also good for turkeys or rabbits,” says Collins.
Again, the theme of connectivity comes up.
“We’ve been at this for about two weeks and the thing we’ve already seen demonstrated a couple of times is this theme of connectivity,” says Ward. “There’s clearly a lot of synergy within the Everglades watershed, we’ve been through Picayune Strand and Fakahatchee Strand, and the Everglades and in each it’s about restoring the water flow and restoring water quality. It’s all connected.”
The next step now is to connect their journey to the public.
“It’s about finding the political will and the momentum from the public to make it clear that things like this are worth being funded,” says initiative co-founder Tom Hoctor.
The team’s filmmaker, Elam Stoltzfus, adds, “That’s why we’re documenting the entire journey. Using social media, we can bring the importance of this expedition in front of people all over Florida.”
You can follow the expedition on Twitter and view photos from their travels each day on Facebook and Flickr. Once the journey is complete, they’re planning a two-hour documentary to showcase the whole thing, and along the way they’re stopping to do media interviews for articles like this one. It’s all part of their multi-prong approach to trying to connect the public to their mission.
And it’s an attempt to answer that age-old question: if a foot — or four sets of feet — falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?
The answer, of course, like everything else, depends on connectivity.

120208-b






120208-b
No money for Everglades clean-up in Senate budget – yet
Palm Beach Post - by Dara Kam
February 8th, 2012
The Florida Senate hasn’t included any money for Everglades restoration in its spending plan, but the money may soon flow to the “River of Grass.”
Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Miami Democrat, questioned Senate General Government Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Hays about the absence of the money during a meeting late Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s definitely in play,” Hays, R-Umatilla, assured him. “It’s an open issue.”
Gov. Rick Scott included $40 million for Everglades restoration in his budget proposal, and the House wants to spend $30 million on clean-up and another $5 million for northern Everglades projects.
The Senate’s plan prompted an outcry from Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham, who urged the Senate to go along with Scott’s $40 million allocation.
“We are disappointed that the Florida Senate has decided to risk the future of Florida’s water supply by refusing to provide any funding for Everglades restoration,” Fordham said in a press release. “This is not the time to delay the vital work that needs to be done. More than 7 million Floridians depend on the Everglades for fresh water. Any delay threatens the welfare of 1 in 3 Floridians and the economic well-being of our state.”

120208-c






120208-c
Senate delays vote set on Fla. water rules
The Associated Press
February 8, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Water pollution rules that some environmentalists say are too weak are on hold in the Florida Legislature.
They had been set for a final vote in the Senate on Wednesday.
Action was delayed because the Senate had not yet received the bill (HB 7051) that passed unanimously in the House last week.
The state drafted the rules as a lower-cost alternative to nutrient standards proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Agriculture, business and utility interests support the state rules.
Environmental groups favor the federal rules. They contend the state's rules would do little or nothing to stop algae blooms from choking Florida waters.
The state rules are being challenged in an administrative law case. They also need EPA approval.

120208-d






120208-d
Video: Saving Lake Okeechobee
Audubon Magazine
February 8, 2012 (Nov-Dec. 2011 Issue)
Florida's Everglades have a huge advocate in Nathaniel Reed, who's been fighting for decades to preserve the vast ecosystem. In this video, he reflects on the condition of the Everglades' lifeblood—Lake Okeechobee.
Published: November-December 2011
Florida’s Everglades are a national treasure. This huge, complex ecosystem, a place of sawgrass prairies, brackish marshes, deepwater sloughs, and hardwood “hammocks,” is home to a vast array of wildlife, including the American crocodile, the rare Florida panther, and an amazing variety of birdlife, from wood storks and roseate spoonbills to the endangered Everglade snail kite.

 

Saving Lake Okeechobee from Audubon Magazine on Vimeo.

The key to the health of the Everglades is fresh water, most of it flowing out of central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. Without a healthy Okeechobee, the fabled River of Grass cannot survive. As development and agriculture claim an ever-growing part of this life-sustaining water, it’s up to us, all of us, to defend this natural wonder. Perhaps no one has worked harder and longer for the Everglades and Okeechobee than Nathaniel Reed. A former Audubon board member and Assistant Secretary of the Interior under two U.S. presidents, Reed has spent decades fighting on behalf of the ecosystem, from Okeechobee to Florida Bay, working today through the Everglades Foundation. Perhaps just as important, few love the Everglades like he does. Here, in this remarkable video, let Reed be your guide to this place of wonder.
120207-a






(mouse over to enlarge)
ranches
This is a map of the
proposed Everglades
Headwater National
Wildlife Refuge and
Conservation Area
.
U.S. Department of
the Interior, Fish
and Wildlife Service.


120207-a
Audubon Celebrates Creation of Everglades Refuge
ENewsPF.com
February 7, 2012
Tallahassee, FL --(ENEWSPF)--February 7, 2012. An early win in Audubon’s strategy for protecting Important Bird Areas as part of a new Atlantic Flyways strategy came about in the Greater Everglades this month.
On January 17, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the formation of the new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, just north of Lake Okeechobee.
Secretary Salazar was joined in the announcement by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), a large group of Northern Everglades ranch owners, Audubon Florida Director of Advocacy Charles Lee, and Dr. Paul Gray, who leads Audubon’s science program in the Northern Everglades.
The 150,000-acre refuge will be put together with ranchland that supports a variety of wildlife (see Audubon Magazine, November-December 201), including Florida Grasshopper Sparrows, Florida Scrub-Jays, Southern Bald Eagles, Audubon’s Crested Cara Cara, Florida Sandhill Cranes and many migratory birds.
This new National Wildlife Refuge is one of Audubon’s top priorities for Everglades restoration. Now that the Refuge and Conservation Area has been formally established, Audubon will support congressional National Action Needed to Revive the Economy and Tackle Climate Change January 2012 appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other sources to support purchase of easements and fee title.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also signed an agreement today assuming the responsibility of managing hunting and fishing on lands in the Refuge that are open to the public.
Audubon’s Charles Lee compared the event to President Harry Truman’s dedication of Everglades National Park in 1947, pointing out that there is a long road ahead in securing funding to complete the Refuge purchases.

Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at www.audubon.org.

120207-b






120207-b
Environmental groups call for immediate congressional approval of Everglades project
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 7, 2012
Audubon of Florida is urging members of Congress to immediately approve the C-111 Spreader Canal Western project, a longtime priority for the environmental group.
The project is expected to increase freshwater flows to Taylor Slough in Everglades National Park, and could revive a greatly impaired ecosystem. According to Audubon, the delivery of more freshwater to Everglades wetlands is essential to many species of wading birds in the area, which have died off in large numbers over the past 100 years.
Many environmentalists argue that the project also plays an integral role in meeting the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) - a series of goals and objectives designed to restore the ecosystem.
The project is expected to improve vegetation patterns and return coastal zone salinity levels in the western Florida Bay to levels as close as possible to pre-drainage models.
The Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the project next week. Following review by the Office of Management and Budget, it will next be submitted to Congress for authorization.
“This critical project can now be included in legislation required to advance implementation,” said Megan Tinsley, Everglades policy associate for the Audubon, in a Monday morning press release. “If this project is operated to achieve ecological benefits such as revived wildlife populations, we will demonstrate that successful restoration of the Everglades is possible.”
As we have previously reported, the Everglades is also suffering the effects of methylmercury poisoning, which some believe has contributed in large part to the diminishing numbers of wading birds and other species in the area.

120207-c






120207-c
Environmentalists give Florida congressional delegation low marks
Orlando Sentinel
February, 7 2012 4:03 PM
The Florida Conservation Alliance and the national League of Conservation Voters have released their 2011 National Environmental Scorecard for Congress. And it’s probably not surprising that the Central Florida delegation — which includes some of the most liberal and most conservative members of the Florida delegation — had widely varying scores.
The groups called the 2011 session “the most anti-environmental session of the U.S. House of Representatives in history,” citing votes on everything from offshore oil drilling safety and royalty reform to rejecting federal efforts to impose water-quality standards on Florida.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, whose district winds down to Orlando, scored a 91 — third highest after Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston (100 percent) and Kathy Castor of Tampa (97 percent.) On the other end, Republican Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, was low man in the state at 6 per cent (tied with fellow Republicans Connie Mack IV of Cape Coral and Jeff Miller of Chumuckla) while Sandy Adams of Orlando was at 9 percent.
Read details of the ratings here.
And read the scores of the entire delegation below the jump:

 

Scores for Florida’s U.S. Representatives
(by District):


Jeff Miller, 6%
Steve Southerland, 6%
Corrine Brown, 91%
Ander Crenshaw , 11%
Richard Nugent, 9%
Cliff Stearns, 11%
John Mica, 11%
Daniel Webster, 14%
Gus Bilirakis, 17%
C.W. “Bill” Young, 23%
Kathy Castor, 97%
Dennis Ross, 6%
Vern Buchanan, 20%
Connie Mack, 6%
Bill Posey, 6%




Tom Rooney, 11%Frederica Wilson, 80%
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 20%
Ted Deutch, 89%
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, 100%
Mario Diaz-Balart, 11%
Allen West, 11%
Alcee Hastings, 94%
Sandy Adams, 9%
David Rivera, 14%

Scores for Florida’s
U.S. Senators:

Bill Nelson, 100%
Marco Rubio, 9%

120207-d







Anderson-Kustas

Physical scientist
Martha Anderson
and research leader
Bill Kustas
view a
global scale map of
evapotranspiration generated with the
ALEXI model.
Anderson and Kustas
are collaborating with
U.S. and international
researchers from all
the major continents in
evaluating ALEXI output.


120207-d
New tool for mapping water use and drought
Delta Farm Press – by Dennis O’Brien, Agricultural Research Service, USDA
February 7, 2012
The model, known as ALEXI (Atmosphere-Land Exchange Inverse), uses thermal infrared imagery from satellites and calculates soil and plant temperatures that can be used to create maps of ET rates of plants growing in cultivated areas, forests and natural habitats around the world.
Farmers and water managers may soon have an online tool to help them assess drought and irrigation impacts on water use and crop development, thanks to the work of two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Martha Anderson and Bill Kustas have developed an evapotranspiration (ET) and drought modeling system at the ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. The modeling system also will help forecasters monitor ET and drought conditions across the United States and overseas.
ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priorities of responding to climate change and promoting international food security.
The model, known as ALEXI (Atmosphere-Land Exchange Inverse), uses thermal infrared imagery from satellites and calculates soil and plant temperatures that can be used to create maps of ET rates of plants growing in cultivated areas, forests and natural habitats around the world.
ET consists of the water evaporated from soil and plant surfaces, and the water vapor that escapes, or transpires, through plant leaf pores (stomata) as the plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Generally, evaporation cools surfaces, so a cooler land surface is an indicator of higher ET rates and wetter soils.
Water stress elevates soil and leaf temperatures, which can be detected by satellites. Anderson and Kustas can use satellite temperature data to create ET maps. The maps are capable of detecting rivers, lakes, wetlands, riparian buffers, irrigated cropland and areas under water stress.
The work is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NOAA plans to use the system to generate ET estimates over the continental United States. The system is expected to become particularly relevant as climate change presents challenges for growers and water managers in areas such as the Texas Panhandle, the Florida Everglades and the southwestern United States.
Getting routine ET estimates for individual fields is laborious, but the researchers are streamlining the process. With help from new satellite imagery, they hope to be able to move toward routine mapping at the “field scale” level.

 ALEXI has been estimating evapotranspiration (ET) rates since 2000, but the researchers continue to refine the system and plan to make the maps available online soon on the U.S. Drought Portal at www.drought.gov.
Anderson and Kustas, with colleagues, are currently mapping parts of Africa, including the Horn of Africa, where drought has caused famine in Somalia. Local ET data would be particularly helpful in places such as Africa, where networks of weather stations don’t exist.
Read more about this research in the February 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
120206-a






Python

120206-a
Squeezing the Everglades
Sentinel & Enterprise
February 6, 2012
The National Park Service says 1,825 Burmese pythons have been caught in and around the Florida Everglades since 2000. One of the largest, 16 feet and 156 pounds, was caught just in January.
The Burmese pythons have been joined in the swamps by other discarded pets: African pythons and assorted constrictors. They are rapidly vacuuming the Everglades clean of native wildlife: raccoons, opossums, bobcats, marsh and cottontail rabbits, deer, foxes, and endangered wood rats and wood storks. One python even tried to eat a live alligator.
The National Park Service says that in areas where the snakes are known to be active, sightings of medium-size mammals have dropped by as much as 99 percent.
It's not hard to envision what happens next. With their prey exhausted, the snakes will begin moving out of the Everglades in search of food -- pets, for example. The state and the federal government have spent millions trying to exterminate the snakes and are resigned to simply try to keep them confined to the Everglades.
In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally issued a ban on importing or taking across state lines Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons.
The administration found itself up against a surprisingly strong reptile lobby. According to figures collected by The Washington Post, the reptile trade is a $2 billion business in the United States, with 11 million reptiles kept as pets and more reptiles
Soon, wearing shoes, belts, jackets, suitcases and hatbands made from Burmese-python skin may not be a fashion statement. It will be a civic duty.

120206-b







Rinaman

Lisa RINAMAN,
St.Johns Riverkeeper

120206-b
Water war over siphoning of St. Johns River
ActionNews.com – by Ryan Smith
February 6, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There's a water war brewing between Northeast and Central Florida. Lisa Rinaman steps into her role as the St. Johns Riverkeeper Monday. On the eve of her duty as river defender, Rinaman fears Central Florida counties are planning to pump more water from the river.
"We don't think there's a safe water withdraw until we have all the answers to all the questions," said Rinaman.
Questions, Rinaman hopes, will be answered in the results of a four-year, $3.7 million study done by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The study will determine how much water can be removed from the river without harming it. The study was triggered by the water withdraw debate with Seminole County in 2008. The city of Jacksonville and the St. Johns Riverkeeper lost a lawsuit trying to prevent Seminole County from siphoning five million gallons a day.
 
Seminole will start operating its new water plant this month. Rinaman fears their growing thirst for our water will resurface the river debate between northeast and central Florida counties.
"Not only is the St. Johns River a natural resource, it's an economic driver and we have to do all that we can as a community to protect it," said Rinaman.
Rinaman warns if our river loses any more water to other counties, it could kill wildlife and cost taxpayers more money in maintenance.
"It could very well have an impact on everyday citizens. If there is damage to the river someone has to fix it. So that falls on the backs of local and state governments," said Rinaman.
Rinaman says the study did not include key issues like port dredging and weather droughts. But she adds, many will see the results as justification to pump more water out of the St. Johns River.
120205-






Florida Senate


See also:
"EPA NNC Rules"
and
"ISSUES - Legal"
by the
EvergladesHUB.com


120205-
Fertilizer bill must not pass
NewsPress.com
February 5, 2012
For several years Florida lawmakers have effectively tried to neutralize cities and counties’ ability to regulate fertilizer use in their communities.
So far, the municipalities have won, but a proposal is back this year that could threaten local water quality and potentially harm tourism.
Our legislators need to prevent these bills from becoming law.
Senate Bill 604 and related House Bill 421 would exempt lawn care professionals from having to follow local ordinances, which ban use of nitrogen and phosphorous during the summer months.
These bills have been backed by lawn-related businesses.
Local officials argue that the bans were needed to curb nutrient-laden fertilizer runoff that contributes to algae blooms, which harms water quality and kills marine life in the Gulf and the Calooshatchee.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah called it a “job killer” for the county’s $2.5 billion tourism industry in Southwest Florida, which depends on high water quality to attract visitors.
On Friday, Judah met with The News-Press, along with Sanibel City Council Vice Mayor Mick Denham, Bonita Springs City Councilwoman Martha Simons, Lee County Operations Manager Kurt Harclerode and Sierra Club representative Katie Parrish.
They plan to testify at a scheduled hearing of the bill today before the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.
Around 50 municipalities have enacted such ordinances, which are responsible ways to keep water clean and regulate lawn care businesses.
Denham said if the bills become law, counties and cities will still be responsible for protecting water quality but at a higher cost.
That’s because they would lose a $13 million credit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which they received, in turn, as a result of their ordinances.
In addition, a greater phosphorous and nitrogen laden fertilizer runoff could mean the cities and counties would have to invest in building or expanding wastewater treatment facilities and pass on the costs to the taxpayers.
In essence, the state is passing on an unfunded mandate to communities in order to appease a particular industry.
Our Southwest Florida legislators have supported maintaining the ordinances. Urge them to continue that support and to persuade their colleague to be on their side. And urge Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who chairs the Rules and Calendar Committee, to stop the bill.
Remember, Sanibel Island was just named the top destination by travel writer Arthur Frommer, because, among other things, the beauty of its beaches and the Ding Darling Nature Preserve.
It would be unfortunate if the beauty around us suffered due to an excess of nutrients in the water.

120204-a







Python


Mammals in the
Everglades are
disappearing - devoured
by the expanding
invasive pythons.

Read the original science publication -
FULL TEXT

120204-a
Pythons change dynamics
Reuters
February 4, 2012
A Burmese python is wrapped around an American alligator in Everglades National Park. Picture: AP/National Park Service, Lori Oberhofer
A slithering, surging population of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades, many of them escaped or abandoned pets, appears to be eating its way through many animals native to the sensitive wetlands, according to a new study.
Researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found what they characterised as “severe declines” in the population of small and mid-sized native mammals in the 1.5 million-acre national park and linked it to the growing presence of Burmese pythons.
The study, the first to document the ecological effects of the invasive species on the Everglades, was released on Monday.
The constrictors, which grow to be more than 5m, are not native to the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the US and home to a number of rare and endangered species.
But they are popular and legal pets in the US. Some escape. Some are released by owners who panic as their babies quickly mature into dangerous adults.
The pythons have been what scientists call an established invasive species in the Everglades, apex predators that occasionally prey on the American alligator and the Florida panther.
The python’s impact has been dramatic on the smaller mammals, including racoons, opossums, marsh and cottontail rabbits, foxes and bobcats, which have dropped precipitously in recent years, researchers said.
The researchers conducted nearly a decade of night road surveys in the park and in similar habitats outside it, counting live animals and roadkill.
They also looked at records of road-killed mammals from previous surveys done by National Park Service rangers in the 1990s, before the pythons were common in the area.
Their findings: outside the Everglades, where the pythons have not established, small furry creatures abound. Inside the park, not so much.
In fact, in the southern end of the Everglades, where the pythons have been established the longest, raccoon sightings had dropped 99.3 percent, sightings of opossum dropped 98.9 percent and bobcat sightings had fallen 87.5 percent.
Researchers did not detect a single rabbit, dead or alive, in the park. Nuisance calls involving raccoons used to light up the park service’s switchboard, they said. Since 2005, not a park visitor had reported a nuisance raccoon.
A number of water birds – grebes, herons and the federally endangered wood stork – also appear to be falling to python predation.
Because the animals that have disappeared over the past decade come from such different taxonomic and trophic groups, the researchers said it was unlikely a disease outbreak was to blame.
“The magnitudes of these declines underscores the apparent incredible density of pythons in the (Everglades) and justifies intensive investigation into how the addition of a novel apex predator affects overall ecosystem processes.”
The study did not focus on ways of reversing the python’s effect on the Everglades.
Experts at the US Geological Survey, which helped pay for the study, said the odds of eradicating the pythons now that they were established in the park are very low. – Reuters

120204-b







Frank Stronach
Frank STRONACH


Fort McCoy, FL
Where is Fort McCoy in
Florida ?

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



120204-b
The land of Stronach: Canadian businessman has become county's third-largest land holder
Ocala.com - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
February 4, 2012
If Frank Stronach were to build Disney World in Marion County, he would already have enough land to do it.
The Canadian–based businessman has increased his Marion County land holdings in the past two years nearly sixfold, making him the largest private property owner in the county with 29,000 acres. (Walt Disney World in Orlando encompasses somewhere around 25,000 acres.) Only the U.S. Forestry Department, which owns the Ocala National Forest, and Florida's various state agencies have more land in Marion County than does Stronach.
And he's looking for more.
Behind the land grab are plans for a sprawling cattle ranch with tens of thousands of grass-feed, hormone-free cattle for beef production.
Until 2010, the 79-year-old Stronach was mostly known in the area for his 3,800-acre thoroughbred horse farm in Williston.
The international car parts magnet bought the Adena Springs spread during the 1990s. It is one of five such farms he owns across the United States and Canada. The new cattle operation will be called Adena Springs Ranch.
Only about seven years ago did he start amassing cattle at the Williston farm. The operation includes about 400 cows at that farm and another 1,100 on other area properties. For most area cattlemen, that's a lot. For Stronach, it's a first step.
According to documents submitted to Florida water agencies, Stronach's herd could reach 30,000, if not more.
Paving the path for Stronach becoming a cattle baron is cash — and a lot of it. He recently sold his interest in the car parts company he created for reportedly $1 billion. And since 2010, some of that money has gone to buy 24,489 acres in the Fort McCoy area and another 36,000 acres in Levy County. Some of the land will also be set aside for timber.
The price tag for the land in both counties and beef processing operation: $80 million.
The end result will be a beef cattle business that dwarfs any other ranch in sight. In a county where most cattle herds top out at about 1,200 head, and most cattlemen own fewer than 50, Stronach's operation will be in a league of its own.
Essentially, Stronach's plan is to send his younger cows to Levy County and as they mature, gradually bring them to pastures closest to the meat processing plant, said Rick Moyer, who oversees Stronach's cattle operation in Marion County.
In his application with the St. Johns Water Management District, Stronach seeks permission to pump as much as 13.27 million gallons of water per day to irrigate his fields, cool his proposed power plant and operate his 61,000-square-foot beef processing operation.
But most of that water will be used to grow grass, especially in the drier winter months, to feed cattle, Moyer said.
Unlike most area cattlemen, Stronach won't send his cows west to feedlots to gain the weight they'll need before slaughter. Instead, Stronach plans to meet a growing demand for cattle kept on a strict grass diet producing a leaner, and many say healthier beef. But to grow and supply that much grass to his cows, Stronach needs water.
If the operation grows to its intended size, more cows will have the Stronach brand on their backsides than all the beef cows currently in Marion County combined.
There were only 26,000 beef cows in Marion County last year, which already made it Florida's 11th ranking beef cattle producing county, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
If there are no hitches in the project, the ranch will be operational by early 2013.
Meanwhile, Stronach still has his fingers in horse racing. Has has controlling shares in Santa Anita race track in California and Gulfstream in Florida, as well as stakes in Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland.
And it's not just cattle he plans for Marion County. Near the intersection of U.S. 441 and State Road 326, is evidence of Stronach's other handiwork.
The business tycoon is building a world-class, 420-acre golf course. There will be 120 homes on one-acre lots clustered throughout the links, as well as another 800 acres adjacent to the north for more home development.
Mark Roberts is Stronach's Adena Springs general manager and is overseeing Stronach's land purchases. He said the boss likes to keep moving.
“As much as he likes the horse business, he likes to build stuff,” Roberts said. “And his vision is like no one I've ever seen. Building and creating new things keeps him going.”
Stronach is also a man bent on knowing the details of his projects. Roberts said he has all the qualities that make a good businessman.
“Frank wants to know what you think. He's not always going to agree with you, but he still wants to know. …
“He values constructive criticism. That's what separates him from a lot of people,” Roberts said. “He doesn't like anything done halfway.”
Stronach did not return Star-Banner telephone calls for this story.
Creating jobs
Amid a lingering recession, high local unemployment and closing businesses, many in the community welcome Stronach's plans with open arms.
“They say they'll need the water during a drought ? We're in a drought. We're in the most severe drought,” Marwick said. “Silver Springs is at its lowest point in recorded history. The Ocklawaha is at its lowest in recorded history.
“It's one man's plan to use more water than all the people who live and visit Ocala and we're being asked to water our lawns no more than once a week. You can't expect to take 13 million gallons and not have an impact,” Marwick said.
Ocala uses about 12.85 million gallons daily.
Another problem is waste. The average adult beef cow produces about 60 pounds of manure waste daily. If Stronach raises only a third of his expected herd and half are younger, smaller cows, producing only half the manure, waste would still approach nearly 500,000 pounds of waste a day.
Marwick said he fears much of that waste will find its way through the groundwater and into the Silver Springs and Ocklawaha River.
“All that cow manure has to go somewhere,” he said. “We could have nitrate-ladened water in quantities never before imagined.”
Stronach's engineering reports to St. Johns Water Management District predicts only minimal environmental impacts upon the Fort McCoy area.
Hugh Dailey, former president of the Marion County Cattleman's Association, said he sees Stronach's project as a financial booster shot in Marion County's arm and an economic bonanza for many area cattle operations.
Dailey said it will likely take years for Stronach to build his herd to the size he wants. That means he could end up turning to other local cattlemen for help, buying some of their cows to meet his demand.
Stronach's meat processing plant could also be a godsend for some local cattlemen not wanting to send their cattle to feedlots and slaughter houses west. Instead, they can maybe use his processing plant and save transportation costs, Dailey said.
But tying up that much land does more than create jobs, Dailey said. It also helps the county maintain its agricultural roots.
“It's really better than a subdivision with houses on it. It keeps us diversified … and he's a guy putting a lot of capital ...in the county,” he said.
E.L. Strickland, manager of Circle Square, said that Stronach is using his money to fill a niche in the beef market that most local cattlemen couldn't afford.
Along with being hormone-free, Stronach's cattle will only be grass-fed and not sent to feedlots out west to fatten on grains and corn. The result is that the meat will be far leaner.
Grain-fed cattle have a more marbled and sweeter tasting meat because of the higher fat content.
But Stronach is tapping into the market of people wanting a leaner cut, which offers health benefits.
Grass-fed beef accounts for less than 2 percent of the beef market share, by volume, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Jumping into that mostly untapped market with enough money backing him will give Stronach a head start, Strickland said.
Strickland, who oversees a 9,000-acre, 1,200-head operation, said that to make such an operation financially feasible, it needs its own slaughterhouse, marketing and transportation infrastructure — all of which Stronach can supply.
“That's the only way it works,” Strickland said.
Strickland's farm also raises hormone-free cows but sends them west to feedlots to fatten.
And with enough money, Strickland said that Stronach could have his herd of 30,000 cows within a year.
Even if the all-natural, grass-fed beef market collapsed, Strickland said Stronach could always send his cattle out west to fatten, like most everyone else, “and be a regular cowboy.”
As for his vast land purchases, Strickland said, “if you put the money in the bank, what's interest?”
“If you have money, land is nice to have.”
Contact Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@starbanner.com and 867-4157.

120203-a







Florida Senate



See also:
"EPA NNC Rules"
and
"ISSUES - Legal"
by the
EvergladesHUB.com


120203-a
House approves Florida water pollution rules
The Associated Press – by Bill Kaczor
February 3, 2012
TALLAHASSEE — Legislation that would clear the path for a pair of state water pollution rules supported by business, agriculture and utility interests won approval Friday from the Florida House. Some environmental groups, though, say the rules are too weak and prefer tougher federal standards.
Technically, the bill (HB 7051) would waive a legal requirement for legislative approval of the rules. The Florida Department of Environment Protection drafted the rules as an alternative to the stricter standards proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it's also expected to pass, and then on to Gov. Rick Scott, who supports the state rules.
That, however, won't be the final word on the matter. The environmental groups have filed an administrative law challenge. They also need final ratification by EPA, which has given them preliminary approval.
Both sets of rules would set numeric nutrient criteria to replace the imprecise verbal standards the state now uses. Environmentalists, though, contend the state's version would do little or nothing to prevent or clean up algae blooms choking many of Florida's lakes, rivers and other inland water bodies.
Nutrients from such pollutants as sewage, animal manure and fertilizer feed the algae.
Opponents of the federal rules argue they will be too costly. A study commissioned by the state estimates they'd cost utility customers and businesses from $298 million to $4.7 billion a year while the state proposal would range from $51 million to $150 million.
The EPA, though, has estimated its rules would cost only $135 million to $206 million.
The federal rules are the result of an agreement EPA made in 2009 to settle a lawsuit by the environmental groups. They assert EPA was violating federal law by failing to require the state to implement numeric limits for nitrogen and phosphate.
Sierra Club Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper now are asking a state administrative law judge to reject the state's rules.
The groups allege they are arbitrary and contradict existing law. A hearing is set for next week, but the environmental groups are seeking a delay until late February.

120203-b






120203-b
Scott Stays on Track
Gulf Coast Business Review - by Rod Thomson
February 3, 2012
Selected section:
Cheering environmentalists ?
The other area that raised eyebrows among some Scott backers was his announcement to fully fund the Everglades restoration project with another $40 million. That gave Scott a rousing ovation from a consortium of the state’s most powerful environmental groups — who have been natural opponents of the governor’s pro-jobs, small-government approach. And it made the Miami Herald question whether Scott was now governing by poll because his cuts to Everglades funding last year polled badly.
The Everglades restoration plan has long pitted agriculture against development against environmentalists against the state’s budget. Crist at one time signed off on an extravagant plan to spend $1.75 billion to “save” the Everglades by buying United States Sugar and restoring the land. But that 2008 jaw-dropper was derailed by the recession.
Scott’s $40 million proposal is peanuts compared with what Crist wanted to do. But it still surprised some given the state’s ongoing budget problems. And his explanation for the move is somewhat less persuasive and passionate than his case for education funding.
He lays out the fact that 6 million people rely on water flowing through the Everglades and says the state needs to improve the flow of that water. So he put a proposal on the table in October and there have been many meetings with federal officials. In fact, any plan will require the approval of loads of federal agencies. Scott says he expects those agencies will have ideas for improving the plan.
“I’m optimistic we will have a long-term plan the state can afford, rather than a plan we cannot,” he says.
A few days after the Business Review’s interview with the governor, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Florida and the federal government are making progress on the Everglades.
“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.”

120203-c






120203-c
Sierra Club Fights Florida Fertilizer Laws
Old Notheast.Patch.com - by Rachel Jolley
February 3, 2012
The environmental group displayed photos to reveal that preemption supporter claims may be false.
This story has been updated to include a statement from Massey Services in regards to Sierra Club's claims.
With rainy season around the corner, the Sierra Club is concerned about the possibility of local urban fertilizing bans being overturned. The group met at Vinoy Park on Friday morning to protest two proposed state laws that would limit the impact of local fertilizer ordinances.
Almost 50 ordinances up and down the gulf coast would be affected by the passing of Senate Bill 604 and House Bill 421.
Coordinator of the Sierra Club's Water Quality Campaign, Cris Costello, says that the only beneficiaries would be the pest control and fertilizer companies. The negatively affected population would be "everyone else", according to Costello.
To regulate water pollution, pest control and fertilizer companies are not allowed to distribute services when it rains. If the current bills are passed (SB 604 and HB 421), companies would be given the OK to fertilize during what is now known as the "summer rainy season ban."
"The rainy season ban is the backbone of meaningful fertilizer management," Costello said at Friday morning's gathering. "The fact is that local ordinances become close to meaningless without the rainy season band."
The bills have already been passed through several committees and will make their way to Tallahassee on Monday for final review.
Commercial applicators that work for the pest control and fertilizer companies undergo a 70-minute training that allows them to self-regulate when it comes to the pollution of local waterways.
"They claim that all they need is their own best management practices," said Costello. "But the evidence provided today proves otherwise."
Handwritten signs and enlarged, time stamped photos were scattered around Costello as she spoke on Friday morning. The time stamped photos read "1/27/2012." A series of photos reveals multiple vehicles distributing lawn care during a rain storm last Friday.
Massey Services was one of the company vehicles on display in the time stamped photographs.
Update: Massey Services released a statement Friday in regards to the photos.
"Today the Sierra Club released a statement along with photographs that purportedly show professional lawn care companies violating the Pinellas county fertilizer ordinance. The claims by the Sierra Club that application of fertilizers during a light rain event such as was depicted in the photographs reported to have been taken on January 27th, 2012 are not prohibited by the Pinellas county ordinance or the Florida Friendly Best Management Practices.
Massey Services, Inc., a leader in landscape care, maintains that the service being provided, as shown in the photograph, is not a fertilizer treatment. The Massey technician is in fact performing a landscape inspection and treatment to the ornamental shrubs. The claims of the Sierra Club that Massey personnel were making an application of fertilizer are patently false. The truth is that the Professional Greens Industry as a whole are stewards of our environment. We improve water quality by maximizing the effectiveness of our urban green spaces to filter storm water runoff.
Massey Services diligently follows all state legislation, county and city ordinances and regulations as they pertain to the proper applications of fertilizers. Massey Services takes a responsible approach to landscape management using Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries as prescribed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection."
Costello says that fertilizer companies will turn a large profit by charging consumers for wasted products and services.
"This is far more than simply a matter of an esthetic," said Florida native George Root. "This is a matter of jobs, this is a matter of our future and this is a matter of preserving that which is valuable to us as a state."
The Sierra Club is urging citizens to call local legislators and use their voice, before they meet on Monday in Tallahassee.
Related Topics:Cris Costello, Pollution, Protest, and Sierra Club

120203-d







Barnett

Cynthia BARNETT
environmental author


120203-d
Water, Water Everywhere - But Not Enough to Drink
IslandSandPaper.com – issue 573, by Keri Hendry
February 3, 2012
A week of cloudy skies doesn't keep our motel rooms from filling up, a week of cold weather won't stop our agriculture from feeding the rest of the country, but if we turn on the taps and the water stops coming out, our economy is done.” - Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater
Renowned environmental journalist and award winning author Cynthia Barnett was the guest speaker at a Conservation Forum on water sponsored by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and the Everglades Foundation Tuesday night. Held at the Sanibel Community House, Barnett spoke to a room packed with over 200 people on the importance of developing a 'water ethic' that will help Floridians to embrace a new way of thinking in order to make sure that enough freshwater remains for future generations.
Barnett, who has authored two books on the water issue – one of which won the gold medal for best nonfiction in the Florida Book Awards and was named by the St. Petersburg Times as one of the top 10 books that every Floridian should read – calls for a water ethic similar to the land ethic promoted by Aldo Leopold in the 1940's. She began her presentation by talking about her first book, Mirage, and how it told the story about the vanishing water in one of the wettest states in the country.
"In the 19th century, we perfected the art of draining swampland and since then we've drained over 9 million acres,” she said. "In the 20th century, we became very good at pumping groundwater up from the Florida aquifer. I live in Gainesville, and the Floridian aquifer is one of the most prodigious water sources in the world, feeding over 900 springs. I've really started to see those springs as windows to our aquifer. Beginning in the 1950's, over pumping has caused some of them to dry up and not come back, and efforts at water management and permitting has not stopped this problem.”
"I've grown to love writing in this genre of Florida history because I think if we Southerners knew as much about the history of our water as we know about the Civil War, we wouldn't have so many problems,” Barnett continued. "Water ethic is really an intergenerational obligation. It's clear that society must lift water above politics. America was blessed with 3.5 million miles of rivers – even Las Vegas was known for its big springs, which dried up in 1962. Freshwater habitats are the single most degraded of all American ecosystems.”
Barnett explained that the biggest problem is that Americans – like many throughout history - have always seen the availability of freshwater as an entitlement, something that is endless and plentiful.
"Despite the advances of the early 1970's in environmental standards, we still view water as an endless resource,” she said. "We still flush toilets with potable water that meets federal drinking standards. We pour it on our lawn, which is actually the nation's largest crop. For the past 100 years, large water users have been so good at harnessing water and moving it around that modern Americans haven't had to worry about where it all went. That achievement has grown into an entitlement – we enjoy an endless supply of cheap and clean water. But this has led to insufficient supplies and enormous energy consumption involved with moving it around.”
Barnett spoke of how freshwater supplies are drying up around the country.
"The Colorado River is more than 100% allocated – there is no longer enough for all legal users during times of drought,” she said. "Scientists say that Lake Mead has a 50/50 chance of drying up by 2021, and by 2017, there's an equally good chance that the water levels in Mead will drop so low that the Hoover Dam will be unable to use hydroelectric power.”
Barnett explained that this is a result of a long-accepted, but short-sighted way of thinking when it comes to the way we view our water supply.
"In SW Florida, permitted uses trump the natural Everglades and natural ecosystems,” she said. "Some of our largest water supply projects are some of the biggest drains on energy – Tampa's desalination plant has an enormous energy demand and carbon emissions. Nationally, between 10 and 20% of all our energy is spent pumping water and moving it around. These situations make clear that neither government regulation nor the courts are enough on their own – but one solution stands out above all others: the embrace of a water ethic.”
In 2009 and 2010, Barnett traveled the world in search of how this ethic should be established, and found countries that have had success in changing their approach to water – Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands have all seen dramatic increases in their supplies. She found a water ethic applicable to our country in the words of Aldo Leopold's son, Luna, a leading hydrologist who suggested that a new philosophy of water management is needed, one based on geologic, geographic, and climatic factors as well as traditional economic, social, and political factors.
"Most people don't really understand where water comes from, what happens to it – that's where the water ethic comes in,” she said. "Luna Leopold tried to make people see that technology could not solve all of our water problems. He wanted to find a steady state – the balance at which our water use today would not affect our children's future. The question is how society begins to make that transition. I found countries where the government is very focused on water and how to make the best use of it, Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore – what they all have in common is state and federal leadership who all focused on water.”
Barnett said she found an American example of this in the city of San Antonio.
"San Antonio is a great example of a very wasteful city who has really turned around its approach to water use,” she said. "In just 25 years, industrial water users made sweeping changes after the utility began buying their saved water by such simple solutions as recycling their air conditioning water. It's also illegal to let water run down the street. A dentist realized that switching to less wasteful tools – paid for by the utility – would save a lot of money and that was repeated by every other dentist. As a result, their water consumption was cut in half while population doubled.”
"Another city is Philadelphia, which, if it goes forward with its all 'green' stormwater plans – will restore streams, repave everything with a porous surface so that the water seeps through to the ground (much like our Beach Library did when they redid their stormwater system) and plant shrubs on every rooftop,” Cynthia continued. "What if every person in Florida did everything they could to make sure water stays on their land?”
Barnett said it is possible to change the mindset of an entire country.
"Remember in the 1950's when it was perfectly normal to toss trash out the window and to leave garbage all over the ground after picnicking?” she said. " Studies show that what changed the culture was a community-wide interest in cleanliness. Once citizens become more aware of issues they can force change in national policies.”
She concluded by offering Floridians some common goals to help get the idea started.
"Every community will come up with it's own water ethic,” she said. "I suggest including more meandering streams, less concrete, less chain link retention ponds, more community farms, less lawns, stop subsidizing crops, create more water efficient power plants, and start reharvesting rainwater for toilets and other water uses.”
During the question and answer session that followed, Barnett and Everglades Foundation President Kirk Fordham urged folks to get involved by staying on top of legislation in Tallahassee and making calls and emails to make their desires known.
The SCCF regularly sends out emails to keep people informed about what's going on in Tallahassee. To sign up, go to www.sccf.org.

120202-a






(Mouseover/CLICK for
alligator-python fight)

Python







Proceedings of the
National Academy of
Sciences.
(CLICK for and see the
full article):



120202-a
Burmese Pythons Reason for Mammal Habitat Decline in Everglades
EPonline.com
February 2, 2012
Precipitous declines in formerly common mammals in Everglades National Park have been linked to the presence of invasive Burmese pythons, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study, the first to document the ecological impacts of this invasive species, strongly supports that animal communities in this 1.5-million-acre park have been markedly altered by the introduction of pythons within 11 years of their establishment as an invasive species. Mid-sized mammals are the most dramatically affected.
The most severe declines, including a nearly complete disappearance of raccoons, rabbits and opossums, have occurred in the remote southernmost regions of the park, where pythons have been established the longest. In this area, populations of raccoons dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent and bobcats 87.5 percent. Marsh and cottontail rabbits, as well as foxes, were not seen at all.
"Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America's most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems," said U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. "Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action."
The researchers collected their information via repeated systematic night-time road surveys within the park, counting both live and road-killed animals. Over the period of the study, researchers traveled a total of nearly 39,000 miles from 2003 to 2011 and compared their findings with similar surveys conducted in 1996 and 1997 along the same roadways before pythons were recognized as established in Everglades National Park.
The scientists who authored the paper noted that the timing and geographic patterns of the documented mammal declines are consistent with the timing and geographic spread of pythons.
The authors also conducted surveys in ecologically similar areas north of the park where pythons have not yet been discovered. In those areas, mammal abundances were similar to those in the park before pythons proliferated. At sites where pythons have only recently been documented, however, mammal populations were reduced, though not to the dramatic extent observed within the park where pythons are well established.
"The magnitude of these declines underscores the apparent incredible density of pythons in Everglades National Park and justifies the argument for more intensive investigation into their ecological effects, as well as the development of effective control methods," said Michael Dorcas, lead author of the study, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, and author of the book Invasive Pythons in the United States. "Such severe declines in easily seen mammals bode poorly for the many species of conservation concern that are more difficult to sample but that may also be vulnerable to python predation."
The mammals that have declined most significantly have been regularly found in the stomachs of Burmese pythons removed from Everglades National Park and elsewhere in Florida. The authors noted that raccoons and opossums often forage for food near the water's edge, a habitat frequented by pythons in search of prey.
The authors suggested that one reason for such dramatic declines in such a short time is that these prey species are “naïve” – that is, they not used to being preyed upon by pythons since such large snakes have not existed in the eastern United States for millions of years. Burmese pythons over 16 feet long have been found in the Everglades. In addition, some of the declining species could be both victims of being eaten by pythons and of having to compete with pythons for food.
"It took 30 years for the brown treesnake to be implicated in the nearly complete disappearance of mammals and birds on Guam; it has apparently taken only 11 years since pythons were recognized as being established in the Everglades for researchers to implicate pythons in the same kind of severe mammal declines," said Robert Reed, a USGS scientist and co-author of the paper. "It is possible that other mammal species, including at-risk ones, have declined as well because of python predation, but at this time, the status of those species is unknown."
The scientists noted that in their native range in Asia, pythons have been documented to consume leopards. Consequently, even large animals, including top predators, are susceptible to python predation. For example, pythons have been documented consuming full-grown deer and alligators. Likewise, the authors state that birds, including highly secretive birds such as rails, make up about a fourth of the diet of Everglades pythons, and declines in these species could be occurring without managers realizing it.
"Our research adds to the increasing evidence that predators, whether native or exotic, exert major influence on the structure of animal communities," said John Willson, a study co-author, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University and author of the book Invasive Pythons in the United States. "The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound, but are probably complex and difficult to predict. Studies examining such effects are sorely needed to more fully understand the impacts pythons are having on one of our most unique and valued national parks."
The authors found little support for alternative explanations for the mammal declines, such as disease or changes in habitat structure or water management regimes.
"This severe decline in mammals is of significant concern to the overall health of the Park's large and complex ecosystem," said Everglades National Park superintendent Dan Kimball. "We will continue to enhance our efforts to control and manage the non-native python and to better understand the impacts on the Park. No incidents involving visitor safety and pythons have occurred in the Park. Encounters with pythons are very rare; that said visitors should be vigilant and report all python sightings to park rangers," Kimball said.
On Jan. 23, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule in the Federal Register that will ban the importation and interstate transportation of four non-native constrictor snakes (Burmese python, northern and southern African pythons, and the yellow anaconda) that threaten the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems. These snakes are being listed as injurious species under the Lacey Act. In addition, the FWS will continue to consider listing as injurious five other species of nonnative snakes: the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda.
The paper, “Severe mammal declines coincide with proliferation of invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park”, was published online on Jan. 30, 2012, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors are Michael E. Dorcas, Davidson College; John D. Willson, Virginia Tech University; Robert N. Reed, USGS; Ray W. Snow, NPS; Michael R. Rochford, University of Florida; Melissa A. Miller, Auburn University; Walter E. Meshaka, Jr., State Museum of Pennsylvania; Paul T. Andreadis, Denison University; Frank J. Mazzotti, University of Florida; Christina M. Romagosa, Auburn University; and Kristen M. Hart, USGS

120202-b








120202-b
Turning public waters into private lands is wrong
NewsChief.com
February 2, 2012
This editorial appeared recently in The Gainesville Sun.
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.

120201-a






120201-a
Cost projections double to $1B for water supply project in Palm Beach County
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
The South Florida cities and counties that would fund a major water supply project for their drought-prone region learned Tuesday that its projected cost has soared from $451 million to $1 billion -- and they didn't like it.
"To me, the numbers that we see now compared to the original numbers have cooled my enthusiasm," Alan Garcia, director of the Broward County Water and Wastewater Services, told officials of the Lake Worth Drainage District, the lead agency in the project. "You're at least a half-billion dollars off in those estimates."
But district officials said the project is still the best solution to the region's water needs and told utility representatives at a meeting Tuesday that they had until Feb. 28 to sign on. "If we don't more forward, shame on us," said Woody Woodraska, a consultant hired by the district to oversee planning. "It's the last remaining inexpensive water in Florida."
More than a dozen utility representatives discussed the ambitious project, known as the C-51 Reservoir Project, which calls for building a massive reservoir in western Palm Beach county to capture storm water that is currently flushed into the Lake Worth Lagoon. The water would be sent to communities in southern Palm Beach County and Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
From its start, the project required cooperation and commitment from a patchwork of utilities, water managers and a controversial mining company -- all with separate motives and needs -- to make the plan work.
The project could provide up to 175 million gallons of water a day to the counties. However, only a handful of communities have signed on -- not nearly enough to make the project viable.
The South Florida Water Management District, Palm Beach County and Fort Lauderdale have agreed to partner with the Lake Worth Drainage District. Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Pompano Beach, Dania, Plantation and Margate have signed non-binding agreements to participate.
But big water consumers, such as Florida Power & Light, Broward and Miami-Dade have not signed on.
The board of directors of the Lake Worth Drainage District -- which has spent $350,000 studying and pushing the project -- set the deadline for potential users to sign on and Woodraska said the participants will be asked to pony up between $25,000 and $50,000 to offset planning costs.
It was a tough sell to the utility representatives who would have to take it to their bosses -- ultimately the public.
"I cannot sell it with these numbers here," said Reddy Chitepu, Director of Environmental and Engineering Services in Margate, whose city will not need the additional water for 15 years. "For us to come up with this kind of money now -- we don't know how the economics are going to work out."
Ernie Cox, a spokesman for mining company Palm Beach Aggregates, explained that cost estimates rose because the planned capacity of the reservoir on the company's site grew substantially, from a volume of 15-billion to 24-billion gallons of water, due to better estimates of future demand. In addition, the larger reservoir size required much larger pumps -- capable of moving twice as much water.
Water quality issues also troubled officials at the meeting.
Some canals in Palm Beach County have been classified "impaired" because of low oxygen, high coliform and elevated nutrient concentrations. That raises concerns about the ability to transfer water from LWDD canals to cleaner Broward County canals without violating state or federal water quality standards, the report said, and about the "potential need for alternative distribution routes, or additional treatment"
"Until we have a guarantee of what we're getting for the money, we can't go to the commission and ask for the money," said Randy Brown, the utility director in Pompano Beach. "Are water quality costs going to increase the cost?"
Bevin Beaudet, head of Palm Beach County's water utility, agreed. "That's a big unknown," he said.
Beaudet supports the project but said he "wants to see more interest from other utilities."
Although not discussed at Tuesday's meeting, the study also raised concerns about the amount of water that would be lost to seepage. Analysis showed that during the dry season, the amount of water that seeped through the canal bed as the water headed south was nearly as much -- and sometimes as much -- as the additional water pumped from the reservoir.

120201-b






120201-b
Environmentalists accuse Florida congressman of siding with ‘polluter-lobbyists’
American Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
February 1, 2012
A coalition of Florida environmental groups is speaking out against a new bill introduced by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, that would, he says, “empower Florida officials, rather than bureaucrats at the EPA” to implement water pollution standards.
The numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards designed to restrict waste in Florida waterways, were initially mandated by the EPA, following a lawsuit bought by environmental groups. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has since drafted its own rules as a lower-cost alternative to the more stringent federal regulations, but they must still be approved by the state lcallegislature and the EPA.
In a recent interview with Southeast AgNet, Southerland said the federal rules would be “terribly dangerous” for Florida, and could cost the state close to 50,000 agricultural jobs alone. On Monday, Southerland announced that he was introducing a bill to “empower Florida officials, rather than bureaucrats at the EPA,” to set their numeric nutrient standards for state waters.
Environmentalists call the bill “a gift to polluter-lobbyists and an insult to Florida businesses and residents who suffer the effects of nauseating toxic algae outbreaks year after year.”
“Rep. Southerland is out of step with the Floridians he is supposed to represent,” Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller said in a press release.“He should be helping the people who make their living from tourism instead of doing favors for the people who want to keep using our public waters as their private sewers.”
The Federation is a member of the Florida Water Coalition, along with Earthjustice, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper. In December, the Coalition challenged the state’s version of the nutrient criteria, arguing that the standards are so poor they “would actually be less protective” than no standards at all.
“Rep. Southerland just doesn’t get it. He needs to get out more, and see how these nasty algae outbreaks are wrecking tourism, making people sick and killing fish and manatees,” Fuller said. “Instead of addressing this public health threat, Rep. Southerland is selling out the public and doing the bidding of polluter-lobbyists. That’s a shame.”
According to the Coalition, more than 11,000 people have written the White House in support of the EPA’s limits in the past two weeks. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen (which come from sewage, manure, fertilizer and industry waste) feed the damaging toxic algae outbreaks that continually plague Florida waters.
Just last week, an algal bloom nearly two miles long on the Caloosahatchee began disrupting outdoor plans

120201-c







UAV

UAV launch for a photo
mission monitoring
invasive plants in the
Everglades


120201-c
Jacksonville District's UAV program soars
www.army.mil - by John H. Campbell, USACE
February 1, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 1, 2012) -- "All right guys, going into take-off mode. You are hot!"
Everyone aboard the airboat grows quiet. It's the moment they've been anticipating after hours of preparation that started shortly after dawn on this late November day. Biologist Jon Morton has been leading the team through pre-operational checks.
"Three…two…one…launch!"
The pilot flips a switch on a remote control. Suddenly, the sound of a high-speed propeller fills the air around Eagle Bay at Lake Okeechobee. A small airplane that looks like a toy is thrown skyward. Only this airplane is no toy. It's an important piece of equipment that helps Morton and other biologists track the effectiveness of their efforts on invasive plants.
The NOVA Unmanned Aerial Vehicle offers the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a low-cost method of obtaining pictures from the air for a wide variety of applications.
"The NOVA has been developed to provide a technological edge for us," said Larry Taylor, NOVA Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, program manager. "Its specialty is detecting and monitoring change over time. We have used it for levee monitoring. We have detected anomalies in the levees that weren't detected by ground observation."
In addition to the levee monitoring the NOVA has also been used for wildlife surveys, regulatory permit reconnaissance, invasive species contract assessments and invasive species acreage estimation.
On this day, the NOVA is flying over hundreds of acres at Eagle Bay, gathering information for the invasive species management program.
"We do a lot of invasive aquatic plant work," said Morton, "Eagle Bay is one of the areas we have to manage more intensely and work with other agencies because this area is a high priority for the endangered Everglades Snail Kite. We wanted to get a snapshot view of what it looked like at this time of year."
The pilot smoothly guides the UAV upward. Morton checks a computer.
"Altitude 18, air speed 11, battery 18-6," he says, pleased that the aircraft is picking up speed and altitude.
Morton likes the detailed photography the UAV provides.
"We're trying to get two-and-a-half-centimeter resolution, which will allow us to map out and tell exactly what species of plants are growing in the area," Morton said. "Before the NOVA was available, we just had to take imagery that was obtained through U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, or hire a private contractor."
"We didn't get nearly the resolution that we can with the NOVA," Morton said. "We're able to fly more rapidly. We're able to fly cheaper. We can deploy it from an airboat. We've used it from a swamp buggy. We can launch it from the back of a truck."
The NOVA makes a pass in the sky overhead. However, it quickly becomes a small speck as it flies toward its next turning point, more than a mile away from the controllers on the ground.
"Turning to the north," Morton says, "increasing the air speed to 16 meters per second."
The NOVA weighs 11 pounds, which includes its payload of a high-resolution camera, its on-board computer, and a global positioning system. The pilot uses a remote control to guide the plane during takeoff and landing. When in the air, the plane flies a route according to the instructions that were programmed on the ground station computer prior to takeoff.
"We're taking steps to use some of the technology that's available to us today, that people are only familiar with in military terms," said Morton. "This is an actual civilian application for unmanned systems."
"It's not a tactical tool," said Taylor. "It's not designed for the fighting Soldier to loft it and see if there are bad guys over the hill. The payload we carry is high-resolution, versus low-resolution, with on-board data storage because the mass of data that we gather cannot easily be transported in real time back to our ground station. It's more of a precision-mapping tool."
Development of the NOVA was a joint venture between the Corps of Engineers and aerospace engineers from the University of Florida. The NOVA is made of hybrid fiberglass and a carbon-fiber composite. Rechargeable lithium-polymer batteries supply power to the electric motor that operates the propeller.
"One of the key things about the development of this tool, since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan program was one of the initial targets for it, it had to be developed as a waterproof tool," said Taylor. "It works extremely well in wet environments. It can land safely on the water, and it can take off and land in very small areas"
The pilot resumes control of the NOVA and begins guiding it in circles toward its final descent. As it emerges into view, it seems to hang in the air for a moment, as the pilot works the controls to slow it down and guide it toward a soft landing on the water.
"Altitude 13," Morton says.
All grows quiet again, except for Morton's status updates and the occasional sound of the NOVA motor as the pilot keeps it in the air as long as possible, guiding the plane as close as possible to the airboat. The NOVA finally splashes gently into the lake, the motor of the airboat cranks up, and the crew quickly retrieves the plane.
"Its primary mission started off as being a CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan) resource," said Taylor, "but we have since found that it is applicable to many other Corps activities, like invasive species monitoring and construction monitoring and Regulatory reconnaissance. We're in the process of expanding its use for beach re-nourishment projects, and we're getting inquiries from other Corps districts for various activities."
Taylor also points out the financial benefits from the information the NOVA is able to provide.
"We've detected invasive species change, and the effectiveness of treatments on the invasive plants, Taylor said. "That helps us save taxpayer dollars because we can actually monitor contract effectiveness to determine if the monies are being spent in the right place and if the treatments are effective or not."
The mission complete, the team can fly the exact path again if they desire at some point in the future, as the coordinates of the flight have been stored in the computer.
"We can reproduce our flights by reusing the same program in a flight and fly it again in six months or six years, said Taylor. "We can fly over the exact same course with a great degree of precision, which is one of the things that allow us to detect change over time."

120201-d






120201-d
Language change in state bill would keep reclaimed water in districts' control
The Pam Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 1, 2012
Environmentalists battling a bill they feared would lead to the privatization of Florida's water supply exhaled today after a House committee approved an amendment that will not change the definition of public water.
"It is a victory," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, a staunch opponent of HB 639. "Now we don't have this kind of, what was almost a radical re-write, an undermining of the state's core water policy."
The bill's original language would have radically changed who controls reclaimed water - the water produced from treating sewage. Although reclaimed water is not clean enough to drink, it is indispensable to sustain the state's multibillion dollar agriculture industry, along with golf courses, landscaping and industrial needs.
Under current law, reclaimed water is included in the definition of "waters of the state" - a public resource to be used for the public good. That allowed water management districts to oversee and regulate its use. HB 639 would have removed reclaimed water from the definition, thereby giving control of its use to the utilities that either produce or manufacture reclaimed water.
Opponents argued that removing reclaimed water from the list of "waters of the state" would be an apocalyptic step toward privatizing water. Environmental needs, such as restoring wetlands, would be ignored and water would become a private commodity to be bought and sold to those with the deepest pockets.
Utilities said they need certainty that the product they manufacture will not be given away by the water management districts. Without that certainty, there is no incentive to increase their production of reclaimed water.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection endorsed the bill, saying that encouraging utilities to produce more reclaimed water means less water would be pulled from wellfields and aquifers.
After weeks of meetings, the State Affairs Subcommittee approved a compromise amendment that appeases environmentalists by keeping reclaimed water in the definition of "waters of the state" and utilities by not requiring permits to use reclaimed water.
"I think both sides got what they wanted," said Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, which opposed the bill. "We're hoping this is it."

120201-e







(Mouseover/CLICK
to enlarge)

Gulf Dead Zone

This NASA image
shows sediments in the
Gulf of Mexico taken by
the Aqua satellite in
Sept. 2002.
The director of Global
Water Watch hopes a
new student project will
help reduce the farm
runoff that is a growing
pollution threat to the
Gulf of Mexico.
Nitrogen and
phosphorus pollutants
from the farms end up
on a huge scale in the
Gulf, where an 8,000-
square-mile "dead zone"
forms annually off the
Louisiana and Texas
coasts as one result.



120201-e
Second Gulf of Mexico dead zone stretches from Louisiana to Alabama
al.com
February 1, 2012
NEW ORLEANS — A new study finds that Louisiana's second Gulf of Mexico dead zone stretches at least from the Chandeleur Sound off Louisiana to Alabama's Dauphin Island — and could be bigger.
John Lopez, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said Wednesday that the foundation was able to check only as far as the Mississippi-Alabama state line in 2011, but officials hope to get other states to extend the reach of studies that will start later in February.
In 2010, the foundation checked a 1,050-square-mile area in the Chandeleur Sound and found that it held too little oxygen to support life. The area found last July was 250 square miles.
"This is four times larger than the region found in 2010, because a much larger area was surveyed," Lopez wrote in a news release. A wider look is likely to find a still bigger area, possibly extending into the area off the Florida Panhandle, he said in an interview.
Monthly checks at two waterbottom sites off of Alabama, 12 and 25 miles out in the Gulf, also have found low oxygen levels "with some regularity" during the summer, said Ron Kiene, a marine sciences professor at the University of South Alabama and a faculty member at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Another half-dozen stations closer to shore occasionally show hypoxia, he said.
He said he'd like to get more data from across the region to see if such areas are patchy or more extensive.
Ocean currents and geology make hypoxia unlikely off of Florida, said Lisa E. Osterman, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Unlike Mobile Bay, where records of fish "jubilees" caused by hypoxia go back nearly 150 years, Osterman's own studies of Apalachicola Bay, Fla., haven't found any evidence of past hypoxia. Florida's water is largely groundwater, so there's little runoff to create a layer of lighter fresh water on top of the salty water — a necessary part of developing a dead zone, she said.
Lopez also said Wednesday that he now thinks that lack of ocean currents in the area may play a bigger part than river water in creating the Chandeleur Sound dead zone than they do in the much larger one that forms every year west of the Mississippi River, which averages more than 5,000 square miles.
"The boot of Louisiana juts out into the Gulf of Mexico and creates a corner between the Louisiana marshes and the barrier islands and the Mississippi coast. Looking at models of the ocean and Gulf currents, it appears that those currents don't come into that corner," he said. "It certainly could be a factor and may turn out to be the dominant factor, rather than enriched nutrients carried into the Gulf shoreline."
Layered, still water and nutrients are both essential factors, Osterman said.
Oxygen gets into the ocean from the air, mixed in by winds, waves and currents. Fresh water is lighter than salt water, and river water carries in nutrients that feed the growth of tiny plants and animals that fall to the sea floor when they die. If the water is so calm that water stays layered, the decomposition of that plankton uses up oxygen in the saltier layer and the cap of lighter water gets all the oxygen.
Osterman agreed that lack of ocean currents is a big factor. "That whole Mississippi Sound area is kind of cut off from the general circulation," she said. "It is very isolated in that little area."
The Mississippi Sound also has a history of hypoxia, she said: Studies using sediment cores have found evidence of previous low-oxygen episodes within the last 50 years. "It's not like, 'Wow, this is something that never happened before,'" she said.
In 2010, scientists thought that opening a Mississippi River diversion — part of an attempt to keep oil from the BP spill out of state waters — might have caused the hypoxia found that year near the Chandeleurs.
Although the Bonnet Carre Spillway poured fresh water and nutrients into Lake Pontchartrain after it was opened during last spring's record floods, Lopez said he didn't think it had a big role in last year's dead zone.
He said there weren't any algae blooms in the lake itself, and the nutrients that might cause such blooms would be more diluted in the Sound 40 to 50 miles east. The fresher layer of water also was only marginally less salty than the lower water, he said, with 30 parts of salt per thousand of water.
"Sea water's about 35 parts per thousand. Fresh water would be zero or very close to that," he said. "So the upper layer that we saw, which is fresher, was actually still more Gulf sea water."
The Army Corps of Engineers began opening the spillway May 9, and didn't close the last of 330 opened bays until June 20.
That date was late enough that "there could be some link, if that was the case," Osterman said.
Even as far as 35 miles off of Alabama, Kiene said, river water could make enough difference in the Gulf's salinity to allow hypoxia to develop — especially since the less salty water would be hot in the summer while that at the bottom is cold and therefore more dense.

120201-f







reservoir

Does the reservoir
construction go hand-
in-hand with an
expansion of mining
activities ?
Most probably.

120201-f
South Florida utilities being asked to commit to $1 billion reservoir
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 1, 2012
Cost of boosting drinking water supplies would trickle down to water bills.
A $1 billion price tag threatens to sink a proposed reservoir unless more Broward and Palm Beach County utilities agree to help pay, project backers said Tuesday.
Newly released estimates show it would cost $700 million to $1 billion – more than twice the cost once expected – to build a reservoir in Palm Beach County that could boost drinking water supplies as far away as Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The cost eventually would trickle down to the water bills of the customers of utilities that tap into the reservoir.
South Florida utilities are being asked to approve agreements endorsing the project, which would be followed by commitments to help pay it.
But the growing price tag, along with a history of problems completing other South Florida reservoirs, could stall this latest version of a water-sharing proposal that has been about six years in the making.
"This is a little bit of sticker shock," said Alan Garcia, Broward County director of water and wastewater services. "The cost caught a lot of us off guard."
There are too few guarantees about the quantity and quality of water for communities to "open up the wallet" to pay for the reservoir, said Randy Brown, Pompano Beach utilities director.
Despite the rising cost estimates, reservoir supporters contend that storing stormwater now drained out to sea remains the most cost effective solution to meeting long-term drinking-water supply needs.
"This is the last remaining inexpensive water in all of South Florida," said John "Woody" Wodraska, project consultant for the Lake Worth Drainage District. "We've just got to reach out and grab it."
Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, Boynton Beach, Margate and Palm Beach County are among a coalition of utilities that have pledged initial support for exploring the possibility of building a new reservoir.
The new reservoir would collect some of the stormwater that now drains out to sea. Estimates show that during droughts, the reservoir could deliver about 185 million gallons of water a day to boost drinking water supplies.
The water would be delivered through canals managed by the Lake Worth Drainage District, which is also proposing to borrow the money to build the reservoir. Utility ratepayers would pay off the long-term debt.
The proposal calls for building a 24 billion-gallon reservoir west of Royal Palm Beach at Palm Beach Aggregates – the rock mining company that also built a previous smaller $217 million reservoir for the South Florida Water Management District.
The existing 15-billion-gallon reservoir at Palm Beach Aggregates is full of water, but still doesn't include $60 million pumps needed to deliver the water.
South Florida taxpayers also already invested nearly $280 million in an unfinished 62-billion-gallon reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County that the water management district shelved after changing Everglades restoration plans.
The Lake Worth Drainage District contends it already spent about $350,000 to advance the reservoir proposal and wants South Florida utilities to each commit to about $25,000 to $50,000 each for the next phase of planning.

   

yymmdd-y

1202dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text

1202dd-z

1202dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text

 

   

  2009-2014, Boya Volesky
E-mail: evergladeshub@gmail.com

TOP of PAGE