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Many South Florida anglers ignore mercury warnings
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler and Steve Waters
March 30, 2012
Every day, anglers across South Florida reel in swordfish, king mackerel, largemouth bass and other fish that contain high amounts of mercury.
But many of those casting lines from boats, piers and bridges don't know about the state's detailed recommendations against eating too much of these species or don't take them seriously. Although Florida has one of the worst mercury problems in the United States, the Florida Department of Health lacks the money to distribute its consumption advisories, which set limits by species and body of water. The department posts the material online, where critics say it's too hard to find and too complicated.
Many charter captains and other experienced anglers discount the warnings anyway, saying they never got sick, they don't know anyone who got sick and no one eats a particular species frequently enough to receive a dangerous dose of mercury.
"I was told you'd pretty much have to eat fish every day for a year to build up enough mercury in your system to hurt you," said Capt. Jimbo Beran, of the drift fishing boat Helen S at the Hillsboro Inlet Marina. "That's what I tell my customers when I clean fish for them, you have to eat it every day. I've never heard of anyone having a problem."
Health authorities encourage people to eat more fish, not less, because it's highly nutritious, can improve cardiac health and provides benefits to the developing fetus. And they say most South Florida species are safe to eat. But some species – generally large predators – need to be consumed with caution.
At Lake Delevoe, a broad expanse of water just south of Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, the state recommends limiting consumption of five species. But Chester Jackson, 53, who was fishing from a pier Friday morning, said he's never heard of the advisories.
"When times were hard, you'd go out here and catch a meal," he said. "I never got sick from anything I caught in this lake. We used to fish here in the 90s. No one got sick."
Mercury, a metallic element discharged by coal-fired power plants, can build up in the human body over years, causing neurological problems, including memory loss and personality disorders. It presents the greatest danger to children, pregnant women and women who plan to become pregnant because it can damage the nervous system of the developing child.


Local Refuge Manager Honored - by Tom Palmer
March 30, 2012
Charlie Pelizza, manager of a number federal wildlife refuges, including Lake Wales Ridge NWR in Polk and Highlands counties, was honored recently by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Pelizza was specifically honored for his work setting the groundwork for the establishment of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Kissimmee Basin, which was formally dedicated earlier this year.
Pelizza was credited for working with a variety of interest groups to get consensus. He also manages Pelican Island and Archie Carr refuges.



Daniel DeLISI
Member of the SFMD
Governing Board

DeLisi tells Committee that Caloosahatchee Estuary solutions are difficult, slow process
Sanibel-Captiva Islander – by Jim Linette, Reporter, Captiva Current,
March 29, 2012
The Committee of the Islands members and guests got an eye-opening look at what is in store for the Caloosahatchee River Estuary in the near and distant future.
Daniel DeLisi, member of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board since May 2011, addressed the group's annual meeting at The Community House on March 22. His message was that progress is being made, but is a frustratingly slow process that likely will take many, many years before the health of the estuary is fully restored.
"The construction of the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir is one step toward a long term goal," said DeLisi. "Our only way out of this mess is to partner with other state groups to come up with imperfect solutions to get on the way to our end goal."
The "mess" is rooted in the decision in the 1880s to drain the Everglades and redirect the water for development and agricultural purposes.
At that time, the Caloosahatchee River was not connected to Lake Okeechobee designed to stop water from moving south. Once connected to Lake O by a series of canals, the on-again, off-again flows downstream to Lee County has been devastating to the environment. Too much water flowing into the Caloosahatchee hurts the health of the estuary. During dry spells, too little water is released.
The C-43 Reservoir Project is a 170,000 acre-foot storage project set on 10,000 acres of former farmland in Hendry County west of LaBelle to help alleviate the fight over damaging releases. SFWMD acquired the land and has completed construction of reservoir test cells as well as designing the levee construction. Permits have been issued, but actual construction of the reservoir could take years.
"It's 170,000 acre-foot of storage, but the estuary needs more than 450,000 acre-foot of storage, but we can't buy our way out of this," said DeLisi. "We are now getting a positive dialog and making progress. We need C-43 online."
The C-43 Reservoir will capture and store stormwater runoff as well as store federal regulatory water releases from Lake Okeechobee. During dry season, the project will provide fresh water and nutrients to the estuary that supports recreational and commercial fisheries. It aims to eliminate the destructive massive water releases from Lake Okeechobee of several years ago that caused algae blooms and fish kills in the Caloosahatchee all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and Sanibel.
"We learned a lot after Hurricane Charley in 2004," said Committee of the Islands president Barbara Cooley. "After Charley great harm came to our community with massive releases."
The Caloosahatchee estuary took a major hit recently when the SFWMD governing board voted 7-2 against releasing beneficial releases to the river for the next 30 days when the Lake O water level dips below a standard already established.
Despite last year's destructive toxic algae blooms that occurred when all releases were cut off, the board voted to do it again even though other water users are not restricted.
DeLisi, one of the two votes to release water, admitted he has had an education since his appointment.
"We need to tone down the rhetoric and look for creative solutions," said DeLisi.
In addition to projects like the C-43 reservoir, some solutions include a water storage effort that pays agricultural landowners to store water on their properties to mitigate seasonal flooding; and water filtering systems that retain water until needed, such as one now operating in Lehigh Acres.
The Committee of the Islands also elected officers and board members. Board members David Bath, Barbara Cooley, Mike Gillespie, Claire Mallon, Bud Reinhold and Larry Schopp were elected to serve a second two-year term. Cooley was elected to continue serving as president, Gillespie as vice president, Reinhold as treasurer and Bath as secretary.
Information about the committee is available online at


Everglades needs "polluter pays"
Sun Sentinel
March 29, 2012
Speak up if you're aware Florida has a constitutional amendment protecting the Everglades from pollution. If all you hear are crickets, it's understandable.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that this "polluter pays" amendment hasn't done much to help the famed River of Grass. For an issue so important, it's unacceptable this part of Florida law remains so obscure.
But that's the most troubling finding of an Everglades Foundation study released this week. The report shows 76 percent of the phosphorus entering the Everglades comes from agricultural interests south of Lake Okeechobee, but those
Florida Constitution
SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty
(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.
(b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution.
For the purposes of this subsection, the terms “Everglades Protection Area” and “Everglades Agricultural Area” shall have the meanings as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.

        History.—Am. by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State March 26, 1996;
        adopted 1996; Am. proposed by Constitution Revision Commission, Revision No. 5,
        1998, filed with the Secretary of State May 5, 1998; adopted 1998.
polluters only pay 24 percent of the cost of removing the pollution. The rest comes from taxpayers in the form of local, state and federal taxes.
At first glance, the study seems little more than another salvo in the ongoing political skirmish between agriculture and environmentalists. But that shouldn't minimize the ecosystem's importance, or the forceful application of a constitutional amendment designed to protect it.
The Everglades is a rare ecosystem home to a rich variety of plants, birds and other wildlife. Besides a natural wonder, the River of Grass is an important economic resource for Florida. One estimate puts the economic benefits at roughly a $4 return on every $1 invested in restoration efforts. Lastly, and immensely critical, the Everglades is the source of daily drinking water for one of every three Floridians.
South Florida, Florida's most populated area, would be a far different place without the Everglades.
Clearly the overwhelming burden on taxpayers is unconstitutional, even if not well understood. In 1996, voters sent a clear message by placing the responsibility for addressing pollution problems in the Everglades squarely on polluters. The "polluter pays" amendment makes polluters "primarily" responsible for paying clean-up costs. You wouldn't know it reading the Everglades Foundation study, or seeing the distribution of clean-up costs.
The study lays much of the blame on South Florida's agricultural interests, most notably Big Sugar. Officials at Florida Crystals, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and U.S. Sugar, dispute that.
The study also belies the notion the bulk of the pollution starts in agricultural areas north of Lake Okeechobee, where cattle ranchers and others have also been suspected of polluting waters is entering the lake. That conclusion adds to the ire of farmers and agribusinesses south of the lake, particularly those that continue to pay $200 million in taxes to operate in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
The timing of the report's release, though, couldn't be better. Gov. Rick Scott and state leaders are in talks with the Obama administration to reach a compromise with the federal Environmental Protection Administration on water nutrient rules.
Florida hasn't met federal water nutrient pollution standards, and state officials argue they can't afford to do so. The two sides are now talking but the study hasn't helped the state's cause.
What would help is for Gov. Scott's administration to take the "polluter pay" amendment much more seriously and determine how polluters — be they agricultural or urban — can pay their constitutionally mandated share.


In the Everglades, Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Industry's Mess - by Erika Eichelberger
March 29, 2012
The fragile wetlands of the Everglades have long been choked by pollution, especially phosphorus from fertilizers used in industrial agriculture. Sugar cane in particular makes up the largest share of the crop land that drains directly into the national park. But a new study shows that despite the fact that the preponderance of gunk feeding into the Everglades comes from agriculture, it is the taxpayers, not the industry, who fork over for clean up.
The study, which was commissioned by the Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to protect the complex ecosystem, finds that although the agricultural industry is responsible for 76 percent of phosphorus contamination in the Everglades (the rest being urban runoff and wastewater), it pays only 24 percent of the cost of dealing with it. Even though Florida's "polluter pays" amendment requires those who sully the wetlands to be "primarily responsible" for its cleanup, legislators have declined to enforce the law, sticking taxpayers with 66 percent of the bill.
Why this state of affairs ?   "It's a little secret that the sugar industry is one of the most generous political donors on every level of government," says Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. The US Sugar Corporation spent $907,000 to lobby the Florida legislature in 2011 alone, and its rival Florida Crystals wasn't far behind, doling out $570,000.
The sugar daddies quickly issued a statement calling the study "hocus pocus." Gov. Scott's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Last year the governor cut funds for Everglades water clean up, and the Sunshine State has been fighting a legal battle with the feds for years over its responsibility to pay for pollution abatement in federally-managed areas of the Glades. Gov. Scott is currently in negotiations with the Obama administration to draft a new version of a decade-old state and federal restoration project.
Could the study shift the balance of payments ?  Fordham thinks so. "Rick Scott ran on a platform of protecting the taxpayer, and there would be no better way to follow through on that commitment than to demand that polluters pay more than taxpayers."


Everglades Foundation study finds that polluters don’t always clean up after themselves
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
March 28, 2012
According to a recently released study by the Everglades Foundation, the agriculture industry is responsible for 76 percent of the phosphorus pollution entering the Everglades. But despite passage of a “Polluter Pays” amendment to the state Constitution in 1996, the ag industry isn’t paying for even half of the cost of phosphorus removal, leaving the balance of the burden on the shoulders of taxpayers.
According to the study, agriculture contributes about 76 percent of the total phosphorus entering the Everglades, and pays only 24 percent of the costs of removing that phosphorus. Residential/commercial/industrial rate payers fund 10 percent of the cost and the remaining 66 percent is passed on to taxpayers.
As The Florida Independent has previously reported, nutrients like phosphorus are harmful to state waterways, because they lead to or exacerbate large-scale algal blooms and fish kills. In Northeast Florida, a string of dolphin deaths was even attributed by some to the overwhelming nutrient load in the St. Johns River.
Though it has a storied past, and is often thought to be one of the most pristine parts of Florida, the Everglades is suffering from a host of problems exacerbated by agricultural practices.
Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area use sulfate as a fertilizer counter-ion and to increase the acidity of the soil, making fertilizer more readily available to plants, which take in sulfate through their roots. A previous report found that that sulfate, when combined with naturally occurring mercury, creates methylmercury — a substance that some say is to blame for population declines of several Everglades species, including wading birds. Sulfate is currently unregulated in the area.
Phosphorus is also used readily by Agricultural Area farmers and is currently governed by a narrative standard, which states that, “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 federal government has mandated that Florida adopt a more stringent set of criteria governing nutrients like phosphorus, but that mandate has been hotly contested by the agricultural industry (and, often by lawmaker who have received hefty donations from the agricultural industry).
The Everglades Foundation study reveals a trend: The agricultural industry is continuing to inundate the Everglades with both sulfur and phosphorus, but failing to clean up after themselves. The report reveals that about 76 percent of the total phosphorus entering the Everglades comes from agriculture, while 23 percent comes from urban areas. The remaining 1 percent originates from natural areas.
Other key findings of the study:
● Within the South Florida Water Management District, agriculture discharges 1,449 metric tons of phosphorus and 12,845 tons of nitrogen into surface water.
● Of the 216 metric tons of phosphorus reaching the Stormwater Treatment Areas, manmade wetlands that are specifically designed to filter pollution before it enters the Everglades, only 28 metric tons are coming from Lake Okeechobee.
● Wastewater treatment facilities — in residential, commercial and industrial sectors — remove 93 percent of the total phosphorus they produce each year, and account for 16 percent of the total phosphorus load to the environment within the South Florida Water Management District.
● Residential, commercial and industrial sectors pay 99 percent of the cost to remove the phosphorus they produce, and remove 93 percent of the phosphorus they produce within the South Florida Water Management District.
● It costs $47 to remove 1 pound of phosphorus with best management practices and $350 per pound to remove it with Stormwater Treatment Areas. By comparison, it costs less than $10 per pound to add phosphorus as fertilizer.
The report’s findings are somewhat surprising, given the passage of Florida’s “Polluter Pays” amendment in 1996. The amendment, which passed with 68 percent of the public’s vote, states that those who produce pollution that flows to the Everglades must be “primarily” responsible for paying the cost of its cleanup.
In a statement, Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, says that he hopes the study will “begin a conversation among policy makers, conservation leaders, sugar company executives and other agricultural industry leaders on how to more equitably pay for the cost of cleaning up pollution impacting the Everglades.”


Volusia trail

Elam Stoltzfus kayaking


Public invited to expedition's Blue Spring stop
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition will spend day 73 of the 100-day journey at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, where the community is invited to join the team to talk about water and enjoy a little paddling and snorkeling.
The event - - Thursday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., features two speakers from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection: Drew Bartlett, director of the Environmental Assessment and Restoration division, and Deborah Shelley, manager of the Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve.
Participants are invited to take a lunch or buy one at the camp store and join the team for lunch, then swimming and paddling. A park ranger will lead a hike.
Admission to Blue Spring, 2100 W. French Ave., is $6 per car.
The expedition team also will be at the Florida Black Bear Festival on Saturday in Umatilla. The festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park, 4 Cassady St.

Explorers traverse Volusia conservation lands
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver, Environment Writer
March 28, 2012
For the past 10 days, a trio of explorers has paddled, hiked and biked though Volusia County conservation lands and farms, moving north on a 100-day, 1,000-mile expedition to highlight plans for a corridor of natural lands and waterways from Florida Bay to the Okefenokee Swamp.
The public can meet the three members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition on Thursday at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, their final stop in Volusia County. They've worked their way through the Volusia portion of the Volusia-Flagler Conservation Corridor and will now head toward the Ocala National Forest.
A little leaner and a lot tanner than when they began Jan. 16, expedition members marvel at the wonders of the natural landscapes they've experienced. The group includes conservation photographer Carlton Ward Jr., cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus and bear biologist Joe Guthrie.
The trio wanted to prove that the hoped-for corridor of protected, linked lands is still possible in Florida, a way for large animals such as black bears and panthers to move around and find food. They also hope to prompt the state's residents to get outdoors and support protection of that ecological corridor.
"We wanted to give people a sense of place and a sense of responsibility about that place," said Guthrie, 32.
They've inspected panther and bear tracks, eaten fish caught in the St. Johns River and experienced firsthand the gauntlet that wild animals run trying to cross busy highways such as Interstate 4.
The expedition arrived in the southern tip of Volusia County on March 19, paddling north in the St. Johns River past flocks of roseate spoonbills and white pelicans and forests of cabbage palms and cedars. After camping two nights on St. Johns River Water Management District lands along the Econlockhatchee River, a tributary to the St. Johns, the group arrived in Volusia again on March 21.
They paddled up Deep Creek, a planned conservation area on the Miami Corp. timber farm and started biking and hiking through the Volusia Conservation Corridor. Their journey makes them the first people to explore the entire length of the corridor in Volusia since the water district and county bought two of the last remaining large tracts in 2010 and 2011.
State and local officials have worked for nearly 20 years to piece together the 80,000-acre corridor through Volusia and southern Flagler, either buying the land or buying development rights, such as the conservation easement purchased on part of the LeFils family ranch. The expedition camped on the ranch in Osteen on Friday night.
Ward, a 36-year-old conservation photographer, is particularly interested in the survival of Florida agriculture and the role family farms and ranches can play in protecting a corridor of undeveloped lands through the state. He became interested in efforts to link a statewide network of greenways while working on a photo book about Florida ranching.
Ward was especially happy to welcome the state's agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, to the expedition on March 19. Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi paddled with the group for a couple of hours.
Putnam said the expedition is important because "a lot of the lands that support endangered and threatened species of animals and are terrific water recharge areas are also private lands - lands that are working cattle ranches and other farms - that have great environmental benefits."
The corridor is not just a collection of state-owned lands, Putnam said, but a quilt of state-owned lands, private lands with conservation easements and lands that are privately owned, managed and operated without any kind of public assistance, which "continue to support jobs and economic activity."
For Ward, Guthrie and Stoltzfus, the trip has been grueling at times as they pushed through fatigue to hike and paddle through good weather and foul, eating mostly backpack fare such as tuna fish and ramen noodles. They paddled and poled through the Everglades and endured a few harrowing events such as poling through Snake River Slough after dark, unable to find their intended campsite.
They flew the entire route before starting the trip, but soon found things often look very different when a "canyon of cattails" towers overhead or a major cold front sets the entire surface of a lake up in large waves that threaten to swamp the kayaks.
"Even the marsh was going up and down," Stoltzfus said of their paddle across two miles of Lake Kissimmee in Osceola County. "It almost made you sick. But our escape from the Shark River Slough was probably the toughest."
The expedition team includes four people, but the fourth, Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, accepted a job out of state and has only been able to join the others occasionally. She will rejoin the team today and be at Blue Spring on Thursday.
Guthrie and Ward started plotting the expedition shortly after Ward and Tom Hoctor formed the nonprofit Florida Wildlife Corridor to try to build support for state and federal efforts to preserve the greenways network. But it was a couple of years before all the pieces fell into place. Ward and the others spent more than a year raising money.
In the meantime, important pieces of the corridor were falling into place through federal, state and local land preservation efforts.
"Some people thought it might be out of reach," Ward said, "but remarkable things have happened in the past two years," things that give him "a lot of hope."
First, a federal program was announced to restore and protect 27,000 acres of wetlands along Fisheating Creek in Highlands County.
Then, Guthrie obtained data from a bear with a tracking collar that had walked from Sebring in Highlands County almost to Celebration, then south to Okeechobee and west to Babcock Ranch. Ward said the bear practically mapped out the corridor for them.
In 2011, the Interior Department announced creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, with a plan to conserve 150,000 acres.
The trio celebrated the halfway point of the trip emerging from the northern end of the Everglades.
"That was epic," said Stoltzfus, 52, who plans a documentary. On Day 51, they visited the first parcel of the new Everglades Headwaters refuge.
Ward said they've also enjoyed "magical" experiences, admiring stars from the sawgrass in the Everglades and riding horseback with some of his cowboy heroes.
On the LeFils ranch, they listened to whippoorwills and talked about the family's century of ranching in Osteen.
From there, they hiked through the most recent purchases in the corridor, the former Leffler Ranch and the Kemcho property. They camped at Longleaf Pine Preserve, made a dicey crossing of I-4, and hiked on to Tiger Bay State Forest and the Heart Island Conservation Area.
PHOTOS: Carlton Ward's gallery | Jon Guthrie's gallery


Costs of Everglades cleanup unfair, study says
March 27, 2012
Farmers produces 76 percent of pollutants, pay 24 percent of removal expenses.
Floridians approved an amendment to the state constitution in 1996 that would make those who pollute the Everglades pay for the cleanup.
According to a study released Monday, however, South Florida’s agricultural industry produces 76 percent of the pollutant phosphorus entering the Everglades and pays 24 percent of the cost to remove it, while taxpayers pay 66 percent, and residential, commercial and industrial rate payers pay 10 percent.
“It’s hard to fathom how any honest person could say they’re complying by picking up only 24 percent of the cost,” said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, which financed the study. “State government in its current control is not interested in more regulation, but it is interested in protecting taxpayers. It’s a fair question whether taxpayers or polluters should be paying the bill.”
The study was conducted by RTI International of Durham, N.C., at a cost of $185,000.
Nutrients such as phosphorus, which is found in fertilizers, sewage and animal waste, are a natural part of the environment, but excess nutrients cause micro- and macroalgal blooms in area waters.
Agriculture contributes 217.8 tons of phosphorus to the Everglades a year, and urban runoff contributes 74.5 tons. Agriculture pays $25.4 million a year for phosphorus removal, and taxpayers pay $70 million.
In the Everglades, phosphorus wipes out periphyton, a mixture of algae, bacteria and diatoms that is a base of the food web, Everglades Foundation chief scientist Tom Van Lent said.
“When phosphorus concentrations in the water are above 10 parts per billion, we see fundamental changes in how the Everglades functions,” he said.
“When you add phosphorus, periphyton disappears and is replaced by cattails,” Van Lent said.
Another important Everglades pollutant is nutrient nitrogen.
Among the study’s findings is that the cost of total nutrient removal is $866 million a year.
More than 75 percent of that is paid through private residential and commercial sources, mostly through waste water treatment user fees to residences and businesses. Governmental sources and property taxes account for about 18 percent.


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA.
Runoff from the fields
pollutes Everglades
feed water downstream:

Polluted canal

Big Sugar: Great Destroyers of Florida Foist Costs of Pollution on Taxpayers - by gimleteye
March 27, 2012
One of the repeated claims by the Unreformable Majority of the Miami-Dade County Commission is what good environmentalists, farmers are. Certainly, some are. They are for the most part small organic farmers. At the county commission meeting of Feb 21st (noted, below), commissioners rose up in a throaty support for farmers wrapped around antagonism to regulations protecting wetlands.
The brain-dead, one-sided meeting provided further ammo to take down the county department charged with environmental regulation. "Farmers are the best environmentalists!"
Here are a few points that extend well beyond Miami-Dade County borders.
Farming in Florida is not like the good old days when sticking a seed in the ground, keeping the soil not too wet and not too dry, was a formula for profit. Today industrial scale agriculture-- like growing sugar cane in 700,000 acres around Lake Okeechobee -- requires thousands of tons of fertilizer and soil amendments each year to grow (highly profitable) crops in exhausted soil.
So when Miami-Dade and other county commissioners get on soap boxes with how farmers are the best environmentalists, living close to the land and all that, know it may be true for a few but it is largely a bunch of crap to the big farmers who run the Farm Bureau. Its business is to balance the risks of farming against the friction of environmental regulations, the uncertainty of loan repayments based on developable potential, and the future value of land as crappy subdivisions.
The bottom line-- Tea Party pay attention here!-- is that scale farm operations are major polluters who use millions of dollars-- earned through farm bill policies tacitly endorsed by voters through politicians they elect-- to shift billions of dollars of pollution costs to taxpayers.
Now, a reality check: in 1996, nearly 70 percent of Florida voters approved an amendment to the Florida constitution requiring sugar farmers to clean up 100 percent of the pollution they cause in the Everglades. Keep that number in your head. How did that work out for nearly 70 percent of Florida voters who voted for billions of dollars of Everglades cleanup to be assessed where it belongs ?
A new study funded by the Everglades Foundation, by independent economist firm RTI, shows that in the past decade Big Sugar has only funded 24 percent of the clean up costs associated with Everglades restoration. Not 100 percent as required by state law. The chemical culprit is the same as that used and overused on lawns: the phosphorous component in fertilizer. Phosphorous in quantities greater than 10 parts per billion -- a few grains in a bucket of sand -- kills the Everglades.
Who funds the rest of the multi-billion dollar cost of land acquisition, treatment marshes, and continuous monitoring and operation ? Taxpayers.
Here's another astonishing statistic, to refute the Miami-Dade county commissioners who want to argue who is paying for what.
According to RTI, the cost of treatment marshes and other provisions required to clean up phosphorous once it passes from big sugar lands to public lands is $350 per pound of phosphorous. The cost for "best management practices" that deliver the same benefits if those measures were incorporated by farmers to their farming practices? Only $47 per pound. Think about that, next time you buy a pound of sugar for a couple of bucks. How about them apples?
When farmers say they are good neighbors and complain about excess environmental regulations like those that protect wetlands as harming "jobs", remember who is paying the bill for failing to pay attention. Instead of requiring farmers to keep the phosphorous on their farms and clean it up right there-- requiring them to add $46 to the cost of a pound of phosphorous (the true cost)-- industrial scale farmers figured out a way to get taxpayers to pay 8 times that amount in order to use PUBLIC lands for their sewerage. (You can join Friends of the Everglades, today, fighting these and other inequities and violations of federal law in federal court.)
This leads, then, to another question: why doesn't the state of Florida mandate best management practices that are not only far cheaper but also required both by law and recommended by recent federal court rulings instigated by environmental organizations that protect taxpayer interests? Oooo, there is that word, "mandate"! The GOP hates mandates!
The reason is that farmers-- the best "environmentalists" according to county commissioners in Miami-Dade like Linda Bell and Javier Souto. -- have tied up the Republican majority state legislature in baling wire. (Don't get me wrong: you can count the number of Democrats who have stood up for taxpayer equity and assessing the true costs of pollution on the polluter, on one hand.) Since 1996 the legislature hasn't lifted a finger to enact the specific provisions of what nearly 70 percent of voters approved. If nearly 20 years delay hasn't proved the lie that industry can regulate itself better than government can to public benefit, think again. (You can't defend the Great Destroyers unless the excess mercury caused by Big Ag and running into Florida waters has clouded your thinking processes.)
This would seem an issue ripe for Tea Party involvement. It is not complicated. Failing to protect taxpayers from predatory practices of Big Sugar, the Tea Party badly undermines its own credibility.
So next time you hear county commissioners or anyone else for that matter huff and puff how environmentally friendly Big Sugar is, rub the sleep from your eyes. Thank our small scale, organic farmers: yes. But Big Sugar and its lobbyists turned the climate for environmental regulation into an empty husk, not fit for locusts.


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA

Everglades report points finger at agriculture for cleanup costs
The Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
March 26, 2012
The Everglades Foundation on Monday released a report showing that 76 percent of phosphorous pollution entering the Everglades comes from agricultural operations while that sector pays 24 percent of the cost.
The group says it hopes the findings help Gov. Rick Scott as he negotiates a new Everglades restoration plan with federal agencies. The information also could be used by the Legislature to shift the cost burden more to agricultural interests, Everglades Foundation officials said.
The Everglades ecosystem extends from south of Orlando south to Lake Okeechobee, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from a variety of sources has contributed to some areas of the national park having become choked with cattails.
Sixty-eight percent of Florida voters in 1996 approved a state constitutional amendment requiring that those who cause pollution in the Everglades to be "primarily responsible" for the cost of cleanup. The Everglades Foundation says its report, produced by RTI International, uses public data to help identify who is causing the pollution and who has been paying for the cleanup.
While 24 percent of the money for nutrient removal comes from agricultural sources, 39 percent comes from property taxes collected by the South Florida Water Management District, which operates 45,000 acres of stormwater treatment areas. State and federal governments pay 27 percent and wastewater customers pay 10 percent of the cost.
"I think it's hard to fathom how any honest person could suggest that the big sugar and agricultural interests are complying with the constitutional amendment by picking up only 24 percent of the cost right now," Everglades Foundation Executive Director Kirk Fordham said.
In response, U. S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals Corp. and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida issued a statement condemning the Everglades Foundation for producing studies "resulting in hocus pocus economic conclusions."
"The Everglades Foundation’s report is riddled with so many erroneous assumptions, then hedges the conclusions with an equal number of caveats and uncertainties, that it serves no purpose except to throw mud on productive restoration efforts," the statement said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection in response issued a statement that did not address the cost issues raised in the report. The statement said the report noted progress made on Everglades cleanup and agriculture's role in that effort.
Some sugar industry representatives have said the state should focus more attention on reducing phosphorus and nitrogen pollution in the northern Everglades north of Orlando. But Fordham noted that his group's report says that only about 13 percent of the phosphorus reaching the stormwater treatment areas is coming from Lake Okeechobee.
The Everglades Foundation decided in the fall of 2010 to do the study, so its release after the 2012 legislative session while the governor is negotiating with federal agencies is coincidental, Fordham said.
"I think it really is up to the Legislature to determine how to shift the cost," Fordham said. "If that doesn't take place, then I think taxpayers ought to take a look at whether or not there are other means to guarantee it is enforced."
He added, "Certainly if the question is, is the Everglades Foundation looking to file a lawsuit right now -- the answer is no."
Read key findings of the report at Download the 107-page Everglades Foundation report by clicking here.


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA

Farmers not paying fair share of Glades clean-up, environmentalists say
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
March 26, 2012
A study commissioned by the Everglades Foundation finds public picks up three-quarters of the cost of cleaning up polluted water flowing into the River of Grass
Back in 1996, Florida voters approved a “polluter pays” amendment that environmentalists hoped would force the agricultural industry — particularly sugar growers — to bankroll the hefty expense of stemming the damaging flow of nutrients into the Everglades.
It hasn’t worked out quite that way.
According to a study released Monday by the Everglades Foundation, the agricultural industry produces three-quarters of Glades pollution but pays only a quarter of the costs of cleaning it up. The public, the study found, pays the rest of an annual $106 million treatment tab through property taxes, utility bills and state and federal taxes.
“I’m quite certain that most Floridians would find it rather outrageous that they are picking up the bill for giant agricultural operations,’’ said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the foundation, a group that championed the 16-year-old amendment that the Legislature has never enacted.
Fordham said he hoped the study would persuade state and federal negotiators trying to resolve decades of lawsuits over Florida’s oft-delayed clean plans to shift the burden — and bills that could run hundreds of millions of dollars or more — to farmers, ranchers and nurseries responsible for the bulk of nutrient pollution that has poisoned vast swathes of the Glades, killing off and crowding out native plants.
South Florida’s sugar farmers immediately bashed the study, which the foundation commissioned for $185,000 from researchers at North Carolina-based RTI International.
In a joint statement, the U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals Corp. and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida defended their efforts and their record of reducing phosphorus use, saying the study was based on “grossly flawed assumptions, resulting in hocus pocus economic conclusions.’’
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement claiming “significant progress’’ in reducing nutrients but acknowledging “that there is more to be done.’’ The statement also sent an upbeat signal about settling long-running federal lawsuits over the slow pace of clean-up, adding that “because of the leadership of Gov. (Rick) Scott, Florida is on the verge of a momentous step forward in Everglades restoration.’’
The state, which first agreed to reduce the flow of phosphorus into the Everglades to settle a federal lawsuit in 1988, has been under mounting pressure from federal judges frustrated by the decades of delay. Florida has spent more than $1.3 billion to construct a 45,000-acre network of artificial marshes to scrub phosphorus flowing from farms into the Glades but it hasn’t been enough to meet the super-low standards required to protect the sensitive marsh.
Phosphorous, a common fertilizer ingredient that drains off farms and yards with every rain storm, can trigger fish-killing algae blooms in lakes and coastal waters. But its impact can be catastrophic even at minute concentrations in the Everglades, said foundation senior scientist Tom Van Lent. As concentrations rise, it can kill off an important algae at the base of the Everglades food chain and fuel the spread of cat tails, a plant that a scientist once dubbed “the grave markers of the Everglades.’’
With the state facing the threat of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposing a $1.5 billion-plus expansion of the artificial marshes, Scott flew to Washington last year to lay out a counter-proposal the state argues can be done quicker and cheaper. The sides have been in negotiation since.
Van Lent said the study shows that the cheapest option to clean up the Glades is to impose tougher “source controls’’ — also known as best management practices — on farmers.
By the study’s calculations, it’s eight times more expensive to remove phosphorous from storm water ($350 a pound) than for farmers to cut back on its use ($47 a pound).
The report also dispelled what Van Lent called “myths,’’ about the source of much of the pollution flowing into the Everglades, most notably that much of it comes from Lake Okeechobee, which is tainted with decades of “legacy’’ nutrients that flowed in from cattle ranches and suburbs to the north. The study calculated that just over 10 percent of the 216 metric tons flowing into the treatment marshes came from the lake.
Sugar growers defended their efforts to reduce pollution since the bitter political and split battle over “polluter pays.’’ The industry defeated a proposed “penny-a-pound" sugar tax but voters overwhelmingly approved a companion amendment requiring polluters to pick up the tab for cleaning up any mess they make.
The Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled the law could only be enacted with legislative approval. Lawmakers have approved other Glades clean-up plans since.
In the joint statement, growers argue that have cut phosphorus use by more than half and paid $200 million in “agriculture privileges’’ taxes that go to restoration projects. They also contend the study incorrectly credits government agencies with paying for $124 million in programs to reduce nutrient use, an expense they say farmers absorbed.
“The Everglades Foundation’s report is riddled with so many erroneous assumptions … that it serves no purpose except to throw mud on productive restoration efforts,’’ the growers’ statement said.


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA

Report: Taxpayers foot bill for agricultural phosphorus clean-up
Palm Beach Daily News – by David Rogers, Staff Writer
March 26, 2012
The farming industry creates about 76 percent of the phosphorus pollution entering the Everglades, but leaves the bulk of the bill for removing the habitat-damaging substance to taxpayers, according to an independently produced report.
Taxpayers foot 66 percent of the bill for agricultural industry phosphorus cleanup in the state’s mammoth river of grass, according to the Everglades Foundation-commissioned study, “America’s Everglades: Who Pollutes ? Who Pays ?
“And they do this every year when paying their property tax bills, and they pick up additional costs through taxes paid to the state and federal governments,” Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the nonprofit foundation, said in a conference call Monday with state media.
“I’m quite certain most Floridians would find it rather outrageous that they are footing the bill for cleaning up pollution generated by giant farming operations that enjoy various forms of taxpayer subsidies,” Fordham said. Phophorus, a plant-growth enhancer added to fertilizer, is a chief source of Everglades pollution.
The study, subtitled “Enterprise Assessment for the Reduction of Nutrient Pollution in South Florida Waters,” was conducted by George Van Houtven, an environmental economics specialist with RTI International, a firm located in North Carolina’s research triangle.
The private and public entities that create phosphorus pollution in urban areas, in contrast to the agricultural industry, pay 99 percent of the cost to remove the phosphorus they produce, according to the report.
In 1996, state voters approved a “Polluter Pays” amendment to the constitution that directs those industries that pollute the Everglades to pay the cost of cleaning up the pollution they produce, Fordham said.
The CEO said the report is timely because the state and federal governments are in discussions now to determine how to pay for Everglades cleanup.
Culling public records, Van Houtven discovered that 39 percent of the $109 million annual cost of nutrient removal in the Everglades is paid through a South Florida Water Management District property tax assessment.
An agricultural privilege tax, set to expire in a few years, pays 10 percent of phosphorus clean-up costs, while the private agricultural sector picks up 14 percent, residential and industrial users pay 10 percent, the state pays 8 percent and the federal government pays 19 percent of the bill.
“On an annual basis, we find that almost $900 million is currently being spent each year to reduce nutrient loads from these sources,” Van Houtven said. “They include the cost of wastewater treatment, BMPs (best-management practices) on agricultural and urban lands, but also the public work projects like the storm water treatment areas (filtering marshes) that treat nutrients from all of these sources in more of a down-stream fashion.’
“While agriculture pays about 80-85 percent of the $37 million cost for the on-site BMPs, somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the on-site BMPs are subsidized through federal and state cost-share programs,” Van Houtven said.
To review a summary of the report and download the entire report, visit -


South Florida farmers’ commitment to Everglades restoration has achieved record results
US-Sugar Corp. - Press Release
March 26, 2012
Clewiston/Belle Glade/West Palm Beach, Fla. – As South Florida farmers, we are proud of our scientifically proven record of success and investment in Everglades restoration. While farmers are putting our money to work cleaning water and achieving real restoration results, the Everglades Foundation continues to waste valuable dollars on useless studies, which are voided by grossly flawed assumptions, resulting in hocus pocus economic conclusions.
South Florida farmers have shown record achievements removing phosphorus from water with 79 percent reductions in the EAA last year. EAA farmers have also paid more than $200 million in special taxes for restoration. In its annual review of restoration results, the South Florida Water Management District, the government agency tasked with Everglades restoration, affirmed that the EAA’s on‐farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), which were
developed by university scientists in collaboration with farmers, are a resounding success. The District praised EAA farmers for being proactive and often implementing more BMPs than what is required.
The Everglades Foundation’s report is riddled with so many erroneous assumptions, then hedges the conclusions with an equal number of caveats and uncertainties, that it serves no purpose except to throw mud on productive restoration efforts. In one instance, the Foundation’s “study” even goes as far as to incorrectly assign 64 percent – a whopping $87 million – of the initial cost of BMP implementation in South Florida to government agencies. The truth is EAA farmers do not receive any funds – zero dollars – from the government to offset BMP costs. The report also grossly and incorrectly assigns $6.4 million or 17 percent of the $37.4 million annual cost of BMP implementation to the government. EAA farmers independently invest the full cost of implementation of BMPs. What the report conveniently does not share is the fact that South Florida farmers have contributed more to restoration than any other private group.
What the report does confirm is that sugar cane is the most beneficial crop for Florida and that our EAA BMPs are a resounding success. According to the report, in the Southern Everglades Basin, sugar cane has reduced 52 percent of the total phosphorus load from pretreatment levels and its BMPs make up 81 percent of the phosphorus reduction from BMPs for all crops in the basin.
The report also acknowledges that CERP projects are successful and that the scheduled CERP projects will produce positive results when completed. The completion of projects is the right step toward Everglades restoration.
While the Everglades Foundation continues to invest their time, money and energy on useless, flawed studies, farmers will continue our successful partnership in providing real results for the Everglades.
Florida Agriculture Fast Facts:
‐ Supports 1.4 million jobs
‐ Generates $100 billion annual economic impact in Florida
‐ Responsible for $3.5 billion in tax revenue for local and state government
‐ Florida Sugar Industry provides 7,000 direct jobs and 23,500 indirect jobs
‐ Florida Sugar Industry generates $2 billion economic impact


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA

Study: Agriculture industry pays fraction of clean-up cost of fertilizer pollution it creates
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
March 26, 2012
The agriculture industry is responsible for 76 percent of the phosphorus pollution going into the Everglades yet the industry pays just 24 percent of the cost of removing the harmful nutrient, according to a new study commissioned by the Everglades Foundation.
U.S. Sugar Corp. quickly blasted what it termed the study's "hocus pocus economic conclusions."
Among the study's findings: Farms and other agriculture discharge nearly 1,600 tons of phosphorus and 14,000 tons of nitrogen within the South Florida Water Management District's 16-county region; The cost of removing one pound of phosphorus by using better fertilizer management programs on farms is $47. To remove the same amount of phosphorus using costly, taxpayer-funded stormwater treatment wetlands costs $350 per pound.
"A fair question is, should taxpayers rather than polluters pay the burden," said Kirk Fordham, the foundation's chief executive officer. "Those generating the pollution should pay."
Fordham cited the "Polluter Pays" amendment passed by voters in 1996, which requires those who cause pollution in the Everglades Agricultural Area to pay for much of the cost of cleaning it up. Fordham said the foundation hopes the study will "start a conversation with policy makers" about implementing more effective practices for fertilizer use on farms and requiring growers to pay more for the cleanup.
In a statement released several hours after the foundation posted the study on its website, U.S. Sugar Corp. blasted the study, saying the findings are "voided by grossly flawed assumptions, resulting in hocus pocus economic conclusions."
"While the Everglades Foundation continues to invest their time, money and energy on useless, flawed studies, farmers will continue our successful partnership in providing real results for the Everglades," the statement concluded.
The foundation paid $185,000 for the study, which was conducted by RTI International, of North Carolina.


sugar cane

Sugar cane in the EAA

Taxpayers foot the bill to clean Glades pollution, study finds
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 26, 2012|
Environmental group says agriculture isn't paying fair share.
Big Sugar and other growers polluting the Everglades fail to pay their fair share of the cleanup, leaving taxpayers with too much of the bill, according to a report environmental advocates released Monday.
Sugar cane growers and other agricultural producers are responsible for 76 percent of the polluting phosphorus that flows into the Everglades, but agriculture pays just 24 percent of the cleanup costs, according to the findings of a study commissioned by the Everglades Foundation.
That leaves taxpayers and local utility customers to pay the bulk of an estimated $106 million spent each year to remove phosphorus from stormwater that flows into the Everglades, according to RTI International, a North Carolina-based independent research group hired by the Everglades Foundation.
The study puts a number on a contention that environmental groups have long made – that Florida is failing to enforce a 1996 "Polluter Pays" Florida constitutional amendment aimed at shifting the cost of Everglades cleanup to those most responsible for the pollution, according to the Everglade Foundation.
"Most Floridians would find it rather outrageous … that they are footing the bill," said Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation CEO. "It's a fair question to ask whether taxpayers versus the actual polluters should be bearing most of the cost."
Sugar cane growers maintain that they are reducing phosphorus runoff levels.
South Florida's major sugar cane producers on Monday pointed out that the region's farmers have contributed more to Everglades restoration than any other private group. That includes $200 million from taxes imposed on farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee.
"While farmers are putting our money to work cleaning water and achieving real restoration results, the Everglades Foundation continues to waste valuable dollars on useless studies, which are voided by grossly flawed assumptions, resulting in hocus pocus economic conclusions," according to a joint statement released Monday by U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
Phosphorus, found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil, washes off agricultural land and urban areas and drains into the Everglades.
Elevated levels of phosphorus fuel the growth of cattails that crowd out sawgrass and other vital natural habitat in areas already suffering from decades of draining to make way for farming and development.
Florida has constructed more than 40,000 acres of filter marshes — called stormwater treatment areas — that remove some of the phosphorus from water that flows to the Everglades.
But the cleanup efforts have yet to meet the ultimate goal of reducing phosphorous levels in the water headed to the Everglades down to 10 parts per billion.
Sugar cane and other farms are supposed to grow crops and manage stormwater discharges in ways that limit phosphorous discharges, but the Everglades Foundation maintains that the state should require them to do more.
Researchers for the Everglades Foundation determined that 76 percent of the phosphorus that ends up in the Everglades comes from agriculture, with just 23 percent coming from urban areas, according to RTI.
The RTI findings also dispute Big Sugar's contention that most of the phosphorus that flows into the Everglades originates from polluted runoff from cattle operations and urban areas north of Lake Okeechobee, which gets tapped for irrigation in South Florida.
Instead, RTI found that of the 216 metric tons of phosphorus that reaches South Florida's stormwater treatment areas, just 28 metric tons comes from water in Lake Okeechobee.
Of the phosphorus that comes from urban areas, waste water treatment facilities funded by local utility customers remove 93 percent of the phosphorus produced each year, according to RTI.
The release of the study comes as Gov. Rick Scott tries to negotiate a settlement of long-standing federal lawsuits over Florida's failure to meet Everglades water quality standards and restoration requirements.
Without a settlement, Florida faces the possibility of having to enact a federal Everglades-restoration plan with a $1.5 billion price tag that state officials say they can't afford.
Everglades Foundation representatives say they paid about $185,000 for the study, which was started in late 2010.
Fordham said the purpose is to "start a conversation with policy makers" and "shift the cost" of Everglades restoration.
Florida and the agricultural industry "have made significant progress" reducing phosphorous and other nutrient runoff in waterways, according to a statement released Monday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
"The state of Florida remains committed to moving forward with Everglades restoration," according to the DEP



The state of Florida remains committed ...
FDEP - Press Office
March 26, 2012
The state of Florida remains committed to moving forward with Everglades restoration. As the Everglades Foundation report outlines, the state, local governments and the agricultural industry have made significant progress reducing nutrients in Florida’s waterways.
However, we recognize there is more to be done, which is why Governor Scott presented a bold plan to clean up the Everglades and improve the quality of water flowing through south Florida. The success of our restoration efforts depends on cooperation and dialogue at every level of government, and between industry and stakeholder groups like the Everglades Foundation.
As the Everglades Foundation report acknowledges, agriculture is an important component of south Florida’s economy and heritage. The industry has seen great success in reducing the amount of nutrients flowing into the Everglades.
Because of Governor Scott’s leadership, Florida is on the verge of a momentous step forward in Everglades restoration. The state is focused on identifying a solution that is right for both the state’s environment and the economy.


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Who pollutes ?
Nutrient & Phosphorus contamination
in the huge Everglades
Construction Project area
is a well known problem.
According to the
Florida Constitution,
"the polluters pay" for clean-up.
Now - WHO pollutes
and WHO pays ?
The study answers this.

Report - FULL TEXT
Download the PDF

Everglades Foundation

Who Pollutes ? Who Pays ?
Everglades Foundation – A study by RTI International, Press Release - Executive Summary.
March 26, 2012
Enterprise Assessment for the Reduction of Nutrient Pollution in South Florida Waters.

Who pays ? CLICK for
Executive Summary

FULL TEXT of the Report
As part of the Everglades Foundation's ongoing scientific and economic research efforts, the Foundation commissioned RTI International, a respected and independent research institute to conduct a comprehensive study involving the collection and analysis of public data with the goal of answering several questions: Who contributes what share of the pollution flowing directly into 1) the Everglades and, 2) the broader footprint of the South Florida Water Management District? Who pays for the cost of cleaning up this pollution?
The findings of this study are especially timely considering the ongoing discussions underway between the federal government and the state of Florida over water quality standards that have been the subject of litigation for two decades.
While the RTI study assembles a wide range of data from a variety of sources, perhaps one of the most striking findings is the fact that the agricultural industry is responsible for 76 percent of the phosphorus pollution entering the Everglades. In addition, researchers determined that the agricultural industry pays ONLY 24 percent of the cost of phosphorus removal, leaving the balance of the burden on the shoulders of taxpayers.
In 1996, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved, with 68 percent of the vote, a "Polluter Pays" amendment to the state Constitution. This amendment clearly states that those who cause pollution in the Everglades Agricultural Area must be primarily responsible for paying the cost of cleaning it up.
Now, 16 years later, Florida policymakers and the public for the first time have a comprehensive, independent study that examines the sources of pollution in the Everglades, an analysis of the costs that have been incurred to clean up this pollution, and an accounting of who is paying these costs.
RTI evaluated pollution within the boundaries of the South Florida Water Management District and in the more narrowly focused regions or "subbasins." To conduct the analysis, the study area was subdivided into six major subbasins and three minor subbasins. Within each subbasin, RTI grouped (nutrient) pollution reduction activities into four major categories: Domestic Wastewater Treatment Facilities; Urban Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs); Agricultural BMPs; and Public Works Projects.
When pollution levels exceed scientifically determined limits, harm is done to the ecosystem, its fish and other wildlife, the drinking water supply and human health.
To meet the water quality and supply objectives of Everglades restoration new measures to control pollution at its source must be coupled with public works projects, some of which have been fully constructed and others which are planned or under way.
Many of these projects - primarily filtration marshes, commonly called stormwater treatment areas (STAs), flow equalization basins (FEBs) and other structures will be focused on removing agricultural pollution before it enters the fragile Everglades ecosystem that supplies 1 in 3 Floridians with their daily supply of fresh water.
Other key findings:
According to the RTI Study, agriculture pays 24% of the costs of phosphorus removal, residential/commercial/industrial rate payers fund 10% of the cost, and the remaining 66% is funded by taxpayers. (RTI, page ES-8, Figure ES-7)
Agriculture contributes about 76% of the total phosphorus entering the Everglades. Urban phosphorus loads are about 23% of the total. The remaining 1 % of the total phosphorus is originating from natural areas. (RTI, page ES-8, Figure ES-7)
Within the South Florida Water Management District, agriculture discharges 1,449 metric tons of phosphorus and 12,845 tons of nitrogen into surface water. (RTI, page 7-2, Table 7-1)
Of the 216 metric tons of phosphorus reaching the STAs, only 28 metric tons are coming from Lake Okeechobee. (RTI, page 6-10, Table 6-3).
Waste water treatment facilities - in residential, commercial and industrial sectors - remove 93% of the total phosphorus they produce each year, and account for 16% of the total phosphorus load to the environment within the South Florida Water Management District. (calculated from Table 7-1, page 7-2, RTI)
Residential, commercial, and industrial sectors pay 99% of the cost to remove the phosphorus they produce (Table 7-2, RTI), and remove 93% of the phosphorus they produce within the South Florida Water Management District. (calculated from Table 7-1, page 7-2, RTI)
It costs $47 to remove 1 pound of phosphorus with Best Management practices (BMPs) and $350 per pound to remove it with Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) (calculated from Table 7-1, page 7-2, RTI). By comparison, it costs less than $10 per pound to add phosphorus as fertilizer. (Average US farm prices of selected fertilizers, USDA,, Table 7)


Florida’s First Wind Farm Moves Forward – by Bill Opalka
March 25, 2012
Birds and economics may halt development
The first wind farm in Florida has been approved by local officials, but its proximity to the Everglades has made it an unwelcome addition to the landscape.
The proposed Sugarland Wind project is a 200 MW wind farm located on farmland in Palm Beach County, Florida. The project will be situated completely within the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
And that’s the problem, according to project opponents from the environmental community.
The County Commission decided on March 22 that the benefits of encouraging alternative energy production in a western part of the county, north of the Everglades, outweighed the threat to migratory birds.
The Missouri-based Wind Capital Group plans to build at least 114 wind turbines spread across 13,000 acres of farmland. The turbines would produce 200 megawatts of electricity that would be sold to Florida energy providers, according to Sugarland Wind. Construction would total about $350 million.
Building plans call for making a $350 million construction investment. Federal and state permits are still needed, which could take more than a year to complete.
Audubon Florida’s Everglades Policy Associate Jane Graham along with representatives from the Audubon of the Everglades Chapter urged caution and advocated for increased site-specific research to better determine the impacts to birds – before the project proceeds.
The project has been designed to utilize existing farm roads to the maximum extent possible. This project will use no water to generate or transmit electricity, will produce no air emissions and will require no fuel pipelines.
Local officials also see the project as an economic development opportunity. The developers said construction would create about 300 construction jobs.
The County Commission required Sugarland Wind to include bird-detecting radar or some other safeguard that can help avoid bird or bat deaths by turning off the spinning rotors when large numbers of birds or bats approach.
Aside from the environmental concerns, the largest wind farm operator in the country, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources said the wind resource in the state is too weak to make wind energy economically viable.
Mike O'Sullivan, its senior vice president of development, told the Palm Beach Post that the Sunshine State lacks adequate resources. "If wind made sense in Florida, wouldn't we be proposing wind here ourselves?" O'Sullivan said.
The company has about $13 billion in wind energy investments. NextEra Energy Resources, like Florida Power & Light Co., is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE). It has 90 wind farms in 17 states and Canada, capable of producing nearly 8,750 MW.
The editorial staff at is passionate about exchanging ideas and dedicated to promoting ongoing conversation about renewable and sustainable energy issues. We invite you to join and contribute to our online community. If you have an idea for an article or editorial contribution, please contact me via email,


Apartment complex first of its kind in water conservation – by F. Zogbaum, Reporter
March 23, 2012
BROOKSVILLE --  An entire apartment complex in Brooksville, FL has become a national model in water conservation.
The toilets, showers and other facilities at Magnolia Gardens are designed to save large amounts of water.
The equipment is 20 percent better than low-flow alternatives.
The landscaping's irrigation system will only use 20 inches of water a year.
Magnolia Gardens is the first complex in the state to get a Florida Water Star Rating.
This building is a joint effort between the Hernando County Housing Authority and private builders.
"We are going to use it as a case study and sell water savings to developers throughout the state of Florida," said Southwest Florida Water Management District's Susan Douglas.
"I believe in it and I don't understand why other people don't get it either. It's simple to me," she added.
All 60 apartments in the building have these water-saving features.
Water district officials say they the complex should save between 20 and 25 percent of their normal amount of water.



Euromed Donates $10,000 for Everglades Restoration
March 23, 2012
PITTSBURGH, PA, Mar 23, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Through sales of saw palmetto extract for prostate health, Euromed USA ( and its customers recently donated $10,000 to the non-profit Everglades Foundation, which is working to conserve and restore the fragile damaged "River of Grass."
"Older gentlemen all over the world rely on saw palmetto to keep their prostates healthy, and saw palmetto comes from just one place in the world -- Florida," says Euromed president and general manager Joe Veilleux, a registered pharmacist.
"The Everglades in South Florida is a fascinating environment that has sustained a lot of damage from humans," he says. "We chose it as our mission because we want to raise awareness about its value as a national treasure. We chose the Everglades Foundation because it does a fantastic job -- it's a very large, very well-organized group."
Euromed's Glade-iator program, , which launched last year, makes a donation to the Everglades Foundation in the purchaser's name every time a customer buys its saw palmetto extract. The customers -- large companies that produce pharmaceutical products and nutritional supplements -- are also encouraged to become Glade-iator's official partners and raise awareness with promotional materials provided by Euromed. Those partners now include GNC, Gaia Herbs and Tishcon, among others.
"Our customers have been enthusiastic about this program," Veilleux says. "They see it as an unusual situation where business interests and the environmental interests all line up."
The Everglades Foundation is also enthusiastic. The 19-year-old organization conducts scientific research, helps fund work that benefits the unique ecosystem, and supports legal actions to protect it.
"Contributions like the one from Euromed will propel our restoration and preservation efforts in the coming year," says Susan Ervin, the foundation's vice president for development. "Our board covers 100 percent of our administration and fundraising costs, so all donations go directly to science and conservation."
The Everglades is home to about 20,000 acres of saw palmetto. Euromed harvests the berries using sustainable methods that don't damage the mother plant. The berries contain free fatty acid and sterols that help patients with the bothersome effects of benign prostate enlargement (BPH), a common problem for men over 40.
About Euromed USA
Euromed USA supplies standardized botanical and herbal extracts and natural active substances for use in the pharmaceutical, health food and cosmetics industries. By extracting the necessary chemicals, the company can guarantee its products meet the precise chemical specifications necessary.


Oyster bed restoration aiding in St. Lucie River clean-up
March 23, 2012
STUART, Fla. -- Once covered in green slime, polluted by discharges from Lake Okeechobee, today the St. Lucie River is getting cleaner.
Scientists say an ongoing oyster bed restoration project in the St. Lucie River is cleaning a half billion gallons of toxins from the water. In 2009, Martin County received four-million stimulus dollars to help restore oyster beds in the St Lucie River.
Coastal engineers say the project is so successful they've counted 10 million oysters now thriving and acting as a filter, keeping the water clean.
"This is part of the Everglades restoration program, not only do we have to clean up the water coming into the estuaries, but we need to have an ecosystem that can keep that water clean," said Kathy Fitzpatrick, Martin County Coastal Engineer.
"Those 10 million oysters will clean up a half billion gallons of water. They take the toxins out of the water. That's going to be so important for helping to restore the river," said Sen. Bill Nelson, (D) Florida.
Senator Bill Nelson took the green sludge to Congress in 2005 to lobby for federal clean-up dollars. He says the change in only a few short years is amazing.
In 2009 the St. Lucie River's water quality was so poor, it was one of four sites in the state to receive those funds. Now the water color is noticeably changing from dark brown, to a sky blue.


CLICK for Report:

SFER 2012

South Florida Environmental Report

South Florida Environmental Report Highlights Restoration Progress, State of the Ecosystem
March 23, 2012
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) released the 2012 South Florida Environmental Report detailing a year of restoration, scientific and engineering accomplishments in the Kissimmee Basin, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and South Florida coastal areas. The 2012 report marks the 14th year of unified, streamlined environmental reporting by the two agencies.
“The considerable progress detailed in this report demonstrates Florida’s commitment to the environment and our continued focus on improving water quality and restoring America’s Everglades,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The South Florida Environmental Report provides a comprehensive overview of the science, research and resource management that allows us to protect South Florida’s unique ecosystems.”
Spanning three volumes, the 2012 South Florida Environmental Report contains more than 50 individual reports. The volumes provide extensive research summaries, data analyses, financial updates and a searchable database of environmental projects. An illustrated Executive Summary is viewable online via a newly added PDF viewer, which makes the document more reader-friendly on a computer monitor.
The 2012 South Florida Environmental Report covers environmental information for Water Year 2011 (May 1, 2010, through April 30, 2011) and project/budgetary information for Fiscal Year 2011 (October 1, 2010, through September 30, 2011).
“This comprehensive report provides a centralized source for documenting a year’s worth of work to improve South Florida’s ecosystem,” said SFWMD Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker. “It represents the depth of our scientific expertise as well as the considerable environmental benefits being achieved on behalf of Florida’s taxpayers.”
The 2012 report includes the following highlights:
Enhanced Stormwater Treatment Areas reduce nutrients. The District’s 45,000 acres of Stormwater Treatment Areas treated more than 735,000 acre-feet of water last year and cut nutrient loads to the Everglades by more than 79 percent. Enhancements to the STAs helped to deliver outflow concentrations of phosphorus at the lowest range observed since STA operations began in 1994. In addition, construction is nearly complete on 11,500 acres of STAs, which will increase treatment capacity by another 25 percent.
Source controls contribute to improved water quality. For the 16th consecutive year, the Everglades Agricultural Area exceeded its 25 percent phosphorus-reduction requirement by delivering a 79 percent reduction — three times what is required by law. To date, these best management practices, along with Stormwater Treatment Areas, have prevented more than 2,411 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades.
Kissimmee River restoration attracts wildlife. The Kissimmee River Restoration Project continues toward completion, with 24 miles of re-established river channel and intermittent inundation of 7,710 acres of floodplain. Environmental monitoring has recently shown an increase in waterfowl and other aquatic life in restored portions of the river, which serves as the headwaters to the Everglades.
Projects to improve rivers and coastal estuaries continue. Healthy coastal estuaries depend on fresh water. In the Loxahatchee River, a pilot project successfully added fresh water to river flows during the dry season. In lower Biscayne Bay, portions of a flow redistribution project have begun. Water control improvement projects were also completed to benefit Fakahatchee Estuary and Naples Bay.
The 2012 South Florida Environmental Report — now entirely electronic at a savings of $98,000 — is available to view or print at


Wind turbine

Sugarland Wind project

Palm Beach County allows wind farm at edge of Everglades
Orlando Sentinel and Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
March 22, 2012
Opponents say spinning turbines would threaten migratory birds
A commercial "wind farm" — the first in the state — can spring from sugar cane fields on the edge of the Everglades, despite concerns about killing endangered birds, Palm Beach County commissioners have decided.
The County Commission determined in its meeting on Thursday that the benefits of encouraging nonpolluting, alternative energy production in western Palm Beach County outweighed the threat to birds posed by whirling blades atop Statue of Liberty-sized wind turbines.
In addition to encouraging "green" energy, the wind farm would bring hundreds of construction jobs in Glades communities plagued with high unemployment and produce enough power for 60,000 South Florida homes.
"All these people out of work are endangered species too," County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said. "We have an opportunity ... It's going to employ people."
Backers of the Sugarland Wind proposal contend that their more than 100 wind-catching turbines can produce electricity that offers a "green" alternative to power plants that rely on polluting fossil fuels.
But many environmental advocates oppose putting 500-foot-tall in an area that threatens migrating flocks as well as endangered birds such as wood storks and Everglades snail kites.
The Sierra Club and Audubon of Florida, which typically support alternative energy, opposed allowing the wind farm, which will be just 3 miles from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge at the northern reaches of the Everglades.
"Clean energy is not green energy if it kills birds," said Rebekah Gibble, a biologist at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. "Is the risk really worth the benefit ?"
The Missouri-based Wind Capital Group plans to build at least 114 wind turbines spread across 13,000 acres of farmland. The turbines would produce 200 megawatts of electricity that would be sold to Florida energy providers, according to Sugarland Wind.
That could offset the production of 320,000 tons of polluting carbon emissions a year that come from generating the same amount of electricity at fossil-fuel-driven power plants, according to Sugarland Wind.
"A clean, renewable energy project that uses no water and produces no carbon emissions," said project director Robin Saiz describing the Sugarland Wind proposal.
Building plans call for making a $350 million construction investment in western Palm Beach County.
Wind farm planners project that their turbines will kill three to four birds per turbine per year, which mirrors the national average. That would mean killing nearly 500 birds per year at Sugarland Wind.
But environmental groups contend that bird kill projections are too low for towers that are to be positioned between bird havens such as Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Audubon and the Sierra Club called for at least three years of bird studies before allowing wind farm construction.
"We are just very concerned that wind farms [are] built in the right place," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center, who represents the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. "It is the heart of the Everglades."
Sugarland Wind backers project they will create up to 300 temporary construction jobs and about 20 permanent jobs near struggling Glades communities, where unemployment hovers between 20 and 40 percent.
Glades community leaders, agricultural representatives and county business groups backed the wind farm proposal as a way to provide jobs, encourage a new industry and boost business investment.
"Some people are talking about birds in Belle Glade [who] don't even know where Belle Glade is," said Desmond Harriet, of the Glades Area Ministerial Association.
The County Commission required Sugarland Wind to include bird-detecting radar or some other safeguard that can help avoid bird or bat deaths by turning off the spinning rotors when large numbers of birds or bats approach.
Wind farm backers estimate that automobiles in Palm Beach County kill more birds in a couple of days than their towers would kill in a year. Plus the threat of polluting power plants worsening climate change poses more of a long term risk to birds than a wind farm, according to Sugarland Wind.
The company still needs state and federal environmental permits to proceed. Getting those permits could take more than a year.
After decades of Florida draining the Everglades for farming and development, erecting 500-foot-tall wind turbines is one more threat that birds shouldn't have to face, according to environmental opponents to the wind farm.
"I don't think we have the right as human beings to usurp not only the land but the sky," said Rosa Durando, of Audubon.


Tourism boost in the Everglades translates into local jobs
March 22, 2012
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla -- A new report shows nearly a million visitors spent $135 million in Everglades National park in 2010 and that is translating into money and jobs for the local economy.
The report shows that spending supported nearly 2,000 jobs here in Everglades National Park.
This is Bill Carlson's first trip to Everglades National Park. He, his son and grandson made the trip all the way from Traverse City Michigan.
Carlson says, "it's just been fabulous. We did the airboat ride and we did both out in the open water and the back country and it was very exciting. We had a great captain, everyone is so nice here. We're just having a great time."
From airboat rides to camping, food and fishing Everglades National Park has a lot to offer tourists.
According to a new National Park Service report more than 915,000 visitors in 2010 spent $135 million at Everglades National Park and the surrounding areas.
Richard Wahrberger says, "people take advantage of it all. They sure do. They got Seminole collier park, camp grounds toward Miami. There's just a lot to do here and people are finding out and they're coming here. They just like The area."
Wahrenberger is the owner of City Seafood. He's owned the restaurant for 13 years and has seen first hand the impact tourists have on the local economy. He says, "we have been doing excellent this year. Excellent. I dare say we're up 40-50% from what we had in previous years."
More than 50 percent of the spending is related to food and lodging. That money spent by tourists translates directly into jobs.
Wahrenberger says, "I believe the chamber does a heck of a job attracting people here and were part of the chamber here and a lot of people want to see the everglades and they're finding us and I'm glad!"
For Bill Carlson it's been a great first trip and a trip he says he'll be more than willing to make again. "I'm coming back and my wife will love this. She likes to fish and the outdoors so she wanted us to scout this out and it's fabulous."


Aquifer Test: Let Nature take care of water - Editorial
March 21, 2012 (also March 15b)
Florida lake levels fluctuate in harmony with wet-dry cycles, which is to say lakes are lower in drought years and higher in rainy years.
Right now, lake levels are very low because we are in an extended drought cycle.
The aquifer beneath our feet is also low and dropping, not just because of the drought but because of overpumping as well.
That stress on the state's underground series of rivers, including the large Floridan aquifer, makes a project in northeast Florida all the more irresponsible.
The value of a test being launched by the St. Johns River Water Management District is questionable. It involves drilling down into the aquifer in Bradford County to pump 1.4 million gallons a day through a series of creeks and lakes.
The point is to measure how fast the water will evaporate and how much of it will sink back into the ground along the way.
The district says the intent is not to see if lakes can be refilled by groundwater, but rather whether it is feasible to use other "new" water sources — perhaps highly treated wastewater — to supplement lake levels.
There are two apparent problems with this test:
The district has chosen the aquifer for its new water source because it is the cheapest thing to do.
That's exactly why Jacksonville and other large water consumers are currently depleting the aquifer, because that's the cheapest and most expedient way to satisfy their water needs.
If the district wants to lead by example, this isn't the way to do it.
The premise of finding ways to keep lake levels high, no matter the water source.
Although it angers lakeside homeowners when there is no water under their docks, scientists know that periodic dry cycles are essential for the health of Florida lakes.
Lakes that remain high because artificial manipulation are subject to a slow death by eutrophication — nutrient poisoning and oxygen depletion. Drought is the best cure for eutrophication, because that's when the vegetation, muck and sediment that have settled on lake bottoms are exposed to air, dry out, and either burn off or blow away.
No matter the district's intention, using water from the aquifer to supplement lake levels — even as an experiment — sets a dangerous precedent. "Fill our lakes" can become a potent rallying cry that politicians may not be able to resist.
The idea of water-management districts applying more science to water decisions is reasonable. However, this test is not.


Python nest

Female python with
eggs in her nest

How big is Florida's python problem ?
JAVMA News - by R. Scott Nolen
March 21, 2012
Debate smolders over whether invasive snakes are a national threat or trouble for just one state .
January was a bad month for giant-snake enthusiasts.
First, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, and Northern and Southern African pythons as injurious invasive species under the Lacey Act, making it a federal crime to import the non-native snakes or transport them across state lines.
Nearly two weeks later, on Jan. 30, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the first study documenting the ecologic impacts of feral Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades National Park. Researchers found evidence suggesting python predation has caused dramatic declines in the numbers of raccoons, opossums, and other mammals in the park.
But, apart from a general recognition that feral pythons and other large constrictors have the potential to upset naive ecosystems, little else about the Sunshine State's invasive snake conundrum isn't in contention.
In dispute are how the giant reptiles first became established in South Florida, the number of Burmese pythons in the region, the scale of non-native snake predation on indigenous wildlife, the chances of pythons and other wild constrictors becoming established elsewhere in the United States, and the impacts of tougher restrictions on the trade and ownership of giant snakes.
Scott Hardin is the exotic wildlife species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency responsible for regulating native and non-native species. When it comes to Florida's most problematic invasive species, Hardin says feral pigs top the list. Wild hogs, found throughout the state, are estimated at half a million strong. They damage sensitive wetlands with their rooting, adversely impact agriculture and forestry, and cause erosion on roads, dikes, and levees. They also can be aggressive toward humans and are reservoirs for infectious diseases and parasites.
Burmese pythons are a problem because they prey on native wildlife and threaten already imperiled species, such as the endangered Key Largo woodrat, according to Hardin. In 2010, the commission stopped issuing licenses for people to acquire seven constrictor species as pets, including Burmese pythons. Still, Hardin doesn't think pythons pose a serious danger to people, nor does he believe they can extend their habitat beyond Florida's subtropical climate, as some researchers suggest. For Hardin, it's unrealistic to consider his state's invasive snake population a national emergency.
"There is something about snakes in general, and very large snakes in particular, that just evokes a very visceral reaction amongst people," Hardin observed.
The federal government is taking no chances, however. On Jan. 17, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced four constrictor snake species had joined the mongoose, Java sparrow, and some 200 other exotic animals on the list of injurious wildlife. The injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act authorize the Interior Department to regulate the importation and interstate transport of wildlife species determined to be injurious to humans or the nation's agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or wildlife interests.
Restrictions on the four giant-snake species are warranted, Salazar explained, because they jeopardize the Everglades and other sensitive U.S. ecosystems.
"The Burmese python has already gained a foothold in the Florida Everglades," he warned, "and we must do all we can to battle its spread and to prevent further human contributions of invasive snakes that cause economic and environmental damage."
With its warm temperatures, proximity to Central America and South America, and status as a major international hub, South Florida has long served as a gateway for exotic fish and wildlife coming into the United States, legally or otherwise. In fact, Miami is one of the nation's top ports for reptiles entering the country.
Over the years, so many exotic animals either escaped or were dumped in Florida that approximately 100 species of non-native birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and invertebrates are currently established within the state. Barring a major effort to remove them, wildlife experts expect that these animals are here to stay.
Alarms sound with each discovery of an invasive species, but few are louder than those raised by the Burmese python. Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, believes politics and exaggerated news media reports have overtaken efforts to address the python presence scientifically.
"This is an issue that affects three counties in the state of Florida, not the entire nation," said Wyatt, whose association advocates on behalf of private reptile owners and traders.
The U.S. reptile industry is estimated to have earned revenues of up to $1.4 billion in 2009, according to a 2011 study commissioned by USARK. If all nine constrictor snake species were to be listed as injurious wildlife, the study projected industry losses would range from $76 million to $104 million within the first year, particularly among snake breeders and sellers. Losses over the first 10 years could run between $372 million and $900 million.
Invasive species poster child
Explanations vary as to how a giant constrictor native to southern Asia and Southeast Asia came to make a home in Florida. The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates Burmese pythons have inhabited southern portions of the Everglades since at least the 1980s, although reports of loose constrictors date as far back as the 1970s. These snakes may have accidentally escaped, been intentionally released, or both.
One theory popular within the reptile trade but disputed is that Florida's wild python population exploded after hundreds of the snakes escaped from a facility outside Miami that was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Today, the giant constrictors are established in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and possibly Collier County as well. From 2000-2011, a total of 1,825 pythons were removed from within and around Everglades National Park. Estimates on the number of Burmese pythons inhabiting South Florida range from several thousand to as high as 100,000. Additionally, a small colony of boa constrictors has been established in a park outside Miami since the 1970s, and there's evidence suggesting Northern African pythons are reproducing in that region.
That the nation's largest subtropical wilderness is a home to non-native constrictors is understandable. The Everglades comprise 1.5 million acres of mostly isolated saw grass marshes, cypress swamps, pinelands, and mangrove prairies. Burmese pythons have flourished in this environment for several reasons. One of the largest snakes in the world, they can grow as long as 23 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds. They reproduce quickly, with females laying clutches of 100 eggs.
While the American alligator likely remains atop the Everglades food chain, pythons are an apex predator in their own right. They climb trees, ambush prey from land or water, and, according to Dr. Elliott Jacobson, aren't finicky eaters.
"Some snakes have a much more narrow food preference, but the Burmese python is a generalist feeder and will eat birds, mammals, small reptiles, whatever comes its way. That's one reason why this animal has been successful," explained Dr. Jacobson, who taught zoologic medicine for more than three decades at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine until his recent appointment as professor emeritus.
Science says
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its rules concerning constrictor species in January, Interior Secretary Salazar cited a 2009 U.S. Geological Survey analysis—"Giant constrictors: biological and management profiles and an establishment risk assessment for large species of pythons, anacondas, and the boa constrictor."
The 302-page Constrictor Report, as it is known, classified Burmese pythons, Northern and Southern African pythons, boa constrictors, and yellow anacondas as high-risk invasive species for the following reasons: The snakes put large portions of the country at risk, constitute a significant ecologic threat, or are popular within the reptile trade. Medium-risk species are the reticulated python, DeSchauensee's anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda, the report stated.
The USGS risk analysis identified the pet trade as "the only probable pathway by which these species would become established in the United States." The recent snake bans are meant to mitigate the invasive-constrictor threat by squeezing off channels through which a person can legally possess a giant snake. The other five constrictors in the report also face possible listing under the Lacey Act.
The Constrictor Report followed up on a 2008 paper in which USGS scientists used a climate-based distribution model to show a sizeable portion of the U.S. mainland is vulnerable to feral Burmese python habitation. Regions where the climate may be suitable to support python populations, according to the USGS study, include the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and range from Delaware to Oregon, including most of California, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. By 2100, the report said feral pythons may be able to expand their range to parts of Washington, D.C., and Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
Two subsequent studies challenge the premise that Florida's Burmese python can survive far from the snake's current subtropical home, however.
Using ecologic models that accounted for climatic extremes and averages, researchers at The City University of New York found the only suitable habitat for the python is in South Florida and far-south South Texas. Moreover, future climate models based on global warming forecasts indicate the python's current U.S. habitat and native range will actually decrease. A related study by scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center found evidence suggesting Burmese pythons in Florida lack cold-weather survival instincts necessary to flourish elsewhere in the United States.
USGS scientists subsequently evaluated the methodology of the CUNY study. The models used to challenge the potential for python colonization in the United States may not identify all sites at risk of habitation, according to the paper they published in 2011. A more biologically realistic model less prone to statistical problems may reveal a larger geographic range where pythons could become established, the scientists concluded.
When the Senate was reviewing legislation in 2009 to designate constrictors as injurious animals, nine herpetologists and veterinarians wrote leading members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works with concerns about the Constrictor Report. They questioned the USGS scientists' methods as well as the peer-review process the report underwent. The accuracy of the risk assessment model the report authors used was called into doubt; critics wrote the model resulted in a "gross overstatement" of the potential habitat for the snake species.
In their letter, critics noted "a pervasive bias" throughout the Constrictor Report. "There is an obvious effort to emphasize the size, fecundity, and dangers posed by each species; no chance is missed to speculate on negative scenarios. The report appears designed to promote the tenuous concept that invasive giant snakes are a national threat. However, throughout the report there is a preponderance of grammatical qualifiers that serve to weaken many, if not most, statements that are made," the letter states.
The letter concludes with a request for the Senate committee to view the USGS analysis not as an authoritative scientific publication but as a report drafted with a predetermined policy in mind.
In addition to his post at the University of Florida, Dr. Jacobson chairs the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians' Legislative and Animal Welfare Committee. One of three ARAV officials who signed the letter to the Senate committee, Dr. Jacobson isn't opposed to listing certain large constrictors as injurious wildlife—unless the science for doing so is flawed, which he believes to be the case.
"The perception is that certain politicians used the USGS report to justify their position without really understanding what was being presented in the report," Dr. Jacobson explained.
Robert Reed, PhD, is a USGS invasive species scientist and herpetologist who co-authored both agency studies warning about the giant-snake threat. He's spent the past six years researching the brown tree snake, which, within four decades of its arrival in Guam, devastated much of the island's native wildlife. More recently, he's turned his attention to the Burmese python and is investigating the snakes' ecologic impact in South Florida and exploring ways of managing their numbers.
Dr. Reed knows what critics are saying about him. "I'm accused by the pet trade of pushing the 'injurious' listing to get loads of research dollars," he said. "But I've never given any public opinion on the utility of this listing, and it doesn't result in any more research dollars whatsoever."
He's equally dismissive of allegations he wants to criminalize snake ownership, as is his USGS colleague Gordon Rodda, who co-wrote both USGS invasive-snake studies.
"Gordon and I own or have owned giant constrictors, and we say so in the first chapter of the Constrictor Report. We think they're beautiful animals," he explained. "To suggest we're anti–snake ownership is really silly on the face of it."
"On the science issues," Dr. Reed continued, "I'm happy to let the peer-reviewed papers speak for themselves. There's an increasing body of evidence to suggest that these snakes are a big problem in southern Florida and that there are several other (constrictor) species that have climates in their native range that suggest they could become established in the U.S."
Assessing the damage
Burmese pythons have flourished in South Florida since the 1980s, yet no one could say with certainty how they were affecting the ecosystem. Then in late January, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences made a correlation between severe mammal declines and the proliferation of pythons in Everglades National Park.
Dr. Reed was a co-author of the report, in which researchers state raccoons, rabbits, and opossums have almost entirely vanished from the southernmost regions of the Everglades, where pythons have been established the longest. Populations of raccoons in that part of the park dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent. Marsh and cottontail rabbits and foxes were no longer seen at all, according to the study.
Data were gathered during repeated, systematic nighttime road surveys within the Everglades, with researchers counting live and roadkill animals. Surveys from 2003-2011 of nearly 39,000 miles of road were analyzed and compared with results of similar surveys peformed along the same roadways in 1996 and 1997, before pythons were recognized as established in the park.
Researchers also surveyed ecologically similar areas north of the Everglades where pythons have not been discovered. In those areas, "mammal abundances" were similar to those reported 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 (mammal) 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 lead study author Michael Dorcas, PhD, a professor in the Biology Department at Davidson College in North Carolina.
"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," added Dr. Dorcas, who co-wrote "Invasive pythons in the United States: Ecology of an introduced predator." Published in 2007, the book suggested Burmese pythons could spread over much of the United States.
Shortly after the NAS Proceedings paper became available, The Huffington Post ran an article written by Frank Mazzotti, PhD, one of the study co-authors, in an attempt to clarify what the report does and doesn't say. The data do not show Burmese pythons caused the mammal declines, only that the snakes' occurrence is coincident with the decreases, wrote Dr. Mazzotti, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida.
"I liken what we did to a grand jury investigation," he wrote. "We amassed the available evidence and asked if it was sufficient to demonstrate that a crime had occurred (mammal populations had declined) and to suggest that pythons could be responsible (they had motive, means, and opportunity). An indictment was handed down. That does not mean the pythons are guilty. It does mean we need to go to trial."
The next step, according to Dr. Mazzotti, is to "design a study that evaluates the presence of the pythons with the absence of mammals in relation to differences and changes in habitat, hydrology, and other biological components." The study should be a "high priority for funding," he wrote, because it could go a long way toward identifying what's behind the mammal die-off in the Everglades.
"(W)hat happens if we are wrong and something else caused mammal populations to decline?" Dr. Mazzotti wrote. "Because if it is not pythons (and it might not be), something else is wrong in an ecosystem that we are spending billions of dollars to restore, and we need to know what that is."



Representing the fertilizer
industry, the TFI would naturally prefer the
weaker rules

Business groups continue to urge EPA to implement state-drafted water pollution rules
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
March 20, 2012
A slew of national organizations and businesses are continuing to urge EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to approve a set of Florida-specific water pollution standards drafted by the state, rather than set of rules promulgated by the federal government. In a letter sent to Jackson earlier this month, groups including The Fertilizer Institute argue that the state Department of Environmental Protection has “worked tirelessly” to develop its own water quality standards.
Currently, Florida relies on a narrative water quality standard, the wording of which (.pdf) has been criticized as too vague to be effective. A numeric standard, however, would express specific allowable concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients which often lead to algal blooms and fish kills) in water.
A lawsuit settled in 2009 resulted in a mandate requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. Though the EPA is the federal agency mandating those rules, the agency has said it would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own rules, and implement them if they are approved.
A portion of those rules was slated to go into effect earlier this month, but was recently delayed until July.
A piece of legislation directing the EPA to implement the Florida-drafted standards (in place of the rules drafted by the EPA) was unanimously approved by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission, the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott.
“Florida is recognized as a national leader in implementing a sophisticated suite of water quality and technology-based nutrient management programs to protect its water bodies,” reads a letter from 48 business groups. “In fact, FDEP has spent more than $20 million during the last decade to collect and analyze data related to the concentrations and impacts of nutrients in Florida’s water bodies. By utilizing this data and analysis, FDEP has worked tirelessly over the past year to develop scientifically defensible water quality standards. While there will be significant costs associated with these standards, we believe they are technically achievable standards that our members and other stakeholders will be able to meet while working in partnership with the state.”
Earlier this month, a third-party review found that the EPA had underestimated the costs associated with implementing its criteria. In a statement released shortly after that review, The Fertilizer Institute President Ford B. West said that his organization was “not surprised” by the findings.
“The potential cost to the agricultural sector has been a primary concern for TFI while addressing this issue,” said West. “The National Research Council’s report validates the agricultural community’s position regarding the enormous cost associated with implementation of EPA’s rule.”


Full Text

Numeric Nutrient Criteria in Florida – An Overview - by Thomas F. Mullin
March 20, 2012
By now, most environmental professionals and concerned residents may be familiar with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (“FDEP”) numeric nutrient criteria (“NNC”) rulemaking initiatives in Florida. However, unless you have followed the NNC process almost daily, you may be confused as to where we are and how we got here. The NNC landscape is changing almost daily.
This article details the history of the NNC and updates the reader on recent events. The article discusses the history of the federal and state NNC, including the federal lawsuit that led up to the EPA promulgating the NNC, the FDEP state-level NNC rulemaking, and Florida’s legislative actions taking control of the NNC back from the EPA.

Southern Plug Removed at Kissimmee River Restoration Project (USA)
March 20, 2012
The southern earthen plug located along Reach 3 of the Kissimmee River Restoration project has been removed, connecting a portion of the excavated oxbow to the C-38 Canal, located on the Kissimmee River. The work to remove the plug began March 12, 2012, and was completed March 13, 2012. During this time, over 80 percent of the volume of water flowed into the oxbow.
“Approximately 7,400 linear feet of material was excavated from this historic oxbow in an effort to duplicate the original meandering pattern, gradient, and cross-sectional area,” said Tiphanie Jinks, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager. “The excavated material was temporarily placed on an existing spoil mound adjacent to the Kissimmee River for placement into the channelized Kissimmee River beginning late 2012.”
The Kissimmee River Restoration project is a congressionally authorized undertaking sponsored by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, the non-federal sponsor. The project encompasses the removal of two water control structures, filling approximately 22 miles of canal, and restoring over 40 square miles of the river channel and floodplain ecosystem, including approximately 27,000 acres of wetlands.



Cutting the Army Corps of Engineers – by Chris Edwards, Cato Institute
March 19, 2012
  CATO Institute
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency that constructs and maintains a wide range of infrastructure for military and civilian purposes.(1 ) This essay concerns the civilian part of the agency, which employs about 23,000 people and will spend about $9.2 billion in fiscal 2012.(2 )
The civilian part of the Corps—called "civil works"—builds and operates locks, channels, and other navigation infrastructure on river systems. It also builds flood control structures, dredges seaports, manages thousands of recreation sites, and owns and operates hydroelectric power plants across the country.
While the Army Corps has built some impressive infrastructure, many of its projects have been economically or environmentally dubious. The agency's activities have often subsidized private interests at the expense of federal taxpayers. Furthermore, the Corps has a history of distorting its cost-benefit analyses in order to justify its projects.
The civilian side of the Corps grew out of the engineering expertise gained by the agency's military activities early in the nation's history. In mid-19th century, Congress began adding civilian missions to the Corps in response to political demands and various natural disasters. Today we are left with an agency involved in far flung activities such as beach replenishment, upgrades to city water systems, agriculture irrigation, clean-up of hazardous waste sites, and efforts to revive the Florida Everglades.
The Corps has been greatly mismanaged over the decades, with problems ranging from frequent cost overruns on projects to the major engineering failures that contributed to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the dominance of special-interest politics on the agency's activities has resulted in it supporting many wasteful projects.
Fortunately, most of the Corps' activities do not need to be carried out by the federal government. Some of its activities—such as flood control and the management of recreational areas—should be turned over to state and local governments. Other activities—such as seaport dredging and hydropower generation—should be turned over to the private sector. This essay focuses on cutting the Corps' spending activities, and does not address the calls for reforming the agency's regulatory functions.(3 )
The following sections look at the history of the Army Corps, the pork-barrel nature of its spending, its legacy of mismanagement, and its role in Hurricane Katrina. The essay concludes that the bulk of the agency's civilian activities and assets should be privatized or transferred to state and local governments. The remaining activities of the Corps that are truly federal in nature should be transferred to the Department of the Interior. The civilian side of the Army Corps should be closed down.
Two Centuries of Mission Creep
The U.S. military has needed engineering services since General George Washington sought French engineers to help him prosecute the Revolutionary War.(4 )  In 1802 Congress created a separate and permanent Army Corps of Engineers focused on military support activities. However, as the 19th century progressed, the Corps became increasingly involved in civilian activities, such as river navigation and flood control. One activity led to the next, and today's sprawling Army Corps is the result of two centuries of mission creep.
As an engineering-based agency, the Corps has had a pro-construction mentality since the beginning. It has always been eager to expand its budget and build new structures. At the same time, members of Congress have been eager to have the Corps tackle projects in their states and districts, especially those members from states that have major rivers, seaports, and other water resources.
In 1824 the Supreme Court decision in Gibbons v. Ogden gave the green light to federal involvement in river navigation activities. The same year, Congress provided $75,000 to the Corps to improve navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and it also gave the Corps a role in civilian surveying activities.(5 )  However, there have been concerns about the efficiency of the Corps' civilian activities since the beginning. In 1836 the House Ways and Means Committee called for reform because it discovered that at least 25 of the agency's projects were overbudget.(6 )  Nonetheless, Congress kept expanding the Corps' civilian activities, and by 1882 the agency was spending $19 million annually on 371 separate projects.(7 )
A number of congressional acts beginning in 1850 directed the Corps to aid with flood control on the Mississippi River. In 1861 an influential report set the Corps on a misguided "levees only" flood-control strategy.(8 )  Repeated floods in subsequent decades that broke through levees did not deter the Corps from its strategy.(9 )  After damaging floods in the early 20th century, Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1917, which further expanded the Corps' levee-construction activities along major rivers.
In 1927 one of the most damaging floods in U.S. history occurred when the Mississippi River and its tributaries broke out of extensive levee systems in many places. The flood dramatically illustrated the failure of the Corps' single-minded approach to flood control that focused on building levees. In annual reports leading up to the disastrous 1927 flood, the Corps had confidently told Congress that the Mississippi was safe from serious flooding.(10 )
After the flood, Editorial Research Reports noted that many experts thought that the "levees only" policy was unwise, but the Corps still resisted reforms. In a 1927 story the news service said: "After each flood there has been sharp criticism of the policy of placing sole reliance on the levee system, but the Army engineers heretofore have always successfully defended their position before Congress."(11 )
The Corps did adjust its strategy somewhat, but the scope of its construction increased under flood control acts of 1928 and later years. The agency had failed, but its budget was greatly boosted.(12 ) Journalist Michael Grunwald noted of the "levees only" approach that worsened the 1927 flood: "Congress rewarded this failure by allowing the Corps to seize control of the entire river and its tributaries, an unprecedented big government project that foreshadowed the New Deal."(13 )
During the 1930s, huge flood control projects were embraced as a way to create jobs, and the Corps—along with other federal agencies—spearheaded efforts to drain wetlands across the nation.(14 )  In his classic book about federal water infrastructure, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner said that the Corps has "ruined more wetlands than anyone in history, except perhaps its counterpart in the Soviet Union."(15 )
The Corps' efforts to dam rivers for flood control led to its involvement in hydroelectric power. At the beginning of the 20th century, a political battle was waged over private versus government development of hydropower. At first, the Army Corps teamed with private power companies to build plants at its dam sites. But in the 1920s Congress authorized the Corps to start building its own plants, and by the 1930s huge federal power projects were being pursued, such as Bonneville Dam in Oregon.
Once the Corps was building dams and reservoirs, the next step was to build and operate recreation sites near its facilities, which Congress authorized it to do in legislation of 1944 and later years. Today, the Corps operates more than 4,200 recreation areas across the nation.(16 )
The Corps has a history of supporting environmentally damaging projects, although it has tried to adopt a "green" image in recent years. Since 1992 the agency has expanded into municipal water supply and wastewater treatment facilities, and 400 such projects have been authorized to date.(17 )   In 2000 the Corps helped launch an almost $8 billion effort to fix the Florida Everglades—a project that is needed in part because of the damage done by the Corps' own infrastructure in prior decades.(18 )  For example, taxpayers paid for the Corps to straighten Florida's Kissimmee River in the 1960s, but that project was later determined to have been misguided. So today taxpayers are paying for the Corps to restore the Kissimmee River's original meandering course.(19 )  Bad environmental decisions by the Corps have thus cost federal taxpayers doubly.
While the Corps is part of the executive branch of government, the president has often had little control over its activities. The Corps has usually taken orders directly from Congress, and particularly from those members who have their hands on the agency's purse strings. For decades, presidents have complained about their lack of control over the Corps, and some have even tried to cancel its most wasteful projects. President Jimmy Carter famously tried to save taxpayer money and stop 19 environmentally damaging water resource projects in the 1970s. He wanted to "get the Corps of Engineers out of the dam-building business," but he misplayed the politics of the issue and Congress was "swift and angry" in blocking Carter's proposals.(20 )
President Ronald Reagan's reform efforts were a bit more successful. He pushed to increase local cost-sharing for Corps' projects, and that reform passed in 1986. The reform increased "the price of pork" for project supporters, which marginally reduced the incentive for local interests to lobby for federal subsidies.(21 )
President Bill Clinton tried to cut wasteful Corps' projects, but big-spending Republicans in Congress helped to block his efforts.(22 ) President George W. Bush had some success at canceling wasteful Corps' projects, but a 2007 authorization bill for the agency was passed over his veto.(23 )
Occasionally, the Corps has tried to save money by making its operations more efficient, such as by closing down some of its district offices. However, Congress has usually blocked such cost-saving efforts.(24 )  Similarly, members of Congress usually block efforts to close unneeded post offices or farm offices in their districts. Such congressional parochialism is one reason why the government can never operate as efficiently as a private business.
A Pork-Barrel Machine
The decentralized and congressionally dominated structure of the Army Corps has made it an unparalleled pork-barrel machine. Virtually all the agency's construction budget is "earmarked" for individual projects in particular states. Politics dominates any rational process of trying to fund only those projects that have high returns. Taxpayer money is often directed to low-value projects in the districts of powerful politicians, not to those projects that make the most economic sense.
While Corps' projects are supposed to be based on detailed economic and environmental analyses, political pull often determines the agency's priorities. In an investigation of the Corps in 2003, the Washington Post noted that "powerful members of Congress dictate the selection, pace, and price tag for major projects."(25 )  While levee upgrades in central New Orleans were stalled prior to Hurricane Katrina, dubious projects elsewhere in Louisiana and other states moved ahead.
Leading lawmakers have long used the Corps as a tool to aid farm businesses, shipping companies, barge firms, developers, and other businesses in their states. An observer of the Corps in 1952 noted that the agency makes alliances between local businesses and "two or three congressional committee chairmen. Together they drive through the Congress whatever proposals they wish, irrespective of the public interest."(26 )  In recent years, many of the champions of dubious Corps' projects have been Republicans, including Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and former senators Trent Lott (R-MS) and Christopher Bond (R-MO).(27 )
The Corps' decentralized structure, which has been in place since 1893, encourages pork-barrel spending.(28 )  The structure consists of headquarters, eight regional divisions, and 38 local district offices, which plan, construct, and maintain projects. Members of Congress and local interest groups are plugged into the projects of their particular offices, and they resist any cuts to them. Political scientist Melvin Dubnick noted that the Corps' "civil works management structure created a unique situation where political responsiveness was nurtured and constantly reinforced."(29 )  A 2004 report by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Wildlife Federation described an "iron triangle" of interests between the Corps, members of Congress, and local special interests.(30 )
The upshot is that the Corps' funding of infrastructure is often misallocated. State and local officials could better balance the costs and benefits of the Corps' local projects if their own taxpayers were paying the bills. Federal involvement in local infrastructure also creates a lack of accountability. For example, all three levels of government had responsibility for elements of flood control and hurricane response in New Orleans, but none of them had properly prepared for the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
A Legacy of Mismanagement
The Army Corps has built some impressive structures, such as the Washington Monument and the Panama Canal. But the agency's projects have been prone to large cost overruns, and they have often not produced the large benefits promised. Some projects have suffered from major failures, such as the levee system in New Orleans, while other projects have damaged the environment.
These sorts of problems started in the 19th century. Melvin Dubnick notes that in the post–Civil War period, "the wastefulness and mismanagement of Corps' operations were the subject of many articles in the professional and popular press of the time, and a growing list of fiascoes was being used by the agency's enemies to challenge its effort to develop a more comprehensive civil works program."(31 )
In 1951 Arthur Maass wrote an influential book about the Army Corps, Muddy Waters, which detailed the agency's politically driven decisions and poor planning processes.(32 )  In the forward to the book, former secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, said, "no more lawless or irresponsible federal group than the Corps of Army Engineers has ever attempted to operate in the United States, either inside or outside the law."(33 )  The opinion of Ickes was harsh, but it reflected a common view that the Corps was outside of presidential control and working for special interests at the expense of the general public.
A 1971 book by Arthur Morgan, Dams and other Disasters, was even more critical. The book rips into the Corps for its arrogant and damaging mismanagement. Morgan found that "there have been over the past 100 years consistent and disastrous failures by the Corps in public works areas . . . result[ing] in enormous and unnecessary costs to ecology [and] the taxpayer."(34 )  Morgan was a former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and a highly distinguished engineer, who had worked on water resource issues for decades. In his book, he documents how the Corps—with a bullheaded mentality—consistently underestimated the costs of its projects, followed shoddy engineering practices, treated Native American tribes poorly, lied to the public, hid information, pursued environmentally damaging projects, and demonized its enemies in order to silence dissent.
Some of these charges still ring true. The nation was reacquainted with the Corps' shoddy engineering with the tragic failure of the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In recent years, the Corps has hidden information from the public, and has been caught distorting economic analyses to justify wasteful projects. Because of its pro-construction mindset, the Corps continues to pursue projects that would damage the environment and produce limited economic benefits. In recent decades, for example, "the Corps has channelized dozens of rivers for barges that never arrived."(35 )
These longstanding problems are the result both of the agency's pro-building culture and congressional politics. The ad hoc way that the agency's projects are funded creates further problems. New projects are typically authorized in Water Resources Development Acts, which are passed every few years. The last of such acts was enacted in 2007 over a veto by President George W. Bush.(36 )  After authorization, each project included may or may not receive funding a year at a time in annual appropriations bills.
The problem is that Congress has crammed far too many projects into the Corps' pipeline, with the result that progress on each project is slow and erratic. For example, Congress has authorized more than 400 municipal water and sewer projects for the Corps, with a total price tag of more than $5 billion. However, only about $140 million or so is actually appropriated for these projects each year.(37 )
The slow progress of Corps' projects contrasts with private sector construction projects, which are built as quickly as possible to hold down costs. A Government Accountability Office report on the Corps found that "funding projects in increments hinders project efficiency by increasing costs and timelines."(38 )  One Corps' official told the GAO, "this is one of the reasons that a civil works project takes 20 years to execute, instead of 3 if we were fully funded from the start."(39 ) The Corps currently has a backlog of more than 1,000 feasibility studies and construction projects worth more than $80 billion that have been authorized but not funded.40
The Corps is an engineering and construction organization, and in our economy such activities are usually carried out by private businesses. The Corps has never been run like a private business—it doesn't have an efficient structure, it doesn't pursue the highest-return projects, and it doesn't construct projects quickly and efficiently. Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said the Corps is "one of the most incompetent and inept organizations in all the federal government."(41 )  The good news is that we don't need a civilian Army Corps organization because most of its functions could be carried out by state and local governments and the private sector.
Wasteful Projects and Faulty Analyses
The Army Corps is supposed to do a careful and detailed analysis of proposed projects to ensure that the benefits will outweigh the costs. However, the Corps has often pursued projects based on analyses that were theoretically flawed, had faulty data, or had been deliberately manipulated. The costs of projects are often underestimated and the benefits overestimated.
The Corps does the analyses of proposed projects that it will build itself, thus it usually favors big and expensive projects.(42 )  The Pentagon's inspector general found that the Corps has a "systemic bias" towards large-scale construction.(43 )  A number of years ago, a series of leaked internal memos by Corps' leaders revealed a strategy to "get creative" in accounting in order to "get to yes as fast as possible" on proposed projects.(44 )
The bias in the agency's analyses has been a problem for decades. In a 1952 book, Sen. Paul Douglas (D-IL) noted that the Corps has "never been restrained in estimating the benefits which will result from their projects and . . . in recent years [has] greatly underestimated the costs."(45 )  As governor of Georgia in the 1970s, Jimmy Carter complained of "computational manipulation" and dishonesty by the Corps regarding a proposed dam in his state.(46 )
Arthur Morgan's 1971 book provides many examples of how the Corps provided faulty analyses over many decades.(47 )  He concludes that "many of the Corps' projects cost two or more times the amount of the first estimates."(48 )  He quotes House Appropriations chairman Clarence Cannon in 1959 saying that the Corps was either "incompetent or deliberately misleading" Congress with its routinely faulty cost estimates.(49 )
Corps' managers and analysts are encouraged to "get to yes" by the local interests that benefit from projects and by their congressional sponsors. Over the decades, the Corps has proactively searched the nation looking for places to pour concrete.(50 )  The consequence of the agency's eagerness to build and the political pressure to spend is the construction of numerous white elephant projects.(51 )
Journalist Michael Grunwald notes that investigations "have repeatedly caught the Corps skewing its analyses to justify wasteful and destructive projects that keep its employees busy and its congressional patrons happy."(52 )  A 2006 Government Accountability Office report found that the analyses supporting a number of Corps' projects were "fraught with errors, mistakes and miscalculations, and used invalid assumptions and outdated data."(53 )  Furthermore, the GAO report found that "the Corps' analyses often understated costs and overstated benefits."(54 )  Studies for inland waterway projects, for example, have used inflated barge traffic projections to justify approval.
In 2002 the GAO lambasted a Corps' study justifying a $332 million project to deepen a ship channel in the Delaware River. It said that the study "was based on miscalculations, invalid assumptions, and outdated information."(55 )  The GAO found that "the project benefits for which there is credible support would be about $13.3 million a year, as compared to the $40.1 million a year claimed" by the Corps.(56 )
Having efficient and modernized ports is important to the U.S. economy, and supporters of the Delaware project have completed newer analyses claiming large positive returns.(57 )  But why does the federal government need to be involved? If this project makes economic sense, state and local governments and nearby businesses—such as oil refineries—should be willing to fund it themselves.
The Corps and some members of Congress have pushed a $108 million project to drain tens of thousands of acres of flood-prone land in Southeastern Missouri to benefit a small number of corn, soybean, and cotton farmers.(58 )  The area currently acts as a beneficial relief valve for the Mississippi River during floods. Many experts think that this project is absurd, but the Corps sought to speed project approval on the basis of a manipulated cost-benefit analysis.(59 )  In 2007 D.C. District Court Judge James Robertson harshly criticized the Corps' analysis as "arbitrary and capricious," and he said that "the Corps has demonstrated its willingness to do whatever it takes to proceed."(60 )
The Corps also cooked the books on a study for a $2 billion project for navigation improvements on the Upper Mississippi River. An initial Corps' analysis found that the project wasn't cost effective, so senior agency officials fiddled with the numbers to get a more favorable result.(61 )  Studies by the Army's Inspector General and the National Academy of Sciences found that the Corps' study justifying this project was bogus.(62 )
Members of Congress are often indignant when their pet projects are threatened by evaluations showing that they don't make economic sense. With regard to the Upper Mississippi project, then-senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) "vowed to make sure the projects are funded no matter what the economic studies ultimately conclude."(63 )  Similarly, the former head of the Senate subcommittee overseeing the Corps, George Voinovich (R-OH), blurted out at a hearing, "We don't care what the Corps cost-benefit is . . . we're going to build it anyhow because Congress says it's going to be built."(64 )  Or consider one senator's response when her project to aid the shipping industry in Louisiana was threatened: "After a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations."(65 )
Aside from economics, many Corps' projects don't make sense from an environmental perspective. The Congressional Research Service says that "the Corps has been widely criticized for the environmental harm its water resources projects have caused to ecosystems."(66 )  For example, the Corps' single-minded efforts since the 1940s to redirect water flows in Florida to aid developers and farmers have damaged the Everglades.(67 )  Federal sugar subsides have added to the damage. Taxpayers are now footing the bill for an almost $8 billion Corps' effort to reverse the damage to the Everglades caused by prior federal policies.(68 )
The Corps' navigation and flood-control structures on the Mississippi and other rivers may have actually made flooding worse over the decades by forcing rivers into narrow channels, destroying wetlands, and encouraging the development of flood-prone areas.(69 )  River navigation is important to the economy, but the Corps seems to have long undervalued the negative effects that its projects are having.
A study by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Wildlife Federation in 2004 identified 29 Corps' projects that they argued would impose environmental damage and waste a total of $12 billion.70 Similarly, a group of taxpayer and environmental groups produce an annual "Green Scissors" report, which lists billions of dollars in dubious Corps' spending.(71 )  Environmental groups often support wrongheaded anti-development positions, but fiscal conservatives find common cause with environmentalists in opposing government subsidies for dubious projects.
A good example of an anti-taxpayer and anti-environment boondoggle was a $220 million project to drain 67,000 acres of wetlands near the Yazoo River in Mississippi for the benefit of a small number of farmers and land owners. The area that was to be drained for farming acts as an emergency relief valve during rises in the Mississippi River. By draining and blocking the floodplain, the Corps would increase the risk of flooding for other areas along the river.
This project was condemned by experts, but Republican politicians including Thad Cochran, Trent Lott, and Haley Barbour continued pushing it for years. The subsidies to the Corps for the project were bad enough, but the New York Times noted that the project would also help landowners gain more federal farm subsidies: "Increasing farmland increases the opportunity for federal price supports. Some of the nation's biggest recipients of the supports are in the lower Delta."(72 ) Luckily, the George W. Bush administration blocked this project in 2008, and it now appears to be dead.(73 )
It may make sense to proceed with projects that harm the environment if the economic benefits are large. The problem with government subsidies is that they tilt the balance in a pro-development direction. If the owners of swampy land want to drain their properties for farming with their own money, it is likely that the increased value of farm production outweighs the project's cost. But if farmers can lobby the Army Corps to get their land drained for free, government policy is biased in an anti-environmental direction.
Economists generally support government spending on true "public goods." However, the purpose of many Corps' projects is to generate private gains, not broad public benefits. The Corps would look favorably on a project that cost taxpayers $100 million and generated private benefits to farmers, developers, or shipping companies of $110 million. But private interests should be willing to invest their own funds in such projects that have positive returns.(74 )
In sum, the Corps' infrastructure activities have often been based on faulty economics and pork-barrel politics. To better ensure efficient investment decisions, policymakers should transfer those Corps' activities that can be supported in the marketplace to the private sector, and transfer most of the rest of the agency's activities to state and local governments.
The Corps and Hurricane Katrina
The dismal performance of the flood protection system in New Orleans was the focus of much attention after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. Michael Grunwald has researched Katrina and the Corps in detail, and he concludes that "it wasn't a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster, created by lousy engineering, misplaced priorities, and pork-barrel politics."(75 )  He argues that most of the damage to New Orleans was attributable to failures of the Corps.(76 )
Prior to 1965 Louisiana generally handled its own storm protection systems. But Hurricane Betsy that year prompted Congress to pass the Flood Control Act of 1965, which directed the Corps to construct levees in New Orleans to withstand a category 3 storm. The project fell far behind schedule, went many times overbudget, and was not completed by the time of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.(77 )  The huge damage caused by Katrina was largely the result of preventable design failures in the city's flood-control systems.(78 )  The American Society of Civil Engineers concluded that "a large portion of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina was caused by . . . engineering and engineering-related policy failures."(79 )
There are at least five ways that the activities of the Army Corps magnified the damage done to people and property from Hurricane Katrina. First, there were fundamental design flaws in Army Corps' infrastructure around New Orleans. The levees failed in numerous places because of engineering and construction defects, such as the use of unstable soils in levee structures. Most of the flooding was due to water breeching the levees at weak points.
Second, the Corps' extensive levee and floodwall structures throughout the New Orleans area encouraged development in dangerous, low-lying areas. After Hurricane Betsy in 1965, the Corps was charged with improving the city's flood protection, but "rather than focusing its full efforts on protecting the existing city, the Corps decided to spend millions of dollars to extend levees into the virgin wetlands of New Orleans East specifically for the purpose of spurring development."(80 )  That turned out to be a very bad idea: "Some of the areas in New Orleans where Katrina wreaked the greatest damage were intensively developed only recently as a result of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' flood-control projects."(81 )
Third, the Corps' focus on building economic development infrastructure, such as ship channels, reduced available funds for hurricane protection. Louisiana had received $1.9 billion for Corps' projects in the five years before Katrina, but only a small share was spent on protecting central New Orleans from possible hurricanes.(82 )  Grunwald notes: "Before Katrina, the Corps was spending more in Louisiana than in any other state, but much of it was going to wasteful and destructive pork."(83 )
Fourth, Corps' infrastructure helped to deplete wetlands around New Orleans, which had provided a natural defense against hurricanes. The Corps' navigation and flood control structures have caused silt from the Mississippi to disperse into the Gulf over the decades, rather than being naturally used to rebuild the wetlands. As writer John McPhee noted, "sediments are being kept within the mainline levees and shot into the Gulf . . . like peas through a peashooter, and lost to the abyssal plain."(84 )  As a result, the wetlands have shrunk decade after decade.
Fifth, the Corps' Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) shipping channel acted to funnel Hurricane Katrina into the heart of New Orleans. The 76-mile MRGO was built in 1965 at great expense based on optimistic projections of ship traffic, but the traffic never materialized. Constructing MRGO destroyed thousands of acres of protective wetlands, and it acted to channel salt water inland, which killed fresh water marshes and cypress forests.(85 )  During Katrina, the channel is thought to have intensified the storm surge as it headed toward the city.(86 )
In 2009 a federal judge found that the Corps' mismanagement of MRGO was responsible for part of the flood damage to the city.(87 )  U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. concluded, "the Corps' lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions." (88 ) And he found that "the negligence of the Corps, in this instance by failing to maintain the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet properly, was not policy, but insouciance, myopia and shortsightedness." (89 )
Some of the "natural disasters" of recent decades have been partly man-made disasters. Despite massive federal spending on flood control by the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation over the decades, for example, floods cause more damage today in constant-dollar terms than they did in the earlier decades. (90 ) One of the problems is that government infrastructure and subsidies have encouraged Americans to live in harm's way along ocean coasts and in river floodplains. Unfortunately, even after Katrina, that message does not seem to have sunk in with federal policymakers.
Reform Options
The first step toward cutting the budget of the Army Corps is to end passage of new water resource authorization bills. It makes no sense for Congress to keep putting new civilian projects into the Corps' pipeline when the agency already has hundreds of projects previously authorized but not funded.
Then Congress should go through the Corps' budget and cut out all those activities that could be financed and operated by state and local governments or the private sector. Given the agency's long-standing mismanagement and misallocation of spending, it should be removed from those activities where federal involvement is not essential.
Many of the Corps' activities should be privatized. Activities such as harbor construction and maintenance, beach replenishment, and hydropower generation could be provided by private construction, engineering, and utility companies. Those companies could contract directly with customers, such as local governments, to provide those services.
Consider the Corp's harbor maintenance activities on the seacoasts. These activities are funded by a Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) collected from shippers based on the value of cargo. The tax generates about $1.4 billion a year and is spent on projects chosen by Congress and the Corps. But the federal government is an unneeded middleman here—port authorities could simply impose their own charges on shippers to fund their own maintenance activities, such as dredging. By cutting out the middleman, ports could respond directly to market demands, rather than having to lobby Washington for funding.
Groups representing shipping interests complain that Congress is not spending enough on harbors to keep America competitive in international trade. But the current federal system allocates funds inefficiently, creating large cross-subsidies between seaports. The Congressional Research Service notes that harbor maintenance funds are often "directed towards harbors which handle little or no cargo" and "there is no attempt to identify particular port usage and allocate funds accordingly." (91 ) The Port of Los Angeles, for example, generates a large share of HMT revenues, but it receives very little maintenance spending in return. The Congressional Research Service further explains:
“Examining where trust fund monies have been spent indicates that little or no shipping is taking place at many of the harbors and waterways that shippers are paying to maintain. . . . Given the amount of HMT collections not spent on harbors, and the amount spent on harbors with little or no cargo, a rough estimate is that less than half and perhaps as little as a third of every HMT dollar collected is being spent to maintain harbors that shippers frequently use.” (92 )
The solution to these sorts of inefficiencies is not more federal funding, but greater port independence and self-funding. One step toward that goal would be to privatize U.S. seaports, which are generally owned by state and local governments today. Britain pursued such reforms in 1983 when it privatized 19 seaports to form Associated British Ports (ABP).(93 ) Today ABP operates 21 ports, and its subsidiary, UK Dredging, provides dredging services in the marketplace. ABP and UK Dredging earn profits and pay taxes. Today two-thirds of British cargo goes through efficient privatized seaports.(94 ) One advantage of private seaports is that they can expand their facilities when market demands warrant, free of the uncertainties created by government budgeting.
Privatization is also a good option for the Corps' 75 hydropower plants. More than two-thirds of the roughly 2,400 hydropower plants in the nation are privately owned.(95 ) While federal facilities—including those of the Army Corps—dominate hydropower in some states such as Washington, other states such as New York and North Carolina have substantial private hydropower. The point is that the private sector is entirely capable of running hydropower plants, and thus Congress should begin selling the generating facilities of the Corps.
Many of the Corps' assets should be turned over to state and local governments. These assets include flood control infrastructure, municipal water and sewer projects, the Washington, D.C., aqueduct system, and recreational areas. The financing and control of flood control infrastructure in Louisiana, for example, should be handed over to the State of Louisiana. That would give citizens direct responsibility over their hurricane defenses, rather than to have them rely on a distant Washington bureaucracy. State and local officials could better balance the costs and benefits of levees and other infrastructure if their own citizens were footing the bill.
The Commerce Clause of the Constitution allowed the federal government to assert control over navigable rivers, and the Corps has taken the lead role in river navigation activities since the 19th century. However, Congress should consider reforms to reduce the costs on general taxpayers of these activities. Currently, a barge fuel tax generates revenues for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, but this fund only pays half the cost of constructive projects on the inland waterways and none of the operation and maintenance costs.96 One reform step would be to raise fees to cover a higher share of system's costs, as proposed by the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission in 2010.(97 )
An expert on the system, Steve Ellis, testified to Congress last year about the inefficiency of the current funding structure. One problem is that "since users don't have to pay anything for maintenance, they are constant cheerleaders for new construction."(98 )  Another problem is that spending is allocated based on politics, not on market demands such as barge traffic levels. Some rivers in the system receive very little barge traffic, yet receive substantial spending from the Corps. Ellis also notes that inland waterway projects suffer from the Corps' usual distorted analyses and cost overruns: "None of the inland navigation projects the Corps has green-lighted in recent decades have met their economic predictions."(99 )
To create more efficient inland waterways, Congress should consider transferring the Corps' activities to state governments or private businesses. In 2002 the Bush administration determined that the Corps' civilian activities were not a "core competency" of the government and should be opened to private contractors.(100 )  It proposed allowing private bidding for 2,000 Corps jobs involved in the operation of locks and dams on the waterways, but that plan did not come to fruition.(101 )  Another idea is to create a self-funded organization to operate the inland waterways, either as an arms-length part of government or as a private entity.(102 )
To conclude, the nation's long experience with the Army Corps illustrates how federal involvement in local infrastructure often leads to mismanagement, inefficiency, and pork-barrel spending. It's time to revive federalism in infrastructure investment and begin to privatize Army Corps activities or transfer them to the states. Those remaining activities of the Corps that are truly federal in nature should be moved to the Department of the Interior and the civilian side of the Corps closed down.

1 The civilian side of the Corps is part of the Department of Defense, but it is usually shown as a separate agency in federal budget presentations.
2 Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2013, Analytical Perspectives (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2012), Table 33-1. Spending refers to net outlays. The employee count refers to full-time equivalents.
3 For a discussion of the Corps' regulatory activities, see David Sunding, "An Opening for Meaningful Reform," Regulation 26, no. 2 (Summer 2003); and see Jonathan H. Adler, "The Clean Water Land Grab," Regulation 31, no. 4 (Winter 2009–2010). For an alternative view, see American Rivers and National Wildlife Federation, "A Citizen's Guide to the Corps of Engineers," 2009.
4 For a brief history of the Corps, see Melvin Dubnick, "Army Corps of Engineers," in George T. Kurian, ed., A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). For an official history, see U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A History," 2007,
5 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A History," 2007, p. 41,
6 Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004, p. ii.
7 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A History," 2007, p. 47,
8 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A History," 2007, p. 59, For a discussion of early levee-building on the Mississippi, see John McPhee, "Atchafalaya," New Yorker, February 23, 1987.
9 John McPhee, "Atchafalaya," New Yorker, February 23, 1987.
10 Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), p. 233.
11 C. Perkins, "Mississippi River Flood Relief and Control," Congressional Quarterly (Editorial Research Reports), May 19, 1927.
12 John McPhee, "Atchafalaya," New Yorker, February 23, 1987.
13 Michael Grunwald, "The Threatening Storm," Time, August 2, 2007.
14 For example, the Department of Agriculture and the Civilian Conservation Corps launched efforts in the 1930s to drain wetlands.
15 Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 172.
16 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
17 Nicole T. Carter and Charles V. Stern, "Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects: Authorization and Appropriations," Congressional Research Service, September 29, 2010, p. 13.
18 Nicole T. Carter, H. Steven Hughes, and Pervaze A. Sheikh, "Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program," Congressional Research Service, June 9, 2005, p. 5.
19 Jennifer Weeks, "Protecting Wetlands," Congressional Quarterly, October 3, 2008.
20 "Water: A Billion Dollar Battleground," Time, April 4, 1977. See also Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), Chapter 9.
21 Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004, p. 39.
22 Michael Grunwald, "Working to Please Hill Commanders," Washington Post, September 11, 2000.
23 This was the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.
24 Government Accountability Office, "Army Corps of Engineers: Organizational Realignment Could Enhance Effectiveness, but Several Challenges Would Have to Be Overcome," GAO-10-819, September 2010, p. 17.
25 Eric Pianin and Christopher Lee, "Corps of Engineers Chief Drafts Plan to Reorganize Agency," Washington Post, September 24, 2003.
26 James H. Rowe, Book Review of Muddy Waters, in American Political Science Review 46, no. 2 (June 1952): 572.
27 For a description of the Corp's pork-barrel machine, see Michael Grunwald, "Working to Please Hill Commanders," Washington Post, September 11, 2000.
28 Government Accountability Office, "Army Corps of Engineers: Organizational Realignment Could Enhance Effectiveness, but Several Challenges Would Have to Be Overcome," GAO-10-819, September 2010, pp. 14–15.
29 Quoted in Melvin Dubnick, "Army Corps of Engineers," in George T. Kurian, ed. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 72.
30 Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004.
31 Quoted in Melvin Dubnick, "Army Corps of Engineers," in George T. Kurian, ed, A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 71.
32 Arthur Maass, Muddy Waters: The Army Engineers and the Nation's Rivers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1951).
33 Quoted in James H. Rowe, Book Review of Muddy Waters, in American Political Science Review 46, no. 2 (June 1952): 572. See also Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 181.
34 Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), p. xxiii.
35 Michael Grunwald, "An Agency of Unchecked Clout," Washington Post, September 10, 2000.
36 The White House, "President Bush Vetos Water Resources Development Act of 2007," press release, November 2, 2007.
37 Nicole T. Carter and Charles V. Stern, "Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects: Authorization and Appropriations," Congressional Research Service, September 29, 2010, p. 13.
38 Government Accountability Office, "Army Corps of Engineers: Organizational Realignment Could Enhance Effectiveness, but Several Challenges Would Have to Be Overcome," GAO-10-819, September 2010, p. 20.
39 Government Accountability Office, "Army Corps of Engineers: Organizational Realignment Could Enhance Effectiveness, but Several Challenges Would Have to Be Overcome," GAO-10-819, September 2010, p. 20.
40 Nicole T. Carter and Charles V. Stern, "Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects: Authorization and Appropriations," Congressional Research Service, September 29, 2010, p. 2.
41 David Hosansky, "Reforming the Corps," Congressional Quarterly, May 30, 2003.
42 For example, see the discussion in Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), Chapter 6.
43 Michael Grunwald, "Reining in the Corps of Engineers," Time, September 20, 2007.
44 Michael Grunwald, "An Agency of Unchecked Clout," Washington Post, September 10, 2000.
45 Paul H. Douglas, Economy in the National Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. 105.
46 Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 308.
47 Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), pp. 32–37.
48 Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), pp. 393.
49 Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), p. 33.
50 Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert (New York: Penguin, 1993), Chapter 6.
51 For some examples, see Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004.
52 Michael Grunwald, "Reining in the Corps of Engineers," Time, September 20, 2007.
53 Government Accountability Office, "Corps of Engineers: Observations on Planning and Project Management Processes for the Civil Works Program" GAO-06-529T, March 15, 2006, p. 5.
54 Government Accountability Office, "Corps of Engineers: Observations on Planning and Project Management Processes for the Civil Works Program" GAO-06-529T, March 15, 2006, p. 5.
55 Government Accountability Office, "Delaware River Deepening Project," GAO-02-604, June 2002, p. 5.
56 Government Accountability Office, "Delaware River Deepening Project," GAO-02-604, June 2002, p. 5.
57 See information at
58 This is the St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway Project. See Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Wildlife Federation, and National Taxpayers Union, "Katrina's Costly Wake," 2006, p. 5.
59 Michael Grunwald, "An Agency of Unchecked Clout," Washington Post, September 10, 2000.
60 Quoted in Michael Grunwald, "Reining in the Corps of Engineers," Time, September 20, 2007.
61 Michael Grunwald, "How Corps Turned Doubt Into a Lock," Washington Post, February 13, 2000.
62 Studies cited in Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004, p. 3.
63 Michael Grunwald, "Army Corps Delays Study over Flawed Forecasts," Washington Post, October 5, 2000, p. A33.
64 Michael Grunwald, "An Agency of Unchecked Clout," Washington Post, September 10, 2000.
65 Michael Grunwald, "Money Flowed to Questionable Projects," Washington Post, September 8, 2005.
66 Nicole T. Carter, H. Steven Hughes, and Pervaze A. Sheikh, "Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program," Congressional Research Service, June 9, 2005, p. 4.
67 Abby Goodnough, "Effort to Save Everglades Falters as Funds Drop," New York Times, November 2, 2007. And see Arthur E. Morgan, Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1971), Chapter, pp. 371–87.
68 Nicole T. Carter, H. Steven Hughes, and Pervaze A. Sheikh, "Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program," Congressional Research Service, June 9, 2005, p. 5.
69 For a discussion, see Michael Grunwald, "The Floods: A Man-Made Disaster?" Time, June 25, 2008.
70 Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: The Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004, p. i.
71 Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Environment America, and Public Citizen, "Green Scissors 2010,"
72 Felicity Barringer, "Death Looms for a Flood-Control Project," New York Times, April 9, 2008.
73 Michael Grunwald, "A Green Day for Bush," Time, February 2, 2008.
74 For a discussion of the Corps' flawed cost-benefit analyses, see Taxpayers for Common Sense and National Wildlife Federation, "Crossroads: The Corps of Engineers, and the Future of America's Water Resources," March 2004.
75 Michael Grunwald, "The Threatening Storm," Time, August 2, 2007.
76 Michael Grunwald, "Setting the Stage for More Katrinas" Time, August 2, 2007.
77 Government Accountability Office, "Army Corps of Engineers: Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection Project," GAO-05-1050T, September 28, 2005.
78 A detailed review of the catastrophe is available from the Independent Levee Investigation Team, "Investigation of the Performance of the New Orleans Flood Protection Systems," University of California at Berkeley, July 31, 2006,
79 American Society of Civil Engineers, "The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why," 2007, p. v,
80 Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Wildlife Federation, and National Taxpayers Union, "Katrina's Costly Wake," 2006, p. 3.
81 Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Wildlife Federation, and National Taxpayers Union, "Katrina's Costly Wake," 2006, p. 1.
82 Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Wildlife Federation, and National Taxpayers Union, "Katrina's Costly Wake," 2006, p. 5.
83 Michael Grunwald, "The Threatening Storm," Time, August 2, 2007.
84 John McPhee, "Atchafalaya," New Yorker, February 23, 1987.
85 Long before Katrina, at least one writer recognized the damage caused by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. See John McPhee, "Atchafalaya," New Yorker, February 23, 1987.
86 Environmental Defense, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Wildlife Federation, and National Taxpayers Union, "Katrina's Costly Wake," 2006, p. 7.
87 Campbell Robertson, "Ruling on Katrina Flooding Favors Homeowners," New York Times, November 18, 2009.
88 Quoted in Michael Grunwald, "Will the Katrina Ruling Prevent Another Disaster?" Time, November 19, 2009.
89 Quoted in Campbell Robertson, "Ruling on Katrina Flooding Favors Homeowners," New York Times, November 18, 2009.
90 It is difficult to compare flood damages over time, but estimates from the National Weather Service show that that the real costs in recent decades are substantially higher than the costs in earlier decades. See
91 John Frittelli, "Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Expenditures," R41042, Congressional Research Service, January 10, 2011, pp. summary, 6.
92 John Frittelli, "Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Expenditures," R41042, Congressional Research Service, January 10, 2011, p. 1.
93 See Associated British Ports, and
94 U.K. Department for Transport, "National Policy Statement for Ports," January 12, 2012, p. 10,
95 However, publicly owned plants are often larger than private plants, with the result that about three-quarters of the capacity is public. See Douglas G. Hall and Kelly S. Reeves, "A Study of United States Hydroelectric Plant Ownership," Idaho National Laboratory, June 2006, p. 2.
96 For background, see Charles V. Stern, "Inland Waterways: Recent Proposals and Issues for Congress," R41430, Congressional Research Service, July 14, 2011.
97 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, "The Moment of Truth," December 1, 2010, See option no. 34. See also Congressional Budget Office, "Budget Options: Volume 2," August 2009, p. 258.
98 Steve Ellis, testimony before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, September 21, 2011.
99 Steve Ellis, testimony before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, September 21, 2011.
100 Sean Reilly, "Corps Ordered to Open Door to Privatization," Newhouse, October 17, 2002.
101 Jenny Mandel, "Army Corps Nixes Public-Private Contest for 2,000 Jobs,", November 16, 2006.
102 Cameron Gordon, "The Inland Waterways: Can They be Corporatized?" Army Corps of Engineers, June 1995.


Save a park, sell your Caddy
The Miami Herald – by Fred Grimm
March 19, 2012
Selling off our national parks to private developers…. well, you got to give it to Cliff Stearns. That’s just good modern Republican business sense. Sell ’em. Drill ’em. Frack ’em. Turn the Grand Tetons into a ski resort. Hang a zip line over the Grand Canyon. Convert Yosemite into a corporate retreat. Strip mine the Smokies. Erect drill rigs in the Everglades.
But comparing a sell-off of so much scrubby parkland to getting rid of the family Caddy — that’s near about blaspheme where I’m from.
Stearns, a ranking congressman from Ocala (better known, lately, as a Florida’s most prominent birther), uttered his slander on the most sacred of down-home family values last month at constituent meeting in Belleview. He was railing against a proposed new national trail commemorating the route Buffalo Soldiers rode through California back at the turn of the last century. The black Army outfit, essentially America’s first park rangers, patrolled the newly created Sequoia and Yosemite national parks, protecting the federal land from wildlife poachers, timber rustlers and illegal grazing.
“Would you want to walk 200 miles?” Stearns asked his constituents. (That suggests that, if Stearns had been around in 1921, he’d have been even less enthused by the construction of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Would you want to walk 2,181 miles?)
Stearns said that “we don’t need more national parks in this country. We need to actually sell off some of our national parks, and try and do what a normal family would do.”
Normal families usually don’t have national parks in their domestic portfolio. But Stearns persisted. “They wouldn’t ask Uncle Joe for a loan, they would sell their Cadillac.”
This was too much. Back where I’m from, in West Virginia, rednecks with Caddies would sooner sell their kids (a relatively plentiful commodity) than part with an Eldorado. If it happened to be the 1959 model with soaring fins and Marilyn Monroe bumpers, well, he’d consider tossing the wife and her momma into the negotiations.
Previously, Rep. Stearns’ peculiar interest in the national parks system had focused on legislation to rescind the ban on firearms inside the parks. But other Republican members of Congress have lately proposed selling off chunks of parkland and national forests. Or opening up parks to oil and gas exploration. The new Smokey the Bear poster comes with either of two mottos: either “Don’t Shoot” or “Drill, baby bear, drill.”
Under Gov. Rick Scott, Florida’s state parks have similarly been re-imagined as commodities. Last year, Gov. Scott’s administration, pushing a flurry of new proposals to reengineer state government as a business enterprise, decided that the state’s 160 parks should each be self-sufficient — or else. The state park service decided 53 “unprofitable” state parks would be shut down. Private operators would be able to build campgrounds, with RV hook-ups, inside another 56 parks. Another proposal would allow a single, well-connected company to construct and operate fancy golf courses in other parks.
The public, which tends to regard a state park somewhat differently than, say, a strip shopping center in Kendall, was not amused. A great howl ensued. Scott suddenly decided he didn’t mind the unprofitable park system so much.
This past session the Legislature did pass bills allowing commercial advertising along state scenic trails, giving “scenic” an odd new definition, but opponents managed to limit the damage to just seven trails. A bill to allow gas and oil drilling in state parks died a worthy death.
No one, in the past session, proposed selling off the state’s oceanfront parks to condo developers. Maybe the Legislature’s big dogs are only waiting for the real estate market to recover. In the new Florida, you gotta think like a entrepreneur.
Oddly enough, Cliff Stearns’ antipathy toward the creation of new historic parks was not so apparent in 2006, when the onetime operator of a small motel chain pushed through federal legislation (and funding) to designate Fort King, site of a major dust-up in the Second Seminole War, as a national historic landmark.
On July 1, 2008, Stearns rightfully took full credit for the dedication of the 39-acre national historic site, which — I’m sure this is just a coincidence — happens to be located right there on 39th Avenue in his hometown of Ocala. “Our nation is rich in natural resources, scenic wonders and historic events and locations” he said.
When Stearns said “rich,” who knew he was speaking as a real estate speculator?
I bet Fort King would make a dandy location for a new motel. Do I hear bids? Anyone want to swap their old Caddy ?


Tally turns the tap back on
Palm Beach Post – by Randy Schultz for the Editorial Board
March 18, 2012
The Florida Legislature corrects mistakes about as often as Peyton Manning changes football teams. This year, though, the Legislature corrected much of a bad mistake from last year.
The 2011 mistake was a bill that capped how much tax revenue the state's five water management districts could raise and essentially put the Legislature in charge of the districts' budgets. For decades, governor-appointed boards had set tax and budget policy based on water supply, flood control and environmental needs in the five watersheds.
This arrangement separated decisions concerning the state's most important resources from the pork-barrel politics of Tallahassee. To the 2011 Senate, it represented unelected board members soaking the public. A very new Gov. Scott signed the bill, and used it to keep a promise of tax cuts.
Especially at the South Florida Water Management District, though, the bill was shortsighted. Water projects, notably those for Everglades restoration, require capital money that too-tight budgets can't supply. Though some districts were overspending on administration and perks, the Legislature overreached.
Then several things happened. Gov. Scott picked Melissa Meeker, a former board member, as director of the South Florida district. She cut administration. Gov. Scott got new aides, who agreed with other staffers that the environment was a bipartisan issue. Sugar growers may have told Tallahassee that if the districts couldn't pay for the projects, growers might get assessed for them.
So this year, the Senate and Gov. Scott worked to craft SB 1986. It lifts the revenue caps, and reduces the Legislature's review to oversight of the administrative budget and large land sales. The Everglades Foundation is happy. Audubon of Florida is happy. The Legislature also put $30 million for Everglades restoration in the budget.
Since a healthy Everglades is key to the water supply of southern Florida, what helps the environment can help business. It would be a mistake to think anything else.


Board appointments in limbo – by Felicia Kitzmiller
March 17, 2012
Senate fails to act on 400 recommendations from governor
PANAMA CITY — The staffing of several state boards that govern and regulate everything from water resources and education to licensing of local barbers is uncertain after the Senate failed to approve hundreds of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointments.
Many local people and entities might now have to wait more than a month before Scott decides their fate by issuing a second list of appointments that will be effective until the next legislative session. The list is expected to be substantially similar to the appointments that weren’t confirmed by the Senate.
The governor’s appointments are subject to approval by the Senate, usually as one list after going through committees, and are typically voted on in the last weeks of the legislative session. Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ office has said the appointments weren’t confirmed because the Senate was consumed by controversial legislation including auto insurance reform until its final hour on the last day of the session, March 9. The Senate was also embroiled in an internal leadership drama and the review and subsequent rejection of its redistricting maps by the Florida Supreme Court.
“They had a lot to do,” said Allan Bense, former Speaker of the House and one of the appointees not confirmed.
Bense began serving on the Florida State University Board of Trustees in June. He said he sought the position in an effort to protect and preserve the FSU Panama City campus, which he thinks is vital to Bay County’s ability to attract quality, high-wage jobs. Bense, along with his siblings and a daughter, are FSU graduates.
“I’m a huge FSU supporter so I want to make sure FSU is run in the proper manner and the local campus is given all the opportunity to stay in play,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Scott’s office said the governor is reviewing the list of appointments and will issue a second round of appointments within the statutorily prescribed timeframe – 45 days from the last day of session. If he does not, the appointments will be required to leave their positions, creating vacancies, by April 23.
For now all the roughly 400 appointments can do is wait and hope Scott doesn’t change his mind about their appointment.
“I’ve got some really good company,” Bense said. “Some really high-profile people who have been very supportive of the governor.”
Four of the local appointments are to the Gulf Coast State College Board of Trustees. Board chairwoman Denise Butler said she had not received any instructions to do anything differently in regard to the school’s governance and she was confident the new trustees, all of which were seated in January, would be re-appointed by the governor.
“What I know at this point is every one of these people were personally interviewed by the governor and appointed, so I can only assume this is a procedural thing,” she said. “… It was a vetting like we’ve never seen.”
All of the trustees have been doing an excellent job, she noted.
Also in appointment limbo are several appointments to the Northwest Florida Water Management District board, including executive director Doug Barr. The district is currently a co-defendant with Bay County in a suit brought by Washington County and the Knight Family Trust regarding the potential drilling of back-up water wells in the northern part of the county.
One person who is not awaiting the second round of appointments is Callaway City Clerk Jennifer Vigil. Though she was reappointed by the governor last year, she resigned from the state real estate board in August, immediately before taking her position in Callaway, because holding two appointments simultaneously is prohibited.


Reused water
Extension of reused
water newtwork

Killebrew Inc. hired for water reuse project - by Phil Attinger
March 16, 2012
LAKE WALES - City commissioners have hired Killebrew Inc. to finish the city's water reuse system.
The Lake Wales City Commission approved a $846,500 contract with the construction company last week to extend the system to Lake Wales Country Club, which is owned by Ben Hill Griffin Inc.
Sarah B. Kirkland, utilities projects administrator, said Killebrew was the lowest bidder.
Since the city had placed only $750,000 in the five-year capital improvement plan for this project, the City Commission will have to approve a budget amendment for the project, she said.
Kirkland said two bidders came in above $750,000, so city staff approached both the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Ben Hill Griffin - partners with the city for the project - to ask if they would provide more funding than they already were.
Both Swiftmud and Ben Hill Griffin are considering it, she said, but she expect they will pay.
City Attorney Albert C. Galloway Jr. said the city's proposal is to pay one-third of the extra cost: $32,000, with the rest covered by the two other partners.
The reuse system is to provide residential, commercial and agricultural customers with treated wastewater for irrigation, saving the amount of fresh water usually pumped for that purpose.
In a memorandum, Kirkland said the system was intended to serve the Whispering Ridge and Mayfair subdivisions, both city and privately owned citrus groves, the Lake Wales Cemetery, the city's multi-purpose sports complex, Longleaf Business Park and the Lake Wales Country Club.


The L-8 reservoir will get
pumps to handle its
15 billion gallons of
water, which will provide
a better backup source
of water

Project could be a big boost for thirsty SoFL
South Florida Business Journal - by Kevin Gale, Editor in Chief
March 16, 2012
The South Florida Water Management District is seeking engineering or construction firms interested in
building a major pumping station for a reservoir capable of storing 15 billion gallons of water.
The L-8 Reservoir is a 950-acre former rock mine, once used by Palm Beach Aggregates Inc., and has a watertight geology that allows for deep, below-ground storage, the water district said in a press release.
Palm Beach Aggregates has 4,400 acres in western Palm Beach County and also is engaged in farming, as well as producing aggregate products used in construction, its website states.
The L-8 project is capable of storing 15 billion gallons of water, enough to fill 24,000 football fields one foot deep, the water district said.
Completion of the project might be considered an environmental milestone in South Florida. Everglades restoration, which often involves projects to store water, has moved forward in fits and starts – often mired in litigation and political wrangling.
The region is currently experiencing below-average rainfall for its dry season and is under a water shortage warning. Severe water shortages in the past have hurt the region's multi-billion agricultural industry and resulted in brown yards when water restrictions kick in.
This week, more than 100 attendees went to the district's informational meeting and site tour for the project. After staff review of the submittals, which are due March 27, and governing board direction, the district said it will issue a request for technical proposals from an approved list of qualifying firms.
Once the pump station is constructed, the district will be able to pump water from 40 feet deep in the reservoir at a rate of 450 cubic feet per second — comparable to the pressure in more than 150 fire hydrants, the press release said. At an estimated project cost of $6,000 per acre-foot, the project is less costly than constructing an above ground reservoir.
The depth also minimizes water loss through evaporation and eliminates levee safety concerns, the district pointed out. There have been ongoing concerns about the Herbert Hoover levee around Lake Okeechobee and the Sun Sentinel reported Friday that FEMA has given the water district two years to fix the Everglades levee at the western edge of urban South Florida. Otherwise, residents nearby could see flood insurance rates increase.
The water district said the L-8 Reservoir has already provided regional water resource benefits:
• West Palm Beach was able to utilize more than 600 million gallons of water from the reservoir for water supply during the historic 2007 drought and to again draw from the reservoir during a prolonged dry period in 2011. (The Business Journal has previously reported how the Biscayne Aquifer doesn't extend north to the West Palm Beach area, which historically makes it more reliant on surface water.)
• During a 2011 pilot project, the district used small pumps to send fresh water from the reservoir north to benefit the federally designated “Wild and Scenic” Loxahatchee River.
• FPL has used reservoir water for its cooling system, reducing the demand on groundwater supplies. A vice president with FPL, a unit of NextEra Energy NextEra EnergyLatest from The Business JournalsFollow this company (NYSE: NEE) told the Sun Sentinel in 2010 that the reservoir had high levels of chloride, but would be a more environmentally friendly option than using water from the Floridian Aquifer to cool the utility's West County Energy Center.
• The reservoir also was used for flood control to protect local communities during major rain events, including the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.


Florida Legislature wrap up: Environmental issues – by Michael Peltier
March 15, 2012
TALLAHASSEE - Septic tank legislation, state permitting changes and millions of dollars for Everglades restoration and land-buying capped off a relatively under-the-radar session for environmental issues.
Despite being overshadowed by insurance, redistricting and higher education issues, to name a few, environmental groups say they had better session than last, with both legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott both being more amendable to their input.
"I found a greater willingness on the part of leadership to work on compromises on many of these issues," said Janet Bowman, legislative director for the Nature Conservancy. "The governor, too, had much greater outreach this session and we worked well with his office on a number of issues."
Atop the list, the $70 billon budget includes $30 million for Everglades restoration. A priority of the governor, money for the state's share of clean-up efforts was earmarked early in the process, and both chambers went along.
Not so with Florida Forever. The state's latest rendition of a decades' long land-buying effort was under the knife as lawmakers attempted to fill a $1.4 billion hole in the state budget. In the end, however, lawmakers found $8 million to put toward managing and lease arrangements, though the state won't purchase any new land for now.
"It wasn't a lot of money, but it was a strong recommitment to the programs," said Eric Draper of Florida Audubon.
Among the most closely watched water issues was a repeal of a statewide septic tank inspection program that critics said was too expensive. The measure, included in a Department of Health agency bill, would still allow inspections in counties that have first magnitude springs.
But Kurt Spitzer, executive director of the Florida Stormwater Association, said the group is concerned the bill may prevent cities and counties that already have ordinances in place from keeping them on the books.
"It seems to go a little further than we had wished and limits the ability of local governments to establish rules on their own," Spitzer said.
Water management districts
Stung last year by a bill that stripped them of more than $200 million in funding, Florida water management districts got a bit of a reprieve this year as lawmakers restored some of the regional boards' ability to bring in revenue, and laid off deeper cuts.
Lawmakers passed SB 1986, which lifted revenue caps in exchange for requiring heightened legislative oversight. Specifically, the bill would require an annual review, but would allow districts to again determine their appropriate funding levels.
In addition, the final version rolled back some of the oversight provisions that were envisioned in earlier drafts and relaxed some stricter requirements that environmental groups found too onerous.
"The lifting of the water managements caps was very encouraging," Bowman said. "There seems to be a recognition that the water management districts needed to have the revenue available to meet regional and statewide needs."
Streamlined enviro permitting
A wide-ranging bill (HB 503) that makes a number of changes in the environmental permitting process, including prohibiting local governments from making a development permit conditional on having some other state permit, passed the Legislature the day before lawmakers called it quits.
The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, deregulated certain injection wells and set a time limit on some permit applications. The bill also removes agency approval requirements for small stormwater projects and extends deadlines for certain environmental resource permits.
Other issues that didn't pass included:
-HB 695, a measure that would let land management agencies enter into public-private partnerships with businesses to develop oil and gas on some onshore state lands under certain conditions.
-SB 604, a measure to restrict local laws regulating urban fertilizer application was killed before hitting the Senate floor.


Flunk this test
The Gainesville Sun - Editorial
March 14, 2012 (also March 21a)
Florida lake levels fluctuate in harmony with wet-dry cycles; which is to say that lakes are lower in drought years and higher in rainy years.
Right now, lake levels are very low because we are in an extended drought cycle.
The aquifer beneath our feet is also low and dropping, not just due to drought, but to over-pumping as well.
So we have to wonder about the value of a "test" being launched by the St. Johns River Water Management District. It involves drilling down into the aquifer in Bradford County in order to pump 1.4 million gallons a day through a series of creeks and lakes.
This in order to measure how fast the water will evaporate and how much of it will sink back into the ground along the way.
The district says the intent is not to see if lakes can be refilled by groundwater, but rather whether it is feasible to use other "new" water sources — perhaps highly treated wastewater — to supplement lake levels.
There are two apparent problems with this test.
First, the district has chosen the aquifer for its "new" water source because it is the cheapest thing to do.
That's exactly why Jacksonville and other large water consumers are currently depleting the aquifer; because that's the cheapest and most expedient way to satisfy their water needs.
If the district wants to lead by example, this isn't the way to do it.
Second, we have to question the very premise of an experiment apparently aimed at finding ways to keep lake levels high, no matter the water source.
Although it angers lake-side homeowners when there is no water under their docks, scientists know that periodic dry cycles are essential for the health of Florida lakes.
Lakes that remain high due to artificial manipulation are subject to a slow death by eutrophication; nutrient poisoning and oxygen depletion. Drought is the best cure for eutrophication, for that's when the vegetation, muck and sediments that have settled on lake bottoms are exposed to air, dry out and either burn off or blow away.
And no matter the district's intention, using water from the aquifer to supplement lake levels — even as an experiment — sets a dangerous precedent. "Fill our lakes" can become a potent rallying cry that politicians may not be able to resist.
We're all for water management districts applying more science to water decisions. But is this test really necessary ?



Irrigation dripper
saves water

Research explores suitability of drip irrigation for spuds - by Jerry Jackson
March 15, 2012  (orig. March 5, 2012)
When Florida farmers look to the future, they see water that’s costlier, cleaner and more closely monitored.
Chris Johns, a fourth-generation potato grower in the Hastings area, is at the forefront of efforts to explore ways of using water more efficiently and at the same time reducing runoff to improve surface water quality.
The Johns family farm, aptly named Tater Farms, is in the Tri-County Agricultural Area of St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties, a key region for sod and potato production.
The standard method for irrigating potatoes and other row crops in the area is through traditional seepage, using plowed furrows to channel water to the plants.
Johns is now in the second year of a three-year study to see if drip irrigation might be a viable alternative that would benefit the farm as well as the environment.
“Going into our second year, it’s going well,” Johns says. “But I do have to say that there are some large hurdles with the mechanics of making this work as a cultural practice. I learned a lot the first year, but I expect we’ll learn a lot more this year.”
Johns says he is now teaming with one of his uncles, who has many more years of experience in the field, to help with the ongoing research.
“The big question is whether I can show that the economics will work well enough to offset the [extra] costs of drip irrigation,” he says. “Right now I’m still optimistic.”
Drip irrigation has been used for years in some of the state’s high-value crops, such as foliage, but it was considered too costly for most field crops.
Strengths and weaknesses
Johns says he was interested in trying drip irrigation to improve crop quality because seepage irrigation has some inherent shortcomings.
Drip systems can help growers improve irrigation application precision and uniformity, minimizing the number of dry spots in a field.
Lincoln Zotarelli, an assistant professor and horticulture researcher with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in Gainesville, says there is no question that drip irrigation is more efficient. But he’s not yet ready to quantify the potential savings in potato production.
“It’s just too early to say it will save X-amount of water. We really have to be cautious about that,” Zotarelli says. Recent years have been abnormally dry in central Florida, for example, so the benefits of drip irrigation are more pronounced.
When more normal rainfall patterns return, the equation will shift. But exactly how much is still uncertain and will affect the analysis.
As part of the demonstration project at Tater Farms, Zotarelli has assisted Johns with a variety of tests, such as a dye-injection test, to demonstrate more clearly how drip irrigation can target the root zone.
A harmless blue dye reveals where the water actually goes and where it does not. When liquid fertilizer is applied along with water, as in fertigation, such precise targeting is even more important.
Keeping water and nutrients in the root zone is “key to increase water- and nutrientuse efficiency, producing more with less,” Zotarelli says.
Statewide implications
IFAS, the Florida Department of Agriculture and St. Johns River Water Management District are helping fund the research not just to help farmers grow more and better potatoes.
The broader goal is tied to statewide efforts to improve surface water quality by reducing nutrient loads going into lakes, streams, rivers and estuaries.
The effort has taken on more urgency in the past year, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drafted specific numeric nutrient criteria for Florida that would take mcuh of the guesswork out of water quality assessments.
The EPA devised the rules to settle a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, but held off implementing the federal mandate to allow the state to craft its own numeric standards.
Bills to do just that passed during the recent legislative session in Tallahassee, though environmental groups opposed the state Department of Environmental Protection’s rules as still too lax, allowing too much leeway. The EPA will have the final say.
Regardless of the outcome and timing of the debate over numeric water quality standards, farmers in both the St. Johns district and the Southwest Florida Water Management District are moving forward on their own with a range of practices to reduce waste and runoff.
For example, farmers increasingly are splitting fertilizer applications, in essence putting out smaller doses at a time to reduce leaching. Such improvements to industry standards, known as best management practices, could make a significant difference if adopted more widely.
But Johns, whose family-farming roots run deep in north-central Florida’s sandy soil, says he is cautious about drawing any conclusions that might apply to the 20,000 acres of potatoes in his part of the state, much less to the vastly different parts of the peninsula where soil and climate conditions vary so dramatically.
“You can have a lot of different challenges and completely different soil 50 miles away,” Johns says. “One approach in one area may not be applicable in another area.”


South Florida gets federal deadline to fix failing levee
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
March 15, 2012
Improvements planned for western levee that guards against Everglades flooding.
The clock is officially ticking on repairs needed to upgrade the levee that keeps the Everglades from flooding Broward and Palm Beach counties. February triggered the start of the South Florida Water Management District's two-year window to fix the Browardsection of the East Coast Protective Levee, which falls short of federal safety standards.
The Broward County portion of the East Coast Protective Levee, show here in western Coral Springs along the Sawgrass Exrpessway, fails to meet federal standards. A new deadline allows two years to make repairs
The district, Broward County and eight western cities now have three months to finalize an agreement aimed at getting the levee up to the standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Inspectors have also identified deficiencies in the Palm Beach County portion of the levee, which will be subject to its own FEMA review – also expected to require upgrades.
Aside from addressing safety concerns, bringing the levee up to FEMA standards is required to avoid hikes in flood-insurance rates for nearby communities.
FEMA gave the district two years to make the Broward repairs; otherwise insurance rates in western Broward would start increasing.
Broward communities most affected by the levee falling short of FEMA standards are Coral Springs, Miramar, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Southwest Ranches, Sunrise, Tamarac and Weston.
While the water management district acknowledges the need to address the federal concerns over the levee, it contends that the 60-year-old structure still is capable of protecting South Florida from flooding.
"We want to make sure it can last for the next 60 years," said Tommy Strowd, district director of operations.
The district expects to spend about $13 million refurbishing the 38-mile long Broward section of the levee.
Regulatory delays have worked in the district's favor, buying more time for the levee repairs. A deadline once anticipated in 2013 for the Broward improvements is now May 2014.
The Sun Sentinel in 2010 reported that the Broward section of the levee failed to meet FEMA certification standards.
Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers finalized its review of the 100-mile East Coast Protective Levee and found it minimally acceptable, the middle tier on the federal government's new three-tiered levee-rating system. That also triggered the need for repairs.
Concerns raised by levee inspections include: erosion, rutting on top of the structure, sections of the levee being too low, overgrown vegetation obstructing maintenance, fencing and gates in disrepair, slopes being too steep and culverts needing repair.
Those concerns stretched from Broward into Palm Beach County and extended to 29 miles of levees at a stormwater treatment area wedged between Wellington and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Some initial repair work, including building temporary dikes, was done to shore up the most at-risk sections of the levee. Construction on the rest of the Broward portion is expected to start by July.
Planned levee improvements include: raising 2,000 feet of the levee about 2 feet; reinforcing portions of the outer base; removing vegetation growing on the levee as well as burrowing animals; and installing monitoring stations to identify potential erosion.
Too much water seeping through the levee can lead to erosion and produce cavities snaking through the earthen structure that create the possibility of breech.
Repair plans seek to "minimize the piping through the levee," said Lucine Dadrian who is part of the district team coordinating repairs.
The Palm Beach County section of the levee still must undergo its FEMA review, which means more inspections to identify where it potentially falls short of federal guidelines, Dadrian said.
The district remains about one year away from identifying the extent of repair work needed in Palm Beach County. Preliminary estimates put the cost near $7 million.
The East Coast Protective Levee, built in the 1950s, stretches across western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It's part of more than 900 miles of levees that guard against flooding in South and Central Florida.
The earthen mound was built with limestone, shell and soil dug from the edge of the Everglades. The levee once bordered mostly farmland, but decades of development brought neighborhoods that sit within sight of the levee.
Levees across the country face stepped up federal scrutiny prompted by the failures of the levees in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
When levee problems are identified, FEMA typically provides a temporary accreditation that allows a two-year window for repairs. Without those improvements being made in two years, flood insurance costs rise.


$700 million reservoir project tabled, for more study
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
March 14, 2012
The head of the agency pushing a reservoir plan with a $700 million-plus pricetag urged his board to call off the construction project on Wednesday, but the panel voted to give one of the participants, the South Florida Water Management District, two more months to research it.
"I think it's time to put it on the shelf," said C. David Goodlett, president of the Lake Worth Drainage District's board of directors, said about the C-51 Reservoir Project at a board meeting. Goodlett also asked staff to prepare an itemized accounting of the money spent on the project to date, estimated to be at least $350,000. "I just think it's time to move on."
But Goodlett was the only board member to vote against extending a deadline to seal the deal until May. The drainage district's project manager, Woody Woodraska, said officials at the South Florida Water Management District asked for more time to weigh its role in the project.
In a statement released by the district on Wednesday, water managers said they are continuing to analyze the project and that "under the right conditions" the project could provide valuable storage and prevent polluted water from being dumped into the Lake Worth Lagoon during heavy rains.
"I just want to point out that, since December, we've extended deadlines by 30 or 60 days three times," Goodlett said. "We need to get folks to show their hand. Are they in or out?"
Goodlett's comments followed similar concerns raised by municipal utility directors at a meeting in January. Some balked after learning that initial cost estimates of $451 million had jumped to $659 million, and then to as much as $1 billion.
The project calls for building a reservoir in western Palm Beach County to capture storm water that currently flushes into the Lake Worth Lagoon. The water -- as much as 175 million gallons a day -- would be sent to communities in southern Palm Beach County and Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
From the start, the project required the cooperation and commitment from a patchwork of utilities, water managers and a mining company -- all with separate motives and needs. Nine cities and counties have committed to the project but none has been willing to provide the $25,000 seed money requested by Woodraska.
The estimated cost of the project is a sore topic for Woodraska and Mark Perry, the drainage district's lawyer. One study, which Woodraska and Perry strongly refute, put the cost at $1 billion. Another study estimated the costs at $695 million. Rough estimates of the per gallon cost of water from the project are substantially less than obtaining water through desalinization or reclaimed or reuse water, Woodraska said.
Costs are not the project's only problems.
The Preliminary Design and Cost Estimate report prepared by the drainage district, water management district and Palm Beach and Broward counties raised concerns about the amount of water that would be lost to seepage. During the dry season, water seeping through the canal bed could be nearly as much as the additional water pumped from the reservoir.
Water quality issues could also pose problems since some canals in Palm Beach County have been classified "impaired" and that could jeopardize the ability to transfer water from those canals to cleaner canals in Broward County.


Interactive flooding

Climate Change, Rising Water To Endanger U.S. Cities: Study
Internat. Business Times - by Jeremy B. White
March 14, 2012
Millions of Americans in low-lying coastal cities could see more flooding in coming years as rising temperatures drive up sea levels, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by Climate Central, a research group in New Jersey, examined areas that lie within three feet of high tide, where some 3.7 million Americans live. Flooding will become more frequent in those areas as mounting temperatures pour more melted ice into the ocean and cause warmer water to expand, the researchers predicted.
Slowly-Rising Seas
"Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing," Benjamin H. Strauss, one of the scientists who worked on a summary of the research, told the New York Times. "We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas."
Florida would be most at risk, particularly its low-lying Southeastern portion, Strauss told the Associated Press. More than 500 U.S. cities, however, would see at least 10 percent of their residents at increased risk of flooding, including 141,000 New York City residents. In New Orleans, about 284,000 residents, the most of any city, would be vulnerable.
While scientists generally agree temperatures have been rising steadily for years, climate change skeptics deny any link to human activity, citing instead natural fluctuations. Myron Ebell, a researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, told the New York Times that "as a society, we could waste a fair amount of money on preparing for sea level rise." Meanwhile, prominent Republicans like presidential candidate Rick Santorum have criticized policies to limit the effects of climate change.
Santorum Questions U.S. Impact On Climate
"This debate is about whether human activity plays a role, and whether U.S. emissions cuts can have any effect when China and India refuse to go along," Santorum wrote in a recent op-ed. "The apostles of this pseudo-religion believe that America and its people are the source of the earth's temperature. I do not."
While politicians grapple with the issue, insurance companies in 2011 that saw the costs of natural disasters climb to record levels have been more blunt. Industry representatives recently joined Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sheldon Whitehouse,D-R.I., to discuss the repercussions of climate change.
"A warming climate will only add to this trend of increasing losses, which is why action is needed now," Mark Way, head of Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd.'s sustainability and climate change activities in the Americas, said at the time.
Since insurance companies generally don't cover flood damage, the cost of increased flooding could be passed along to taxpayers via the federal National Flood Insurance Program.
Weighing the Risk of Sea-Level Rise (New York Times)
Coming high water may affect 4M Americans           (Outcome Magazine)
Global Warming Could Cause More Frequent Flooding For 3.7 Million ...   (WKNO FM)
See which South Florida neighborhoods will be under water            ((Orlando Sentinel)
Sea-Levels Rising: Millions in Coastal USA at Risk  (Environment News Service)
Report: Chances tripled Naples will see historic storm surge (Marconews)
Millions at growing risk of flooding, reports find      (Bellingham Herald)
As seas rise, researchers say devastating floods could soon wreak ...            (The Star-Ledger)
From floods that crippled countries, to mega cyclones, huge blizzards, killer tornadoes to famine-inducing droughts, 2011 has been another record-breaker for bad weather. While it is too early to predict what 2012 will be like, insurers and weather prediction agencies point to a clear trend: the world's weather is becoming more extreme and more costly.

(CLICK to enlarge)
PB Co. reservoirs

Reservoirs L-8 and C-51
would sit at the northern
tip of Loxahatchee NWR

Reservoirs, creative solutions are key to Everglades restoration, water supply
Sun Sentinel - by Melissa L. Meeker, Executive Director of the SFWMD
March 14, 2012
As South Florida's regional water management agency, the South Florida Water Management District is responsible for providing flood control, restoring natural systems and ensuring a sustainable water supply for more than 7.7 million residents.
This can be a daunting task. One of the most challenging aspects of water management in South Florida is not the 50-plus inches of rain that falls in our backyards each year. Rather, it is finding a place to store that water for beneficial use during dry times.
South Florida's flat landscape means that when it rains, without storage, water must be discharged through our extensive canal system to the ocean to prevent flooding. To capture this "lost" water and use it to support Everglades restoration and regional water supply needs, the district is working hard to identify and implement storage solutions. These can come in many shapes and sizes, from aboveground reservoirs and deep injection wells to shallow storage on agricultural lands.
A unique geological formation in Palm Beach County is providing us with one of the more creative water storage solutions. The 950-acre L-8 reservoir is a strategically located former rock mine with a watertight geology. A component of Everglades restoration, this deep-ground reservoir will contribute to cleaner water for the Everglades, restoration of the Loxahatchee River and improved water quality in the Lake Worth Lagoon. Along with environmental benefits, it also offers residential advantages such as flood control and supplementing urban water supplies.
Approved in 2002, this first-of-its-kind project provides 15 billion gallons of water storage, enough to fill 24,000 football fields one foot deep in water. And, at an investment of $6,000 per acre-foot, the rock mine saves taxpayers millions of dollars compared to constructing an aboveground reservoir.
Since its acquisition, various criticisms have been leveled at the L-8 reservoir. The fact is that this reservoir is a viable project capable of delivering results and the return on investment we expect to achieve. When I became the district's executive director last June, I prioritized this project to get it operating as promised. Here's the good news: The district has now issued a Request for Qualifications from firms to design and build the massive pump station needed to move water out of the reservoir and deliver it to the natural system. This is a giant leap forward, and it means we are on our way to project completion — and project results.
It's important to note that instead of sitting idle, the L-8 reservoir has provided interim benefits. During the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, the reservoir provided much-needed water storage that reduced residential flooding.
In 2007, the City of West Palm Beach utilized more than 600 million gallons of water from the reservoir during the drought. Residents were again able to rely on the L-8 reservoir for their water supply this past summer when the city's water resources ran dangerously low. In 2009, FPL used reservoir water for its cooling system, conserving millions of gallons of groundwater. And, most recently, the district utilized small pumps to send fresh water from the reservoir north to the Loxahatchee River during 2011's dry conditions. This pilot project demonstrated that the L-8 reservoir works.
Nearby to the L-8 project, another rock pit is under construction. Known as the C-51 reservoir, this project is being analyzed by the district and a coalition of utilities as a potential public water supply source. Under the right conditions, the C-51 could potentially store water currently lost to tide and deliver it to recharge wellfields. Similar to the L-8 project, it is a viable concept that could be utilized to effectively meet future water supply demands and improve the Lake Worth Lagoon. While the challenges are in the details, the project deserves a thorough evaluation and our continued dialogue.
Balancing the district's missions of flood control, water supply and restoration often requires innovative thinking, which both of these reservoirs represent. Add in creative partnerships, perseverance and continued collaboration, and we have a formula for success.
Melissa L. Meeker is the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.

There is plenty of fresh water for South Florida - but available only seasonally. Florida's wet-season flooding problems were resolved last century by building canals that channelled water into the ocean. Now, when that water is badly needed, the challenge is where and how best store it. Re-engineering the old water system seems like a logical part of the possible solution. As always, the question is, however, how to pay for it ?
Ernie Cox of Palm Beach Aggregates explains the need for the C-51 Reservoir and the MOU (memorandum of understanding) that will aid in the process which will involve LWDD, SFWMD (South Florida Water Management District), and Utility companies.
The Alliance of Delray Residential Associations Leadership brings you one of the highlights of a tour of the Palm Beach Aggregates mining facilities sponsored by LWDD (Lake Worth Drainage District) on March 23, 2011. Video by Lori Vinikoor, First Vice President Alliance of Delray.


A Summer of Class for the River of Grass
Black PR Wire
March 13, 2012
- Everglades intern program accepting applications through March 30 -
LAKE WORTH, FL — A unique opportunity is available for five college students or recent grads to explore the Everglades in-depth this summer, as a possible springboard for a future career in the protection of the River of Grass or a related field.
The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation 2012 Summer Intern Program is accepting applications through March 30, 2012. Interns will be selected by mid-April. The five participants will join a prestigious field of 43 other young adults who have graduated from the program since it was created in 2002.
"This internship provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for motivated students," said Nancy Marshall, President of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation. "Interns will explore the Everglades through field trips, interactive participation in Everglades restoration workshops, attending an international conference on wetlands, and mentoring by distinguished leaders in the field."
"It can be a life-changing experience," reports Rebecca Stanek, Everglades Research and Education Specialist for the Marshall Foundation. Participants will learn about the fundamentals of Everglades restoration including the history, watershed, ecology and politics. They will study specific issues including environmental education, citizen involvement, the role of agriculture, and the key partner organizations implementing the restoration. The interns also conduct a group project.
Keynote speakers include former Florida Senator Bob Graham; Lynn Scarlett, former deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior; Dr. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation and ecology at Duke University; Dr. Hillary Swain, executive director of Archbold Expeditions; and Charlie Pelliza, manager of four national wildlife refuges in Florida.
The intensive 11-week program is from May 18 to Aug. 4. Applicants must have a 3.0 or better GPA; should be studying environmental science, law or a related field; and should aspire to have a future career in environmental science or a related field. A stipend is provided, although students are responsible for their housing.
Based in Palm Beach County, Fla., the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation and Florida Environmental Institute is a champion for the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem through science-based education and outreach programs. Annually, more than 25,000 elementary and high school students in Palm Beach County actively participate in the Marshall Foundation’s various education programs. Founded in 1998, the nonprofit organization has in recent years awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships and internships, planted nearly 100,000 native Florida trees in wetland areas, and involved more than 5,000 volunteers in hands-on restoration projects. The Foundation is located in Lake Worth, Fla.
For additional information, please call 561-233-9004, e-mail or visit The website includes an online application and more details of the program.
Contact Information :            561-233-9004   


Everglades restoration funding squeezed back into state budget
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 13, 2012
Turns out, budget-cutting Florida legislators decided Everglades restoration was worth investing in after all.
Environmental groups sounded the alarm this year when a state budget proposal called for cutting all funding for efforts to restore Florida’s famed River of Grass.
But instead of getting a big fat zero, Everglades restoration received $30 million in the newly approved state budget. The Legislature also included $8.4 million for the Florida Forever conservation land buying program.
In addition, the Legislature removed some of the financial handcuffs it slapped last year on the South Florida Water Management District – which leads Everglades restoration for the state.
Last year, at the urging of the Gov. Rick Scott, the Legislature cut the district’s budget by more than 30 percent. That translated to a more than $100 million cut that environmental groups warned could put the brakes on projects aimed at cleaning up water pollution and getting more clean water to the Everglades.
This year, the Legislature removed the water management district’s revenue caps, but retained the authority to reject land purchases costing $10 million or more as well as potential high-dollar administrative spending.
The environmental funding approved by the Legislature is still less than the $15 million for Florida Forever and $40 million for Everglades restoration that Scott proposed.
It’s also a far cry from the $200 million a year once spent on Everglades restoration.
But the environmental group 1000 Friends of Florida praised the Legislature for restoring Everglades restoration funding and called the new water management district spending rules "vastly improved."
The Everglades Coalition, which includes 1000 Friends, Audubon of Florida and other environmental groups, also supported the turnaround on environmental funding by the governor and the Legislature.
"We are gratified that Governor Scott moved swiftly to protect our state's future investment in Everglades restoration and water supply projects," said Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation CEO. "If this law had not been changed, there is little doubt these projects would have ground to a halt, jeopardizing our south Florida water supply."


Exotic Pet Amnesty Helps Protect the Everglades Ecosystem
Yahoo!News – by Tara Dodrill
March 13, 2012
Exotic Pet Amnesty Day in Florida is designed to protect the Everglades ecosystem from invasive non-native species and has saved hundreds of unwanted animals in the process. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allows owners of even illegal exotic animals to turn them in at the Miami Zoo once a year without penalty or fee, according to CBS Miami.
Here are some facts about the FWC Exotic Pet Amnesty Day:
* Time Ecocentric reports hundreds to thousands of escaped or discarded Burmese pythons are living in and destroying the protected wetlands of South Florida. The snakes are the top predator in the Everglades, destroying the population of small mammals that helps control the insect and plant population.
* The release of Burmese pythons into the Everglades became an increasing problem in 2005, prompting the first amnesty day. A 16-foot python was found with an "intact" deer in its stomach and a 13-foot python "burst" after swallowing a 6-foot native alligator, the Huffington Post reports.
* Native populations of raccoons, opossums and bobcats have dwindled in the Everglades and natural areas of South Florida during the past 10 years due to the release of non-native creative into the wild. The balance of the ecosystem is disrupted by unnatural predators and herbivores, the FWC reports.
* Invasive species like the Burmese python and English ivy cost wildlife service officials $120 billion per year in damage repairs and containment, according to Time Ecocentric.
* During the 2012, event 54 exotic pets were turned in to wildlife conservation officials in Miami. The number decreases each year due to annual collection and education about pet responsibility, according to statements made to the Huffington Post by FWC representative Carli Segelson.
* The FWC reports there are more than 400 non-native animals roaming free in Florida, with at least 130 of the exotic pets reproducing in the wild.


Seven years later, $33 million clean water project in St. Lucie County sits unused
TCPalm - by Conrad deFiebre
March 13, 2012
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The star-crossed Ten Mile Creek clean water project west of Fort Pierce is hung up in litigation and structural deficiencies and remains no closer to operation than the day construction ended seven years ago.
The $33 million reservoir and pumping stations, bankrolled by federal, state and Seminole Tribe funds, are "not functioning," said Kim Vitek, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"The project was built to impound water," Vitek added. "It cannot impound water safely at this point to government standards."
It could cost another $13 million to raise the 12-to-15-foot levee height and fix the leaks that could flood Interstate 95 and surrounding areas during a major storm.
The problems prompted the South Florida Water Management District, which had planned to take ownership of the completed project, to turn it back to the federal government in September 2007.
Considered a prototype for Everglades restoration across southern Florida, the project on former citrus grove and pasture land was supposed to scrub water in the creek of pollutants before it reached the St. Lucie and Indian River estuaries.
"It's empty," said Mike Merritt, who lives within sight of the 526-acre aboveground reservoir's embankments designed to hold nearly 2 billion gallons of water. "They're pumping water straight down the creek. They threw $33 million out the window. Why isn't it being fixed?"
George Jones, who heads the nonprofit environmental group Indian Riverkeeper, said the Army Corps has sought additional money from Congress to fix the problems, and the water management district has set aside $1 million.
Farther west in St. Lucie County, another Army Corps clean water project at Nubbin Slough also has run into "some minor malfunctions" that project manager Wiener Cadet said should be rectified by year's end. The water district has delayed its takeover until the work is done. The adjoining Taylor Creek project "is a success story," he added, and has been accepted by the water district.
Wes Carlson, a rancher within a mile of Ten Mile Creek, is another critic of the government's foundering clean water efforts in St. Lucie County.
"None of us here has a problem with stormwater," he said.
According to the Army Corps, the Ten Mile Creek project was designed to slowly release stormwater to "moderate salinity levels and reduce sediment loads (and) improve habitat conditions for a wide variety of estuarine species." Combined with other efforts, it was supposed to yield "significant improvements among the fish populations, seagrasses and oyster beds" in the estuaries.
A 1999 environmental assessment found that without the project "stormwater runoff ... would continue to pollute the estuary," an alternative it branded "not acceptable" for restoration of the St. Lucie.
Jones said the Ten Mile Creek project "is an important tool to clean up the estuary" of "tons and tons of nitrogen and phosphorus." But the litigants, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the water district, have declined to comment on the issues in court over design and construction.
"All we get is rumors," Jones said.



Sand mining and storage
for beach replenishment

A remote rural mine gives South Florida beaches their sand
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
March 12, 2012
Ancients deposits dredged to restore eroded beaches
It may be Spring Break, but the focus in South Florida is not where the boys are. It's where the sand is.
For a growing number of coastal cities dealing with beach erosion, it's from a mine in a remote part of southern Glades County, just southwest of Lake Okeechobee.
As offshore sources of sand become depleted, city and county governments have turned to the Ortona Sand Mine and several others like it, which extract sand from ancient beaches established when much of Florida was under water.
Unsuspecting tourists from Key West to Singer Island are stretching out on quartz crystals dredged from an artificial lake, processed to remove impurities and sent by truck to be spread along the shoreline.
Hollywood just completed a project that trucked in 87,000 tons of sand from the Ortona mine, owned by E.R. Jahna Industries Inc. Other cities and counties that have used Ortona sand include Key West, Key Biscayne, North Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Hillsboro Beach, Palm Beach, Palm Beach County and Singer Island.
"We're really pleased with it," said Raelin Storey, spokeswoman for Hollywood, which completed its project last month. "The size is just right. We think the slightly larger grain size will actually help in retaining the sand."
Although this may seem like a bizarre way to preserve a beach — and in some ways it is — experts say the material itself is pretty much the same as what had been on the beaches before they were developed. It contains no silt, no clay and no debris from the ocean floor, unlike sand dredged offshore. It is lighter in color. And the mine's system allows customers to choose a sufficiently coarse grain size to prevent the sand from easily washing away and turning the water cloudy.
"The upland sand mines can process the sand," said Christopher Creed, senior engineer and vice president of Olsen Associates Inc., a coastal engineering firm that works on beach renourishment projects. "They don't just dig it out of the ground. We can design a sand size that these guys can produce. And the colors are lighter and more compatible with South Florida beaches than offshore sources."
Most sand mined inland goes to make concrete and other construction materials. But over the past 15 years or so, Jahna and a few other companies have learned to produce sand that meets the strict standards established for beaches.
"Tell me the grain size you're looking for and we dial that in," said Alan Miller, a sales and marketing director for Jahna. "We wash it at five different stations, so it's cleaned. You're eliminating dirt, clay and silt."
Broward County is considering the Ortona mine, along with five other inland mines, for a 5-mile beach renourishment project that would stretch from northern Fort Lauderdale to southern Pompano Beach.
Eric Myers, Broward County's beach erosion administrator, said the mines offer higher quality sand and the ability to obtain sand without disturbing coral reefs, as could be the case if they county went offshore for its sand. He said the inland sand, deposited about 5 million years ago, comes closer to what had historically been on Broward beaches, sediment washed from rivers from Georgia and points north.
Environmental experts say sand mined inland can be beneficial for beaches, provided the mine delivers what it promises. If it doesn't, silty material could end up on beaches, wash into the ocean and smother corals. Nobody interviewed criticized Ortona.
Ed Tichenor, director of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue, said, "If the sand is processed at the quarry properly, i.e. rinsed, and if needed screened/sieved, the quality is far superior to material dredged from the near shore." But at a Lantana beach restoration project, he said, sand from a mine arrived far too silty and washed onto the reefs.
At the 280-acre Ortona mine, a dredge sucks sand from the bottom of an artificial lake that had been carved from pasture lands. The sand goes by tube to the top of the five-story plant, which towers over the surrounding countryside. As the sand descends through the treatment system, the system shakes out pebbles and stones, extracts water and removes silt and clay. A processing system allows a particular grain size to be selected, producing sand compatible with the beach for which it is intended. Up to 200 trucks a day arrive to haul it off.
Established in 1960, the mine is one of several along the inland spine of the state, where the richest deposits of underground sand can be found.
"People say, 'You're in the sand business in Florida ? You can dig sand up anywhere.' No, not really. It's very specific about where you find it," said Emil Jahna, co-owner of the company, whose business card identifies him as "Your Sand Man."
Since offshore sources of sand are being depleted, what about inland mines such as Ortona ? The company estimates the mine has about 25 years' of reserves left.


Could a tsunami hit Florida ?
March 12, 2012
ROCKLEDGE - A towering 100-foot wall of water sweeping across downtown Orlando: That's the Hollywood apocalypse envisioned by some tsunami alarmists.
In reality, only 40 recorded tsunami-like waves have hit the U.S. East Coast since 1600.
Bart Hagemeyer, meteorologist-in-charge at Melbourne's National Weather Service station, believes tsunamis are so rare that many Space Coast residents live in "denial" that one could ever strike here.
But that doesn't mean Brevard County's barrier island is safe. On July 3, 1992, a freakish "rogue wave" measuring 10 feet high and 27 miles long - pounded Daytona Beach near midnight, injuring 75 people and sweeping away dozens of vehicles.
Had it hit hours later - on the Fourth of July - disaster would have struck.
"During any time period during the day, there would have been several hundred thousand people on the beach. And we would have had fatalities," Hagemeyer said.
Thursday, Hagemeyer addressed nearly 50 representatives of various Brevard agencies during a tsunami-planning workshop at the Emergency Operations Center in Rockledge.
On March 28, the National Weather Service in Melbourne and the EOC will participate in a national tsunami exercise simulating a 7.7-magnitude underwater earthquake near South Carolina.
Roughly 15,000 to 40,000 residents and visitors occupy Brevard's tsunami "hazard zone" extending 300 feet west from the high-tide mark, estimated Scott Spratt, National Weather Service Melbourne warning coordination meteorologist.
Port Canaveral stands particularly vulnerable - even to a 1.5-meter tsunami, warned George Maul, a Florida Tech oceanographer.
A tsunami generated by an underwater landslide may only give Brevard officials 45 minutes of advance warning, Maul said. And thousands of cruise ship passengers could be trapped practically at sea level, with no clue where to evacuate.
"This would be a perfect recipe for a Hollywood disaster story: all the ships in port when a wave comes in. You'd have a total calamity," Maul said.
Indian Harbour Beach and Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville are the East Coast's sole certified "tsunami-ready" population centers.
Indian Harbour Beach Police Chief Bob Sullivan said his city's municipal workers would first join forces to evacuate swimmers, beach-goers and first-floor condominium residents. Then, after the waters receded, they would start search-and-rescue operations.
"Thank God we haven't had any tsunamis in Brevard County. And maybe we never will. But if we do, the question is, are you ready for it? Do you know what to do? Do you have something in place ?" Sullivan asked.

'Invisible tsunami' of rising sea levels puts US coasts at risk, expert says
USNews on - March 14, 2014
South Florida may be 'indefensible'

South Florida may be "indefensible" against floods caused by higher seas and the bigger storm surges that are expected to result, according to Ben Strauss, an expert on ecology and evolutionary biology who is chief operating officer of Climate Central. He co-authored the two journal reports and the online report.
“Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing,” Strauss told The New York Times. “We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas.”



Hydrilla weed

Hydrilla, birdwatching and water clarity - by Tom Palmer
March 12, 2012
Sunday’s piece on the debate between bass fishermen and waterfowl hunters over hydrilla control was interesting, but there’s more to it from the standpoint of other user groups.
Local Christmas bird counts used to turn in prodigious amounts of waterfowl numbers, particularly American coot, but many species of ducks as well before the aggressive hydrilla spaying began to occur on some of the local lakes.
This was especially true in the Lake Wales area, where tens of thousands of coots were recorded in the 1970s when hydrilla was rife in some lakes,
I once counted 250 pied-billed grebes in a hydrilla bed on Lake Marion.
Hydrilla patches on Lake Walkinthewater were always dependable for some duck species, such as American wigeon.
The hydrilla beds also seemed to become a sink for the increasing nutrient loads coming into lakes, so the water was relatively clear in these lakes and even attracted diving ducks such as bufflehead.
When I’ve been on some of these lakes in more recent years I’ve noticed water clarity has declined dramatically because algae, not hydrilla, is using the nutrients, turning the water greener and greener. The hydrilla beds may have masked a decline in water quality that will now be difficult if not impossible to reverse.
The article briefly mentioned snail kites, which first appeared in modern times in the Kissimmee Chain in the early 1980s when they dispersed from South Florida during a serious drought there and decided to stay.
They have adapted to the exotic apple snails that, like hydrilla, were brought to Florida by commercial interests and have become established.
Many more species depend on them for parts of their diet. That includes not only other birds, such as limpkins, but some fish and even alligators.
Exotics, for better or worse, are the new management reality in Florida and we’re going to have to adapt to them as the native wildlife already has seemed to do at times.



US Congressman

Mica Holds EPA Costly Water Regulations at Bay
Targeted News Service
March 12, 2012
Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla. (7th CD), issued the following news release:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has put off implementing new costly water regulations until July.
This delay comes after U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote legislation that will ensure the continued role of states like Florida in establishing their clean water standards, rather than being usurped by new federal one-size-fits-all regulations from EPA.
"Like many of my constituents, I am concerned that new changes to water quality standards for our State will have a devastating economic impact on Florida, resulting in fewer jobs and higher taxes and utility bills," said Mica.
The Mica legislation to rein in EPA, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (H.R. 2018), passed the House of Representatives on July 13, 2011 but is now languishing in the U.S. Senate.
"I urge the Senate to take up this measure that reestablishes Florida's and the states' rightful position, in working with EPA, to establish water standards and nutrient levels so that consumers will not see their water bills double or triple for no positive environmental benefit," Mica added. "This bill reestablishes the balance between state and federal authorities in ensuring water quality and safe water standards. We must ensure that we protect our waters without imposing unnecessary regulations and burdens that drive up water prices for hard-pressed taxpayers."


Reclaimed water bill passes state Senate
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
March 12, 2012
State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via
A once-controversial bill that would ban all five state water management districts from forcing cities and utilities to give away treated water has passed both the state House and Senate and is now on its way to the governor’s desk.
Under HB 639 - which was drafted by Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, in consultation with state water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – utility companies would still have to obtain a Consumptive Use Permit from a local water management district but, once they draw the water and use it, it would be theirs and no longer subject to additional permitting.
Young has long maintained that the bill would provide local governments with the “regulatory certainty and predictability they need.”
The bill was initially controversial, as environmentalists warned it would make reclaimed water a private commodity, shifting control away from water management districts and into the hands of utilities. Proponents argued that it would incentivize the use of reclaimed water.
Eventually, the bill was amended in response to concerns from several environmental groups.
A strike-all amendment (.pdf) adopted by the House State Affairs Committee in February ensures that, in case of an emergency situation, the state can secure emergency measures from the governor. The amendment also makes clear that the bill does not impair water management districts’ authority over water supply planning, rate-setting requirements or the regulation of water quality.
In February, David Cullen, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, echoed the sentiments of several like-minded groups when he said he remains neutral on the bill. “You don’t get everything you want in a compromise,” he said, adding that the group’s “most serious concerns” had been addressed. “We are able to live with this.”
The bill was passed by the Senate last Friday, in a 38-0 vote.


Student helpers

Student Conservation Association works to nurture life-long love for outdoors in youth
Nat. Parks Traveler - by Kurt Repanshek
March 12, 2012
NPT Editor's note: A topic discussed in detail at America's Summit on the National Parks earlier this year was not just how to get youth into the parks, but how to attract a cross-section of youth that reflected America's diversity. In a series of stories, the Traveler will look at the approaches different groups take to address that issue. In this, the first article in that series, we'll explore the various programs the Student Conservation Association uses to connect youth to the outdoors in general, and national parks specifically.
Who will be the next stewards and advocates of the national parks? In a society where Baby Boomers are graying steadily if not quickly, and where the "face" of the National Park Service is decidedly male and Caucasian, it's not an unreasonable question to ask.
The question was raised at America's Summit on the National Parks, a conference that drew nearly 400 to Washington, D.C., in mid-January to explore the future of the National Park System as the National Park Service heads towards its centennial in 2016. Concern over that question stems from the relative lack of diversity in the faces of the nearly 279 million visitors to the parks last year, a similar lack of diversity in the workforce of the Park Service, and a nagging concern that today's youth are not drawn to the parks.
But the concern is not newfound, and there are groups across the country that are working to answer that question by enticing youth of all races into not just the national parks specifically, but the outdoors in general.
For more than 50 years the Student Conservation Association, an idea a college student at Vassar College outlined in her senior thesis, has been connecting youth with the outdoors. It was launched in the mid-1950s when Elizabeth Cushman, shocked by a magazine article suggesting national parks should be shuttered because they were being overwhelmed by visitors, was searching for a way that students could help the National Park Service with trail work and other conservation projects.
Her proposal: a student organization fashioned after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.
Since SCA's initial field camps in 1957 at Grand Teton and Olympic national parks, the non-profit organization has brought close to 70,000 young Americans into the parks to experience nature while working on projects to help damaged environmental areas heal.
To recruit students, SCA representatives every year disperse across the country to visit some 200 college campuses, where they connect with some 160,000 students to explain SCA's programs and the benefits they carry.
Today the SCA's mission has broadened beyond national park locations to include outdoors work in urban areas, and efforts to increase the diversity of the youth who answer the SCA's call. The non-profit organization's programs have evolved with the needs that arose on the public lands. While SCA's first efforts were concentrated on backcountry areas, more than 30 years ago the group launched some of the first youth programs in urban areas. Today roughly one-third of the interns work in backcountry settings, one-third in front-country settings, and one third in urban areas.
"We’re still working with the national parks as well as fish and wildlife refuges, the Forest Service and any number of other federal, state, even local partners," said Kevin Hamilton, SCA's vice president of marketing and communications. "In fact, we’ve seen a pretty significant growth in the community programs that we do in urban areas around the country."
"... We certainly don’t have any trouble attracting young people who want to go to national parks," he adds. "We had something like 16,000 applicants last year, and we were able to place some 4,000 of them. So, there’s quite a bit of demand from the youth end, and we’re hoping that the number of opportunities will continue to increase.”
Opportunities aren't lacking, though sometimes the dollars to support SCA programs are. From the beginning the organization has leveraged Park Service dollars with funds it raises form philanthropic sources, but the recent sour economy seen in both federal budgets and philanthropic giving has made attracting private funds to support SCA's programs even more important.
For college students accepted into the SCA's summer internships, the organization pays for transportation to the park, refuge, or national forest, provides housing and meals, insurance, and a small weekly stipend. High school students need to arrange their own transportation to field camps, but there is no tuition cost.
So while demand from students to spend their summers working on trail crews, or removing invasive weeds, or even wildlife research projects, is high, the SCA doesn't always have the funds to put them all to work.
"I think we all know the pressures on government budgets, and federal agencies are our primary partner," Mr. Hamilton said.
Help may come from the Obama administration's 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps initiative, which in Fiscal 2013 seeks some $35 million for an array of programs to connect youth with the outdoors.
Beyond that, the SCA relies on corporate sponsors to help fund such programs as the Alternative Spring Break, which brings more than 100 college students a year to national parks during their spring breaks. In recent years, clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters has underwritten these programs.
This year some students spent their spring break cleaning up areas of Everglades National Park. SCA photo.
"This year we are going to have some 120 students involved. Each one of the four weeks in March will feature a spring break program. The first and third weeks will be at Everglades National Park, and the second and fourth weeks in March will be at the Joshua Tree National Park," said Mr. Hamilton. "In each case 30 students coming in, being engaged in a variety of conservation work. At the Everglades they’ll be removing invasives, they’ll be removing human influences, such as old fencing and things like that that have been posing habitat issues for wildlife, they’ll also be doing some trail building around campgrounds.
"Out at Joshua Tree they’ll be removing invasives, they’ll be engaging in raptor surveys and desert tortoise monitoring,” he said.
Another program that SCA is involved with this month is the National Park Service Academy, a program initiated by officials at Grand Teton National Park that brings college students of color to the park for an intensive week of meetings and field work with park personnel. It's a program that not only introduces students of color to the Park Service, but opens their eyes to careers with the agency, or one of the other land-management agencies.
SCA interns at work building trails on public lands. SCA photo.
"Through the week they will be immersed in the culture and the opportunities that exist within national parks. They will find out about career opportunities, they will find out about the history, the culture, and the heritage of national parks for a week. This summer each student will have an internship in a national park. Then they’ll go back to their universities and serve as SCA ambassadors for the National Park Service," explained Mr. Hamilton.
Along with staying in touch with mentors from the Park Service, the students will return to the park in the summer for three-month SCA internships "as a way of providing them with the experiences and insights they need to be positioned to be entry-level employees for the Park Service," he said.
Though the program is only in its second year, it already is expanding, as a similar program was planned for Great Smoky Mountains National Park this week.
These and other programs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service also work to increase the number of minority students connecting with the outdoors.
"We work on a number of other diversity initiatives with the Park Service, we have cultural diversity internships," the SCA official said. "For the last three, if not four years, we have also been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on an initiative to increase diversity in their workforce. Last summer the program expanded from the Northeast Division into the Southeast and Midwest Divisions as well. And we had close to 70 students involved in that.
“Again, the whole effort is designed to attract young people of color, and young people from under-represented communities who would not ordinarily consider careers with these agencies, nor would they consider summer internships with these agencies," said Mr. Hamilton. "It's a way of allowing them to get to know the opportunities, to get a foot in the door and gain experience and position themselves for lifelong careers in the federal agencies.”
SCA's application process is blind to income levels and race. If need be, the SCA can even help students get the gear -- perhaps a sleeping bag -- they would need working in the backcountry of a national park.
"We don’t see any reason to have any barriers between young people and nature," explained Mr. Hamilton. "If there are any, we’ll remove them. These are tuition-free programs, many of them are underwritten. And I have to also say that our community programs are paid positions, they are not volunteer positions like many of our other programs on federal lands. Our community programs exist within cities and oftentimes we are working with local corporate sponsors.”
The programs are working, both to lure more youth into the outdoors, and to increase the diversity of that youth.
“In the past five years, we have placed approximately 8,500 young people of color in conservation programs across the country," said Mr. Hamilton. "We are committed to growing that number. We know the agencies are looking to increase their numbers, as well.
"And as we are able to expand programs like the National Park Service Academy, and as the agenices are more concerned about their workforce development as much of their present workforce is heading towards retirement, we hope to see those numbers grow that much more in the future."


(CLICK to enlarge)

Expedition founders aim to promote conservation effort
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
March 11, 2012
LAKE WALES | When scientists pushed the idea a quarter-century ago of protecting Florida's natural corridors to preserve wildlife diversity, it never caught on with the public.
People like Carlton Ward Jr. and Joe Guthrie are hoping to change that through an expedition running the length of Florida's peninsula to demonstrate that conserving these corridors is good for people, too.
Their venture is called the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition.
It started in mid-January in Everglades National Park and ends this spring in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia.
It has reached the outskirts of Polk County, with a stop at Brahma Island in Lake Kissimmee, and moved on to stops at Disney Wilderness Preserve between Lake Hatchineha and Poinciana.
Brahma Island is protected from development by a state conservation easement.
Cary Lightsey, a Lake Wales rancher whose family owns the island, said he has been working with fellow ranchers to promote the need for preservation of the remaining vast, undeveloped areas in Florida's heartland.
Ward, a photographer whose family lineage includes former Florida Gov. Doyle Carlton, said the effort is about protecting land while there's still time.
“We want to keep the land and the water together,” he said, referring to the Everglades ecosystem through which his team had been traveling by kayak and on foot for more than a month.
Soon they'll be heading northeast to the headwaters of the St. Johns River, which flows north before reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.
On the mainland, near the place where boats took visitors to Brahma Island, lies a dormant development that's a victim of the collapse of the real estate boom, but Ward said that lull won't last forever.
Without more conservation easements, the vast ranchlands owned by aging patriarchs and matriarchs could be vulnerable to development pressures to settle estate taxes.
“People are lying in wait,” he said.
Guthrie, a scientist who has studied the Florida black bear, a wide-ranging animal for whom corridors are important, said it's important to take the long view on conservation.
“With big thinking, we can get conservation accomplished,” he said, referring to the way Interstate 75 was constructed across the Everglades to accommodate the passage of wildlife and water.
“We followed one corridor and found the tracks of Florida panther, bear, fox and coyote,” he said.
They said the trip so far also has offered great outdoor experiences.
They talked of waking up on foggy mornings on prairies, where they could hear the birds before they saw them; of standing in longleaf pine forests following cold fronts and marveling at the clear, starry sky; or poling through Everglades sawgrass expanses without seeing another person for three days.
Mallory Lykes Dimmit, who has been involved in the expedition's trek sporadically, said it's also important to remember that getting out on the land creates a different impression than simply looking at a map. And even then, you can experience only a sliver of the entire width of the corridor.
But the expedition trekkers weren't always alone.
Some nights, they shared tales around the campfire with cowboys who would stop by to chat on the ranches where they camped.
Working with private landowners to achieve conservation has been a recurring theme during this expedition. They said they see ample evidence that ranchers are protecting natural resources and ought to be encouraged.
“Moving from public land to private land is a political boundary, not a habitat boundary,” Ward said.
Joining them during the Brahma Island stop were representatives of two private efforts to promote those kinds of partnerships.
Sarah Lynch, from the World Wildlife Fund, said she has been working in Florida for 10 years to hammer out the details of agreements that would further help to preserve private ranches. The agreements would compensate ranchers for managing their lands to store water and to reduce pollution runoff to further protect the quantity and quality of local water supplies.
Lynch said it's also important to remember the prime function of farmland, which is to supply food for a growing population.
Protecting farmland in Florida's heartland accomplishes both, she said.
Alex Sink, Florida's former Florida chief financial officer and onetime gubernatorial candidate, was touting her recently formed Florida Next Foundation, which she said is intended to help to rebuild Florida's economy by aiding entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses.
Sink said her foundation will do all it can to promote the expedition's work.
“Our biggest asset is our quality of life, to have a state where we represent a value of preserving out natural resources,” she said.
To learn more about the purpose and progress of the expedition, go to, where you view blog posts and photos and subscribe to Twitter feeds.


At second hearing, boaters say tweak Snake Bight rule - by Kevin Wadlow
March 10, 2012
Not all fishing guides and anglers like the expanse of the no-motor area at Snake Bight in north Florida Bay, but fish, birds and some guides do.
"Fish are not as spooky since there's not as much invasive activity," flats guide John Kipp told Everglades National Park managers at a Thursday comment session in Key Largo. "I think [fishing] is a lot better. I'm very happy."
Snake Bight, a 9,400-acre area east of the park's mainland Flamingo Visitor Center, became a pole-or-troll zone in January 2011 as a test area to see if limited motor access could protect shallow flats in Florida Bay.
"Bird life in there greater than it's ever been. Fishing has definitely improved," guide Dave Denkert said. "We need this type of area. I think it's one of the best things to happen in years."
"What surprised me is how the zone has improved so rapidly," said Everglades National Park Ranger Dave Fowler, who has patrolled Florida Bay waters for more than two decades.
"People are seeing it," Fowler said. "Some amazing things are happening and it wasn't that way just a year and three months ago."
In the zone, boaters can use combustion engines to travel on plane in Tin Can Channel and Snake Bight Channel, and move at slow speed through Jimmie's Lake. Elsewhere, boats must travel by electric trolling motors or flats push poles to reduce prop-scarring on the shallow flats and sea grasses.
More than 40 people turned out for the workshop to update the boating community on the zone, and take comments on possible changes.
A cordial atmosphere prevailed at the session at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center, but several speakers urged park Superintendent Dan Kimball and staff to consider more boating channels or seasonal rule changes as water depth varies.
Guides said the hours now required to reach the center of Snake Bight has caused boaters and fishermen to seek out other areas, like Garfield Bight, that once drew few visitors.
"Anything past a mile of poling means it's really no-access," said flats guide Benny Blanco.
If boats head elsewhere, bottom damage could spread, guide Brian Gwilliams said. "You can see hot spots [of propeller scars] forming at Porpoise Point and Garfield Bight," Gwilliams said, recommending a small navigation channel into Snake Bight.
"It might be better to tear up something small," he said. "It's the difference between 150 prop scars and one that's 10 feet wide."
"There are runoffs where you should be able to idle in," veteran guide Billy Wert said. "Some of those wheel ditches have been used for 50 years."
"Can't you put in some access without making it so everyone knows about it?" wondered guide Kerry Wingo. Professional guides and expert boaters know how to navigate through shallow and tricky passages, park staff acknowledged.
"You'd do it right," Fowler said, "but it's the other 10 people we have to worry about."
Peter Frezza of the Audubon Society's Tavernier Science Center said a small island inside Snake Bight unexpectedly has become a critical rookery for roseate spoonbills, a water bird.
"Roseates never nested there before but that island could be saving the spoonbill population in Florida Bay," Frezza said.
Park staff noted that while there are many reports of increased fish and bird life within Snake Bight, they cannot positively credit the no-motor rules. Other ecological factors could be involved.
"Just as there may be collateral damage [from closed areas], there may be collateral positive benefits," Kimball said.
Kimball said park staff would consider suggestions on specific areas that may be suitable for idle-speed use, and join guides "out on the water to see and learn ... We're going in the right direction," Kimball said. "The question is how we can make it better."
Opinions voiced on expanded use of pole-and-troll zones were split.
"I'd like to see more pole-and-troll zones in Florida Bay," Kipp said. "It benefits anglers and guides." Blanco disagreed, "I don't want to see blanket closures everywhere because it's working at Snake Bight."
Research is the area is expected to continue for at least two more years.



Hydrilla weed

How Much Hydrilla ? The Kissimmee Chain Debate
The - by Del Milligan
March 10, 2012
What's the right amount of hydrilla ?
Fishermen and duck hunters on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes have been in conflict with each other, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, for the past nine months — all over a submerged aquatic weed called hydrilla that is as common to most Florida lakes as St. Augustine grass is to urban lawns.
Not only anglers and waterfowlers, but groups including bird-watchers, lake-front residents, recreational boaters, airboaters and owners of fish camps, tackle shops and marinas each have their own notions regarding how much hydrilla they consider to be ideal for their interests.
"It gets a little tricky when we have fishermen who want an area opened up, and duck hunters that want it left alone," said Ed Harris, a biologist with the FWC's Invasive Plant Management Section in Orlando.
The FWC, the state's lead agency for hydrilla control since July 1, 2008, faces a daunting challenge. It not only manages the spread of non-native hydrilla by spraying herbicides to maintain waterways for boating navigation and flood control. It also must consider the wants of Florida residents while keeping the best interests of wildlife foremost in its plans.
"They've got a tough job. I wouldn't want the job to manage hydrilla to please everybody," said professional bass fisherman Terry Seagraves of Kissimmee.
There is no disagreement that hydrilla has to be managed. But how it is managed creates passionate differences of opinion. Hydrilla, native to India and introduced to Florida in the late 1950s as an ornamental aquarium plant, took root in Lake Kissimmee in 1983 and spread throughout the chain.
Hydrilla can be excellent habitat for fish, waterfowl and marsh birds like the endangered Everglade snail kite.



Meet the Natives: Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) - compiled by Amy Bennett Williams
March 10, 2012
They didn’t find much gold or the fountain of youth, but one treasure Europeans were able to plunder to their hearts’ content in Florida was most of the peninsula’s wild mahogany trees.
Once upon a time, these stately natives grew 70 feet and higher here, but once the Spanish began sending them back home in the 1600s, their dense, rich auburn wood was so prized for fine furniture that in a few centuries it was harvested to extinction north of the Everglades.
That’s not to say mahogany doesn’t grow in this region anymore; people have planted it ever since, but because they’re younger, most mahoganies aren’t more than 40 feet. Much of Fort Myers’ Fowler Street is lined with mature mahoganies, and it still grows wild in pockets in the Everglades and the upper Keys.
The great, round crown is not so dense that it won’t permit light to filter through to plants at ground level. Its yellow-green leaves grow in clusters of three or four asymmetrical pairs without a leaflet at the tip.
The tree’s small white spring and summer flowers are deliciously fragrant and followed by the tree’s rather extraordinary seed pods. Looking a bit like woody, chestnut brown pears, they split into five crescent-shaped slices to reveal tightly packed seeds, each about the size and shape of a minnow.
Crafty parents and elementary school teachers know the pods and their various pieces are a rich source of raw material for nature art projects. They can be glued together mosaic-style, painted as monsters or fashioned into Thanksgiving turkeys. Should the pods escape the craft table, the wind eventually spins the papery-winged seeds away from the mother tree.
If they reach fertile ground and root, they’ll become fairly fast-growing trees that tolerate full sun, drought and salt spray well.


A remote rural mine gives South Florida its sand
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
March 9, 2012
Ancients deposits dredged to restore eroded beaches.
It may be Spring Break, but the focus in South Florida is not where the boys are. It's where the sand is.
For a growing number of coastal cities dealing with beach erosion, it's from a mine in a remote part of southern Glades County, just southwest of Lake Okeechobee.
As offshore sources of sand become depleted, city and county governments have turned to the Ortona Sand Mine and several others like it, which extract sand from ancient beaches established when much of Florida was under water.
Unsuspecting tourists from Key West to Singer Island are stretching out on quartz crystals dredged from an artificial lake, processed to remove impurities and sent by truck to be spread along the shoreline.
Hollywood just completed a project that trucked in 87,000 tons of sand from the Ortona mine, owned by E.R. Jahna Industries Inc. Other cities and counties that have used Ortona sand include Key West, Key Biscayne, North Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Hillsboro Beach, Palm Beach, Palm Beach County and Singer Island.
"We're really pleased with it," said Raelin Storey, spokeswoman for Hollywood, which completed its project last month. "The size is just right. We think the slightly larger grain size will actually help in retaining the sand."
Although this may seem like a bizarre way to preserve a beach — and in some ways it is — experts say the material itself is pretty much the same as what had been on the beaches before they were developed. It contains no silt, no clay and no debris from the ocean floor, unlike sand dredged offshore. It is lighter in color. And the mine's system allows customers to choose a sufficiently coarse grain size to prevent the sand from easily washing away and turning the water cloudy.
"The upland sand mines can process the sand," said Christopher Creed, senior engineer and vice president of Olsen Associates Inc., a coastal engineering firm that works on beach renourishment projects. "They don't just dig it out of the ground. We can design a sand size that these guys can produce. And the colors are lighter and more compatible with South Florida beaches than offshore sources."
Most sand mined inland goes to make concrete and other construction materials. But over the past 15 years or so, Jahna and a few other companies have learned to produce sand that meets the strict standards established for beaches.


Remove obstacles to Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel - by Megan Tinsley, Everglades Policy Associate with Audubon Florida
March 9, 2012
On March 7, officials convened in South Florida for a meeting of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (SFERTF) . The group was charged with overseeing Everglades restoration. Forefront on the meeting agenda was a Central Everglades Planning Project progress report. This project is one of five pilots being designed nationwide to shorten the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planning process that is often cited as one reason Everglades restoration is plagued by delays and the ecosystem continues to decline.
Audubon applauds this groundbreaking effort to reduce the traditional six-year planning process to 18 months, while including components of several interrelated Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects that will finally function to move unwanted water that would otherwise be flushed to tide through the central Everglades and south to Everglades National Park, where it is desperately needed.
A shortened planning time frame will allow taxpayers to get more value for their investment. Opportunities for stakeholder engagement early and often in the planning process is allowing for input from all interests to help shape the best possible plan that takes into consideration both the environment and those who recreate in the area.
Achieving early restoration benefits and reversing the continued trajectory of ecosystem decline is the only thing that will bring the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and its wildlife back from the brink of a tipping point from which it may be impossible to recover. Our message to the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force was clear: we wholeheartedly support this effort to move beyond the red tape and hurdles that have held back the clean freshwater from flowing in the Everglades for so long.


Wildlife Corridor Expedition Brushes With Sprawl, Horses - And The President
WUSF-News - by Steve Newborn
March 9, 2012
KISSIMMEE (2012-3-12) - The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition has emerged from the wilderness and is now skirting around Orlando's suburban sprawl. The group recently stopped at the Disney Wilderness Preserve on horseback, and they received an unexpected gift - from President Obama.
After trudging an untold number of miles under the weight of a 60 pound backpack...
SOUND: horse snorting.
...there's nothing like strutting into your next stop atop a horse.
The Florida Wildlife Expedition is walking, biking and kayaking 1,000 miles in 100 days to publicize the need to connect the state’s wild areas into a continuous corridor. But they got a whole different perspective 12 feet high atop a saddle. Expedition member Elam Stoltzfus' trusty steed "spark plug" came from some of the local cowboys with the Northern Everglades Alliance.
"We went off some areas - there were no trails," says Stoltzfus. "And to have that experience of what they call backcountry riding and work together as a team. And so you ride beside one person for a while, and then you switch over to someone else, and it's time you have to get to know each other and share your experiences."
Expedition member and photographer Carlton Ward Jr. dismounted, shook off the dust and tried his best to get all the horses and their riders to line up for a photo shoot.
"Is it hard to back up the horses about three feet or four feet?" he told the crowd. "You go about the same speed, but you see everything around you. You see up above the palmettos, long vistas, long viewscapes, get to see the contours of the lakes. We went through a creek - a cypress-lined creek that was about four feet deep, so the horses got wet. We didn't, so that that was nice too."
This part of the trip was a spur off their journey from the Everglades to the Okeefenokee swamp. The Disney Wilderness Preserve was created in the 1990's as mitigation for construction done on new attractions at the theme park. It's grown to encompass nearly 12,000 acres of pine savannah and wetlands in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
"We came here because these headwaters are so important to the Everglades watershed," says Ward. "And to show the beginnings of the headwaters refuge - an important piece of the whole puzzle."
After sitting down to a hearty meal of beef brisket and barbecue ribs, they they were presented with one of Ward's photographs - signed by President Obama. It was brought to the White House by the Northern Everglades Alliance, which is trying to protect the headwaters of the Kissimmee River.
Alliance member Rick Dantzler praised the expedition members as they stood before a group of well-wishers at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.
"And then he also signed this poster of Florida which outlines this wonderful wildlife corridor," Dantzler said, "and it says "Thanks for helping to preserve our natural wonders - Barack Obama." Pretty neat, don't you think?"
Ward then regaled the crowd with their latest experiences. Before they could reach the Disney Wilderness Preserve, they had to battle 2-foot swells trying to kayak to an exotic game preserve on an island in Lake Kissimmee.
"Just by that experience alone, this is not a hypothetical idea of connecting Florida's natural lands," says Ward. "Even though you'll walk north and hit Poinciana and suburban Florida, if you turn south, you can walk clear to Okeechobee without encountering much more than a few roads. So it's a tremendous opportunity we have, and we're very thankful to do our small part in trying to bring some awareness to it."
Dantzler, a former state Senator from Polk County, then gave them an emphatic sendoff.
"I really think that Carlton Ward and his team are really going to change the course of Florida. I think what they're doing is going to have an impact that is going to last forever," he said. "It's not just a flash in the pan - it's not just something that's going to be in the news for another few weeks. This is something that I think is going to change the way policymakers think about their jobs and their roles."
The role for the expedition now is to skirt east around Orlando and paddle north on the St. John’s River.


(CLICK to enlarge)

Expedition team hits halfway point in 1,000 mile trek in Polk County
ABC-ActionNews - by Alison Morrow
March 8, 2012
HAINES CITY - When people think about Florida's countryside, they probably imagine lines of orange groves or cow pastures protected by barbed wire.
But deep inside Haines City, past a "Creek Ranch" sign, down a dirt road, the picture changes.
Especially if it's seen through the eyes of four expeditioners.
"This is Florida," said Carlton Ward, Jr.
Ward is a nature photographer. He's also from Tampa, but he hasn't been home in 51 days. Neither has film-maker Elam Stoltzfus.
"Took more effort physically to do this than what I had anticipated," Stoltzfus said. The four-person Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team paddled 17 miles in just one day Tuesday.
They're halfway done with a 1,000 mile trek from the base of the Everglades, finally arriving at its headwaters, all in hopes of raising awareness about Florida's disappearing landscape.
"Most people live on Florida's coast and don't know this incredible corridor down the middle of the state exists," explained nature conservationist Mallory Dimmitt.
Of Florida's 45 million acres of land and water, 9.9 million are protected. For most of the FWC Expedition's journey, they've walked on grasses or paddled on water.
But every so often, they'd cross a major road.
"The wildlife have that same thing," Dimmitt said. "They have to get across a 4-lane highway that's constant traffic and busy."
"We're at a critical point in history where we still have a chance to maintain some critical linkages that if we're not careful will be lost forever," Ward, Jr. said.
Living within those critical linkages is the animal that inspired the journey.
"You see signs of them everywhere," said bear biologist Joe Guthrie.
In some places, the black bear is growing in number, but in others, dwindling.
"If you protect the landscape for black bear, you're protecting it for hundreds of thousands of other species," Guthrie said.
Wednesday was the team's halfway point in Haines City.
Day 51 of their hundred day trek to southern Georgia, the end really the beginning of the work.
"What happens next is what's important," Dimmitt said.
Together, they'll produce a film of their journey, so people across the country can see what they saw here in Florida.
"My goal, my dream is that these stories will continue on long after this expedition is done," Stoltzfus said.
A story of bears and friends.
One animal at the center of an effort focused on hundreds of thousands, just like four people at the center of an effort focused on millions.
For more information and to keep track of the team’s progress, visit the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition at

FIU land deal pulled from bill
The Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan and Kathleen McGrory
March 8, 2012
Florida International University came up short Thursday in its legislative push for a controversial deal that would have given the school 350 acres of wetlands bordering the Everglades.
An amendment to a water management bill that would have given FIU control of the state-owned tracts in West Miami-Dade was killed at the request of the governor’s office, said House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami.
FIU had hoped to use the land in a land swap that potentially would have moved the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition to the wetlands site so the university could expand into existing fairgrounds land next door.
But Lopez-Cantera said the school could still secure the wetlands — purchased more than a decade ago for $3.7 million for a now-scrapped Everglades project — through on-going negotiations with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
He said aides to Gov. Rick Scott have said “they would work with FIU to help them achieve their goal.”
In a letter to lawmakers this week, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez objected to moving the fairgrounds to the site because it sits beyond the county’s urban development boundary, or UDB.
Environmentalists were pleased with the removal of the amendment. They broadly support the remainder of Senate Bill 1986, because it reverses budgets cuts ordered to the state’s water management districts last year.
Laura Reynolds, executive director of Tropical Audubon, was hopeful that FIU and the county would seek a new fairground site inside the UDB.
“We’re not against the FIU expansion. We’re not against the movement of the fair,” she said.


Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition Gets Surprise Gift from President Obama - by Steve Newborn
March 8, 2012
KISSIMMEE - The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition neared civilization today. The group stopped at a wilderness preserve on the edge of Orlando’s sprawl, where they received an unexpected gift - from President Obama.
The gift was a copy of both the expedition’s route map through Florida and a photograph by group member Carlton Ward Jr. – both signed by the president. The items were brought to the White House by members of the Northern Everglades Alliance, which is trying to protect the headwaters of the Kissimmee River.
Ward had just rode into the Disney Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee on horseback – 17 miles.
"To be here with a group of ranchers from the Northern Everglades Alliance is special, because this group of people have been stewards of their land for generations," he said. "To come in on horseback was a fitting opportunity that we’re very thankful for."
The expedition members are now poised to paddle north on the St. John’s River on their way to north Florida and the Georgia state line. They’re walking 1,000 miles in 100 days to publicize the need to connect the state’s wild areas into a continuous corridor



Canadian billionaire will be in the cattle business in Florida

Frank Stronach goes to Florida - by Tamsin McMahon
March 8, 2012
In his riskiest venture yet, the former head of Magna International is becoming one of the state’s biggest cattle ranchers.
The city of Ocala, Fla., was known as the Gateway to the Magic Kingdom until Disney closed its welcome centre six years ago. These days, the local newspaper has given it a new nickname: The Land of Stronach.
Since his exit from the helm of Aurora, Ont.-based auto parts giant Magna International, Frank Stronach has turned his attention away from the auto industry and toward the greener pastures of Florida cattle ranching. In the past two years, the 79-year-old has been on a buying spree, using nearly $80 million of the $856-million payout from selling his controlling stake in Magna to acquire huge swaths of land in the Sunshine State.
So far, Stronach has amassed about 70,000 acres—nearly three times the size of Disney World—making him Marion County’s largest private landowner. His plan is to open a massive grass-fed beef operation starting early next year, with as many as 30,000 cattle, a 61,000-sq.-foot abattoir that would slaughter up to 300 cows a day, and a biomass power plant that would extract methane from manure.
The project is driven by Stronach’s vision of a largely untapped market for what has traditionally been a niche product: hormone-free cattle left to forage for food in pastures, rather than housed in feedlots and fed mostly corn. It’s a market that, until now, has been confined mostly to small family farms. If Stronach succeeds, his venture would eclipse anything the U.S. grass-fed industry has ever seen. “I was awestruck with the scale of what they’re trying to do,” says Carrie Balkcom, executive director of the American Grassfed Association. “That’s a big operation. That’s huge.”
Stronach’s Adena Springs ranch plans to market its beef to Florida grocery stores for consumers keen on fresh local produce, as well as serve the meat at Stronach’s network of racetracks. There are plans for a restaurant chain that would serve Adena Meats, and Stronach hopes to expand the business across the United States and Canada. “Frank doesn’t do anything small,” says Mark Roberts, general manager of Adena Springs’s operations in Florida. “I can assure you he’s planning it and it won’t just be in Florida.” (Stronach himself declined an interview request.)
In doing so, Stronach is banking on the emerging trend of wholesome food, where even restaurants like McDonald’s are under pressure to move toward what is perceived to be ethically raised produce. Some see this as the future of agribusiness, with a massive market waiting to be unleashed. But it’s not without its risks, risks that may end up being among the biggest of Stronach’s storied career.
Grass-fed beef farms are a throwback to a production style not seen since the Second World War, when ranchers left their herds to graze on grass and then slaughtered them on-site or at a local abattoir. Contrast that with modern-day beef production, where cattle are shipped across the country to places like Texas to be fattened quickly on grain in feedlots, which are cheaper and easier to maintain than large fields of grass.
Proponents of grass-fed beef say it produces leaner and more nutritious meat, free of the hormones and antibiotics commonly given to grain-fed animals, and that it’s a more humane way to treat a cow. “Frank feels that the demand for food production is great and it’s going to continue to grow,” says Roberts. “But this grass-fed concept has just got a nicer feel to it than a feedlot. As Frank says, ‘[the cows] will have all good days and then one bad day.’ ”
But holistic beef is far from a guaranteed success. For all of its health and environmental benefits, grass-fed beef remains a tiny fraction of the market. The operations are land-intensive, the cows take longer to raise and produce less meat. All that puts about a 30 per cent premium on the price of the beef at a time when the economic downturn in the U.S. has put a damper on the demand for luxury foods. With $350 million in sales a year, grass-fed beef represents a mere one per cent of total retail beef sales in the U.S.
Stronach’s outsized ambitions also seem to be at odds with the image the industry has cultivated of small local farmers selling to nearby residents. “A lot of people don’t seem to want to get big. It’s the comfortable rural lifestyle that they’re trying to maintain,” says Balkcom. “Grass-fed production really hits home with the local movement. People want to buy from the guy down the dirt road. They don’t want their stuff flown in.”
Despite his image as an auto magnate partial to boardroom battles and European castles, Stronach has long professed a love of farming—and is not entirely out of his element. He is one of North America’s largest horse breeders and while at the helm of Magna, he oversaw a network of thoroughbred ranches, race tracks and prize-winning horses. It’s a passion he has said he developed as a boy growing up in Austria during the Second World War, after a Russian soldier rode up to his house on horseback, stole a car and left Stronach with the steed.
But until now, his most high-profile venture into agriculture was Magnaville, the utopian community in rural Louisiana that Stronach built in 2005 to house evacuees from New Orleans displaced by hurricane Katrina. In exchange for free rent in three-bedroom accommodations, residents of the community—which was quickly dubbed “Canadaville”—were expected to raise poultry and grow organic vegetables in what Stronach has hoped would be the largest organic farming project in North America. With a population more accustomed to inner-city life than rural farming, Canadaville’s experiment was a bust and the community shut its doors in 2010, although it opened last year to house victims of flooding in Mississippi.
But Stronach’s gamble in American beef far exceeds Canadaville on the scale of agricultural ambition. Florida legislators and the local cattle industry are eyeing the plans closely. The state senate recently amended a bill that exempts fruit packers from paying taxes on electricity to include slaughterhouses in a bid to encourage Stronach to expand his business.
Stronach himself has been busy doling out money to the local community, where he has maintained a thoroughbred horse farm and training centre since the early 1990s. He recently donated nearly $30,000 to a local elementary school and spent another $1.5 million on a plant research centre at the University of Florida.
Ocala is no stranger to billionaire farmers. George Steinbrenner once operated a thoroughbred ranch in the area, and Campbell’s soup heiress Charlotte Weber has run a horse farm here since 1995. But Stronach’s plans go beyond the typical playground ranches of the rich and famous and have driven a wedge between local residents. On one hand are those who eagerly support the 150 jobs Stronach’s operation expects to create, which could help put a dent in the region’s 12 per cent unemployment rate. On the other are the residents concerned with the sheer size of Stronach’s landholdings and the magnitude of his planned operation.
Adena Springs has asked the local water authority for permission to drill 130 wells into the property and pump out 13 million gallons of water a day from the aquifer that lies underground. It’s more water than the entire city of Ocala uses in a day.
Environmentalists have sounded the alarm on the request, saying the community is already in the midst of a prolonged drought. Stronach, says local activist Guy Marwick, is asking for “a well for every man he hires.” “While the rest of us are on water restrictions where you can only water your lawn once a week, it’s very hard for people to see how one man can come into a place and ask for more than the entire community has ever used,” he adds.
Ocala’s water supply, which is a bubble of fresh water that sits atop a bed of limestone insulating it from the surrounding salt water, is particularly sensitive to over-pumping, Marwick says. The community’s main water source and tourist attraction is Silver Springs, a crystal-clear river that bubbles up from beneath the ground. It once pumped 550 million gallons a day, but the volume has fallen by nearly half in recent years. “If we lose that, it’s like losing a national monument,” Marwick says. “Water is a precious commodity here in Florida. I guess we’ll have to pipe it in from Canada.”
Still, local politicians would rather see Stronach’s vast landholdings go toward a cattle ranch than yet another real estate development, which, until Florida’s real estate market collapsed, was one of the main drivers of Ocala’s economy. “It actually makes it easier for us to deal with, because if there is an issue we don’t have to deal with multiple landowners, just the one,” says Marion County Commission chairman Charlie Stone.
The community’s cattle ranchers are particularly keen to see Stronach’s venture succeed. Florida is among the top cattle-producing states, but the cost of real estate has forced most ranchers to ship their herds to West Texas to feed.
The industry is banking on Adena Springs becoming a game changer for Florida farmers by creating a new market for ranchers to sell their herds to Stronach to meet his demand for livestock.
“He’s the start of it. We’re all going to fall in behind him and supplement his needs,” says Sam Albritton, past president of the Marion County Cattelmen’s Association. “He’s the brain trust behind it and we’re all going to hopefully make some money by helping him.”
But despite Stronach’s ambitious plans, Roberts says Adena will start out small, with only about 50 to 60 cattle, a number he hopes will grow to 3,000 by the end of next year. The company will use its own herd to start and then buy from other farmers as the market for grass-fed beef grows. “If the demand for our product is there, that’s what will drive it,” Roberts says.
It’s a big “if,” both for Stronach and for the Florida community playing host to the Canadian businessman’s next big adventure.


Let's rally – Letter by Martha Musgrove, West Palm Beach
March 8, 2012
It's been a tough slog through the swamps of Tallahassee for environmental lobbyists seeking money to continue Everglades restoration — including the proposed Caloosahatchee reservoir — and the Florida Forever land acquisitions.
Last Tuesday there was a glimpse of high ground as the Legislature's budgeters agreed to $30 million for the Everglades and scraped up $8 million for land purchases. It's not enough, but it's something !
Equally important, the Senate is backing away from its grandiose effort to wrest control of the state's five water management districts from the governor.
Naples Rep. Trudi Williams deserves some credit for pushing back on the Senate's effort to usurp executive authority and effectively turn the little known 14-member Legislative Budget Commission into a state water control board. The bill (Senate Bill 1986) would have given that commission the power to approve or disapprove every line in every districts' budget. Not only would that put South Florida's water resources at the mercy of North Florida (and vice versa), the process would jeopardize multiyear commitments and diffuse accountability.
I am a board member of Florida Wildlife Federation and a member of Florida Conservation Coalition.
Let the governor continue to take responsibility for overseeing the South Florida Water Management District and the other districts. Governors are elected and every voter can hold the governor directly accountable for protecting Florida's water supply and preserving our natural resources.


Read new 2012
(March 6) FULL or BRIEF
report by the National Research Council (NAS) commitee:
"Review of EPA's Economic Analysis of Numerical Nutrient Criteria for Florida"

Costs for Changing Pollution Criteria in Florida Waters Likely to Exceed EPA Estimates
Environmental Protection
Mar 7, 2012
The costs to switch to numeric criteria for limiting nutrient pollutants in Florida waters are expected to exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, says a new National Research Council report. The committee that wrote the report questioned the validity of several assumptions in the EPA cost analysis and found that EPA did not adequately report on the uncertainties that could affect the cost of the rule change.
In 2009 EPA decided that numeric limits on the concentration of pollutants in water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, were necessary in Florida to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. These numeric criteria would replace existing state "narrative" criteria, which use words to describe water pollution limits. For example, the Florida narrative standard refers to not causing a population imbalance in aquatic flora and fauna, while the numeric standard would express specific allowable concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in water.
In its economic analysis, EPA calculated the cost differential of switching from the narrative to numeric criteria. It considered only those waters that would be newly listed as "impaired" under the numeric criteria and estimated mitigation costs for a variety of sources of pollution that would affect these waters.
The committee concluded that EPA was correct in its approach to calculating the cost of the rule change. However, the agency underestimated both the number of newly impaired waters and the mitigation costs for the stormwater, agricultural, septic system, and government sectors. Furthermore, there was significant uncertainty in the estimates for the municipal and industrial wastewater sectors, making it difficult to know whether the EPA underestimated or overestimated those costs, the report says. The committee also found that the costs of the rule change would be small relative to the total costs that will ultimately be required to restore Florida's waters.
Future cost analyses of rule changes would be improved if they explicitly described how a rule would be implemented over time and its impact on costs, the report says. If EPA had conducted such an analysis, it would have found that point sources -- such as municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities -- will face increased costs sooner under the numeric nutrient criteria than under the narrative process.
The report describes a more comprehensive approach for conducting these analyses and summarizes the differences between the narrative rule, numeric rule, and a proposed Florida rule that incorporates aspects of both narrative and numeric criteria. The committee did not produce its own cost estimate for implementing numeric nutrient criteria. It also did not assess the numeric criteria themselves or address the environmental or indirect economic effects of implementing the criteria.
The committee found that discrepancies in cost estimates by EPA and other stakeholders could be traced to different assumptions about how the rules would affect actions taken during the water quality management cycle, from listing water as impaired and establishing target nutrient concentrations to determining when the criteria have been met. If assumptions can be agreed upon, the new framework for future cost analyses could narrow the discrepancies in estimates, the report says.



This filter-feeder organism grows on seagrass and accumulates the powerful red-tide toxin

Red tide prevents rehabilitated manatee from returning home
March 7, 2012
CAPE CORAL, Fla.- You will not find toxic red tide cells floating in southwest Florida waters right now, but their deadly effects still remain. It's preventing a rehabilitated manatee from returning home to the waters of Matlacha.
You can watch video of a crew escorting Epac the manatee to South Florida Museum's Parker Manatee Aquarium. The mammal's name is "Cape" spelled backwards because that's where he was found injured more than a year ago, near the Matlacha Pass,
After more than a year of rehabilitation at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, he is ready to be released, but there's one problem.
"Typically he would have gone out this past January of February because he is getting close to the ideal weight and then it was discovered there was still red tide going on in his body of water," said Marilyn Margold, with the Parker Manatee Aquarium.
The sea grass in the Matlacha area is not fit to eat. Small filter-feeder creatures that look like brown branches attach themselves to the sea-grass. They've eaten the recent toxic red tide, and when the manatees eat the grass, the creatures act as a poison.
"They filter out the red tide cells, and accumulate the brevetoxins in high concentrations. Until those brevetoxin levels go down to zero, those sea grass beds are toxic to grazers," said SCCF research scientist Richard Bartleson. He says just a small amount ingested can be dangerous.
Research scientists are unsure of how long the filter feeders will remain toxic with red tide cells, it could be for a couple months. That means Epac probably wont be able to be released back into these waters until the summer.
Until that day comes, he'll continue to get specialized care at the aquarium, and interact with two other manatees.
Until they are clear of toxins, the filter-feeders cause the sea-grass to remain toxic to not only manatees, but to dolphins and turtles.


Read new 2012
(March 6) FULL or BRIEF
report by the National Research Council (NAS) commitee:
"Review of EPA's Economic Analysis of Numerical Nutrient Criteria for Florida"

Scientists: EPA off on Fla. pollution rule costs
Associated Press – by Bill Kaczor – Crest View Bulletin
March 7, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Federal environmental officials underestimated the cost of implementing their new water pollution rules for Florida, just as critics have been saying, a National Research Council panel concluded in a report released Tuesday.
The committee of scientists was not asked to offer its own estimate but wrote that whatever the expense turns out to be it would be small compared to the ultimate cost of restoring Florida's waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which commissioned the study, issued a statement saying it already is incorporating some of the report's recommendations in its economic analysis. It noted that the scientists also found critics’ estimates of much higher costs also were faulty.
State officials as well as business, agriculture and utility interests have opposed the EPA's rules, contending they would cost more than the agency's estimate and be too expensive to implement.
They are supporting alternate rules proposed by the state that currently are under challenge by environmental groups in an administrative law case.
The EPA has estimated its rules would cost between $135.5 million and $206.1 million annually. Opponents say the cost could be has high as $12 billion. EPA asked the Research Council to review its cost estimate in response to the criticism.
“It certainly shows we were right from the beginning,” said David Childs, a lawyer for a coalition opposed to the EPA rules. “All signs seem to be pointing to EPA should approve the state rules and be done with it.”
David Guest, a lawyer for environmental groups supporting the EPA rules and opposing the state's alternate proposals, said he didn't think the study would have much effect.
“It's a difference in assumptions and the fact is you can test them,” said Guest, who works for Earthjustice, an environmental legal group.
Guest said he's confident the EPA's assumptions about how the rules would be implemented are more realistic.
The panel also concluded EPA's costs were too low because the agency underestimated the number of polluted lakes, rivers and streams in Florida and the agency had insufficient time and funding to do a more thorough expense analysis.
The EPA statement noted that the scientists also agreed with many of the agency's approaches and “concluded that while EPA's cost estimates were low, those prepared by stakeholders significantly overestimated the costs” in part by wrongly assuming the most expensive technologies would be required in all cases.
EPA is considering whether to replace its own rules with the state's version. Both would set numeric nutrient criteria. Guest's clients contend the state's proposal, though, would be too weak to combat toxic algae blooms that are choking Florida's waterways, killing fish and making humans sick.
Algae feed on such pollutants as sewage effluent, fertilizer and animal waste that is discharged or runs off the land into the water.
“Even if you doubled the EPA's cost estimate, which this report doesn't do, you're still talking about spending about a nickel a day (per person) for clean water,” Guest said. “I think it's a fair price to pay to stop toxic green slime from breaking out on our waters.”
The pollution could be controlled by such actions as upgrading aging sewer systems, applying fertilizer in more efficient ways and modern manure management on farms and ranches.
Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southeast Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club took EPA to court when it failed to enforce its own regulation requiring states to establish numeric standards for such nutrients as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Florida's current rules do not set specific pollution limits but use words to loosely describe prohibited pollution.
The federal agency settled the lawsuit by agreeing to establish its own rules for Florida. The EPA rules affecting lakes were to go into effect Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Monday delayed their implementation for four months until July 6.
Hinkle previously delayed rules affecting rivers and streams to give EPA time to fix them after he found them to be arbitrary and capricious. A decision by EPA to implement the state's rules instead of its own also would be subject to approval by Hinkle.
A state administrative law judge last week held a hearing on the state rule challenge. Guest said he expects a ruling by late April.
Scientists: EPA Off On Pollution Costs         (The Ledger)
Study: Cost of water rules understated          (
EPA cost estimates too low    (Gainesville Sun)


Study: EPA underestimated cost of Florida water standards
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
March 7, 2012
The costs for Florida to switch to a more stringent set of water pollution standards are expected to exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, according to a National Research Council report released yesterday.
According to the report, the EPA considered only those waters that would be newly listed as “impaired” under the numeric criteria when calculating the cost of switching from the state’s current, narrative standard to the more stringent rules.
The committee that wrote the report concluded that the EPA “was correct in its approach to calculating the cost of the rule change” but says that the agency “underestimated both the number of newly impaired waters and the mitigation costs for the stormwater, agricultural, septic system, and government sectors.”
“Furthermore,” reads the report, “there was significant uncertainty in the estimates for the municipal and industrial wastewater sectors, making it difficult to know whether the EPA underestimated or overestimated those costs.”
The committee also found that the costs of the rule change would be small compared “to the total costs that will ultimately be required to restore Florida’s waters.”
The committee did not produce its own cost estimate for implementing a set of numeric nutrient criteria in the state, and did not assess the numeric criteria themselves. The report issued yesterday was merely a review of the EPA’s cost estimates.
Currently, Florida relies on a narrative water quality standard, the wording of which (.pdf) has been criticized as too vague to be effective. A numeric standard, however, would express specific allowable concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients which often lead to algal blooms and fish kills) in water.
A lawsuit settled in 2009 resulted in a mandate requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. Though the EPA is the federal agency mandating those rules, the agency has said it would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own rules, and implement them if they are approved.
A portion of those rules is slated to go into effect in early July.
Cost estimates for the Florida-specific criteria have varied widely – the EPA itself has said its criteria could cost the state about $236 million annually. Critics, however, charge that the EPA’s version could cost as much as $50 billion to implement. The state Department of Environmental Protection has estimated the cost of its own criteria to be between $51 and $150 million annually.
According to the National Academy review, “future cost analyses of rule changes would be improved if they explicitly described how a rule would be implemented over time and its impact on costs.”
“If EPA had conducted such an analysis,” says the review, “it would have found that point sources — such as municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities — will face increased costs sooner under the numeric nutrient criteria than under the narrative process.”


Big sugar

The Sweet Lobby: An Uphill Battle Against Big Sugar - by Tyler Kingkade
March 7, 2012
Sen. Dick Lugar was making a speech at a Gummy Bear factory in Merrillville, Indiana. It’s not often senators take tours of candy factories to emphasize their central issues, but that’s precisely what Lugar (R-Ind.) was doing at Albanese Confectionery in August 2011, talking about the U.S. Sugar Program.
“Every time Hoosiers see sugar listed as an ingredient on their food labels,” Lugar said at the factory, “they should know that are paying more than they should because of the federal government’s sugar policy.”
It was only a couple months earlier that he had gone through the halls of Congress passing out cupcakes to his colleagues, trying to build support for his bill, the Free Sugar Act, which would dramatically reform the federal Sugar Program. Lugar was at the factory on what he called his “Sweet Jobs” tour. This year, he’s facing a tough reelection—some say it’ll be a challenge for the veteran lawmaker and onetime presidential candidate to even make it past his primary.
Lugar’s opposition to the U.S. Sugar Program dates back to the first time he voted against it in 1977. The agricultural program is included in each Farm Bill, and he has opposed it relentlessly throughout his career. He describes U.S. sugar policy as “a complicated system of marketing allotments, price supports, purchase guarantees, quotas and tariffs that only a Soviet apparatchik could love.”
In an editorial for conservative outlet The Washington Times, in his usual conservative rhetoric, Lugar wrote the following of the Sugar Program: “It substitutes the federal government for the private sector in basic decisions about buying and selling, supply and price.”
A couple months later, officials from candy companies—including the head of Spangler Candy Company, which makes Dum Dums and Circus Peanuts—were meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to advocate for a repeal or significant reform of the Sugar Program. Several other members of Congress have independently introduced bills similar to Lugar’s: Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) all put forward legislation in 2011. And they all knew they had a high hill to climb to actually cut down on the Sugar Program. Over the past 20 years, the sugar industry has pumped $136 million into campaign contributions and lobbying. It’s a program that enjoys support from both liberals and conservatives alike.
How It Works With No Direct Checks To Farmers
Through the Sugar Program, the federal government puts a cap on how much sugar can be imported into the United States, typically requiring around 85 percent of the country’s sugar supply to be domestic. So food processors and candy companies are forced by law to buy sugar from inside the U.S. Then, the Agricultural Department sets a price floor—a minimum price that sugar must be sold at in America. But the U.S. sugar price is twice the average price worldwide. This is what many—including food processors, a number of economists, prominent think tanks like the Cato Institute and American Enterprise Institute, and their allies in Congress like Lugar—point to as a major problem.
The federal government’s role in the sugar industry started during the New Deal, but it was in 1981, under the Reagan administration, when the Sugar Program’s modern price and supply controls and import barriers were introduced. It was then expanded during George W. Bush’s tenure with a new program to buy excess sugar and sell it to ethanol producers.
Unlike other agricultural programs, the government isn’t doling out checks directly as subsidies for domestic production, which is what happens with corn, soybeans, and wheat. So for a Congress that talks consistently about where they can cut, there isn’t a multi-billion dollar program for sugar to suggest as a place to cut. That’s a sweet deal for people like Senate Agriculture Committee chair Kent Conrad (D-Mt.), who took in at least $215,000 from sugar companies since being first elected in 1986, and other key lawmakers who have benefitted from industry donors.
“It’s working the way that we intended; it doesn’t cost government any money; it's pretty well supported throughout the Agriculture Committee. I don’t see any reason to change it, and I think most people agree with that, and we expect to be able to maintain the sugar program in the future.” Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), former chair of the House Agriculture Committee, said of sugar policy last summer, at the 28th International Sweetener Symposium in Vermont.Peterson has taken more money from sugar companies than any other member of the House, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
Phillip Hayes, a spokesperson for American Sugar Alliance, said in an interview with Campus Progress that the program also supports the U.S. sugar supply against a volatile market. Hayes and Northbridge Communications have been paid millions over the years for their lobbying on behalf of the American Sugar Alliance.
So where is the problem? Opponents of the Sugar Program argue that every time you buy candy bars, ice cream, peanut butter, ketchup, bread, cereal—anything with sugar in it, which is a lot these days—you’re paying more than you should. This is because food processors have to use mostly U.S. sugar since sugar policy prevents foreign sugar from being imported. It ensures sales for American farm operations, but the opponents don’t think it’s worth the higher cost for consumers and other businesses.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., has long opposed the program as a barrier to free trade. In reports, they point to a Government Accountability Office report that found 42 percent of the Sugar Program’s benefits go to just 1 percent of American sugar growers.
University of Michigan economist Mark Perry said in an interview with Campus Progress that American consumers are overpaying on sugar products by approximately $4.5 billion a year. Perry argues that to have so much wasted in the national economy is a serious problem. A recent Iowa State University study puts the number closer to $3.9 billion.
But spreading Perry’s $4.5 billion figure across the nation results in about $15 to $20 in “overspending” annually per person. Compare that to the 60,000 people employed by the sugar industry, and Perry calculates it’s about $75,000 at stake for each worker.
“The consumers don't even care about the issue,” Perry said over the phone. “They’re never going to get organized, there’s never going to be a grassroots sugar consumer group. [But] it’s a costly program, and it makes us worse off as a country for a program that benefits a specific interest group at the expense of consumers.”
Hayes doesn’t buy it, and he rejects that consumers are overpaying on food.
“It’s ludicrous on its face,” Hayes said. “We can walk into any restaurant or coffee shop and fill our pockets with sugar. Look at the amount—there is less than two cents worth of sugar in a candy bar.” If the price of sugar did go down, Hayes said he doesn’t believe there’d be any drop in the price of most processed food with sugar in it.
U.S. Sugar spokesperson Judy C. Sanchez insisted recently to reporters that the Sugar Program is necessary for the domestic sugar industry to survive against bigger supplies in other countries. “We’re all for global free trade, but other countries have subsidies,” Sanchez said.
Citing a report by the U.S. International Trade Commission, Perry found for every sugar farm job saved by the federal Sugar Program, three confectionery jobs were lost. “To the extent that they’re protected or get special treatment it's corporate welfare, so why should taxpayers be supporting these corporations?" Perry said. “Oil gets hammered all the time about why should they get any special tax breaks or subsidies, so why should sugar producers?”
Environmentalists Jump On Board With U.S. Chamber Of Commerce
A large portion of American sugar comes from sugarcane, grown in the southeast, heavily in Florida. However, most domestic sugar comes from sugar beets, which are grown in the upper Midwest. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started a new program to buy excess sugar and sell it, potentially at a loss, to ethanol producers. The Congressional Budget Office said in a March 2011 report that the U.S. will be spending about $374 million during 2014-2021 to buy excess sugar and sell to ethanol producers at a cheaper rate.
Economists from AEI, food processors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and even environmentalists from the Everglades Trust are aggressively lobbying for sweeping changes to U.S. sugar policy ahead of the 2012 Farm Bill.
The Everglades Trust is on board because phosphorus runoff from sugarcane growers in Florida has greatly damaged the everglades In the 1990s, many took a hard look at the sugar program as everyone from then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, then-Sen. Bob Dole, and former Vice President Al Gore all got on board with restoring the Everglades.
There have even been arguments made for cutting back on agricultural programs, like federal sugar policy, in an effort to combat the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup. Overseas, soda is typically made with sugar. But in the U.S., it’s much more common to find Pepsi and Coke made with high fructose corn syrup. In 2006, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo lobbied alongside Hershey Co. for changes to the sugar program, but were unsuccessful.
From their perspective, as the Coalition for Sugar Reform, they have a better chance to overhaul the Sugar Program thanks to the number of new members of Congress elected in recent wave elections. They point especially the 79 freshman House Republicans who were elected to supposedly change the way things work in Washington.
“On the House Ag committee,” Trudi Boyd of the Coalition for Sugar Reform told this reporter during a confectionary conference in Washington, “a lot of the members have never been educated on the issue. They were elected with constituencies who want them to take a fresh look at how we operate in this country from that perspective. We feel like this Congress, particularly, will take an interest in the debate.”
Within the Ag Committee leadership, House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Ok.) has raked in big dollars from sugar and other ag interests. A top member on the Senate Ag Committee, and former chair, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), has collected donations mainly from agricultural and crop industries. And current Chair of the Senate Ag Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), saw a major increase in 2011 from agriculture and crop interests.
Hayes, of American Sugar Alliance, gladly points out they have a lot of support in Congress and on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle. “It’s a no cost program,” Hayes said by phone. “In this type of budget atmosphere, they aren’t looking to gut a no cost program that would leave our country dependent on foreign sugar suppliers.”
In the Senate, conservative favorite Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is on the same side as noted liberal Al Franken (D-Minn.) in their support of the current sugar policy. Both of their states are central to the sugar producing industry.
The Near Death Of Reform Efforts
The people who have spent the past year lobbying Congress for changes say they don’t want to put sugar producers out of business, and concede that they won’t get rid of the federal Sugar Program entirely. Rather, their hope is to roll back as much as they can so food processors can access more low priced sugar—whether it ends up being domestic or imported.
While Big Sugar usually puts its money into shoring up support, confectioneries and trade groups are outspending them in some instances this year. Lugar took in $105,000 from supporting interests, but New Hampshire’s Shaheen—who has a similar bill to cut back on the Sugar Program—only took $500.
There was a ramp-up of spending last fall as the Farm Bill was shoved into the Super Committee—formerly known as the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee—compressing what is typically an 18-month process into only a few weeks. If the Super Committee hadn’t failed, it likely would’ve meant the next five years of agricultural policy would have been done entirely in Super Committee meetings, without ever being considered by the agricultural committees as a whole.
In the weeks leading up the Super Committee’s deadline, lobbyists working to alter sugar policy were running frantic to get the Farm Bill out back into the open. When asked an issue briefing in a K Street office in November what Plan B was if they couldn’t do that, one lobbyist working for the Coalition for Sugar Reform was stumped to come up with a plan.
Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, clearly noted at that meeting, and later in a statement, that he was "outraged" that the farm bill was being sent to the Super Committee with the sugar program in tact.
A dozen bills have come before Congress since 1995 to cut back on the Sugar Program, and each one of them has failed. Four are floating in this session of Congress , and lobbying by the sugar industry is currently focused on maintaining the status quo for sugar policy.
"Everyone's just trying to hold on to their piece," said another source involved with lobbying efforts around the farm bill, just before the New Year.
If the opponents of the Sugar Program are ever going to make inroads on sugar policy, 2012 seems to be their “now-or-never” year. If they fail this year, it’d likely take a major controversy to swing the pendulum of support to their side.


EPA promulgated an
extension of the effective
date of the (Inland) Rule

by 4 months to JULY 6,

Florida water rules delayed
Florida Independent - by Virginia Chamlee
March 6, 2012
Only hours before a portion of a set of federally-mandated water rules were slated to go into effect in the state of Florida, a federal judge postponed the move until July.
The so-called “numeric nutrient criteria” have been hotly contested in the state, and aim to govern excessive nutrients (namely, nitrogen and phosphorus) in state waterways.
In 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a mandate requiring the state of Florida to implement stricter water rules. But the criteria drafted by the EPA have been criticized for being too costly, with industry leaders arguing they could cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The EPA eventually announced that it would allow Florida to develop its own rules, which may be implemented in place of the federal version. State officials say those rules are just as stringent as the EPA’s version, but environmentalists have alleged that the state’s rules are less protective than having no standards at all.
In February, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that a portion of the criteria must take effect by March 6. On Monday, Hinkle pushed back the date to July 6, giving the EPA more time to consider whether to allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to use its own state criteria for nutrients, in place of the standards drafted by the EPA.
A report set to be released today will examine the cost estimates of the EPA’s version, which agriculture and utility reps have said could cost as much as $50 billion to implement.
Water rules stayed - for now  (Gainesville Sun)
EPA delays water pollution rules       (Miami Herald)
Judge delays Fla. water pollution rules opposed by state ...   (The Republic)


(CLICK to enlarge)

Florida Wildlife Corridor expedition focusing much-needed attention on critical issue - by Editorial Board
March 6, 2012
It's Day 50 — the halfway point for four explorers on the adventure of a lifetime.
Photographer Carlton Ward Jr., biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus — members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor expedition — are paddling 21.5 miles today to Jim Black Camp in Polk County.
Their journey of 1,000 miles in 100 days began in Florida Bay and will end in South Georgia. Their goal? To raise public awareness about the fragmentation of Florida's natural landscapes
and watersheds — and the importance of restoring and protecting habitat and migration corridors essential for Florida's diverse wildlife.
"There is a functional corridor in many places," said Ward, who is chronicling the journey with his camera. "Then there are areas of concern — bottlenecks — where landscapes and watersheds have been fragmented by the footprint of roads and development. We hope to promote critical thinking about keeping natural lands connected."
The Florida Wildlife Corridor project also seeks to:
• Restore water flow to the Everglades and sustain the water supply to South Florida.
• Continue to safeguard the St. Johns River and the water supply for Central and North Florida.
• Sustain the food production, economies and cultural legacies of working ranches and farms within the corridor.
• Bolster local economies through increased recreational opportunities, such as hunting, fishing, bird-watching and other forms of ecotourism.
What sights along the way have made an impression on the explorers?
"Every day there is something new," said Ward, a Tampa resident and eighth-generation Floridian with a master's degree in ecology. "We didn't see another person for three days while traveling through the saw grass in the Everglades. Another thing that amazed us is to see how effective wildlife underpasses are. There are 30 such structures along Alligator Alley (Interstate 75) between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. We observed many tracks from animals — including panthers, black bears, bobcats, otter, deer, raccoons and coyotes — that are using these underpasses."
Ward noted that local and state governments can add wildlife underpasses — "without too much incremental cost" — when widening or repairing highways.
"It's a solution that really works," he said.
The clock is ticking on Florida's opportunity to restore and preserve a viable wildlife corridor. Cooperation is needed by farmers and ranchers, conservation organizations, concerned residents and government officials at all levels to achieve this objective.

Hands off our water
The Miami Herald - Editorial
March 6, 2012
Fund water management districts, stop meddling with Dade’s urban boundary
Florida may be the Sunshine State but it’s the drinking water in our underground aquifers and wetlands as big as the Everglades — serving as bird and wildlife habitat and helping cleanse rainwater back into aquifers, rivers and lakes — that has enabled millions of people to move to this paradise we call home.
As the Legislature moves at warp speed to end its 60-day session by Friday, three issues crucial to South Florida’s ability to grow responsibly and prosper with sufficient clean water are in play. Legislators should restore funding to water management districts, keep their hands off Miami-Dade County’s urban development boundary and provide land for expansion of Florida International University’s medical school at the current fairgrounds in southwest Miami-Dade without putting into jeopardy environmentally sensitive land now being eyed for new fairgrounds.
Fund water districts
After decades of new developments putting pressure on Florida’s water supply, wise state leaders in the 1970s, led by then-Gov. Reubin Askew, created land planning agencies and five regional water districts based not on political power plays but on the state’s natural watershed areas. In 1976, Florida voters approved giving district boards, appointed by the governor, the authority to raise taxes to buy land and manage the water supply in their area. The districts have been instrumental in ensuring there’s enough water before any new massive developments can pop up, and that floodwaters get directed away from existing homes and businesses.
Then last year the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott — in the name of “economic development” — stripped the state Department of Community Affairs of most growth planning duties, decimated Everglades restoration projects and gutted regional water districts’ budgets by lowering their tax rates, crippling budgets statewide by $703 million. That sent almost 600 of Florida’s top scientists, engineers, flood managers and planning experts packing. All that pain, and the typical taxpaying property owner saved $20 to $40 a year.
Now there’s a chance to restore the five districts’ tax rate cap, but SB 1986 carries meddling strings that would require water districts to get their budgets, at all stages, approved by the Legislative Budget Commission. Such legislative interference not only diffuses accountability away from the governor’s office, where the buck should stop, but injects another political layer on water use decisions that should be based on science, not on what pricey lobbyists say is right.
Restoring funding is a desperately needed first step in getting water resources back on track. A second step would restore water districts’ ability to pay for projects through the sale of bonds. But budget leaders should butt out of micromanaging water policy.
FIU expansion
An amendment that would force a land swap to help FIU’s medical school expand to land around the current fairgrounds south of the campus sets up a conservation nightmare. The problem isn’t the expansion, but the swap that would turn over 350 acres of wetlands in the Bird Drive Everglades Basin for a new fairgrounds far west. That land was bought by the state to protect wetlands and water recharge areas and prevent flooding. As Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez points out, fast-tracking is not advisable. That land is not the right fit for parking lots and buildings.
Miami-Dade UDB
At least a move by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, to require only a majority vote by local governments to change long-term growth plans has died. For now. The change would have meant that Miami-Dade’s urban development boundary — which protects taxpayers from willy-nilly growth in the county’s far western fringe near the Everglades — could be changed by a simple majority instead of a super majority commission vote as Miami-Dade now requires.
Stop meddling with local control, legislators.


Wood stork

Wood stork

Wings over Wellington: Tours of the STA 1-E marsh often yield dozens of bird species \
Palm Beach Post - byWillie Howard , Staff Writer
March 6, 2012
It doesn't take a seasoned birdwatcher to appreciate the number and variety of birds that can be found at Stormwater Treatment Area 1-East, a series of Everglades water-cleansing marshes just west of Wellington.
But if you're a novice birdwatcher, it helps to have experts along to help spot and identify the birds, and to focus in on them with high-powered spotting scopes, which veteran birders willingly shared Saturday during a bird-watching tour of STA 1-E.
The Audubon Society of the Everglades leads the regular tours of the stormwater treatment area near Wellington that is managed by the South Florida Water Management District to clean water before it flows into the Everglades.
Audubon volunteers lead the free tours at STA 1-E twice a month in the cool months and will offer them on the first Saturday of each month during the summer. So far, birders on the Audubon tours have documented more than 90 species of birds there.
On Saturday, our group of 28 birders drove in a caravan-like line of cars across the STA 1-E dike roads led by David Simpson of Fellsmere, a professional bird surveyor and guide with Florida Nature Tours who used a walkie-talkie to deliver news about bird sightings from the lead car - a quiet, hybrid SUV.
On our first stop, we looked out at clouds of black skimmers, a bird that drags its lower jaw through the water in flight to scoop up food.
Simpson announced the approach of flying birds like an avian air-traffic controller.
"Here comes a spoonbill, up close, in breeding plumage," Simpson called out before the colorful roseate spoonbill dropped to the water.
Bird-watching is a lifelong pursuit because there is always something new to learn and more birds to find. It's not enough to know simply what a bird looks like. You have to know what it looks like in regular plumage, breeding plumage and juvenile plumage.
And there are "morphs" of birds, such as the white-headed version of the great blue heron (Wurdemann's Heron), that keep birders checking their reference books and cellphone apps such as iBird.
Birders develop life lists (the number of species they have found and documented). Simpson's Florida life list includes 439 species at last count. He identified 365 species in Florida in one year.
Florida has the greatest bird diversity of any state east of the Mississippi, with more than 500 documented species.
One of the first birds Simpson pointed out Saturday was a peregrine falcon, the fast-diving bird of prey. We also caught a glimpse of an endangered snail kite.
On one of several stops during our four-hour tour, lead-car driver Tony Pasko pointed out a gathering of fulvous whistling ducks, which appeared reddish-gold in the viewfinder of his spotting scope.
Pasko watches birds all over the world and has a global life list of more than 1,000 species.
"You can always incorporate birding wherever you go," Pasko said. "All you need is a pair of binoculars."
Bird-watching also can be done at almost any age.
Georgie Thomas, a winter resident of Juno Beach, is a second-generation birder trained by her father, Stiles Thomas of New Jersey. She still goes bird-watching with her 88-year-old father, and they're beginning to teach birding skills to a third generation of the Thomas clan.
Beginners are welcome on the STA 1-E birding tours, said Linda Humphries, president of the Audubon Society of the Everglades.
"You would be amazed at how many people we get who have never been out and paid attention to birds," Humphries said. "We hope we're educating people about the importance of land use. We have to keep enough land for the birds."
• Tours will be held on the first Saturday of each month during the summer. The Audubon Society of the Everglades is taking reservations for the June, July and August tours.
• Tours begin promptly at 8 a.m. and end at noon at the STA 1-E entrance on Flying Cow Road. Participants must sign liability waivers.
• Cars shuttle bird-watchers and their gear along the dike roads. The gate is locked after the tour begins. Participants cannot leave early.
• Tours are free, but the nonprofit Audubon Society of the Everglades accepts donations to defray expenses.
• What to bring: A hat, water, binoculars and a bird guidebook such as the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America or National Geographic's Field Guide to Birds of North America.
• STA 1-E tours are limited to 40 people and often fill to capacity. Reservations are required.
• To reserve a spot, send an e-mail to or call Linda Humphries at (561) 742-7791.
• For more information, go to


Agriculture Wading into Troubled Waters in Florida
Farm Futures – by Gary H. Baise, Farmer and Trial Attorney, Illinois
March 5, 2012
Florida's farmers have a major new EPA challenge. EPA's pollution diet rule has been upheld in part by a U.S. District Court judge. The decision adopts, in part, EPA's regulation to control excess nitrogen and phosphorus or nutrient pollution from Florida's farms and ranches and other sources.
I wrote about EPA's pollution diet proposed rule on December 27, 2010 ( The new court decision issued February 18th, Florida Wildlife Federation, Inc. v Lisa P. Jackson, is likely to stir up more trouble for farmers and ranchers. EPA's Florida rule is effective March 6, 2012!
This new rule continues EPA's effort to develop, control and set a numeric number for the amount of nutrients flowing into Florida's waters. The same efforts have begun in the Chesapeake Bay area and will soon be coming to the Midwest.
The Clean Water Act requires a state to adopt water quality criteria or standards to protect a state's designated uses of its waters. If a state fails to act, as in Florida's case, EPA will step in and do the job for the state. Florida designates all of its waters under 5 classes – class 1 to class 5. The classes cover fish consumption, recreation, agricultural water supplies, navigation, utility and industrial use, and class 1 is potable water supplies.
CWA requires every state to assess the condition of its waters every 3 years. Nutrient pollution in water has been a continuing problem for Florida's waters which include nutrient impairment of 1,049 miles of rivers and streams, 349,248 acres of lakes, and 902 sq. miles of estuaries. Because Florida did not act, EPA did !
EPA has set numeric nutrient limits for specific water bodies in Florida !
The judge declared that 2 of EPA's determinations were not arbitrary and capricious but found one standard for nutrient levels to be arbitrary and capricious. EPA adopted lake and spring criteria based on modeling and field studies and determined a level at which an increase in nutrients would cause harmful effects. The court agreed with this EPA decision.
EPA developed a downstream-protection criterion. Its goal is to protect lakes from nutrient pollution coming from upstream waters. EPA used modeling which the judge found to be acceptable and also found an EPA procedure for adopting site-specific alternative criteria ("SSAC") to be acceptable if the criteria are based on sound science in terms of protecting against nutrient increases in lakes.
The one EPA standard the judge rejected was to control nutrients in streams. EPA was unable to develop a nutrient level based on modeling and field studies. EPA took a different route. 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." EPA concluded that any change above this level would cause a change in flora and fauna but not necessarily a harmful change. The judge found EPA's conclusion to be arbitrary and capricious and sent the agency back to the drawing board.
There is no mention in the entire opinion about the CWA's exemption for agriculture stormwater runoff. Nutrients are carried into Florida's and the nation's waterways by rain water. The decision does not address what actions will need to be taken by farmers but the court does say "…nutrient levels often increase, sometimes dramatically, as a result of human activity." The court identifies water treatment, power generation and cattle ranching among the industries which contribute to increases in nutrient levels in Florida's waters.
The Florida rule sets numeric criteria for chlorophyll-a("chl-a"), total nitrogen("TN"), and total phosphorus("TP"). Agricultural and ranching representatives plus the state of Florida allege that EPA has "…botched the science, adopting criteria that are too exacting." The environmental groups, of course, asserted EPA's standards are not exacting enough to protect recreational and drinking-water uses.
EPA will be classifying Florida lakes according to their color and alkalinity. EPA claims it "…found strong associations of TN, TP, and chl-a with color and alkalinity." EPA will be testing Florida lakes using a color standard known as Platinum Cobalt Scale(color scale to evaluate pollution levels in water and wastewater). EPA will look at lakes with alkalinity and one of the classes will be lakes with alkalinity "…of less than or equal to 20mg/L CaCO3."
The reason for setting forth the specifics in the rule is to demonstrate how complicated the issue of setting numeric limits on the phosphorus and nitrogen in water will become for each state. Time will tell if the Administrator "botched the science" but Florida does provide a view as to the future for what is going to happen to agricultural runoff into water.
Nutrient runoff of farms and ranches is a huge issue for American agriculture. This issue caused 5 environmental groups to sue EPA, plus 11 trade associations including the Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Citrus Mutual, and Florida's Cattlemen's Association plus 13 Florida entities including the Florida Department of Agriculture, the South Florida Water Management District and even the Florida Attorney General to file a separate claim.
This legal dispute will not end with this court decision, and agriculture faces troubled waters ahead !


Florida Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff And Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez Battle Over Everglades Urban Development Boundary
Huffington Post
March 5, 2012
The battle of the Everglades vs. development is back in the political spotlight, with one local lawmaker arguing it should be easier to move the urban development boundary in place to protect Florida's delicate river of grass.
State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) submitted an amendment to the Florida House of Representatives that would allow development beyond the UDB with a simple vote. Currently, the county commission requires a two-thirds majority of the 13 commissioners in order to make any changes to the UDB, which stands as a buffer between urban sprawl and the Everglades.
UPDATE: Bogdanoff's amendment was thrown out Monday, according to the Miami Herald, because it "was not directly related to the legislation she was trying to amend."
According to the Miami Herald, the senator said that her amendment was a response from property owners who were frustrated that the commission was “calling the shots" and wanted to restore their rights to land use.
But just days before Bogdanoff submitted her amendment, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced during his State of the County address that he wanted to increase the requirement to a supermajority vote. In response to Bogdanoff’s amendment, he wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Dean Cannon urging him to oppose.
“Change should only emerge from the resounding majority -- the super majority,” Gimenez wrote. The amendment is on the docket for review by the Senate Monday afternoon.
While the politicians fight over voting power, environmentalists are also up in arms about protecting the Everglades. Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlife Association, sent out an email asking recipients to contact Bogdanoff with their concerns.
“Senator Bogdanoff’s amendment would require only a simple majority of elected officials - often flooded with political contributions from the very developers who benefit from land use changes - to convert more of natural and semi-natural Florida into the urban and suburban sprawl for which the Sunshine State has unfortunately become famous."
Schwartz said he has received a “tremendous” response from the public to protect the ecosystems in both the Everglades and Biscayne national parks.
“There’s no benefit to those ecosystems to having development move right up to the border of the parks,” he told HuffPost. “It just doesn’t end, and I know developers have been buying land outside the UDB with the idea of being able to put even more pressure on decision makers... knowing full well right now the area is not zoned for the development they’re wanting to do.”
Infringing on and protecting the UDB has been an ongoing issue in Miami-Dade. In December, the commission approved two applications from a landowner and an investment group to move the UDB and rezone part of the land.
A year ago, the Florida First District Court of Appeals rejected the county’s attempt to build a Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Everglades wetlands. The decision was lauded by environmental groups, both locally and nationally


(mouse over for pictures)

SDSC supercomputer
The image at left is a
computerized simulation
of how the Florida
Everglades area looked
circa the 1850s, before
the sheet-water flow
was interrupted by
man-made canals to keep
the land dry for human
Since then, the entire
ecosystem has changed
for the worse (right),
as runoff containing
was flushed into Florida

SDSC’s ‘Gordon’ Supercomputer: Ready for Researchers - Source:University of California, San Diego (abbreviated)
March 5, 2012
Accurately predicting severe storms, or what Wall Street’s markets will do next, may become just a bit easier in coming months as Gordon, a unique supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, begins helping researchers delve into these and other data-intensive projects.
Following acceptance testing in January, Gordon has now begun serving University of California and national academic researchers as well as industry and government agencies. Named for its massive amounts of flash-based memory, Gordon is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, or XSEDE program, a nationwide partnership comprising 16 supercomputers and high-end visualization and data analysis resources
Craig Mattocks, an atmospheric research scientist at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, was awarded 3,500,000 processor hours on Gordon to deploy the Ocean Land Atmosphere Model (OLAM) Earth System on XSEDE computational resources as a Science Gateways project for teaching graduate-level meteorology, climate, and predictability courses. Mattocks’ research is also focused on generating the most detailed regional climate-change projections and simulations to date, to help guide water resource management decisions throughout South Florida.
Mattocks' group has teamed with hydrology modelers from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), which is responsible for managing the flow of water throughout natural and artificial structures such as rivers, canals, floodgates, and water conservation areas. SFWMD must meet the diverse needs of 7.7 million people along with demands from tourism, industrial, and agricultural concerns – all while simultaneously trying to restore the Florida Everglades to their natural state.
The SFWMD has reconstructed the land-cover distribution of the natural system in order to visualize the dramatic changes that occurred in the Florida Everglades between the 1850s and present day. “When the sheet-water flow through the Everglades – or the flow of a thin layer of water that’s not concentrated into channels – was interrupted by drainage from canals in order to keep the land dry for human development, the entire ecosystem changed for the worse,” he said. “Much of the marshland was converted to agriculture, and runoff containing pesticides, fertilizers, and toxins was flushed into Florida Bay, killing the pristine coral reef systems there.”
According to Mattocks, it has been a challenge to restore the flow to something even remotely resembling the area’s earlier, natural system because of commercial agriculture and other man-made impacts.
“There’s been a war going on between environmentalists and commercial enterprises, so progress is slow and funding for restoration efforts is difficult to maintain,” he said. “SFWMD needs predictions of precipitation and evapotranspiration under different climate scenarios to drive their hydrology models in order to plan future water-management strategies in times of rapid climate change. With Gordon, we hope to be able to zoom these simulations down to a one-kilometer resolution, and run longer climate ‘timeslice’ experiments to provide more accurate information to make south Florida's water supply more resilient.”


Tampa USGS Office to Move
USGS Newsroom – Contact:; Tel. (813) 498.5024
March 5, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa office of U.S. Geological Survey Florida Water Science Center will relocate from its current location near the University of South Florida to an industrial park in Lutz in August.
The move is being made to strengthen larger statewide efforts to streamline the agency’s organizational structure, increase operational efficiency and better serve resource managers and environmental stakeholders of west-central Florida. The new facility, located in Compark 75 at 4450 Pet Lane in Pasco County, will house 60 employees, including hydrologists, hydro-technicians and support staff. In total, the center has 150 employees located in Davie, Orlando, Tallahassee, Ft. Myers and Tampa.
The USGS is the Nation's largest earth science agency that provides a scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues and problems. The Florida Water Science Center’s mission is to collect, analyze and disseminate the impartial hydrologic data and information needed to wisely manage water resources for the Nation and the State of Florida.
Throughout Florida, the USGS operates a network of stream flow and flood stage monitoring stations that help forecast future floods, track rising water due to rain or storm surge, and monitor water quality and availability, said Rafael W. Rodriguez, director of the center.
“Although Florida is a relatively water-rich state, in some locations increasing water use may be exceeding the sustainable yield of supplies. Add shortages caused occasionally by short-term drought, competing needs of increases in population and development, some supplies being restricted due to contamination, and other draws on the supply, and you can see how important it is we have reliable and accurate information available to ensure a safe and sustainable water supply that meets all of Florida’s needs," Rodriguez said. "That’s what these networks provide."
The center’s science investigation programs focus on the occurrence, fate, and transport of contaminants in the environment, predicting changes in the quality and quantity of water resources in response to a changing climate and landscape, and advancing the understanding of the interrelations of groundwater and surface water and their role in Florida’s wetland ecology. The center utilizes a variety of numerical models and other advanced mathematical techniques to support the water resources informational needs of Federal, state and local users. Investigative studies follow an integrated philosophy, where model development work functions hand-in-hand with visualization technology, physical experimentation, and field reconnaissance and surveillance.


Rodman Lake

Richard Hamann,
(driving the boat) a
board member of the
St. Johns River Water
Management District,
and Tom Ankersen
inspect Blue Spring,
one of at least 20
springs drowned by
the reservoir.

New fight looms over stretch of Ocklawaha River flooded by Rodman Dam
Orlando Sentinel – by Kevin Spear
March 4, 2012
One of Florida's oldest environmental conflicts is heating up again, with two outdoors groups mounting a new effort to tear down a dam and restore a stretch of the Ocklawaha River north of Orlando that was once a crystal-clear ribbon of water flowing past clusters of springs.
The long-abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal, an ill-fated attempt to carve a shipping route across Florida's peninsula, included the building of a dam in the 1960s that flooded 21 miles of the Ocklawaha east of Gainesville.
Outraged environmentalists fought the dam before it was built and have lobbied since its construction to have it removed. Now they have given legal notice that they intend to sue the federal government this spring in hopes of forcing authorities to protect endangered wildlife by eliminating the structure and the reservoir behind it.
"The ecological value of the Ocklawaha as a restored river would be unmatched in Florida," said Erin Condon, executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment, which has joined with the Florida Wildlife Federation in giving notice of their intent to sue.
"It's one of Florida's most historic and beautiful rivers, and we want to see it back in that state again," Condon said.
The reservoir, which drowned 9,000 acres of Ocklawaha River and adjoining forest, is now partly drained in an effort to fight the growth of nuisance weeds and the buildup of muck that occur when the reservoir is full.
The lower water level has revealed a graveyard of thousands of tree stumps that outline the river's winding channel. The resulting scenery, often described as eerie but compelling, has been attracting a steady turnout of visitors.
"They are stunned by what lies beneath all that water and encouraged to see the river herself, flowing virtually undamaged by the canal project," said Karen Ahlers, a member of the Putnam County Environmental Council. "So many people think the river was dredged and straightened … but quickly understand the potential for restoration."
The drawdown has also focused new attention on the nearly 20 springs in or along the river channel that are usually submerged by the reservoir.
Springs are an iconic feature of Florida's natural environment, providing some of the state's most popular outdoor recreation and serving as critical habitat for manatees and other wildlife. Restoration proponents think the flow from those springs has been reduced significantly as a result of being at the bottom of the reservoir.
The history of what is still commonly called Rodman Dam has been contentious, involving years of court proceedings, studies and government actions. Through the decades, widespread support for its removal has met with staunch local efforts to keep it intact.
If the environmental groups do file suit, with the Tallahassee office of environmental-law firm Earthjustice providing the lawyers, it will be to force the U.S. Forest Service to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the dam is harming endangered manatees and sturgeon. The two federal agencies have been targeted because a small part of the dam and reservoir are within Ocala National Forest.
Both agencies have favored removal of the dam in the past, though they would not comment on the notice of intent to sue.
Most of the dam and reservoir are on state land administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Since the late 1990s, that agency has sought, but not pressed hard for, permission from the St. Johns River Water Management District to restore the Ocklawaha River.
The delay stems in part from the state Legislature's refusal to approve funds for dam removal and river restoration.
Among the reservoir's biggest champions are bass anglers. But the Save Rodman Inc. group has been reconsidering its motives for fighting to keep the dam in place, said its president, Ed Taylor, a Putnam County commissioner.
"All the environmentalists say we are a bunch of fishermen trying to save a fishing hole," Taylor said. "Now, in the beginning, I admit that was it. But that's about fourth place right now as far as priority."
Taylor said plants growing in the reservoir absorb pollutants — particularly traces of nitrogen compounds from fertilizer and sewage — that find their way into the Ocklawaha. Removing the dam would allow those pollutants to flow downstream and harm the St. Johns River, he said.
"We should never, ever try to restore a river at the cost of another one," Taylor said.
Other reasons to keep the dam, he said, include its potential as a source of water for cities, the potentially high cost of demolishing it, and the rich variety of wildlife that depends on the reservoir.
Environmental groups dismiss all of those reasons.
"Rodman is not all that great at removing nitrates," said Robin Lewis, science director at the Putnam County Environmental Council. "The people who want to keep Rodman often refer to it as a kidney. I refer to it as a poorly maintained septic tank."
Charles Lee, director of advocacy at Audubon of Florida, discounted Taylor's claim that the reservoir is a bird sanctuary.
"There are probably more bird species at the Orange County landfill than at a natural river, but that does not make it a good thing," Lee said.
Other groups calling for the dam's demolition include the Save the Manatee Club, St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club's Suwannee-St. Johns Group.
Hinting at the widespread frustration that has mounted through the years, Sierra's Whitey Markle suggested a no-cost solution: "We could chop down Rodman Dam with sledgehammers."


Ocala attorney appointed to St. Johns water district board
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
March 4, 2012
Ocala attorney Fred N. Roberts Jr. has been named to the governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he had appointed Roberts for a term that ends March 1, 2015.
The district, one of five in Florida, oversees water use permitting and protection and restoration of water bodies in 18 counties in Northeast and Central Florida, including Volusia and Flagler. The nine members of the governing board are appointed from throughout the region.
Roberts, 33, has been an attorney with the law firm of Klein and Klein since 2006. He has served on the board of directors for the College of Central Florida Foundation since 2009 and the Boys and Girls Club of Marion since 2008. He received a law degree from Stetson University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida.
Roberts' succeeds Arlen Jumper of Ocala. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.



Everglades Proponents: Whining Is a Major Turn-Off - by: Nancy Smith
March 3, 2012 3:55 AM
Kirk Fordham's column in the Tallahassee Democrat on Friday, "Restoration is about more than just the Everglades," is a superb example of how environmentalists in this country overreach, blow it, and end up preaching to the choir.
They don't know the word compromise.
In his column, the Everglades Foundation CEO gives almost grudging thanks to Gov. Rick Scott for proposing $40 million for Everglades restoration. And he hopes Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon will go along -- restore this "modest level" of funding.
Frankly, if I were Fordham and the Everglades gets this $40 million, I would send up fireworks, stage a ticker-tape parade, and pass out trophies to the governor and every member of the Legislature.
But, no. Fordham has to gild the lily. He gripes that "even at that ($40 million) level, Everglades restoration funding will be well below the $100 million annual investment made during the Jeb Bush years."
Fordham recognized that legislators must juggle competing priorities. But he couldn't resist making a comparison to the bullish, roaring '90s and the freewheeling aftermath, when tobacco settlement money and a pile of federal dollars rolled into the state like a rogue wave.
That's the kind of thinking that turns off sensible Floridians -- the folks who still smart from the effects of this bad economy. It threatens their future and twists their own American Dream. Does Fordham really think they want to hear him whine ?
As monumentally important as the Everglades is to South Florida, dozens and dozens of projects at the Capitol are dying under the knife. I wish Fordham would ask some of the people involved in these if the Everglades should get another $60 million:
- The patients and staff of the soon-to-be-closed A.G. Holley state tuberculosis hospital in Palm Beach County.
- Adult Medicaid beneficiaries, some with vastly debilitating diseases, will be limited to six emergency room visits a year.
- Florida's schools, community colleges and state universities, which anticipate zero construction dollars, will be forced to stop or put off for years many dozens of new projects, including repairs to roofs and air-conditioners.
- The students who likely will pay more tuition next year; the Medicaid patients at this moment living in fear that their exorbitantly priced, life-saving medication won't be there on July 1.
The worst is the post-session analysis of the doomed projects and programs, and Floridians old and young who will be affected by so many painful cuts. It will be like walking into a battlefield, among the carnage, after the guns have fallen silent.
Another $60 million for Everglades restoration in 2012 ?  A sour-tasting whine. And not a very smart way for Fordham to win support for the cause of Everglades restoration.
Could he have forgotten?
Largely at the urging of the Everglades Foundation, on Aug. 12, 2010, the South Florida Water Management District Board bought 26,800 acres of virtually useless U.S. Sugar Corp. land for $197 million. The money just about bankrupted the water management district.
Fordham should thank his lucky stars that in a year of continued budget deprivation the governor -- and probably the Legislature, too -- want to make a $40 million investment in Everglades restoration.


Money for Everglades restoration is restored in legislative budget
Miami Herald
March 2, 2012
A year after slashing Everglades funding, Florida lawmakers appear poised to give some back.
House and Senate budget negotiators this week agreed to set aside some $30 million for restoration projects. That’s still $10 million short of Gov. Rick Scott’s request but a major leap from the zero the Senate had initially penciled in.
Environmental groups praised the move as a positive sign, saying they were cautiously optimistic that it signaled a change in direction from last year’s tough session, when lawmakers and Scott gutted Everglades and conservation land-buying programs, state growth management rules and other long-standing regulations.
Now, they’re keeping their fingers crossed the trend will continue with a still-bigger target — a Senate bill that would lift spending caps lawmakers last year placed on the state’s five water management districts, which are largely funded by property tax revenue.
The Florida Conservation Coalition calculated that the cap, placed on property tax rates that supply much of the districts’ revenues, wound up shriveling budgets by nearly 40 percent, or $700 million. The law also shifted oversight of the agencies’ spending to the Legislature.
Keep reading.
House, Senate budget negotiators agree on $30 million for Everglades        (Tampa Bay Times)


Most of EPA’s water quality standards for Florida upheld, certain aspects remanded -  by David Erickson and Mark Anstoetter, Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP
March 2, 2012
A federal court in Florida has upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) determination that numeric standards are necessary for Florida waters, but remanded certain aspects of the water quality criteria to the agency. Fla. Wildlife Fed’n v. EPA, No. 8-324 (N.D. Fla. 2/18/12). In 2001, EPA recommended criteria for states to regulate nutrients that enter state waters from agricultural activities. While the agency allowed the states to develop their own criteria, it retained the authority to override a state and implement its own criteria if a state had not enacted an acceptable plan by 2004.
In 2008, Earthjustice sued the agency on behalf of five environmental groups, alleging that EPA had failed to comply with a nondiscretionary duty to set numeric nutrient criteria. The complaint sought a court order requiring EPA to set quantifiable and enforceable limits for nutrient contaminants in the state. In January 2009, EPA issued a determination that Florida should set numeric nutrient standards. In January 2010, the agency proposed numeric limits on nutrient pollution in Florida waterways as part of a settlement with several environmental groups. 75 Fed. Reg. 4,174 (1/26/10). On November 14, 2010, EPA signed the final rule. 75 Fed. Reg. 75,762 (12/6/10). The court’s decision involves 13 separately filed but now-consolidated challenges to the 2009 determination and the rule adopting numeric criteria.
The court ruled that EPA was correct in its decision that numeric criteria were required, but invalidated the criteria the agency set for streams, holding that the agency’s modeling and field studies did not support the result. The court upheld EPA’s criteria for lakes and springs and the agency’s decision to allow site-specific alternative criteria, as well as procedures for adopting them. According to news reports, the state may now enact nutrient pollution standards, subject to EPA approval. See Law360, February 21, 2012; and BNA Daily Environmental Report, February 22, 2012.


Restoration is about more than just the Everglades – by Kirk Fordham, CEO, Everglades Foundation
March 2, 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.
Gov. Rick Scott had proposed investing $40 million in this initiative. Fortunately, in a sign of progress, Senate leaders during this week's budget negotiations recognized the need to support Everglades restoration. By restoring a modest level of funding, the Senate is moving in the right direction.
It is our hope that the Legislature will adopt Gov. Scott's reasonable $40 million budget request. Even at that level, Everglades restoration funding will be well below the $100 million annual investment made during the Jeb Bush years.
We recognize that Florida legislators, in weighing competing priorities, are struggling with sharp decreases in revenue. However, Floridians cannot afford to stall the work that is now under way to restore the Everglades, which provides more than 7 million Floridians with their daily supply of fresh water. Any delay in completing Everglades restoration projects threatens the welfare of 1 in 3 Floridians and the economic well-being of our state.
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. Salt water intrusion threatened the water supply of other cities along our coasts. As our population grows, the water shortages will only worsen.
Thus, we have no choice but to restore the Everglades as quickly as possible. Florida depends on a healthy Everglades as well as continued construction of needed water storage areas that will save this spectacular ecosystem and protect our water supply.
Last month, a respected Republican polling firm, the Tarrance Group, found that 64 percent of Florida voters favor increased funding for Everglades restoration. Floridians understand that the Everglades is the water they drink.
We are hopeful that Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon will agree to Gov. Scott's proposed $40 million investment in Everglades restoration. The future of our water supply depends on it.


Spring Breakers Tackle Climate and Environmental Issues at Everglades and Joshua Tree
March 2, 2012
American Eagle Outfitters and the Student Conservation Association help 120 college students conserve and protect two of the most vital habitats on Earth
CHARLESTOWN, N.H., Mar 02, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- American Eagle Outfitters /quotes/zigman/183513/quotes/nls/aeo AEO -0.34% and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) today announced their fifth annual Alternative Spring Break program--the ultimate week-long educational and work experience for new generations of conservation leaders. AEO and SCA have doubled the number of volunteers and locations this year.
For the entire month of March, college students from around the country will descend on two of our most environmentally challenged and imperiled habitats for an expense-paid week of hands-on conservation at the Everglades and Joshua Tree National Parks.
"I jumped at the chance to spend my Spring Break protecting these awesome natural wonders," states volunteer Oliwia Baney, a geography major at UCLA. "I can always go out and have a good time. My priority right now is to help save these national parks for future generations."
Participants will help rid the parks of destructive invasive plants, repair eroded hiking trails, assess wildlife health, and more. And while they aid threatened ecosystems, the students will gain new skills, environmental knowledge, and leadership capabilities.
American Eagle Outfitters Foundation Director Marcie Eberhart says the vision and passion of the Alternative Spring Breakers inspires all who love the outdoors. "These future conservation leaders set a tremendous example for all of us. American Eagle Outfitters is proud to partner with SCA for the fifth consecutive year in engaging young people in meaningful acts of volunteerism and environmental conservation."
This is the second year in a row that SCA Spring Breakers have brought their conservation prowess to Florida; last year, students extended a portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail outside Orlando. Through this and other SCA service programs, 150 SCA volunteers have rendered more than 94,000 hours of service to 36 natural and cultural sites across Florida in the past year alone. This service, valued at over $2,000,000, includes protecting sea turtles at Canaveral National Seashore, mapping shipwrecks at Biscayne National Park, and providing environmental education at Apalachicola National Forest.
Founded in 1957, SCA has engaged more than 65,000 young adults in both urban and wilderness environments, and 60 percent of SCA alumni remain active conservationists through their careers and community activities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 22 percent of people ages 16 to 24 volunteered within the U.S. in 2010. A study by Tufts University has also shown that students who performed voluntary community service, such as alternative spring break programs, were 19 percent more likely to graduate than those that did not.
"Hands on service to nature builds powerful connections," says Dale Penney, SCA President and CEO. "Caring for a place directly leads to caring about it, and America simply cannot afford a citizenry that does not value these extraordinary natural resources. If we lose them, they are gone forever. These young people have a higher interest in spending their spring breaks as a movement for social change."
According to the National Park Service, more than half the Everglades have disappeared over the past century as water is diverted from natural wetlands. Development, air pollution and exotic plants pose substantial hazard to the Joshua Tree, which grows only in the American southwest.
Everglades National Park, Florida Session 1: March 4-10 Session 2: March 18-24 Thirty college students will team up each week to remove invasive Brazilian pepper plants from the infamous "Hole-in-the-Donut" and the Chekika area near the Nike missile base. Volunteers will also perform trail maintenance repair and remove an old farming fence near Long Pine Key campground.
Joshua Tree National Park, California Session 1: March 11-17 Session 2: March 25-30 Sixty college students, 30 per week, will eliminate thousands of tamarisk -- an especially thirty invasive that steals water from native species, disturbing the balance of the entire desert ecosystem -- as well as Asian mustard, fountaingrass, and other exotics. Participants will also collect native seeds and conduct a raptor study.
During each of the four sessions, students will camp at or near their work site. The program also includes a day of environmental education as provided by national park rangers and SCA staff.
About American Eagle Outfitters American Eagle Outfitters, Inc., through its subsidiaries, ("AEO, Inc.") offers high-quality, on-trend clothing, accessories and personal care products at affordable prices. The American Eagle Outfitters(R) brand targets 15 to 25 year old girls and guys, with more than 911 stores worldwide, and online at . aerie(R) by american eagle offers Dormwear(R) and intimates collections for the AE(R) girl, with 158 standalone stores in the U.S. and Canada and online at . The latest brand, 77kids(R) by american eagle(R), is available online at , as well as at 21 stores across the nation. The 77kids brand offers "kid cool," durable clothing and accessories for kids ages zero to 14. AE.COM(R), the online home of the brands of AEO, Inc. ships to 77 countries.


Court ruling positive step toward reducing pollution in Florida waters - Editorial
March 1, 2012
Federal ruling favors environmentalists, but enforcement will be ultimate key
After more than a decade, the fight over regulations to reduce pollution in Florida waterways might be coming to an end. Whether that conclusion will meet the need to protect the state's water resources remains open to debate.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle recently issued a long-awaited ruling in support of federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations setting numeric limits on phosphorous and nitrogen in Florida waters. The byproducts of pollution from sewage, fertilizer and animal waste causes destructive algae blooms and fish kills in various bodies of water statewide, including some on the Treasure Coast.
Hinkle ordered that the rules be in place and enforced for the state's lakes and springs by March 6.
Because the judge rejected proposed EPA rules for rivers, ordering more reasonable criteria by May 21, opponents of the regulations have called the judge's ruling a victory.
They might want to reread Hinkle's 86-page order. It clearly sides with the need for science-based regulations and chastised both sides for foot-dragging since 1998, when the EPA ordered the state to develop nutrient criteria under the federal Clean Water Act.
Continued failure to adopt measurable criteria led environmental groups in Florida to sue the state, alleging violation of the Clean Water Act. Action in 2009 led to the EPA's directing the state to adopt stricter rules. When the state Department of Environmental Protection continued to drag its feet, the EPA was authorized to develop the criteria for Florida waters — which will be the first in the nation.
While Hinkle's ruling enforces those restrictions and confirms the EPA's authority to establish them, the state and opponents of the rules have an option. If the EPA approves state-adopted numeric nutrient regulations, then those regulations — rather than the EPA's — will take effect.
The state has proposed regulations and is awaiting a decision from the EPA. But environmentalists believe the state proposal — endorsed by businesses and polluters and by state lawmakers — is insufficient to seriously address the pollution problem.
The ball is, therefore, in the EPA's court and in courtrooms.
The state's regulations would at least be a step in the right direction by establishing the first science-based criteria for reducing pollution in public waters. But owing to its long history of fighting potential EPA regulations, would Florida officials fully enforce even its own less-restrictive regulations?
The health of our waters is critical to the environment, our health and economy. The pollution must end. Failure could be far more costly to the state than any potential expenses incurred by polluters for stopping their assault on our waters.



will leave the Everglades Foundation

Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham quits to run Gill Action gay political fund in Colorado
Miami Herald – by Steve Rothaus
March 1, 2012
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation in South Florida since 2008, has resigned to become executive director of Gill Action, a Colorado-based organization that provides funding for pro-gay political campaigns across the nation.
“Perhaps having a family has made it more imperative to get involved on a full-time basis to make sure American families have the same rights as everyone else regardless of sexual orientation,” said Fordham, 44, a one-time aide to several Republican politicians, including former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach.
Fordham, partner Mike Cevarr, a senior research analyst for Fannie Mae, and their two sons, 13-month-old Lukas and Levi, 7 months, will move this spring from Coral Gables to Denver.
“I’m giving up the sun and the surf for the sun and the snow,” said Fordham, originally from Rochester, N.Y. “It's an unexpected opportunity and I hate, hate, hate to leave my Everglades work. It's near and dear to my heart.”
His last day at the Everglades Foundation will be Friday, April 13. He starts the following Monday at Gill Action.
The Everglades Foundation, based in Palmetto Bay, will soon look to replace Fordham. “Paul Tudor Jones, our board chair, will lead the search committee,” Fordham said.
After graduating from University of Maryland with a degree in government and politics, Fordham got a congressional internship; worked for Jim Inhofe (then a U.S. Congressman, now a senator); and became Foley’s chief of staff in 1994. He stayed with Foley until 2004, then worked a year as finance director for Sen. Mel Martinez.
For three years, Fordham worked in public affairs/governmental public relations. In January 2008, he became CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
Although Fordham has been closely tied to Republican politicians, he also has cultivated relationships with Democrats. South Florida’s two congresswomen both praised him in news statements.
"Although we will miss Kirk's determined efforts to protect and restore America's Everglades, I am thrilled that I will now have the opportunity to partner with him in his new role at Gill Action,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman from Weston. “Kirk practices a bi-partisan approach to problem-solving that has earned him the respect of many friends on both sides of the aisle. As we continue our march forward to protect the right of every LGBT person to enjoy every opportunity this nation has to offer, I look forward to working with Kirk to build on the progress that has been made by groups like Gill Action."
Said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, one of the Republican Party’s most outspoken gay-rights advocates: “The Everglades will lose one of its most tireless and effective advocates, but the nation will benefit as Kirk shifts his focus to advancing equal opportunity for each and every American. Kirk is well regarded in Tallahassee and on Capitol Hill as a staunch supporter who has used his knowledge and experience in government affairs to further important causes. I look forward to working with him to ensure that our nation — and our laws — treat everyone fairly and equally.”
Gill Action fund, begun by Quark software inventor and philanthropist Tim Gill, has given $14.45 million to pro-gay campaigns since 2005. In Florida, Gill Action helped fund the unsuccessful 2008 campaign to prevent a statewide amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, said Fordham, who made national news in 2006 when Mark Foley’s political career imploded during a sex scandal involving teenage male congressional pages.
Fordham, who helped orchestrate Foley’s resignation from Congress after ABC News obtained copies of the text messages, later told a House Ethics Committee that he reported Foley’s antics to House Speaker Dennis Hastert three years before that scandal broke, but that Hastert did little with the information.
Some gay activists believe Fordham didn’t do enough to stop Foley when he suspected inappropriate behavior between the congressman and underage pages.
“While I appreciate Kirk’s many talents at bringing various political players to the table to move the LGBT agenda forward, I am perplexed as to why these guys just can’t say they’re sorry for what they did,” said Mike Rogers, a Washington-based activist blogger who appeared in the 2009 film documentary Outrage, about closeted gay politicians including Foley. “He said, ‘Oh, I gave the information and no one did anything with it.’ ”
Fordham says he doesn’t know what more he could have done about Foley’s “flirtatious” behavior: “I went behind my boss’ back to the House speaker to report it.”
Everglades Foundation CEO to leave   (Palm Beach Post)
Gay activist Tim Gill picks Republican to helm Action Fund (Denver Post)‎
Gill Action Names New Executive Director  (
Tim Gill Appoints Republican Kirk Fordham to Lead Action Fund (Towleroad)


Florida must fix mistake of 2011 of defunding water management districts
TCPalm – by Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, Miami.
March 1, 2012
The time has come to correct a major mistake in Florida's system of managing water resources.
Last year the Legislature and Gov. 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.
Some legislators have acknowledged 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 often are called, is just as important as roads, schools and health care.
When Florida faced its first water supply problems almost 40 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 6 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 or 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. 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 the 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.


New Everglades Refuge Benefits People, Wildlife, Ranching and Recreation – by Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy
March 1, 2012
Given difficult challenges for the Federal budget and the economy, you might expect support of conservation and the environment to weaken in the U.S. But, when we Americans are at our best, hard times can actually result in creativity and innovation.
Such is the case in Central Florida. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently established the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. This project marks a new approach to conservation rapidly gaining support around the country -- projects characterized by cooperation among public agencies and the private sector and by a greater recognition of the multiple human benefits of conserving land and water.
The Everglades are commonly thought of as the "river of grass" south of Florida's Lake Okeechobee, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent over the last decade to restore a natural system unique in North America.
But the Everglades ecosystem really begins further away -- just south of Orlando in Central Florida. This area of lakes, wetlands, creeks, pine woods and prairies is the center of Florida's surprisingly large cattle ranching industry. These "Everglades Headwaters" are also exceptional habitats for a wide range of game and non-game fish and wildlife species. Encroaching development and historic ditching and draining of this landscape have threatened both the water supply for southern Florida and habitats essential to sustaining fish and wildlife.
The new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area brings together multiple state and federal government agencies, private conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy and local ranchers. The project will conserve land for cattle grazing, wildlife and recreation, while restoring the natural flow of water essential both to the Everglades downstream and to plants and animals.
A key ingredient of the project's success was the support of local landowners. The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service purchased tens of thousands of acres of conservation easements from ranchers within the Northern Everglades. These agreements, entered into voluntarily, prevent future development of the land, but also provide needed capital to sustain ranching into the future. They also provide funds to restore wetlands on ranches in a way that is good for ranching, people and the environment, helping to store and help purify water for downstream uses such as municipal water supplies.
Hunters, anglers and other outdoor lovers also have reason to cheer the announcement. As part of the project, The Department of the Interior will establish a core National Wildlife Refuge open for public recreation. Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will work with the Service to manage public recreation on these properties.
The Department of Defense (DOD), which manages a large bombing range in the project area, was also a key partner in the project. Recognizing the benefits from protected open space to insulate their operations, DOD is using its own funds to purchase additional conservation easements around the range.
My organization, The Nature Conservancy, worked closely with each of these partners throughout the process, donating part of our land in the area to help establish the new refuge and conservation area.
Taken together, this project reveals that in times of scarce resources, agencies working together in a coordinated way can make far better use of the public's money than if they proceeded on their own.
It also shows that done right, conservation can have very real multiple benefits. This project will help to sustain the local agricultural and ranching economies, protect and manage water resources for downstream uses by communities and agriculture and to reduce flood hazards, guarantee public recreational uses like hunting, fishing and wildlife observation, and protect habitats for many threatened plant and animal species.
The Everglades Headwaters can be a model for similar projects, projects that have the support of citizens from all walks of life because they prove that conservation can be done cooperatively and in a way that also brings quality of life and economic benefits. As Secretary Salazar noted, "Many local ranchers and farmers are excited about the opportunity to conserve both the land they love and the way of life handed down from generations past."
Seen in this way, conservation of what we at The Nature Conservancy call "whole systems" for their interdependent human and natural values is a practical, cost-effective approach to continuing America's proud and longstanding tradition of conserving the land and water that ultimately sustain all of our lives.


The Palm Beach County
Zoning Commission on
Thursday voted in favor
of building a wind farm
on the edge of the
Everglades, despite the
threat to birds. The
County Commission
votes March 22.


l $350 million to
produce 200 megawatts
to power 55,000 to
65,000 homes.
l 114 to 124 wind
l Turbine would be
roughly 30 stories tall.

'Wind farm' beside Everglades gets initial go-ahead, despite bird concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 1, 2012
Supporters say alternative energy benefits outweigh threats to birds.
A "wind farm" proposed on the edge of the Everglades passed a key hurdle Thursday, despite concerns about tall, spinning blades killing endangered birds.
The Palm Beach County Zoning Commission voted in favor of erecting more than 100 wind-catching turbines on western sugar cane fields to produce electricity.
The County Commission on March 22 gets the final say on development approvals needed to build what would be Florida's first commercial wind farm.
The 500-foot-tall turbines and their fast-spinning blades offer a pollution-free alternative energy source. But they also threaten to kill birds that flock to the nearby Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – the northern reach of the Everglades.
The risk to endangered wood storks and Everglades snail kites, as well as bald eagles and flocks of other birds flying over western Palm Beach County prompted the Sierra Club, Audubon of Florida and other environmental advocates that normally support alternative energy to oppose the wind farm.
"It has to be in the right place," said Jane Graham of Audubon. Building the wind farm without more study of the effect on Everglades birds "equates to gambling with the future of this world class treasure," she said.
But zoning commissioners decided that the chance to encourage a new alternative energy source outweighed environmental concerns about the Sugarland Wind proposal.
"We need more wind (energy) throughout our country and less fossil fuels," Zoning Commission Chairwoman Sherry Hyman said Thursday.
The Missouri-based Wind Capital Group, developers of the proposed alternative energy facility, has agreed to explore using radar and other ways to try to minimize bird deaths.
"This is the wave of the future," project consultant George Gentile said. "It's good for the environment, the economy and our future."
Sugarland Wind would include at least 114 wind turbines spread across 13,000 acres of farmland producing 200 mega watts of electricity.
That's enough to power 60,000 South Florida homes. That could offset the production of 320,000 tons of polluting carbon emissions a year that come from producing the same amount of electricity at fossil-fuel-driven power plants.
Project backers say they would be making a $350 million construction investment. It would also mean creating up to 300 temporary construction jobs and about 20 permanent jobs in struggling Glades communities, where unemployment hovers between 20 and 40 percent.
The environmental group Clean Water Action backs the wind farm, despite the bird concerns.
"Investment in truly clean energy means more protection … for our environment," said Cara Capp, of Clean Water Action.
Even if the County Commission on March 22 signs off on the wind farm proposal, Sugarland Wind would still need federal and state environmental permits to move forward.
Wind farm developers project about three to four birds per tower per year to die, which is in line with the national average. That would be nearly 500 birds killed a year by Sugarland's towers, an estimate that environmental groups say is too low for the area between bird havens like Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.



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