121031-a Hundreds turn out to argue limits on Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers
Tampa Bay Times - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
October 31, 2012
BROOKSVILLE — About 200 people turned out Tuesday to tell a state water agency to reject a proposal that would allow up to 15 percent of the natural habitat along the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers to be destroyed.
"It's a question of values," Jan Howie of the Florida Native Plant Society told the board. "Do we really want to reduce the habitat in these rivers by 15 percent? Why would we not want to maintain 100 percent of the habitat in these rivers?"
Ultimately the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board, after listening to about three hours of testimony, decided to back off what its staff was recommending — but not as much as what the crowd had wanted.The vote by the agency commonly known as "Swiftmud" is likely to mean changes for residents and businesses in Citrus and Hernando counties as they are likely to start seeing efforts to clamp down on excess irrigation and other water uses.
Swiftmud and Florida's other four water districts are setting what are called "minimum flows and levels" for Florida's major waterways. The idea is to figure out how much more those rivers, springs and lakes can be drained for water supply purposes before causing environmental problems.
The law requiring the agencies to set those minimums calls for avoiding "significant harm," but does not define what that means. Swiftmud's experts ran computer models to check how various levels of cutbacks in the flow would affect the rivers as habitat for manatees, fish, birds and other flora and fauna.
Ultimately, they concluded that a 15 percent reduction in the wildlife habitat would constitute "significant harm." Then they calculated how much water could be taken out without hitting that 15 percent mark.
In the Chassahowitzka, that would mean cutting the flow no more than 9 percent, the Swiftmud staff said, and in the Homosassa that would mean cutting the flow no more than 3 percent.
Among the hundreds of people who objected to that proposed limit: Boyd Blihovde, deputy manager of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
"If the flows on the Chassahowitzka are reduced by 9 percent it will have a devastating impact on Florida manatees, migratory birds, blue crabs, the American alligator and many more species," Blihovde said.
Former legislator Nancy Argenziano told board members they should aim to do better than what the law requires. " 'Significant harm' is not something we should aspire to," she said.
Many of the people who testified told the board they feared increased pumping of water from the aquifer and increased pollution flowing into the rivers had already damaged them, leading to increased saltiness and changes in the wildlife. Saltwater barnacles are showing up on boats in what used to be the freshwater part of the rivers, for instance.
However, Swiftmud resource management division director Mark Hammond said computer models showed that sea level rise and a long drought had been the real culprits, with groundwater pumping only a minor contributing factor.
"The drawdown is not the culprit of the degraded river?" Swiftmud board member Carlos Beruff asked, sounding dubious.
"That's our belief," Hammond told him.
Ultimately the board struck a compromise, agreeing to a limit on cutting the flow on both the Homosassa and the Chassahowitzka of 3 percent and agreeing to re-evaluate those flow limits in six years. And they told the staff to start working on creating a "water use caution area" for that region, classifying those two counties as an area where water resources are or will become critical in the next 20 years and creating a plan for cutting back on use.
121031-b Lake Kissimmee level up at 51.58 feet
TheLedger.com - by Del Milligan
October 31, 2012
The water level on Lake Kissimmee is slightly higher than it was in late September, and the lake is still above its long-term average of 51.31 feet.
Lake Kissimmee stood at 51.58 feet above sea level on Monday, compared to 51.46 feet a month ago, the South Florida Water Management District said.
Sister lakes Hatchineha and Cypress are also at those levels.
Lake Okeechobee is still close to 16 feet, registering 15.91 feet on Monday. It's up a few inches in the past month, and the same as a week ago (15.90 feet). The historical average is 15.03 feet.
Lake Istokpoga is at 39.36 feet, about 6 inches higher than a month ago but right at its historical average of 39.28 feet.
For a map of rainfall totals in the 16-county district, check online.
121031-c What we don't know
Gainesville.com - Editorial
October 31, 2012
For White Springs Mayor Helen B. Miller, Florida's water problems hit home more than two decades ago, when White Sulphur Springs dried up.
"Hydrologists and other experts tell us excessive consumptive water withdrawals and compromised recharge zones are the cause," Miller wrote in a recent letter to water advocates. "However, our situation is not unique."
Indeed it is not. In many ways, Florida's vast underground aquifer is under siege as a result of over-pumping, nutrient pollution, salt-water intrusion and other negative impacts.
And although the topic of water has been much discussed in recent years, what we don't know about the true condition of our aquifers may be more important than what we do know.
That's why Miller and representatives of 27 other North Florida counties and 70 area cities and towns, are asking the Florida Legislature to mandate a more comprehensive mining of the data regarding Florida's aquifers.
A resolution adopted by the Northwest Florida League of Cities and the Suwannee River League of Cities implores the Legislature to fund "an unbiased scientific study of the Floridan Aquifer due to its critical implications to statewide water supply."
In other words, what we don't know about the water under our feet — the water that provides life support for nearly all Floridians — may be more than enough to hurt us.
The proposed The Floridan Aquifer System Sustainability Act of 2013 would direct the state's Department of Environmental Protection and its water management districts to amass and analyze the existing and new data necessary to protect the aquifer against over-pumping and pollution.
Lawmakers should do exactly that.
"Springs from central Georgia to southern Florida are experiencing reduced or intermittent flows. And, wells throughout the State are drying up every day," Mayor Miller wrote. "...a piecemeal approach cannot restore sustainability to the Floridan Aquifer System or provide for future growth. A system-wide approach is needed."
It's true. What we don't know about the water beneath our feet could hurt us.
121030-a Chassahowitzka, Homosassa flow rates debate continues
Tampa Tribune - by Keith Morelli
October 30, 201
TAMPA -- A proposal to set minimum flow levels on two spring-fed rivers that are popular haunts for manatees has raised the hackles of some activists.
They complain that the plan will lead to lower river levels and saltwater intrusion and leave the manatees without a source of temperate water in the winter.
But officials with the agency that sets the minimum flows say the effect will be just the opposite. By gauging the flow of the rivers, greater protections can be imposed, they say, particularly on nearby groundwater withdrawals that might reduce the amount of springwater flowing into the rivers' headwaters.
The governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District will meet in Brooksville today to discuss the plan to set minimum flow levels for the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers. The rivers are along the coast near the Hernando-Citrus county line, 50-some miles north of Tampa.
Both rivers are ecological marvels year-round and manatee havens in the winter when scores of sea cows swim into the warm springs. Both rivers are designated Outstanding Florida Waters, and the move to set minimum standards is being seen by some as a way to allow more groundwater withdrawals, which in turn, they say, would further degrade the rivers.
The minimum flow should be 100 percent of what comes out of the ground, they say, and no less. Hope Corona, of Homosassa, is leading the charge. She has obtained 9,500 online signatures on a petition she plans to present to the board today.
"For generations, Florida's endangered manatees have come to these springs to survive the winter," she said in an announcement released Monday by Change.org, which publicizes petition efforts on its website. If any reduction in flow is allowed, she said, "manatees will suffer and so will local businesses that depend on eco-tourism."
The petition states:
"Any reduction in freshwater flow to the springs could allow further encroachment by the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico or, in the worse case scenario, could stop sufficient flow of freshwater to the springs entirely, making them too brackish to support any of the freshwater species presently living there and too cold to provide live-saving thermal refuge to endangered manatees during winter months."
The plans to set minimum flows for the two rivers by the district, which oversees water resources in a 16-county region of West Central Florida, is required by state law.
Public workshops and meetings have been going on for more than two years. In all, district officials say, 30 meetings with the public have been held to get everyone's concerns documented.
In the past two years, the staff has tweaked its numbers, increasing the initial minimum flows to 91 percent in the Chassahowitzka and 97 percent in the Homosassa.
District officials say there is no plan to reduce the flow of the rivers to those numbers. Rather, they say, it's to set a minimum limit, established through scientific research, at which significant ecological damage would occur.
Hydrologists and biologists study all sorts of data to determine the lowest flow point at which substantial harm to the environment would result, including effects on flora and fauna and water quality.
"We look at each river, the variety of different things there, the impacts of creatures in the soil, creatures that float through the water column, the impact on vegetation, saltwater levels and dissolved oxygen levels," said district spokesman Michael Mulligan.
Setting the levels means it will be more difficult to obtain water-use permits around the river and establishes a framework where flows will be monitored on a regular basis. The Chassahowitzka and Homosassa flows already are reduced by less than 1 percent because of nearby wells that draw springwater for human use.
The Chassahowitzka River is about five miles south of the Homosassa River and includes more than a dozen freshwater springs. The Homosassa River includes more than 20 springs
121030-b Commissioners discuss lessons learned from TS Isaac
Sun-Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 30, 2012
Calling in the National Guard, toughening drainage requirements for new development and allowing more stormwater pumping out of Loxahatchee are among the changes Palm Beach County advocates in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac's prolonged flooding.
The County Commission on Tuesday met with state and local drainage officials to discuss lessons learned from Isaac's historic soaking, which dumped 18 inches of rain over three days in August, leaving Loxahatchee flooded for more than a week.
Suggested improvements included:
Better coordinating with state officials to call in the National Guard to help during future storms. County Commission Chairwoman Shelley Vana said county emergency management officials shouldn't have rebuffed efforts to bring in the National Guard to help handle traffic on flooded roads where it was hard to tell where roadways ended and drainage ditches began.
"We are very lucky that no one died," Vana said. "We did not respond correctly to that … That one has to be fixed immediately."
Requiring drainage systems at new neighborhoods to be designed to discharge water faster during storms, to avoid the kind of lingering flooding of streets and lawns that occurred in Palm Beach Plantation during Isaac. The drainage system at Palm Beach Plantation was missing a gate that could have enabled moving more water out of the community after Isaac.
Pushing for the South Florida Water Management District to allow the Indian Trail Improvement District, which operates Loxahatchee drainage canals, to dump more water into regional canals during storms. The district limits communities' ability to pump water into the regional during storms to avoid spreading flooding elsewhere, but Loxahatchee residents say their limits are set too low.
Acquiring more land for water storage. Commissioner Karen Marcus called for the South Florida Water Management District to try to acquire the nearly 5,000-acre Vavrus Ranch on Northlake Boulevard and use it for water storage that could ease flooding threats in Loxahatchee. The district is already in the process of acquiring Palm Beach County's Mecca Farms property, 1,919 acres next to Vavrus, for water storage. Both Mecca Farms and Vavrus were once part of biotech development plans that fizzled.
Coming up with a plan to strengthen the berm relied on to hold back floodwaters on the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
The South Florida Water Management District contends that the regional system of canals, pumps and levees relied on to guard against flooding worked as designed but was overwhelmed by the amount of water Isaac delivered.
Loxahatchee residents say more needs to be done to avoid future flooding.
"I felt like I was on an island," said Gary Dunkley, who said floodwaters kept him stuck in his Loxahatchee home for seven days. "There was no support."
12030-c Contact 5 Investigators uncover growing threat to drinking water in South Florida
WPTV.com – by Dan Krauth
October 30, 2012
Read more: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/contact-5-investigators-uncover-growing-threat-to-drinking-water-in-south-florida#ixzz2AogcYls8 West Palm Beach, Fla. - For tens of thousands of people in South Florida, there's a growing threat to the quality of their drinking water.
It's a threat you probably don't even know about. You probably also don't know you're paying extra money every time you fill up at the pump to minimize the threat.
But Contact 5 Investigator Dan Krauth discovered you may not be getting what you're paying for. Anna Elkins and her family cook with their water, water the lawn it, even brush their teeth with.
"It kind of has a metal smell to it," Anna said as she turned on her faucet.
But she had no idea an underground gas spill a block away could've threatened the quality of her well water.
"I'm shocked because I think I need to know, I think it's my right to know," she said.
And she's not alone. Florida has more fuel cleanup sites than any other state in the country.
The Contact 5 Investigators discovered new changes to the state's inspection program that could pose new threats to your drinking water.
"Contamination is going to go on the rise," one inspector told the Contact 5 Investigators.
We'll have the results of our Contact 5 Investigation Wednesday night on NewsChannel 5 at 11.
121030-d Ecology Party of Florida to battle over environmental concerns surrounding the Levy County nuclear plant
Tampa Bay Times - by Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer
October 30, 2012
With no expert witnesses, no high-powered lawyers, no massive public rallies, the Ecology Party of Florida seemed to have little in its arsenal to battle a juggernaut like Progress Energy Florida.
Even so, convinced of its cause to combat the utility's proposed Levy County nuclear plant, the environmental group continued since February 2009 pleading with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to carefully review the impact the project would have on wetlands, floodplains and special aquatic sites.
A confidential donor heard them. Providing an undisclosed amount of money, the donor helped with what the group could not afford on its own and breathed new life into a challenge that is the last major hurdle the utility faces from the public before it can obtain its federal operating license.
When the Ecology Party appears Wednesday before the commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, it will bring the weight of a former water management district director, a former state environmental protection official with a doctorate that includes specialties in hydrology and ecology, and a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer, who regularly handles nuclear cases. Without the new team, the group would have had to rely on mostly supporters who aren't lawyers and don't carry the lofty professional credentials.
The Ecology Party promotes environmental, feminist, fair-trade, nonviolent and animal rights issues. Its website states that it has spent about $25,000 on representation leading to and for the hearing, with the bulk of the expenses coming after the group picked up the expert support last spring.
Progress Energy Florida and its new parent company Duke Energy still have deeper pockets, but now the battle won't appear so much like a few recreational gunmen against a professional army.
"I would have been slitting my wrist if I had to do this alone," said Cara Campbell, chairwoman of the Florida Ecology Party.
The Ecology Party, formed in 2008 with about 125 members, also is backed by the non-profit environmental organization, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a Maryland-based group.
In its case today, the Ecology Party and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service will argue that the environmental studies by Progress and federal analysts failed to adequately consider the full impact of the proposed two reactor nuclear plant the utility wants to build on 5,000 acres in Levy County.
The project, the group says, threatens to deplete groundwater to levels that could lead to: devastating wildfires, induced sinkhole activity, lowered water levels in wetlands, lakes and streams and loss of trees and wildlife among other things. In particular, the group says the drawing the groundwater would harm the Big King and Little King springs, which provide water for manatees.
In addition, the use of 80 million gallons of water from the Cross Florida Barge Canal will draw salt water from the Gulf of Mexico as far as nine miles inland up to the reactor site for cooling towers, endangering freshwater habitats.
"The area of the proposed (nuclear plant) and surrounding vicinity is a highly complex and sensitive ecological area where plants and animals have evolved to depend upon natural seasonal fluctuations and periods of drought," Sydney Bacchus, a hydroecologist with Applied Environmental Services, stated in written testimony for the hearing. "They are not adapted to the results of man-induced alterations."
Added Campbell: Progress is "fighting with your rate money to destroy your aquifer. They haven't done the studies they need to do. There's no way for them to know what will happen once they start sucking the water out."
Progress Eneryg argues that the water demands of the proposed nuclear plant are minimal. For example, the project proposes to draw about 1.6 million gallons per day of groundwater – the equivalent of what Nestle had asked for in recent years for water bottling operations in Madison and Jefferson counties – and as much as 5.8 million gallons for short periods, a fraction of the regional flow within the Upper Floridan Aquifer, from where the utility would draw water.
"The direct, indirect and cumulative effects on local and regional water resources from active groundwater withdrawals during operation of the (plant) are small," Jeffrey Lehnan, a hydroecologist hired by Progress Energy, wrote in response to Bacchus' testimony.
In addition, Kevin Robertson, a fire ecology research scientist, stated in his written testimony that in his opinion, the amount of water drawn for the nuclear plant is too small to increase wildfires.
"There is no credible scientific link between predicted levels of dewatering ... due to the construction and operation of the (plant) and an increase in wildfire frequency," Robertson said.
At a public hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in January, dozens of the Levy project's opponents spoke out against the plant, noting the impact on the Floridan Aquifer and the Cross Florida Barge Canal as the utility draws water and digs 100 feet into the ground to lay the foundation for the plant. Board members had not seen the kind of opposition raised at that hearing in other cases.
"I've been doing this for eight years, and this is the largest number of people who have come forward," administrative Judge Alex S. Karlin, said at the conclusion of the January hearing.
In addition to environmental concerns, the Levy project would be the most costly nuclear plant in U.S. history at $24 billion. It isn't expected to come online until at least 2024.
Progress says the plant is needed to meet future electricity demand and to diversify its sources of energy in Florida.
"We believe that the company has adequately addressed issues being raised in this Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding through its continued efforts to identify and mitigate any potential environmental impacts," said Jason Walls, a spokesman for the utility.
But even if Progress wins the environmental challenge, the utility will have to wait at least until federal regulators develop guidelines for disposing of nuclear waste before the license is issued – a process expected to take at least two years.
Because Progress' Crystal River plant – currently its sole nuclear reactor in Florida – is broken and may never return to service, the utility says it faces an overwhelming dependence on natural gas. By 2015, Progress' electricity production from natural gas could reach 76 percent.
While gas prices are at historic lows because of an enormous supply of domestic natural gas, Progress and the state worry rates could spike because the fuel's cost has proven volatile in the past. Campbell, the Ecology Party chairwoman, said all of the concerns about Levy – from cost to environmental – show the project should not move forward.
"I feel great about our case," Campbell said. "I just hope the political pressures on the boards don't outweigh the commonsense of saving the environment."
121029-a Exceptional numbers of Top Water Leaders convene in Chicago to address the American water crisis.
October 29, 2012
Austin, TX (PRWEB) -- The Summit’s theme, ‘Business Models for the Future’ focuses on creative thinking within the current restrictive climate of limited resources and capital. Chicago’s water commissioner and advisor to Mayor Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust will demonstrate how thinking bigger than hefty rate increases can succeed. The EPA’s CEO speaks about its Technology Innovation Roadmap and how this new approach could achieve benefits for the environment, investors and economic growth. The Value of Water 2012, Xylem’s title for its nationwide poll of US voters, unveils for the first time how residents feel impacted by water issues, what can be done about them – and who will pay.
Event: American Water Summit 2012
Venue: Intercontinental O’Hare, Chicago Date: 14-15 November 2012
Twitter: @USAWaterSummit Key note speakers include:
• Tom Powers – Water Commissioner, City of Chicago Water is the core element of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s high-profile plan for infrastructure, perhaps the most ambitious in the nation. As key advisor for the Infrastructure Trust Mr Powers provides insights into the city’s efforts to achieve water reform. • Barbara Bennett - EPA Chief Financial Officer The EPA’s Technology Innovation Roadmap fosters greater cooperation from entrepreneurs, research communities, investors and the wider private sector. Can it deliver a triple win of environmental solutions, returns for investors and economic growth? • Gretchen McClain – President & CEO, Xylem Inc. and Dr Upmanu Lall, Director, Columbia Water Center. Xylem has chosen the American Water summit to unveil its Value of Water Index, the results of a nationwide poll detailing what American voters really think about the issues of water provision and who should pay for it. Dr Lall offers complementary research on US water rates and the demographic & physiographic factors that relate to them. Sessions: • Selling water: Is the real problem with the water sector a marketing problem? • Business models of the future (part 1): New styles of public private partnership: What are the latest and most innovative methods of delivering capital investment to the municipal water sector? • Private sector risks in interstate and trans-boundary waters: How the use, management, and disputes over shared freshwater resources can affect business interests, private property, municipalities, and water rights. • Infrastructure finance • Industry keynote “State of the Industry”: What is the outlook for the next 12 months, and the longer term? • Business models for the future (part 2): New models for utilities: What role will the internet and information technology play in the efficient water utilities of the future? • Food & Water: Balancing agricultural and municipal water needs • Mayor’s panel: The panel of US mayors will discuss the ongoing financial challenges facing municipalities around the country and the impact of these financial challenges on the delivery of water and waste-water services. With: Mayor James A. Thompson, Sugar Land, TX, Mayor Mary Ann Lutz, Monrovia, CA, Mayor J. Richard Gray, Lancaster, PA, Mayor John Dickert, Racine, WI, Mayor Ken Phillipson, Islamorada, FL. • Forecast session Round table speakers & topics:
• Bill Brennan, Summit Global Management - “Different Approaches to Investing in Water.” • Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District of S California - “The Future of Water in California.” • Steve Maxwell, Managing Director, TechKNOWLEDGEy Group - “Merger and Acquisition Trends in Water.” • Ben Grumbles, President of the Clean Water American Alliance - “The Future of Fracking in the US.” • Greg Heitzman, President, Louisville Water Company - “The Corporatized Municipal Water Company Model.” • Wade Miller, Executive Director, the WateReuse Association and Michael Markus, General Manager, Orange County Water District - “The Future of Water Reuse in the US.” • Melissa Meeker, Executive Director, S Florida Water Management District - “Water Challenges in S Florida.” • Jack Elliott, President, PureTech Ltd - “Addressing America’s Underground Infrastructure Needs.” • Dave Ullrich, Executive Director, The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative - “The Six Principles of Municipal Water Sustainability.” • Amanda Brock, CEO, Water Standard - “Opportunities for Water Companies in the Oil & Gas Markets.” • Paul Marchetti, Executive Director of Pennvest - “New Developments in the State Revolving Fund Model.” • Jay Famiglietti, Professor and Director, UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling - “How Climate Change will affect Water Availability in the US.” • Kathy Shandling, Executive Director, IPWA - “Alternative Funding Tools & Structures for Water Infrastructure.” • Larry Chertoff, Consultant, Environmental Market Analysis - “PPPs in the US: what works, what doesn’t & why?” • Blythe Lyons, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Program on Energy and Environment - “The Water-Energy Nexus: Priorities for 2013.” • Jorge Arroyo, Director of Innovative Water Technology Programs, The Texas Water Development Board - “New Strategies for Water Sustainability in Texas.” • Joe Seliga, Partner, Global Infrastructure and Government & Global Trade, Mayer Brown LLP – “Water and Infrastructure Policy in the City of Chicago.” • Harry Seely, Principal, WestWater Research – “The US Water Rights Market.” • Denise Clifford, Director of the Office of Drinking Water, Washington State Department of Health - “Ready or Not: How Can Utilities Prepare for the Impact of Climate Change?” • Josh Johnson, US Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources - “US Senate Policy on Water & Wastewater.” • Laura Shenkar, Principal, Artemis Project - “Top 10 Technology Developments & Trends in the Water Industry.” • David LaFrance, Executive Director, AWWA - “Sustainability in Water Rates for Utilities.” • Steve Duling, Principal Project Manager, Colorado Springs Utilities - “Effective Project Procurement: Lessons from the Southern Delivery System.” • Eric S Petersen, Hawkins Delafield & Wood – “The Carlsbad Desalination Project: are we nearly there yet?” • Further Roundtables tbc
For the first time, the American Water Summit also includes the American Water Awards, acknowledging the most important achievements of the past year. The session invites short-listed candidates to make quick-fire presentations and the audience votes for the winner. The Awards ceremony itself takes place on the evening of 14th November, at the Gala Dinner, for the categories of: 1. Utility performer of the year 2. Partnership performance of the year 3. Technology project of the year 4. Environmental project of the year There will also be a presentation of the newly created ‘Growing Blue Award’ (see http://www.growingblue.com) for advancing understanding of how “water is as essential to our economic and social growth as it is to sustaining our environment.”
The event will attract around 350 delegates and a limited number of Press Passes are available. Please contact: Ruth Newcombe rn (at) globalwaterintel (dot) com, +44 1865 204208
*The Summit is hosted by American Water Intelligence (AWI), the established financial magazine for America’s water business, providing project trackers, archives and news stories. It is headquartered at 823 Congress Ave., Ste. 1000, Austin, Texas 78701. http://www.americanwaterintel.com
121029-b Hurricane Sandy keeps Lake Okeechobee rising
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 29, 2012
Hurricane Sandy's weekend nudge to Lake Okeechobee's rising water levels add to flood control concerns with a month of storm season still to go.
Flooding threats from the fast-rising lake in September prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to start draining billions of gallons of lake water out to sea to ease the strain on its 70-year-old dike — considered one of the country's most at risk of failing. But lake water levels have actually gone up nearly one foot since the draining started Sept. 19. That's because South Florida's vast drainage system of canals, pumps and levees fills up the lake faster than it can lower it.
The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. On Monday, the lake was 15.91 above sea level.
"The storm didn't give us that much of a bump [but] the Corps is nervous," said Paul Gray, an Audubon of Florida scientist who monitors Lake Okeechobee. "We are kind of in a risky spot right now."
The lake draining stopped briefly as Sandy passed and then resumed over the weekend with the Army Corps now attempting to dump nearly 3 billion gallons of water per day from the lake.
Dumping lake water out to sea lessens the pressure on the lake's earthen dike, but it wastes water relied on to back up South Florida supplies during the typically dry winter and spring.
The deluge of water from the lake also delivers damaging environmental consequences to delicate coastal estuaries, fouling water quality in east and west coast fishing grounds.
Lakeside residents, who have seen the Herbert Hoover Dike weather decades of storms, don't worry about lake water levels until they top 16 feet, Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser said.
"They can open those gates and shotgun that water straight to the ocean," Sasser said. "It's like feast or famine."
Tropical Storm Isaac's soaking at the end of August started lake levels climbing. The steady rains of September and October that followed, capped by Sandy's showers, kept the lake water rising even as the draining continued.
Sandy dropped as much as 3 inches of rainfall in parts of South Florida, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
Gray said Lake Okeechobee didn't receive that much, but with the region already saturated any rainfall adds to the stormwater runoff flowing into the lake.
"We continue to receive a lot of water into the lake, and the discharges are important so we can continue to maintain storage capacity for the remaining five weeks of hurricane season," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the Army Corps' Deputy District Commander for South Florida.
Lake Okeechobee water once naturally overlapped its southern shores and flowed south to replenish the Everglades.
But decades of draining and pumping to make way for South Florida agriculture and development corralled the lake water; allowing the Army Corps to dump lake water west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River to drain it out to sea when water levels rises too high for the dike.
The infusion of lake water brings pollution and throws off the delicate balance of salt and fresh water in the estuaries. Dumping lake water since September already has fish leaving, oyster beds dying and fishermen staying away from the St. Lucie River, said Leon Abood, president of the Rivers Coalition.
"It's extremely frustrating," Abood said. "It is a problem that has been plaguing this area for decades."
Elevated lake water levels can also have damaging environmental consequences, drowning the aquatic plants vital to lake fishing grounds.
The Amy Corps is in the midst of a decades-long, multibillion-dollar effort to strengthen the lake's dike.
The Corps in October completed the initial 21-mile stretch of a reinforcing wall being built through the middle of the dike to help stop erosion. That took five years and more than $360 million and now the corps is working on a study, expected to last until 2014, aimed at determining how to proceed with upgrading the rest of the 143-mile-long dike.
Beyond fixing the dike, environmental advocates contend that jumpstarting the reservoirs and water treatment areas envisioned for state and federal Everglades restoration efforts would help the lake and protect the estuaries.
"We have got to find a permanent solution," Abood said. "Move the water south the way Mother Nature intended."
121029-c USA: DEP, Partners Dedicate USD 22 Million to Restoration Projects
October 29, 2012
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. joined local officials Thursday to commemorate the adoption of a basin management action plan for Lake Harney, Lake Monroe, Smith Canal and the Middle St. Johns River, made possible through a $22 million commitment of state and local partners. Governor Rick Scott said, “We’re working to not only protect Florida’s natural treasures, but enhance and revitalize our waterbodies. This commitment of $22 million by state and local partners to improve the water quality of Lake Harney, Lake Monroe, Smith Canal and the Middle St. Johns River is a great example of what can be done when state and local partners work together. We have some of the best waterbodies in the world, and we’ll continue to take action to ensure we protect and improve them, for future generations to enjoy.”
The Department adopted water quality restoration goals — known as total maximum daily loads — for these waterbodies that call for reductions in nitrogen concentrations of 37-39 percent and reductions in phosphorus concentrations of 26-33 percent to improve water quality conditions in the lakes, canal and river. The total maximum daily loads were the basis for the recently developed restoration plan for the basin. To date, the Department has adopted a total of 11 basin management action plans, covering 89 waterbody segments. Nine more are currently in development covering 61 additional waterbody segments.
“One of DEP’s top priorities is getting Florida’s water right, which includes both ensuring an adequate supply and improving the quality of our water,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The State of Florida has always been a leader in water quality assessment and restoration, but we are now insisting on a sense of urgency in identifying solutions to restore our impacted waterways. The Department is now focused on achieving measurable ecological progress through its restoration process. DEP looks forward to continuing this partnership as we take immediate action to improve the water quality of this important watershed.”
While goal-setting is important, implementing actions on the ground result in improving the health of our waterways. This official plan assigns reduction responsibilities within the watershed, details projects that will be implemented in the next five years to reduce pollution and tracks changes in water quality as a result of those projects.
During the first five-year phase of the plan, stakeholders will achieve approximately 78 percent of the required total nitrogen reductions and 87 percent of the total phosphorus reductions required by the stakeholders within this basin. The remaining reductions will be addressed in the second five-year phase. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus introduced into a waterway can trigger algal blooms.
The plan for Lake Harney, Lake Monroe, Smith Canal and the Middle St. Johns River is part of the Department’s comprehensive approach to identifying polluted waterways and partnering with local, regional, and state interests to return the water bodies to a healthy condition. Actions include improvements in stormwater management, implementation of agricultural best management practices, development and implementation of county ordinances for fertilizer application and ongoing public education programs.
This effort demonstrates the commitment of the Department, the Water Management District and state and local governments to the restoration of water bodies in Florida. Many projects have begun in advance of finalizing the plan.
“The District appreciates the opportunity to be part of this TMDL and BMAP development,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Assistant Executive Director Elwin “Woody” Boynton. “We also appreciate DEP’s leadership and the support of all of the stakeholders in finalizing this important component of improving the water quality of the Middle St. Johns River, as well as to stretches of the river downstream.”
The plan was developed in partnership with the cities of DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, Lake Helen, Lake Mary, Orange City, and Sanford; Seminole County; Volusia County; Florida Department of Transportation; Florida Turnpike Authority; Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and St. Johns River Water Management District.
121029-d White Springs mayor leads support for water legislation that seeks to protect springs
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 29, 2012
The mayor of White Springs, a north Central Florida town whose namesake springs quit flowing more than two decades ago, is leading an effort behind proposed legislation to restore the Floridan Aquifer to levels before development occurred in Florida. Helen Miller, mayor of White Springs and vice chair of Florida Leaders Organized for Water (FLOW), says the draft Floridan Aquifer Sustainability Act of 2013 arose from the drought that gripped Florida in 2011 and early 2012 and concerns about water-use permitting in the Panhandle and North Central Florida.
The proposed legislation directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to proceed with studies to develop a uniform model of the Floridan Aquifer, which provides drinking water for much of the state. The model would use 1980 as a pre-development baseline or earlier if data is available.
DEP and the state's five water management districts would be required to review water permits of 100,000 gallons or more per day to determine whether they were causing adverse effects to the aquifer or "significant harm" to springs, lakes and rivers. The harm would be mitigated immediately and eliminated within five years.
"We have to balance that (importance of water utilities) with what is in the best interest of water sustainability in the state," Miller said. She said she also has asked the Florida League of Cities to support the legislation
Tropical Storm Debby in June eased the drought's grip on the region but environmental groups across the state have continued to raise concerns about permitting.
A DEP spokesman said it wasn't appropriate to comment on the legislation because it hasn't been presented to the department. Patrick Lehman, executive director of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, said he'd have to see how the legislation fit in with ongoing state programs to know whether it was a duplication or an expansion.
DEP spokesman Patrick Gillespie said the department is working to improve its Floridan Aquifer modeling. Lehman said he supports developing a consistent model as is being done now in Central Florida with DEP and three water districts in the region.
"It is always great to have consistency between districts," Lehman said.
DEP also is leading an initiative that it says will reward conservation and establish water-use permitting consistency across the state's five water management districts. The water management districts also are conducting minimum flow studies as part of permitting as required in state law beginning in 1972.
Miller said the proposed legislation arose from resolutions adopted earlier this year by the Northwest Florida League of Cities and Suwannee River League of Cities calling for reviews of permits that affect springs flows in the region. Florida Leaders Organized for Water voted this month to support the draft legislation.
She has introduced the legislation to the Florida League of Cities energy and environmental quality committee, which she serves on, and she hopes the League will take up the issue at its legislative conference in Orlando on Feb. 15-16.
"No easy answers," she said. "But it is crucial that each municipality understands being on the side of history on this one in terms of water sustainability for future generations." Related Research:
* Oct. 23, 2012 letter from White Springs Mayor Helen Miller to water resource supporters
* Proposed Floridan Aquifer Sustainability Act of 2013
* Jan. 18, 2012 joint resolution by leagues of cities
121028- Construct canal to spare St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee overflows
TCPalm.com – Letter by Mike_Townes, Stuart
October 28, 2012
Regarding the Lake Okeechobee pollution being allowed to flow into our St. Lucie River:
I was born and raised in South Florida. An avid hunter and fisherman, for me the Everglades and the lake area have always been a special place. Before Big Sugar came along, the lake always drained to the south and kept the southern aquifer constantly replenished. There were never pollution problems in the rivers to the east and west of it.
With the blockade of Cuba and its sugar, the Big Sugar companies came into being. To gain more land they cut off the lake's drainage to the south and directed it to the east and west canals toward both coasts. The caveat has been the ruination of the St. Lucie River and the pristine water system around Stuart.
Years ago we moved to Stuart because of its natural beauty. I have seen the water quality deteriorate over the years and the flooding of the river into our backyard when they dump the lake water into the river.
The flooding has caused damage to our community, and the pollution is killing the river life, all in the name of preventing the lake's dike from leaking and flooding to the south.
But the real reason is to allow Big Sugar to remain in good health and grow crops by not releasing the water onto its land. Instead we have to bear the consequences for the problem that they created.
We should consider constructing a drainage canal south from the lake, bypassing the cane fields and carrying the water to the Everglades, where it naturally flowed for centuries.
South of Lake Okeechobee is the drained land used for agriculture. Most of it belongs to Big Sugar
(orange in the picture).
121027- Re-create real River of Grass: Clean St. Lucie River, fix Everglades by getting land from Big Sugar in exchange for right to grow, sell legal marijuana
TCPalm.com – by Charles de Garmo
October 27, 2012
Well, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, jumped into the deep end again. First it was ending fishing license fees, thus devastating Florida's fishing infrastructure. Now he wants to take water management away from the gang responsible for almost every major man-made disaster in the United States since 1802, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Then he would have us give the responsibility to the "Don't Expect Protection" group (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) and its partners in crimes against nature, the South Florida Water Management District. That's the group who (among other projects) wasted an estimated $355 million on Ten Mile Creek and the STA-1 reservoir and who hasn't completed one Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan project properly since its approval in 2000.
Next Joe would like to put them under the guidance of an elected official so someone would be accountable. Why aren't the current elected officials holding anyone accountable now? I would feel better if we just called the cast of Jersey Shore; I hear they're looking for jobs these days.
I strongly agree with Joe that we have to think outside the box to stop the too-frequent flooding of the St. Lucie River with water more polluted than water in a Third-World country's drainage ditch. But even if the sugar industry agreed tomorrow to give up all the land needed to build a river of grass and all the retention cleansing ponds needed, they couldn't be built without solving a few other problems:
1) The Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, which nests on the ground in clumps of grass, is federally protected.
2) Congress passed a phosphate rule that mandates that no water can go south with more than 10 parts per billion of phosphates. This is the most restrictive item.
3) The endangered kite snail lives in the Everglades.
4) Public outrage and awareness must increase.
It was made abundantly clear by Big Sugar's David Goodlett when he recently spoke to an audience at the Rivers Coalition (who sat in shock as though they were witnessing the docking of the Hindenburg) that the sugar industry thinks what it is doing is enough and it doesn't care about the river. The only thing that will change that position is the ending of farm subsidies and their guarantee of 18 cents a pound for sugar.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. One trillion dollars and 41 years later it has been a colossal failure. Drug use should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal problem, but it feeds too many cottage industries and keeps 2.5 million people incarcerated. The war on drugs should be declared over and drugs should be managed and taxed just like alcohol and tobacco.
So, let's think out of the box. When farm subsidies are gone, marijuana is legalized and there is hopefully something left to save of the estuary and Everglades. Representatives of all the players could sit down with the "Sultans of Sugar" and tell them they will be licensed to grow marijuana but here are the conditions: 1) No federal or state subsidies. 2) You must donate all of the land we need to build the river of grass and the needed retention ponds. 3) You can use nothing but compost as fertilizer. 4) You can only sell your product as alcohol and tobacco is sold and regulated.
The Florida Department of Agriculture wants the taxpayers to spend $5 million on a program to teach best management practices for pollution control to the ranchers and farmers around Lake Okeechobee — I kid you not. For $1 million I'll tell them that it's either houses, sugar, vegetables, cattle or marijuana. Florida already leads the nation in illegally grown indoor marijuana and it would pollute the least. Sadly, nothing will change and none of us will ever live long enough to see the destruction stop unless something major changes with the money and politics. Charles de Garmo of Sewall's Point is a graduate of Quinnipiac (Conn.) University and has a Coast Guard master's license.
121026-a Audubon Florida honors Salazar in Sarasota for Everglades work
October 26, 2012
Audubon Florida will honor U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as "Champion of the Everglades" during the annual Audubon Assembly in Sarasota.
The assembly today and Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota brings together conservation leaders and chapter members for seminars, field trips and networking.
The gathering focuses on Florida's natural water resources. The keynote speaker at tonight's banquet is Cynthia Barnett, author of "Mirage" and "Blue Revolution."
Tickets to the assembly are sold out, according to the Audubon Florida website.
Salazar will be recognized for his "efforts to advance the restoration and conservation of the Greater Everglades," according to a news release from Audubon Florida.
Salazar's achievements, according to Audubon Florida, include establishment of the Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, continued bridging of Tamiami Trail and the ban on bringing Burmese pythons and other invasive snakes into the ecosystem.
"In just a few years, Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration have provided unparalleled leadership to move Everglades restoration forward," Eric Draper, Audubon Florida's executive director, said in the news release.
121026-b DEP commits USD 2 million to Lake Jesup restoration (USA)
October 26, 2012
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. today committed $2 million to restoration efforts for Lake Jesup by partnering with the St. Johns River Water Management District and Seminole County on construction of the Black Hammock Creek water quality improvement system.
This project will restore the natural landscape and improve water quality draining from the creek and into Lake Jesup, reducing phosphorus by 2,200 pounds per year. Other projects identified in the 2010 basin management action plan for Lake Jesup have already realized reductions of 9,000 pounds of phosphorus, which is 50 percent of the plan’s 15-year targeted goal of phosphorus reductions. Through partnerships between the Department, the St. Johns River Water Management District and local governments, we are ahead of schedule.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida has the best beaches and waterways in the world – and this commitment of $2 million for Lake Jesup further ensures that we continue to prioritize and enhance water quality in the state. Families everywhere treasure Florida’s incredible environment, and we are working hard every day to protect our lakes, rivers and waterways so future generations can enjoy everything our state has to offer.”
121026-c Paddling for lagoon awareness
MyHometownNews.net - by Jessica Tuggle
TREASURE COAST - Justin Riney of Vero Beach has played in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon since childhood. Last week he literally stood up to raise awareness for the aquatic east coast gem.
Mr. Riney organized Stand Up for the Indian River Lagoon to bring the environmental, ecological and economic issues facing the body of water to the forefront and he did it by stand-up paddle boarding 165 miles down the entire lagoon.
He pushed off in Ponce Inlet on Oct. 11 and completed his trip on Oct. 20 at the Jupiter Lighthouse, making various stops along the way to greet supporters and friends.
The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse estuary in North America and faces constant challenges to its survival because of pesticides, fertilizer and other pollutants killing the sea grasses and destroying the whole circle of life contained in the water, Mr. Riney said.
When Mr. Riney stopped in Sebastian on Oct. 16, he had counted a total of 62 dolphin and 32 manatees during his voyage.
Mr. Riney is the founder and CEO of Mother Ocean, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, and the project leader of Expedition Florida 500.
Mother Ocean is a tool to connect people with others interested in the environmental health of the ocean and the bodies of water that feed it.
Expedition Florida 500 is a special project that will run throughout the year in 2013, the 500th anniversary since Juan Ponce de Leon came to Florida. As part of the project, Florida's coastline, waterways and aquatic ecosystems will be explored to highlight the importance of stewardship in those areas, according to the Mother Ocean website.
Participants will camp and airboat through the Everglades, collect data, map out areas on the water, host cleanups, canoe, kayak and paddle all around Florida's fresh, brackish and salt water areas.
Under the leadership of Mr. Riney, Mother Ocean has organized a weekly clean-up hour every Saturday that has international participation.
Using social media and technology to spread the word, clean-up activities occur on beaches, rivers, lakes and waterways from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Mr. Riney has grave concerns about sections of the lagoon that are dead and dying.
"From Sebastian Inlet to south of the Vero Beach causeway there is no sea grass whatsoever. It's a complete desert," Mr. Riney said.
"There are no fish, no birds, nothing. And south of the Fort Pierce Inlet, there are loads of birds and other marine life. It's like night and day," he said.
Sea grasses are the foundation for life in the lagoon, experts say.
Sea grasses help clean the water, serve as fish nurseries and are a food source for larger marine life.
Scientists shouldn't be the only ones interested in the biology of the lagoon and its health because the lagoon is a critical part of what makes the east coast a sought after place to visit, which in turn, helps build up the economy, Mr. Riney said.
"We've got to support, as a local community, our lagoon," said Mr. Riney, who is not a scientist.
For more information about Mr. Riney's mission and organization, visit www.motherocean.org.
121026-d Secrets of red tide sought
October 26, 2012
Scientists take samples of algae to better learn life cycle.
Researchers with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota hope water samples taken off Lee County beaches this week will provide crucial details about the mysterious formation and life cycle of Karenia brevis, the microscopic marine algae that causes red tide blooms in Southwest Florida.
Water quality scientists at the facility have tried for years to collect dozens of samples that contain Karenia brevis in an attempt to understand what fuels the algae and even what other types of algae it competes against for marine resources. L. Kellie Dixon, a senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, said Friday researchers collected water samples containing Karenia brevis off Sanibel and are subjecting the notorious algae to 42 different conditions.
“In one container we gave it a little bit of ammonia, in another we added nitrogen,” Dixon said. “We gave it a buffet of water conditions and nutrients to feed on.” Karenia brevis and other forms of algae occur naturally in coastal waters, although stormwater runoff and excess nutrients are believed to extend and/or intensify red tide blooms. Some forms of algae thrive under low nutrients loads while others need a more intense amount of fuel.
A red tide bloom has lingered off the Southwest Florida coast for several weeks now. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Friday report showed lower levels for the region than were posted in recent weeks. Karenia brevis can cause fish kills when levels reach 10,000 cells per liter. Some measurements off the Lee County coast were above 100,000 cells per liter, the FWC reported.
Dixon and other Mote Marine scientists have been working to gather samples since 2007 and used a submersible robot dubbed Waldo to gather some of the samples. She said the test data should help scientist understand what feeds a red tide and what conditions are needed for an outbreak.
“It’s completely analogous to you planting tomatoes and your garden and getting weeds as well,” Dixon said. “The Karenia brevis does not care where the nutrients come from.” Rick Bartleson, a research scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said more work needs to be done to correctly understand and react to harmful algae blooms.
“There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done,” Bartleson said. “A lot of funding for (research about) harmful algae blooms has been cut drastically.”
Red tide is a generic term used to describe algal blooms with higher than normal concentrations. The outbreaks can turn patches of coastal waters red or brown, although the bloom is not dependent on tidal cycles.
Bartleson said he expects the study “will probably show that red tide is very good at taking up nitrogen.”
Dixon said sampling conditions over the past week were ripe as red tide was known to be present and winds were calm.
121025-a County eyes larger well protection zone
Gulf Breeze News - by Pam Brannon
October 25, 2012
The drinking water in Santa Rosa County is a priority to the county commissioners, especially with all the new industrial development being proposed in the north end of the county. Commissioners recently asked for some guidance from the Northwest Florida Water Management District in a special meeting called by county administrator Hunter Walker Sept. 17.
Commissioners had indicated in a prior zoning meeting, Walker said, that they would like to have a study done by the Water Management District to see how fast water reaches the wells providing drinking water in the county over a five year period. But after hearing the reports from a representative of the water management agency commissioners are considering asking for a report that would tell them how large a water protection area would be needed for water reaching the drinking wells over a decade.
County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said sometimes it takes a lot longer than five years for contaminated water to reach the wells that provide the drinking water for the county residents.
“We all know contaminants can take decades to travel. A five-year travel study might protect all of us in our drinking water, but it won’t protect our children or grandchildren. We need to do more than a five year travel time for these water particles to reach our water supply,” Lynchard said. “Where does the line need to be drawn? There is a real question to be considered between property rights and protection of our water supply. I don’t think there is anything more important than protecting our water supply.”
Representatives from the NWFlorida Water Management District showed what the history of Santa Rosa County water wells development has been and what the study would show. A representative from the ECUA n Escambia County told commissioners that they had such a study done and how it affected the well field and well head protection areas in their county. Tony Countryman of the NWF Water Management District told commissioners that Santa Rosa County was unique to its surrounding counties because first it has most of its wells between Black Water River and Yellow River, so it is easier to provide protection area within that seven mile stretch. Also it is unique because it is more flat in the well areas than surrounding counties, so there is less run off. That makes natural recharging of the underground water aquifer where the wells pull their water supply easier. He said it takes about six months to a year for a water particle to go from the top of the water table, above ground, to the water supply underground in this county with the sand and gravel aquifer.
Commissioner Jim Melvin said he knows farmers in the county that allow treated sludge from sewers to be placed on their land and within 30 days it is safe to allow cattle to graze on that land. He asked if the water management district could measure what contaminants actually reach the water supply from the top of the water table. The representative said that would be a different study.
Lynchard said, “The study being proposed would tell us in five years – or whatever time we decide to ask them to study – where the capture zones are for water and how much water is captured and how long it takes to reach our water supply.”
121025-b Everglades restoration not a priority for Republicans
TCPalm.com – Letter by Heidi Rich, Stuart, FL
October 25, 2012 at 4 a.m.
This year's presidential race is going to be a big challenge to Martin County voters. This county is mostly Republican. But everyone in this county wants to save the St. Lucie River from the ugly dumping that is going on. And most everyone knows that won't happen unless Everglades restoration is a national priority.
The Obama administration has funded Everglades projects and made things happen after eight years of frustrating inaction. The Republican platform doesn't mention the Everglades. Paul Ryan and the House Republicans voted to roll back the Clean Water Act. Mitt Romney says he wants to take a weed-whacker to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Does anyone think we can save our river without the EPA and the Clean Water Act? Think about it before you vote.
121025-c Innovative practices showcased to global roundtable for sustainable beef
October 25, 2012
The ability of cattle ranchers in central Florida to partner with public water agencies in developing sustainable practices was recently showcased to representatives of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Representatives from four continents comprising beef producers, processors, retailers and other organizations working toward continuous improvement in sustainable practices in the beef industry met at the Archbold Biological Station near Venus, Fla., for GRSB’s semi-annual executive board meeting in early October.
“The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is an exciting new organization that brings together key players in the beef value chain to focus on important global issues and initiatives in the beef production system,” said Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and chief sustainability officer at JBS USA. “By working together to identify best practices across the chain - from the producer to the final delivery of beef to the consumer - we can put innovative and valuable ideas into action.”
The purpose of the meeting was to further develop understanding of sustainable practices in the beef industry though interaction, discussion and observation of in-field projects. The GRSB representatives experienced an intimate look at efforts of beef producers in helping to protect Florida’s Everglades by storing water resources. The Everglades is a natural region of subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Through modifications to privately held properties, beef producers are able to store water that may be released in times of drought in order to ensure the Everglades are protected.
The ranchers, while providing a valuable service to the environment, are able to achieve added value to their own operations by contracting with regional water resource agencies, which increases their financial sustainability. In addition, the enhanced habitat developed for wildlife in that area further sustains the natural balance of production and nature.
“By touring the Lykes Brothers Ranch nutrient retention project where excess nutrients are naturally removed from the watershed, GRSB representatives were able to see sustainability in action,” said Bryan Weech, GRSB vice president and director of livestock agriculture for World Wildlife Fund.
In the Lykes Bros. project, regional water from Florida’s Indian Prairie Canal is pumped onto a 2,500-acre site and gradually flows over it before being returned to the canal. During the process, particles containing excess nutrients are filtered from the water column by native vegetation. Initial indications are that the West Water Hole Project is capable of reducing phosphorus concentrations by 56 percent while retaining more than 5,000 acre feet of water that would otherwise potentially be discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. “This illustrates a very visible and valuable partnership between landowners and the public to make significant environmental gains,” added Weech.
The development of GRSB grew out of a November 2010 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, the first ever conference of its kind, which laid the groundwork for establishing a multi-stakeholder initiative by achieving greater clarity and deepening alignment around the key issues that influence the sustainability of the beef production system.
121025-d No flooding expected from Hurricane Sandy in South Florida
CBS12 News - by Scott T. Smith
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The South Florida Water Management District wrapped up a news conference mid-day Thursday, announcing flooding is not expected from Hurricane Sandy.
Officials say Sandy is expected to dump up to 3 inches of rain through Saturday and the canals and Lake Okeechobee can easily handle this amount.
Major flooding resulted from Tropical Storm Isaac this year, when about a foot of rain fell.
121025-e State, cities partner to clean up lakes, river
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
October 25, 2012
SANFORD – State environmental officials traveled to Central Florida on Thursday to announce the finalization of a regional management plan to clean up water quality in Lake Monroe, Lake Harney and the St. Johns River between the two lakes.
Volusia County and the cities of Deltona, DeBary, DeLand and Orange City are among local governments collaborating on the plan with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The river and both lakes are considered impaired waterways because of the high levels of nutrients in the water. The plan spells out steps various governments have planned or recently completed that will help reduce phosphorus and nitrogen in the water to improve water quality and habitat and reduce the risk of algal blooms, fish kills and other ecosystem problems.
The combined projects, when complete, will be "removing 100,000 pounds of nutrients every year," said Herschel Vinyard, department secretary.
Vinyard said he is determined to get more projects moving forward.
"We are going to get rid of the delays in restoring our water bodies," said Vinyard. "We want less talk and less delay."
The department has approved five such action plans in the past 20 months, after approving 11 in the previous five years, he said. Ultimately, the various projects along the river between Lake Harney and Lake Monroe are estimated to cost $22 million. Brenda Carey, chairman of the Seminole County Commission, said she had seen a lot of changes in the water bodies in the past 25 years, but hopes the action plan will generate some "positive changes."
Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett admitted the cities weren't given a lot of choice in whether or not they participated, but he said the improvements are important to preserve the river and lakes "for our future generations."
The city of Deltona is credited with $3.5 million in projects to improve treatment of stormwater runoff. DeBary also has completed several stormwater improvement projects that are helping to meet the reduction goal, officials said.
In addition, DeLand, Lake Helen and Orange City will undertake educational and public outreach programs to reduce fertilizer use and improve irrigation practices.
The city of Sanford has $6.5 million in stormwater improvement projects planned.
In other news this week, the department announced it would work with the water management district and Seminole County to build a water quality improvement system at Black Hammock Creek, to improve the quality of the water draining from the creek into Lake Jesup. The goal is to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the water by 2,200 pounds per year.
Dr. Matteo CONVERTINO
121025-f UF/IFAS researcher helps test new way to probe remote ecosystems with satellite imagery
October 25, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For scientists, making field observations of organisms and ecosystems can be a daunting challenge.
Travel to remote locations is costly and difficult. Observation methods are limited and must be devised so that they only capture accurate, relevant data.
Satellite imagery is one alternative for assessing wild places, and it has some advantages over boots-on-the-ground observations, said Matteo Convertino, a research scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“There’s currently not a lot of satellite imagery used in ecological studies,” said Convertino, with UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department. “Part of the reason is, there’s a strong need to improve mathematical formulas for analyzing the data, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
In the current issue of the journal PLoS ONE, Convertino and colleagues outline a new method for extracting information from digital images quickly and efficiently. The system identifies the components of photos based on their appearance, and pinpoints similar features or objects.
The research team hit accuracy levels as high as 98 percent with analyses of satellite photos showing Everglades wilderness. The team used this method to estimate the number of different plant species in the photos. Those results were compared with field observations.
“This method provides three benefits: improved accuracy, higher speed and reduced costs,” said Convertino, who is also a contractor at the Risk and Decision Science Team of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and part of the Florida Climate Institute.
Digital photos taken far above Earth can provide information that covers long periods of time and large tracts of land, with great clarity, he said. Satellites can also provide more thorough coverage of an area, compared with on-the-ground observation.
Add to that the fact that there are decades of satellite images available through digital archiving, and there’s a treasure trove of data for ecologists, biologists, foresters and others.
To unlock it, the research team has harnessed a probability formula called Kullback-Leibler divergence.
Computer software developed by the team can gauge the intensity of the light reflected off objects in a photo. Then the software notes the frequencies of the most prevalent light waves. Finally, the software classifies the objects into two or more groups, based on the amount and type of light they reflect.
The system could not tell researchers which plant species they were looking at, but it did reveal how many plant species were in an image, where they were, and how numerous they were. It also provided information about landscape features.
The study involved satellite images showing a part of the Florida Everglades known as Water Conservation Area 1. There, standard on-the-ground observations have been sparsely recorded. The Everglades and other wetlands need close monitoring because they are sensitive to rainfall, water management and other external factors that affect overall ecosystem health.
Ultimately, the analytical method may prove useful for other image-retrieval challenges, Convertino said. It has already been used to classify stem cells found in photos taken with microscopes, and can be used to analyze surface water and soil shown in satellite images.
“More work is needed,” he said. “But the first results are surprisingly definite and encouraging.”
The research team included Convertino, Igor Linkov of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Carnegie Mellon University, and Rami Mangoubi, Nathan Lowry and Mukund Desai of Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass.
121024-a Birder's Eye View: Beautiful roseatte spoonbills making a comeback of their own for Pink Month
Bluffton Today - by Diana Churchill
October 24, 2012
Savannah - - October, in Savannah, is the month to “Paint the Town Pink”— an annual joint effort of the Savannah Morning News and the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s/Candler to raise awareness of breast cancer research, treatment, early detection and prevention. In support of this effort, lots of things, including the newspaper, have gone pink.
As a woman and a bird watcher, I’ve been wondering how to get with the program. I do get my annual mammogram and I contribute to fundraising walks, but is there a way for us bird lovers to do a bit more? I don’t think that painting our great and snowy egrets pink would do the trick. We could decorate the town with plastic pink flamingos, but that would likely upset the Historic Review Board.
Lucky for us, there is an already-pink bird among us. This year, roseate spoonbills have been reported from the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, on the Vernon River, on Wilmington, Skidaway and Dutch Islands, and along U.S. 17 headed to Hardeeville. We are not just talking single birds. Folks are seeing two, four, 10, 20 or even more than 100 roseate spoonbills foraging in the marshes, creeks and wetlands, with the largest numbers around Brunswick and Jekyll Island.
Considered very common in the Southeast until the 1860s, roseate spoonbills were nearly wiped out by plume hunters who sold their lovely pink feathers for ladies’ hats and fans. With the founding of the Audubon Society in the late 1800s and the creation of the first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in 1903, plume hunting was eventually outlawed and the heron, egret and spoonbill populations began to slowly rebound.
While there are six species of spoonbill worldwide, only our New World species is pink. Generally, the older the spoonbill, the pinker it is, although diet canalso play a part in feather color. Spoonbills use their distinctive spatulate beak to filter feed on algae, shrimp, small fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, slugs and some plant material. Shrimp and the algae contain carotenoids that can intensify the pink feather colors. During breeding season, the top edges of the spoonbill wings darken to deep carmine red, as do their legs. Adult roseate spoonbills have featherless greenish heads and startling red eyes. Juvenile birds are paler, lack the dark pink fringe on their wings and have feathered heads. Most of the spoonbills in our area appear to be young birds ranging north after the end of breeding season. Gen Anderson, bird and mammal coordinator at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, site of a large wading bird rookery, reports that the spoonbills lounged there for a decade. Finally, in 2010, four pairs nested and fledged 12 chicks. The numbers increased in 2011 to 16 nests with 36 chicks. In 2012, Tropical Storms Beryl and Debby disrupted what looked like a promising year. Gen also reported that the spoonbill colonies in the Everglades have suffered many nest failures over the past several years. There are active colonies in the Tampa area, but the birds seem to be moving north in search of new nest sites.
In June 2011, Tim Keyes, biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, reported the first documented Georgia spoonbill nest with chicks at St. Mary’s airport. I expect that it is only a matter of time before this beautiful species, like the wood storks before it, settles in to breed along the entire length of the Georgia coast.
So, for the bird lovers among us, I suggest another way to “think pink.” We can be inspired by a once-threatened species that has made a comeback. We can work to protect and maintain our vital wetland habitats. We can also let the spoonbill’s vibrant pinkness remind us to get a mammogram, write a check, or speak an encouraging word to a friend undergoing cancer treatment. Good health and good birding!
121024-b Citrus’s role in Florida’s water supply
SoutEastAGnet - by Ernie
October 24, 2012
An official with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discussed citrus’s role in the state’s water supply at a recent Citrus Water Seminar in Sebring. Rich Budell, director of the Office of Water Policy, in this report also addresses domestic vs. agricultural water use, the public service that an innovative agricultural industry provides, and more.
121024-c Clean Water Act turns 40 (Part II): A harvest of clean water exemptions on the farm
Circle of Blue - by Codi Yeager-Kozacek
October 24, 2012 The U.S. farm sector, more productive and richer than ever, is a major water polluter.
In 1972, when Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, it was still possible to see North Carolina farmers using mules to plow their tobacco, cotton, and corn fields. A big Wisconsin dairy farm fed 100 cows in one milking barn. A typical Nebraska cattle feedlot measured a few hundred acres. In Washington, D.C., lawmakers still viewed the American farm as a family-owned and -managed
enterprise, and not much of a threat to the nation’s water.
Forty years later, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state water quality departments, the agriculture sector is the largest producer of nitrates, phosphates, chlorinated compounds, sediment, and other major sources of water pollution. Moreover, even as farms expanded in acreage and animal products — meat, milk, and eggs — were produced in factory farms and feedlots that housed thousands of animals, farming wastes were largely exempted from water clean-up standards that were required of other polluting industries.
The result is that, while the Clean Water Act has curbed the worst industrial and municipal pollution and restored many of the country’s iconic rivers and lakes, agriculture and other nonpoint sources of pollution have largely fallen beyond the legislation’s reach. Agricultural pollution has produced an oxygen-depleted dead zone near the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. Agricultural fertilizer running off land in Wisconsin and Ohio generates thick algae blooms in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.
According to the EPA, the most prevalent form of agricultural water pollution is sediment that is washed into streams and lakes from farm fields. However, it is nutrient pollution — when excess phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers and manure make their way into water — that can foster harmful algal blooms. When the blooms die and decompose, the process takes so much oxygen that the surrounding waters can no longer support fish and other aquatic animals, forming a dead zone. Algal blooms can also make water unsafe for swimming or turn it a slimy, smelly green that deters recreational use.
Nutrient fertilizers have become instrumental in improving the world’s agricultural crop yields and will likely be necessary to grow enough food for the estimated global population of 9 billion people by 2050. But agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, while urban sources account for only about 12 percent, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Nutrient pollution is a difficult issue to address, because nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen are not just from agricultural runoff — these nutrients occur naturally in the environment and are also necessary for ecosystem functioning. Nonetheless, excess nutrients are a threat to clean, safe waters — and they pose a problem that has, so far, fallen beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act. Steps Toward Stricter Regulation
Under the Clean Water Act, most farms fall into the category of nonpoint sources of pollution. In other words, they do not directly pipe polluting materials into the water. Rather, the pollutants are transferred to rivers and lakes via snow and rain runoff. Therefore, nonpoint pollution sources are not required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which places a limit on how much effluent the permit holder can discharge into a body of water.
Discharge from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) can produce as much wastewater as a small city and are considered point source polluters by the EPA.
One exception is Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which are facilities where large numbers of livestock or poultry are confined in a small area. CAFOs are considered point source polluters by the EPA and must have a NPDES permit. But the permits, criticized by environmental groups, do not require such large animal feeding operations — which typically produce as much wastewater as a small city — to process wastewater in sewage treatment plants. Instead, CAFOs can spray wastewater on farm fields or store manure in big lagoons. The risks to water quality are enormous.
In 1999, a hurricane dropped so much rain on North Carolina, the nation’s second-largest hog producer, that manure lagoons overflowed, contaminating hundreds of thousands of acres of land, swelling streams with hundreds of millions of gallons of raw filth, and causing one of the worst industrial water pollution and public health emergencies in U.S. history. “The Clean Water Act has done great things, and a large piece of its strength is the state-federal partnership. However, recent actions by the [EPA]… have disregarded this carefully crafted partnership and pushed the state of Florida aside…” –Cristina Llorens, manager of communications, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)
To curb pollution from the remaining majority of farms — as well as municipal sources of nutrient pollution — some conservation groups have suggested that it is necessary to place numeric limits on the amount of phosphates and nitrates allowed in a body of water. Numeric limits would replace narrative standards, historically used by most states, which describe the quality of water needed for a body of water to be used for a designated purpose. States are required to use one of these two methods to enforce water quality laws under the Clean Water Act, though the EPA urged states in 1998 to start setting numeric nutrient criteria.
“[Narrative standards] are unenforceable,” David Guest, the managing attorney at Earthjustice’s Tallahassee office, told Circle of Blue. “Numeric limits would act like speed limits. Now in Florida, instead of a [metaphorical] speed limit sign, you have something that says ‘Don’t drive so fast as to become dangerous.’”
Earthjustice, an environmental legal advocacy group, has been fighting for numeric nutrient limits in Florida since 2008, when it sued the EPA on behalf of five environmental organizations. The EPA consequently proposed a set of numeric nutrient criteria for Florida in 2010, which many industries in the state — including agriculture — opposed.
The EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient limits are not grounded in science and would be too costly to implement, according to Cristina Llorens, manager of communications at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
“Cattle producers in Florida go to great lengths to protect water quality; their livestock and families depend on it,” she told Circle of Blue. “The Clean Water Act has done great things, and a large piece of its strength is the state-federal partnership that it created. However, recent actions by the [EPA], including the issue with Florida’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria, have disregarded this carefully crafted partnership and pushed the state of Florida aside in a process where the state was already engaged and trying to address any issues.”
The EPA estimated that implementing its new rules across all sectors — municipal, agricultural, and industrial — would cost a total of $US 135.5 million to $US 206.1 million each year, though these figures have been a source of much debate. A separate analysis by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACs) and the University of Florida, for example, suggested that initial implementation costs could be between $US 855 million and $US 3 billion for agriculture alone, with annual costs ranging from $US 271 million to $US 974 million annually. Two Standards To Measure Water Quality
Narrative Standards: Use descriptive language to articulate the quality of water needed for a river or lake to fulfill its designated purpose. Designated purposes can include uses like consumption, recreation, and agriculture. Example: Nitrogen concentrations in surface waters shall not exceed levels that impair water quality to the point where these waters are unsuitable for recreation.
Numeric Limits: Set a maximum allowable concentration for each pollutant, typically in micrograms or milligrams per liter. Example: The concentration of total nitrogen in surface waters shall not exceed 1 milligram per liter (1 part per million, or 1 ppm).
The rules are still up in the air, as Florida state has since created its own numeric nutrient criteria, signed into law in February. The state regulations are currently pending EPA approval. Another Approach: Water Quality Trading Programs
Other states and organizations have taken steps to reduce nutrient pollution without imposing new or stricter regulations under the Clean Water Act. The Ohio River Basin Trading Project, a water quality trading system based on economic incentive, is one such effort.
The project is organized by the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) headquartered in Palo Alto, California. It is the first interstate water quality trading program in the United States, as well as the largest program in the world to operate under a single plan. In August, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio signed an agreement to perform pilot trades over the next three years.
Under the pilot plan, nonpoint sources of pollution — like farms — can generate water quality credits by implementing conservation best management practices (BMPs) to reduce their nitrogen and phosphorous input into the Ohio River Basin.
EPRI then pools all of the credits and puts them up for sale in a marketplace, where point source polluters — like power plants — can buy the credits to offset their own pollution. Other stakeholders, such as conservation groups, are also able to buy the credits and retire them to benefit water quality.
“For the buyers, this gives them a more cost effective way to meet their [NPDES] permit limits,” said Jessica Fox, the senior project manager. Farmers also see benefits. “The conservation practices can improve crop yield and increase wildlife habitat — things that are fundamental to running a successful farm. We have more interest than funding at this point.”
But much like carbon credit trading, water quality credit trading systems have been criticized on the grounds that they will not actually provide any in-stream benefits and that they could become susceptible to fraud. “[Narrative standards] are unenforceable. Numeric limits would act like speed limits — now in Florida, instead of a [metaphorical] speed limit sign, you have something that says ‘Don’t drive so fast as to become dangerous.’” –David Guest, managing attorney, Earthjustice’s Tallahassee office
EPRI has taken steps to address these concerns, Fox told Circle of Blue. Conservation practices must be put in place and verified by a third party before they can generate any credits, and the organization is using a full watershed model to determine what effect a one-pound reduction of nitrogen on a farm will have downstream at the power plant that might buy its credits, since this is not always one-to-one ratio. In addition, EPRI will retire a percentage of all credits produced to provide a safety net.
“Of all the nutrient reductions, we put 20 percent into a reserve pool for a margin of safety,” Fox said. “So not only are we using one of the best calibrated models, our safety margin is huge: the EPA only requires 10 percent, and we were actually told we could even go below that because of the model we use.”
Nonetheless, Fox said it will take time for environmental benefits of the trades to show up — especially as far downstream as the Gulf of Mexico. The pilot program, with its limited budget, will likely have no effect on the dead zone there, and the trading system as a whole has its limits.
“Water quality trading is only one tool, and we need a whole suite of tools,” she said. This article is part of a series marking the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Click here to read Part I: Cities Fall In Love With Rivers Again by Circle of Blue’s Seattle reporter, Brett Walton. Click here to see a slideshow of vintage photos, taken before the Clean Water Act was implemented.
121024-d FGCU Eminent Scholar, Marine Science faculty present research at International EcoSummit 2012
PRWeb.com – Press Release
October 24, 2012
Marine Science faculty present papers at the fourth International EcoSummit in Ohio.
“EcoSummit is one of the best assemblages of ecologists that will ever meet”.
Florida Gulf Coast University’s newest eminent scholar and other marine science faculty presented papers at the fourth International EcoSummit in Columbus, Ohio.
More than 1,500 premier scientists from 75 countries attended EcoSummit 2012, a conference on environmental sustainability and ecosystem restoration held Sept. 30-Oct. 5 by The Ohio State University. It was the first time the summit has convened in the United States. William J. Mitsch, FGCU Professor and Juliet C. Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management, served as conference chairman and presented research on wetlands and climate change. After 27 years at Ohio State, he joined FGCU on Oct. 1 and serves as director of the new Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples.
“EcoSummit is one of the best assemblages of ecologists that will ever meet,” Mitsch said. “It’s more about fixing the planet than describing the problems. The emphasis is on restoration, ecological engineering and political solutions. It’s about what we can and should do.”
Among the renowned participants were Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom, Pulitzer Prize winners E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond and Kyoto Prize winner Simon Levin.
Also presenting work at EcoSummit were Michael Savarese, FGCU Professor of Marine Science and Department Chairman of Marine and Ecological Sciences, and Aswani Volety, Professor of Marine Science and Director of FGCU’s Vester Marine Field Station. The pair authored a paper on wetland restoration in the Everglades’ Picayune Strand and the Ten Thousand Islands; Volety also presented research on oysters as indicators of the impact of freshwater management and restoration of the Caloosahatchee River.
“It’s very relevant to our area,” Volety said. “It could lead to better water-management decisions.”
Mitsch is a founding member of the group of ecology journal editors that organized the first EcoSummit conferences in Copenhagen in 1996, Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2000, and Beijing in 2007. Before joining FGCU, he was Distinguished Professor of Environment, Natural Resources and Ecological Engineering at Ohio State and director of its Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. He earned a doctorate in systems ecology at the University of Florida.
Mitsch co-authored “Wetlands,” the definitive textbook on the subject. In August 2004 he and a Danish collaborator, Sven Erik Jørgensen, were awarded the Stockholm Water Prize for lifetime achievements in the modeling, management, and conservation of lakes and wetlands
121024-e Florida Tech researcher shares in $400,000 NSF grant for drinking water treatment
October 24, 2012 Virender Sharma, Florida Institute of Technology professor of chemistry, joins in a National Science Foundation-funded grant to develop ferrates (iron in +4, +5, and +6 oxidation states) to control harmful cyanobacteria from drinking water reservoirs worldwide. The project, which will explore ways to remove cyanotoxins, or water-soluble toxic compounds produced by blue-green algae, provides $402,800 over three years to test the use of ferrates in the laboratory and the field.
Sharma is the principle investigator of this grant and will receive about 50 percent of the awarded funds. Other grant collaborators are Dion Dionysiou, University of Cincinnati; Kevin O'Shea, Florida International University; and Judy Westrick, Wayne State University. Of serious concern for human health, cyanobacteria have most recently been problematic in the Great Lakes and in Florida watersheds, such as Lake Okeechobee, the St. Johns River, Lake Griffin and the Rainbow River. With the outlook for warmer waters due to climate change, algae are expected to flourish, which in turn may increase the frequency and toxicity due to an expected increase of cyanobacteria.
Conventional oxidative technologies for removal of cyanobacteria and their toxins, such as chlorination, UV light and ozonization are frequently not cost-effective and may create toxic byproducts. Sharma's research will investigate the degradation of these toxins by different ferrates under natural water conditions. "Additionally, we will develop a novel photocatalyst, which in the presence of the Fe(VI) ferrate, under solar light and visible light irradiation in the lab, we expect to yield effective degradation of cyanotoxins," said Sharma.
"We believe we can make a significant and cost-effective contribution in the field of water purification using ferrate technologies," he added.
The research on ferrates began in September and will continue for the next three years. Several graduate and undergraduate students will be involved in the research and graduate students will produce their Ph.D. dissertations from this research. Undergraduate students will gain hands-on experience in the field of environmental chemistry.
Students will collect samples during cyanobacterial bloom events in the St. Johns River and Indian River lagoons, and the researchers will perform tests on the removal of toxins by ferrates. For the past several years, Sharma has conducted funded research to combat water pollution around the world through the use of ferrates. Provided by Florida Institute of Technology
121024-f Satellite images tell tales of changing biodiversity
Earth & Climate – by Matteo Convertino
October 24, 2012
Analysis of texture differences in satellite images may be an effective way to monitor changes in vegetation, soil and water patterns over time, with potential implications for measuring biodiversity as well, according to new research published Oct. 24 by Matteo Convertino from the University of Florida and colleagues in the open access journal PLOS ONE. The authors designed statistical models to estimate two aspects of biodiversity in satellite images: the number of species in a given region, or 'species richness', and the rate at which species entered or were removed from the ecosystem, a parameter termed 'species turnover'.
They tested their models on data gathered over 28 years in a water conservation area in the Florida Everglades and compared their results to previous reports from the region. They found that their models were nearly 100% accurate when predicting species turnover; conventional methods only have 85% accuracy.
According to the authors, their automated method using satellite images could help improve the efficiency and decrease the cost of campaigns that monitor biodiversity and guide policy and conservation decisions. Convertino says, "Texture-based statistical image analysis is a promising method for quantifying seasonal differences and, consequently, the degree to which vegetation, soil, and water patterns vary as a function of natural and anthropic stressors. The application of the presented model to other fields and scales of analysis of ecosystems is a promising research direction.'' Source: Public Library of Science
121023-a Clam Bayou Nature Preserve restoration dedication and Skyway Trail ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 27
October 23, 2012
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The city of St. Petersburg issued the following news release:
The city of St. Petersburg, Southwest Florida Water Management District and the city of Gulfport announce the Dedication of the Clam Bayou Restoration and Skyway Trail Dedication Ceremony on Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. at Clam Bayou, 4255 34th Ave. S. The program includes remarks from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes and District Governing Board member Todd Pressman. After the speeches, officials will cut the ribbon on the city's new 1.6-mile Skyway Trail extension, which runs through Clam Bayou. Also, a commemorative tree planting will take place and tours of the site will be offered. Guests are invited to bring their bikes for a trail ride at the conclusion of the ceremony.
The Clam Bayou Restoration and Stormwater Treatment Project marks the final step in a multi-agency effort to restore 64 acres of estuarine and coastal habitats and create 20 acres of ponds to treat stormwater runoff from the 2,600-acre surrounding area.
Since the 1920s, urban development around the bayou drastically altered the natural habitats and hydrology of the system. In addition, those surrounding areas were developed prior to stormwater regulations, which resulted in large amounts of trash, sediments and pollutants flowing untreated into Clam Bayou and ultimately into Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay.
Funding was provided by City of St. Petersburg, Southwest Florida Water Management District and the City of Gulfport. Secondary funding was provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Transportation.
For directions or more information about Clam Bayou Nature Preserve, see stpeteparksrec.org/clam-bayou-nature-preserve.html
The new Skyway Trail at Clam Bayou Preserve connects to the Pinellas Trail in Childs Park, and runs through Clam Bayou and along37th St. to the Bayway, where you can connect with the Pinellas Bayway Bike Route to Fort DeSoto, or continue along to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. With this new connection, a cyclist may now ride along a trail from the southern tip of Pinellas County north to Tarpon Springs. Funding for the Skyway Trail has been provided by the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Enhancement Program, administered by the Florida Department of Transportation with direction from the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
FL Ag Commissioner
121023-b Putnam urges closer scrutiny of state land management assignments, raises doubts about land-buying
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 23, 2012
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Tuesday urged the state to review which agencies are managing particular tracts of state land and he expressed concerns about spending more money on buying conservation land.
Putnam's comments came during and after a presentation to the Cabinet which he requested on management of Florida's 5.4 million acres of state land.
Environmental groups have launched a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot to increase spending on land. They also have asked Gov. Rick Scott to spend $257 million on conservation programs after land-buying bonds are paid off next year.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is requesting budget authority to sell $50 million worth of state land to buy new lands.
Putnam told other Cabinet members that state agencies need a single web site for visitors that includes state parks, forests, wildlife management areas and water management district lands.
He said the agencies need to cooperate better on land management, including prescribed burning. He also said the assignment of state lands in close proximity to multiple agencies should be reviewed.
The Green Swamp area, he said, includes separate tracts managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Park Service, the Florida Forest Service and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
"It's crazy," he said. He added that Tiger Bay in Flagler County and Tate's Hell Swamp in Franklin County were similar examples.
"It seems, that somewhere in there, there is an opportunity for a sector plan for resource management that would be more customer-friendly and almost certainly better for the resources as well," Putnam said.
Florida's state land management programs have faced similar criticism in recent years from legislators as they have cut spending for land acquisition from $300 million a year from 1990 through 2008 to $23.3 million in the three years since 2009.
Environmental groups have proposed the Florida Water & Land Legacy amendment to require an estimated $500 million a year for land-buying.
Asked about whether he supports buying more land, Putnam said after the meeting that the state needs to do a better job of managing what it has.
He said he is still reviewing the proposed constitutional amendment. He also said future land purchase should provide more protection of water supplies and water quality.
And he said the state should instead focus more on purchasing development rights, without taking over land ownership, and on generating revenue from timber sales and cattle grazing leases.
"I don't think you walk away from the program," he said. "But I don't think you maintain the program at the record highs it operated at several years ago."
Scott, asked later whether he supports more money for land buying, said only that he supports providing "the right amount of money" in his recommended 2013-14 state budget to take care of state lands.
He said he would like to provide more money for land purchases. But he said without controlling increasing Medicaid costs in the state budget, "there is no money for anything."
121023-c Water management to sell 752 acres
St. Augustine Record - by email@example.com
October 23, 2012
Sale is small part of 39,400 acres district owns in county.
Only a tiny percentage of 39,400 acres of St. Johns County’s preserved, protected and conservation properties have been deemed unnecessary or surplus by the St. Johns Water Management District, district officials said this week.
That’s a big relief for conservationists such as Sarah Owen Gledhill of the Florida Wildlife Federation, one of many environmentally concerned people who’d been afraid of losing large chunks of pristine public property to development.
“District staff did a methodical job,” Gledhill said Tuesday. “They used wildlife as one of their values. And wildlife depends on water resources.”
She believes that the 752 acres deemed surplus could be donated to local governments.
This study began in June after Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida’s five water management districts to evaluate the state’s 9.9 million acres of protected lands and determine which properties would be unnecessary.
The St. Johns River Water Management district owns 600,000 acres of land in 18 counties.
District staffers said that over the past 35 years, the district spent $1.2 billion for 700,000 acres that are used for recreation, flood control, water storage, conservation, habitat protection and water management.
Three properties were recommended for removal from the district’s assets. They are:
■ 148 acres of the 5,005-acre Deep Creek Conservation Area.
■ 68 acres of the 2,177-acre Moses Creek Conservation Area.
■ 531 acres of the 20,983-acre Twelve Mile Swamp Conservation Area.
District spokeswoman Theresa Monson said Deep Creek’s 148 acres are in two adjacent parcels.
The southernmost one is larger and leased to a farmer growing broccoli. Staff determined that the 40-acre parcel to the north would be isolated from the rest of the conservation area if the other field is sold.
The district and St. Johns County staffers are in discussion about whether the five Julington-Durbin acres are wetlands or not, Monson said.
And Moses Creek’s 68 acres are also in two parcels. The smaller one is a triangular-shaped parcel separated from the rest of the conservation area by State Road 206.
“It is not serving a conservation purpose,” Monson said.
The larger one is difficult to access and is difficult to manage.
“This is a good example of a parcel that the district would like to exchange,” she said.
Finally, the largest surplus property, 531 acres in 12 Mile Swamp, is also separated from its conservation area by an easement for State Road 313, which in the future will be a major north-south thoroughfare.
“If the road wasn’t going through there, this would be a piece that would go up for sale. (But) some parcels might be more appropriate for exchange,” Monson said.
The district’s Board of Governors will review the list and then review the input that comes back from a series of public hearings scheduled.
A final determination by the board is expected at its Dec. 11 public meeting.
When the district began the study, it announced that any money made from selling a property must be used to buy other conservation lands.
“This isn’t a fire sale,” Monson said.
Public hearings about properties on the list are scheduled for:
* 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at St. Johns River Water Management District headquarters, Governing Board room, 4049 Reid St. (Highway 100 West), Palatka.
* 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, in the City Commission Chambers, Gainesville, 200 E. University Ave.
* 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, St. Johns County Auditorium, 500 Sebastian View, St. Augustine.
For information, call Theresa Monson at (904) 730-6258.
121022- South Florida dry season not to cause drought, water supply challenges
SoFL Business Journal
October 22, 2012
South Florida will likely not see the drought conditions or the water supply challenges of previous years this dry season, according to the South Florida Water Management District and the National Weather Service.
With water levels currently above average in key areas, South Florida is forecast to have one of the few dry seasons with near-average rainfall in the past 14 years.
“Water managers like to see water levels at their highest safe levels going into the dry season to protect water supplies,” said Susan Sylvester, chief of the water control operations bureau for the water management district. “While we still have the potential for significant rainfall this wet season, an average dry season should prevent the water supply concerns of the past several years.”
Among the official forecast highlights for the 2012 to 2013 South Florida dry season:
* Near normal precipitation is mostly likely during the first part of the dry season, from November to February.
* A drier-than-normal trend may characterize March and April.
* Average dry season precipitation to be 12 to 15 inches in the interior/west to 15 to 21 inches in the east.
* Long-term average winter temperature to be 64 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit in the interior/west to 67 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit in the east
Congressional candidates Patrick Murphy (D) and Allen West (R)
had a debate on a
WPTV News Channel 5
in West Palm Beach
121021-a Allen West vs. Patrick Murphy: Inside the debate
TCPalm.com - by Jonathan Mattise
October 21, 2012
WEST PALM BEACH — U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy traded jabs Friday during a debate at WPTV's studio, prompting smirks and raised eyebrows from both candidates while they cried foul on each other's accusations.
The hourlong discussion drifted from tax policy and stimulus spending, to Medicare plans, social issues and the nasty tenor of what BusinessWeek called the ugliest race in America.
Here is a deeper look at some of the candidates' claims:
West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, clung to their party-line sticking points in Medicare discussions. They also clashed by citing claims that many experts have ruled downright wrong in various other instances.
West pledged his support for GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which changes Medicare for everyone under 55 years old. The plan would offer premium support, or a voucher, for seniors to buy private insurance, or they could choose a plan similar to traditional Medicare. Seniors 55 and older would remain in traditional Medicare.
Murphy supports the Democratic Medicare stance to keep the program largely untouched.
"Under the Ryan plan, which my opponent voted for twice, and said it would be suicide to oppose, we ended Medicare as we know it," Murphy said.
As West referenced during the debate, the fact-checker PolitiFact ranked "Republicans voted to end Medicare" as the top lie of 2011. PolitiFact points out Medicare won't change for the 55 and older crowd; the program will still exist when the under-55 group is eligible, just in a privatized form that could increase seniors' costs; and that something resembling traditional Medicare will be offered. Democratic groups have argued the semantics of what "ending Medicare" means.
Murphy retorted that President Obama's health care reform actually extends the life of Medicare from 2016 to 2024. The plan uses $716 billion in savings over 10 years, which the president achieved through reduced payments for insurance companies, hospitals and providers — not patient care — to make Medicare solvent another eight years.
West, like many House Republicans, in ads has labeled the $716 billion number as a cut Democrats made to Medicare to pay for Obamacare. PolitiFact and other fact checkers have called that incorrect, since it wouldn't theoretically affect patient care.
Murphy brought up his opponent's TV ad that shows his face above the words, "Patrick Murphy cut Medicare $700 billion." The Democratic challenger pointed out he's never been in Congress and hasn't voted for any bill, though he supports Obama's health care plan. Murphy also argued West voted twice for the $700 billion cut in Ryan's plan.
West responded he never voted for the cut. PolitiFact recently disagreed, citing that the Ryan plan accounts for the same amount in cost savings. West campaign manager Tim Edson told The Hill, a Washington media outlet,the budget West voted for "takes into account the unfortunate reality that the Democrats' $716 billion cut to Medicare is currently law."
West also claimed the Ryan plan has bipartisan support, which fact checkers have debunked. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who West named specifically as a Ryan plan supporter, worked with Ryan on the plan's first draft. Wyden told The Washington Post that two big deviations from early drafts made him reconsider supporting Ryan's effort — Ryan wanted Obamacare repealed, and protections for dual Medicare-Medicaid eligible seniors would be pared down.
MURPHY'S RECORD, EVERGLADES DRILLING
West questioned Murphy's professional record, specifically his accounting background.
"I'm very concerned about you continuing to refer to yourself as a CPA, but as far as I understand, you are not certified or registered as a CPA in the state of Florida, and that means you are kind of misleading people," West said.
Murphy doesn't have a license in Florida, per the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He pointed out he is a CPA in Colorado, however.
"I've never hid that," Murphy said.
Murphy also was pressed to prove he's a small-business man. Murphy explained after college, he worked as a CPA with Deloitte & Touche. He was based in Miami from 2007 to 2010 after attending the University of Miami, his campaign said. He created a spinoff of his family business, Coastal Construction Group, to skim for oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill.
"That is a small business, and it is affiliated with a larger parent company," Murphy said.
After West suggested putting funding for Planned Parenthood toward Everglades restoration, Murphy accused West of "voting to allow oil drilling in the Everglades."
"Oh, that is really wrong," West interrupted with a smirk.
West pointed out that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., floated the idea of increased Everglades drilling during her presidency bid. But West, a proponent of offshore oil drilling, said the Everglades was "absolutely off-limits."
In the U.S. House, West voted against a Democratic amendment that, among other adjustments, banned oil drilling within five miles of the Everglades. The larger drilling bill, H.R. 3408, didn't spell out protections for the Everglades. West voted against the entire bill.
It's still early to tell how much the debate will sway voters in District 18. But it certainly can make a difference, said Florida Atlantic University Associate Professor Kevin Wagner.
Two independent polls last week came out completely different. A Scripps poll, conducted last Monday and Tuesday, had West up by 9 points. A tally released Friday by Sunshine State News, which used a conservative pollster, put West up by just 1 over Murphy.
The candidates have raised more than $18 million combined, and outside groups are flooding local TV airwaves with millions of dollars in ads, which means both parties think they're still in it, Wagner said.
"No group would waste money in any race that they deem either won or not winnable," Wagner said.
121021-b My governments have killed my St. Lucie River
TCPalm.com - Valerie Wright, Sewall's Point, FL
October 21, 2012
The South Florida Water Management District announced more releases of Lake Okeechobee into our already stressed and filthy St. Lucie River.
This amazing estuary is home to hundreds of species and serves as a nursery for ocean species as well. So why has our government killed our river?
No politicians on a state or national level have done anything to stop this massive destruction, essentially taking the river, and the life it should sustain, away from me, you, and our children.
With all the talk these days of the economy, politicians and candidates choose to ignore the importance of a healthy river to our community and its members who make their living from it in so many ways.
I wonder if our politicians have been fishing here, paddle boarding, pulled their kids tubing or skiing, or looked for hermit crabs on the banks of our river.
I also wonder how much they've received in campaign contributions from Big Sugar, an industry catered to by our government, one with little interest in clean estuaries.
How is it that the state of Florida could fast-track millions of dollars to help a company make movies, yet they somehow can't come up with any money for Everglades restoration?
It's heartbreaking to watch the Army Corps of Engineers and water district destroy what they should be protecting. My government has killed my river, and I am angry.
121020-a On sale of Florida environmental land, trust but verify
Jacksonville.com - by Ron Littlepage (Blog)
October 20, 2012
Florida’s taxpayers have wisely spent hundreds of millions of dollars to preserve environmentally sensitive land.
Properties purchased through programs such as Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever and placed into public ownership have been key in protecting our water resources, in providing recreational opportunities and in preserving the natural Florida that makes our state unique.
It’s understandable then that people get more than a little nervous when there is talk of selling some of that land, especially when it comes from a governor who doesn’t have a long-term connection to Florida and who has a record of favoring development over the environment.
One order that caught people’s attention earlier this year went to the state’s water management districts: Examine every acre the districts own and determine if any of it should be sold or used for different purposes.
For the St. Johns River Water Management District, that order covers about 600,000 acres purchased during the last 35 years.
The process is drawing to a close, and there’s been a sigh of relief as to what’s being recommended.
A draft report for the St. Johns River district says 571,513 acres, or 93 percent, should be retained as is.
An additional 6 percent could be put to a different use or sold but with conservation easements that would restrict development.
Only 1 percent, property the district considers to have low conservation value, would be sold outright.
But folks who live in the district’s 18-county service area shouldn’t click their heels just yet.
For instance, the district is recommending that 3,826 acres it owns in Clay County that currently is part of the Belmore State Forest be sold to a private entity.
The district would keep a conservation easement on the property that would restrict development and protect the natural resources.
But this is what would be lost: What is now open to the public for hunting, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, bicycling and wildlife viewing would become a private preserve.
The water management districts aren’t the only state agencies looking at selling public land.
The state Department of Environmental Protection also wants to put some of the land it owns on the market.
As part of its budget proposal for the next fiscal year, DEP is counting on $50 million from land sales rather than asking the Legislature to fund the Florida Forever program.
Like the water management districts, DEP says it would only sell land with a low conservation value and like the districts would only use the proceeds to buy conservation land that would better protect the environment.
In theory, this approach sounds reasonable, but the devil will be in the details.
Much of the land was purchased when the market was high.
Do we want to sell when the market is low?
While the land may appear to have a low conservation value, does it serve as a buffer that protects more sensitive areas?
And as mentioned above, what’s the cost of people losing access to property they now enjoy?
A popular phrase is being repeated often these days: Trust but verify.
That should be the public’s attitude as these land sales move forward.
121020-b The Future of Water
CounterPunch.org - by Alan Farago, President of Friends of the Everglades
October 20, 2012
On the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act .
When the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress forty years ago under a Republican administration, I was a clueless college undergraduate at Yale. Laws belonged to those serious looking law school students around the corner, perhaps including two I may have passed crossing the quad: Hilary Rodham and Bill Clinton. The environment ?
It seemed good to me. If I had been questioned, I could have testified, walking with school friends to the banks of the Providence River in Rhode Island to watch the river in flames like the Cuyahoga in Ohio, that triggered the calls for federal clean water standards.
The Clean Water Act in 1972 organized the array of economic and citizen interests in preventing contamination from overwhelming our rivers, streams, estuaries and bays. It provided the legal framework through which our democracy attempts to sort out growth and protection, development and mitigation, and the values of a society that often fall short of the aspirations of our Founding Fathers. It has been a part of my life in ways that my twenty-year old self would never have recognized. There, too, I might have had a premonition.
I grew up in the summer playing at the bay’s edge in a small town called Touisset. Although I was a child, I vividly recall the rough-edged baymen who were the last generation in a lineage stretching back to the Pilgrims who fed families from the bounty of the bay.
Some of them likely traced their ancestors to the original Tea Party in Boston Harbor. They – like commercial fishermen I respected in Florida decades later—were fiercely independent and didn’t invite the care of the federal government in any way. But when pollution interrupted the food chain, they were helpless themselves to protect an historic and honorable way of life. As a child, I couldn’t have argued ‘there ought to be a law’, but as an adult I never made much headway persuading people disinclined to believe that government could solve the riddle of disappearing fish and marine life.
It is popular, today, to condemn federal regulations and laws like the Clean Water Act passed by Congress on October 18, 1972. But you have to remember, the states weren’t doing their job keeping the waters clean, just like state agencies aren’t doing the job today in Florida.
There is a tendency to bury the need for federal regulations in easily packaged canards. For example, “one size does not fit all”. But there should be no equivocating when it comes to clean water. We should no more compromise on clean water standards that are truly protective of human health and the environment than we should our national parks. Florida, Ohio, Nevada or Colorado don’t equivocate on the Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence: nor should the states equivocate on the need for strong, tough federal laws protecting clean water.
The Clean Water Act gives citizens hope that governmental agencies will follow their own laws, holding polluters to account for the cost of their pollution. Sometimes, we the taxpayers are those polluters. One of the most important points of the Clean Water Act is that it allows citizens, if they prevail, to recoup attorney’s fees and litigation costs. This provision of the Clean Water Act is extraordinarily important, because it provides a thin measure of hope.
In the 1980’s, I was a young father with a growing family and was struck how the deterioration of Florida Bay that I learned to treasure from the bow of a fishing skiff resembled in many ways what happened in the 1960’s, when the largest coal-fired power plant in New England– in Fall River, Massachusetts—raised bay water temperatures through outfalls. From one summer to the next the entire ecology of the bay, changed. One summer I was watching silver minnows slashing through the shallows in great formations. The next summer they were gone and didn’t return.
Today I am president of Friends of the Everglades. Friends is a grass-roots organization in Miami, founded by an icon of the national environmental movement, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, in 1969. Marjory was a fierce advocate for “doing the right thing”, and she knew perfectly well that powerful, wealthy polluters like Big Sugar were determined to extract every ounce of leverage from state and local jurisdictions. Only the federal interest in the irreplaceable wetlands that require nourishment by clean water blocks exploiters who nonetheless obtain permits and cover their legal tracks.
In recent years, Friends has used the Clean Water Act in several ground breaking lawsuits. Along with our co-plaintiff, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, Friends sued the EPA under the Clean Water Act for failing to hold the state of Florida accountable to the law, prohibiting phosphorous pollution of the Everglades in minute quantities that nevertheless fundamentally change to quality of the faded River of Grass; a national treasure all Americans have rallied to restore. In 2012, our Clean Water Act litigation resulted in nearly $1 billion committed to the Everglades by the state and federal government.
We also used the Clean Water Act to attempt to clarify water transfers from a polluted source to a receiving water body. Jurisdictions around the nation paid extraordinarily close attention to our suit, that carried all the way to the US Supreme Court. We lost in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and our appeal died in the US Supreme Court.
The Clean Water Act is not perfect. If you are an environmental plaintiff, it can take many, many years for resolution. You can win the battle and the lose war. In the early 2000′s, after nearly a decade, a Sierra Club victory against the expansion of rock mines at the edge of the Everglades consumed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although the environmentalists won in court, the rock miners spent millions to drag the case out by which time contested permits for wetlands destruction were simply replaced by new ones signed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the last forty years, environmentalists have waged continuous battles at all levels of government, as local and state regulations have fallen beneath the notion that enlightened self interest by polluters is a better motivation that federal law. Anyone who has attended a county commission meeting in Florida, where permitting defaults from one layer of inefficiency to the state, knows the importance of federal authority. Yet the defenders of federal authority — perhaps they even attended Yale and other prestigious law schools in the 1970′s — silently cheerlead from the sidelines as the rules protecting the environment are thrown to the lions and tigers.
Like the flag at Fort Sumter in 1861, the Clean Water Act stands. On its fortieth anniversary, I am older and grayer but also wise enough to know that if radical extremists succeed in shrinking the size of government so it can fit and be drowned in a bathtub, the pollution they discharge from that bathtub will still be governed by the Clean Water Act.
121019- Innovative practices showcased to Global Roundtable for Sustainab
October 19, 2012
The ability of cattle ranchers in central Florida to partner with public water agencies in developing sustainable practices was recently showcased to representatives of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Representatives from four continents comprising beef producers, processors, retailers and other organizations working toward continuous improvement in sustainable practices in the beef industry met at the Archbold Biological Station near Venus, Fla., for GRSB’s semi-annual executive board meeting in early October.
"The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is an exciting new organization that brings together key players in the beef value chain to focus on important global issues and initiatives in the beef production system," said Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and chief sustainability officer at JBS USA. "By working together to identify best practices across the chain -- from the producer to the final delivery of beef to the consumer -- we can put innovative and valuable ideas into action."
The purpose of the meeting was to further develop understanding of sustainable practices in the beef industry though interaction, discussion and observation of in-field projects. The GRSB
representatives experienced an intimate look at efforts of beef producers in helping to protect Florida's Everglades by storing water resources. The Everglades is a natural region of subtropical wetlands in the southern portion of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Through modifications to privately held properties, beef producers are able to store water that may be released in times of drought in order to ensure the Everglades are protected.
The ranchers, while providing a valuable service to the environment, are able to achieve added value to their own operations by contracting with regional water resource agencies, which increases their financial sustainability. In addition, the enhanced habitat developed for wildlife in that area further sustains the natural balance of production and nature.
"By touring the Lykes Brothers Ranch nutrient retention project where excess nutrients are naturally removed from the watershed, GRSB representatives were able to see sustainability in action," said Bryan Weech, GRSB vice president and director of livestock agriculture for World Wildlife Fund.
In the Lykes Bros. project, regional water from Florida's Indian Prairie Canal is pumped onto a 2,500-acre site and gradually flows over it before being returned to the canal. During the process, particles containing excess nutrients are filtered from the water column by native vegetation. Initial indications are that the West Water Hole Project is capable of reducing phosphorus concentrations by 56% while retaining more than 5,000 acre feet of water that would otherwise potentially be discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. "This illustrates a very visible and valuable partnership between landowners and the public to make significant environmental gains," added Weech.
The development of GRSB grew out of a November 2010 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, the first ever conference of its kind, which laid the groundwork for establishing a multi-stakeholder initiative by achieving greater clarity and deepening alignment around the key issues that influence the sustainability of the beef production system.
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is a global multi-stakeholder roundtable initiative aimed at creating continuous improvement in the beef supply chain, by supporting activities that deliver science-based measureable outcomes focused on the issues that are a high priority to stakeholders.
121018-a Advice for the Clean Water Act on turning 40
NRDC blog – by Jon Devine
October 18, 2012
It’s the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act. As those of us who have passed the big 4-Oh have experienced, that birthday has some real significance; it certainly made me reflect on my life so far and what I wanted to do with the second half of it. (It’s also a time for a great big party, and I hope the Act gets one as good as I had, when my wife – defying all odds to deliver on a preposterous request I made – arranged for me to take batting practice inside Fenway Park.)
Because I have a few (but just a few!) years on the Act, I have some life lessons to pass on as it hits 40. Lesson 1: Exercise.
As I neared 40, I’d gotten very comfy on the couch and was out of shape. So, I committed to my bike commute, even on cold days, and to be active virtually every day. I’m no Tom Brady today, but I am healthy.
The Act needs to get exercise as well: the robust authority that the law provides needs to be fully implemented. Unless these provisions are used, our waters will be more polluted than the law envisions. Unfortunately, there are dozens of ways in which the law has been underused or unimplemented, and some real big items among them. Here’s a workout regimen for the Act:
● Protecting Headwater Streams and Wetlands: Headwater streams and wetlands currently lack clear protection under the Clean Water Act, despite the fact that they absorb flood waters, filter pollutants from contaminated water, contribute to the drinking water supply of 117 million Americans, support fish and waterfowl, and feed our rivers and lakes. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a set of guidelines in April 2011 for identifying protected waters that are critical to public health, safety, and aquatic ecosystems, but they haven’t yet been issued. EPA and the Corps must finalize this guidance promptly and develop more durable rules to provide long-term clarity about what is protected.
● Controlling Urban and Suburban Runoff Pollution: Nationwide, EPA estimates that urban stormwater runoff is the primary source of water quality impairment for 13% of all rivers and streams, 18% of all lakes, and 32% of all estuaries. At ocean and Great Lakes beaches in 2011, polluted runoff and stormwater caused or contributed to 10,954 beach closing or swimming advisory days. EPA is currently developing regulations to require runoff controls for certain commercial and residential properties. EPA must develop and implement reformed regulations promptly, and the regulations must require drive the use of green infrastructure to control stormwater runoff pollution from developed sites.
● Restoring Treasured Waters: Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from livestock operations, sewage discharges, and other pollution sources bring about harmful algae blooms, nasty slime that can produce harmful toxins and that can rob water bodies of the oxygen that fish and other animals need to live. These pollutants are also causing significant harm in the Chesapeake Bay, Florida, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and in waterways around the nation. EPA has begun implementing an ambitious cleanup blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay, and it has set limits for these pollutants in some Florida waters, but it has punted on doing more elsewhere. EPA must fully implement the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, finalize (and not backtrack on) nitrogen and phosphorus limits for all Florida waters, and it must set standards to protect other treasured waters around the country from similar pollution threats.
● Reining In Pollution from Waste Dumping in America’s Waterways: Mountaintop removal coal mining practices have enormous pollution impacts, burying miles of streams under mining waste and contaminating downstream waterways. The Obama administration has taken some steps to protect Appalachian communities from these impacts, but has failed to pursue the most comprehensive solution to this problem. The administration should reverse the Bush administration’s rule that classified many kinds of waste as “fill” material that the Corps could authorize industrial operators to dump in our waters.
● Curbing Pollution from Livestock Factories: Waste from large factory farms – also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) – fouls water bodies across the U.S. with bacteria, nutrients, and other harmful pollutants. As a government analysis noted, these facilities generate as much or more waste as whole cities. So it was sad when EPA recently backed off from a modest proposal to simply collect information from these operations. EPA must immediately require CAFOs to submit critical information, make the results available for public scrutiny, and craft stronger regulations for discharges from CAFOs.
● Protecting Swimmers from Waterborne Illness: Under the federal BEACH Act, EPA is responsible for ensuring that coastal recreational waters are safe; as part of that obligation, the agency is supposed to identify allowable pollution levels —called "criteria" in the Clean Water Act—to protect public health. Swimmers can get a variety of ailments from exposure to water contaminated by urban runoff and sewage spills. The EPA proposed health criteria treat as acceptable far too many of these illnesses. EPA must finalize criteria that adequately protect beach goers.
● Preventing Power Plants from Killing Fish: Industrial cooling water intake structures cause adverse environmental impact by pulling large numbers of fish and shellfish or their eggs into a power plant’s or factory’s cooling system. EPA has proposed regulations for cooling water intake structures, but the rule is far too weak to protect the aquatic environment. More protective standards are possible at a reasonable cost to industry and with no adverse effects on electric reliability or consumer prices. EPA must issue final regulations that include a national categorical standard based on the performance of closed-cycle cooling systems. Lesson 2: Know who you are and don’t let the haters change you.
A good thing about turning 40 is that by that time you've probably realized that you are what you are and, hopefully, embraced it. In the decade between 30 and 40, I came to NRDC and found I had a passion for protecting water; decided that the coolest thing I could be was my parents' son, my kids' dad and my wife's husband; and stopped being embarrassed about loving John Denver. I became proud of who I was and nobody was going to shake me of that view.
So, to the Act and its supporters, I say: be comfortable with what it is – an enormously powerful, comprehensive and, as a result, successful law – and don't let people who care more about profit or political points change how the law is implemented. Doing so will require vigilance, as the polluters’ friends in Congress, particularly Republicans in the House of Representatives, have repeatedly attacked Clean Water Act protections. Modest and even really weak clean water regulations and administrative actions have been the target of stand-alone bills or “riders” in government spending bills. Listing all of these attacks will take too much space and is frankly too dispiriting, but suffice it to say that they include:
● Bills and riders that attack an Obama administration initiative to use the best science and to clarify the law concerning small streams and wetlands to identify those resources covered by the Act. There really isn’t a more fundamental issue.
● Attempts to curb EPA oversight of destructive dumping proposals, including the national shame that is mountaintop removal coal mining.
● Efforts to stop the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and waterways throughout Florida.
● A blunderbuss assault on the basic federal safety net of protections that Congress built into the Act to ensure that minimum uniform protections existed nationwide. The White House accurately said that this bill “would roll back the key provisions of the CWA that have been the underpinning of 40 years of progress in making the Nation’s waters fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.”
● A rider that aims to stop work on a critical EPA effort to update the national rules governing urban and suburban runoff.
● The looming “fiscal cliff,” and negotiations to avoid it, which could threaten the implementation of the law and the support it provides for job-creating clean water projects.
Fortunately, although these efforts have gained traction in, or passed, the House, they have not gone further. I hope that’s because our leaders in Washington understand that the law has been extremely effective – it has led to a huge increase in the percentage of waterways that are now clean enough for all their uses, such as swimming and fishing, and it has dramatically slowed the rate of wetlands loss, to name a couple of benefits. And, just in case being popular does matter, the Act and its friends can take comfort in the overwhelming popularity of the law and of initiatives to improve water quality. In polls over more than two decades, water issues consistently dominate the list of Americans’ top environmental concerns; in April, Gallup noted: “the three water concerns in this year's poll have ranked as the top three concerns over any other environmental problems nearly every time they have been asked since 1989. Pollution of drinking water has most often been the top concern.” Lesson 3: Always welcome new friends into your life.
Finally, life’s too darn short and the world is too full of interesting people whose experiences enrich your own to be a homebody. Thanks in large part to opportunities to meet the parents of my kids’ friends, I’ve enjoyed my late 30s and early 40s immensely.
The Act also needs new friends. Groups like NRDC – which was there to assist with the birth of the Act – will of course continue to be important advocates for keeping it strong, as well as critical partners in enforcing the law against polluters. But I am convinced that the law will be guaranteed a long and happy life when clean water organizations are joined by businesses, community organizations, and labor groups to insist on maintaining the Act because of the economic and employment benefits that flow from clean water and from projects that maintain and improve it.
And I’m delighted to say that this is happening. As Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All (a group that works to raise people out of poverty by fostering a sustainable economy), describes so eloquently in a recent Huffington Post piece:
If we hope to protect America's waterways, we need to support the EPA in enforcing Clean Water Act safeguards. One of the most important ways to do that is by investing in green stormwater infrastructure -- and we'll put millions of Americans to work in the process. But we need our leaders to act now, because when it comes to solving our water crisis, we simply can't afford to wait.
The accompanying video provides some terrific case studies, similar to NRDC’s report, “Rooftops to Rivers.”
Similarly, this week, the Blue-Green Alliance, a collaboration between labor and conservation advocates, put out a compelling policy statement, called “Clean Water, Good Jobs,” which staunchly defended the role of clean water safeguards in a healthy economy and in fostering American jobs. BGA noted: “Water protection, infrastructure, and efficiency investments offer significant opportunities to create good jobs that strengthen our economy and our communities, safeguard human health, and protect our environment.”
And, as my colleague Karen Hobbs points out today, a number of craft beer brewers have joined NRDC in toasting the Clean Water Act and its importance to their brews.
So, from one fortysomething to another, happy birthday to the Clean Water Act. Many happy returns !
121018-b Is it really a good idea to boot the Army Corps ?
TCPalm.com - by Eve Samples
October 18, 2012
The same state lawmaker who drew the ire of anglers and environmentalists when he tried to do away with fishing licenses last year now believes he has a solution for the ailing St. Lucie River.
State Sen.Joe Negron is asking Congress to strip the Army Corps of Engineers of its power to manage water levels in Lake Okeechobee — the source of polluted freshwater now gushing into the river.
"They're engineers that build things, and it's a quasi-military operation," the Republican from Stuart said Wednesday. "It's a completely bad fit to manage water."
Negron accused the corps of overstating the risks posed by the Herbert Hoover Dike that runs 143 mile around the lake, and of using the dike as justification for prematurely sending polluted water to the St. Lucie River.
He wants to bring control closer to home, by giving decision-making power to a state agency — either the South Florida Water Management District or the Department of Environmental Protection.
The public would have more chance to weigh in on the releases since the agencies are run by gubernatorial appointees, Negron said. And that, he hopes, will cut the chances of pollution-laden releases to the St. Lucie River.
Recent releases from the lake have killed oyster beds and are linked to dangerous bacteria levels in the river. The Martin County Health Department posted signs at the river's edge last week, warning people to stay out.
Residents are desperate for a solution — but river advocate Karl Wickstrom isn't so sure it involves moving control of Lake O from the feds to the state.
"It's not a practical thing, and it will take a lot of time and effort away from what ought to be done," said Wickstrom, the founder and publisher of Florida Sportsman magazine.
The ultimate solution, Wickstrom and other river advocates maintain, is to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee to restore the southward flow of water to the Everglades — the panacea for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
"There's absolutely no solution other than that, other than to send water south and to have it treated by nature," Wickstrom said.
He questioned Negron's motives.
"He's one of the worst at coming up with brainstorm things," Wickstrom said. "Last year he wanted to do away with fishing licenses. So much of fisheries management is financed by the licenses. They're essential."
Wickstrom dismissed the idea that state agencies would be more sensitive to the St. Lucie River's needs. The South Florida Water Management District sided with the Army Corps in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the lake releases. River advocates, backed by the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund that Wickstrom is part of, ultimately lost the suit.
We also know that the feds have had to intervene on water-quality issues when the state has failed to over the years.
Are these the agencies we want controlling the flood gates?
Although leaders at the Army Corps would never admit it, they might not mind giving up Lake Okeechobee. It would remove them from the line of fire.
"Certainly if Congress wants to change direction on how it operates Lake Okeechobee, the corps in its finest tradition is going to salute and say, 'Yes sir,'" said John Campbell, a spokesman for the Army Corps.
So, are any congressmen willing to take Negron's idea and run with it?
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said he agrees with Negron philosophically but doesn't want the region to lose federal money by severing ties with the Army Corps.
"We're still paying the federal government with the expectation that the Army Corps is going to be spending money in our district," Rooney said.
Rooney is leaving the Treasure Coast to run in a new congressional district and will be replaced by either U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Republican, or Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
Both sent me statements responding to Negron's proposal. The St. Lucie River may be the one thing these fierce rivals can agree on.
Murphy said he thought "Sen. Negron's ideas should be considered, given that the Army Corps does not seem to have a good handle on the situation."
West said Negron "brings up valid environmental concerns with the recent release of water from Lake Okeechobee."
Neither committed to filing a bill.
Negron wants Congress to "act immediately" to strip power from the Army Corps.
With this Congress, I hope he's not holding his breath. Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
121018-c USF professor named director at Water Institute of the Gulf
Tampa Bay Business Journal
October 18, 2012,
Veteran researcher and University of South Florida Professor Ernst Peebles has been named director of coastal systems ecology at The Water Institute of the Gulf in Louisiana.
Peebles is an associate professor at USF's College of Marine Science, where he has served as lead investigator on projects with more than $7 million in public, not-for-profit and private funding, according to a statement.
He has also been on faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Southern Mississippi, and been a reviewer for the National Academy of Science and the National Science Foundation, the statement said.
The Water Institute of the Gulf, located in Baton Rouge, is a not-for-profit, independent research institute that focuses on coastal and deltaic systems.
L-G Thomas BOSTICK
121017-a Army Corps Commander tours Everglades project
October 17, 2012
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reviewed progress being made on the Tamiami Trail Modifications project, part of the largest environmental restoration projects the agency is handling.
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, took an airboat ride during his visit to the Everglades on Oct. 10 as he reviewed the environmental restoration work being performed by ACE's Jacksonville District and partnering agencies. "USACE has one of the largest environmental restoration and sustainability roles in the federal government, and the Everglades restoration is our largest project of this kind," Bostick said, according to an ACE news release. "After viewing firsthand the enormous challenges facing Everglades restoration and meeting with our partners in this effort, I am absolutely convinced that working together, we can achieve restoration goals and improve this ecological treasure for future generations."
Bostick visited the Tamiami Trail Modifications project site in Miami-Dade County, which is sponsored by the National Park Service, and met with Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District commander, and members of the project team to discuss the ongoing construction at the site. "Progress continues to be made in Everglades restoration," Dodd said. "This progress is contingent upon the commitment of this district and our partnering agencies. Through a dedicated and collaborative effort, we will not only continue to move forward in our restoration goals, but also fulfill our obligation to the nation to preserve this national treasure."
The $81 million Tamiami Trail project began in 2010. It includes construction of a one-mile bridge and raising and reinforcing an additional 9.7 miles of road, allowing increased water flows to Everglades National Park that are considered essential to the health and viability of the Everglades.
"A major construction milestone for the Tamiami Trail Modifications project was reached July 13 as the first concrete pour on the bridge deck was completed," said Tim Brown, Jacksonville District project manager. "This milestone signified the start toward the end of the project's bridge construction. However, there is still more work to do, and it is our collective discipline that will ensure our project's success."
121017-b Congress must strip Army Corps of Engineers' authority over Lake Okeechobee
TCPalm.com – by Joe Negron, R-Stuart, represents District 32, which includes Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties, in the Florida Senate.
October 17, 2012
Control should be under regional, Florida management that would be more accountable.
Once again the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is polluting the St. Lucie Estuary with billions of gallons of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee. The Army Corps' actions are unwarranted and their justification is flawed.
While I respect the history and mission of the Army Corps, decisions about managing Lake Okeechobee and surrounding waterways should be made by scientists and water managers working within a modern environmental agency controlled by an elected official who is accountable to the voters.
Simply put, the Army Corps is impervious to public input and can unilaterally make decisions that are devastating to our community, even when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District disagree. Congress should immediately act to remove control of Lake Okeechobee from the Army Corps. Let's review how we got here.
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest freshwater lake wholly within the United States. The lake is essential for Everglades restoration. Through 2011, Florida has contributed more than $300 million through direct state appropriations and Water Management District funding to meet the requirements of the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act. The Army Corps is rehabilitating the Herbert Hoover Dike to shore up the aging structure at a cost of $10 million per mile for 50 miles. The first round of this project will be complete in 2013.
While the Corps claims that public safety is its top priority, it ignores the calamitous results actually inflicted on the St. Lucie Estuary. Its erroneous logic goes something like this: In order to avoid possible harm, we will inflict certain harm. The Army Corps is killing our oyster beds and sea grasses, while turning the St. Lucie River into a grotesque brown cesspool unfit for swimming or fishing. What can be done ? First, it's never a good idea to allow important policy decisions to be made by people you can't vote for or against at regular intervals. Congress should strip the Army Corps of its ability to make complex environmental determinations and place that authority with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Water Management District. Second, the Legislature should continue its commitment to acquisition of land so that necessary discharges can flow south into storage areas where the water can be cleaned and reutilized. Third, the district has put approximately 165,000 acres into public ownership for Kissimmee River Restoration, which can hold more water north of Lake Okeechobee and reduce the need for the grievous discharges currently being inflicted upon us by the Army Corps. We must continue restoration projects that will allow Lake Okeechobee to be appropriately maintained without destroying the St. Lucie Estuary.
For more than a decade, I have watched as a parade of different Army Corps representatives come to Martin County, listen politely, pack their briefcases, head back to Jacksonville or Atlanta, and keep right on flooding our community with billions of gallons of polluted water. Continuing to plead our case, with no leverage or power, is a strategy preordained to failure.
Our Florida congressional delegation, which is two members stronger this year after reapportionment, must act swiftly to jettison the Army Corps' scheme and start over with Florida's leading scientists and water managers. In the meantime, I will do everything I can in the Florida Senate to promote policies and secure funding that protects and enhances the St. Lucie Estuary.
121017-c FGCU ecological expert series begins Thursday
October 17, 2012
Florida Gulf Coast University is hosting an ecological expert series starting Thursday, Oct. 18 at the school’s new Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples.
"This lecture series is designed for FGCU students and faculty but especially for the general public," said William J. Mitsch, the recently-appointed director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park. "All of our invited speakers can relate well to general audiences and all have important ecological messages to tell. Think of them as live versions of the interviews you see on the Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel. The speakers are world class, and the issues they will talk about are important to Southwest Florida and the country. We hope to bring the best of the best every year to Naples."
The series launches at 7 p.m. Thursday night with Maria Hernandez from the Institute of Ecology at Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Hernandez will be speaking about tropical wetland ecology and management. She is one of eight speakers that will be featured in the series, which runs from October through March of 2013. The series is open to the public.
For more information, contact Dr. Mitsch at (239) 325-1365 or email@example.com.
121017-d Lake Worth Draining District seeks to secure control of $700 million reservoir project
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 17, 2012
The agency behind recent efforts to build a massive $700 reservoir for the region wants taxpayers, water managers, utilities and a mining company to know it has no intention of relinquishing oversight either of the project or its own canal system — the artery needed to move water from the proposed reservoir to users throughout South Florida.
“Governance seems to be one of the issues a lot of people are stuck on,” said Woody Wodraska, the Lake Worth Drainage District’s project consultant, during the district’s governing board meeting Wednesday.
Wodraska proposed the district issue a position statement detailing its responsibilities and affirming its role as lead agency. “They’re all saying, ‘What is everybody’s position on this thing? Where is Lake Worth on this thing?’ ” Wodraska said.
For years water managers have discussed the need for a reservoir to meet the region’s growing demands. Two years ago the district, which owns the canals, agreed to oversee the project, including financing.
But the district saw its control of the project jeopardized this year when mining company Palm Beach Aggregates announced it would build the reservoir on its own and without tax dollars. The company would sell storage in the reservoir to local utilities. As owner of the reservoir, the company would set the price for storage through “capacity allocation agreements” with the utilities.
The district, a public regulatory body governed by an elected board, controls the canals but could lose that control if an agreement cannot be reached between it, Palm Beach Aggregates and other water managers and utilities, officials said. The legislature could then step in and create a regional water authority to oversee the system, they said.
“We’ve got the whole deck of cards in our hand,” board member David Goodlett said. “We don’t want to be force-fed, nor do we want to be force-feeding.”
Because the plan has changed so much over the last two years and is still evolving, Wodraska said a position paper is needed “so there isn’t any confusion on the position of the Lake Worth Drainage District.” According to a position statement proposed by Wodraska on Wednesday, an advisory committee with representatives from the district, public utilities and Palm Beach Aggregates would govern the project “in an open and transparent manner.”
The drainage district’s plan also calls for the South Florida Water Management District to run the reservoir and the drainage district to operate and maintain its canals, which would move the water south to Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The drainage district would make no profit for allowing use of its canals and all money related to operations would be held by a trustee.
The South Florida Water Management District is expected to consider the proposal at its governing board in November.
121017-e When polluters attack the Clean Water Act
EarthJustice.org – by Joan Mulhern
October 17, 2012
Should we still have waste, raw sewage in our water after 40 years ?
Clean water is one of Earth’s most precious resources. Life is not possible without clean water. Thursday is the 40th anniversary of our nation’s most important law to protect clean water and end water pollution: the Clean Water Act of 1972.
This is a great law whose goals include making all waters safe for fishing, swimming, and drinking, and to end the use of our lakes, rivers, streams and oceans as dumping grounds for pollution.
Yet some polluters are today trying to shred this fundamental law. Coal companies, paper mills, industrial facilities, gas and oil drillers, fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers and others have long been engaged in a campaign to roll back clean water safeguards.
Perhaps most outrageous of all are the efforts by sewage treatment plant operators and their lobbying arm—using public dollars—to tear down a basic building block of the Clean Water Act: the command to end the use of our waterways for the discharge of untreated human waste.
I know it sounds gross—and it is. Untreated sewage makes people who come into contact with it sick, and it costs enormous sums of money to clean it out of our drinking water supplies. But every year, billions of gallons of untreated sewage go into out rivers and lakes. Hello? Isn’t this the 21st century?
And sewage is still being dumped into our waters ?
The EPA and clean water groups like Earthjustice have been working for years to get cities to stop violating the law by dumping sewage into waters. But even now, on the brink of the law’s 40th anniversary, sewage agencies and their front groups are trying to further put off the day when the Clean Water Act’s goal of ending the discharge of untreated waste becomes a reality.
An association now called the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (formerly the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies) and members such as D.C. Water (the public brand-name for the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA)) have greenwashed their names but not cleaned up their act. They have cozied up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to some water advocacy groups that do not know any better to claim to support clean water. Indeed, these water utilities have implemented some of the most significant pollution control successes since the Clean Water Act was enacted—but that has happened largely thanks to citizen suits and enforcement actions compelling them to do so under court order. Now these same utilities are seeking policies to weaken and delay Congress’ command to stop raw sewage from being dumped in our waters.
Right here in our nation’s capital, for example, “D.C. Water” is seeking to put off for another 8 years compliance with deadlines to drastically reduce the overflow of untreated sewage into the Potomac River and Rock Creek. After a long fight initiated by Earthjustice and our local partners, D.C. Water got a 20-year schedule to clean up its overflowing sewers—a long schedule to begin with, that gave the agency time to develop a plan for dealing with the cost of clean up. Now they’re asking for an 8-year extension, and offering very little in return for the delay. They say they want time to study low impact development, but that time was already built into their 20 year implementation schedule.
Now that it’s apparent D.C. Water squandered its time, the agency is complaining about the stringency of its obligations. They compare D.C.’s relatively stringent obligations to those of other cities that have negotiated weaker requirements and longer compliance deadlines. If you ask us, the nation’s capital should be a leader in clean water, not the leader in a race to the bottom of a sewage-filled river.
Unfortunately, the same kind of request for delays and weaker standards is playing out all across the country, with support from lobbying associations like NACWA. If given their wish, these utilities will only succeed in unfairly saddling future generations with the cost of cleaning up our water pollution problems. This flies in the face of the Clean Water Act, which aimed to clean up sewage as much if not more than any other form of water pollution.
When the law was passed four decades ago, one of its chief authors, Senator Ed Muskie of Maine, asked the country: “Can we afford clean water ? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make possible life on this planet? Can we afford life itself ? Those questions were never asked as we destroyed the waters of our Nation, and they deserve no answers as we finally move to restore and renew them. These questions answer themselves. And those who say that raising the amounts of money called for in this legislation may require higher taxes, or that spending this much money may contribute to inflation simply do not understand the language of this crisis.”
Hooray for Senator Muskie, and the overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House and Senate for being visionary enough to pass a law to end water pollution. That is what we should be celebrating on the anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
121016-a Blame the Moon for S. Florida’s tidal flooding
October 16, 2012
MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Parts of South Florida continue to flood due to the annual autumnal high tides which cause canals, rivers and coastlines to flood without any rain.
Typically, South Florida sees flooding from heavy rain but in this case, we can blame the flooding on the moon.
Each year, sometimes up to twice a year, the sun, earth and moon line up just right to create higher than normal tides. Right now, the moon is a little closer than normal and during the morning, lines up with the sun to produce a greater pull on the oceans. This pull can be predicted as easily as the time of sun rise or moon phase. Tuesday’s peak tide took place around 9:49 a.m. Wednesday is 10:39 a.m. and Thursday’s is 11:31 a.m.
During these peak tide times, low roads are likely to flood such as West Avenue, Alton Road and Purdy Avenue on
Miami Beach. Because South Florida’s storm water system depend on gravity to drain excess water to the ocean, these high tides can also flow back up into the drainage systems along the coast and canals, flooding streets and other areas.
It’s also important to remember that the flood water is coming from rising sea water which is salt water and salty water can cause rusting and corrosion of your car.
121016-b Water managers pumping water out of Caloosahatchee
FOX-4now.com - WFTX-TV - by Liza Fernandez
October 16, 2012
HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. - Emergency action underway to help Southwest Florida's delicate ecosystem.
Water managers are -- for the first time -- diverting freshwater from the Calooshatchee River to help maintain a healthy balance of fresh and salt water along the Southwest Florida coast.
They're storing it at the future home of the C-43 reservoir in Hendry County.
It's part of the bigger Everglades Restoration Project and has been in the works since 2005.
But with all the rainfall since Hurricane Isaac, water managers decided now is a good a time as any to flood the land.
"We looked at this site about a week and half ago and thought we could do things here. A little bit of engineering last week and here we are pumping water on the site, explains Jeff Kivett with the South Florida Water Management District.
This test is the first step of a long-term solution to water quality problems in Southwest Florida.
"We're moving water from the Caloosahatchee on to the site to actually store it instead of discharging it into the estuary," says Kivett.
Water managers moved into action after the Army Corps of Engineers stepped up fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee about a month ago.
These releases put an abundance of fresh water into the estuary, dropping the salinity.
And when that balance of fresh and salt water is off, it has an impact on everything from sea grasses to the fisheries adds Kivett.
Two 42-inch pumps are moving about 150,000 gallons of water per minute to the site.
That's enough to fill 10 residential swimming pools in just one minute!
And soon this 11-thousand acre test site will be flooded.
But one day, there could be water stored here as far as the eye could see.
"A lot of people depend on the environment, so to us this is a very good first step of trying to help that out," says Kivett.
Before the project can be competed and fully operational, it still needs congressional authorization and funding.
No word when that will be.
Prof. W.D. GRAHAM
121015-a ADS - Sponsored ASABE Award Presented to Wendy D. Graham
MRO Magazine (Press Release)
October 15, 2012
HILLIARD, Ohio -- Wendy D. Graham of the University of Florida, Gainesville was named the recipient of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2012 ADS Soil and Water Engineering Award. She was recognized, in part, for her contributions in the development of innovative hydrologic modeling techniques, and for establishing and leading a major water research institute. Sponsored by ADS, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of storm water management systems, the ASABE award recognizes Graham's contributions and leadership in the science and management of water.
Graham is the Carl. S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Director of the Water Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville. She is a 23-year member of ASABE and has served on Soil and Water and Education Division Committees, on the Board of Trustees, and has held various officer level positions in the Florida Section of the ASABE, including chair.
"Wendy Graham has contributed so much to her school and to the industry, it is a pleasure to honor her and recognize her achievements with this award," stated Tori Durliat, Director of Marketing for ADS. "Her research, stochastic modeling and data assimilation techniques for application to a variety of hydrologic and agricultural problems have helped crop growth in all agricultural systems.”
"She has authored or co-authored 121 journal articles, conference proceedings, technical publications and book chapters. Wendy Graham is a leader, innovator and mentor whose value to our world of efficient water management will continue for many years. As for ADS, we will also continue to be part of the ASABE and this award in the future."
Called one of its most prestigious honors by the Society, the ADS Soil and Water Engineering Award recognizes noteworthy contributions to the advancement of soil and water engineering in teaching, research, planning, design construction, management or materials development.
ADS has sponsored the ASABE award since 1966. It was presented to Graham at the 2012 ASABE Annual International Meeting.
121015-b Department of Agriculture hopes to boost Lake Okeechobee protection
Oct. 15, 2012
The Department of Agriculture wants lawmakers to let it spend $5 million on a program to develop best management practices for ranches and farms around Lake Okeechobee, and in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River watersheds.
In a legislative budget request sent to Gov. Rick Scott and released Monday, the agency said it needs to put the program in place to reduce phosphorus loads in the water systems.
The Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Act, or NEEPA, signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, required the development of best management practices for reducing nutrient flow into the water bodies, but the Department of Agriculture said in its budget documents that it's never been adequately paid for.
"The appropriations provided to the Department in previous fiscal years are inadequate and represent only a portion of the funds identified in the plan for restoration," the agency said.
"The Department’s request is for additional funding that is in accordance with the Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan …. The implementation of agricultural (best management practices) is critical to reducing the historical phosphorus loads to Lake Okeechobee and its tributaries."
United Waterfowlers Florida
121015-c Monkeywrenching our environmental legacy
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
October 15, 2012
Recently a coalition of the major conservation organizations in Florida announced a campaign to gather signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment to restore funding to the state’s Florida Forever conservation land-buying program.
Backers of the campaign called Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, are hoping to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the 2014 general election ballot.
The sponsors of the amendment include major statewide conservation organizations such as Audubon of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Florida Trail Association, The Trust for Public Land, 1000 Friends of Florida and The Nature Conservancy as well as a number of local conservation organizations.
But support from outdoors enthusiasts is not unanimous.
One group that won’t be supporting the amendment is United Waterfowlers of Florida, hunting group with a number of members in Polk County.
Its board issued a statement recently opposing the amendment as written.
United Waterfowlers make two main points.
One is that they don’t want the money to be used for anything but land preservation.
The other is that they’d like to use another funding source than the one being proposed even though the proposed funding source is identical to the one that has been used in the past before the Florida Legislature raided the fund for other uses.
In a statement, United Waterfowlers said it objects to wording it says would “permit funds to be subverted from conservation spending to build nature centers, art galleries, hiking and equestrian trails, kiosks, stables, shooting ranges, and a broad range of other amenities and facilities which benefit special interests but do not help to acquire lands, create easements, or restore habitat.”
What the proposed amendment actually says is this:
“Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:
1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).”
I did some checking and, unfortunately, what this really appears to be about is settling old scores.
United Waterfowlers suffered a setback in 2009 when the County Commission voted against allowing duck hunting to continue in the Banana Creek marsh at Circle B Bar Reserve.
The two factors that influenced that vote is that Polk County had spent conservation lands money to open a nature center and to build a trail system and parking lots to allow the public better access to the lands it paid to buy.
United Waterfowlers and their allies also lost their bid last year to expand hunting on some of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s properties because some of the sites had been improved to include a trail system that attracted horseback riders.
The horseback riders were as well organized and vocal as the hunters and beat back an attempt to open some of Swiftmud’s lands to hunting other than limited hog hunts that are seen as a legitimate management tool.
Under United Waterfowlers’ scenario, it would seem that future conservation lands acquisitions should have minimal improvements so that they would only really be accessible by people who own four-wheel drive pickup trucks or airboats, which would effectively exclude most other user groups.
That isn’t the reality of public recreation in Florida today. The public wants access to public lands and there’s resentment when the management plan stacks the deck.
The reality is that if voters approve this amendment, there will be more land for all kinds of recreational users–including hunters–in Florida as we protect wildlife corridors and what’s left of the state’s natural heritage before it’s lost.
That’s a concept that everyone interested in Florida’s outdoors should be embracing, not trying to monkey wrench.
121015-d Protected river in Florida still in decline
Environmental Protection Online
October 15, 2012
The Wekiva River in Florida is still in failing health, despite being one of the most protected waterways in the U.S.
The spring-fed river in the Orlando, Florida area is tarnished by pollution from sewage and fertilizer that has created an immense amount of harmful algae. Utilities are also causing more problems for the river by pumping large sums of Floridian Aquifer water that should be flowing into the Wekiva. Many fear that the river may soon become too shriveled for wildlife and plants to thrive under those conditions.
The river's plight has been brought to light by public concern that most of the state's spring-fed river systems are similarly stricken by declining flows and pollution. But members of the Friends of the Wekiva River were alarmed as far back as the early 1980s about the river's condition. They have been promised many times since that the Wekiva would be studied and restored.
Those same assurances were repeated last month, when the St. Johns River Water Management District said more scientific examination is needed to find a better solution for a river system that is fed by 30 springs. According to the district, the minimum amount of water that should be flowing from the popular Wekiwa Springs is 40 million gallons a day, and that the average daily flow this year declined to only 35 million gallons. The district says the appropriate response to the trend of declining spring flows includes a Springs Protection Initiative that won't be as urgent as what river defenders want.
As for pollution concerns, the state DEP in 2008 that the maximum amount of nitrate - a nitrogen-related chemical from sewage and fertilizers - that won't trigger an invasion of harmful algae is a tiny and invisible 280 parts per billion. Wekiwa Springs is now plagued with five times that much nitrate, which comes from stormwater runoff, sewage plants, septic tanks and lawn fertilizers.
The river's plight runs counter to many years of public and private efforts to protect it, but no one is giving up. DEP is proposing to reduce nitrate to the acceptable limit within 15 years, a cleanup likely to be one of the state's biggest environmental challenges ever.
121015-e When did protecting the environment become a partisan issue ?
October 15, 2012
Within the past month, two men who had an impact on the American environment died. They were both in their tenth decades. Their lives and work are important examples of the direction we should be pursuing today. Russell E. Train was 92; Barry Commoner was 95. They came from disparate places on the political spectrum and very different backgrounds. Yet they both grasped the vital consequences of protecting the Earth's resources and the fact that people need to work together to achieve these goals.
When did protecting the environment become so polarizing ? Ironically, it was Richard Nixon who was prescient about the importance of environmental concerns. He worked in tandem with Train -- who in a New York Times obituary was referenced as being "considered the father of modern federal environmental policy."
Train was a Republican from an insider D.C. family. The Washington Post stated that he was "widely regarded as one of the most important American conservationists in the past half-century." He served as the Chairperson of the Council on Environmental Quality for three years before becoming the second administrator of the EPA (1973-1977) under Nixon and Ford. Armed with degrees from Princeton and Columbia Law School, his path was geared toward public service. A trip to Africa in the 1950s was a turning point. Shortly afterwards, he founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation.
Credit has been given to Train as the force behind the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environment Policy Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
I found an oral history with Train on the EPA website that was eye opening. He related that he had a good working relationship with the Nixon White House and the Congress -- enjoying "bipartisan support." In 1970, the Senate passed the Clean Air Act by a unanimous vote. He noted, "Nixon made a decision early in his administration that the environment was important politically."
Train spoke clearly about the connectivity between "developmental planning" and "international economic growth," and believed that the environment concerned every "geographic region of the country' and could be "used to help unify the nation and bring people together." He wanted to involve American citizens.
Forthcoming about the pressure he received from the agricultural, automobile, chemical, and energy industries, Train openly admitted that those supporting health and environmental concerns had also called him to task. Still, he wasn't afraid to be tough. He didn't hesitate to close down a U.S. Steel plant in Birmingham during a fight over emissions. He saw a clear relationship between poverty and environmental factors, and named his biggest achievement as "holding the environmental line" during the 1970s energy crisis and oil embargoes.
Train wanted to educate Americans about the importance of environmental issues and "engage" government in the process. The Washington Post reported that in 2009, he personally told EPA head Lisa Jackson that she was "well within her authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant." Train protected the sanctity of the Everglades and spoke about climate change.
So why are people half of Train's age so unwillingly to embrace the need of the environment to be defended?
An answer may be found in the career and observations of Barry Commoner, who died thirteen days after Train. His philosophy was simple. He believed the problem was the "thoughtless way we produce [via industrialized agriculture and manufacturing] without thinking about how it's done and how it impacts lives, health, and poor people."
Commoner trained as a biologist at Columbia and Harvard, came from an immigrant family, and had decidedly leftist politics. He always linked environmental concerns with social justice. On the 1970 February issue of TIME magazine, Commoner's image graced the cover with the title, "The Emerging Science of Survival." A diagonal banner announced the environment as "Nixon's New Issue."
In a 2006 video interview with the New York Times, Commoner discussed how his studies yielded the research at the root of the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He warned of radioactive fallout, the greenhouse effect, and the need to recycle. By example, he spoke about how lead emissions in gasoline had affected the brains of children, as evidenced in diminished IQs. In 1970, through means of reformatting production, lead was removed from gasoline. Currently, the percentage of lead in children's blood is minimal.
Commoner's point was embodied in the National Environmental Policy Act, which proposed, "Man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans." Unfortunately, it is a concept too many are willing to ignore as they try to solve economic problems with short-term solutions.
Train and Commoner left important legacies. It's time that we learned from them and move forward -- together.
121013- Rains give Everglades a freshwater boost
KeysNet.com - by Kevin Wadlow
October 13, 2012
Rains in a wet fall have kept South Florida water managers busy but provided a welcome flow of freshwater through Everglades National Park and into Florida Bay.
"Taylor Slough is really wet," said Bob Johnson, an Everglades National Park hydrologist who heads the South Florida Natural Resources Center. "These conditions are what the Everglades used to have in an average year but now we only see them in wet years."
Aside from Tropical Storm Isaac in late August, the rainfall has been scattered enough to avoid the potentially damaging spike of fresh water flowing into northern Florida Bay.
"We are in kind of a long-term drought so the rainfall has produced conditions we want to see, and the kind of conditions we expect to see" as Everglades restoration efforts proceed.
Salinity levels in the northern bay, particularly at the south end of Taylor Slough this fall, have dropped markedly near the mainland.
Florida Bay monitoring stations show "salinities are still seasonally low and remain below average," says an Oct. 9 weekly conditions report from the South Florida Water Management District. "The Taylor River site is still near fresh."
Salinity levels are measured in PSUs (Practical Salinity Unit), with 35 PSU considered normal seawater, according to the district.
The C-111 Canal basin at Long Sound showed a drop in salinity to a 7.4 PSU level, and Little Madeira Bay dropped to 9.7 PSU.
Whipray Bay, in the north-central Florida Bay farther from the mainland shore, measured 30.4 PSU.
"Little Madeira Bay is where you want to see the salinity level at this time of year," Johnson said.
The sheet flow through Everglades National Park has pushed shallow water to embankments of the Main Road, and moved the shoreline at areas like Nine Mile Pond.
The Water Management District reports that over most of its area, seasonal rains are running about 14 percent above normal.
Johnson said rainfall in Everglades National Park has been above average. The Royal Palm area near the popular Anhinga Trail has received about 55 inches of rain this year, but the normal amount for the period is 52 inches.
"That puts us in the 80th percentile" of wet years, he said. But the busy hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2006 were wetter, and so was 2008 after Hurricane Fay.
Decades of construction and drainage projects greatly reduced the amount of fresh water reaching Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
A new bridge project under way on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) is expected to help restore some of the flow. Other bridges on the road are planned.
121012-a BP money may help Caloosatatchee River
October 12, 2012
The sun rises and sets. The tide ebbs and flows. The Caloosahatchee River has either too much water or too little.
While the first two will likely remain a constant for millennia to come, fresh water flows in the Caloosahatchee could be better managed soon through a water reservoir project that could be funded, at least partially, with BP oil settlement money.
That potential funding source has given Caloosahatchee River proponents renewed optimism over the nearly $500 million C-43 Reservoir project, a site that will eventually be used to store upward of 52 billion gallons of water.
Billions of BP dollars will be up for grabs early next year after the federal trial settlement is finalized. The five states that were most directly affected by the spill in April 2010 (Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) will receive BP dollars to both restore waters and lands as well as to enhance ecological systems that contribute to the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico.
Asked if the funding mechanisms are in place to use BP oil spill money for an Everglades restoration project, Lee County spokesman Kurt Harclerode said “it certainly is, and we’re working on that angle.”
Since the C-43 reservoir will better regulate fresh water flows and salinity levels in a river and estuary system that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, Harclerode said, the project legally qualifies for BP settlement money.
“(BP money) is also for general mitigation for the Gulf,” Harclerode said.
Cape Coral attorney and Florida Wildlife Federation representative Ralf Brookes said the BP oil settlement money would be well spent if it eventually gets funneled to pay for part or all of the C-43 Reservoir.
Proponents of the river and its estuary have long known water control and flow challenges that face the Caloosahatchee, its tributaries and surrounding bays. Historically, the river was fed by a small lake to the northwest of Lake Okeechobee. The river was connected to the lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to drain the Everglades for development.
The system currently leaves the Caloosahatchee at polar ends of the salinity spectrum. The estuary itself also moves with the flow changes. During late summer water is often released down the Caloosahatchee from Lake Okeechobee, washing out the salinity and causing the river to be a fresh water system all the way to the Cape Coral bridge.
Dry season conditions lead to little or no releases from the big lake, which in turn causes salinity levels to rise too high and move inland. This tug-of-war management approached regularly kills off oyster beds and sea grasses in the river’s estuary.
The river was heavily impacted by a lack of flow earlier this year, which resulted in harmful algae blooms and lower dissolved oxygen levels.
“Now we’re receiving too much,” Harclerode said. “We’ve been getting quite a bit of run-off in the basin, and then the Corps started releases (from Lake Okeechobee) a few weeks ago.”
On Thursday engineers with the South Florida Water Management District said they planned to move pumps onto the C-43 Reservoir lands over the weekend or early next week. The idea is to pump water from a nearby canal onto the land, let it set for a period and later release it when needed.
Removing water from the river now is imperative as the region has experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks as well as water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The flow rate at the Franklin Lock control structure is about 8,000 cubic feet per second. The flow is considered too high and very harmful to the estuary once it reaches 4,500 cubic feet per second. About half of the excess water is coming from urban areas surrounding the river and small creeks and tributaries that drain lands between Lake Okeechobee and the Gulf of Mexico.
“We now have the lake at a stage with significant releases and we’re trying to use as much land as we have to store water,” Strowd said from his office in West Palm Beach. “The conditions warrant an action, and this was one of the measures we could take.”
The pumps will pull water from the Townsend Canal and deliver it to a ditch in the middle of the C-43 Reservoir footprint, which is located on the former Berry Groves farm land south of the Caloosahatchee and well east of Fort Myers.
Strowd said using temporary pumps to store water on 3,500 acres of the reservoir land will help some but will not be a final solution to managing water flows in the river. Eventually, the reservoir will be an above-ground impoundment designed to hold excess water in high flow stages and to release it during dry season months to help protect the estuary and the marine creatures and grasses that live there.
However, the reservoir will not preclude the river from Lake Okeechobee releases, a move that is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Certainly it would make a huge difference on the low-flow side,” Strowd said. “There just hasn’t been sufficient water to manage the salinity.
121012-b FGCU appoints director for new Everglades Wetland Research Park
October 12, 2012
Florida Gulf Coast University appointed William J. Mitsch director of the school’s new Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples, according to FGCU.
Mitsch will oversea operations at the Harvey J. Kapnick Education and Research Center at the Naples Botanical Garden.
“At the research park, we seek to understand how wetlands, rivers and watersheds function and if and how we can restore those systems,” Mitsch said in a press release from the university. “What better place to establish a center for wetland restoration than in Naples on the edge of one of the greatest wetland complexes in the world – the Florida Everglades ?”
Research at the Naples facility will focus on wetland and river biochemistry and ecology.
Mitsch spent 27 years at Ohio State University teaching environment, natural resources and ecological engineering.
121012-c Palm Beach Aggregates offers to pay $700 million to build reservoir in exchange for right to set storage rates
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 12, 2012
After 18 months of failing to persuade the region’s water utilities to spend $700 million to dig a reservoir on its property, Palm Beach Aggregates is now proposing to pay the entire cost, with one condition: the company would get to name the price it would charge them to store water there.
Palm Beach Aggregates is selling the plan as a public/private partnership — called a P3 — which would remove the financial risk for taxpayers. Critics say the proposal is more private than public and they question the level of transparency and price controls if the project is privately funded and owned.
“The truth is, it is a private deal,” Woody Wodraska, project consultant for the Lake Worth Drainage District, said at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting in August. “Right now, being a P3 is a very popular political thing and they say, ‘That’s what we are.’ I would say I don’t think so. It’s being totally run by the private sector.”
Under the proposal, Palm Beach Aggregates would pay all costs associated with building the reservoir on its site in western Palm Beach County, an estimated $700 million. Palm Beach Aggregates would own the reservoir but the South Florida Water Management District would operate it, including moving water from the reservoir through canals to utilities to the south. However, that task could prove troublesome since the Lake Worth Drainage District owns the canals.
“If you’re a private operation and you’re going to make a profit and you want to use our conveyance system to do that, we’ve got some serious concerns,” Wodraska said. The drainage district was the lead agency on the project, even getting legislation passed in 2011 that gave it authority to issue taxpayer-backed bonds to pay for the reservoir.
Under Palm Beach Aggregate’s new proposal, the drainage district’s role and control would be limited. Rather than deal directly with the drainage district about using its canals, Palm Beach Aggregates wants the South Florida Water Management District to take over that job. That could limit the drainage district’s ability to control water levels and flows — incredibly valuable for flood protection and preventing salt water intrusion during droughts.
Palm Beach Aggregate’s latest plan evolved from months of meetings with water utility directors in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Support was strong, until utilities were told they needed to each pay $25,000 in good-faith money. Most cities backed out, saying they could not justify spending money for water they would not need for decades. In response, Palm Beach Aggregates diced the project into phases to be built when the need arises.
When that proposal failed to arouse interest, the company proposed designing, constructing and financing the entire project. Ernie Cox, project manager for Palm Beach Aggregates, said the latest proposal is still in the planning stages and that “regardless of the structure of how you build the reservoir, everybody has to be comfortable with the role they’re playing.”
Palm Beach Aggregates would not sell water from the reservoir, Cox said. Instead, it would sell storage in the reservoir. The company would set the price and negotiate “capacity allocation agreements” with utilities that want water from the reservoir, Cox said. That strategy is much different than Palm Beach Aggregates’ first reservoir deal.
In 2003 the company sold a cluster of 60-foot-deep pits to the South Florida Water Management District for water storage. However, the district — which paid $217 million for the pits — has made little use of the water because elevated levels of chloride made it unfit for drinking or restoring wetlands and there were no pumps to move the water.
All eyes are now on the South Florida Water Management District — the agency responsible for flood control and water supply throughout the region. As part of Palm Beach Aggregate’s new proposal, the district would be responsible for issuing permits to utilities that want to buy water storage, pump water to and from the reservoir and operate and maintain the reservoir. At its governing board meeting in November, the district’s executive director, Melissa Meeker, is expected to weigh in on the proposal.
“We’re finding there are pros and cons,” said Randy Smith, a spokesman for the district. “There are still many options being discussed.”
121011-a Cold War missile site to open to public
October 11, 2012
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (WSVN) -- A new exhibit called "To The Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis" will soon open to the public showcasing Kennedy's tense conversations about national security from the Oval Office.
At the same time, a historic missile site within Everglades National Park remains virtually unchanged some 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The site reveals new details several decades after that history changing event in 1962. The United States Army quickly established a presence that would remain in the area for many years. "They rushed soldiers to South Florida," said Ryan Meyer, Nike Hercules Missile Site Coordinator, "to defend Miami and all of South Florida, and those soldiers set up in the farm fields, right outside the park."
Meyer said the Nike Hercules Missile Site was an active military site all the way to 1979 and is one of the best preserved Cold War relics in the nation. At one point it held 120 military men who would roll out the missiles for any perceived threat in the sky. Not a single missile had to be fired during that period.
Now, the missile site serves another purpose: to teach about a by-gone ear of living under a nuclear threat. "My mom was living in Miami," said Meyer, "and she remembers doing duck and cover drills."
Tours at the site begin in December. Visit the link above for more information
will not do -
121011-b Florida Scientists and local government officials urge presidential candidates to address sea level rise
October 11, 2012
Sea Level Rise Impacts Felt Around the State.
WASHINGTON (Oct. 11, 2012) – More than 120 city and county officials and scientists in Florida, all of whom are working on issues related to sea level rise, sent a letter to the presidential candidates today urging them to discuss, at campaign stops in Florida and at the October 22 Boca Raton debate, how they will address rising sea levels that threaten the state.
Sea level has already risen about 8 inches along Florida’s coast and is having profound effects, according to the letter. “Because Florida is so densely populated,” the letter states, “it is estimated 40 percent of the population and housing units at risk from sea level rise in the nation are here, in the state of Florida.”
“Sea level rise is causing the biggest problems in southern Florida, particularly in the southeast where communities are essentially at sea level and porous limestone allows sea water to penetrate inland,” said Len Berry, a professor in Florida Atlantic University’s environmental sciences program.
Cities and counties in southern Florida are looking at billions of dollars in expenditures to address problems caused or exacerbated by sea level rise.
“We just spent $10 million on new wells because salt water seeped into six of our wells that were close to the coast,” said Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Keith London, who also signed the letter. “We’re skimming water off of the top of another two wells because salt water is at the bottom.”
Other cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Miami Beach, are dealing with sea water backing up into storm water pipes, flooding streets and neighborhoods. The storm water pipes are intended to funnel water, which accumulates on city streets during heavy rains, into the ocean. But during seasonal high tides, and during extreme high tides -- one of which will occur on October 16 and 17 -- the pipes can become submerged by sea water. The sea water then backs up into the pipes out onto city streets. In Miami Beach, city leaders are considering a $206 million overhaul of their drainage system.
In addition, South Florida’s canal system, designed to help funnel excess inland water out to the ocean, isn’t working as effectively as it used to.
“The canal system was built on a decline, using about a foot of gravity,” said Berry. “As sea level has risen, more than half of that foot gradient is now gone. During some high tides the canal gates have to be closed to prevent sea water from flowing into the canals.”
According to the South Florida Water Management District, which operates the canal system, a new pump station costs about $70 million, and that doesn’t include the price of purchasing land that may be needed for the projects. There is no consensus on whether the federal government, the water management district or local governments should be responsible for paying for new pump stations.
The letter calls on the next president to work domestically and internationally to mitigate further sea level rise and help local governments adapt to it. The federal government currently provides no funding for city and county projects needed to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
“Florida is ground zero when it comes to sea level rise,” said Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, another signer of the letter. “Residents see this first hand, which is why local governments are leading the way in establishing policies to minimize and adapt to climate change.”
Jacobs has been a driving force behind a climate plan, which addresses sea level rise, developed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Each of the counties will likely vote on the plan over the next few weeks. Three other nearby counties -- St. Lucy, Indian River and Martin -- are beginning to work with the four counties on climate and sustainability issues.
Problems associated with sea level rise, however, extend beyond southeast Florida. Sanibel Island, west of Fort Meyers Beach, is losing its fresh water marshes -- home to a number of endangered species -- due to salt water intrusion. And a University of Florida study documented hardwood forests along the west coast north of Tampa Bay turning into saltwater marshes.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Water Authority, which delivers drinking water to three cities, and the Peace River Water Authority, which provides water for Charlotte and Sarasota counties, are wrestling with salt water moving up rivers that the authorities use as drinking water sources.
Scientists in Florida are paying increasing attention to the problem. Within the last month the Florida Climate Institute expanded to include six universities working together on climate change issues. The University of Florida and Florida State formed the institute about two years ago.
As Florida scientists and local government officials work to better understand and minimize the disruption climate change causes in Florida, they hope the next president leads the country and world in mitigating it and helping states to adapt. Students from universities in Florida and Florida residents plan to hold a rally outside the Boca Raton debate at Lynn University to call the candidates’ attention to the issue.
Sea level rise is just one consequence of global warming, primarily caused by burning fossil fuels in our cars and power plants. As temperatures rise, warming ocean waters expand while mountain glaciers and inland ice melt; in addition, polar ice caps are projected to shrink—all these sources adding more water to the world’s oceans.
James A. KUSHLAN,
major donor, member
of the Everglades
Foundation Board of
121011-c Gift of science: Fairchild gets $4 million for tropical research
Miami Herald – by Ina Paiva Cordle
October 11, 2012
Science is blossoming alongside the flowers at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which just received a $4 million gift, bringing its total to $24 million raised in science funding in less than two years.
Some visitors to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden like to wander among the blooming orchids. Others choose to attend the International Mango Festival or listen to the classical music concerts.
Yet hidden beyond the garden’s towering palms and cycads advancements in science are taking root.
And now they can flourish even more.
Fairchild said it has received a $4 million gift from scientist James A. Kushlan to create the Kushlan Tropical Science Institute — the latest piece of $24 million Fairchild has raised in science funding in less than two years.
“We will have an institute that will allow a terrific community of tropical scientists to have a place to get together and do tropical research,” said Bruce Greer, chairman of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s board of trustees. “And equally as important, those scientists are going to give children an opportunity to study science and stay in Miami.”
The gift comes less than two months before Fairchild will unveil its new DiMare Science Village, which opens Nov. 30 in Coral Gables. Its aim is to create a top venue for Fairchild’s scientific research, conservation science projects, and undergraduate and graduate science education programs.
The three-story 25,000-square-foot Science Village will have labs and classrooms in the Joyce and M. Anthony Burns Building, the Dr. Jane Hsiao Laboratories, the Jason Vollmer Butterfly Laboratory and the Clinton Family Conservatory.
Kushlan, who grew up in Miami and has a Ph.D in ornithology from the University of Miami, is widely recognized for his expertise in the biology and conservation of water birds and wetlands. He has written several books and more than 200 professional papers and was formerly director of the Department of Interior’s wildlife research center near Washington, D.C., and chair and professor of biology at the University of Mississippi, among other positions. Kushlan is also the sponsor of Fairchild’s bird conservation initiative.
“This is part of a much larger picture of support for science centered at Fairchild,” said Kushlan, 65, who now lives in Key Biscayne. “It’s not just me. I’ve got a piece, and being a scientist, I can help encourage the Science Center.”
Fairchild’s five-year vision is to support science education efforts by sponsoring 10 Ph.D scientists, 20 Ph.D students and 40 undergraduate research students from universities including the University of Miami, Florida International University and the University of Florida.
“It’s a place where scientists — professors from various institutions and universities — can come together to collaborate, communicate and cooperate on tropical science,” Kushlan said. “What we hope is to enhance the attractiveness of South Florida to scientists and their students and the funding agencies.”
Kushlan, who also helped start Fairchild’s Bird Festival, said his overall goal is to encourage conservation research and education in South Florida, especially about birds and the Everglades.
“I see this as a beginning of something even larger,” said Kushlan, who is also funding a new position, the Kushlan chair in waterbird biology and conservation, at the University of Miami, as well as helping create a new waterbird exhibit as part of Zoo Miami’s upcoming Florida: Mission Everglades. He also serves on the boards of the Everglades Foundation and HistoryMiami.
Fairchild, the first cultural organization founded in Miami-Dade County nearly 75 years ago, has 45,000 members. With the world’s largest tropical collection of palms and cycads, Greer said the Coral Gables garden is considered one of the two greatest botanic gardens in the world, along with Singapore Botanic Gardens.
What’s more, Greer likens Fairchild to 15th century Florence, Italy, where residents could walk through the streets and stumble across amazing art and music.
It is that diversity of offerings at Fairchild — blossoming flowers, concerts, Botero sculptures — that has helped attract visitors and millions of dollars in donations, he said, at a time when other arts organizations are struggling to stay afloat.
“Miami is exploding as an arts scene and as a science scene,” Greer said. “Most people have to seek it out — go downtown to see a concert. What Fairchild is is a gateway for individuals to experience culture in a much more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a gateway for a lot of people, including children, to learn about things they weren’t seeking.”
Similarly, the Kushlan Tropical Science Institute, he said, will further scientific advancements by allowing professors and graduate students to interact.
“Like Florence,” Greer said, “when you bring world-class people together they influence each other and influence the entire community.”
121011-d Initial section of Lake Okeechobee dike's reinforcing wall finished
Sun-Sentinel – by Andy Reid
October 12, 2012
The push to fix Lake Okeechobee's aging dike has achieved a key milestone, but flood-control dumping from the lake continues as water levels keep rising.
The Army Corps of Engineers last week completed the initial 21-mile stretch of a wall being built through the middle of the dike to help stop erosion that could lead to a breach, the corps disclosed Thursday.
That took five years and more than $360 million, and the dike strengthening effort remains far from complete. The 70-year-old, 143-mile-long Herbert Hoover Dike is considered one of the country's most at risk of failing
Now a study aimed at determining how to proceed with fixing the dike is expected to last until 2014.
"There is still a lot of work to go," Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida said.
With lake levels rising, the Army Corps since Sept. 19 has been dumping billions of gallons of water out of Lake Okeechobee to lessen the strain on the lake's dike.
While that helps guard against flooding, dumping all that lake water out to sea is having damaging environmental consequences for coastal estuaries that are key fishing grounds.
The influx of lake water throws off the delicate mix of fresh and salt water that oyster beds, sea grass and other marine habitat need to survive.
The coastal estuaries are getting hammered," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. "It's not just an environmental issue, it's an economic issue."
To try to lesson lake discharges, the South Florida Water Management District plans to turn thousands of acres of agricultural land into a temporary water storage site.
About 3,500 acres west of Lake Okeechobee intended as the future home for an Everglades restoration reservoir will now get flooded with water that would otherwise drain out to sea.
The goal is to hold back as much water as possible, said Joe Collins, district board chairman.
The long-term fix is for the water management district to jumpstart stalled reservoirs and other water storage facilities planned for Everglades restoration, environmental advocates said Thursday.
"It really highlights the need for storage in the system [to be] done very quickly," said Jane Graham of Audubon Florida.
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida's primary back-up water supply, was forecast to drop into the water storage range before Tropical Storm Isaac brought a two-day drenching that was followed by a soggy September and a rainy start to October.
The result was the lake rising 3 feet in about 30 days; and even with the dumping it continues to rise. On Thursday, the lake was 15.92 feet above sea level. The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet.
Initially, Lake Okeechobee's rise was good for the health of the lake, which had suffered from lingering low water levels that dried out the marshes rimming the lake.
It's never just right. It's always too much [or] too little," the water management district's Terrie Bates said about Lake Okeechobee's fluctuating water levels.
Lake Okeechobee water once naturally overlapped the southern shore and flowed south to replenish the Everglades.
Building dikes, pumps and levees corralled the lake water and drained the land to the south to make way for development and farming. Flushing lake water out to sea remains the main mechanism for lowering the lake when water levels threaten the dike.
121011-e Putnam says the future of Florida and agriculture are entwined
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 11, 2012
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Wednesday outlined what he called the "hard economic truths facing Florida agriculture" including the need for a "smart" immigration policy, dealing with invasive animals and plant diseases, improving Florida seaports to gain new overseas markets and ensuring future water supplies.
"These (issues) aren't separate silos," Putnam said during a speech to the Economic Club of Florida. "The future of agriculture and the future of Florida are entwined."
"Agriculture is present on two-thirds of the acreage of our state," he continued. "If that goes away, what replaces it that's better than what we have --Citrus groves along highway 27, the magnificent pine forests up and down I-10.
"What replaces that -- that gives you the same economic value, the same tax base stability and the same quality of life issues? Chances are it's not better than what you have right now in terms of a vibrant agriculture industry."
Florida's agriculture industry produces $100 billion in sales annually and provides 1 million jobs, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The agriculture commissioner said he views child nutrition as an economic issue because the state every year spends $1 billion on school nutrition programs with four million meals served each day. Taxpayers are helping pay for many free and reduced cost meals as well as the health care costs resulting from poor diets.
"If we are content to serve Tater Tots and ketchup and call it a starch and a vegetable, we will pay the economic consequences of doing that," he said.
Putnam said he has about 50 people now in Hialeah, Kendall and West Miami looking for the giant African land snails that can eat almost anything including the stucco off homes. Agriculture must factor for the increased threat from foreign species and agricultural diseases.
"When there is a breakdown at the federal government level at an airport or seaport it is frequently the state taxpayers who are asked to pick up the tab and clean up the mess," he said.
The planned widening of the Panama Canal, he said, could be a boost for Florida agriculture. He said the port could bring consumer products that now are unloaded from ships in California to Florida if the state is ready. And those ships could return with Florida agricultural products.
He also said a smart immigration policy is needed the "best human capital" from around the world to fill employment gaps.
"The simple fact is if we want to be a free nation that can feed itself and not be as dependent on others as we are for our fuel, we need that stable legal workforce," he said.
The biggest long-term economic challenge facing agriculture and the state, he said, is water. He said the lack of water flowing from federal reservoirs in Georgia into the Apalachicola River is having "devastating" consequences for oystermen and the seafood industry at Apalachicola Bay.
Water supply, he said, must be a substantial component of state programs in the future the way land acquisition has been in recent decades.
"It is that connection to the water," he said, "that not only gives us an identity but gives us the economic foundation for everything that flows from it."
121011-f Putnam takes water quality seriously
Oct 11, 2012
Agriculture’s bright future as a business generator for Florida and an avenue for global trade will demand that the state address its critical water supply needs, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Wednesday.
Speaking at the October meeting of the Economic Club of Florida, Putnam called water quantity and quality the biggest long-term challenge facing not only agriculture but the state as a whole.
“Whether your mission in life is to plant an orange grove, build a subdivision or save the Everglades, it will be contingent on water — water quantity and water quality — and so we take that very seriously,” Putnam said.
He predicted that expanding Florida’s water supply will come down to investment in rural communities, such as areas where rainfall could be stored by flooding more properties, by developing alternative supplies and investment in desalination.
“It means that we need to approach this from a statewide basis because every corner of the state is facing its own water skirmishes. This is no longer the coast’s problem. This is no longer South Florida’s problem,” said Putnam, whose family in Polk County is in the citrus and cattle business.
Likewise, the health of the coastal estuary at Apalachicola, which has direct bearing on oysters and other marine life, depends on water quantity that Florida must negotiate with upstream neighbors Georgia and Alabama to obtain.
Putnam, a former state legislator who served five terms in Congress representing District 12, briefed the audience on agriculture’s $100-billion annual economic impact in the state. Florida’s farm products are now sold in more than 125 different countries around the world.
“In a country that buys everything from someplace else, agriculture is the brightest spot in terms of our trade situation — generating a $9-billion trade surplus each and every year,” he added. “What Florida grows is an important part of that.”
The industry in Florida employs about 1 million people and is second only to tourism among the leading business sectors. In the coming years, however, such external issues as land use, water supply, and patterns of growth and development will dictate the future of farming in Florida.
“Those are the areas where every single Floridian really has a vested interest in maintaining a sustainable, profitable, prosperous agriculture industry,” Putnam added.
121010-a US Sugar and their BULL
Newszap.com – blog
October 10, 2012
Increased uptake of phosphorus improves plant health, root structure and growth.
This is right off their website: 2008 through 2010 was a bittersweet time for U.S. Sugar – a company that has been farming in the Lake Okeechobee region for more than four generations. It was during this time period when the Company agreed to sell a considerable amount of its sugar cane and citrus acreage to the South Florida Water Management District for the “River of Grass” restoration project. U.S. Sugar is firm in its belief that the sale was for a good cause and is proud to be part of this historic opportunity to make extraordinary progress in Everglades restoration and restore much of the natural footprint of South Florida.
It was BITTERSWEET for them ??? In 2009, a proposal for a scaled down acquisition was made due to the global economic crisis. Under the new contract, U.S. Sugar agreed to sell 72,500 acres of the Company’s land for approximately $530 million to the SFWMD. While the SFWMD finalized plans for the land, the Company (US Sugar) would continue to farm the 72,500 acres through a 7-year lease that may be extended under certain circumstances. PLUS: On August 12, 2010, a second amended agreement was reached for the South Florida Water Management District to buy 26,800 acres of land for $197 million along with the option to acquire 153,200 acres in the future.
How in the name of Hades was that a "bittersweet time" ? $727 MILLON IN TWO YEARS!!! Plus they laid off 100's of employees because they were loosing that land ?? Oh but wait they now have 99,300 acres they can still farm BUT alas they don't have to pay property taxes on that land because it's now government land.
So the Hendry County Property Appraiser's office wants them to pay their fair share in taxes now and they are doing all they can to get him voted out of office in favor of a sore looser who cost the county almost $200,000 in court costs when she was defeated four years ago !! And if they have to pay more in taxes well they'll just have to lay more people off...
There is nothing SWEET about what US Sugar is trying to do. They are asking us to swallow a load of bull with no sugar to help it go down while they destroy a good man’s name so they don't have to pay more in taxes. The Hendry/Glades Sunday News seemed to believe it would be around a $700,000 hike in taxes for them. That's alot of money or is it ?? It really isn't when you consider they are farming almost a 100,000 acres that are no longer on the tax roles ! I'm no appraiser but I'd bet thats a million or more in savings they are getting by not paying taxes on that land. So even saving by not paying taxes on land they'd leased they "will have to lay off" employees !?!?! What happened to that 3/4'S OF A BILLION DOLLARS YOU GOT TWO YEARS AGO ? Why can't you use some of that money to prevent any lay offs? After all it was some of my tax money.
Just an old lady with alot of time on her hands and a lot of questions for a company that was so happy to help with the Everglades restoration even if getting 3/4's of a billion dollars was such a bittersweet time for them !
121010-b Water district chairman defends agency land swap criticized by Audubon Florida
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 10, 2012
In an ideal world with plenty of money for land-buying, the Suwannee River Water Management District may have preferred purchasing 1.6 miles of riverfront property instead of trading it for other agency land, district Chairman Donald J. Quincey Jr. said Wednesday.
"Not in this environment -- not in this financial (situation)," he said.
The Suwannee River Water Management District on Tuesday approved swapping 670 acres it owns at Twin Rivers State Forest near Ellaville for 585 acres and 1.6 miles along the Suwannee River at Interstate 10.
The district also will pay $200,000 to investor Donald Rich as part of the land deal with Damascus Peanut Company Inc. The district's 670 acres is valued at $1.2 million compared with the $1.6-million value of the land controlled by Rich and Damascus Peanut, said Charlie Houder, director of the district's Division of Land Resources.
Audubon Florida objected to the deal in an email sent Tuesday to the district and has raised concerns about the state's push to sell land. The group opposed a determination that the land is no longer needed for confirmation and said gopher tortoise habitat would be lost if the land becomes a peanut farm.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote that the 670-acre Ellaville tract contains a large and healthy population of gopher tortoises. The agency also said 94 percent of the tract is considered to be in a high groundwater recharge area. Other species found there include American swallow-tailed kites, eastern indigo snakes, Sherman's fox squirrels and the southeastern American kestrels.
Quincey said he thought the swap made good sense because it preserved floodplain land along the river and prevented houses with septic tanks from potentially being built there.
"You make decisions on what is best and what you can afford," Quincey said. "Basically there is no money in the Florida Forever (state land-buying program). We have to make our best choices to have the most and best conservation land we can possibly have." Related:
* Oct. 9, 2012 Suwannee River WMD board background on land swap
* Oct. 1, 2012 Disposition of State Lands and Facilities 2012 annual report
* Aug. 9, 2012 FWC resource review letter * Oct. 9, 2012 Email from Audubon Florida to SRWMD board
121009- Phosphorus: An Essential Element For Farming
ScoopSanDiego.com - by NAPS, North American Precis Syndicate
October 9, 2012
(NAPSI)Those who paid attention during basic chemistry classes may recall that phosphorus is one of three essential elements for plant life. Without phosphorus, farming and food production would be impossible.
For this reason, some say that phosphorus is just as important as oil in the industrial world. However, while issues involving petroleum are front-page news, phosphorus rarely garners any attention at all. That is, unless you work in agriculture. Dependency, Shortages and Concerns
The truth is that phosphate rock is a limited resource and supplies are under siege. The largest global reserves of phosphate are located in places where it is difficult to access for political or environmental reasons, such as China, Morocco and the western Sahara Desert.
The worlds largest phosphate mine is in Florida, but production in that mine is limited by environmental regulation due to concerns about phosphorus runoff into waterways and groundwater. Dr. Larry Sanders, president and CEO of SFP, observed that marketplace volatility in 2008 caused phosphorus prices to increase several hundred percent. This scenario could happen again, he warns.
Sanders added that phosphate is finite in nature, and supplies are threatened by geopolitical situations, which are compounded by the fact that phosphorus, when applied as a fertilizer, loses as much as 75 to 95 percent of its value due to lockup in the soil. He says the fixation of phosphorus in the soil makes much of the element unavailable for plant uptake. Technology Creates Solution
Fortunately, today there is a product designed to reduce soil lockup of applied phosphorus and help maximize the availability of the element for the plant.
Called AVAIL Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer, its added to phosphorus fertilizer and allows a much higher percentage of the nutrient to be available for plant uptake.
Increased uptake can improve plant health, facilitate a stronger root structure and generate better crop growth. The results are higher-yield opportunities for any crop where AVAIL-treated phosphorus is applied.
To date, AVAIL has been used on more than 36 million acres of crops worldwide, with the majority of those acres being corn, wheat, soybeans and forages.
121008-a Conservation isn't partisan
Herald Tribune - by David Yarnold, President and CEO of the National Audubon
October 8, 2012
You have to get out of shouting range of the politicians in Washington to appreciate what's really important to Americans.
Americans like Barbra from Arizona: "'Environment' is not a swear word, but too often it is treated like one in the halls of our legislatures." Barbra is one of thousands of Americans -- Republicans, Democrats and independents -- who have joined a national grassroots conversation aimed at taking the politics out of conservation and returning preservation of our wilderness lands, waterways and wildlife to its original roots as a unifying, rather than divisive, force in America.
Judging from responses from all across America, perhaps we are not a nation as divided as our political leaders would like us to believe.
We've heard from angry Republicans.
"Since when did breathing clean fresh air, drinking pure clean water and protecting our precious natural resources and environment become something that only Democrats should value," wrote Lorrie from Pennsylvania. "Too often now I hear key Republicans ridicule people that care deeply about the environment as overzealous crazies. It makes me feel almost embarrassed to be a Republican."
But the frustration knows no party.
Love of nature transcends
Mark from California speaks for many Americans when he says, "I sure would like to be hearing candidates even mention the environment during their campaigns. There's a lot of talk about the deficit and the burden it will place on future generations. Think of the burden placed on them if their world is deprived of clean air, clean water and an abundance of wildlife and wild places."
We at the National Audubon Society, one of the nation's most trusted conservation organizations, and ConservAmerica, a grass-roots organization of conservation-minded Republicans, have joined in a groundbreaking movement called the American Eagle Compact.
The compact's purpose is to rally Americans around these shared values, remove the politically loaded rhetoric and hold our elected leaders accountable for responsible stewardship and common-sense conservation.
We call on the next administration and the next Congress to detoxify the conversation over clean air, clean water, protecting the health of American families, preserving our wild places, seeking energy independence, and saving endangered birds and wildlife.
"All Americans must get over the hump that divides half into thinking that economic progress is at odds with environmental protection and the other half into thinking that we actually have the luxury of time to wait for everyone to agree," California's Mark also wrote us on our website (eagle compact.org).
Politicians need to realize that outside Washington, this is not a debate over the existence -- or not -- of man-made climate change. It's a debate over preserving our national heritage, clean air and water, and protecting the love of outdoors that binds Americans together.
"I grew up half a block from the railroad, and remember Mom's clothes on the clothesline getting dirty from the soot of the passing locomotive," Bob wrote from Nebraska. "We never thought about health hazards from the soot, we just wanted clean clothes. We didn't care whether Republicans or Democrats were behind the change. We just saw progress."
One of the most poignant stories came from Carrie in New Jersey.
"Although my father and I hold vastly different views on a great many subjects, a gift he gave me when I was quite young was the love of nature, and in particular, the birds outside our window.
"To this day, in his advancing age and humbling physical decline, I can share a moment with him about a bird I've seen in my own yard's hedge or my daily wanderings, and I can see the old spark of interest and curiosity in his eyes that has inspired me," Carrie wrote.
Let's bring together both parties to understand that we are dependent on a healthy atmosphere and strong laws to protect it for the sake of Carrie, her dad and all Americans.
121008-b Fracking confronts Florida
News-Press.com - Exclusive
October 8, 2012
Profitable but controversial technique of drilling for oil and gas proposed here. South Florida may be ripe for fracking.
The controversial process of drilling for oil and natural gas is pumping billions into government coffers, residents’ pockets and energy company bank accounts across the country, creating thousands of jobs, reducing reliance on foreign energy — and causing environmental concerns.
Fracking, formally called hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a well with a cocktail of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure to fracture rock and access previously untapped reserves.
A fracking frenzy has swept through North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Wyoming, Colorado, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Montana, Texas and elsewhere. In Williston, N.D., Mayor Ward Koeser said fracking brought the state $1.5 to $2 billion in the last year alone. “It’s been intense,” he said.
Fracking is inevitable in South Florida, maybe within a year, said Ed Pollister, owner/operator of a small company called Century Oil, with offices in Immokalee and Michigan.
Pollister said he’s discussed his desire to frack with officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection. “At some point if I don’t do it, somebody else will,” he said.
Alico Inc. also could have a future in fracking. The company discovered as much as 94 tons of possible fracking sand in Hendry County.
Fracking fever is fueled by new technologies developed over the last 10 years that make it economically feasible and profitable to drill for previously untouchable sources of oil and gas.
But the economic boom has its price. Environmentalists and other critics say fracking can contaminate groundwater and a 2011 congressional report says the fracking cocktail can include a combination of any of 750 chemicals and other components. Fracking has even been blamed for several small earthquakes in Ohio. “I think that it’s something that is, without adequate regulation and management of the fluids and without adequate water supplies to do the fracking, it’s something that needs to be avoided for Southwest Florida at least for the foreseeable future,” said Andrew McElwaine, CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. Playing catch-up
Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials insist fracking is not on the horizon. “No, fracking is not being proposed and there are no permit applications to conduct fracking,” said Calvin Alvarez, chief of the bureau of mining and minerals regulation in the DEP’s Division of Water Resources Management.
But a public records request by The News-Press, asking for emails and documents exchanged by DEP officials from January 2010 to the present, show despite growing interest in fracking, the agency seems late to awake to it and pushing to catch up.
In a Sept. 21, 2011, email, Alvarez wrote: “Fracking is not a factor in South Florida.”
Nearly nine months later, Ed Garrett, oil and gas section administrator, responded June 6 to a group email asking for proposed EPA rules that would impact agency programs. The EPA has recently been trying to strengthen air and water discharge rules related to fracking, Garrett wrote, “but Florida doesn’t frac.”
That changed six weeks later in the weekly oil and gas section notes for activities ending July 20, which stated: “Conference call to Ed Pollister (Century Oil) on Wednesday 7/18 about P-1335 (Permit 1335) and imminent fracking job in S. Florida. Pollister is going to give us a thorough proposal as soon as he can. He has some references from similar formations in Mexico. He said that he would like to drill in the next six months.” “I made a request,” Pollister said. “I told them what I was considering doing, and they said they had never done this.”
Pollister did not go through with his July plan. He now wants to try to make more money from directional drilling, which means drilling at an angle instead of vertically. But he said fracking is on his horizon.
In the effort to get up to speed over the last year, the DEP looked into a fracking webinar offered by the National Association of Environmental Professionals, “to educate those who are not presently involved in fracking issues,” wrote organizer Paul Looney in an email to a DEP official. The DEP also crafted fracking FAQs, issued a fracking background memo and monitored the progress of new rules proposed by the EPA and the Department of the Interior.
In an April 19 email, Jonathan Arthur, state geologist and director of the Office of the Florida Geological Survey, suggested writing an article “on Fracking 101 and its potential future in Florida.” The article would be called “What the Frack?” he wrote, and noted “OK … maybe too edgy.”
The DEP receives calls about possible fracking. However, “Talk is cheap,” Garrett said.
The agency has received “seven or eight inquiries total” about fracking in the last year, wrote Patrick Gillespie, a DEP spokesman, in an email. “The department will occasionally receive calls from legislators, the public and other sources as well about the topic.”
Asked if inquiries about fracking have taken DEP officials by surprise, Gillespie wrote, “No. Fracking has been a possibility in Florida for years.”
Fracking is allowable under DEP rules and regulations, Alvarez said. “The DEP understands that fracking is of a controversial nature.”
In a Sept. 27, 2011 “frack memo,” Garrett wrote DEP statutes provide the authority “to conserve and control the natural oil and gas resources of the state and to safeguard public health and welfare.” If fracking is proposed, “we would require documentation sufficient to assure that the work will be carried out safely and our inspectors will verify that the work is conducted as proposed,” he wrote.
But the Lower Sunniland’s geology is not conducive to fracking, Alvarez and Garrett said.
In South Florida, oil drilling has been going on in the Upper Sunniland Trend for decades. The trend is 150 miles long and 20 miles wide, stretching from Fort Myers to Miami. It also runs through the 729,000-acre Big Cypress Preserve, the western end of the Everglades ecosystem.
Now the focus is on the lower, unexplored part of the Sunniland, at a depth reaching up to 17,000 feet. The rock is limestone and dolomite. “Fracking can be a questionable technique for oil and gas recovery,” Alvarez said.
Also, there is little data available about the Lower Sunniland regarding feasibility of fracking, Gillespie said
In the “frack memo,” Garrett wrote even if frack jobs were commonplace in Florida, the fracking would be too deep to affect potable groundwater. All of Florida’s oil production comes from 12,000 to 17,000 feet deep, he said. There are several aquifers at various depths no more than about 2,000 feet deep.
In addition, the cap rock above the oil reserve protects the aquifers from contamination, he wrote.
Most of the mineral rights in the Sunniland Trend are owned by Collier Resources, namesake company of Barron Collier.. The company owns 800,000 acres of mineral rights across Southwest Florida, including 400,000 in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Alvarez said Collier Resources has not asked about fracking. Andrea MacClendon, Collier spokeswoman, said in an email any detailed questions about oil exploration and production techniques are best answered by the production companies that lease the mineral rights.
Los Angeles-based Breitburn Energy leases the majority of Collier’s mineral rights and 37,109 acres in the Sunniland Trend. Greg Brown, executive vice president, also said the geology of the Lower Sunniland doesn’t lend itself to fracking. “We do not have plans for fracking in the Sunniland,” he said.
Others believe the Lower Sunniland is full of promise. Brandt Temple, president and founder of Sunrise Exploration & Production of New Orleans, said his research proves it. “Oil and gas producers are in the infant stages of a new liquids-rich play in the South Florida basin that could revive the oil industry in rural-agricultural parts of South Florida,” he wrote in a March story in Oil & Gas Journal. “Over the past two years we have conducted more petrophysical tests and accumulated more shale data on Sunniland than the rest of industry combined. Our tests indicate an impressive mix of reservoir and source rock properties that point to an overlooked oil resource play,” he wrote. Brandt, a geologist, said he has put together eight-year leases for 135,000 acres in Lee, Collier and Hendry counties. The land is not in the Big Cypress National Preserve, and it is not being leased from Collier Resources, he said.
When asked how he will explore his 135,000 acres, Brandt said he wants to try less expensive, conventional methods first. “We’re not going to come out of the chute fracking at all,” he said.
Temple is looking for an oil industry partner, and since May, 40 companies have signed a non-compete agreement to look at the deal, he said. “I’m not giving up on this. I’m a gambler, but I’ve got science behind it.” David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, said fracking has “caused the rewriting of textbooks about America’s oil and gas potential.” But he declined to say whether fracking is coming to Florida. “I have no idea. I don’t want to go there. “I don’t evaluate technology for use in specific areas,” Mica said. “It’s not been used in Florida as yet. It would be frontier-type technology.”
However, “I think it’s very critical for your readers to know that the state permitting agency for the DEP is very qualified to evaluate permit applications and technologies, and I’m confident if someone should file for a permit it would be analyzed and reviewed appropriately with the best science available,” Mica said.
at the SFWMD drew
121008-c Investigation finds South Florida water manager’s conduct broke no ethics rules
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 8, 2012
An internal investigation has cleared Bob Brown — second in command at the South Florida Water Management District — of any wrongdoing for conducting personal business with and accepting gifts from business owners whose companies are regulated by the district.
The 43-page report by the agency’s inspector general concludes that Brown’s acts, which occurred before September 2006, did not violate the district’s ethics policy at the time. That policy prohibited employees from accepting gifts, loans, jobs or services that are “based on any understanding that at the vote, official action or judgment of the public official or employee would be influenced by such a gift.”
The district’s current ethics policy, adopted in September 2006, forbids employees from “soliciting or accepting anything of value,” regardless of the intent.
The investigation was sparked by a Palm Beach Post report published in April that revealed:
• Brown accepted a loan from a close friend whose companies made millions selling a mined-out shell pit in Okeechobee to the district. While the deal was in the planning stages, Brown headed the district’s Okeechobee office.
•An Okeechobee rancher, whose lawsuit against a neighbor and the district was mediated by Brown, said he gave Brown a hunting bow and electric generator, worth more than $1,000. Brown also hunted on the neighbor’s land, free of charge.
•Brown also hunted on other ranchers’ property and took hunting trips with businessmen whose companies cannot operate without permits from the district.
In a written statement in April, Brown told The Post that none of his “friendships or personal-time activities interfaced with my regulatory responsibilities for the district.” A week later, Melissa Meeker, the district’s executive director, asked the the district’s inspector general, J. Timothy Biernes, to investigate The Post’s findings.
The Oct. 5 report by Biernes found that although Brown’s hunting “may have created a perception of favoritism and special treatment,” the district’s ethics policy hinged on whether the value of the free hunting trips was “significant enough” to influence Brown to return special favors that would not be given to the general public.
“The evidence gathered during this investigation indicates that Mr. Brown carried out his regulatory duties and did not show special favors to landowners that granted him occasional access to their property for hunting purposes,” Biernes wrote.
Brown also did nothing wrong when, in July 2004 he accepted a $9,750 loan from George Goodbread, an Okeechobee businessman who made millions selling a mined-out shell pit to the district. Brown’s only involvement was introducing the district’s land acquisition manager to Goodbread, Biernes wrote. Brown told The Post in April that the outstanding balance on the loan was less than $5,750. However, according to Biernes’ report, Brown still owed $7,000 on the loan as of Aug. 12.
Regarding another land deal with Goodbread, Brown said he was unaware that Goodbread jointly purchased a lot naming Brown as co-owner. Brown told Biernes that the co-ownership was “an error” and that he “promptly” returned sole ownership to Goodbread two months later.
Brown told the inspector general that he was also surprised to learn that Goodbread had named him as personal representative of his estate. Brown recused himself shortly after Goodbread died in 2008, to “avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest,” Biernes wrote in his report, adding that there had been no ethics violation.
Brown also told Biernes that he and Goodbread exchanged gifts but that the gifts “had no value and were token gag-type exchanges.” Brown said he also reimbursed Goodbread for a trip Brown and his wife took to Las Vegas, which had been arranged by Goodbread. Brown was unable to produce a canceled check to verify payment for the trips because his bank keeps checks for only five years, Biernes said.
Biernes also found Brown’s account of how a hunting bow and electric generator ended up in Brown’s possession was more credible than that of Greg Isbell, a rancher who said he gave both to Brown.
Isbell said he gave the bow to Brown after Brown admired it at Isbell’s home. Brown, who mediated a lawsuit Isbell had been involved in, said the bow appeared in his office one day. He did not accept it and believed it was put in a storage room.
Isbell said he gave Brown the generator as a hurricane approached and Brown mentioned that he did not have one. Brown said the generator was not a gift and that he merely agreed to deliver it to another district employee.
Brown declined to comment on Biernes’ report. The district released a statement Monday saying it “takes seriously strict adherence to state and District ethics requirements. The Inspector General has thoroughly evaluated the complaint and found that agency staff conducted themselves appropriately.”
Among Biernes recommendations: Consider requiring employees to “avoid the appearance of impropriety… whether in business, financial or social relationships that might undermine the public trust.”
121007- South Florida swamped in one of its wettest years; more rain likely to come
Orlando Sentinel - by Ken Kaye, Staff Writer
October 7, 2012
As if we hadn't seen enough rain already, don't be surprised to get drenched by more sod-soakers and gully washers during the coming weeks – or even months.
Although a cold front should bring drier conditions later this week, more afternoon showers are likely on the way. Even the dry season, which normally starts in mid-October, may be cooler and wetter than usual, the National Weather Service said.
"All in all, it's been a wetter than normal rainy season all across South Florida," said NWS meteorologist Robert Molleda.
Near-record quantities of rain have fallen so far this year in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and a record amount in Miami-Dade County. During the past nine months, some areas have been swamped by almost 20 inches of rain more than normal.
Put another way: Most of South Florida already has gotten more than a year's worth of rain. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, West Palm Beach saw 67.4 inches of rain, its fifth wettest year to date. Fort Lauderdale's Dixie Water Treatment plant recorded 69.27 inches, its second wettest year to date. Miami registered a record-busting 79.51 inches. The region's average annual rainfall is 55 to 60 inches.
All that moisture falling from the heavens has turned our lawns a lush green, refreshed drinking water supplies and reduced the danger of wildfires. It also has nurtured swarms of mosquitoes, turned roads into rivers and flooded some homes. Even seasoned weather observers are amazed at all the rain.
"When I came back from a monthlong golf vacation in New England this summer, the lake behind my house had nearly swallowed my fence and my grass was as high as an elephant's eye," said Jim Lushine, of Pembroke Pines, a retired meteorologist.
It usually takes a direct hit or near miss by tropical storms to produce this kind of rainfall. For instance, in 1947, when West Palm Beach registered a record 82.15 inches of rain, two hurricanes slammed into this region, one a Category 4.
This year has been no exception, as Tropical Storm Debby in June and Hurricane Isaac in August made significant contributions to this year's sogginess. Isaac alone generated more than 17 inches of rain in western Palm Beach County.
In addition, a mix of high- and low-pressure areas, fronts and other weather patterns has triggered rain-bearing storms. One of those was an expansive, persistent low-pressure area over the U.S. East Coast, the same low that kept a few tropical systems, notably Hurricane Leslie, clear of the United States.
"Florida was on the southern end of that low-pressure system, so there was just a bit more instability and moisture flow," Molleda said.
Normally, South Florida's rainy season starts during the third week of May and results in about 70 percent of the region's annual rainfall. This year, it got off to an early start on May 8 and it's been abnormally wet ever since, Molleda said.
In the summer, storms flooded streets and low-lying areas, downed trees and, in one case, started a fire when lightning struck a condo at Century Village in Pembroke Pines; no one was hurt. Mosquito control aircraft across South Florida have been busy spraying and West Palm Beach ended up experiencing its wettest summer on record, receiving 40.34 inches of rain.
Some consolation to those who dread the summer heat: All the rain and clouds kept temperatures slightly cooler than normal.
This year's gush of rain shows how quickly Mother Nature can switch gears, as South Florida was experiencing "exceptional" drought conditions — the most dire category on the scale set by the weather service — as recently as the spring and summer of 2011. Wildfires broke out, water supplies were strained and the level of Lake Okeechobee dropped 2 feet below normal.
Last week, the lake was almost a foot above normal and, courtesy of the Kissimmee River and other tributaries, about 7,750 cubic feet of water per second was flowing into it – enough to fill 307,000 residential swimming pools a day.
All the rain has prompted the South Florida Water Management District to lower the water level in canals to reduce the risk of flooding.
"The challenge this wet season is that many areas of the district have already seen a full season of rainfall, and October can be a very active storm month," said Susan Sylvester, the district's chief of water control operations.
LO water release
121006-a Slime torrent polluting state’s coast
MiamiHerald.com - by Carl Hiaasen
October 6, 2012
The biggest public toilet flushing in the country is underway at Lake Okeechobee.
To lower water levels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping billions of gallons into inland waterways that empty into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Loaded with nutrients and farm chemicals, the torrent is deadly for shrimp, oysters, grass beds, fish and near-shore reefs.
Viewed from the air, the brown stain pouring into the ocean from the St. Lucie Inlet is unmistakable for what it is: a gusher of pollution.
And nobody will stop it.
The Corps is in charge of maintaining Lake Okeechobee, ringed by an old dike that needs constant upgrading. It exists not only to protect surrounding communities from flooding, but also to hold fresh water for farmers, ranchers and South Florida suburbs.
In reality, the lake is managed primarily for Big Agriculture. One reason its dirty overflow isn’t pumped south is because it would soak the sugar fields.
And, as Floridians well know, the sugar companies have more political clout than the shrimpers, commercial fishermen or regular folks who live along the waterways and now get to watch the crud churning past their docks.
Every so often, when the rainfall gets exceptionally heavy, the Army Corps opens the floodgates at Lake O and sends all that crappy lake water to the coasts.
For catheters they use the Caloosahatchee River, which runs west toward the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Lucie Canal, which heads east toward the ocean through a prime estuary.
“It’s really a mess. Very destructive,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
This year, the trouble started with slow-moving Tropical Storm Isaac and worsened with continued heavier-than-usual rains. The level in Lake O kept rising, and the Army Corps on Sept 19. began “releasing” 581 million gallons of water per day.
Last week, the amount of dumping surged to 1.2 billion gallons a day. The lake is silted with fertilizers, nitrogen and other agricultural spillage that stirs whenever the gates are opened.
Enough polluted muck to fill 12 dump trucks is entering the St. Lucie Estuary every day. If a factory was polluting so flagrantly, it would have been shut down a long time ago.
But, see, it’s the government.
Given a choice between drenching some cane and devastating a marine habitat, the Corps remains bound by this administration (like past administrations) to favor the sugar companies and other growers south of the lake.
According to Perry, healthy salinity levels in the St. Lucie Estuary are 20 to 24 parts per thousand. Recent tests at the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart have shown salt levels below 5 parts per thousand. Oysters are dying and the sea grasses are in jeopardy, he said.
Algae blooms will be next. The last time that happened, a miles-long river of green slime appeared, and fish kills followed.
Every rainy season, water managers at Lake O hover near their pump handles in dread of what might come. Two years ago they emptied 300 billion gallons in anticipation of flooding. The rains didn’t materialize, a drought took hold and by 2011 parts of the lake bottom went bone-dry.
The Corps knows the damage that unleashing so much water causes, but its options are few. So far, the big flush of 2012 isn’t as humongous as the panicky dumpings of 2004 and 2005, which created a putrid mess and a public uproar. Sen. Bill Nelson and a few others stepped forward, but not much changed. The Everglades restoration project, a joint state-federal effort, still hasn’t advanced far enough to ease the Okeechobee problem.
Long ago, before South Florida was re-plumbed, the lake drained naturally into the filtering Everglades. The engineering exists to make that possible again, without swamping subdivisions and closing down sugar production.
Send the water south slowly, cleansed along the way by retention ponds, and it will feed the Aquifer upon which millions of Floridians depend. Instead we’re still pumping straight to the oceans, killing marine life and crippling small businesses that depend on a thriving waterfront environment.
The wastefulness is idiotic, the destruction criminal, and the silence from Washington is nauseating.
As the drainage canals leading south from Okeechobee remain closed, in deference to Big Sugar, a continual deluge of waste water is destined for our coasts. And the lake’s still too high.
121006-b Where, oh where has GOP conservationist legacy gone ?
Orlando Sentinel - by Rebecca Eagan, Guest columnist and wildlife conservationist, Winter Park, FL
October 6, 2012
These days I am only squeamishly still a Republican. There once were fundamental "truths" and remedies to problems agreed upon by both parties. Land, water and wildlife conservation, e.g., were viewed as basic to American physical, spiritual and psychological well-being.
If an official or private citizen took steps to protect wild places or waters, this was not razzed as "wacko tree-hugging" by an entire party. In fact, as the New York Times points out, these efforts "were in keeping with the GOP's tradition of environmental stewardship, stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt." Today one would never know Republicanism was ever anything but outright hostile to nature and its benefits.
The embrace of a rose-colored "fix" in deregulation and privatization is not merely irritating to green elephants who saw Richard Nixon preside over a newly-formed Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Water Act, but foolish.
My love for nature may exceed the mainstream, but many people's pursuit of happiness (and livelihood) depend on it. There's nothing like having four turkey poults file up to watch one paint; or the gravid doe dash two feet ahead across the trail. Neither Disney nor virtual reality can rival the random thrill in raw nature.
Fresh air and water are vital to life. Studies show that access to green space soothes stress and depression, boosting quality-of-life.
But if, as the Times spells out, "House Republicans have voted…302 times this year to hamstring the EPA and weaken protections for public lands and other environmental safeguards," Roosevelt's legacy and the work done by Republican conservationist Russell Train and "green" measures enacted under Nixon are dumpster-bound — unless this extreme trend is checked.
According to Jessica Goad of the Think Progress blog, the GOP platform ponders the sale of "parts of the federal government's enormous land holdings" to private ranching, mining or forestry interests. Mitt Romney told The Reno Gazette-Journal that he doesn't know "the purpose of" public lands. Meanwhile, multimillionaires can buy huge tracts for themselves; the plebs can't.
During his House tenure, Paul Ryan voted against the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which establishes new parks and adds wilderness acreage; against the bill codifying the National Landscape Conservation System; and to strip presidential power to name new national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which 16 of 19 presidents have employed. He supported a budget bill amendment that would virtually have annulled the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ryan's budget slashes from U.S. parks and forests would likely prompt closures and cost jobs and untold ecotourism dollars; and it provides for selling millions of public acres.
These are not your grandfather's Republicans.
Federal lands are our birthright. Privatization would foment piecemeal dismemberment of the peculiarly American "grand-scapes" crucial not just to wildlife but to scenic vacations. Is a horizon with mining machinery and oil pumps, yet no vestige of the purple mountain majesty our pioneers met, what we want?
As promised, President Obama has forwarded key preserves like our fledgling Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which, with the potential 2014 Florida Land and Water Legacy Amendment to secure Florida Forever funding in the Constitution, could help save Florida as we know it.
If ever there was a role for public ownership, it is to protect open space.
Saving America's unique ecology and geologic marvels — from southern marsh and pine mosaics to painted mesas in the Southwest — is sound policy and inherently nonpartisan.
The Wall Street Journal notes, "One of the key differences between the Romney and Obama energy plans (is that) Mr. Romney has called for oil companies to have much greater access to federal lands and has advocated giving states the leading role in regulating new oil and gas output on federal lands within their borders." These are our lands, remember — belonging to all Americans, not to states and not to Shell Oil.
This election, at the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, there truly are two "visions" for America the Beautiful — sadly, my party's is too gray to bear.
121005-a Florida Hunting: Where’s your favorite place to go?
October 5, 2012
With the fall hunting season already open, or getting ready to, in many parts of the state, we want to hear from our readers on their favorite spots for finding game.
Florida’s famed for its sunshine, beaches, quirky cities and hunting.
Yes, you read that right – hunting!
While it’s sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees (or past the concrete, depending on where you live), the Tampa Bay area is well known throughout the state and well beyond for its prime hunting locations.
As the Southwest Florida Water Management District prepares to open up open up the sale on its annual hog hunting permits, we want to hear from hunters throughout the Bay area.
Here are our questions to you: What is your favorite place to hunt? Do you prefer hitting the Green Swamp for hogs? Perhaps you don’t mind making the drive to Chassahowitzka to bag a Thanksgiving turkey? Sound off with your destination of choice in the comments section! (And, let us and other hunters know which location you think is best for what type of game or preferred hunting style, too!) If you have a photo of yourself at your favorite location with a big catch, you can even post it right to this story.
For those who don’t know, the water management district offers permitted hog hunts on some of its lands. The permits cost $75 each and go on sale Oct. 8 in a limited supply. These hunts, officials say, are crucial for keeping the hog population in check.
“Hog hunts are an important land management tool to control the wild hog population,” said district spokeswoman Robyn Felix. “Hogs reproduce quickly and have very few natural predators, so without the hunts, the damage they cause to our public lands would continue to increase.”
Information on Florida’s hunting seasons, which vary by part of the state, game and weapon of choice, is available on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website. To find out more about the water management district’s permitted hog hunts, check out this story: “Florida Hog Hunt Permits Available Oct. 8.”
Former FL Governor Bob GRAHAM
121005-b Proposed Conservation Amendment: $5 billion over 10 years, without raising taxes
FlaglerLive.com – by Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida
October 5, 2012
Backers of a constitutional amendment to earmark funds for conservation lands kicked off their effort Thursday, saying they’ve engaged 2,000 volunteers to gather signatures to bring the issue to voters in 2014.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham led a coalition of environmentalists and former state officials to highlight an upcoming campaign that if successful would earmark nearly $5 billion for conservation lands in the next 10 years without raising taxes.
The campaign “has as its objective continuing a commitment that Florida has had now for 50 years of acquiring land for the people to be saved and be used by the people and to be our legacy for the next generation of Floridians,” Graham said.
The proposed constitutional amendment, dubbed the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment, would set aside 33 percent of documentary tax collections for 20 years for land and water purchases, leases and restoration efforts. The taxes are collected on real estate and other legal transactions. Under the amendment, the monies deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund will remain separate from the State’s General Revenue Fund. The amendment would provide more than $5 billion for water and land conservation in Florida over the next ten years and $10 billion over the 20-year life of the measure, without any tax increase.
The effort is seen as a successor to Florida Forever and its precursor, Preservation 2000, which together have helped preserve more than 2 million acres over the past two decades. Rick Dantzler, a former state senator, said the goal is to ensure that the explosive growth that gobbled up parcels along Florida’s populous coasts would not have as devastating an effect on Florida’s agricultural inland regions.
While development has been stymied in recent years by the recession, Dantzler said demand will return and an “onslaught” of new residents will put pressure on regions of the state that have not yet been developed.
“What we are trying to do in the interior is try to prevent, frankly, our part of the state from going the way of some of the other parts of the state,” Dantzler said. “What we are trying to do is preserve our rural heritage. It really is a cultural thing.”
Florida’s commitment to protecting sensitive land and water spans generations and the tenure of governors from both parties going back to the 1980s, said Colleen Castile, a former Department of Environmental Protection secretary under Jeb Bush.
Since 1991, lawmakers had consistently provided $300 million annually for the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 land-buying programs. But in recent years, funding has dried up as the state faced a series of tight budgets and growing concern by Republican leaders over costs of managing the state’s growing real estate holdings. since 2009, the Florida Legislature has provided only $23 million for the landmark Florida Forever program, a 97.5 percent reduction in previous funding. State appropriations for land management and ecological restoration, including the Everglades, have suffered similar declines.
In 2012, the Legislature allocated $8.5 million to safeguard important water protection areas and conservation lands. In light of a state budget of $60 billion, that means that for every dollar the state spends in 2012, less than two-hundredths of one penny will go to water and land conservation––less than $1 for each Floridian.
Campaign manager Pegeen Hanrahan said the group will rely heavily on volunteer petition gatherers but will also likely hire professionals to help them meet their goal in time for the 2014 election.
The Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign brings together the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, and others. The campaign will reach out to gain signatures of at least 676,811 registered voters to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.
To qualify for the ballot, the proposal must pass Florida Supreme Court review to ensure it is not misleading and doesn’t deal with multiple issues.
121005-c Rainy season brings improvements to region's water resources
October 5, 2012
Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/10/05/4227301/rainy-seasons-brings-improvements.html#storylink=cpy
Above-normal rainfall during the summer rainy season has brought significant improvement to water resources in the region not seen in more than seven years, according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Many of the akes, rivers and aquifers in the region have recovered after a four-year drought that started in 2005. Rainfall totals from the four-month rainy season show above normal averages, according to the district. “This summer was a drought breaker for us,” Granville Kinsman, the District’s hydrologic data manager, in the release. “Areas north of the Tampa Bay area especially saw major improvements.” Some lakes in the northern region rose more than four feet. Also, the Withlacoochee River is back in the normal range for flows, according to the district. "The rainy season was helped by a significantly above-normal June, mostly due to two tropical storms," the release states. "However, provisional rainfall data show that September was below average across the district."
October 4, 2012
There comes a time in life when you start thinking about the kind of legacy you want to leave behind. But just thinking about it isn't enough.
As anyone who's ever managed the assets and affairs of someone who died without a will can attest, without careful cultivation and advance preparation, the legacy one leaves may be very different than what they hoped would be preserved.
"Preserved" is the key word as we collectively consider the legacy the Treasure Coast is creating. For all the contentious battles over the years about how best to grow, I'd be willing to bet that a Martin County-wide poll — even reaching across the aisle of the growth debate — would yield some surprising agreement about what attributes and safeguards make the county special.
This is why Treasured Lands Foundation readily endorsed Florida's Water & Land Legacy. This statewide effort seeks for 2014 a constitutional amendment to restore funding resources for land conservation lost to budget cuts. Now you might say the last thing we need is another tax increase. Couldn't agree more. One beauty of this campaign is that there's no tax increase involved.
Taking effect July 1, 2015, the amendment would commit one-third of the net revenues from existing excise tax on documents to funding that renews Florida Forever. Over the next 20 years — the duration of the proposed amendment — it's expected to secure $10 billion for conservation land purchases. That includes conserving and restoring, among others:
land for wetlands, forests and fish and wildlife habitats;
land that protects water resources and drinking water supplies such a rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds and aquifer systems;
land in the Everglades Agricultural Area and Everglades Protection Area;
beaches, shores, recreational trails, parks, historical and archaeological sites, even urban open space.
In addition to coming with no tax increase, there's another assurance. As part of a dedicated funding source the money would remain far from the general fund, which the Legislature controls.
At one time, Florida Forever stood as the largest program of its kind in the country. Funded to the tune of $300 million a year, it enabled the state since 1990 to buy 2.5 million acres. This included parks, working waterfronts, and conservation land from private landowners.
Since 2009, Florida Forever's funding was cut by nearly 98 percent. Its remaining $23 million budget — which included land management and restoration — was sliced to $8.5 million. In addition, a lot of conservation land held by government agencies is being auctioned off or sold at strikingly low prices.
With the global economic slowdown and subsequent budgetary cuts, it's understood that spending priorities shift accordingly. But principles do not shift.
Without safeguards and creative solutions like the Water & Land Legacy proposal, what is in danger of shifting is the hard-earned cultural awareness around the importance of land preservation. Conservationists of varied backgrounds helped achieve this awareness and it's one the public — very obviously on the Treasure Coast but in many places across the state — holds dear.
Trust for Public Lands, Audubon Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida and Florida Wildlife Federation — just some of the respected environmental organizations that founded the Water & Land Legacy effort — point to the priorities of Florida voters. Since 1994, five out of six constitutional amendments concerning environmental protection and land conservation successfully passed with an average voter approval of 68 percent. That's a powerfully clear voice.
Local residents consistently speak with a clear voice when it comes to conserving the character of our community and preserving our quality of life. It takes all of us to uphold our values and many hands to help write our legacy. Certainly Treasured Lands will be doing its part in helping get those hands to write something else — their signatures on the petition requiring 676,811 registered voters to put the Florida Water & Legacy amendment on the 2014 ballot.
121004-c Sen. Graham aims for 1 million signatures for 2014 environmental amendment
October 4, 2012
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and a group of environmentalists launched a new drive Thursday for a 2014 Constitutional amendment that would provide guaranteed funding for water and land conservation efforts in Florida for 20 years.
The Florida Water and Land Legacy amendment would use a third of the state’s Documentary Stamp Tax revenue for environmental purposes such as restoring and acquiring land, protecting beaches, repairing the Everglades and managing the water supply.
“Approaching this in a long-term, multi-decade basis… allows you to do good—and not political—project planning,” said Graham, who also served as Florida’s governor in the 1980s.
Former Department of Environmental Protection Secretrary Colleen Castille and Former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan are spearheading the drive to gather as many as 1 million signatures to support the effort.
The state’s Documentary Stamp Tax is a fee levied on most real estate transactions to help fund the state’s treasury and various expenditures. As the housing market has tanked, revenue from the “doc stamp” tax has fallen from $3 billion in 2006 to about $1.3 billion. With real estate prices and sales slowly beginning to rebound, supporters of this plan say it could provide more than $5 billion in conservation funding.
The doc stamp revenue is currently used to support Florida’s $70 billion annual budget, and a large portion goes to paying debt on the Preservation 2000 & Florida Forever conservation projects from the past.
Supporters of this plan say that debt will be paid down soon, freeing up additional money for conservation efforts. Related: Bob Graham joins environmental advocates in push for land conservation constitutional amendment WFSU.org Graham, Hanrahan leading push to protect environmentally ... Gainesville Sun Push starts for State to acquire and manage critical environmental ... The Ledger
LO water release
121003-a Lake Okeechobee draining increases due to flood concerns
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
October 3, 2012
To lessen Lake Okeechobee flooding threats, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to more than double the amount of lake water being dumped out to sea.
Concerns about the safety of the lake’s 70-year-old dike prompted the Army Corps on Sept. 19 to start draining lake water to the coast to slow the lake’s rise.
But despite dumping billions of gallons of water, the lake has risen half a foot since the draining started.
On Wednesday, the Army Corps announced it would increase releases to as much as 3.7 billion gallons of water per day.
While draining lake water helps protect the dike, it wastes water relied on to backup South Florida water supplies during the typically dry winter and spring. Also, dumping lake water can lead to fish kills and other damaging environmental consequences for coastal estuaries.
The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. On Wednesday the lake was 15.69 feet.
Tropical Storm Isaac in August and the rainy September that followed delivered the influx of water that has Lake Okeechobee rising.
How long lake releases will continue remains a "day by day" decision, said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida.
"We just haven’t seen the results that we wanted to," Greco said. "We still have a lot of inflow into the lake."
Oyster reefs, relied on as vital marine habitat, are already suffering from the infusion of lake water that throws off the delicate mix of saltwater and freshwater in the Indian River Lagoon. Damage to sea grass beds, algae blooms and fish kills could follow as lake discharges continue.
Lake Okeechobee used to naturally overlap the southern shore and flow south to replenish the Everglades.
But levees, canals and other flood control measures that drained the land to made way for development and farming now corral lake water and flush it out to sea when the lake threatens to get too high for the levee.
121003-b Rains raise water levels throughout South Florida
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
October 3, 2012
With rainfall at a record pace in some places, water managers are struggling to lower water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
From Lake Okeechobee to the marshes of the Everglades, South Florida has been saturated by what is shaping up as the wettest of wet seasons.
Water managers are struggling to deal with high-water concerns across a region left brimming by Tropical Storm Isaac and stubbornly steady storms that have followed in its drenching wake. Some spots are on pace for the rainiest year on record, with Miami leading the list at 79.51 inches through September.
On Wednesday, federal engineers ordered the drainage gates cranked open even wider on Lake Okeechobee, where water levels have climbed nearly a half-foot despite two weeks of release intended to slowly lower them. The decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to double the flow is primarily intended to ease pressure on the aging and leaky flood-control dike that rings the massive lake, but it will have a side-effect of pouring billions of gallons of polluted water into sensitive river estuaries on both coasts.
In the swollen marshes of the Central Everglades north of the Tamiami Trail, there are no similar relief-valve options to help deer and other wildlife, which have already spent the last month mostly confined to levees and small tree islands, shrinking swaths of high ground where starvation from dwindling food supplies, and diseases like hoof rot, are a growing threat.
Even without more rain, it could take another three weeks to a month for the water to drop to normal seasonal levels, said Michael Anderson, regional wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Quite frankly, after about 30 days, they start to run out of groceries on the islands and we start to see impacts,’’ Anderson said.
The Corps’ initial effort to lower the massive lake has already dumped more than 11 billion gallons of freshwater laced with high levels of farm chemicals and nutrients into the St. Lucie River on the east coast and the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast. Similar but much larger dumps after hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 destroyed oyster beds and sea grass, and triggered massive foul fish-killing algae blooms.
But with two months still left in hurricane season and plenty of rain remaining in the forecast, the Corps’ lake managers said they had little choice but to accelerate the damaging releases.
“We just haven’t seen the results we wanted since we started,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Corps’ deputy commander for South Florida.
Under the Corps’ management plan, the water level in Lake Okeechobee is supposed to stay between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level, rising and falling with seasonal rain. It stood at 15.69 feet on Wednesday.
That’s still well short of the 17-foot level where engineers begin to worry about the integrity of its aging dike, which has sprung leaks during past hurricanes and is undergoing repairs that will take years. But a tropical storm like Isaac can quickly drive up lake levels by two or three feet, which would raise the risk of a potentially catastrophic failure.
The lake has to come down and the Everglades are already too full to send water there, Greco said.
State and federal water managers say they are doing the best they can do with an outmoded and overwhelmed flood-control system that operates under sometimes conflicting regulations to protect suburbs, farms and the Everglades from excessive flooding. A string of Everglades restoration projects, starting with a bridge along Tamiami Trail expected to be completed next year, promises to resolve many of the issues and eventually allow more water to flow south into Everglades National Park. But it could take a decade or more for enough of the projects to come on line to make a significant difference.
For now, water managers are diverting as much water as they can out of the biggest troubles spots in the Everglades — the marshy water conservation areas bordering Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — and sending it down canals into southern Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. State wildlife managers also have temporarily restricted public access to flooded portions of the Everglades and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area to ease stress on stranded wildlife.
Flooding decimated the Glades’ population of white-tailed deer in 1982 and 1995, knocking the herd from thousands to hundreds, and killed countless smaller animals that rely on high, dry tree islands for food and shelter.
The FWC’s Anderson said he doesn’t expect that level of loss this time around, barring another major storm, which could keep water levels high even longer.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, which runs the flood control system from Orlando to Key West, seasonal rainfall is running about 114 percent above normal with an average of 37.53 inches across 16 counties.
But some areas have been hit harder than others, with the district showing eastern Broward County experiencing the wettest April through September since 1955, with more than 44 inches of rain — more than nine inches above average. Eastern Miami-Dade has been even wetter, with nearly 50 inches of rain — 13.22 inches above average.
At the official rainfall gauges maintained by the National Weather Service, Miami is on pace to record its wettest year ever, with 79.51 inches measured at Miami International Airport through September. The annual record for that site is 89.33 inches in 1959. The Redland, with 72.69 inches, and Homestead, with 67.58 inches, also are on pace for the wettest years on record. Fort Lauderdale’s Dixie water plant, with 69.24 inches, is the second wettest mark through September
121003-c UF receives portion of grant for water reseach
Alligator.org - by Beatrice Dupuy
October 3, 2012 1:00 am
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced UF will be among a group of universities to receive a $1.5 million research grant to look into ways to treat drinking water.
The EPA gave UF and USF’s team $499,360 for the four-year project. The EPA Science to Achieve Results program funds the grant. Treavor H. Boyer, UF and USF principal investigator, said the grants are funding new, innovative ideas. He said the program is starting by figuring out how to treat water from U.S. cities and could eventually be used in more rural parts of the world.
“We are trying to remove multiple contaminants from water at the same time,” he said. “A lot of processes just focus on removing a single contaminate from water.”
UF plans to give some of the grant money to USF, so its researchers can be involved in the project, he said.
Boyer said he decided to involve USF in the research, because he respects its life-cycle analysis program and the work being done there. He said the research made at UF will be more expensive, because it will be completed in a laboratory, while USF research will be done on computers.
The money from the grant will sponsor one Ph.D. student at each university to continue the research.
Boyer said the research will focus on ions and the range of potential environmental impacts.
Boyer said one method to treat water is to draw contaminants out by using methods similar to a magnet. An opposing charge attracts the contaminants, he said.
The $1.5 million grant, which was announced early this semester, is a supplement to a previous grant, which included eight colleges. UF, USF, University of Nevada and Clarkson University are recipients of the new grant.
The project’s pilot program will test the water at Cedar Key, he said.
“I’m really excited by the EPA making it a priority to help small water systems,” he said
121003-d Who will protect the Everglades ?
Sun Sentinel - by Debbie Harrison Rumberger
October 3, 2012
The Everglades have long suffered the human-induced impacts of diverted water flow, development, pollution and a host of other insults. Decades of insufficient freshwater flow have disrupted seasonal water patterns, which are critical to the survival of more than 68 rare or endangered species. The restoration of America's Everglades will rescue this ecosystem and dramatically increase freshwater supply for seven million South Florida residents and the region's agricultural industry, while creating four dollars of economic benefit for every dollar invested. Restoration has already generated more than 6,600 jobs.
Candidates have historically promised to help the Everglades. But unlike so many politicians before him, President Barack Obama delivered on his promises and presided over the most productive era in Everglades restoration history.
President Obama has invested more than $1.5 billion in protecting and restoring the Everglades. His administration launched the construction of bridging Tamiami Trail – a road that cuts the Everglades in half – so that water will once again flow through the ecosystem. That was only one of four construction groundbreakings celebrated in the past four years, more than during any previous four-year period of restoration. The president reached an historic agreement with the state of Florida, requiring cleaning up the pollution in the Everglades, and he has established the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
Gov. Romney has not released a position statement on the Everglades, so it is difficult to predict whether his administration would maintain or stall this momentum.
While President Obama confirms his commitment to protection of the "treasured Everglades" as a priority for his administration, there is no similar language in Mr. Romney's platform. Instead, the 2012 Republican platform ominously states, "Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship…" It continues, "Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government's enormous land holdings… could be better used for ranching, mining or forestry through private ownership."
President Obama has promised a continuing commitment to protection of America's Everglades and has a track record of living up to that commitment. Gov. Romney's platform calls for the wholesale dismantling of public lands protection as we have known it.
Who will best protect our Everglades? The decision rests with you.
Debbie Harrison Rumberger is a former member of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, the South Florida Regional Planning Council, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, the Florida Energy and Climate Action Team and the Florida Energy and Climate Commission.
Burmese pythons successfully adapted to
the environment invading
121002-a Are animal traits the result of behavioral epigenetics ?
Phys.org - by Vickie Chachere
October 2, 2012
A plant that is unremarkable in one environment becomes an invasive species in another, pushing through house foundations and sprouting up through roads. A house sparrow that's a perfectly charming resident of the English countryside is transported around the world, where it wipes out other bird species with aggressive behavior and harbored diseases.
It sounds like these plants and animals might be the result of mutant DNA – but they're not. They have the same DNA they had in their native land; it's the expression of their genes that's been radically changed. Scientists call this phenomenon epigenetics – the turning up, down or off of gene expression, which influences the traits plants and animals take on. Now, University of South Florida researchers Christina Richards and Lynn Martin, both professors in the Department of Integrative Biology, have published a new guide in the journal Behavioral Ecology on how scientists can understand how epigenetics guides rapid adaptation. "Our definition of epigenetics refers to molecular mechanisms that modulate how DNA is translated into traits," Richards said. "If you have two individuals with the same DNA sequence, you can get differences in their traits just by regulating what portions of the DNA sequence are turned on and off. When you expand this up to the population level, you begin to appreciate how fast variation can arise from environmental changes. New variation does not only come from mutation. Mutations are rare and slow to affect populations." The Behavioral Ecology paper, "Behavioral Epigenetics for Ecologists", lays out a roadmap to determine if important animal traits are the result of epigenetics. Martin said epigenetic research could help scientist's understanding of diverse issues such as the current obesity pandemic, cancer rates or how species may react to global climate change.
With epigenetic change, the DNA sequence stays the same and alterations in behavior, health, size, and all sorts of factors happen just because DNA gets packaged differently. In many cases, epigenetic changes like this are activated by some change in the environment; typically something stressful. What's unique about some of these environmentally-induced changes is that they can be passed along to subsequent generations, changing the nature of the species. Until recently, the inheritance of acquired traits was not thought to be important to evolutionary processes. DNA mutants arise and a tiny fraction of them pass on to the next generation to help populations adjust to new conditions. This way of thinking about evolution may address only part of the picture though; if epigenetic changes are as common as some expect, the understanding of problems as diverse as human diseases to how to control the invasive Burmese Pythons currently infiltrating the Florida Everglades might require whole new perspectives, the scientists said. One of the main areas where thinking about epigenetic change is so important is invasive species. Scientists have long been interested in understanding why some plants and animals are so successful at causing problems outside their native ranges. A likely answer involves epigenetic change. Richards and Martin, along with North Carolina State University co-author Cris Ledón-Rettig, describe their recent study as an "ambitious" attempt to find new understanding of how animal and plant species change – and what implications there may be for life in a changing environment. "The current biological theory holds that differences in DNA provide the variation necessary for adjusting to a wide variety of environmental factors," Richards said. "But invasive species appear to thrive even with low levels of genetic variation." For example, in a recent study of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in Ecology Letters, Richards and colleagues found plants across the 100 miles of Long Island, N.Y., had almost no genetic variation. Instead, responses to new habitats such as sand dunes and marshes were correlated with variation in DNA methylation patterns, one of the ways gene expression is regulated. Her findings indicate that epigenetic effects could be responsible for how the plants manage to thrive in diverse habitats, even though they have basically the same DNA. Martin is studying how the house sparrow can adjust so quickly to novel conditions in Africa. His group is finding that over only 60 years or so, house sparrows have spread across Kenya, changing dramatically as they've moved into new areas. The species originally comes from Europe, but in Kenya and perhaps elsewhere they've been introduced, they fight parasites differently, respond to stress differently, and are much more exploratory. With environments being so different and with so little genetic variation to work with, it's very likely that epigenetics is helping this invader expand its range. "We used to think that the environment mostly acted as the major selective agent for successful or unsuccessful trait adaptations - but where novel variation came from was always hard to pinpoint," Martin said. "This new way of thinking about evolution – adding epigenetics – gives the environment two roles: environment still picks the individuals that get to breed successfully, but it also creates trait variation through gene expression and probably epigenetic change. In effect, change can show up faster than the traditional view of evolution."
121002-b Audubon joins with Republican group to bridge partisan divides on environment and energy
LivingGreenMag.com – by Editor
October 2, 2012
The American Eagle Compact targets common-sense approaches to conservation and energy development to counter the partisanship that has confused and polarized voters, and jeopardized America’s commitment to conserving natural resources for the health of people and wildlife.
The compact urges new approaches that allow political leaders to:
● Develop energy in smarter ways to balance our energy and job needs with safeguarding our air and waters, avoiding sensitive landscapes, protecting public health, and protecting vulnerable birds and wildlife in sensitive lands and waters.
● Preserve and protect our public lands parks, open spaces and wildlife for the benefit all Americans through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Everglades restoration.
● Confront the realities and threats of air and water pollution in our communities and our states and make sensible decisions on how to deal with it.
The American Eagle Compact invites supporters, regardless of party affiliation, to demand common-sense stewardship of land and waters, energy independence, and protection of the health of U.S. communities.
“Extremists on both sides of the political divide have hijacked America’s conservation movement,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “We believe Americans want to break the gridlock. This is not just a fight to save the planet; this is a fight to save the neighborhoods where we live and the open space and waterways where we work and play. Conservation doesn’t have a party.”
“We call on the next administration and the next Congress to detoxify the conversation over energy and conservation issues,” said Rob Sisson, president of ConservAmerica. “The rancor of recent years represents a cynical, short-sighted attitude that betrays the important shared values that have always united us.”
The campaign continues through early November. Audubon and ConservAmerica will deliver copies of the compact and a list of signers to the White House and to Congress.
Supporters can sign the compact at www.EagleCompactUSA.org and can join the conversation at the Eagle’s Nest Blog (http://EagleCompactUSA.wordpress.com/) or on Twitter using the hashtag #EagleCompact.
Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at www.audubon.org.
121002-c Emergency flow-way eases flooding concerns, relieves levee pressure in Loxahatchee
WPTV.com Ch.5 - by Jeff Skrzypek
October 2, 2012
SFWMD claims flooding structure works
LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. - Tuesday's rainfall was a painful reminder for many residents in the western communities of Palm Beach County who were inundated with flood waters during and after Tropical Storm Isaac.
"You couldn't do anything. We couldn't get out of our driveway because everything was flooded," said Betty Argue, a Loxahatchee resident.
Each time it rains, residents like Argue wonder if they will once again be stranded by flooding.
"It was a tremendous amount of rain in a short period of time," said Randy Smith, spokesperson for the South Florida Water District Management.
The South Florida Water Management District feels relief is in sight and that crews have built a solution.
Smith said to help ease concerns, the South Florida Water Management District built an emergency flow-way in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
The 100-foot structure is functioning properly according to Smith who said the flow-way is relieving pressure from the Corbett area, preventing the levee from breaking despite record rainfall.
Smith said in 2011 from May to October, Palm Beach County saw about 35 inches of rain. In 2012 during that same time period, 44 inches of rain feel in the same area. "It would be nice if it would stop raining long enough so I could mow my law," said Argue.
The flow-way system is a relief for residents like Argue who said so far flooding has not been an issue lately.
The South Florida Water Management District said the flow-way it installed is temporary. Crews will continue to maintain it as long as rain is in the forecast.
121002-d Florida knows best how to protect our waters
Gainesville Sun – by Drew Bartlett, FDEP
October 2, 2012
Andrew McElwaine ("No room for ‘dirty water rules" - Sept. 24, 2012) accused the Department of Environmental Protection of failing to protect Florida’s water bodies and suggested that we have willingly written ineffective water-quality standards that would allow unsafe pollution levels rather than following limits set by the U.S. EPA. This is simply not true. Consider the following:
The federal rules would actually allow increased nutrients in the Santa Fe River, which experienced severe algal blooms this summer. The Department’s rules require nutrient reductions in order to avoid such algal blooms in the future. Florida's water-quality standards are more comprehensive by requiring additional algae measurements, a parameter the EPA rules do not include in its assessment, before declaring a water body healthy.
The federal rules also conclude that the Suwannee River and Ichetucknee River are not nutrient enriched. In fact, the impairments are common knowledge among local stakeholders. The Department has proven far more capable of interpreting and responding to regional water-quality issues than any federal agency.
Also, the State standards were completely upheld in court after a week-long trial. To the contrary, the EPA’s river and stream criteria were invalidated in federal court. Beyond that, the rules developed by the Department received unanimous support from the Florida Legislature and Environmental Regulation Commission, and bipartisan support from our leaders in Washington, D.C.
121001-a Water Management District approves improvements
News Herald - by Jessica McCarthy
October 1, 2012
PANAMA CITY — One organization will be making both humans and wildlife happy with their work in the coming years.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District announced an adopted budget that includes work on St. Andrews Bay, Williford Spring, Perdido River, and many other bodies of water in the Panhandle.
“These rivers and adjacent watersheds represent the major rivers and hydrologic basins in the Panhandle,” Lauren Engel, communications director for the district, said.
Engel said though the list is short, it represents a lot of work and improvement.
“These programs listed in the release actually consist of several projects,” Engel said. “For example, in the St. Andrews Bay watershed, watershed restoration work will improve water quality in the estuary and contributing watershed through storm water retrofits and sedimentation abatement. In addition, the Spring Avenue Pond project will treat storm water discharged from urban areas in Bay County, improving the quality of water being discharged into Watson Bayou and the St. Andrews Bay estuary.”
Engel also said the improvements will benefit local wildlife.
“In general, watershed protection projects often result in improvements to water quality and supply, as well as adjacent wetlands and riversheds,” Engel said. “The St. Andrews project will also help restore natural shoreline habitats. Or, wetland restoration projects will have numerous public benefits, including improved water quality and water resources, improved habitat for fish and wildlife and shoreline protection.”
The district also announced the new budget includes a millage rate of .04 mill, the same rate as last year. Brett Cyphers, assistant executive director for the district, said it was important to them to keep that rate.
“Like chairman George Roberts said, the district is trying to remain committed to our core mission, and we’re doing that with the budget too and not adding any burden to Northwest Florida taxpayers,” Cyphers said. “Our cap is .05 mills, so even if we have to raise the millage rate to the max, it will not be a large amount of money from where we are now, relatively speaking for the taxpayers.”
Cyphers also said these projects will take up about $6 million of the district’s $27.8 million budget, but the cost of normal day to day operations associated with these projects is not included in the $6 million.
Cyphers and Engel both said one thing they like to talk about is enjoying these places.
“The District owns more than 200,000 acres, and every acre of District-owned land is available to the general public for a wide variety of resource-based recreational purposes which take into consideration the environmental sensitivity of the land,” Engel said. “We encourage residents to get out and take advantage of these resources, which will help garner a further appreciation for Florida’s resources.”
LO water release
121001-b Water in Lake Okeechobee still rising as dumping continues
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 1, 2012
High water level means more pressure on the dike.
Flushing billions of gallons of water out to sea hasn't stopped Lake Okeechobee — and South Florida flood concerns — from rising.
The Army Corps of Engineers since Sept. 19 has been draining water from the lake to ease the strain on the Herbert Hoover Dike, considered one of the country's most at risk of failure.
Discharges to the east and west coast dumped about 11 billion gallons of lake water out to sea as of Saturday, according to the Army Corps. That's enough water to fill nearly 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Lingering drainage from Tropical Storm Isaac's torrential rains on Aug. 26 and 27 boosted the lake's upward arc and the rainy September that followed kept the water rising.
"The amount [of water] coming in continues to outpace the amount going out," Army Corps spokesman John Campbell said. "It's still going up."
The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. On Monday, the lake was at 15.63 feet — more than three feet higher than when Isaac hit and more than 4 feet higher than a year ago.
The Army Corps considers 17.25 feet to be the maximum allowable threshold for the dike, with dike stability becoming an even greater risk if the lake tops 18 feet.
"We aren't there yet and we don't want to get there," Campbell said.
Five years of construction aimed at strengthening the lake's ailing 143-mile dike has cost taxpayers more than $360 million and the work remains far from finished.
The dike rehab so far has focused on building a reinforcing wall aimed at stopping erosion on a 21-mile southeastern portion that's considered the most vulnerable to a breach.
A study aimed at determining how to proceed with dike repairs is expected to last until 2014.
Draining lake water helps protect the 70-year-old dike, but it also wastes lake water relied on to back up South Florida water supplies during the typically dry winter and spring.
In addition, dumping billions of gallons of lake water out to sea has damaging environmental consequences on coastal estuaries; threatening fishing grounds and water quality in prime tourism territory.
Oyster reefs, relied on as vital habitat for a multitude of marine species, are already suffering from the infusion of lake water that throws off the delicate mix of saltwater and freshwater in the Indian River Lagoon, according to Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart.
Sea grass beds could be next. Algae blooms and fish kills could follow if lake discharges grow.
"They are having detrimental effects," Perry said. "It's really a concern."
Lake Okeechobee water once naturally overlapped the southern shore and flowed south to replenish the Everglades. Now flood-control measures that made way for development and farming corral the water and flush it out to sea when the lake creeps too high up the levee.
The Army Corps contends that the lake water releases are at least slowing the rise of the lake.
So far, the Army Corps has opted for lower-level releases to try to balance dike protection with environmental concerns and long-term water supply needs.
But those lake discharges could increase if more rains come.
How long the lake releases will continue has not been decided, but the Army Corps by Dec. 1 wants to get lake levels down to 14.8 feet or below, according to Campbell.
"We continue to review our options," Campbell said.
Concerns about the stability of the Lake Okeechobee dike has the Army Corps keeping lake levels about a foot lower than usual year round.
That's a key reason why South Florida's swings from too-little-water to too-much-water seem more frequent in recent years, said Charles Shinn, who monitors Lake Okeechobee issues for the Florida Farm Bureau.
South Florida farmers growing everything from sugar cane to vegetables tap into Lake Okeechobee water for irrigation during the dry season.
"We would certainly like to hold as much water as we can because we don't know what's coming down the road," Shinn said.
Jumpstarting Everglades restoration that includes moving more Lake Okeechobee water south offers the best fix to South Florida's water storage and drainage problems, according to Perry.
But the cost and shifting political priorities for decades have delayed plans for reservoirs and more water treatment areas that could help get more water flowing south.
"It is very frustrating," Perry said. "We know what should be done to solve this problem. But the political will is not there to do it."
Tinkering with lake levels can have damaging water supply and environmental consequences.
The Army Corps of Engineers in 2010 drained more than 300 billion gallons of lake water out to sea to ease the strain on a dike due to flood control concerns. But then storms stayed away and a record-setting drought followed, dropping lake water levels in 2011 to the lowest point in three years.
That dried up lake marshes relied on by wildlife and lessened the water available to back up South Florida supplies.
"Water is precious and there is only one place to store any significant quantities," U.S. Sugar Corp. spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said.