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Budget: Governor requests more money for conservation land-buying, Everglades restoration
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 31, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott's fiscal year 2013-14 budget request includes $75 million for conservation land-buying, $60 million for Everglades restoration and $135 million for petroleum tank cleanups.
However, his request for the Florida Forever land-buying program depends on the sale of $50 million worth of state lands that would be declared surplus. He requested $25 million in new cash for the program.
"We'll see how much money there is that we have, if we have extra," Scott told reporters as he unveiled his $74.2-billion budget request on Thursday.
Some environmental groups praised what they said was the governor's new commitment to land-buying. Scott vetoed spending for land buying in 2011 before requesting $15 million in 2012.
"It feels like we have turned a corner with Governor Scott," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and chairman of the Florida Forever Coalition. "This budget seems to be a good environmental budget."
The budget request also includes $25 million for beach restoration, $19 million for state park improvements, $6 million for springs protection, and $3 million for Apalachicola River stormwater projects and a flow study.
The budget for environmental and agricultural agencies is about $3 billion, which is $225 million less than in fiscal year 2012-13. The state this fiscal year will finish paying off $257 million per year in bonds for land-buying, and the bulk of that money is being shifted to general revenue for other state programs.
The Florida Forever Coalition in September had asked for the $257 million to go towards conservation. Later, the coalition asked for $100 million for Florida Forever as a more realistic request.
Draper said the governor's request was close to what the coalition wanted and achieved a balance between selling state land and providing new cash to buy land. Florida Forever received $8.7 million from the Legislature in fiscal 2012-13.
Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy and strategies for The Nature Conservancy's state chapter, also praised the governor's request while urging caution as the state evaluates land for potential sale.
Draper also said the $60 million Everglades restoration request, which is double what the Legislature provided in 2012-13, shows that "Florida is in the Everglades business again." The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency last year approved a restoration plan proposed by Scott that calls for $32 million annually for filter marshes and reservoirs for 13 years.
Petroleum interests praised the governor's requested $10 million increase for cleaning up leaking petroleum tanks above the $125 million appropriated last year.
The governor's $151.3 million includes money for petroleum tank site inspections and related activities. The revenue comes from a tax on petroleum when it is imported to the state.
"It's very positive," said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. "I think it represents the commitment of the governor to the drinking water and groundwater of the state."
Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said he would like to see the final appropriation closer to the approximately $200 million a year collected through the petroleum tax.
"We would like to work with the legislators to get that (appropriation) moving up towards $150 million," Bowman said.
Likewise, the governor's $25 million request for beach restoration is a good start on what will be a challenging year to help pay for beach erosion caused by tropical storms Sandy and Debby as well as a backlog of other projects, said Debbie Flack, president of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
"Hopefully, we can all get together on a good set of priorities we agree upon," Flack said.
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Fla. Governor recommends funding to restore waterways Boating Industry
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Florida governor seeks higher school aid, business tax cuts Reuters
Gov. Rick Scott proposes $74.2 billion budget Tampabay.com
Scott's $74.2 billion budget plan is the biggest in state history Orlando Sentinel (blog)
Scott proposes largest budget ever Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Scott reveals $74.2 billion budget proposal which would provide ... TCPalm
Environmental group wants plan to eliminate, not reduce, Lake O discharges into St. Lucie Estuary
TCPalm.com - by Tyler Treadway
January 31, 2013
STUART — The head of the Army Corps of Engineers for Florida talked Thursday about a plan to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary to a group dedicated to eliminating the discharges altogether.
But Lt. Col. Tom Greco also told members of the Rivers Coalition packed into the commission chambers of Stuart City Hall that the Central Everglades Planning Project was "the first increment" in an overall plan to stop the discharges.
The project, known by the acronym "CEPP," is designed to speed up restoration in the heart of the Everglades by directing water south on land that's already publicly owned. It was adopted by federal and state officials in October 2011, and a final plan is due by the end of the year.
The goal of the project, Greco said, is "to reduce the flow to the east (the St. Lucie Estuary) and west (the Caloosahatchee River) and send more water to the south, to the central Everglades and to Everglades National Park, where it's needed."
Charles Grande, a former St. Lucie County commissioner and president of the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, countered, "The group's goal is to eliminate water going east and west. No water from Lake Okeechobee is of any benefit to the estuary. We need to stop the discharges, not reduce them."
According to Mark Perry, a coalition director and executive director of the Stuart-based Florida Oceanographic Society, the project would be able to move south about 200,000 acre-feet of water, or about half a foot of the lake's overall depth, each year.
"Unfortunately," Perry added, "the St. Lucie Estuary gets an average of 440,0000 acre-feet of water in discharges, or more than a foot of depth, from Lake O every year. And almost 1 million acre-feet is sent west to the Caloosahatchee every year. Is it enough? No. We need to move more water south. Will it help? Well, anything will help."
The Rivers Coalition, a consortium of civic groups, homeowner association and fishing clubs in Martin and St. Lucie counties, unsuccessfully sued the corps in 2006 in an attempt to stop the Lake O releases.
The corps says the discharges are necessary to move huge volumes of water quickly to prevent a catastrophic failure of the 110-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around the 730-square-mile lake during the wet season.
Water is released from Lake O whenever heavy rainfall in southern and central Florida pushes Lake O above 15.5 feet, the maximum set by the corps. Most recently, the corps released water from Sept. 19 until Nov. 7 after a month of above-average rain began Aug. 25 with Tropical Storm Isaac.
The releases drastically lower the salinity of the brackish water in the estuary, killing oysters and seagrass and allowing coliform bacteria, which can't survive in salty water, to thrive. The bacteria problem is worsened by elevated concentrations of nutrients, mostly fertilizers from agricultural and residential runoff.
"We need to make sure the corps says the CEPP is only the first increment in an overall plan to eliminate the discharges," Perry said. "Making that distinction is even more important than the project itself."
Greco agreed: "There is clear recognition (by the Corps) that CEPP is the first increment."
The project won't start moving water toward the Everglades until 2024, Perry said."And that's if everything goes smoothly in the planning and appropriations processes," he added.
Jennifer S. Miller, a public affairs specialist with the Corps, said an estimated cost of the project has not been determined.
"The project is still in the analysis phase," Miller said. "We're just getting into the cost analysis."
Noting that four alternative plans are being considered, she added, "We can't get into the money that will be needed until we finalize the plan."
Manatees seek refuge
DailyCommercial.com – by Scott Callahan, Staff Writer
January 31, 2013
People in Lake and Sumter counties who like to observe manatees in the wild look forward to this time of year, when cold weather drives the sea cows into warmer waters such as the temperature-consistent springs in Crystal River and Orange City.
But what's good for manatee watchers is usually bad for the mammals, since cold weather is perilous to their health, resulting in hundreds of deaths each year -- a quarter of which come at the hands of people and their watercraft in the close confines of the very springs and rivers in which the creatures seek refuge.
However, researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently said they have documented fewer manatee deaths in 2012 than in the previous three years, as milder winter temperatures so far this season have led to significantly less cold-related mortality.
The number of recorded manatee deaths in Florida dropped in 2012 to the lowest number in four years. Researchers documented 81 watercraft-related deaths in 2012, slightly below the yearly average of the past five years.
The highest recorded count of manatee deaths was 766 in 2010, when the sea creatures suffered through an unseasonably cold winter.
Besides the warmer weather, FWC officials say they've also stepped up efforts to educate the public about keeping manatees safe.
"Protecting manatees is a priority," said Maj. Jack Daugherty, FWC's Boating and Waterways section leader. "Our officers take time to patrol manatee zones, identify areas that have presented problems, and generally work with the public to educate them on how to boat safely and in a way that doesn't harm the environment."
To help prevent cold-related deaths, the FWC continues to work with partners to enhance availability of warm-water sites important to manatee survival. Among recent efforts was the restoration of Fanning Springs, which improves manatee access to a natural warm-water habitat off the Suwannee River.
In Citrus County, people can view manatees at the Crystal River and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuges, particularly in the Three Sisters Spring. In Volusia County, the mammals can be found at Orange City's Blue Spring State Park on the St. Johns River.
As part of its conservation efforts, the FWC rescues distressed manatees throughout the state. The FWC and partners rescued 81 manatees in 2012, in many cases as a result of citizens contacting the agency. To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 888-404-FWCC end_of_the_skype_highlighting (3922).
Florida residents can also help manatees by purchasing the manatee specialty license plate, available at county tax collectors' offices. The funds collected for these plates go directly to manatee research and conservation.
MANATEE FAST FACTS: Adults are typically 9-10 feet long, weigh around 1,000 pounds and may live up to 50 years. They may grow to more than 13 feet and weigh more than 3,500 pounds. They have two forelimbs, usually with 3 or 4 nails, that they use for slow movements and to grasp vegetation while eating. While they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes they typically surface to breathe every 3 to 5 minutes.
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on Mercury toxicity
Mercury’s silent toll on the world’s wildlife
Yale.edu - by Rebecca Kessler
January 31, 2013
Scientists are only beginning to understand the impacts of mercury contamination on birds, fish, and other wildlife populations. But what they are finding is alarming — even low levels can cause harm, and chronic exposure has unexpected and troubling effects.
This month, delegates from over 140 countries gathered in Geneva and finalized the first international treaty to reduce emissions of mercury. The treaty — four years in the works and scheduled for signing in October — aims to protect human health from this very serious neurotoxin.
But barely considered during the long deliberations, according to those involved in the treaty process, was the harm that mercury inflicts on wildlife. While mercury doesn’t kill many animals outright, it can put a deep dent in reproduction, says David Evers, chief scientist at the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), who serves on a scientific committee informing the process. “It is a bit of a silent threat, where you have to kind of add up what was lost through studies and demographic models.”
Harmful levels of mercury have turned up in all sorts of animals, from fish and birds living around the world to pythons invading the Florida Everglades and polar bears roaming far from any sources of pollution. In recent years, biologists have been tracking mercury’s footprints in unexpected habitats and species. Their research is illuminating the subtle effects of chronic exposure and is showing that ever-lower levels cause harm.
Coal burning, gold mining, and other human activities release mercury into water bodies or the atmosphere, where it can travel great distances before settling back to Earth. Mercury contamination is ubiquitous and hotspots are common around the world, with fish and human hair collected in 14 countries regularly exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, according to a BRI report released just before the Geneva negotiations.
And while mercury emissions are declining in North America and Europe they are rising quickly in the developing world, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the treaty coordinator.
The new global treaty bans the production, import, and export of certain mercury-containing products, requires governments to create plans to reduce mercury in small gold mining operations, and puts some controls on industrial facilities — but some environmental groups warn that it is too weak. The U.S. is going further. On January 1, an export ban on elemental mercury took effect, and the EPA is finalizing new limits on coal plant emissions.
“In the end the treaty will reduce mercury that’s being released into the environment. And I think the question will be, as we move along, ‘Is it enough ?’ — especially for areas that are sensitive to mercury input. And then ‘Is it enough for wildlife conservation purposes?’ which really wasn’t addressed all that well,” Evers says.
Exposed animals have trouble ridding their bodies of mercury, and it accumulates in tissue with every link in the food chain.
Long-lived predators tend to carry the heaviest loads. Research and public attention have largely focused on contaminated fish, the main route of human exposure. In water, mercury converts quickly to methylmercury, its most toxic and bioavailable form, so for many years wildlife biologists trained their sights on aquatic, fish-eating birds and mammals, says Bill Hopkins, a Virginia Tech physiological ecologist.
Lately, though, Hopkins and others have uncovered mercury in reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, terrestrial songbirds, and a wider variety of mammals than expected. “All these different groups can be exposed to mercury and pass it on to their babies,” says Hopkins.
Mercury is also turning up in strange places, he says. Invertebrate-eating songbirds living in the floodplain bordering a contaminated Virginia river had as much mercury in their blood as the river’s fish-eating birds, and sometimes more, showing that mercury pollution doesn’t stay put in aquatic habitats. Scientists have found mercury-laden food chains in mountainous forests, and shown that methylmercury forms in the woods, as well as in water. BRI scientists and collaborators discovered high levels in many invertebrate-eating songbird and bat species living in varied habitats across the U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, including remote uplands. The pollutant has also emerged as a serious problem in the Arctic.
Mercury plays havoc on vertebrates’ development and their neurological and hormonal systems, and doses too low to kill can cause problems that aren’t always obvious in the wild, experts say. “Methylmercury is one of most toxic environmental pollutants we’ve ever come upon,” says Gary Heinz, a recently retired federal wildlife biologist who studied it over four decades.
In the earliest studies of these sublethal effects in the 1970s, Heinz reported that captive mallards fed mercury-laced food laid fewer eggs than control ducks and laid them outside the nest. Also, their ducklings didn’t respond well to their calls. Numerous examples have accumulated since. Fish form loose, sloppy schools and are slow to respond to a simulated predator. Several bird species sing different songs. Loons lay smaller eggs, and they incubate their nests, forage, and feed their chicks less. Salamanders are sluggish and less responsive to prey, Hopkins and colleagues found. Egret chicks are similarly lethargic and unmotivated to hunt.
Changes like these could be grave for wild animals, says Peter Frederick, a University of Florida ecologist who was part of the egret study. “Getting lunch or a mate depends on milliseconds and millimeters. You have to perform that courtship dance just right. You have to make the calls just right. You have to stab your prey to within a millimeter. If you’re off by a microsecond, it’s gone,” he says.
Frederick discovered a remarkable example in white ibises from the Everglades. There, mercury levels are low but constant, and ibises seem to nest less and abandon their nests more often than elsewhere. To see if chronic mercury exposure was responsible, Frederick captured 160 ibis nestlings and fed them food with mercury levels similar to their wild fish prey. He and his team observed the birds for three years to see if it affected their breeding behavior.
As expected, the dosed birds produced far fewer offspring than undosed controls. There were the usual reasons: eggs didn’t hatch and chicks died under lousy parenting. But Frederick was wholly surprised to see widespread homosexual pairing among the dosed males and to find this caused much of the reproductive deficit. Avian homosexuality usually occurs with stark sex imbalances — which wasn’t the case here, Frederick says.
No one had ever reported homosexuality as an effect of mercury, or any other contaminant for that matter, Frederick says. Moreover, the effects appeared in ibises he’d fed as little as 0.05 ppm of mercury in their food — one-tenth of what Heinz fed his mallards. Further work indicated that hormonal changes wrought by mercury’s effects on the ibises’ endocrine systems were at work. In a 2011 paper, Frederick and a colleague estimated that out in the Everglades, mercury could cut the number of ibis fledglings by half — easily enough to curtail the population.
No one has checked wild ibises for poor parental behavior or homosexuality, which might lay the blame more squarely on mercury, he says. (Different species react to mercury differently, and Frederick stresses that for many reasons his results in no way suggest that mercury might play a role in human homosexuality.) Nevertheless, the broader implications for chronically exposed wildlife are chilling. “We can be essentially neutering populations by cutting off reproduction through the endocrine system,” he says. “This could easily be going on in the wild with many kinds of contaminants. Mercury is not the only endocrine disruptor.”
Like Frederick’s study, much of the research on mercury’s sublethal effects has been conducted on captive animals. In nature, it’s very difficult to get the large sample sizes and control groups needed to identify subtle differences statistically, says Erick Greene, a conservation biologist at the University of Montana.
Studying ospreys living near Montana’s polluted Clark Fork River, Greene and two colleagues found that about half the eggs laid by high-mercury birds fail to hatch. But they’ve been puzzled as to whether the surviving chicks are affected. In humans, blood levels around .005 ppm can cause cognitive deficits, Greene says. But his osprey chicks commonly have levels 100 — and even 1,000 — times higher. The chicks seem to do fine in the nest, he says. “They may look all right, but I don’t know if I would recognize a mentally impaired osprey chick.”
Once they’re fledged they soon migrate south, out of sight. Greene suspects they may have trouble making the demanding migration to Central or South America (where mercury flows freely in small gold mining operations), or just figuring out how to survive on their own. His team has begun outfitting fledglings with satellite transmitters to determine how far mercury-loaded birds get compared to their normal peers, and how long they live.
It’s one thing to show that wild animals are exposed to harmful levels of mercury, but solid evidence that whole populations are harmed is harder to come by, experts say. A notable exception is loons. Evers and more than a dozen colleagues amassed an impressive 18-year data set of nearly 5,500 mercury measurements from loons on 700 lakes across 17 U.S. states and Canadian provinces. They showed that when mercury in loon blood hits 3 ppm, the number of young fledged drops by 41 percent — and that enough loons are affected to set back some New Hampshire and Maine populations.
In a forthcoming paper, Hopkins and another researcher go a step further with a population model they developed based on four years of field data on American toads. Toads readily move between small populations scattered throughout the landscape. Mercury exposure can kill eggs and tadpoles, and survivors are often small and slow to mature. The model revealed that not only can mercury kill enough tadpoles to wipe out small populations, but that nearby uncontaminated populations can also drop or go extinct because there are too few toads around to replenish them if their numbers happen to dip for other reasons. Hopkins says he thinks the paper will change biologists’ understanding of contaminants. “Contaminant effects in one population can actually affect adjacent populations that aren’t being exposed to that contaminant,” he says.
Whatever its weaknesses, the new treaty represents a “great step forward,” says Evers, and the good news is that once local sources are controlled, mercury in nearby wildlife can drop quickly. The bad news is that mercury from coal burning can travel great distances — for instance, from China to North America — before settling.
Overall, Evers says the forecast for wildlife is cloudy. When it comes to mercury, “the more we look the more we find, and the more we find the lower that toxicity level is going,” he says. “Right now at a global level, mercury is just being released more and more in the system. Those trend lines are going in the wrong directions.”
Our rivers and springs are getting sicker, former Fla. Governor says it's because of 'Bad Policies'
WLRN.org - by Tricia Woolfenden
January 31, 2013
A scathing guest column that appeared Wednesday in the Orlando Sentinel says "severe budget cuts are seriously compromising the ability of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature and water management districts to adequately protect our state's natural resources."
The opinion piece was penned by former U.S. senator and Florida governor Bob Graham, and Nathaniel Reed. Both men were speaking on behalf of the Florida Conservation Coalition; Graham as founder and chairman of the group, and Reed as vice chairman.
The piece was spurred by recent investigative work by Orlando Sentinel's environmental reporter Kevin Spear, who has been looking at the health of Florida's rivers and springs. An article from January 16, titled "Florida Rivers Getting Sicker, Sentinel Investigation Finds," reports:
Of the 22 rivers studied, from Miami to Pensacola, nearly half are in decline because of pollution from lawns, street runoff, wastewater and agriculture, and because of shrinking flows caused by drought and rising demand for water by cities and industries. Other rivers in the group, while either stable or improving, are profoundly impaired.
Spear reports that while the state is facing concerns over water shortages and pollution, the state government is cutting the "size and strength" of the agencies charged with environmental protection. Another story by Spear from late last year examines another aspect of the Florida river conundrum: The rivers' "low profile" in both a physical and perhaps metaphorical sense.
Most recently, the paper covered an upcoming rally for Wekiva River, a 16-or-so-mile spring-fed river in central Florida. The Speak Up Wekiva rally, planned for February 16, is hosted by Florida Conservation Coalition and its partners, including Friends of the Wekiva River, League of Women Voters of Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Region's coral reefs in 'alarming' decline, study finds
Sun Sentinel - by Robert Nolin
January 31, 2013|
The region's coral reefs, including those off South Florida, have ceased growing at an "extremely alarming" rate and may be poised for massive erosion, a new study has determined.
A recent report by an international group of scientists concluded that coral reef growth, especially reefs in shallow water like that offshore South Florida, has declined by as much as 70 percent.
"Reefs have gone downhill all over the place and this study has added more evidence," said Professor Richard Dodge, director of the National Ocean Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. "We're in a period of slow to no growth here in Southeast Florida's coral reefs."
Reefs matter to local economies, Dodge said. A 2000 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that through boating, diving, fishing and related activities, reefs fuel a $6 billion annual economic boost to Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Martin counties. They account for some 71,000 jobs.
"If you understand it's an economic engine and creates an economy, it becomes even more important," Dodge said.
Coral reefs stretch offshore from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties, and extend out from a quarter mile to three miles. Their depth ranges from about 15 feet near shore to 100 feet farther out.
Scientists from universities in Maine, Canada, Australia and New Zealand participated in the study, which examined coral reef growth in the Caribbean region. Their conclusion, published in "Nature Communications," found coral in the region has stopped growing to a large degree and may begin eroding.
"Our estimates of current rates of reef growth in the Caribbean are extremely alarming," said Professor Chris Perry of Britain's University of Exeter, lead researcher in the study. "If these trends continue, reef erosion looks far more likely."
The study credits the slowed growth to a drop in the coral's production of calcium carbonate, or limestone, which forms the foundation upon which coral grows. That production has declined most dramatically in shallow water reefs, the study found.
"It almost certainly applies to our reefs, they're not in a high production mode of calcium carbonate," Dodge said.
Reefs need a delicate balance of growth and erosion, the scientists said. If that balance becomes upset, deterioration is inevitable, because the coral has no firm foundation, or substrate, upon which to grow.
"Some of us are quite worried about what happens when the substrate itself starts to deteriorate," said John McManus, marine biology professor with the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.
Climate change and pollution are the main culprits, Dodge said.
But reef erosion can take a hundred years. "Within a hundred years you're going to be worried about sea level rise here," McManus said. "We're going to either have to build dikes or start moving."
Bad policies pose historic threats to Fla. environment
Orlando Sentinel - by Bob Graham and Nathaniel Reed, Guest columnists
January 30, 2013
Recent investigative reporting by Kevin Spear in the Orlando Sentinel reveals the dramatic and widespread pollution and flow problems facing so many of Florida's rivers and springs. These reports were echoed by editorials across the state calling on Florida's governor, Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature to take action to protect and restore our impaired waterways.
Yet instead of resolving the serious problems that threaten our state's most precious natural resources, efforts in Tallahassee have focused on rolling back environmental safeguards and growth-management guidelines, cutting funding for conservation and regulation, reducing enforcement against polluters and liquidating public lands.
Severe budget cuts are seriously compromising the ability of Florida's DEP and water management districts to adequately protect our state's natural resources. Funding for many important conservation, restoration, monitoring, research, enforcement and education programs has been drastically reduced or eliminated.
Our state has also lost decades of valuable knowledge and expertise from significant layoffs, resulting in less capable agencies with insufficient resources and demoralized personnel. Although the DEP recently claimed "these reductions have done nothing to erode the agency's role in regulating industry and protecting the environment," it is not hard to find evidence to the contrary.
In 2012 the St. Johns River Water Management District cited "staffing capabilities" when asked why it reduced the number of monitoring stations in the St. Johns' lower basin by nearly two-thirds.
In addition, the recent decision by the Northwest Florida Water Management District to delay setting minimum flows and levels for Wakulla Springs for 11 years raises serious concerns about the ability of Florida's water-management districts to perform their critical missions at current funding and staffing levels. Reduced monitoring and legal protections endanger our environment and public health, while polluters profit.
Efforts are under way now by the DEP to streamline permitting requirements for large water users that will result in longer permits, less oversight and no additional requirements for conservation and efficiency. These changes benefit select industries at the expense of our water resources and the majority of Floridians.
On Gov. Rick Scott's watch, unwise policy decisions, draconian budget cuts and the excessive influence of special interests have put Florida on the brink of losing 40 years of progress on environmental protection, land conservation and growth management. This is bad water-management policy and even worse economic policy for our state.
We now face one of the greatest emergencies in Florida's modern history. Our prized and supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are "sick" from pollution and in need of restoration and protection by our state agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens' concerns and determination to correct the current abuses of negligence.
The Wekiva River, north of Orlando, is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water and a national Wild and Scenic River, and is protected by two major pieces of state legislation. Tragically, the Wekiva remains sick in terms of both water quality and quantity. The three major springs in the Wekiva River have reported nitrate concentrations 480 percent higher than the maximum levels for healthy waters.
And while the largest of Wekiva's springs, Wekiwa and Rock, have reported flows below established minimum flows and levels for the past two years, the St. Johns district refuses to meet its statutory duty of restoring flows to these natural jewels.
As a result, the Florida Conservation Coalition and our partners are hosting "Speak Up Wekiva" at Wekiwa Springs State Park on Feb. 16. We are organizing this event to celebrate our outstanding water resources, educate and engage the public and policymakers about the challenges facing the river and the springs that feed it and advocate for the protection and restoration of all of Florida's impaired waterways.
It's time for Floridians to speak up for our environment and ensure its protection for generations to come.
Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator and Florida governor, chairs the Florida Conservation Coalition. Nathaniel Reed has served seven governors and two presidents, and is the coalition's vice chairman.
Climate change threatens coasts' health, safety, economy
January 30, 2013
According to a new technical report, the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems. The report, Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: a technical input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment, authored by leading scientists and experts, emphasizes the need for increased coordination and planning to ensure U.S. coastal communities are resilient against the effects of climate change. The recently-released report examines and describes climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems and human economies and communities, as well as the kinds of scientific data, planning tools and resources that coastal communities and resource managers need to help them adapt to these changes.
The complete report can be read here.
“Sandy showed us that coastal states and communities need effective strategies, tools and resources to conserve, protect, and restore coastal habitats and economies at risk from current environmental stresses and a changing climate,” says Margaret Davidson of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and co-lead author of the report. “Easing the existing pressures on coastal environments to improve their resiliency is an essential method of coping with the adverse effects of climate change.”
A key finding in the report is that all U.S. coasts are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, erosion, storms and flooding, especially in the more populated low-lying parts of the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, northern Alaska, Hawaii and island territories. Another finding indicated the financial risks associated with both private and public hazard insurance are expected to increase dramatically.
“An increase in the intensity of extreme weather events such as storms like Sandy and Katrina, coupled with sea-level rise and the effects of increased human development along the coasts, could affect the sustainability of many existing coastal communities and natural resources,” says Virginia Burkett of the U.S. Geological Survey and co-lead author of the report.
The authors also emphasized that storm surge flooding and sea-level rise pose significant threats to public and private infrastructure that provides energy, sewage treatment, clean water and transportation of people and goods. These factors increase threats to public health, safety and employment in the coastal zone.
The report’s authors noted that the population of the coastal watershed counties of the U.S. and territories, including the Great Lakes, makes up more than 50 percent of the nation’s population and contributed more than $8.3 trillion to the 2011 U.S. economy but depend on healthy coastal landforms, water resources, estuaries and other natural resources to sustain them. Climate changes, combined with human development activities, reduce the ability of coasts to provide numerous benefits, including food, clean water, jobs, recreation and protection of communities against storms.
Seventy-nine federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the NOAA and USGS, authored the report which is being used as a technical input to the third National Climate Assessment — an interagency report produced for Congress once every four years to summarize the science and impacts of climate change on the U.S.
Other key findings of the report include:
Expected public health impacts include a decline in seafood quality, shifts in disease patterns and increases in rates of heat-related morbidity.
Changes in the location and the time of year when storms form can lead to large changes in where storms land and the impacts of storms. Any sea-level rise is virtually certain to exacerbate storm-surge and flooding related hazards.
Because of changes in the hydrological cycle due to warming, precipitation events (rain, snow) will likely be heavier. Combined with sea-level rise and storm surge, this will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, particularly in the Northeast.
Temperature is primarily driving environmental change in the Alaskan coastal zone. Sea ice and permafrost make northern regions particularly susceptible to temperature change. For example, an increase of two degrees Celsius during the summer could basically transform much of Alaska from frozen to unfrozen, with extensive implications.
As the physical environment changes, the range of a particular ecosystem will expand, contract or migrate in response. The combined influence of many stresses can cause unexpected ecological changes if species, populations or ecosystems are pushed beyond a tipping point.
Although adaptation planning activities in the coastal zone are increasing, they generally occur in an ad-hoc manner and are slow to be implemented. Efficiency of adaptation can be improved through more accurate and timely scientific information, tools and resources, and by integrating adaptation plans into overall land use planning as well as ocean and coastal management.
An integrated scientific program will reduce uncertainty about the best ways coastal communities can to respond to sea-level rise and other kinds of coastal change. This, in turn, will allow communities to better assess their vulnerability and to identify and implement appropriate adaptation and preparedness options.
Counting on oysters
News-Press.com – by Kevin Lollar
January 30, 2013
Caloosahatchee River project aims to unlock keys to salinity levels, gauge water flow.
Counting and measuring juvenile oysters in the Caloosahatchee River all day might not be some people’s idea of exciting science.
But that’s what a team of FGCU researchers did recently as part of a $60,000 study to determine whether higher salinities in the river make juvenile oysters more susceptible to predators.
Financed by the South Florida Water Management District, the study will be conducted for three months during the dry season, January through March, and three months during the wet season, probably July through September.
Data from the study could help water managers decide how much water is released from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee.
“When you talk about oysters, you think, ‘Eh, they don’t have much of a fuzzy factor,’” FGCU lab manager Lesli Haynes said. “But when you find out what they do, it’s pretty amazing. They have a tremendous ecological impact.”
Here are some important facts:
● A single oyster can filter up to 10 gallons of water per hour, and a square meter of oyster bed can hold 1,000 oysters.
● More than 300 vertebrate and invertebrate species use oyster reefs; some live on the reefs permanently, while others, including redfish, snook, mangrove snapper and spotted seatrout, come to the reef to prey on animals that live there.
● Oyster reefs stabilize the shoreline and help prevent erosion.
“Looking at an oyster reef, it’s not an individual species; it’s a whole ecosystem,” said Aswani Volety, director of FGCU’s Vester Marine Field Station. “It’s food and shelter. It promotes healthy seagrasses by cleaning the water.”
For the study, FGCU researchers are looking at four sites on the river, Kitchel Key near Punta Rassa, Iona Cove, the Cape Coral Bridge and Midpoint Bridge.
At each site, oysters are kept in three closed and three open plastic mesh bags — oysters in open and closed bags are subject to changes in water quality, but only oysters in open bags are vulnerable to predators such as crabs, sheepshead and boring sponges.
At the beginning of the study, each bag contained 190 juvenile oysters.
Doing more with less, state's employees protect nature
Orlando Sentinel - by Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., Secretary, FDEP, Guest columnist
January 30, 2013
We all know that public servants such as police officers, firefighters and teachers make Florida a better place to live and raise a family. It's time to add the employees from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to that list.
DEP has made a concentrated effort to develop a more effective method to protect the diverse ecosystems spread throughout our great state. The employees at DEP are undertaking this mission by actually doing more with less, despite skeptics fearing that new and innovative protection methods could have a negative impact on our state forests, rivers and beaches.
We have thrived. In the closing months of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the most comprehensive set of water-quality criteria this state has ever seen, rules which were developed by DEP's own scientists in our own labs.
These rules are designed to address the most common problem in our freshwater resources — an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus. To counter these excessive nutrients, we are developing action-driven restoration plans that set forth management strategies with tangible, goal-oriented processes.
DEP continues to improve its emphasis on protection for Orlando area waters. For example, DEP has set a restoration goal and is working with the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve Silver Springs, and Gov. Rick Scott along with the Cabinet also took the bold step of converting the Silver Springs attraction into a Florida state park. The kickoff meeting for restoring the Upper Wakulla River was held Jan. 18, which will go along with the announcement in the coming months of a suite of projects to improve the health of the Wekiva River system.
DEP was also able to secure a conservation easement over Seven Runs Creek as part of a $10 million recovery effort from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including more than 2,300 acres of land and $5 million in stormwater-treatment projects. Our agency is using a targeted approach to land acquisition so that the emphasis is only on land that aids in improving water quality, quantity, military buffering and springs protection.
In addition, DEP and its water-management-district partners are looking for ways to reward communities that invest in water conservation, thus implementing a philosophy of preventing environmental harm rather than simply reacting to it.
Moreover, by increasing our focus on properly educating air, waste and water-processing facilities about state rules and regulations, 2012 was the best year for statewide environmental compliance in the past five years. These are all examples of the diverse range of efforts put forth by DEP employees to better protect Florida's environment.
My family and I spent part of this past weekend on the beautiful St. Johns River. It was a picture-perfect day, and the river was teeming with wildlife. The fishing reports were good, and we spotted a bald eagle, in addition to several white pelicans. I couldn't have asked for a better day with my family, and I happened to notice quite a few fellow Floridians enjoying their day as well.
The health of the St. Johns River is improving, but like many other water bodies in our state, there is more work to be done.
The issues that Florida's natural resources face have been compounding over decades and cannot be pinned on a single group of offenders. DEP employees venture every day into our ecosystem to address these problems so that Florida's ecosystem can thrive into the future.
It may be popular in some circles to criticize the 4,000 DEP employees or the 3,000 employees from the water-management districts, but if you've enjoyed one of our beautiful rivers, beaches or state parks on this or any other weekend, I would prefer that you thank them.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. is the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Everglades funding a win-win for Florida
Miami Herald – by Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation
January 30, 2013
Last week, the Everglades Foundation had the opportunity to present before two legislative committees in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives our recommendations and goals for the 2013 Legislative session.
We welcomed the opportunity to discuss the importance of America’s Everglades with lawmakers, who represent diverse communities across our state. A critical point raised with members of the Legislature is the fact the Everglades provides clean, reliable drinking water for 7 million Floridians — one in three Floridians rely on the Everglades for drinking water.
To maintain a clean Everglades water source, it is imperative that Gov. Rick Scott’s recommended 2013-2014 state budget include $32 million in funding for the new water quality plan, as well as an additional $28 million in funding for specific restoration projects that are in progress or shovel ready.
This potential $60 million in Everglades restoration will enable the state to continue its longstanding efforts to protect this critical ecosystem. Specifically, these needed resources will go toward restoration projects designed to fund construction of reservoirs and the expansion of stormwater treatment areas to store, move and clean polluted water, and ensure water flow from Lake Okeechobee, south into the Everglades and ultimately into Florida Bay.
With Gov. Scott’s support, along with the work of the Florida Legislature, we can create long-term engineering and construction jobs that put people to work, continue the important work of restoration, and ensure a healthy, vibrant Everglades for generations to come.
Some have questioned the large amount of dollars already invested. Can the state’s financial investment into Everglades restoration be quantified? In fact, the Everglades Foundation asked the same question.
A Mather Economics Group study in 2010 concluded that every $1 invested in restoring the Everglades produces a $4 rate of return. Industries, such as real estate, hunting, fishing and boating also experience tremendous benefits from a restored River of Grass. Truly a win-win for all involved.
In addition to supporting continued investment in Everglades restoration, the foundation will be casting a watchful eye on the Everglades Forever Act. The Everglades Forever Act has governed the technical operations of restoration for more than 20 years. We urge the Florida Legislature to use caution in opening up the current law for special interest purposes.
Strategic changes may be in order. But a re-write of specific sections of the law could cause difficulty in the long run. If legislators are looking for solutions to solve the decades-old problem of pollution impact in the Everglades, the Everglades Foundation is eager to assist.
Last year, Research Triangle International (RTI) released a report showing 76 percent of the pollution entering the Everglades is caused by agriculture, yet the industry is only paying 24 percent of the cleanup costs. This disparity needs remedy. Urging for more cleanup costs from those polluting is nothing new. In 1996, 68 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment, stating that those primarily polluting should pay the primary cost of cleanup. Seventeen years later, the numbers — 76 to 24 — are astounding.
The Everglades Foundation is eager to work with the Scott administration, the Florida Legislature and others who are interested in continuing the progress Florida has made in protecting and rehabilitating America’s Everglades. We cannot ignore the opportunity before us.
Eric Eikenberg is chief executive office of the Everglades Foundation.
GOP leaders talk about more money for land buying but offer no commitments
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 30, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders expressed support for conservation land-buying on Wednesday but stopped short of committing more money towards those programs.
Florida had the largest land-buying program in the nation from 1990 through 2008 when at least $300 million per year was provided to Florida Forever. Since 2009, the program has received $23 million, or less than 5 percent of its historic annual appropriation.
Scott told The Florida Current on Jan. 3 he will recommend Florida Forever spending in his 2013-14 budget request, which is to be announced Thursday.
Asked Wednesday whether he would put more toward the program as environmentalists have requested, Scott told reporters and editors at the Capitol he will reveal his commitment on Thursday.
"I absolutely believe in whether it's making sure the Everglades has the right flow of water, the right quality of water, whether we have safe drinking water, how can we grow our state, because if we don't take care of our environment we won't have a place that ... we can live and want to live," Scott said.
Environmental groups have asked Scott and the Legislature to put $100 million towards the Florida Forever program in the coming year.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, appearing before the reporters and editors with Senate President Don Gaetz, said the House is committed to protecting areas of "critical need" but expressed concerns about just "bailing out landowners who want to sell their property."
And he said he supported past legislation -- later vetoed -- that encouraged the state to sell state land, a process that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and water management districts already are pursuing.
"I don't know what the number (for Florida Forever) is going to be," said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. "Certainly the state of Florida and the Florida House, we are going to try to continue to work to protect those areas of critical need."
He said areas of critical need include conservation land and water resources along with "the aging infrastructure under the ground" -- presumably water and sewer lines.
Environmentalists and some Democrats point to rebounding state revenues and a potential budget surplus as reason to begin restoring funding for Florida Forever and Everglades restoration.
"I think we could use some investing in Florida -- investing in infrastructure and investing in the environment," Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, told The Florida Current. He also did not say how much he thinks should go towards conservation land-buying in a 2013-14 state budget.
Weatherford and Gaetz, R-Niceville, warned that any budget surplus is uncertain and provides only a little bit of breathing room.
"Because we've come out of the years the locusts have eaten doesn't mean we've come into the years of milk and honey," Gaetz said.
Hats off to environmental stewards working to preserve Indian River Lagoon
TCPalm.com – Letter by Wayne A. Mills, Fort Pierce, FL
January 30, 2013
Thanks to the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers for publishing the tragedy being played out across Florida by the blind eye being turned toward the degradation of Florida's environment.
In addition, the paper has brought to the public's attention the egregious and repeated delays and excuses by Gov. Rick Scott and his environmental secretary, Herschel Vinyard, in implementing the actions called for by America's Clean Water Act as it applies to damages being done to our rivers, lakes and Everglades. The recent attempt to dismantle the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by firing 58 longtime employees should be the last straw as these individuals were responsible for preserving and protecting Florida's natural assets.
Likewise the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and TCPalm have been shining a laserlike focus on these issues. Thanks also go to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle for denying the state's request for yet again "more time" to implement the water quality rules of EPA in Florida. Columnists Bill Maxwell, Michael Goforth, Carl Hiaasen, and contributor John D. Orcutt Jr. are among the many others who have added their voices to this cause.
Finally, thanks go to Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc, for his leadership in proposing and getting something concrete done to identify and address the primary root causes of our environmental problems in Florida's rivers, lakes and estuaries. His proposal and his fellow commissioners' support for sophisticated water chemistry monitors for the Indian River Lagoon will go a long way toward measuring and identifying the amount of chemical components and specifically dissolved nitrogen flowing into the lagoon.
By taking the aforementioned actions Zorc and his fellow Indian River County commissioners will be able to act progressively in saving and preserving the Indian River Lagoon for all of us.
Is Scott's administration green ?
Orlando Sentinel - by Paul Owens, Senior Editorial Writer
January 30, 2013
Environmental policy in Florida has become one of the sharpest points of contention between Gov. Rick Scott's administration and its critics.
Since Scott took office in 2011, budgets for the Department of Environmental Protection and the state's five regional water-management districts have been cut. Efforts to manage growth at the state level have been curtailed or eliminated. Funding for Florida Forever, the leading state program to buy and protect environmentally sensitive land, was once $300 million a year; it was zeroed out a couple of years ago, and set at just $8.4 million this year.
Recent reports in the Sentinel have found that the health of many of the state's rivers and natural springs is in steep decline — reports cited by two of today's Front Burner columnists, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and environmental advocate Nathaniel Reed. But today's other columnist, DEP chief Herschel Vinyard, says environmental problems took years to develop, and state efforts to fix them are working.
Many defenders of state environmental policies in recent years have pointed to the Great Recession: It slashed state tax revenue and forced cuts in funding for government agencies and programs, including for the environment; and it increased the need to reduce regulations and taxes that might discourage new investments to create jobs and help the economy recover.
But critics counter that de-funding environmental programs and loosening environmental regulations will cost Florida in the long run by degrading some of its most valuable natural assets.
Read the columns:
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.: Doing more with less, state's employees protect nature
Bob Graham and Nathaniel Reed: Bad policies pose historic threats to Fla. environment
Read more about it
-The Florida Conservation Coalition spells out its priorities and activities at floridaconservationcoalition.org
-The Florida Department of Environmental Protection outlines its policies and programs at dep.state.fl.us
-Sentinel environmental reporter Kevin Spear's series on the health of Florida's rivers is at OrlandoSentinel.com/rivers
Judge okays BP plea, $4B penalty in Gulf Oil spill
January 30, 2013
A U.S. judge accepted an agreement by BP Plc to plead guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The company said it pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts related to workers’ deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors. It faces five years’ probation and the imposition of two monitors who will oversee its safety and ethics for the next four years.
After the April 2010 explosion on the Transocean rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf over 87 days. Shorelines from Texas to Florida were fouled before responders could cap the mile-deep (1.6 km) well.
BP has struggled with political, financial and legal fallout ever since. Even after settling federal criminal charges, the company faces civil penalties of up to $21 billion and separate state claims due to be heard at a trial starting in New Orleans on Feb. 25.
Alabama’s attorney general, Luther Strange, said the BP sentence was welcome for setting some federal money aside to restore the Gulf coast, but he planned to press ahead with his state’s own claims for economic and natural resource damages.
“I look forward to presenting Alabama’s case that BP was grossly negligent when we have our day in court next month,” Strange said in a statement.
Transocean, owner of the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig, agreed this month to pay $1.4 billion to settle U.S. government charges over the disaster.
Halliburton Co, the oilfield services company that performed cementing work on the Macondo well and is being sued in the civil litigation along with BP, said on Friday it was working on its defense ahead of the trial next month.
BP, with its federal plea agreement now approved, has 60 days to send a remedial plan to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency laying out how it plans to meet all its stipulations. The plan could go back and forth among the three parties before it is agreed to by all sides.
The judge who imposed the sentence on BP, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana, found the fines far exceeded any in U.S. history, and were structured so BP will feel the “full brunt” of them, the DOJ said.
BP’s total of $4.5 billion in federal penalties includes $2.4 billion for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a $1.256 billion criminal fine and $350 million for the National Academy of Sciences — all payable over five years — and a $525 million civil penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Our guilty plea makes clear, BP understands and acknowledges its role in that tragedy, and we apologize – BP apologizes – to all those injured and especially to the families of the lost loved ones,” Luke Keller, a vice president of BP America Inc, told the court, according to a BP statement.
BP now aims to settle the civil claims, for which negligence is a key issue. A gross negligence finding could quadruple civil damages owed by BP under the Clean Water Act to $21 billion.
The British company has already announced an uncapped class-action settlement with private plaintiffs that the company estimates will cost $7.8 billion to resolve. The litigation was brought by more than 100,000 individuals and businesses claiming economic and medical damages from the spill.
BP believes it can handle it all after selling off $35 billion worth of assets. As of November, when it agreed to the plea, BP had paid $23 billion in clean-up costs and claims.
The U.S. government banned BP from new federal contracts over its “lack of business integrity” in the spill, which could threaten its role as a leading U.S. offshore oil and gas producer.
But BP said on Tuesday that its mandatory debarment under the settlement did not affect any existing contracts or leases.
“The government has awarded BP over 50 federal leases since the Deepwater Horizon accident,” said BP, which is the largest investor and deepwater leaseholder in the Gulf of Mexico with interests in 700 blocks and seven rigs now operating there.
The criminal case is USA v. BP Exploration and Production Inc, case no. 2:12-CR-00292, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.
Paddleboarder travels state’s precious waterways
ApalachTimes.com - by Tim Croft
January 30, 2013 at 12:25 PM.
Justin Riney was searching for a unique way to raise awareness of the natural beauty found in Florida’s waterways.
He found it in a man who ventured to Florida some 500 years ago.
Riney paid visits to Apalachicola and Carrabelle over the past week, and was in Port St. Joe before that, as part of his yearlong quest to paddleboard the state’s waters, spending the first six months navigating the entire perimeter of the state’s coastline before embarking on six months of exploration of the state’s major interior waterways.
Riney’s travels, called Expedition Florida 500, coincide with the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s arrival somewhere on Florida’s beaches.
“We are focused on the conservation aspect and anything we can do to raise that profile,” Riney said. “The whole goal of the project is conservation based. We want to drive home the point how beautiful we have it in Florida and how precious the natural environment in Florida is.”
Riney embarked on his journey from Pensacola on New Year’s Day. His visits, at Ten-Foot-Hole Jan. 26 and at the Carrabelle Public Beach Wednesday, were among the opening days of a journey he expects to span 365 days. He also visited 2Al’s at The Beach Café, Up The Creek Raw Bar and the Apalachicola Maritime Museum during his visit here.
“I should be finished with the coastline and be in Jacksonville on July 4 and then I will move inland,” he said.
And while it is true that Riney alone will cover the entire breadth and width of Florida’s waterways, he is not alone and that is part of the allure of the project.
Along the way, Riney and fellow paddlers put on events, particularly at schools, trying to “plant the seeds as early as we can.”
There are cleanups, such as the ones during both visits here in the county. The goal, engage the public along the way, create in them the passion that Riney feels about his native state and its waters.
“Literally, hundreds of people have joined me along the way,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of events, a lot of interaction along the way. Everywhere we go we do cleanups. One of the unique aspects is we do engage the community to come out.”
Riney’s project sprouted from his roots.
A native of Vero Beach, Riney said he grew up an outdoorsman, loving time on the water and in nature. He was also raised by entrepreneurial parents and that diverse background helped create his own non-profit as well as Expedition Florida 500.
His passion for the water fed his scientific search and after studying business at the University of Florida he “cut his teeth” in business before returning to his passion for the water.
Riney said he was in a unique situation – scientists have difficulty with the business end of marine life; those on the business end, creating products from the marine world for example, could not speak expertly to the science.
“I’m wearing both hats,” he said. “I know the science side and I know the business side. I was something of an intermediary.”
After spending some time in the Bahamas, his love of the water once again became his mistress.
He moved back to Vero Beach, sold his belongings and, as he put it, “jumped off the cliff” and established his non-profit Mother Ocean.
“The mission of the non-profit is to create, inspire and empower ocean advocates worldwide,” Riney said. “I hope, with the year’s worth of paddling, we can raise a mass amount of awareness so people can learn to respect and appreciate these waterways. We want to make sure these waterways are here 500 years from now.”
Riney, though, notes he is one among many. A greater goal is to use the latest technology and social media to create a network of ocean advocates around the globe, both engaging a younger generation and broadening awareness.
In bringing awareness to his non-profit and its goal, Expedition Florida 500 was a perfect fit. Riney’s project is a signature project for the celebration sponsored by the Florida Department of State and Riney’s project also receives logistical support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“What an amazing platform this is to raise awareness about the waters of Florida and to raise awareness of my (non-profit),” Riney said.
Panama City Beach resident Gabriel Gray, owner of Walkin’ on Water Paddle Boards, joined Riney’s conservation movement last year, accompanying him on a number of conservation paddles throughout the state to prepare for the upcoming expedition.
Riney completed six conservation paddles to train and raise awareness for the cause, through the St. Johns River, Apalachicola River, Kissimmee River, Indian River Lagoon, Everglades and Florida Keys.
They learned the environment and worked out the kinks for the project ahead.
“The two unique elements of the project are one this is happening in real time,” Riney said. “It is tangible, people can connect to it. The second, we really want people to come out and paddle with us. We welcome paddlers of all shapes and sizes. They can see our passion, feel the passion and take that passion home with them. My goal is to engage as many people as possible.”
Proposed bike path would connect Collier to Miami Dade
January 30, 2013
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Right now, Tamiami Trail in Collier County is a two-lane road. But a proposed pathway would get bikes, runners, even bird watchers, right in the middle of the Florida Everglades.
"Really getting to enjoy the everglades without having to pull over on the side of 41 and endangering themselves and other drivers," said Michelle Avola Reese, with the Naples Pathway Coalition.
The 75 mile corridor called the River of Grass Greenway would connect Naples to Miami Dade County. Beginning near Tamiami Trail and State Road 92. And ending at Krome Avenue. Path proponents, like Michelle Avola Reese, said it would bring positive economic impacts to the area.
"It's going to offer opportunities for businesses to spring up that would provide a shuttle service. If you want to bike so far and you want to ride back," said Avola Reese.
And the money to build it, would come from grants. The path won't be paved anytime soon. Multiple organizations at the county, state, and federal level are working to ensure this benefits everyone. This week, representatives are meeting at Edison State College to discuss and analyze the different ways to make this dream a reality.
"To take input from all of the users, potential vested interests, all of the different organizations that, because there are people that care and we want to get everyones perspective as we advance," said Joe Webb, a planner with the Miami Dade County Park and Recreation.
Red tide diminishes along Southwest Florida coast
January 30, 2013
Red tide counts along the Southwest Florida coast dropped significantly in recent days, with medium concentrations still found off Sanibel and Sarasota County.
Karenia brevis is the microscopic algae that causes red tide in this region. It occurs naturally offshore although water quality scientists think polluted stormwater runoff either increases the duration and/or frequency of red tide outbreaks.
Counts along the coast ranged from not present to nearly 1 million cells per liter, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Counts of 7 million cells per liter were reported off Sanibel in recent weeks.
Red tide can cause fish kills and respiratory irritation in humans and marine mammals.
Waters off North Naples and near Marco Island contained between 10,000 and 100,000 cells per liter.
Caloosahatchee land deal buoys river
January 29, 2013
State OKs buy of 638 acres to cleanse water, filter waste.
State officials voted last week to spend nearly $2 million on a project that’s being billed as a way to clean up the Caloosahatchee River and filter pollution flowing from Lake Okeechobee.
The project would affect water quality in all of coastal Lee County.
The Glades County lands surround Lake Hicpochee, the historic headwaters of the Caloosahatchee, and are owned by agriculture and land management company A. Duda & Sons. The land is used to farm sugar cane.
South Florida Water Management District directors approved the purchase of 638 acres for $1.9 million with an option to purchase nearly 2,500 adjacent acres for nearly $17 million if funding is identified over the next four years.
Water managers consider the deal a win, even though A. Duda & Sons can continue farming operations at a Palm Beach County site for another 30 years on land the company leases from the state.
“If that’s all we acquire (the 638 acres) it will help Lake Hicpochee and those downstream,” said Ernie Barnett, Everglades project manager for the Water Management District.
Water flows into the Caloosahatchee are typically too high during the rainy season and too low in the dry season, which typically starts in October and runs through May.
When completed, the project will collect water from the Caloosahatchee during excessive flow periods and a canal northwest of Moore Haven that sends runoff water into the Caloosahatchee and store the water until dry periods. The design phase of the project is expected to be completed in summer of 2014. There is no timeline yet for clearing land and construction.
Ecologically, it took about 5,000 years of sea level rise and fall as well as a varying climate to create Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. It’s taken man less than a century to pollute and drain both.
Lake Hicpochee became a casualty along the way as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers connected the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries to Okeechobee. Both systems are used as giant ditches to drain the Everglades for development and to make farmlands to the south and east of the lake safer for farming families.
A. Duda & Sons could not be reached for comment.
“They actually used some leverage,” said Randy Smith with the Water Management District. “They (A. Duda & Sons) said they’d sell the land but not without the 30-year extension.”
Environmental groups agree the land needs to be purchased and restored. The 30-year lease extensions, however, are a bad idea for Florida’s water quality, some say.
“Leases for 30 years would not seem to be in the public interest since the land belongs to the people of Florida,” said John Cassani, Lee County resident and water quality expert. “The land could potentially be used for water conservation purposes rather than add additional pollution to state waters.”
Glades County commissioners have expressed concerns about losing the A. Duda & Sons property from the tax rolls. Glades County has about 11,000 residents and is fueled almost exclusively by the agriculture industry, although only a handful of jobs will be lost as a result of this newest restoration project.
“It could be good for Glades County if it’s turned into an STA (storm-water treatment area),” said Glades commissioner Donna Storter Long. “The rest is along Highway 78, and I don’t think the development portion of that land has been fully considered.”
Smith said lands directly adjacent to Highway 78 are being set aside for commercial projects. The district’s fiscal year 2012-13 budget is set at $159.5 million. More than $83 million is set aside for capital/infrastructure and other district projects.
According to Water Management District records, two pumps will be built on the north end of Lake Hicpochee along with three water control structures on the south side. The lake and surrounding lands consist of about 6,000 acres and is divided by the C-43 canal, the man-made connection to Lake Okeechobee.
Pumps will take water from C-43, C-19 and Flaghole Canal and deliver it to the small lake. Once in the Hicpochee system the water will be filtered by marsh vegetation (some will drain into underground aquifers) and will flow back into the Caloosahatchee system.
Everglades’ “Python Challenge” reaches halfway point
January 29, 2013 9:31 AM
MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – More than three dozen pythons have been killed so far as hunters reach the halfway mark of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “Python Challenge”.
The FWC said Tuesday that 37 Burmese pythons have been killed in the Everglades since the competition began Jan. 12. University of Florida researchers examine each snake, hoping to learn more about the elusive species that’s considered a menace to the fragile Everglades ecosystem.
No one knows for sure how many pythons live in South Florida. A tally of 37 may seem low, but researchers say that number reflects how hard it is to spot pythons in the swamps.
More than 1,000 people signed up to hunt pythons through Feb. 10 in the hopes of winning cash prizes.
Flawed model puts aquifer at risk
Tampabay.com - Editorial
The first step in protecting the state's environment is getting the science right. Yet Florida uses a flawed model for assessing how groundwater pumping affects the surrounding landscape. It's irresponsible, and state water managers need to correct it.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman reported Monday that state water officials base all their permitting decisions on computer models that rely on a false assumption. The models assume the underground area known as the aquifer flows at a steady rate through layers of sand and gravel. In reality, the land beneath is composed of karst, a more porous limestone that is full of holes, both big and small. The difference means that water can travel at a much faster rate than the computer models imply, according to current and former state water officials. The net effect is that pollution can be carried much more quickly into the drinking water supply, and state officials have an inaccurate picture of what pumping may do to regions across the state.
An experiment by a team of scientists in 2010 illustrates the depth of the problem. The team dropped fluorescent dye into wells and sinkholes at Silver Springs. Under the state's model, the dye would move toward the springs in cycles ranging from two to 100 years. But the dye dropped by the team rocketed through the aquifer, crossing half the 100-year distance in only six months. The models are so off-base, said David Still, the former director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, that "they shouldn't be used to make decisions."
Yet the regional water management districts rely on the models in deciding how much pumping to allow and assessing the impact on nearby springs, lakes and wetlands. The state also uses the models as part of its effort to track nitrate pollution that comes from septic tanks and upland runoff. Officials say they can "tweak" the models to take into account any obvious signs of environmental degradation. But that is no substitute for a model that accurately measures the flow rates in Florida's distinct water basins.
The water districts should work with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to update the Florida models. The process may involve some time and expense, and any final model may be imperfect to some degree given the nature of measuring hollow areas in the ground. But these models must be more precise to provide better protection of both the aquifer and surface water.
Florida offers funding for weather stations, water improvements
TheGrover.com - by Vicky Boyd
January 29, 2013
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has cost-share funding for growers who farm within the 16 counties of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
One program—MiniFARMS—would help growers who farm 100 acres or less implement water-saving or water-quality improvement techniques. They could receive up to 75 percent reimbursement up to a maximum of $5,000.
Among the technologies that qualify are soil moisture probes, tensiometers, weather stations, groundwater irrigation controls, surface water irrigation pumps and controls, water quality tests, permanent fertigation facilities, and other approved water quality or water conservation projects.
The other program would help growers already enrolled in the state's Best Management Practices, or BMPs, program purchase on-site weather stations and temperature sensors.
Producers who farm less than 300 acres could apply for one station and up to five temeprature sensors.
Producers with larger operations could apply for one station and up to five temperature sensors for each 300 acres they farm.
FDACS will provide 75 percent cost-share up to a maximum of $25,000 per producer. The cost-share limit on each station-sensor set is $5,000.
For more information, contact Jessica McCoy Stempion, FDACS, at (813) 985-7481 , ext. 2125, or email@example.com.
Land is essential to environmental restoration
News-Press.com - Guest Opinion by Melissa L. Meeker, Executive Director, SFWMD
Across South Florida, access to land in critical locations is the first step toward achieving the restoration of the Everglades. Construction of projects capable of storing, cleaning and moving water through the region’s managed system of canals — and around our cities and productive farmlands — are the primary tools that will improve Florida’s natural areas. Getting them built is crucial to restoration success.
Over the past two decades, the South Florida Water Management District has taken significant steps toward acquiring land. Together with state funding, we have invested $1.3 billion for more than half of the 405,000 acres needed for projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). In 2010, the District also invested $194 million to acquire close to 27,000 acres of citrus and sugarcane land for restoration.
These are large, public land holdings, and all of them will eventually serve us well. My goal, as executive director, is to turn “eventually” into “now” for the priority projects needed to improve South Florida’s environment.
Without question, Everglades water quality is a top priority. Under the leadership of Governor Scott, the state’s Restoration Strategies plan achieved consensus with federal agencies on a suite of projects to meet state water quality standards. It was an historic accomplishment. Now we are putting the plan into action.
The district has most of the lands needed for the Restoration Strategies, including 15,000 acres for storage south of Lake Okeechobee and 18,000 acres for wetland restoration. We also have other parcels that will be exchanged (without additional cost) for 6,500 acres needed near the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to expand the District’s stormwater treatment areas.
Recent criticism targeted this land exchange. It also targeted a cost-effective acquisition opportunity— at a 56 percent discount off the appraised value —for acreage near Lake Hicpochee to improve conditions in the Caloosahatchee watershed.
It’s discouraging to be criticized for progress. In today’s challenging economic climate, the district has shovel-ready plans and funding in place to move forward with construction. We have worked diligently with private landowners to acquire sites in key locations, including the creative approach of lease extensions on public land not currently needed for projects.
This approach serves Florida’s taxpayers extremely well. First, it puts critical tracts of land into public ownership at no additional expense—as with the land exchange, or at significant cost savings — as with the 56 percent discount.
Second, leases on the state-owned parcels bring in revenues, helping to fund the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s management of state lands.
Third, lessees are also permittees, which means they must continue limiting nutrient and stormwater runoff, managing fertilizer application, controlling erosion and other best management practices.
For the 17th consecutive year, water flowing from farmlands in the 470,000-acre Everglades agricultural area more than achieved the required phosphorus reductions, with a 71 percent reduction this past year.
To improve even further, the Restoration Strategies plan includes sub-regional source controls that will address areas that can benefit from more intensive efforts.
Is there more that can be done? Always. Is this agency committed to constant improvement? Absolutely. This land acquisition approach puts some of South Florida’s largest land owners at the table with us as restoration partners.
Strategic negotiations, as achieved this month, allow us to maximize public dollars toward restoration goals. This fully serves the public interest and is a continued step forward.
You can help stop spread of invasive species
Poughkeepsie Journal - David Strayer and Gary Lovett
January 29, 2013
Recently, two Cary Institute scientists spoke out about what citizens can do to prevent the spread of invasive species. Forest ecologist Gary Lovett and freshwater ecologist David Strayer had a number of practical recommendations. Invasive species carry a steep price tag. Damages by non-native pests and pathogens — such as the emerald ash borer, West Nile virus and zebra mussels — cost billions, threaten human health and cause irreversible ecological damage.
So what can individuals do? First and foremost, don’t add to the problem by releasing new invaders. Avoid buying exotic plants for your garden, unless they are already widely planted in your region or have been shown to be harmless.
Never release pets into the wild or dump your aquarium or bait bucket. Each year, thousands of unwanted pets are abandoned in natural areas. Some — such as Burmese pythons in the Everglades — end up causing big problems.
Don’t smuggle fresh produce, live plants, or exotic pets past customs officials into the United States. You’re probably thinking … “what harm could one plant cause?” … but some smuggled items, or the diseases they carry, can escape into the wild and cost us big bucks.
Use common sense about practices that move invaders from place to place. This means don’t move firewood and always clean a boat and trailer before launching into a new lake or river.
And finally, tell decision makers you’re concerned about our inadequate response to the challenges of invasive species, to help motivate more effective policy measures.
Adapted from an essay by David Strayer and Gary Lovett. “Earth Wise” is heard on WAMC Northeast Public Radio and is supported by the Cary Institute. Visit earthwiseradio.org.
Canal project rips out thousands of trees in Golden Gate
Jan 28, 2013
GOLDEN GATE, Fla - It's your money and The Big Cypress Basin is spending it on a maintenance project. Crews are removing thousands of trees along the Green Canal in Golden Gate and one homeowner is outraged.
James "J.B." Holmes says the project is not only destroying the native habitat, but it's unnecessary.
Holmes has lived in his Golden Gate home along the Green Canal for 13 years. During that time he created a nesting area for ducks, otters and other birds, but he knows that will be wiped out very soon.
"Everything you see here will be cut off," says Holmes, pointing to the trees along the bank.
Phil Flood, administrator of Big Cypress Basin says they're doing routine maintenance. "Trees have grown up along the banks and so what we're looking at doing is removing the trees from the top of the bank, to the water," says Flood.
Flood says their concern is that trees could fall into the canal during a storm, block water from flowing and cause flooding.
"It can also flow downstream and hit a bridge, back that up and impact some of our other water control structures and exacerbate flooding in the area here," says Flood.
"What you're doing is cutting down thousands of trees, literally thousands for the hypothetical event of one tree falling," says Holmes. "I've lived in Florida for 30 years. I have never ever seen a tree go down in a canal."
Holmes says rather than prevent flooding, the project could actually do the opposite and while he may have lost this battle, he's not giving up on the fight.
"Their arguments are illogical and irrational. These banks will just erode further into the canal," says Holmes. "All my little nesting friends will not be here."
The Big Cypress Basin maintains 162 miles of canals in Collier County. This maintenance project started two years ago near I 75 and has just now made its way east to Golden Gate. Work is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.
Case of the missing Everglades restoration coverage
SunshineStateNews,com - by: Nancy Smith
January 28, 2013 3:55 AM
One of the oddest mysteries of last week is what happened to media coverage of the progress on Everglades restoration. Long Senate and House committee meetings Thursday were devoted to it.
But then I thought about it, and I believe I know:
There actually is progress on water quality in the Everglades, especially due to effective water management programs.
We can't write that in Florida newspapers.
If we're going to report on the Everglades, we don't have a story unless there is measurable degradation. I'm talking about bad news the state press corps can grind to a pulp: declining wildlife, polluted drinking water, the invasion of non-native species.
We in the press are going to take our lead not from government agencies that have no time for the blame game. We're going straight to the sources we can trust: environmentalists like the Everglades Foundation.
For some reason, as on display last week, we don't acknowledge that the Foundation -- however worthy its goals -- is not a government agency, that it is not charged with producing and analyzing factual data, that it is not wholly objective but is a privately funded, political activist lobby.
In the press, we look to the Foundation as The Authority.
The Foundation is no more spin-free than the sugar industry it maligns. Each is a special interest group with a case to make, a self-serving story to tell. But if we're looking for a truly objective voice and we've got an alternative, why wouldn't we take it?
During Thursday's Everglades presentations, we had Ernie Barnett, Everglades policy director for the South Florida Water Management District, explaining the District's "best management practices" (BMPs) database and reports. His message was clear: Practices put in place by the agriculture industry and the District have resulted in a "River of Grass" that is in better shape today than it was 20 years ago.
"We've seen a 55 percent phosphorus reduction over 16 years," Barnett told the committees. "Our BMPs have prevented 2,565 tons of phosphorus from leaving the Everglades Agricultural Area."
A good story ? Why the improvement ?
* The state has invested $1.8 billion in Everglades restoration.
* Everglades farmers have paid $200 million in an "agricultural privilege" tax.
* Farmers put another $200 million into implementing on-farm BMPs.
* Ongoing partnerships led by the South Florida Water Management District.
Generally, the Thursday meetings were cordial. But, during the end of the House presentations, Philip Parsons, a representative of the Florida Sugar Cane League, told legislators that the phosphorus farmers were discharging was one-third the amount the Everglades Foundation had claimed. The Foundation took issue. Barnett said the organizations were making "an apples and oranges" comparison and committee members were left largely in a quandary.
"For the record, we weren't disputing the Foundation's data," Barnett told me. "We realize their calculations perhaps involve all flows into stormwater treatment areas. We were just presenting our data.
"Having said that, we're very confident in the way we describe the performance of our BMP program," he said.
Everglades restoration is a colossal undertaking with a long way to go -- a minimum of 12 years, even if CERP projects continue being funded at full strength by all stakeholders, at every level of government, and construction stays on schedule. Seems to me it might help Floridians maintain their focus and enthusiasm if they could celebrate the program's successes along the way.
Thursday generally was a good-news day for the Florida Everglades. I'm sorry the media largely gave it a miss.
Michael J. WALSH
Corps deputy commanding general visits south Florida project sites
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District - by Jenn Miller
January 28, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, deputy commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited Jacksonville District project sites in south Florida Jan. 23 and 24, including the Tamiami Trail Modifications project and the Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation project.
“Jacksonville District has the second largest civil works program in the corps and is responsible for some of our most significant civil works projects,” said Walsh. “By visiting Herbert Hoover Dike and ongoing Everglades restoration efforts, I saw the great progress that has been made to date. Equally as important, I was impressed by this district's dedication to delivering the best possible engineering solutions and services that contribute to the nation’s economy, environment, safety and quality of life.”
One of Walsh’s first stops during his visit was to the Tamiami Trail Modifications project in Miami-Dade County, Fla., where he was able to walk along the completed bridge deck and receive an update on the current construction status. Once completed, the Tamiami Trail Modifications project will allow for increased water flow into Everglades National Park. The project is scheduled to be completed in December 2013, with the bridge itself being scheduled for completion next month.
“Three months ago, we brought our Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Bostick, to this site and concrete was still being poured on this bridge deck. Now we are able to walk completely across it,” said Jacksonville District Commander Col. Alan Dodd. “The level of commitment this team has to delivering a quality project on schedule is extremely commendable.”
After visiting the bridge site, Walsh took an airboat ride through the Everglades alongside Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades National Park, and Dave Sikkema, the park’s project manager, to see the Everglades first-hand and see where the resulting increased water flows from the Tamiami Trail project will have a direct benefit.
He then flew over to the district’s Picayune Strand Restoration Project in Collier County, Fla., where 55,000 acres of native Florida wetlands and uplands are being restored by plugging 48 miles of canals, removing 260 miles of crumbling road, and building and operating pump stations to direct fresh water to the drained wetlands. Besides restoring fresh water wetlands, the project will improve estuarine water quality by increasing groundwater recharge and reducing large and unnatural freshwater inflows. Construction of the Merritt Canal Pump Station at the Picayune Strand Restoration project is scheduled to be complete this year, and the Corps awarded the construction contract for the Faka Union Pump Station in 2010.
After witnessing these construction projects near the southern end of the Everglades ecosystem, Walsh then visited the district’s ongoing construction project that surrounds the liquid heart of the Everglades ecosystem – Lake Okeechobee and the Herbert Hoover Dike in Palm Beach County, Fla.
The Herbert Hoover Dike consists of a 143-mile embankment system surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The Jacksonville District is working to reduce the risk of embankment failure by installing a cutoff wall, along with the removal and replacement of water control structures (culverts) around the lake. In addition, a comprehensive system wide study is ongoing to identify and prioritize additional risk reduction features to help ensure the safety of south Florida residents.
“Public safety is our top priority,” said Dodd. “We recently completed the installation of 21 miles of cutoff wall between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade and expect to complete the replacement or removal of 32 water control structures by 2018. We are constantly looking for the most structurally sound and cost effective means to strengthen the dike, as each improvement reduces risk for the communities that depend upon it.”
In addition to visiting the Jacksonville District projects that are currently under construction, Walsh also paid a visit to the Central Everglades Planning Project team during a Project Delivery Team meeting they were holding in West Palm Beach, Fla.
The Central Everglades Planning Project is one of two national pilot projects being conducted by the Jacksonville District. The goal of this project is to deliver, within two years, finalized plans for a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades for congressional authorization - providing the first step in restoring conditions within - and natural flows to - the central Everglades.
“Many people are looking at what you’re able to accomplish,” said Walsh. “Not just for the corps’ pilot project, but also for the President’s "We Can’t Wait" Initiative. The lessons learned in this project will not only change the planning process for south Florida, but for the Nation.”
Florida's aquifer models full of holes, allowing more water permits and pollution
Tampa Bay Times - by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
January 28, 2013
During a dry day in April 2010, scientists trying to trace the source of pollution in Silver Springs dropped 30 pounds of fluorescent dye into several wells and sinkholes a few miles away.
What happened next did more than show the pollution woes facing the state's springs are more serious than anticipated.
It also highlighted a flaw in how water pumping permits are routinely issued throughout much of Florida, suggesting the state has issued thousands of permits while underestimating their impact. It may also explain why some of the state's springs have lost some or all of their flow.
State officials base all their permitting decisions on computer models that use a false assumption. The models assume that the aquifer flows at a steady rate through layers of sand and gravel.
Actually, what's beneath our feet is called karst — a landscape made of limestone that's full of holes both big and small, where water sometimes shoots through as if sprayed by a firehose.
The dye test gave a vivid illustration of the difference. The scientists running the test picked their drop sites with help from one of the state's models. The model predicted how fast a liquid would trickle along underground toward the spring. Different zones would give the dye a 2-year trip, a 10-year trip and even a 100-year trip.
But when they dropped the dye in, the stuff rocketed through the aquifer. It zoomed across half the predicted 100-year distance in just six months.
"It was going a mile a month," said Pete Butt, the scientist who oversaw the test. The dye would have traveled even faster had the test been conducted during the rainy season, he noted.
Current and former state officials acknowledge that there's a false assumption behind all their modeling. They accept it as something they have to live with and work around.
But critics argue the computer models are as full of holes as the karst itself. They are so far off-base "they shouldn't be used to make decisions," said David Still, former executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
• • •
Much of Florida's water for drinking and sprinkling comes from its aquifer. Because it lies deep in the earth, the state's water districts rely on modeling in making decisions about how much can be pumped out without harming nearby springs, lakes and wetlands, not to mention other water users.
"It's the primary tool that's used for looking at what the impacts of groundwater withdrawals will be," said Ken Weber, who until last year oversaw permitting for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud. The agency approved more than 1,000 permits for its 16-county area last year and rejected only two.
The computer models — a series of mathematical equations based on data from wells and other sources — have also been crucial to the state's effort to track nitrate pollution from fertilizer, sewage and animal waste that have fouled the springs and fueled the growth of toxic algae blooms.
Florida's water districts have been relying on computer models since the late 1970s, Weber said, and the models have gotten better over the years. But they all suffer from the flaw exposed by the Silver Springs dye test. They all assume the aquifer is filtered through layers of sand and gravel.
"It assumes the aquifer is a sandbox," said Todd Kincaid, a geohydrologist critical of the state's computer models. "The water flows through the porous spaces between the grains."
But what lies underground around the state's approximately 1,000 springs is karst. The holes in karst function as speedways for flowing water as well as pollution.
"Things travel a lot faster than was previously thought," Weber said. That means that when pollution spills into the ground, "that stuff can get into the water supply much faster."
• • •
Darrin Herbst, now in charge of Swiftmud's permit program, contended that his staff can tweak the models to fit what they see pumping doing to the aquifer, so there should be no problem.
However, he acknowledges their model tweaking did not foresee what happened three years ago in Plant City: Farmers trying to protect their crops during a freeze pumped so much water that the aquifer dropped 60 feet in just days. As a result, 140 sinkholes opened up throughout the region. "The magnitude caught us off-guard," he said.
The models still do all right when they are focused on projecting the aquifer's flows on a regional scale — say, covering from Central Florida to the coast — because "you can be off by quite a bit but it doesn't matter," Weber said. But looking at a smaller area for individual permits is "a lot trickier.''
A lack of information about what's underground is the big problem, studies show.
"Very little has been done as far as travel time and flow path mapping at springs in Florida," a 2008 geological study of the springs along the Santa Fe River noted in criticizing the inaccurate models. Dye tests in that area showed "travel times in this system were … up to one mile per day," far faster than what the models predicted.
Harold "Hal" Wilkening, who heads up the division of water resources at the St. Johns River Water Management District, conceded that the sand-and-gravel model "is not going to be as precise or reliable for a karst landscape."
But creating a more accurate one is nearly impossible given all the fissures and cracks, he said.
"There really isn't any way around it unless you have a lot of money to spend to find all those conduits underground," agreed Weber.
Not true, said Kincaid. He developed a karst-based computer model — at the behest of Coca-Cola.
• • •
Coca-Cola was operating a bottled water plant near High Springs and became concerned pollution from nearby farms might contaminate its source of water.
According to Kincaid and Coca-Cola vice president Jonathan Radtke, the company hired Kincaid to put together a more accurate model. It took four years and $400,000.
When it was done in 2007, Kincaid said, they presented it to officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection, three water management districts and the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Coca-Cola said (to the state officials), 'We'll give it to you for free, give you the software to run it, send your guys to the courses and show them how to run it.' They said no," Kincaid recalled. "Because it was built by a corporation, they couldn't touch it."
Still, who was the head of the Suwannee River water district at the time, said his staff never told him about the alternate model. If they had, he said, "I would've taken it."
Coca-Cola gave up on the idea and no longer owns the bottling plant, Kincaid said. But state officials continue to resist changing their model even though they know it's wrong, he said. "They don't want to have any impediment to permit issuance," he said. The current computer models let them continue cranking out water-use permits, so "why would they want to mess with that?"
But as the springs sputter and dry up, Kincaid said, it exposes what's wrong as surely as that dye test: "Either we saw all this stuff coming and we're happy with it, or the models are wrong."
Flawed model puts aquifer at risk Tampabay.com
Q and A with: Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 28, 2013
With drought parching the state last year and algae covering springs, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. was the man who met with environmentalists outside the governor's office and responded to critics who said the state hasn't been doing enough. His department is engaged in a continuing legal battle over proposed state water quality rules, but claimed a victory Nov. 30 when the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was approving them. A lawyer from Jacksonville, Vinyard was director of business operations at BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards before he was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in January 2011. Vinyard agreed to an interview to discuss water quality in his office on the 10th floor of DEP's Majory Stoneman Douglas building in Tallahassee. Listening in were DEP Press Secretary Patrick Gillespie and Communications Director Reena O'Brien.
Q: You've seen the (newspaper) editorials suggesting that DEP doesn't care about the environment and is run by industry insiders. Your department has issued a series of "setting the record straight" (emails). Why do you think that image is out there ?
A: I'll let Pat and Reena focus on the media things. DEP is going to continue focusing on science, the facts and the data that we've developed.
Q: Does your own background in industry suggest you are an "industry insider"?
A: I think that's poppycock.
Q: You told environmentalists over the summer when they came to the governor's office that you shared their frustration with water quality issues and water quantity issues. Has the situation improved since you've been at the department?
A: First of all, when I arrived at DEP, I asked (Division Director) Drew Bartlett, "What's our state's number one water quality challenge?" He said, "Nutrients." My instructions to Drew and his team was, 'Let's solve this problem.' They have come up with the most comprehensive nutrient reduction rules in the country. And all of them have been approved by EPA. We still have to wait for the court system, though, to run its course before we can implement those rules.
Q: There is still some opposition to those rules from environmentalists who say there are loopholes, there are voluntary actions (by polluters), there is so much wiggle room there's not going be any enforcement.
A: I'll put my money on the DEP scientists every day of the week.
Q: They won't be the ones enforcing it.
A: We have 4,000 people at DEP. We will be able to enforce those rules once all the court distractions have been completed.
Q: Do you feel like you can guarantee those rules will lead to cleanups ?
A: I know they will. I know they will. The good news is when the litigation is resolved, we'll have a number of municipalities start investing in their wastewater treatment plants -- again.
Q: You mentioned the 4,000 employees of the department. There have been layoffs. And there have been accusations that senior employees -- or strong, independent employees -- were being targeted. Is there any truth ?
Q: How can you be so sure ?
A: I trust the people at DEP.
Q: Can you elaborate on that ? They (those carrying out the layoffs) are people working for you: the division heads and deputy secretaries. These other people (being laid off) are career employees who have been here for years and made enemies -- perhaps.
A: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Have you been affected by these water quality issues in your personal life ?
A: I live near the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. That's where my family recreates. So water quality is a personal issue for me. When we talk about the new water quality rules the state has adopted, I want them to go in effect immediately so I can start seeing the benefits of our labor.
Q: Has DEP's story gotten out there, and your story gotten out there ?
A: You will have to ask these folks (Gillespie and O'Brien) about that.
Q: What would you like readers to know ?
A: That DEP cares deeply about the environment and we will continue to look for better, smarter, more efficient ways to protect the environment.
* Nov. 30, 2012 "EPA approves Florida's Rules to Protect Waterways from Nutrient Pollution."
* Dec. 28, 2012 "Purge at DEP" Gainesville Sun editorial
* Dec. 28, 2012 DEP response to Gainesville Sun editorial
* Jan. 5, 2013 "Protecting Florida's Polluters" Tampa Bay Times editorial
* Jan. 5, 2013 DEP response to Tampa Bay Times editorial
* Biography of DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.
Week in Review for Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 (01/25/13)
'All-or-nothing' provision in state water rules causing heartburn for feds (01/25/13)
Everglades legislation in works amid finger-pointing over phosphorus discharges (01/24/13)
Scott, Cabinet OK no-bid farming leases to get Everglades land (01/23/13)
House hears criticism of energy conservation law, but chairman isn't sure about legislation (01/23/13)
River Life: The St. Johns is our own 'sweet water'
Jacksoville.com - by A. Quinton White
January 28, 2013
We are lucky to have so many places in which we can enjoy one of our best natural assets: Water. Each month, A. Quinton White, executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute, will explain, educate and entertain about our area waterways.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the old saying goes. That’s the case with the St. Johns River.
Many see it as the most significant natural resource in Northeast Florida and don’t understand why others don’t hold it with the same reverence. But to others, it’s just a big, dark body of water that flows conveniently through our fair city.
The St. Johns is termed a “black water river” because of its dark tea color. The color comes from the same tannins that give tea its color. Various tree species such as oak, gum and cypress shed their leaves into the swamps, wetlands and marshes at the headwaters of the St. Johns. Just like making iced tea, the water gradually absorbs the tannins and becomes a slightly acidic, dark liquid. The water tastes sweet, hence the name “Sweet Water” for such dark rivers and streams.
Early explorers looked for the dark-colored water as a sign the water was safe to drink. They would sail upstream, periodically tasting the water until it lost its saltiness and became “sweet.”
Some people confuse the dark color with pollution, but tannin is a natural product. When we talk of “pollutants,” we are usually talking about chemicals or excessive nutrients introduced into the water.
Florida has been blessed with an abundance of water, but that can cause us to take it for granted. Early settlers in Northeast Florida saw the river as an easy way to get rid of waste. The prevailing thought was that we needed to drain the swamps and wetlands and get the water that ran off our houses, roads and parking lots into the river a quickly as possible. People saw the river flowing into the ocean, taking our waste and excessive runoff with it. We didn’t understand that its ebb and flow traps the chemicals and nutrients in the river sediment.
Only in the mid-20th century was it realized how important those same swamps and wetlands that we drained in the 19th century are to the overall health of the entire ecosystem. They act like kidneys, filtering water and keeping the system functioning properly.
The St. Johns is a complex system, and we still don’t fully understand how it works. It is home to numerous species of plants and animals, each adapted to living in the river’s ever-changing water. It is that challenge of discovering how the river functions that makes it fun to study.
ASK RIVER LIFE
Why do we frequently see white streams in the river, particularly downtown?
This is created by impurities in the water — not always pollutants, but differences in salt content, dead plants, decomposing fish or other biological material. They tend to float on the surface, where the waves and currents cause the water to form bubbles. These bubbles stick together. As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upward and, massed together, they become foam. The streams of foam align at a slight angle to the wind. The technical term is Langmuir circulation.
Email A. Quinton White, executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute, with questions about our waterways at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the MSRI, go to ju.edu/msri.
Florida nature -
on a leash :
Do we want natural Florida to be wild, or kept on a leash ?
Orlando Sentinel – by Bill Belleville
January 27, 2013
I went looking for a new spring in the remote northwestern basin of the Wekiva River the other day. To get there, I hiked across an open savanna of scrub and flatwoods, gradually finding my way down into the tawny half-light of a wild subtropical forest.
Along the way, I saw the distinct tracks of a Florida black bear, watched a scrub jay flit about in bursts of vibrant blue, and stepped around a dusky pygmy rattler.
Once inside the swamp, I slowly pushed my way through a tangle of cat briar vine and saw palmetto. The only sound was the haunting cry of a sandhill crane, and it came to me from somewhere high overhead.
I was hunting for a small pond I recently spotted on a detailed topographical map. Unlike more ephemeral ponds, this one was persistent enough to be mapped.
A tiny stream squiggled its way into the Blackwater Creek, a major tributary of the Wekiva. Both the pond and its flowing stream were good hints that a spring may be supplying water to nourish them.
When I finally reached the site, I found a pond rimmed with sawgrass and inhabited by one of the largest gators I had ever seen. I searched for clues in the clear shallows along the shore, and in the creek. Conditions seemed to favor the existence of a spring. And so I made plans to return soon with a state geographer who might confirm this.
Last year, I helped guide the same geographer to another possible spring site in the basin. There, we descended into a swamp that cradled a clear thread of transparent water. As a result of that trek, "Sirena Spring" was named and cataloged.
Springs aren't the only natural features still being discovered in this biologically diverse, 300-square-mile basin.
Last year, some 70 scientists participating in a "BioBlitz" initiated by the Friends of the Wekiva River identified more than 1,564 species of plants and animals. Some 36 percent of the plants — 214 — were previously undocumented here. If that ratio holds true for the entire tally of aquatic and terrestrial species, then more than 400 plants and animals were not previously identified here.
The satirical description of Florida as "nature on a leash" in the film "Sunshine State" is wonderfully rebuked with the real-life discoveries in a river basin that is decidedly off the leash. It's natural to cheer the biological diversity of this singular river system — and to be thankful that 110 square miles of public land exists here.
Yet, there's great irony at work: Just as we're unlocking secrets about this rare landscape our elected officials are busy squandering the springs and the aquifer that fuels them. The fact they do so by ignoring its complex and finite limitations is not just obtuse, it's downright criminal.
Recently, the Sentinel asked the director of the St. Johns River Water Management District why his agency wasn't taking actions to remedy the dramatic increase in nitrate pollution and the alarming decline in flow of Wekiva's major springs. Hans Tanzler III, the director, replied, "Springs are complex ecosystems…Ecological and hydrological data are often spare or lacking."
He's right about the complexity. There are more springs in Florida than any other region of the world, and we're still learning about the hydrology of the vast Floridan aquifer. (Unlike surface reservoirs that supply most of the drinking water on the continent, we can't size up our hidden aquifer by eyeballing it.)
However, science shows that Wekiwa and Rock springs have nitrate levels five times that of a healthy spring, and that the flows of both have steadily declined since the 1930s. The data is neither "spare" nor "lacking."
If any question needs a responsible answer, it is this: How much more potable water can we draw from our aquifer before the prehistoric seawater that comprises most of it begins to flow from our faucets?
Our water management districts — controlled by a reactionary, grow-at-all-cost governor — continue to issue water permits without a clue to this answer.
This is like writing a check on an account without knowing the correct balance. If business-as-usual continues, one day those checks will start to bounce. Springs will become holes in the ground, and salt water will flow from faucets.
And Florida — having lost its water and its economy — may finally become "nature on a leash," beaten down and domesticated in ways we can barely imagine.
Bill Belleville of Sanford is an author and filmmaker specializing in nature and sense of place. He will speak Feb. 16 at the Speak Up Wekiva rally at Wekiwa Springs State Park.
State seeks to sell off some protected parcels
Orlando Sentinel – by Kevin Spear
January 27, 2013
Only government can wheel and deal on the scale of the real-estate extravaganza unfolding now in Florida over public lands.
One of the most celebrated acts of environmental protection in Florida is the state's work in recent decades to buy millions of acres forests, wetlands and prairies and protect them from commercial and residential development.
But a tiny portion of that gigantic ownership turned out to have little importance for conservation and could soon be sought after as commercial, mining and even airport property. The sell-off is happening because of state lawmakers who have ordered agencies to clean up their real-estate inventories.
The money raised — potentially tens of millions of dollars — will be plowed back into conservation lands.
The agencies are combing their holdings for potential plums such as an Interstate 275 parcel in Manatee County that isn't worth much environmentally but may be valuable as a hotel property.
Environmental groups have been wary but not opposed to the overall effort.
"When you own hundreds of thousands of acres, you have to manage your lands, and identify pieces that don't have any ecological or water resources value," said Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida advocacy director. "If you can turn those parcels with no ecological value into cash to buy more land that really is needed, that's a good thing."
Greg Knecht, director of protection for The Nature Conservancy in Florida, said a big upside to the review of lands is a confirmation of the conservation value of most parcels.
The St. Johns River Water Management District, a state water regulator for 18 counties that include the Orlando and Jacksonville areas, took much of 2012 to evaluate its 618,423 acres – an area three times larger than all of the land in Seminole County.
After 10 community meetings and dozens of talks with local officials, the district late last year approved a plan to whittle its holdings to 569,779 acres.
Some of that reduction will be through donations to local governments as park or recreation property. About 2 percent of the property was designated as suitable for conversion to uses such as timber harvesting or peat mining.
And 3,591 acres were identified as appropriate for selling or trading.
"Our summary conclusion about the characteristics of the properties is that the overwhelming majority are very important for conservation," said Robert Christianson, director of the agency's acquisition and management of lands.
The district's review of holdings grouped the properties into general categories:
•About three-quarters of the nearly 600,000 acres is low-lying and flood-prone and "performs important water storage functions," Christianson said.
•About 30 percent is part of an active project, where levees, culverts and pumps control water levels.
•About 80 percent of lands ranked very high in environmental significance.
Unfortunately for the initial public perception of the process, the parcel that wound up with the lowest environmental score was a 594-acre piece of former farmland along the north shore of Lake Apopka in northwest Orange County.
That land is being sought by the West Orange Airport Authority to expand a tiny airstrip into a facility that serves jets, a proposal that environmentalists oppose as a threat to the large variety of birds that flock to Lake Apopka.
The Seminole Indians -
and many other tribes
Before us, they were here
Highlands Today - by Pallavi Agarwal
January 26, 2013
LAKE PLACID -- When Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon's ships landed on Florida's east coast in 1513, he encountered Indian tribes like the Calusas, fierce warriors who had mastered the estuaries of southwest Florida and built a complex society.
The "Belle Glade People" had also learned to tame another harsh Florida water world, this one around the marshes of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee Basin.
Peninsula Florida was still isolated from the coasts and the Belle Glade people most likely didn't have direct contact with the 1513 conquistadores, but they got their baptism by fire alright.
When the Spanish left Florida the first time 250 years later, the little-known culture that got its name from mounds discovered near Belle Glade in Palm Beach County in the 1930s, was no more.
Diseases and slave raids had wiped out the people who once roamed and hunted in our backyards and made Central Florida home for 3,000 years.
As the state observes the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's discovery of "La Florida," a traveling exhibit is telling the story of Central Florida's residents 500 years ago to the people who now live here.
"We Were Here: The People of the Belle Glade Culture Welcomed You in 1513," will be shown in Lake Placid at the Depot Museum and the Lake Placid Memorial Library through Feb. 16.
The exhibit is being displayed in the six counties where the early people lived and is part of Florida's celebration of Viva Florida 500.
Storyboards at the Lake Placid museum and the library detail how the Belle Glade people lived, hunted and prayed.
Since there is no written record of what they called themselves, they are referred to as the Belle Glade Culture, the People of the Water and even, just the People.
They dug circular ditches and built mounds around the edges for their homes. They likely had fish farms, crafted dug-out canoes from pine and Cyprus trees and built canals for complex, continuous water ways. They traded extensively, prized their shamans and crafted intricate "symbol badges," whose significance is not known.
Museum volunteer Jerry Pendarvis had never heard of them before and was amazed by their canal system.
One of the canals unearthed is believed to be the longest pre-historic canal in North America and their fishing weirs could possibly be the first fish farms on the continent.
Museum Director Kay Tarr said she was "amazed" at the hardships they endured and their creativity in fashioning tools from what they saw around them.
Sharon Gerken would have liked to know more about them and wished they had left more enduring artifacts of themselves behind.
"It's impressive," she said, referring to photos of carvings on ornamental pins and other artifacts. While some of the art work has survived, others were in wood that couldn't stand the passage of time.
"Couldn't they have chiseled something in stone so they could tell us who they were?" she wondered with a laugh.
The Lawrence E. Will Museum: A Museum of the Glades, in Belle Glade, has produced the exhibit. It was created by Robert S. Carr and Tim Harrington of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy in Davie.
Museum Curator Warner Hutchinson felt the Belle Glade Culture had a compelling story to tell and when they saw the possibility of getting grant money under Viva Florida 500, they "pulled their resources together to tell the story."
"Here is a people that we know very little about but are very significant," he said.
An archeological expedition from 1933 to 1934 uncovered the culture to the world and there has been increasing knowledge about the interior Indians. A stroke of luck presented itself in 2009 when Lake Okeechobee went down to record levels due to the drought.
A Palm Beach archeologist and Belle Glade resident rescued a large number of artifacts and documented "several sites that had been submerged since the construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike," one of the storyboards states.
While the Belle Glade Culture lived by and from the water, modern Florida destinies are still intertwined with their water world – from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, Hutchinson said.
He considers the exhibit as a glimpse of the lives of the People of the Water from one milieu to another, separated by time and comfort levels.
Part of his hope is that it informs people and causes a "bit of wonder and awe and admiration that these people were able to cope admirably in a difficult environment."
Local archeologist Anne Reynolds also recently updated a permanent Depot Museum display of tools, artifacts and history of the Indians of early Florida. Items related to the traveling display are shown with titles.
Catherine Smith, archaeologist and resident at the Museum of the Glades, will give a presentation, "Before Our Time, The People of the Water Were Pretty Good at Water Management" at 1 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Lake Placid Women's Club, 10 N. Main Ave., Lake Placid. This presentation is sponsored by the Lake Placid Historical Society. For reservations, call 465-1771.
Tarr also has curriculum on the presentation for eight-grade history teachers should they be interested in introducing to their classrooms.
The Lake Placid Historical Society Depot Museum is located at 12 Park St., Lake Placid; 863-465-1771 Monday through Friday.
The Lake Placid Memorial Library is located at 205 W. Interlake Blvd., Lake Placid. The exhibit will be shared between the two sites. The museum needs volunteers to assist during the exhibit. Those interested should call and leave a message.
Environmental group’s idea: Lease parts of reefs for caretaking, let owners charge user fees
Palm BeachPost - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 26, 2013
Private companies and nonprofits could lease plots on Florida’s reefs and charge fees to dive boats, fishing charters and others to use them under a proposal raised for discussion by an environmental group of influential conservatives and libertarians.
The proposal, which also advocates opening the banned commercial trade of corals, is designed to encourage conservation and restoration of Florida’s coral reefs by creating a financial incentive to do so. The Conservation Leadership Council released the proposal and five other “actionable suggestions” at its inaugural conference in Washington this month.
“We believe many of the best solutions will be found in market-oriented policy,” council member Gale Norton, former secretary of the Interior during the Bush Administration, said at the opening of the conference. “The Conservation Leadership Council looks for fresh proposals that can reach environmental goals while finding mechanisms that conservatives and libertarians can embrace.”
However, some reef users are not embracing the idea.
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Skip Commagere, owner of Force-E dive shops in Riviera Beach, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach. “I’m slightly to the right of Attila the Hun but I’m at a loss for trying to figure out how this could benefit anyone.”
The council hopes to establish “the conservative voice for environmental stewardship” rooted in “fiscal responsibility, limited government and market entrepreneurship.” Norton, who was travelling after the conference, referred questions about the proposal to a spokesperson, who did not contact The Palm Beach Post.
Kameran Onley,a board member and director of U.S. Marine Policy for the Nature Conservancy, said in an email that “the ideas put forward in the publication are simply intended to stimulate discussion. They are not endorsed by the CLC and are not endorsed by The Nature Conservancy.”
According to the council’s Jan. 8 press release about its conference, the six policy studies commissioned by the council also address operating state parks through public-private partnerships that would allow private food concessions, retail, lodging and overall management of state parks. Another policy paper proposes creating a credit-trading system to protect threatened species.
The theory behind the reef proposal is that there is little public sector incentive to protect and restore the reefs because there is “no clear ownership… and no meaningful limit on access.”
Private companies and nonprofits would have a financial stake in the health of the reef — and therefore pay for preservation and restoration — if they could charge for access, the council policy paper contends. “Market-based strategies have the potential to generate stable and long-term funding… but only if the legal institutions governing coral reefs allow producers of reef restoration to charge the consumer of reef restoration.”
Lessees could also limit damage to the reef by excluding users who might damage it by dragging anchors or harvesting species living on the reef, it said. According to the policy paper: “Since no one owns the coral reefs off Florida’s coast, no one group has taken ownership of the problem of reef degradation… The issue is one of property rights.”
Not so, said Ed Tichenor, head of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue and long-time reef advocate. Privatizing the reefs would require a major overhaul of long-standing legal regulations and principals, such as the Public Trust Doctrine, which holds that publicly owned natural resources are important to everyone and therefore everyone should have access.
“The coral reefs in Florida are a natural resource,” Tichenor said. “You can’t assign ownership to a hotel or a cruise ship.”
Joe Browder, a longtime Everglades advocate and official in the Department of Interior during the Carter Administration, likens the reef privatization proposal to periodic efforts to allow developers to build resorts in the national parks. Browder, who also taught a course on private enterprise and the environment at Johns Hopkins University, called the idea “absurd” and proposed by “people on the fringes.”
“They have spent decades trying to persuade the world that public ownership of land is no good and if the land has any real value, somebody in the private market will manage it better,” Browder said.
Sean Morton, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary said pay-to-play proposals and user fees are not new. What is often ignored is administering, managing and enforcing such ideas. Who and how would leases be auctioned, permits issued and territory rights be enforced?
“You want to float an idea like that, it’s going to require a lot of work and discussion,” Morton said. “I think it’s an interesting academic discussion but I cautioned them — come to a public meeting and see what kind of reaction you would get.”
FL sugar farmers helping to clean up the Everglades
January 26, 2013
Before a joint meeting of the Florida House of Representatives’ State Affairs Committee and Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee, Florida’s sugar farmers on Friday presented the successful results of their collaboration with state and federal agencies to restore the Everglades ecosystem. House testimony shows significant progress in water quality as a result of farmers’ commitment to Everglades restoration.
The following statement was released by the sugar farmers:
“Florida’s sugar farmers are part of a solution that is working,” said Brian Hughes a spokesman for the Florida’s sugar farmers. “As was demonstrated in the expert testimony of Phil Parsons, sugar farmers are proud of the success and committed to working with the Legislature to get the job done.”
Parsons’ testimony shows successful public works projects, jointly paid for by farmers and the South Florida Water Management District, have removed significant amounts of phosphorus from the ecosystem. On‐farm Best Management Practices (BMPs) – paid for 100% by farmers – have removed more than twice as much phosphorus as the public works projects–resulting in clean water for the Everglades.
Parsons practices in the areas of environmental, land use and administrative law. He has coordinated complex environmental permitting and local and state land use regulatory proceedings, has appeared in multi-party administrative litigation and represented clients before the Legislature and U.S. Congress. In these roles he has had substantial involvement in Everglades Restoration and South Florida Water Management issues.
NOTE: Information about Phil Parsons (SoutheastAgNet.com)
Phil Parsons practices in the areas of environmental, land use and administrative law. He has coordinated complex environment al permitting and local and state land use regulatory proceedings, has appeared in multi-party administrative litigation and represented clients before the Legislature and U.S. Congress.In these roles he has had substantial involvement in Everglades Restoration and South Florida Water Management issues.
He was counsel to the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1975 and, in 1973 and 1974, was assigned responsibility in drafting the Florida Administrative Procedure Act.He was formerly a partner in MacFarlane, Ferguson, Allison & Kelly (1976-1981), in Ausley, McMullen, McGehee, Carothers and Proctor (1981-1985) and in Landers & Parsons, P.A. (1985-2005).
He is a frequent lecturer on environmental and administrative law for continuing legal education programs sponsored by the Florida Bar, American Bar Association and Local Government Lawyers Associations.
Mr. Parsons received his undergraduate degree from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and his law degree from Harvard Law School.He is listed in Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA Leading Lawyers for Business and Florida Trend Magazine’s Legal Elite.
Fracking in Southwest Florida may still happen
January 26, 2013
Oil companies are showing interest in possibly fracking in Florida.
A public records request for inquiries about fracking since The News-Press published stories Oct. 7 about the possibilities of the controversial drilling technique coming to Florida shows Penn Virginia Oil & Gas Corp. sought regulatory information from the state Department of Environmental Protection in November, then pulled out.
Charity Fleenor, environmental and safety manager for the company, wrote Nov. 21: “My company – Penn Virginia Oil & Gas – is considering acquiring a leasehold in southern Florida for purposes of exploring and developing oil. My goal is to evaluate and understand the regulatory process for drilling, completing (by means of hydraulic fracturing) and producing oil and to do these things in an environmentally responsible manner.”
A face-to-face meeting was scheduled Dec. 13 between Penn Virginia and DEP in Tallahassee. But the company backed out because “another operator beat us to purchasing the leases” Fleenor wrote.
Fracking for oil and natural gas is pumping billions into government treasuries, residents’ pockets and energy company profits across the country, creating thousands of jobs, reducing reliance on foreign energy, and worrying critics about possible contamination to groundwater or surface water.
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.
The lucrative results has prompted a fracking frenzy through North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Wyoming, Colorado, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Montana, Texas and elsewhere.
Some operators say fracking is inevitable in South Florida; others say the geology isn’t quite right for the process to be effective. Fracking is allowable under state DEP rules and regulations, officials say.
Fleenor said she didn’t know the name of the operator who acquired the leases sought by Penn Virginia. “We’ve discontinued our efforts” she said. “It was just something we were evaluating.”
But her Dec. 3 email to Ed Garrett, oil and gas section administrator for the mining and minerals regulation bureau of the DEP, stated: “We are still trying to acquire leases in southern Florida; therefore, I would like to postpone our meeting until we are ready to move forward.”
Garrett responded, “Sorry things didn’t work out for your company in Florida. Please look us up again if another opportunity comes up here.”
Municipalities and environmental groups in several states have mounted protests, tried to pass ordinances or place moratoriums on fracking.
In Florida, a three-month-old group called Floridians Against Fracking has a Facebook site where information from across the country and comments are shared.
The issue is a hot enough topic that the Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference, held Friday and Saturday in Fort Myers, included a session on the pros and cons of fracking and water use, and management in fracking.
Upper Sunniland Trend
In South Florida, oil drilling has been going on for decades in a swath of land called the Upper Sunniland Trend. The trend stretches 150 miles long from Fort Myers to Miami. It also runs through the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve, the western end of the Everglades ecosystem.
But the fracking focus is on the lower, unexplored part of the Sunniland, at a depth reaching up to 17,000 feet.
Most of the mineral rights in the Sunniland Trend are owned by Collier Resources in Collier County. The company owns 800,000 acres of mineral rights across Southwest Florida, including 400,000 in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Los Angeles-based Breitburn Energy leases the majority of Collier's mineral rights and 37,109 acres in the Sunniland Trend. “There’s nothing to report. We don’t have any current plans for fracking,” Greg Brown, Breitburn executive vice president, said late last week.
Brandt Temple, president and founder of Sunrise Exploration & Production of New Orleans, has put together eight-year leases for 135,000 acres in Lee, Collier and Hendry counties. “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. Temple, who said he would try conventional drilling methods before fracking, had been looking for an oil industry partner. He said in October 40 companies signed a non-compete agreement to look at the deal.
However, he changed his tune last week. Asked for an update on activity on his land and leases, he would only say, “I don’t believe hydraulic fracturing will be required in Florida. I don’t think that is what’s going to make the play work.”
He didn’t respond when asked why.
'All-or-nothing' provision in state water rules causing heartburn for feds
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 25, 2013
A provision in state water quality rules supported by industry and utility groups may require the Legislature to take up the rules again this year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said this week.
Environmental groups have been battling utilities and industry groups for the past three years over rules to establish strict limits on nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida waterways.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says rules are needed to protect Florida's waterways from becoming covered with algae. Industry groups say federal rules are too expensive and they instead support the state's proposed rules that environmental groups oppose.
The Legislature in 2012 passed HB 7051, which exempted the proposed state rules from ratification by the Legislature. The bill also said no portion of the state rules could take effect until approved by EPA in their entirety and after EPA repeals its own rule-making.
The federal agency on Nov. 30 announced it was approving Florida's rules for inland waterways. But the federal agency also said Florida's rules did not cover many coastal waters, and therefore EPA is proposing limits for those waterways.
Because of an ongoing state legal challenge by environmental groups and the rule provision sought by industry groups, EPA official Jim Giattina said Thursday it's unclear when the state rules will take effect.
"In the event that the state's criteria do not take effect, EPA will finalize criteria for all of Florida's streams," Giattina said during a webinar. He is director of the Water Protection Division in EPA's Atlanta regional office.
Drew Bartlett, director of DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, told the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation that the state is in talks with the federal agency over the issue.
"If we can agree to a path forward with EPA," Bartlett said, "then we may be revisiting last year's legislation."
The Florida Stormwater Association and Florida Water Environment Association-Utility Council were among the groups supporting the rule and bill language that now is creating problems for the state and the EPA.
"The most effective path forward is to have a comprehensive state-run program," said David Childs, an attorney representing FWEA-Utility Council. "A patchwork of federal and state criteria will result in less protection for Florida's waters as opposed to more protection."
The environmental groups say the EPA must implement rules under a 2009 consent decree rather than wait on the state to take action.
The EPA has asked U. S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to extend until November a court deadline for federal rules to be enforced, but the environmental groups oppose that request.
"EPA's failure to comply is critical because EPA lacks the authority to approve a state rule that cannot take effect without EPA breaching a consent decree," wrote attorney Monica Reimer for the Earthjustice law firm. "And a state rule that cannot take effect cannot displace a federal rule on the same subject."
Earthjustice represents the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida.
Bartlett told the state Environmental Regulation Commission in 2011 that DEP supported the rule provision sought by industry because it was in compliance with the proposed rules and federal law. Now DEP says the requirement should come out of state law -- eventually.
"Once in place and approved by EPA, we will be able to implement our rules regardless of the effectiveness provisions," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said in an email. "At that time, the effectiveness provisions are unnecessary and should be removed from the laws of Florida."
* Jan. 14, 2013 Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to EPA Motion for Approval to Stay (Inland Waters)
* Jan. 4, 2013 EPA motion for stay approval
* Dec. 14, 2012 EPA proposed stay
* Dec. 28, 2012 Conservation groups comments
* Dec. 28, 2012 Fertilizer Institute comments
* Dec. 27, 2012 Mosaic letter
* Dec. 14, 2012 EPA proposed stay
* Nov. 30, 2012 EPA approval letter
Week in Review for Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 (01/25/13)
Everglades legislation in works amid finger-pointing over phosphorus discharges (01/24/13)
Scott, Cabinet OK no-bid farming leases to get Everglades land (01/23/13)
House hears criticism of energy conservation law, but chairman isn't sure about legislation (01/23/13)
Bill to encourage oil drilling filed again in House (01/22/13)
Green Canal clearing
NaplesNews.com – Letter by Dr. James Holmes, Naples
January 25, 2013
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is in the process of strip-clearing Green Canal in Golden Gate.
SFWMD is cutting every last bit of foliage along the banks of the canals with the mistaken belief flood control will be enhanced. Strip-clearing results in increased erosion and filling of the canals with dirt, debris and pollutants through runoff; thus negatively impacting water-carrying capacity of the canal system.
Trees along the canals slow water entry into the canals, allowing for greater natural ground absorption of water. Trees channel the water flow and slow the downstream flow. Strip-clearing natural growth allows more water to enter the canal system more quickly, and lack of trees results in faster downstream water flow, causing water to accumulate more rapidly in flood-prone areas.
The best way to lessen flooding potential is to dredge the canals, thereby removing accumulated silt buildup and pollutants. Dredging will increase the carrying capacity of the canals and reduce potential harm to our families, animals and natural environment by removing pollutants.
Removing foliage along canals is destroying natural habitat of Florida fauna, native nesting birds and migratory birds.
Green Canal derives its name from thick lush, natural foliage that lines the canal. Removing the trees makes the canal appear like a combat zone.
Any non-indigenous tropicals/exotics should be removed selectively but native flora should remain. Any tree truly judged in danger of falling into canals should be removed; but total, wanton destruction is not warranted.
Red tide off Southwest Florida loosens up, report says
January 25, 2013
The southernmost area of a red tide bloom that has lingered off the coast of Southwest Florida for several months is weakening, according to the latest update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
Concentrations of Karenia brevis cells, the algae responsible for red tide, have dropped dramatically in Collier County. Naples Pier showed the most improvement, falling from high to low. But even at low concentrations, there is a risk of respiratory irritation and fish kills.
Lee County water samples showed mixed results, with most beaches showing low to medium concentrations of K. brevis. Bokeelia Island was the only county location to increase to high toxicity since last week.
The northern portion of the bloom, however, is holding strong. Charlotte County has 12 sites where concentrations were medium or high. For a list of locations, visit myfwc.com.
The next update will be released on Wednesday.
Water managers to joint meeting: Everglades water quality much improved
SunshineStateNews.com - by Nancy Smith
January 25, 2013
A heady mixture of determination, collaboration and financial investment is impressively turning Everglades water quality around, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) data show.
At a joint meeting Thursday of the House State Affairs Committee and House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, the take-home message was this: The iconic "River of Grass" is in much better shape today than it was 20 years ago.
And it is primarily because of these reasons:
* The $1.8 billion the state has invested in Everglades restoration.
* The $200 million that Everglades farmers have paid in ag privilege tax.
* Another $200 million in implementing on-farm "best management practices."
* The collaboration between the farmers and the South Florida Water Management District.
* Phosphorus levels in negatively impacted areas, though not yet at the desired 10 parts per billion, are nevertheless headed in the right direction, measuring in the low teens.
Said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, "Speaking personally, we're proud to be part of a solution."
The authority behind the water quality statistics was Ernie Barnett, Everglades policy director for SFWMD. Barnett has 28 years of water resources management experience and public service, during which he contributed to several landmark environmental laws.
Was everybody on the same page with the good news ? No. In spite of the SFWMD data, the Everglades Foundation wants ag to pay a larger percentage of the pollution cleanup cost.
My Monday column, "I Beg to Differ," will deal with this issue. Stay tuned.
Two different sets of
farm discharge figures:
Shall we have
Everglades legislation in works amid finger-pointing over phosphorus discharges
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 24, 2013
The Everglades restoration plan approved by federal officials in 2012 is leading toward changes in the Florida law dealing with the famed "River of Grass," key legislators said Thursday.
The restoration plan also led to finger-pointing Thursday among environmentalists and sugar farmers over who is to blame for continued high phosphorus levels in Lake Okechobee and water runoff from farming areas into the Everglades. The phosphorus fuels the growth of cattails that overtake open water and native sawgrass marshes.
Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 met with federal officials in Washington to propose a state restoration plan to address lawsuits over water quality and water quantity and prevent a federal takeover of permitting.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the state's plan to spend $880 million over 13 years on new reservoirs and marshes to filter water flowing into Everglades National Park.
In its legislative budget request submitted in October, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is seeking $50 million for Everglades restoration, including $32 million for the governor's plan.
The Everglades Forever Act set phosphorus limits for water flowing into the Everglades. The law also established a $35 per acre tax on sugar farms, with a $10.11 per acre credit for those farms using "best management practices" to reduce pollution and a 1 mill ad valorem tax to reduce pollution.
That overall "agriculture privilege tax" is reduced to $25 per acre from 2014 through 2017 and then drops to $10 per acre after that.
Senate and House committees on Thursday heard from representatives of agencies, environmental groups and sugar farmers about restoration plans.
Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Dade City, told The Florida Current he is working on a general bill with the governor's office, but that there are no specifics yet. He is head of Simpson Farms Inc. in Pasco County.
"We are sort of formulating the plan now," Simpson said. "Obviously we intend to be fair and reasonable with all the groups considered. There are lots of different funding sources. There are lots of concerns in the area. We are going to listen to all of them."
Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island and chairman of the State Affairs Committee, said he expects the discussion of funding restoration to lead to a discussion about the Everglades Forever Act. He said his joint committee meeting with the Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee was the "opening" of the discussion.
"I personally believe this will be an issue that's solved long before it turns into a bill process," he said.
During committee meetings, the Everglades Foundation showed a graphic stating that 186 metric tons of phosphorus per year flows from farms to the stormwater treatment areas and the Everglades.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg told the Current that the sugar industry will want its tax credit extended while taxpayers will be paying more for restoration projects.
"We haven't formalized where we come down on that," Eikenberg said. "But if taxpayers are going to be asked to pick up the tab on this, then the discussion also should include the ag privilege tax."
But representatives of the Florida Sugar Cane League disputed the Everglades Foundation graphic and instead highlighted a South Florida Water Management District graphic stating that 63 metric tons of phosphorus was discharged from the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Sugar farmers suggest that urban stormwater and other sources of phosphorus upstream of Lake Okeechobee also are to blame and say they are reducing the amount of phosphorus that flows into the Everglades.
"We want to work with the (Everglades) Foundation and anyone else who wants to work with us to bring about solutions," said Brian Hughes, a Sugar Cane League spokesman. "But if the conversation starts with a lie about us, that is problematic."
In response, the Everglades Foundation cited a National Research Council report that they said provided the basis for their numbers.
* Jan. 24, 2013 Everglades Foundation pollution graphic
* Jan. 24, 2013 Florida Sugar Cane graphic by Southwest Florida Water Management District
* Jan. 24, 2013 House State Affairs Committee meeting packet
* Jan. 24, 2013 Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation meeting packet
Scott, Cabinet OK no-bid farming leases to get Everglades land (01/23/13)
House hears criticism of energy conservation law, but chairman isn't sure about legislation (01/23/13)
Bill to encourage oil drilling filed again in House (01/22/13)
BP claims chief says $332M being paid in Florida (01/22/13)
Environmental groups still opposed to DEP water-use rules (01/22/13)
FL Senate: Everglades Restoration
HeraldTribune.com – On Tap in the Capitol
January 24, 2013
The Everglades Foundation and the South Florida Water Management District both give presentations on the effort to restore the Everglades in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The foundation will talk about federal funding for the effort while SFWMD discusses the status of the program. Also on the agenda Thursday in the committee is an update from officials at the federal Department of Environmental Protection on the controversial numeric nutrient criteria issue - the effort to set new standards for water pollution amounts in state fresh waters. (10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
application of crude
fertilizers keeps the
Up to 85% of the
chemicalsrun off into
our waters - creating
a pollution havoc.
New farm bill must include measures for conservation
Orlando Sentinel - by Manley Fuller, President and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation
January 24, 2013
If the recent battle over the fiscal cliff is any indication of what's to come this year from our elected officials in Washington, D.C., there is reason for us all to be worried. Marked by partisan bickering, the debt-ceiling debacle was just one of many disappointments dealt by Congress last year.
Take the farm bill, for example.
It started off well. The Senate came together last spring and passed its version of the bill. It was not perfect, but it contained many hard-won provisions to protect our country's soils and water resources. The House followed suit, drafting its own version and passing it out of committee by the end of July.
While the two pieces of legislation diverged on many key issues, there was hope for finding middle ground before the bill's expiration date. However, election politics intervened, and all Congress could muster was a nine-month extension, punting the fight further downfield.
Now, we are back at square one with the farm bill. Come September, the extension will expire and agriculture policy in this country will soon teeter on its own cliff.
Yet, with the new Congress comes renewed hope. Hope that lawmakers will learn from the mistakes of last year and work harder toward compromise. For the farm bill, this means crafting legislation that meets the needs of farmers, is fair to all taxpayers and provides protections for our natural resources.
For Floridians, we need a bill that will keep our outdoor economy thriving, which means reducing soil erosion and preventing harmful runoff into our waterways. For the past 25 years, this has been achieved by linking basic soil and wetland conservation measures to the publicly funded cash payments handed out to farmers.
This conservation compact with the public says that farmers who voluntarily accept taxpayer money in the form of subsidies have a responsibility to protect soil, water and wildlife habitat.
Unfortunately, this fundamental agreement, known as conservation compliance, is threatened this year. Soon, farmers will no longer receive direct cash subsidies. Instead, federally subsidized crop insurance will become the main safety net for farmers — guaranteeing their income, whether or not there is a crop failure or weather disaster.
While replacing direct cash subsidies with federal crop insurance is good policy in many ways, it also creates a harmful loophole. Unlike other farm subsidies, federal crop insurance subsidies do not require farmers to comply with basic conservation requirements.
Without conservation compliance, both the soil and the agricultural chemicals and fertilizers applied to the soil could wash off into surface waters and choke aquatic life in our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
In extremely wet years, our state could see dramatic increases in nutrient pollution and dead zones as a result. Furthermore, without conservation compliance, taxpayers in Florida and around the country will see their tax dollars used to subsidize the destruction of the valuable wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife and help filter and store water for our region.
After enactment of conservation compliance in 1985, wetland loss slowed considerably in Florida. Failing to reconnect conservation compliance to crop-insurance subsidies in the next farm bill will open the door for destruction. This includes our prized Everglades, where agriculture has been the primary cause of wetland loss.
Continuation of vital conservation-easement programs will help protect water quality in Florida, but a truly smart farm bill needs to include conservation compliance on all farm programs.
So far, there has been a lot of talk by both parties on finding middle ground in the coming year. By championing common-sense policies like conservation compliance in the next farm bill, our elected leaders can prove to us they are willing to walk the walk.
Doing so will not only mean a stronger, more balanced farm bill, but will also make up for the shortcomings of 2012.
Saving the Everglades will save region’s drinking water
Palm Beach Post - Commentary by Charles Pattison, President of 1000 Friends of Florida
Having just returned from the 12th annual Everglades Coalition annual conference in Coral Gables, it is impossible not to be invigorated by the enthusiasm and passion for restoring what remains of the “River of Grass.” But it is equally important that we learn how to stop repeating the costly mistakes of the past.
More than a century of uninformed decision-making has left taxpayers with mounting bills and growing challenges. The price for restoring the half of the Everglades system that still remains is approaching $13 billion. But this expenditure is essential, as the Everglades, which today stretches over 18,000 square miles from Orlando to the Keys, is the source of clean drinking water for nearly a third of all Floridians.
For more than a century, the “drain and fill” approach to development was used to support the 8 million residents who call the area home, and to provide for productive agricultural lands. This has required construction, maintenance and ongoing repairs of 1,000 miles of levees, 1,700 miles of canals, 50 pump stations, 700 culverts and 500 water control structures.
But “fixing” just a few of the problems associated with this approach is mind-boggling. To retrofit the Tamiami Trail and reestablish the flow of water south to Everglades National Park includes $95 million to construct the initial one-mile bridge, and then another $324 million for the next 5.5 miles. This is just part of one project.
In light of this, we should know better about where to place new development and associated roads, sewer lines and schools in order to lessen or eliminate the need for such costly fixes. But instead of moving forward, we are going backward.
To ensure that such mistakes were no longer made, in 1985 the Florida Legislature adopted the Growth Management Act to provide state oversight of local land-use planning. Unfortunately, in the feeding frenzy that was the 2011 Legislature, this oversight was slashed in the misguided belief that it hindered economic development. The state land planning agency was eliminated, its staff reduced by 50 percent, and its remnants became a small part of a new agency, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), dedicated to job creation.
But Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature were not finished. The regulatory programs and budgets of the five very important water management districts were downsized, and key staff let go. The Department of Environmental Protection also was downsized, with some of its most seasoned regulators told they were no longer needed.
As anticipated, Florida now is on the edge of economic recovery. Population growth is rebounding, too, with projections that in 2015 Florida will surpass New York to become the third-largest state. But in terms of state planning and environmental protection, it’s back to the 1960s and 1970s, when mistakes were made in the thousands.
Even the newly minted Department of Economic Opportunity, created to promote jobs, recognizes the problem. In a recently released report, it notes serious concerns about availability of water and calls for a more collaborative approach and a statewide process to focus on economic development, environmental issues, land use and infrastructure over the next 50 years.
There is critical state role in making certain that treasures like the Everglades — and our drinking water — are protected. This includes a reasonable partnership between state and local governments to ensure that appropriate development decisions are made.
As the 2013 legislative session approaches, we need to share this message with our legislators and the governor. Remind them that new residents, tourists and businesses won’t come to Florida if we don’t have enough clean drinking water for them.
Charles Pattison is president of 1000 Friends of Florida, a statewide growth management advocacy organization. For more information, visit www.1000fof.org. 130124-c
State park plan for Silver Springs becomes official
WUFT.org – by Forrest Smith
January 24th, 2013
From Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, approved the modification of a lease agreement between Palace Entertainment and the state of Florida Wednesday, allowing the Silver Springs theme park property to become part of Florida’s state park system on Oct. 1.
Palace Entertainment’s lease to manage the Silver Springs attraction runs until Dec. 31, 2029. Through negotiations with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state has secured $4 million in work by Palace Entertainment in order to restore the property to its natural condition, as originally intended by the Board of Trustees. Palace Entertainment will continue to manage the property until Sept. 30. The attraction will be open during that time.
“We are pleased that the governor and cabinet have decided to approve this agreement so that the department can return the property closer to its natural state, involve the community in recreation opportunity decisions and continue our efforts of improving water quality in Silver Springs, one of Florida’s most iconic treasures,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr.
The department will begin implementing the Interim Facilities and Operations Plan that was presented to the public Jan. 14 by the Florida Park Service. The anticipated completion date for the long term unit management plan, which is required by Florida Statutes, is September 2014.
“Florida’s 171 state parks, trails and historic sites are pleased to welcome the Silver Springs property into our family of resource-based recreation areas and historic and cultural sites,” said Donald Forgione, director of DEP’s Florida Park Service. “We look forward to working with Palace Entertainment during the transition and to opening the gates on Oct. 1 as a state park.”
Turning the property into a state park is another step the department has taken to restore Silver Springs. On Wednesday, the Department’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration also held the first meeting to finalize a basin management action plan for Silver Springs — the first such restoration plan to reduce nitrates affecting the springs. Department research and monitoring led to designating Silver Springs and the Upper Silver River as impaired for nitrate, a form of nitrogen that causes excessive algae growth in the spring system.
Last November, the department finalized the total maximum daily load or, in this case, the maximum acceptable concentration of nitrate, at 0.35 milligrams per liter. This is the same restoration target that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has adopted for springs — based on the department’s data — and that has been upheld in both state and federal courts. Meeting the restoration target will protect aquatic life and bring the system back into balance.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection expanded its efforts to restore Silver Springs last July, committing more than $1 million to water quality improvement projects.
The department, Marion County and the St. Johns River Water Management District have identified the first project to benefit from this funding, committing $300,000, $300,000 and $100,000, respectively. The project will eliminate a wastewater discharge from the Silver Springs Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is within 1.5 miles of Silver Springs’ main boil. It will redirect wastewater to the Silver Springs Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant, which provides higher level treatment and is 10 miles from the head spring.
In a subsequent phase of the project, a series of small “package” wastewater treatment plants will be connected to the central facility, providing better treatment and reducing pollution. Collectively, these actions will eliminate more than two tons of nitrogen currently going into the Silver Springs system every year.
Polluted canal with
All Keys canals being surveyed for water quality
KeysNet.com - by Kevin Wadlow
January 23, 2013
By July, survey crews working for Monroe County will know something about every one of nearly 500 canals in the Florida Keys.
The third phase of an ongoing $300,000 project calls for contractors to run bathymetric surveys -- measuring the depths of canal bottoms -- as part of a countywide canal restoration program to improve water quality.
"These waters have been identified as impaired waters that have to be cleaned up," Mayor George Neugent said at the Jan. 16 County Commission meeting.
As proposed, information gained from canal inspections could lead to five demonstration projects that test each of five systems to improve water quality in canals that feed into nearshore waters.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection funded the study phase, but the county may have to pay at least part of the cost of the demonstration projects, estimated at $2.5 million to $5 million.
"There are different types of fixes for different canals," said Rhonda Haag, county sustainability program manager.
The county will target canals that could be restored by projects testing:
• Using a weed-rack barrier to block floating seaweed.
• Installing an air-bubble curtain that would have a similar effect.
• Removing harmful sediment from a canal bottom.
• Pumping to improve water flow into and from canals.
• Backfilling canals that were dredged too deeply, often as a source for building fill.
"An awful lot were dug way too deep," Haag said, leading to the death of grasses and other desirable bottom-dwelling ecosystems.
"Up until this point, we have not gone out to stick things on the [canal] bottom and find out what's there," Haag said.
Since the "vast majority" of Keys canals are privately owned by landowners along the banks, County Commissioner Danny Kolhage wondered if that could slow the program. Neugent said even where the canal bottom is privately held, owners usually cannot prevent boats from navigating on state waters in canals.
If property owners along a canal with poor water quality want to help fund a pilot project to help qualify for matching funds, Haag said, "That could probably bump them to the top of the list."
Neighborhood or community associations interested in contributing toward pilot programs can send an e-mail to Haag-Rhonda@monroecounty-fl.gov.
The issue of dredging privately owned canals may reach the County Commission in a separate matter sometime this year.
An amendment to the county's land-use plan that would allow limited canal dredging under specific circumstances was endorsed by the Monroe County Planning Commission in November.
Owners of property on Walker's Island, east of Duck Key near mile marker 63, have submitted a plan to dredge an existing channel so it can accommodate larger boats at an eight-unit development project.
Existing local, state and federal laws effectively ban dredging, even for maintenance, in most Keys canals.
Backers of the proposal are working on a presentation to the County Commission but no date for the item has been scheduled, said Mayte Santamaria, assistant planning director.
Prof. W. MITSCH
Ecological Engineering of the best kind: Restoring rivers, wetlands, and the Florida Everglades
Press release – FGCU
Ecological engineering was described by the late H.T. Odum of University of Florida and Dr. Mitsch’s mentor as a “cooperative role with the planetary life support system” and by Mitsch as “the design of sustainable ecosystems that integrate human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both.” The principles and practices of ecological engineering of enhancing the ecosystem services of wetlands are illustrated at three scales: the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Everglades, and the entire Planet. A vision for an internationally recognized wetland research park adjacent to the Naples Botanical Garden will also be presented.
The persistent 5-million-acre Gulf of Mexico hypoxia or “dead zone” off the coast of Louisiana has stimulated years of investigating ecological solutions including wetland creation and restoration in the Mississippi River Basin on a scale never seen before in the world. A 17-year whole-ecosystem wetland experiment in self-design in Ohio and an assessment by a Federally sponsored committee chaired by Mitsch, suggest that 5 million acres of new wetlands are needed in the American midwest to provide a significant improvement in the water quality of the Gulf of Mexico.
Over 40,000 acres of wetlands have been created in former agricultural lands upstream of the current Florida Everglades as ecological retention systems for phosphorus, the fertilizer that is changing the ecology of the northern Florida Everglades.
Effectiveness of these wetlands and current studies by FGCU and the South Florida Water Management District to investigate additional wetlands to reduce phosphorus even more will be described.
On a global scale, wetlands are shown to be among the most effective natural carbon sinks in the world. Created wetlands have higher carbon retention rates than comparable reference wetlands and both temperate and tropical wetlands retain much more carbon per unit area than do the more commonly studied boreal peatlands. Models show that methane emission rates are low enough to be of little concern and that, overall, wetlands may be sinks for as much as 12% of the total released carbon emissions in the world.
The presentation will conclude with a description of early plans for a collaboration among FGCU, the Naples Botanical Garden (NBG), local developers,and Rookery Bay NEER for a large-scale (>100 acre) long-term (decadal) subtropical mangrove wetland research facility adjacent to the NBG in south Naples.
Letter to Gov. Scott
Enviros now asking for gov and Cabinet to delay action on Glades leases
Miami Herald (Blog)
January 23, 2013
In a letter today to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, the Florida Wildlife Federation, 1000 Friends of Florida and the Everglades Law Center are asking them to delay action on a controversial item before them today that would grant no-bid contracts for 30-year leases to farm on Everglades land to give the state time to negotiate shorter terms.
"We question the wisdom and prudence of locking up state-owned land with new 30-year leases that make these lands unavailable for future environmental restoration projects,'' wrote Manley Fuller, Charles Pattison and Lisa Interlandi.
They also questioned a provision in the proposal that would allow Florida Crystals to lease the land under the condition that the leases could be terminated early on 2,200 acres of it if the state needed it for Everglades clean-up. The group said that offer has no guarantees.
"Upon reviewing the language presented to us yesterday, it appears it will take multiple years to invoke these provisions, some of which are so complex and onerous that it is questionable that they could ever be invoked,'' their letter said.
The decision could be a difficult one for Gov. Rick Scott as he faces re-election. His decision to enter into a settlement with sugar growers and the federal government last year is seen by environmentalists as an admirable achievement on an otherwise rocky environmental record.
The writers concluded with this sentence: "We believe the short delay would evidence your serious commitment to the stewardship of public lands."
Growers want 30-year no-bid access to Everglades land Bradenton Herald
Cabinet Approves Everglades Sugar Leases Sunshine State News
Gov. Scott approves no-bid Glades deal St. Augustine Record
Cabinet OKs no-bid leases for Duda, Florida Crystals despite ... Palm Beach Post
Scott, Cabinet approve Everglades land deals for growers Sun-Sentinel
Scott, Cabinet approve no-bid Glades deal Bradenton Herald
South Florida Water Management approves controversial sugar land ... The News-Press
Everglades lease deals go through over enviros objections
Orlando Sentinel - by K. Haughney
January 24, 2013
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet Wednesday signed off two no-bid, 30-year agricultural leases in the Everglades to two major farming companies over the complaints of environmentalists who say the deal will continue to pollute crucial areas of the Everglades for decades to come.
Officials have said the transactions would help the state acquire more land to store and clean up storm water that is needed to replenish the Everglades and begin meeting overdue federal water quality standards.
The deal concerns two major farming companies in South Florida, A. Duda and Sons and Florida Crystals and land that they have leased or owned for the past several years.
South Florida Water Management officials have been looking at two pieces of land as part of a major Everglades restoration project. One piece , 638 acres owned by A. Duda and Sons, would be used to restore area adjacent to Lake Hipochee. But Duda will only sell the land if the state signs off on 30-year leases on two other parcels of land it currently leases from the state.
The cost of the land is nearly $2 million.
In the other case, the state would swap a portion of taxpayer-owned farmland in Palm Beach County to sugar giant Florida Crystals in exchange for 4,700 acres of their property in a more strategically located area for Everglades restoration plans. Florida Crystals is also insisting on 30-year extensions on land they currently lease from the state.
But environmentalists have raised concerned that the 30-year lease extensions would leave sugar cane farming - and harmful phosphorus that is used in the process - entrenched in land that should be restored for decades.
Several groups sent letters to Scott and Cabinet members asking that they delay the decision.
Cabinet Approves Everglades Sugar Leases Sunshine State News
Gov. Scott approves no-bid Glades deal St. Augustine Record
Cabinet OKs no-bid leases for Duda, Florida Crystals despite ... Palm Beach Post
Scott, Cabinet approve Everglades land deals for growers Sun-Sentinel
Scott, Cabinet approve no-bid Glades deal Bradenton Herald
South Florida Water Management approves controversial sugar land ... The News-Press
Officials want $122 million to restore Florida's springs
Florida's water supply is facing more issues, and it could cost a lot to fix them.
According to Bay News 9's partner paper, the Tampa Bay Times, the state's once-clear springs are suffering from the growth of toxic brown algae. Experts don't know what is causing it, but they think it is a bad sign.
The algae is just one of several problems faced by the springs. Other issues include low water flow, pollution and salt water intrusion.
State water officials said it could cost more than $122 million to fix all of the problems. The Times reports that figure is 10 times what the state spent on the springs last year and four times the budget for Everglades restoration.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush launched an initiative to explore the problems with the springs in 2000, but the effort was disbanded by Gov. Rick Scott.
The Times reports that most recently, recommendations made by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have gone ignored by the Legislature with the exception of one, which required inspections of septic tanks. That law was repealed last year after septic tank owners objected to the $150 inspection price.
Florida water management districts seek $122 million for springs ... Sunshine State News
Our Gulf ecosystem
Florida Weekly – by Roger Williams
January 23, 2013
Why the protection of Florida water is so crucial now.
RALF BROOKES late last year and accidentally hooked his thumb just under the nail, as fishermen will occasionally do. He pulled the hook out in a matter of seconds and got the line back in the water — the Caloosahatchee River, that magnificent but tainted 67-mile-long stream flowing west from Lake Okeechobee to emerge at San Carlos Bay, near Sanibel Island on the Gulf of Mexico.
“I thought nothing of it at the time,” he recalls.
But that would change as a mycobacteria related to tuberculosis, dormant for eight weeks after infecting him from river water on the fishhook, suddenly began to work its malfeasant magic. His thumb swelled at the knuckle to the size of a walnut, threatening its existence, doctors told him.
The attitudes and inclinations of the state’s top water managers in Tallahassee have changed, too, as they concluded that the Department of Environmental Protection and the water management districts obligated to prevent such water-borne illnesses were swollen with too much money and personnel.
Here, Florida Weekly explores how their systemic surgery to reduce that swelling might affect the 1.2 million water-dependent residents of the Southwest peninsula.
Critics of the state government’s recent philosophy of water management are increasingly clamorous.
The federal Clean Water Act of 1980 required Florida to make its waters safe for both swimming and fishing by 1985. But that still hasn’t happened, and the new approach of top government officials won’t help it happen, either, they say.
Officials counter that the spare approach to industry regulation is more efficient, more friendly to business and the economy, and just as effective.
Our water and its managers
Meanwhile, the water keeps flowing, more or less.
Mr. Brookes’ favorite fishing hole — the Caloosahatchee — is only one of seven major watersheds in the Southwest region affected both by nature and man.
Each is braided into an intimate tapestry that marries the smallest gambusia schooling above grass beds in up-river shallows to palm-sized bluegills, blue crabs and bass, to leopard frogs and water snakes, to snook and redfish, otters and alligators, kingfishers, ibises, cormorants, anhingas, herons and gulls, to pelicans, ospreys and eagles, and to the vast gulf ecosystem so deeply addicted to fresh water — a tapestry that marries all of that, in turn, to each citrus grove and tomato field and cow herd and phosphate mine, to every gasoline-powered boat, each poop-preserving septic tank and every pill-popping senior, to each golf course and sewage treatment plant, and to the smallest or largest tourist-industry hotels, with their flushing toilets and running showers and cycling swimming pools.
One fact is not in dispute: Every molecule is connected, from Tallahassee to the Ten Thousand Islands. And none would exist here without that immense tapestry. But each water user, in turn, leans ambitiously against the system like a happy drunk against an old tree with many branches.
North of the Caloosahatchee stretches the Peace River basin. To its south and straddling Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, lie the other five great watersheds of the region: San Carlos Bay, Estero Bay, Corkscrew Swamp, Big Cypress Swamp, and the Ten Thousand Islands.
Each is dwarfed by but wedded to what is arguably the greatest single watershed in North America: the Everglades, or “River of Grass.”
All of them fall in part or whole into the purview of the 16-county South Florida Water Management District, one of the largest single districts in the nation. And by extension they become the responsibility of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP oversees Florida’s water management districts. The agency is accountable both for the quantity and quality of water available to almost 19 million Sunshine State residents. Mr. Brookes is only one of those — and only one of 1.2 million people living with each other in the 4,200-squaremile southwest region of the state.
Like all of them and everything else, however — human, flora or fauna — he must also live with the decisions of water managers in Tallahassee.
A new way of doing things
About 18 months before Mr. Brookes went fishing and hooked himself, in January of 2011, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Herschel Vinyard to lead the DEP, while simultaneously dismantling or downsizing various other arms of state government. Then with Mr. Vinyard, he managed the significant reduction in money, staff and independence of Florida’s water management districts.
The two men are the state’s top water managers.
“In the past, supervision of the water management districts has been somewhat lighthanded by the DEP,” says Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, based in Naples. “But a major change in the last two years is that it’s been heavy-handed. Particularly, there has been an enormous cutback in staffing. The water management districts had their budgets cut by over 33 percent in the first year of the Scott administration. As a result, there were large-scale layoffs.”
By 2010, when Gov. Scott took office, the budget for the South Florida Water Management District had grown to $1.5 billion, up from $1.1 billion in 2006. The money helped pay not only for regulation of industry and urban uses, but for the myriad other tasks assigned to the district, including academic research designed to protect both water quantity and quality.
By 2012, however, the budget for the district had been slashed by almost two-thirds, to $576 million. And this year (fiscal year 2013), it comes in at $567.3 million.
One demonstrable effect of this, says Mr. McElwaine, is a significantly more lax system of permit review, and less regulation of the various water users.
Other numbers show the change in direction, too. The DEP’s hazardous waste program, for example, assessed almost $1.2 million in penalties in 2008, and $2.3 million in 2010.
Then Gov. Scott took office and Mr. Vinyard stepped into the DEP. Last year, the program managed only about $331,000 in penalties, state numbers show. In the Southwest region, where almost $750,000 in penalties were levied in 2010, the figure was only $89,000 in 2012.
But officials argue that government, especially in the water management districts, had become bloated and inefficient.
“The agencies were very large, and there were a lot of repetitive positions,” notes Dan DeLisi, a governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District appointed by Gov. Scott. Mr. DeLisi is also co-owner of a land use and civil engineering firm, DeLisi Fitzgerald Inc..
“After the layoffs at the water management district, we found that by focusing in on our core mission and not doing all those tangential things we were doing, we were able to be more creative with our resources and make them work.
“The biggest single example is the water quality settlement we entered into with the federal government.”
In that case, the EPA agreed to enforce stricter nutrient pollution standards in the Everglades, south of Lake Okeechobee.
That settlement, brokered by federal officials in the Obama administration and state officials in the Scott administration, was something no previous governments of any political stripe could do, Mr. DeLisi notes — including the federal and state governments once managed in tandem by the Bush brothers, President George W. Bush and his younger brother, Gov. Jeb Bush.
The settlement saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, he adds.
Unfortunately, the EPA’s November agreement to enforce much stricter nutrient standards for 85 percent of Florida’s inland waters, including those of the Southwest region’s great watersheds, is now in question, water advocates say.
Late last week at meetings in Tampa, federal EPA officials told Mr. Vinyard and members of Gov. Scott’s administration that if the state DEP wishes to rewrite the weaker nutrient pollution standards for central Florida waters so they apply to the entire state, the EPA will accept those numbers statewide.
Water advocates were outraged.
“We’re very worried,” says the Conservancy’s Mr. McElwaine.
If the EPA reneges on that settlement agreement, he adds, the Conservancy, along with EarthJustice and other defenders of clean water, will take the EPA back to court.
If private industry methods are the flavor of the day, Herschel Vinyard is the right spoon to dish them out, observers acknowledge.
Mr. Vinyard had been a businessman who served as director of business operations at BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, and sat on the boards of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturer’s Association of Florida and the Jacksonville Port Authority.
About the time Mr. Brookes hooked his thumb while dipping a line in the Caloosahatchee — roughly six months ago — Mr. Vinyard began to lay off veteran employees of the DEP. Most had worked in its regulatory arm. He replaced them in some cases with peo- ple from the companies and corporations the DEP regulates, as critics and sometimes even former allies of the deregulation point out.
Mr. Vinyard started that process only eight weeks after his appointment by the governor, when he brought Jeff Littlejohn into the DEP as number two man, the deputy secretary of regulatory programs.
Mr. Littlejohn’s father, Chuck Littlejohn, is a lobbyist whose company’s clients include the Plum Creek Timber Company, with 520,000 acres of Florida Timber; Duda & Sons Inc., a self-characterized Christian company that owns tens of thousands of acres in Florida; and — according to a report in the Broward- Palm Beach New Times — the Florida Land Council, the Florida Ports Council, and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, all of whom could be deeply affected by DEP policy.
Mr. Littlejohn’s mother also works at the family lobbying firm, known as Littlejohn, Mann & Associates.
Paula Dockery, a 16-year former Republican state senator from Lakeland, has become a critic of Mr. Vinyard, Gov. Scott, and by extension her own party’s leadership. She presented her concerns about the altered state of affairs and Mr. Vinyard’s new direction in water management in a recent letter to the Miami Herald: “Now a major cleaning out of veteran employees puts the state’s environment in further and potentially irreversible peril. Poor planning decisions lead to long-term and costly damage,” she wrote.
“This has come about on top of the dissolution — during the governor’s first year in office — of the Department of Community Affairs and the demise of Florida’s growth management laws that protected our resources while limiting costly growth.”
Given the size of the DEP — now just over 3,000 employees — 58 layoffs doesn’t seem like much, and isn’t in sheer numbers: about 1.5 percent, officials point out.
Besides, says Pat Gillespie, a DEP spokesman, the layoffs were made with an eye to the “core mission.”
He offered the comments in a written statement made after sharp criticism of the layoffs.
“The department’s recent reorganizations were conducted after monthslong assessments of procedures and processes as well as staffing and workload levels. The process has included thoughtful assessments to implement measures that increase the effectiveness of reaching the department’s core mission of protecting environmental and human health. No programs or core functions have been eliminated and the department’s level of service will not be compromised. By reorganizing districts and divisions, leadership eliminated levels of bureaucracy that improve communication, created a stronger employee to supervisor ratio and combined or elevated similar functions to become more efficient and consistent.”
Kinder, gentler policing
Under Gov. Scott and Mr. Vinyard, the DEP became the good cop rather than the bad cop, seeking to work with, rather than against, industries and businesses whose ambitions could alter water quality and environment, officials say.
That had been the idea, in part, of Gary Colecchio, who was hired into the DEP to oversee about 200 engineers and others from the Southwest (Tampa) office in mid-2011. But he resigned almost a year later because, he says, “I couldn’t put my best people into the field.”
As Mr. Colecchio describes it, the DEP is a cop — a policing agency. Not a protection agency.
“It has only a single mission, and that mission is environmental regulation mandated through state law or by delegation from federal authority — the Clean Water/Clean Air Act and others. That’s different from (the much more varied tasks) of the water management districts.”
In his mind, the reduction in size and force of water management districts not only helped matters, but should have gone further, he says.
Meanwhile, “the DEP — and no one will ever tell you this — is a policing agency. It’s not a protection agency. It licenses pollution. It doesn’t protect the environment. And you license pollution in accordance with criteria established by state or federal authority.”
Among those the DEP must police are agricultural corporations, sewage and water treatment corporations, development corporations, mining corporations, and incorporated cities and towns, all of whom rely on water and can alter its quality or reduce its quantity.
How the DEP does that, and whether it is doing it properly, is now the key question for many.
“How this will affect us in the future is the $64,000 question,” surmises Bill Hammond, a former governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District.
“The biggest single thing the Scott administration has done is pull the key decision-making and guidance and policy direction to Tallahassee, and taken it away from the governing board the governor himself appointed.”
The practical effect of this change in management style — the effect on permitting and regulating — is laxity, according to many observers and water resource apologists.
And it starts with a business mindset, says Jerry Phillips, who directs the Florida arm of PEER, or Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national nonprofit.
“You can no longer call a permittee a permittee, now you have to call them a ‘stakeholder’ or ‘customers.’ This was a big change within the DEP. That mindset started creeping in, in the 1990s. And it’s blossomed under Scott.
“You tell the regulator, ‘Your job is not now to enforce. Your job is to go in and sit down with the business and show them how to comply with their permit.’”
But the nature of the beast is oppositional, not friendly, he argues.
When regulators befriend industry, “the problem is, it’s a form of welfare paid for by taxpayers, who should not have to do that. Most of those industries have attorneys representing them. When they file an application, they do it through an engineer. So they have an attorney, they have an engineer, and they already know how it’s supposed to be operated (under federal and state water and environmental regulations).”
Thus, he concludes, industry should meet the standards or be regulated by fines that ultimately protect all of us — not merely be warned how to do the minimum, then given a friendly farewell pat on the back.
As the layoffs at the DEP began and the debate was heating up, Mr. Brookes concluded his fishing trip, slapped a bandage on his thumb, and went home.
Eight weeks passed, he recalls matter of-factly.
But it wasn’t until the thumb had become painfully swollen that doctors finally discovered his hand had been infected by water from the river.
If he wanted to keep the thumb and salvage his hand, they told him, the only treatment was surgery, coupled with an antibiotic used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis.
As it turns out, Mr. Brookes is an environmental lawyer. He does not blame Gov. Rick Scott or Mr. Vinyard for the dangerous infection in his thumb, he says.
Instead, he blames them for not helping to find a solution that would prevent that mycobacteria from infecting someone else.
“The DEP under Herschel Vinyard and Gov. Scott is trying to control water managers and loosen the regulations on quality,” Mr. Brookes concludes.
“So the DEP has been transformed into a water czar. It’s reined in water management districts. It’s decimated their budgets.
“And their appointments to the governing boards and some DEP positions have been people from industry, from big agriculture — the polluters, the part of the industry regulated by district governing boards.”
That’s just not right, he insists, echoing other voices, too.
So now, with his thumbs up, his long effort to clean up the Caloosahatchee River Basin and other Florida water systems has become a personal fight, not simply a professional obligation.
Arguably, it has become a fight for all of us, too.
Scott, Cabinet approve no-bid Everglades deal
Miami Herald/Times - by Mary Ellen Klas, Tallahassee Bureau
January 23, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet granted 30-year leases to a pair of sugar growers over the objections of environmental groups that urged the panel to approve much shorter terms for tracts that drain into the Everglades.
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet unanimously approved the request of two agriculture companies Wednesday allowing them to renew their leases to farm state land in exchange for swapping other parcels to use for Everglades clean-up efforts.
The governor, as well as Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater acted despite concerns of environmental groups that the conditions of the leases to A. Duda & Sons and Florida Crystals were overly generous and would limit the state’s options for cleaning up the Everglades in the future.
The environmentalists urged the Cabinet re-negotiate a shorter-term lease that gives the state the options it may need if the restoration projects require more land in the future.
"You are the landlord and it is your right and your duty to insist that the tenant maximize their efforts to reduce the impact of the land," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "The lease extensions preclude your ability to insist upon that accountability."
But Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, told the Cabinet there will be no need for the leased land.
"The leases are so far outside where any potential project would be”, she said, "we feel very confident that we have the land we need.”
The environmental groups said they will take their appeal to the water management district board, which must approve the lease agreements.
"We still hope they will reduce the length of the lease”; said Charles Pattison of 1000 Friends of Florida. He said if the state decides it needs additional land covered under the leases, it could be on the hook to pay the growers for lost income from farming.
Only a fraction of the 440,000 acres in the Everglades area is state-owned; the leases negotiated with the two companies cover about 14,000 acres.
An independent study released last year by RTI International concluded that 76 percent of the pollution in the Everglades is caused by private farming south of Lake Okeechobee, but the agriculture industry is only paying 24 percent of the clean-up costs. The rest is paid by taxpayers.
An amendment inserted into the Florida Constitution by voters in 1996 requires that the companies polluting the Everglades should bear the primary responsibility for clean-up costs.
There was no discussion of clean-up costs at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. Scott, who signed a pivotal agreement with the federal government last year that commits $880 million in state funds to clean-up efforts, asked Meeker if the lease deal were necessary to move forward with clean-up plans.
Meeker said the agreement was essential to allow the state to obtain a crucial piece of property from Florida Crystals to allow it to expand a crucial clean-up project known as the STA-1 West and urged the Cabinet not to delay a vote on the leases.
Environmentalists also urged the Cabinet to impose stricter clean-up requirements on the companies that lease state land than they do on their private land, but the state refrained from doing it.
Emails between officials at the Division of State Lands and the attorney representing Florida Crystals show that the state attempted to get them to agree to stricter requirements, but they said it would be a "deal breaker," thereby threatening the progress of the STA-1 West project.
The sugar companies argued that they already exceed the state requirements for cleaning up water discharged from their farming operations. They also noted that every acre of land that remains in farming; including state land; equals jobs for their employees.
"Every time we take land out of production it costs jobs”, said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals. "Everyone likes to beat up on us."
Cabinet Approves Everglades Sugar Leases Sunshine State News
Gov. Scott approves no-bid Glades deal St. Augustine Record
Cabinet OKs no-bid leases for Duda, Florida Crystals despite ... Palm Beach Post
Scott, Cabinet approve Everglades land deals for growers Sun-Sentinel
Scott, Cabinet approve no-bid Glades deal Bradenton Herald
South Florida Water Management approves controversial sugar land ... The News-Press
EAA land south of LO
Sweeten land deals for state, not farm giants
Palm Beach Post – Editorial by Randy Schultz, Staff Writer
January 23, 2013
It seemed that Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet might approve two awful deals involving state land. Now, however, both at least could be less-awful.
The governor and the Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — meet today. Acting as the trustees of state-owned land, they will consider transactions involving two of the state’s largest farm companies: A. Duda & Sons, which has extensive Palm Beach County operations, and West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals.
In one deal, Florida Crystals would trade roughly 4,700 acres for roughly 8,600 acres of public land. The 4,700 acres would double the size of Stormwater Treatment Area 1, which is supposed to hold and filter water before it enters the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in western Palm Beach County. Cleaning that water is critical to Everglades restoration. To do that, the treatment area needs to be larger.
The trade alone would be fair. Florida Crystals, though, demanded 30-year lease extensions on nearly 8,000 acres of state land the company is farming. The current leases expire in 2015 and 2016. There would be no competitive bidding, and the sites include land the state might need for Everglades restoration.
The 1994 Everglades Forever Act forbids lease extensions of more than 20 years for state-owned land in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Though the trustees have had wide latitude on state-owned land, a longer extension strikes us as illegal. We are told that Florida Crystals has agreed to make roughly 2,200 of those acres it seeks to keep leasing available if the state needs them earlier. How nice; the alternative would be the public buying back land it owns.
Having heard about the sweetener Florida Crystals demanded, Duda demanded one. The company is selling the state 632 acres for environmental restoration southwest of Lake Okeechobee. The price is $19 million. Again, that alone would be fair.
Duda, though, wants similar no-bid, 30-year lease extensions to keep farming about 6,000 acres of state land. As Audubon of Florida points out, nearly 5,700 of those acres are on one tract that releases some of the highest levels of pollution for water entering the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The pollution has been as much as 50 times the acceptable level, and nothing in the lease extension would require the company to reduce that pollution.
Ideally, Gov. Scott and the Cabinet would hold the companies to their original deal. If that doesn’t happen, the state must demand that Florida Crystals not hold the state’s own land hostage and demand that Duda clean up the mess it is making on state land. How frustrating that less-awful may be all the public gets.
In deals for Everglades restoration, state weighs no-bid leases to growers
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 22, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet will be asked today to bless two land deals that award no-bid, 30-year agricultural leases in the Everglades to major farming companies despite complaints from environmentalists and a water district official that the public was neither aware of nor consulted on the deals.
“I think this agency needs to do a better job of communicating with the public,” Dan Delisi, a governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District, said at a Jan. 10 meeting about one of the deals. “I hope we do outreach following up on this and do better in the future.”
The district came under fire last year for its long-standing policy of renewing agricultural leases without putting them out for competitive bid. The district re-vamped its agricultural lease policy and now requires leases on its land to be put out for public bid.
The district needs land owned by grower A. Duda & Sons, for a restoration project in Glades County. But Duda will only sell the land if it is given a 30-year extension on two others parcels, which it leases from the state. The leased land belongs to the Florida Board of Trustees — the Governor and Cabinet.
That puts the district in the position of asking the state to find that “it is in the public’s interest to waive the competitive bid process” and give Duda the lease extensions.
“It looks like there is a deal going on between two government actors that has been behind the scene and outside of the sunshine,” said Jane Graham, spokeswoman for Audubon Florida, at the meeting. “It says “in the public interest” but the public has not been notified…. We think this needs to be vetted.”
Under the terms of the proposed deal, the district would pay Duda $1.9 million for 638 acres of land in Glades County, which it needs to restore Lake Hicpochee. That price is 56 percent below the appraised value of the land. However, the district would pay the full price — $16.9 million — if it decides buy the adjoining 2,489 acres.
The other deal the Cabinet will consider today has never been discussed in a public meeting. In this deal the district wants to swap a portion of the 27,000 acres of land it purchased from U.S. Sugar in 2010 with the owner of 4,700 acres the district needs for another restoration project. The owners of that 4,700 acres, subsidiaries of sugar giant Florida Crystals, are also insisting on 30-year lease extensions for land they lease from the state.
Ernie Barnett, the district’s Everglades policy director, said the reason the deal with Florida Crystals had not been made public is because it is still under negotiation. Also, unlike the Duda deal, which is a land purchase and requires advance approval from the board, the Crystals deal is a land swap, and land swaps do not need preliminary board approval.
Crystals’ land is “absolutely essential” to restoration targets the district needs to meet to comply with federal lawsuits seeking to press the state to clean up pollution flowing into the Everglades, Barnett said.
But Barnett downplayed concerns that Cabinet approval today will seal the deal.
“The bottom line is that before any deal is finalized, it has to be brought back to the board,” Barnett said. “We wouldn’t discuss it as an agenda item until we have a final deal.”
Cabinet Approves Everglades Sugar Leases Sunshine State News
Gov. Scott approves no-bid Glades deal St. Augustine Record
Cabinet OKs no-bid leases for Duda, Florida Crystals despite ... Palm Beach Post
Scott, Cabinet approve Everglades land deals for growers Sun-Sentinel
Scott, Cabinet approve no-bid Glades deal Bradenton Herald
South Florida Water Management approves controversial sugar land ... The News-Press
Lodging may be in the works for Everglades National Park
NationalParksTraveler.com - by David and Kay Scott
January 22, 2013
The National Park Service recently issued a prospectus soliciting bids to provide lodging, food service, retail, and boat tours in the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park. The concession will also include the operation of the park’s two developed campgrounds, Long Pine and Flamingo, that have historically been managed by the National Park Service.
Yes, lodging is to return to Everglades National Park for the first time since the former motel units and rustic cabins were destroyed in 2005 by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. This assumes a potential concessionaire can make the numbers work, considering the prospectus requires construction of 24 cottages, purchase of 20 relatively large tents, acquisition of 5 RVs, and paying for installation of the infrastructure to support it all.
The prospectus also requires that the concessionaire offer daily boat tours, operate an existing café in the Flamingo area, and manage a store at the marina where it will sell fuel and rent boat slips, bicycles, canoes, kayaks, and houseboats. The concessionaire will be authorized, but not required, to offer guided fishing and canoe trips, operate a visitor shuttle to canoe launch sites, offer a mobile food service at Long Pine Key Campground, provide wireless Internet, and operate a tow boat service.
The 24-cottages are to include four studio units, 12 one-bedroom units, and eight two-bedroom units. The cottages, which are to be built where the old motel units were once located, are to be hurricane-resistant and constructed on 10- to 12-foot pilings in order to provide protection from storm surges. Prospective concessionaires will be permitted to propose their own cottage designs, although the buildings must be compatible with the Flamingo area. The cottages will vary in size from 300 to 800 square feet and each will have a bathroom and kitchenette. The NPS estimates the construction cost, not counting necessary infrastructure, will range from $95,000 to $135,000 per unit, depending upon cottage size.
Bidders can also propose their own designs for the 20 tents (called “Eco-tents”) that will sit on platforms (to be constructed by the concessionaire) and have beds, chairs, a dresser, a light, and an electric fan. The tents, which will be located near the walk-in campground, are to have at least 120 feet of interior space. Guests will be required to use community bathrooms.
It is expected the tents will be in use from December 1 through April 30 each year, although a concessionaire could opt for a longer season. The tents will not have air conditioning, and the Flamingo area is subject to brutal heat and angry mosquitoes from late spring through late fall.
Oddly, the concessionaire will also be required to provide five RVs/trailers with full hookups and make them available for rent in the Flamingo campground.
NPS estimates an initial investment requirement of nearly $6 million, over half of which will consist of the expense of constructing the 24 cottages. The purchase of personal property (including the 20 tents) is estimated at $1.7 million. The concessionaire will gain a leasehold interest in the capital improvements, meaning that a portion of the concessionaire’s capital investment will be recovered in the event a different concessionaire is chosen at the end of the 10-year contract.
Annual revenues for a new concessionaire are projected to range between $3.7 million and $5.3 million with approximately 25 percent generated from lodging. NPS has estimated that approved lodging rates will range between $140 to $200 per night (depending upon size) for the cottages during high season and $100 to $150 the remainder of the year. The tents, which will be available only seasonally, are estimated to rent for $90 per night.
The two campgrounds currently managed by the NPS are forecast to produce $290,000 in revenues during 2012. According to the prospectus, these revenues are expected to range between $300,000 and $500,000 by 2015, seemingly indicating the likelihood of an increase in rates once the concessionaire assumes management of the two campgrounds. Sites currently rent for $16 per night ($30 for sites with electricity).
The prospectus requires a minimum annual franchise fee of 4.7 percent of gross revenues and an annual repair and maintenance contribution of 0.7 percent (seven-tenths of one percent) of revenues. Proposals from prospective concessionaires are due by April 4 in the Atlanta regional office of the National Park Service.
Scrutiny over stormwater management: Recent Supreme Court and District Court Cases
Mondaq.com - by Sharon M. Mattox and Brandon M. Tuck
January 22, 2013
Urban and suburban development result in two important trends for stormwater: first, an increase in stormwater quantity as the original topography and vegetative cover are altered and impervious surfaces and channelized drainages are constructed; and second, a decrease in the quality of stormwater as flows traverse parking lots, roadways, and fertilized areas. Two recent court decisions address some of the limits of stormwater management under the Clean Water Act. The first case, from the U.S. Supreme Court, discusses a flood control district's liability for polluted water flowing through channelized portions of two rivers in Southern California. Here, the Supreme Court applied settled law about what constitutes a "discharge" from a water body. The second case, from a district court in Virginia, is perhaps more interesting because it is the first federal court opinion striking down the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) attempt to regulate the flow of stormwater in order to regulate a pollutant contained within that stormwater.
These cases are two among a number of attempts by environmental advocacy groups to expand the reach of the Clean Water Act by expanding the points of federal jurisdiction allowing regulation. Indeed, two other cases dealing with stormwater flows associated with timber operations in the Pacific Northwest are presently before the Supreme Court: Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. In these consolidated cases on appeal from the Ninth Circuit, the Court may decide whether a citizen may challenge the EPA's interpretation of its own regulations or the EPA's determinations that stormwater in ditches and culverts along logging roads is neither industrial stormwater nor discharges from a point source that require permits. The Court heard oral arguments on these cases in early December 2012, but rather than discussing the issues upon which the Court granted certiorari, the Court focused on how to proceed given new stormwater rules the EPA issued four days before argument that were designed to overrule the Ninth Circuit's decisions. No decision has been made about whether the cases should be dismissed as moot; the Court is accepting supplemental briefing on the new rules, which must be filed by January 22, 2013.
is back on track,” said Corps Project Manager, Stephen Baisden.“We are looking forward to completing the project and re-opening the L-40 levee to the public. The project site is adjacent to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and we know that it is an important resource for the community, especially recreational users.”The Site 1 Contract # 1 D-525N (L-40 Modification) and Miscellaneous Features includes clearing, grubbing and dewatering activities, miscellaneous demolitions, establishing onsite borrow and disposal areas, earthwork modifications to approximately 15,000 linear feet of the existing L-40 levee, installation of dam monitoring instrumentation, placement of turf reinforcement mat and smooth plate soil cement. The project also includes construction of a six acre wildlife wetland area and auxiliary spillway, S-530, located in the L-40 levee.
Army Corps: Site 1 Impoundment Completion Contract Awarded
January 21, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a nearly $48 million contract for the completion of Phase One of the Site 1 Impoundment Project to Munilla Construction Management LLC (d/b/a MCM) of Miami, Fla., Jan. 18.
“The Corps successfully worked through recent construction issues and the project
Work on the project is scheduled to begin in April 2013 and to be completed by December 2014. The Site 1 Impoundment Project in southwest Palm Beach County is a component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a joint effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and the local sponsor, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
Eustis invests in plan to use reclaimed water for irrigation
January 21, 2013
EUSTIS, Fla. — Eustis city leaders said when possible, they want to avoid the use of drinking water to irrigate grass.
Central Florida lawns aren't green by accident. Most require lots of irrigation. But some water is just too valuable to sprinkle on grass.
"All the money that is spent on processing water to drink, it's kind of a waste to spray your lawn with that," said Eustis resident Don Anderson.
Anderson said that is why he is happy that the city of Eustis will stop the practice in one of its high-end neighborhoods.
Fifty-four million gallons of drinking water per year will no longer be used to irrigate lawns in the 115-home Red Tail golf course community.
"Anytime we can take the opportunity to use reclaimed water over potable water, we need to look at that," said Eustis city engineer Rick Gierok.
The city has borrowed more than $2 million to build a pair of tanks large enough to store 2.5 million gallons of treated sewage water, along with a new system of pumps to send it to the neighborhood. Up until now now, that wastewater was essentially wasted. In 2012, 81 million gallons of it was sprayed onto an empty field, according to the city.
"By not just spraying the reclaimed on the ground and to be able to use it, that's a win-win for everyone," said Gierok.
City leaders said they hope to do the same in more neighborhoods so that more reclaimed water is used to green them up.
Anderson said he has mixed feelings about any money the city spends on irrigation.
"To me it's a waste of water, regardless of whether its reclaimed or drinking water or whatever," said Anderson.
The new system will be up and running in March.
Current red tide
Mote’s red tide update
January 21, 2013
Florida red tide was detected at increased levels this week along Sarasota County beaches and continues to cause impacts along Southwest Florida’s coastline, report Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and monitoring partners who are reminding beachgoers of best practices and resources related to red tide.
Mote’s Beach Conditions Report System has shown this week that beachgoers experienced respiratory irritation caused by red tide’s airborne toxins blowing ashore, and that dead fish were found onshore at several Southwest Florida beaches.
Manatee County: slight respiratory irritation at Coquina Beach.
Sarasota County: slight respiratory irritation and many dead fish in Nokomis, slight respiratory irritation and some dead fish at Venice North Jetty, many dead fish and slight respiratory irritation at Venice Beach and slight respiratory irritation and some dead fish on Manasota Key.
Lee County: some dead fish at Newton Park and at Lovers Key State Park, along with many dead fish at Bonita Beach.
It’s important to note that conditions can change quickly, and Sarasota County is scheduled to remove fish from county-owned beaches today and tomorrow, Jan. 18 and 19. Please continue to check Mote’s Report for updates at: www.mote.org/beaches.
Beach water samples collected on Monday by the Sarasota County Health Department and analyzed by Mote showed a marked increase in red tide algae (Karenia brevis) over test results from last week. Increased levels of K. brevis were found at Brohard, Caspersen, Manasota, Blind Pass beaches and others.
It’s important to note that since winds are variable, conditions can change frequently throughout the day. Onshore winds increase exposure to red tide toxins, increasing the chance that beachgoers will experience the associated symptoms.
Pet owners should take precautions when bringing pets to the beach. Dogs that lick their fur or paws after swimming in red tide areas, or eat dead fish on the beach, may experience gastrointestinal illness or other symptoms from ingesting toxins, which can be harmful to their health. Pets should not be allowed to consume or play with dead fish and they should be rinsed with clear water after a beach swim.
invisibly, in the night, watching. An evening tour with a flashlight reveals just how many red-reflecting eyes are present in the dark shadows.
Time to get reacquainted with the Everglades
KeyesNet.com - by Ivy Kelley
January 21, 2013
Winter is dry season in Everglades National Park, when the great River of Grass dries down to its roots and animals flock to deeper water in the sloughs. It's also a perfect time to check out America's greatest swamp.
On Taylor Slough (pronounced slew), photographers of all skill levels find spectacular opportunities along the Anhinga Trail, so named for the birds that nest within whispering distance of boardwalk hikers.
Patient green herons lean over clear water, surprising a fish now and then. Great blue herons and white egrets pose on long legs in the sawgrass, and raucous purple gallinules carefully place their feet with their toes, as long as their legs, on a bridge of lily pads.
In the evening, snoozing alligators awaken and move with purpose through the slough, where they pull up on mud banks and wait,
This baby alligator is pretty cute -- but when it
gets to adulthood, it's best not to go near it.
This is among the creatures you’ll find in
Everglades National Park
Long before Google Earth and easy access to satellite photos, the profound silence of Everglades National Park's sawgrass prairie held a classified secret -- one of four Nike Hercules missile sites in South Florida built in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Although Everglades National Park was established to protect wildlife, in response to the gravity of the situation, park managers issued the U.S. Army a permit to build the base within the park.
Since 2004, when the Cold War relic was listed on the National Register of Historic places, park interpreters have worked with former Nike crew members and military historians to gather information and artifacts that tell the story of ordinary soldiers at an extraordinary time in history. Tours of the site have become wildly popular, as baby-boomers share their memories with new generations.
Flamingo, just 38 miles from the park's main entrance, is the gateway to Florida Bay -- home to world-class flats fishing and the only place in the world to see both the American alligators and American crocodiles in the same place.
The half-million acres of Florida Bay make up one third of the park, and its seagrass beds provide essential nursery grounds for fish, lobster, crabs, and other species.
Visitors will never forget boating across the bay on a calm summer morning or lazily kayaking through a shady mangrove tunnel. West Indian manatees also like to loll around the marina, scrubbing their sides on dock pilings and eliciting squeals of delight from visitors. Camp there or at Long Pine Key and choose from a variety of ranger-led programs and presentations. Or just relax and enjoy the peaceful winter Everglades.
Traveling north ? The Shark River Slough is the focus for visitors who venture into the park from the Tamiami Trail.
The bridge construction slowing your drive in 2013 is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which aims to return the flow of water into the glades to historic levels. At Shark River, you can hike, bike or take a tram on the 15-mile paved loop. Take a break midway to ascend to the top of the observation tower and stand 50 feet tall in the middle of the Everglades.
Further west on the Tamiami Trail, drive through Big Cypress National Preserve and into historic Everglades City. Relax on a ranger-led paddling or pontoon boat tour through the mangrove islands of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the northern terminus of the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, which spans the western edge of Everglades National Park and is dotted with sturdy chickees -- camp platforms-built over the water.
The adventures you can have in this 1.5 million-acre park are endless.
Conservation plan or moving toward water privatization?
Ocala.com - by Annette Long, Special to the Star-Banner
January 20, 2013
I read with interest the recent opinion piece by Greg Munson of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, “Rewarding communities for water conservation,” and I think there’s something other than conservation happening here.
The main goal of the so-called consumptive use permitting consistency (CUPcon) rule changes that DEP is presenting is not conservation, if you consider “conservation” to be a permanent reduction in the amount of water we are already using. Instead of working to leave more water in the aquifer — water that our lakes, rivers and springs desperately need — DEP is proposing to lengthen the duration of water use permits so users do not “lose” the water they have “conserved,” meaning that water is not actually conserved at all.
By doing this, DEP provides incentives for public utilities and others to overestimate the water they need — not conserve it — and if no one requests a hearing by this coming Wednesday, these rules are a done deal.
Florida’s current water laws declare that water in Florida belongs to everyone. In other words, no one in Florida can “own” the water in the ground under their feet or in navigable rivers and lakes. Our rules were written to protect existing water users as well as maintain the health of our natural water bodies. If we didn’t have water laws, there wouldn’t be any fresh water left in Florida.
Every Floridian has the right to use rivers and lakes that are navigable and to have legal access for recreation. Every Floridian also has the right to use free groundwater or suitable alternatives for reasonable beneficial purposes, as long as it doesn’t hurt those who already hold water permits.
Privatizing public water supplies does not cause the price of water to go down in the long run. It causes expensive new problems. Historically, taxpayers usually end up footing the bill to fix them.
This new rule takes the first steps toward water privatization by allowing individuals or companies to trade water credits or sell rights to huge quantities of water rather than putting that water they don’t need back into the public domain. It does this by rewarding water “banking” or “hoarding” and by extending the life of water permits by a decade or more at a time when our rainfall levels have dropped significantly.
When you factor in rising temperatures, unreliable rainfall and our plummeting fresh-water supplies, permits should be getting shorter, not longer.
What is really interesting to me is that the rule changes DEP is proposing were introduced in our 2012 legislative session and failed to pass because of concerns that they were the first steps toward water privatization. Now, it seems that since the Legislature would not comply with the wishes of the DEP, the agency is collaborating with the water management districts to change the rules through backroom deals in Tallahassee. It’s also very interesting that both the head of DEP and the boards of the water management districts are appointed by Florida’s governor.
We Floridians need to wake up, or our water will not be ours any longer.
Annette Long is president of Save Our Suwannee, a North Florida water advocacy group, and lives in Chiefland.
Florida considers restoring Silver Springs to natural state
BayNews9.com - by Dave D'Marko, Reporter
January 20, 2013
SILVER SPRINGS -- Silver Springs Nature Theme Park could soon be getting rid of many of its animals, rides and attractions.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection laid out its plan for taking over the park from Palace Entertainment and restoring it to its more natural state to a crowd of hundreds Monday night. Palace signed a lease through 2029 but now has expressed interest in getting out of the lease.
“What we want to do is turn the Silver Springs Attraction into a more state park like park and that would mean adding kayaking and canoeing and swimming while interpreting the natural and cultural resources of the area,” Jennifer Diaz with the Florida Parks Service said.
They’ve deemed animal enclosures, a safari jeep ride and kids playground as “non-essential features.”
“Unfortunately I just started jeep training last week, so needless to say I’d like to throw in my application for boat captain,” joked Dustin King, a young employee who is working to pay for his education.
They plan to keep glass bottom boat rides and the Wild Waters theme park next door, while eliminating paved parking areas.
In a crowd wearing a lot of green, the plan of returning the park to a more natural state was well-received. Though they wondered why the state isn’t going further as it plans to keep the concert venue and neighboring water park in operation.
“They need to concentrate on culture and not other types of music, and I love Willie Nelson don’t get me wrong,” Sierra Club President Whitey Markle said.
The plan still needs approval from the entertainment company and the governor.
Tourists have been visiting Silver Springs since the 1870s, when the glass bottomed boats first came to the springs. Among the movies and TV shows that filmed in Silver Springs -- the Tarzan films, The Yearling, the Six Million Dollar Man and One Life to Live.
Green disease squeezes Florida’s citrus industry
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
January 20, 2013
When the citrus tree-killing disease known as greening was detected for the first time in the United States in Homestead in August 2005, some feared the end was near for Florida’s signature industry.
Now more than seven years later, the apocalypse has not occurred, but the disease that results in bitter, misshapen fruit is said to be present in every grove to some extent. Although no one knows the actual number of infected trees, many place it as somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent.
The citrus industry has undergone a sea change. Production costs are up about 40 percent in many cases, mostly due to the cost of spraying for the psyllids that spread the disease and to nutritional programs to keep trees as healthy as possible.
Primarily through a grower-funded tax on each box of fruit, the citrus industry has invested $66 million in 129 research projects run by 30 doctoral scientists looking for a solution to the disease, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB.
“We understand the sense of urgency. We are going as fast as we can,” said Jude Grosser, a professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred. Grosser and others are working to develop disease-resistant trees, but breeding is a slow process.
“You have to pursue all the avenues. You don’t know which one the home run is going to come from,” said Grosser who is optimistic a solution will be found.
The industry continues to shrink. The state’s commercial citrus acreage has shrunk to 531,493 acres as of the fall of 2012, a 28 percent decline from 748,555 acres in 2004. That’s the lowest since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began the survey began in 1966.
This season the USDA has revised the crop forecast downward twice since October, because the amount of fruit dropping from trees is greater than expected and the worst in more than 40 years. Growers are blaming greening and drought. In October the outlook was for 154 million 90-pound boxes of oranges, but the January estimate predicts a crop of 142 million boxes of oranges.
The grapefruit forecast has dropped to 18 million boxes from 20.3 million.
Greening has cost Florida an estimated $3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs from 2006 thorough 2011 as result of reduced orange juice production, according to a University of Florida study released in 2012.
Tom Spreen, a professor emeritus at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who co-authored that study, said that growers are planting about half the number of new trees they would have planted if there were no greening.
“Going forward the industry will be smaller,” Spreen said.
But, Spreen said, growers have come up with a whole new line of defense the doomsayers did not predict, which has allowed it to produce more fruit than it would have.
Young trees are babied in enclosed greenhouses to keep out the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that spreads the greening bacterium from plant to plant.
Once they’re planted in the groves, the trees are sprayed to keep the psyllid population down.
“The total industry is working diligently to control the psyllid population, but the challenge is, the psyllid in Florida is as prevalent as the mosquito,” said Ricke Kress, president of Southern Gardens Citrus, a U.S. Sugar-subsidiary south of Clewiston. Southern Gardens owns groves and has the only large orange juice plant in the southern part of the state, producing 80 million to 100 million gallons a year.
Southern Gardens has invested more than $6 million in research. It has planted the fourth generation of trees that contain two spinach genes that provide resistance to greening. The trees are developed in the lab by Erik Mirkov, a Texas AgriLfe Research plant pathologist in Weslaco, Texas.
The genetically modified trees and fruit will have to go through regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Projection Agency and the USDA. Although more than 80 percent of such crops as corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets are genetically modified, there’s increasing public concern about them.
“We have been meeting with the agencies since 2006. They know exactly what we are doing and how we are doing it,” Kress said. “We know we have a disease. We have to find a solution. When we find a solution, we know we will have to go through the regulatory approval process. We will also have to work through the consumer approval process.”
Once a disease-resistant tree is available, Kress said, many chemicals being used to control psyllids can be eliminated.
Although the prestigious National Academy of Sciences recommended three years ago that all infected trees be removed, most growers are no longer doing so, except for the largest growers.
Southern Gardens has taken out approximately 650,000 trees identified as infected, Kress said, roughly 25 percent of the grove now at 1.8-plus million trees. It has planted more than 363,000 trees in the last four years.
Pete Spyke, president of Arapaho Citrus Management in Fort Pierce, said Florida growers missed the window of opportunity when tree removal might have worked. Since everyone was not removing trees, the infection continued to spread.
Those who waited too long would have been out of business because they would have had to remove every tree.
“They did not do that. That doomed the rest of us to living with it,” Spyke said.
Spyke, who produces citrus for the fresh fruit market, believes in a system he is using in a grove near Indiantown and in other parts of the state called open hydroponics. It delivers a constant supply of water and nutrients to the trees through drip irrigation.
“Trees come into production sooner and produce higher quality fruit. You get more fruit and it costs you less money,” Spyke said.
Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League in Vero Beach, said, he’s encouraged by a spurt of citrus planting in areas such as along U.S. 27.
“Even with the disease pressure, people are realizing they can keep the tree prosperous for 10 to 12 years with the prices they are receiving. The prices are good enough to cover the high cost of production,” Bournique said.
The goal is to keep the industry viable until resistant trees are developed. said Bournique, who spends the majority of his time seeking funding and support for research.
Although some citrus growers have turned to producing landscape trees, peaches or other products, or sold their groves, a tough bunch of growers is keeping at it.
“We are not diversifying,” Dan Richey, president of 4,000-acre Vero Beach-based Riverfront Groves, a major grapefruit producer, said. “We believe the future is in citrus. We are staying the course. We seem be getting a larger piece of a shrinking pie.”
Kress agrees, “Those that want to be in business are going to be, and those that don’t, won’t be. People will adapt. In agriculture the only consistent thing is the inconsistencies. Florida orange juice is not going to go away.”
With greening found in the citrus-producing states of Texas and California for the first time in 2012, the regions are sharing information.
“My message to California is when you see that tree with that yellow branch, you have to take it out,” Spyke said “We lost our ability to make the better choice. We didn’t react quickly enough.”
Citrus Greening Disease
•What it is: A bacterial disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease, it is one of the most serious citrus diseases in the world, killing trees.
•Its origin: Farmers in Southern China first noted the presence of the disease in the late 1800s.
•Florida history: In September 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists confirmed the first U.S. detection of greening on samples of pummelo leaves and fruit from a Miami-Dade County grove. It is now endemic to Florida and found in every citrus-producing county.
•Symptoms: Yellow shoots, mottled leaves, twig death, tree decline and reduced fruit size and quality. Affected fruit tastes bitter, medicinal and sour. Symptoms don’t show up for an average of two years following infection.
•How it’s transmitted: Asian citrus psyllids, first found in the United States in Delray Beach in 1998, transport the greening pathogen from infected trees to healthy trees as they feed on the plant. They have mottled brown wings and sit at an angle to the shoot or leaf on which they feed.
•The cure: None
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
No simple solution for oyster harvest
NewsHerald.com - by Matthew Beaton
January 20, 2013 at 15:47 PM.
Sen. Montford says only remedy is more water flow
APALACHICOLA — Thus far the Florida Legislature has been long on presentations but short on solutions for Franklin County’s devastated oyster harvest.
It may be because there is no solution, except increasing water flow down the Apalachicola River. That’s what Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, says. He represents Franklin County and chairs the Agriculture Committee, which saw multiple presentations Tuesday on the oyster situation in the Apalachicola Bay.
“Without more water coming down, the bay will continue to die as will other parts of the Apalachicola River Valley,” he said. “Torreya trees are dying. There’s all kinds of negative impact up and down that river basin and nothing’s going to solve that problem except more water.”
Low water levels means high salinity in the bay and a decreased oyster harvest. Also the flow of freshwater down the river and into the bay pushes out predators that feed on oysters, Montford said.
“In other words, (the water has) been a cleansing force,” he said.
But increasing water flow is beyond the state’s control. The river is fed by Lake Lanier, north of Atlanta, and that interstate issue has caused plenty of legal battles.
Montford said some may think the state has “exhausted the legal remedy” for increasing water flow on the river. But he doesn’t agree and isn’t ready to watch the river, and the bay’s oyster harvest, dry up. He’s passionate about making something happen and exudes optimism despite the lack of options.
“This is America. We’ve got a problem, and I’m confident the court system will readdress this issue and come to the right conclusion — and that is an equitable distribution of the water resource,” he said.
At Thursday’s Agriculture Committee meeting, or at next month’s meeting, Montford said the state attorney general, the governor’s office and others will give a report, offering a legal perspective on the issue. (None of the groups have been added to Thursday’s agenda so far.)
Montford said he and state Sen. Charles “Charlie” Dean, R-Inverness, who chairs the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, have made the issue a “top priority.” Dean’s committee heard presentations on the Apalachicola River Basin and the oyster harvest last week.
Montford said Gov. Rick Scott and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are “engaged” on the issue too.
“We’ve got our ‘A’ team out there to say that this is not acceptable. This is a Florida treasure. This is an American treasure,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s an American tragedy in the making, and we can’t stand by and let that happen.”
Montford said he wants Florida to pursue every avenue possible to find a solution, including legal action.
“We’re going to solve this problem. I’m convinced,” Montford said. “We cannot have a repeat of what happened to the Everglades of Florida, and then come back and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rectify a problem that man created.”
University of Florida professor Karl Havens was one of the presenters in Montford’s Agriculture Committee last week. The director of Florida Sea Grant said the bay has suffered not only from a lack of freshwater flow; but also drought, which has adversely impacted the bay for three years.
The lack of fresh water has caused the bay to become infested with predators that eat oysters — clams, sponges and other sea creatures, Havens said.
“Those things are in there basically devouring all the oysters in the bay and reducing their numbers,” he said.
Since state-level officials are working on the freshwater-flow problem, UF researchers have focused on the people and the harvest, Havens said.
To help harvest the oysters in a more sustainable way, Havens and his team are charting the bay with a computer model, which shows the cause and effect of numerous factors on the resource.
“Our aim is to provide them with an efficient tool they can use to look at different approaches and find a way to get through tough times like this, ” he said.
The model will incorporate the bay’s currents, water quality, river flow, rainfall, wind and the oysters.
“It’s a pretty complex model, but it’s a real easy interface,” he said, noting it should be ready in less than a year.
Havens said its hard to estimate how bad the oyster catch is. He wouldn’t give any numbers, but said when they go out with oyster fishermen it takes hours to collect a couple bags compared to normal years when they collected 10 bags in the same amount of time. He said anecdotal accounts vary among oyster fishermen and there are other factors to consider.
“It depends on where you go,” he said. “It’s a really big bay. It’s 200 square miles. Some areas have been more affected then others.”
State Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, who represents Franklin County, said he’s unsure what will remedy the oyster problem, but insists something should be done.
“Those people need some help and we have to figure out what we can do to help them,” he said.
Beshears said he doesn’t think changes implemented through legislation is the right answer. He said the solution might be getting those who harvest oysters to harvest fish because the bay needs to time to “grow back and become healthy again.”
Beshears said he hasn’t yet met with state officials or researchers who are looking into the problem, but is going through data and information on the bay.
“I’ve got a pile here about 3 inches high,” he said.
Beshears said he’s been talking to the people affected and even had four people in his office Wednesday specifically to discuss the issue.
“I wish it was as simple as, ‘Here’s the problem. It’s because of one thing. Let’s fix it and move forward.’ But unfortunately it’s not,” he said.
Politics mustn't bog down Everglades progress
Tampa Bay Times - by Bill Maxwell, Times Correspondent
January 20, 2013
You cannot overestimate the value of Everglades National Park. Unlike other parks that were created for their scenery, Everglades was established to preserve the 1,542,526-acre ecosystem as a wildlife habitat, with surface water as its most important resource and lifeline.
Decades before the park was established in 1947, those trying to protect this unique habitat had to cope with natural forces and fight human degradation and politics. That fight continues, led today by the Everglades Coalition, an alliance of 57 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations.
More than 300 activists, politicians, and federal and state agency officials attended the coalition's 28th annual conference this month in Coral Gables. The three-day meeting reaffirmed the coalition's mission to restore what is known as the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, the vast area from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through Everglades National Park out to Florida Bay and the Keys.
Everglades habitat restoration projects, the largest in the world, have been faring well during the last four years, with several dedications and groundbreakings. On Jan. 11, for example, a ribbon cutting was held at a facility in south Miami-Dade that will pump needed freshwater into Everglades National Park and into a troubled part of Florida Bay.
More good news is that a ribbon cutting will take place next month at a 1-mile bridge along Tamiami Trail. This popular road has blocked water flow for generations.
Progress has been possible because the Obama administration reinvigorated the Everglades' restoration with $1.5 billion. One clear result of this infusion of money is that polluted water is being cleaned up. This newly clean water directly benefits South Florida homes and businesses.
But coalition members fear that congressional partisanship may stall progress.
"We can't let politics stand in the way of Everglades restoration," said Dawn Shirreffs, co-chair of Everglades Restoration and the Everglades program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "There are key issues that Congress is going to have to address in 2013. If we don't, we could really hurt restoration. We need bipartisan effort so that we can break ground on other projects.
"Right now, every project that is authorized is under construction. We understand that money is tight. But at the same time, conditions continue to decline. If we pull back on funding, we increase the cost of restoration. You'd have more delay, construction costs will increase, and you wouldn't be able to take advantage of some of the great progress we've had during the last couple of years."
Many important projects are authorized through spending bills called Water Resources Development Acts. These bills used to be voted on every two years. Not anymore. A divided Congress has not voted on a bill since 2007, slowing restoration momentum and threatening entire projects.
And there are vital economic reasons why Congress needs to pass the 2013 water bill.
In a study for the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, Mather Economics, a business consultant specializing in applied economics, found that Everglades restoration projects provide many jobs and numerous economic benefits to Florida and the nation. For every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, four are returned to the economy. If Congress approves future water bills, Mather estimates that more than 400,000 jobs will be created by Everglades restoration over time.
According to the National Park Service, Everglades National Park created more than 2,000 jobs in 2010 and generated more than $140 million in tourist spending.
If Congress fails to pass this year's water bill, Everglades wetlands will continue to be degraded by commercial, residential and agricultural development. Vital water will continue to be drained and channeled, the entire landscape will continue to be altered, and thousands of jobs will be lost.
If nothing else, the politicians in Washington need to remember that Everglades projects provide clean drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians. This fact alone is reason to set politics aside.
Bureaucracy delays cleanup of Indian River Lagoon
TCPalm.com – by Deborah Ecker, Vero Beach, is a former member of the board of the Pelican Island Audubon Society. She is former president of the Friends of Chatham Waterways, Cape Cod.
January 19, 2013 at 4 a.m.
After the divisive rifts of the presidential election it's a pleasure to experience total unanimity among Indian River County residents speaking out about the deteriorating quality of the Indian River Lagoon.
The good news is that in a public workshop Dec. 4, the Bureau of Watershed Management of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection put forward first steps for water quality improvement. Unfortunately, the agency also managed to dampen hopes for this happening anytime soon.
The DEP appropriately describes the lagoon and its tributaries as the Indian River Lagoon Basin, but it divides the basin's management between the main stem and its tributaries (rivers, streams and canals). This division involves separate approaches for data collection, analysis, restoration goal and plan development. At the workshop we heard the bureau's findings about the tributaries' pollution and what the agency proposes to do about it.
The tributaries in our county are the Sebastian River (Main Stem, North and South Prongs), the C-54 Canal and the north, main and south drainage canals of the Indian River Farms Water Control District. In summary, DEP found that:
All tributaries have dissolved oxygen impairment;
Biochemical oxygen demand exceeds the assessment threshold for all tributary segments;
Total nitrogen concentration exceeds assessment thresholds for Addison Creek, the Eau Gallie River and the C-54 Canal.
For these three tributaries the bureau proposes Total Maximum Daily Loads for biochemical oxygen demand that, when formally approved and in place, will require action to reduce source pollutants. Total Maximum Daily Loads define a pollutant's maximum load that can be assimilated by a body of water without causing impairment.
The workshop scientists reported that for the Sebastian River and the relief canals, agricultural land (not urban) is the major land use associated with biochemical oxygen demand loadings. Target reductions were put forth:
For the Sebastian River South Prong, 78 percent; Sebastian Main Stem, 74 percent; North Canal 83 percent; Main Canal 81 percent; South Canal 84 percent. While the Sebastian River and the three relief canals were also found to require pollution reductions, enforcement of nutrient reductions will come under the lagoon's main stem Total Maximum Daily Loads, adopted in 2009, but still not implemented. The delay has been due to development of a Basin Management Action Plan, now scheduled for the DEP secretary's approval in January.
Assuming this occurs, the next steps in pollution reduction in these tributaries will be up to their stakeholders — principally Indian River County, the Indian River Water Control District and the Sebastian Improvement District — overseen by DEP and the St. Johns River Water Management District. The basin action plan will include a listing of the lagoon's ongoing and proposed restoration projects, the projects for which specific stakeholders will be responsible and anticipated financial needs.
All of this will take more time than most of us want. Even the announced Total Maximum Daily Loads for the C-54 Canal have hurdles before they can be a force for change. Assuming that they make it through the initial period for stakeholders' comments, and again for proposed regulations, they potentially will have to go through the Florida Legislature's ratification process.
DEP's scientists and their assessment studies deserve respect; it's the legislated administrative process — seemingly a maze of delays — about which we have to take notice. Because of the complicated process, those of us who want to bring about change should take care to address our opinions and requests to the correct government agencies during the opportunities provided in their procedural time tables.
Perhaps then we can be effective in achieving the lagoon's clean up.
The DRGR consists of 83,000 acres of rural land in the county's southeastern corner that Lee commissioners designated as environmentally sensitive in 1989.
NaplesNews.com - by Pete Bishop
January 19, 2013
Bonita Springs to hire consultant to study 3,000 acres in northeast of city
BONITA SPRINGS — The Bonita Springs City Council this week agreed to hire a consultant to study the possible development of more than 3,000 acres of land that Lee County set aside for preservation more than two decades ago.
Once hired, the consultant will have 120 days to make recommendations regarding infrastructure needs, water quality issues and the potential for development in parts of the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DRGR) area that fall within municipal boundaries.
The study is the latest in a series of studies conducted by the city over the last decade, and City Manager Carl Schwing said the consultant will not have to start from scratch.
"This is not a $300,000 project, and I don't want it to even be a $100,000 project," he said. "We want to make sure the scope is pretty narrow."
Build, baby, build - like this - everywhere ?
Development on the land has been limited to one unit per 10 acres, with an eye toward protecting water flow from the county's eastern areas toward the Gulf of Mexico.
More than 4,000 acres of the DRGR lie within Bonita Springs city limits, spanning from I-75 to the west and Shangri-La Road to the north.
But studies have shown that mining, agriculture and residential uses have impaired the land and it does not serve as an effective groundwater recharge area.
City officials hope that planned development could improve water flow in the area, with developers paying for improvements as well as the new infrastructure that more than 5,000 new dwelling units would require.
The new study will focus on development in the northern 3,000 acres of the DRGR, as well as on the effects that new development could have on the area to the south. Over half of the land consists of vacant properties.
Nicole Johnson, of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said the study is an opportunity to improve planning in the DRGR and address water quality issues, but suggested that the scope of work needs to include a broader visioning process with more public input.
"The action items identified include stormwater management, flow-way protection and transportation infrastructure," she said. "These are important components of the overall plan but they should not drive the planning process."
Councilwoman Janet Martin said she would also like to see more public input.
"I'd definitely like to see the public brought into this, for their input and ideas and also because they'd get first hand a feeling for what we're thinking of," said Martin. "We do have to have something to present, to present a plan, then get the input and have everyone on the same page."
Schwing said property owners within the DRGR will be consulted during the study, but a public visioning process has not been considered to this point.
"We did not talk about a vision and charrettes and meetings with residents," he said. "I'd be happy to hold a meeting or two but am sensitive to the budget on this."
Mayor Ben Nelson said opening up the process to public visioning could be a step backward.
"About everything that can be said about the area has already been said," said Nelson. "Starting from ground one with charrettes from the public is not the realistic way to go."
"It would be foolish not to have the environmental concerns fleshed out," said Councilman Peter Simmons. "Once that's done, I think it would be foolish not to move ahead and see that area developed."
are you serious ?
The "Python Challenge"
has been reported on
in more than 50 articles !
Python Challenge’ Not so Successful
FrenchTribune.com - by Pauline
January 19, 2013
Though a python-hunt, started recently in Southern Florida, had an amazing start with many hunters coming voluntarily for proving the hunt a success, a report reveals that the number of snakes caught so far is too less.
Over a week's period, fewer than even 20 invasive snakes have been captured. State leaders had estimated that there are too many of them and these need to either be killed or captured. Also, they hold responsible the pet owners for the boom in snakes.
Since, the owners dump the pythons in fens. However, now it is being said that the snakes may actually be less in number and these are also much difficult to be slaughtered.
"When these snakes are in the water, in the vegetation, they blend in naturally to where you can hardly see them", Ron Bergeron, wildlife commissioner for the state, said. The report finds that his nickname is inscribed on his black airboat on the rudder over his image.
Though Ron, known as "Alligator Ron" has experience of lifetime in the Florida Everglades, it has been found that even he failed when it came to lead a team of hunters to one Burmese python. Ron is familiar of furry prey habitats for large reptiles and also has a big navy of airboats at his disposal.
Way to go
Multiform Harvest, Inc. - recycling
Effort to meet water standards may yield new fertilizer source
Capital Press - by John O’Connell
POCATELLO, Idaho -- To meet strict federal clean water standards, the city of Pocatello could find itself in the fertilizer business, producing a high-quality phosphate product that has proven especially effective on potatoes.
Last September, the Environmental Protection Agency imposed a new permit on Pocatello, allowing its sewage treatment plant to discharge no more than 25.1 pounds of phosphorus per day into the impaired Portneuf River. The city, which averaged 40 pounds of daily phosphorus discharge in 2012, has five years to comply.
Pocatello officials are mulling proposals from two companies involved in a relatively new industry, manufacturing cones that crystalize phosphorus in waste water into a mineral called struvite. Magnesium and other chemicals are added in the cones to aid in the process as effluent flows through.
Seattle-based Multiform Harvest, which completed a struvite facility in Boise last fall and one in Yakima, Wash., last summer, allows municipalities free use of its patented designs in exchange for ownership of any struvite they make.
Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, would charge the city to build the structure, with the promise of buying back struvite as a means of recouping the investment.
Pocatello Water Pollution Control Superintendent Jon Herrick said cones would supplement the biological process the city uses to consume phosphorus in waste water. Additional filters and chemicals might also be necessary, he said.
Multiform President Keith Bowers said dairies have also expressed interest, and he's building a system for the largest dairy on the East Coast.
Bowers, who started selling fertilizer last November, explained struvite is less water soluble than conventional phosphate fertilizer, which plants absorb with about 20 percent efficiency. Struvite doesn't bind with the soil or leach away in water, so plants use the slow-release product with about 80 percent efficiency, he said.
Ostara receives roughly 1,500 tons per year of struvite, marketed as Crystal Green, from its treatment facilities, including two in Portland suburbs, and expects to double that quantity soon as new plants come online.
Steve Wirtel, an Ostara senior vice president, said the company has had discussions with major fertilizer manufacturers about selling its product as an additive for their blends. Mosaic Co. has a demonstration project at a Florida facility, using Ostara cones to capture phosphate wasted in fertilizer production.
"Phosphorus is a limited resource that all of us need to live," Wirtel said. "We've got to do something to close the loop on phosphorus. If we continue to send it off into the oceans ... we're going to run out."
Dan Froehlich, the company's vice president of agronomy, said the company has done several trials, including one with Oregon State University, to test struvite on crops. They found it highly effective on potatoes and alfalfa.
The two Washington processed potato farmers who fertilized with struvite in trials last season have increased orders of the product for this season, Froehlich said. He said struvite has improved potato yields in trials by 4-22 percent but appears most effective when used in tandem with conventional phosphate fertilizer to aid in root development.
Florida oysters in danger of extinction
BayNews-9.com - by Troy Kinsey, Capital Reporter
January 18, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- There's nothing quite like a Florida oyster.
They're bigger and more succulent here than just about anywhere else, but now, they could be in jeopardy of going extinct.
State lawmakers, however, might have the power to help avoid that fate.
If Voc Visa looks like a happy man, he says it's because he's just eaten four dozen Florida oysters. It's a lunchtime routine he wouldn't trade for anything.
"They're very good, very delicious," said Visa. "I don't want to see anything happen to the oysters."
But, something's already happening. So far, this season's oyster harvest is well below normal levels.
"We may be looking at the end of an industry," said Shannon Hartsfield, a fourth-generation oysterman, earning his keep on the waters of Apalachicola Bay, the source of 90 percent of Florida oysters.
They thrive on fresh water flowing down the Apalachicola River, and when they don't have it, they begin to die off. The last tough year was in 2007, during a drought.
"I still made around $40,000," said Hartsfield. "This past year, I'm down to, like, maybe $17,000. You know, and if I was younger, I couldn't survive."
In the oyster business, you've got good years and you've got bad years. But this past one has been without comparison, and from the industry on the coast to your local bar, the fallout could be tremendous.
Ecologists say the fresh water flowing down the Apalachicola River is currently just 10 percent of what it used to be at its peak. They also think Florida oysters are having a hard time recovering from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Marine biologists say without more fresh water, Apalachicola oysters could disappear. That's why lawmakers are meeting to figure out how to get Georgia to use less water, so that we have more of it downstream.
"We know what the problem is: It's a lack of flow of water. It's real simple," said state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.
If talks with Georgia don't work out, Florida could sue.
For now, Voc Visa has a simple message: "Hey, y'all need to open up them dams and rivers and let that water flow."
After all, Voc's lunch -- and Hartsfield's livelihood -- could depend on it.
Wakulla Spring water-quality improvement plans begin
January 18, 2013
After years of studying the deteriorating water quality of Wakulla Spring, the fashioning of an action plan to cut pollution and restore the natural jewel kicked off Friday.
About 50 water-quality experts, environmental scientists, local and state government officials and citizens attended the first Basin Management Action Plan meeting at Wakulla County Library. Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials, who are leading the effort, said they hope to have a draft plan in place in about a year to reduce by more than half the level of harmful nitrate fueling the growth of aquatic weeds and compromising the health of the spring and upper reaches of the Wakulla River.
The plan, to be developed from the input of interested parties throughout the spring’s watershed, will feature tangible ways to cut the level of nitrate entering the spring through a vast network of underground conduits by 56.2 percent. Sources of the nitrate pollution include municipal wastewater systems, septic tanks, fertilizer and storm-water runoff from Leon and Wakulla counties. The group plans to meet monthly as it develops the action plan.
“We will be accelerated as quickly as possible, but we won’t be forcing this down anyone’s throat,” said Tom Frick, chief of DEP’s Bureau of Watershed Restoration. “It really is a collaborative process with the stakeholders. DEP is not going to be able to come and wave a magic wand and fix everything. It really has to be done with the stakeholders in the basin.”
The nitrate reduction is required to meet the Total Maximum Daily Load standard set by DEP for the spring and upper Wakulla River last year. TMDL’s, which are required under the federal Clean Water Act for impaired waters, set the maximum amount of a given pollutant that a water body can assimilate and still meet water quality standards. A monthly average of .35 milligrams per liter of nitrate was established for the river, which has seen average monthly nitrate levels as high as 8.0 milligrams per liter.
So far, 13 Basin Management Action Plans have been adopted statewide and DEP officials are working on another 10, Frick said. Creating a plan for Wakulla Spring should move relatively quickly, he added, because so much already is known about the spring and its watershed.
Former Wakulla Spring Ambassador Cal Jamison expressed optimism that a decade of study may finally result in action. He was pleased to see the room full of experts who formerly made up the now-dissolved Wakulla Springs Basin Working Group.
“I’m really more encouraged now than I was,” Jamison, now a Wakulla Soil and Water Conservation District member, said after the meeting. “Everybody who should be here is here. They still have their hearts in it.”
Water quality expert Sean McGlynn said he too was encouraged by the promise of the action plan, which, once adopted, will carry regulatory weight.
“This is really good,” he said. “It’s what we make of it.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21.
outside their usual
Abnormal avian winter migration ignored at peril
Gasparilla Gazette - by William Dunson
January 17, 2013
Animal bio-indicators often reveal environmental concerns. Recent observations of bird behavior are Gasparilla Island are possibly cause for alarm.
It is normal for birds to migrate south in the winter but when they move far outside typical winter ranges there could be some cause for concern.
Let's examine recent unusual occurrences and seek rational explanations for them.
Strangely, bird migrations this winter have been recorded far south of the typical range on sea and land. If a common cause is involved, this could indicate a hemispheric or worldwide change.
Cold conditions in the far north make it perhaps not surprising birds would migrate south, perhaps to a balmy beach on Gasparilla Island.
However, migration deviation rationales are not always so simple. Northern birds are adapted to cold and feeding on a certain type of seeds, insects or fish. This may not be available in the south. Yet if conditions are too severe in the north, birds may migrate in the hope of finding better circumstances somewhere else.
This strategic southward movement during winter has been successful for many birds.
For example, white pelicans leave western inland wetlands of North America to winter along the Gulf Goast. Their size and habits of feeding are quite different from local brown pelicans, but they do well in Florida.
Similarly, common loons fly south from their northern fresh water breeding lakes and some winter in saltwater in Florida, where they dive for fish. Some gannets migrate south from maritime Canada in large flocks that circumnavigate the Florida peninsula to reach the Gulf. These species have well-established migratory pathways and return to northern latitudes to breed in summer.
However a most unusual movement or "invasion" of northern seabirds, especially razorbills, occurred this winter in some numbers. This large migration is unprecedented and we can only speculate about the reasons.
Perhaps these mostly young birds ran out of food in the north due to unusual sea conditions caused by the Superstorm Sandy. They encountered an outbreak of red tide along the Gulf Coast, which may be directly toxic to them or reduce their food supply. One could even speculate such abnormal migratory events in the past may have led to successful patterns of transcontinental migration, but the number of failures must have greatly outnumbered the successes.
One of the strangest features of this abnormal avian winter migration is that on land, mass movements of northern birds are also occurring far to the south. This has been called a "finch" explosion with numbers of pine siskins, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, red-breasted nuthatches, purple finches and crossbills being seen far south of normal winter ranges. I show a photo of a redpoll and an evening grosbeak, two of these northern wanderers seen in the Carolinas. A snowy owl has even been sighted in coastal Georgia!
How to explain fluctuations in marine and terrestrial environments? Is it only coincidence these events are occurring simultaneously this year?
It is easy to blame global warming, marine storms, or possibly human-caused hemispheric fluctuations, but it is quite difficult to obtain reliable evidence to eliminate hypotheses.
Is this phenomenon due to a temporary disruption in northern ecosystems, or does it presage a long-term doomsday scenario?
The birds are telling us something and we had better listen for our own protection and that of our environment with which we are inextricably connected.
William Dunson, Ph.d., professor emeritus of biology at Penn State University, splits time between Southwest Florida and his farm in Galax, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Environmentalists: Florida Isn't Ready to Manage Its Waterways
Public News Service
January 17, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. - Protests are planned today in Tampa in response to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act in Florida. The federal government announced in November it would uphold strict numeric limits for 85 percent of Florida waters, after the state failed to do so. The concern now is that the EPA could hand over control of more waterways to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Manley Fuller is president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. He says state regulations don't go far enough to prevent pollution, and applying them to more water sources would be a mistake.
"One of the problems with the state rule is it's extremely complex and it never gets to enforcement. If there is a problem, you study it more, but they never take any enforcement action."
Fuller and others point to evidence of pollution in Florida waters, including green slime and fish kills, as evidence that the state enforcement has not gone far enough.
A major contributor to water quality problems in the state is the run-off of manure, sewage and fertilizer into state waterways. Jennifer Hecker with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida says the EPA needs to maintain jurisdiction of Florida waters because of what she calls "inadequate standards" and a lack of state staff to enforce regulations.
"There is a role for the federal government when the state has failed to do its job. We know that the state has not adequately dealt with water quality and we need EPA's involvement to bring us back on course."
Recently, Sarasota County had to remove 4.5 tons of rotting fish from public beaches after a red tide, and the state has banned shell fishing in some areas.
Today's public meeting is from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tampa Hotel; tomorrow's meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
EPA holds slime hearings in Florida
Earthjustice.org – by Brian Smith
January 17, 2013
Activists demand Clean Water Act enforcement statewide
Clean water activists showed up in force today at the first of two EPA meetings in Tampa to discuss setting limits on water pollution that comes from fertilizer, animal waste and sewage effluent. These “nutrients” feed toxic, slimy algae outbreaks. Toxic slime can kills fish and make people and pets sick.
After years of legal wrangling, the EPA agreed last November to establish limits that protect 85 percent of Florida’s waters, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulating the remaining 15 percent. But the EPA has recently hinted they may turn the entire job over to the state—thus the outrage.
Today, the EPA heard from Floridians who want the Clean Water Act fully enforced statewide.
Florida Wildlife Federation President Fuller said, “The state’s rules are ineffective, convoluted and never result in enforcement. Meanwhile, pollution of Florida's waterways continues to worsen.”
Andrew McElwaine of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said Sarasota County recently removed 4.5 tons of rotting fish from its public beaches due to red tide, which is worsened by this pollution. In addition, Sanibel Island had to cancel a youth fishing tournament, green slimy algae keeps shutting down a drinking water plant for 30,000 people, and the state has banned shell fishing in some areas.
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club's Florida staff director said, “Governor Scott and DEP Secretary Vinyard are crippling clean water enforcement and doing the dirty work of polluters. Theirs is the reign of red tides and green slime.”
Gov. Rick Scott’s Administration recently began firing experienced DEP staffers and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.Here’s how the Miami Herald (Editorial: “Foxes guard the henhouse”) explained the situation:
“The purge got rid of regulators who had the backbone to say 'No' to politically connected developers and engineers. With them went decades of experience and commitment to DEP’s mission, basing their decisions in science and research. Now, the department is being populated by administrators who come directly from the industries that regularly seek the DEP’s favor. It’s telling, disturbingly so, that most of the employees dismissed were in the compliance and enforcement divisions.”
Records show that enforcement cases against environmental lawbreakers have plummeted at the Florida DEP.
“We need EPA’s enforceable numbers for 100 percent of the state’s waters,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who represents the Florida Water Coalition in court. “We know that polluted water is a job killer for everyone who relies on the tourism industry here in Florida—and that’s pretty much all of us.”
Locals protesting to keep Florida water clean
ABC-7.com - by Lauren DiSpirito, NBC2 Reporter
January 17, 2013
TAMPA, FL -
Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah and a group of more than a dozen people from Naples will be in Tampa Thursday, to join a more than 200-person protest of changes they fear could weaken standards for keeping Florida's water clean.
This is a battle over who sets the standards meant to keep pollutants like sewage and fertilizers out of our waterways.
Our local protestors argue water quality is already low enough: red tide outbreaks, worsened by pollution, bring thousands of dead fish to our beaches, shut down commercial shellfishing (clamming) on Pine Island, and forced the cancellation of a kid's fishing tournament on Sanibel Island last year.
Red tide occurs naturally, it is not caused by pollution, but some scientists and environmentalists say fertilizers and other pollutants make the harmful algae worse.
Protestors plan to argue the state (Florida DEP) is not willing to do the job right-- their standards are lower than the US EPA. Therefore, more than five environmental groups are gathering today to say to the EPA--please don't hand over more control of water quality standards to our state.
Paddle sports gain popularity in SWFL
ABC-7.com - by Joelle Parks, NBC2 Reporter
January 17, 2013
Paddle sports are gaining popularity in Southwest Florida. From canoes to kayaks to paddleboards, getting out on the water has never been easier.
For the first time the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is stepping up to increase safety.
Aaron Thomas sees all kinds of customers as a kayak guide for Calusa Ghost Tour.
"I get everybody from teenagers to senior citizens, it's such a wonderful sport," Thomas said.
Part of his job is teaching safety on the water.
"A lot of folks think, oh it's just a kayak, I'm in shallow water, I really don't be to know safety but with the mangroves it can get like a maze back here," he said.
To help with that, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is teaching the do's and don'ts of paddle sport for the first time. So what do you need before you hit the water?
"A life jacket, a whistle, a bottle of water, and sunscreen, without those items a boater can get into trouble, but we also cover being a smart kayaker before you leave the dock," said U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Commander, Jim Mayer.
"Our currents run quite strong; they weather conditions int he summer can change on a dime, especially if you don't know what you're doing. It's all about proper planning," Thomas said.
Part the organizations planning is expanding their services.
"Currently the coast guard auxiliary offers safe boating patrols, out on the water providing information and answering questions in a non law enforcement capacity, that's on a power boat. Eventually that will be done on a kayak," Mayer said.
Right now, there's little to no enforcement on small rivers, creeks and canals.
By patrolling in a kayak or on a paddleboard, Auxiliary members will be able to continue their mission in a different capacity and alert law enforcement if there is a problem.
"We can prevent accidents and keep more people alive," Mayer said.
Patrolling the imperial river and other paddle sport hot spots is something this guide is looking forward to.
"It's a great spot, it's a hidden gem here in Bonita Springs, I just love sharing this river with folks that come down," Thomas said.
Pollution in Florida's waters topic of EPA public comment hearing in Tampa
January 17, 2013
TAMPA, Florida — The Environmental Protection Agency will hear public comment on suggested rules to limit nutrient pollution in Florida's waters.
Two meetings will be held this week in Tampa. The first is Thursday afternoon, while the second is on Friday.
The proposals set numerical limits on nutrients that come from such sources as fertilizer, animal waste and, sewage effluent, which feed the toxic, slimy algae blooms. They can kill fish and make people sick.
EPA officials say they have determined that the state's new method of setting those limits in lakes, springs, steams and estuaries is technically and scientifically sound and more effective than the Florida's existing method.
Putting numerical limits on how much pollution is allowed is expected to strengthen enforcement.
Web-based public hearings are scheduled for Jan. 22-24.
Red tide still lingers on Southwest Florida's coast
Fox4now.com - by Julie Salomone
January 17, 2013
Dead fish scattered along Bonita Beach
NAPLES, Fla.- Red tide was first reported in October 2011. In Collier County, dead fish have been reported on Vanderbilt Beach north to Wiggins Pass and on Barefoot beach.
Beachgoers now noticing dead fish along Bonita Beach in Lee County.
Judy Carter from Michigan says she is now watching where she steps.
"When did you notice them?" I asked.
"Just today(Thursday), we've been at Barefoot beach and another beach and had not seen any fish before just a very big shock," said Carter.
Typically red tide pops up in October and lingers until April, but there is no way to predict how long the bloom will stick around. On Southwest Florida's coast, the bloom extends alongshore from southern Sarasota County to Collier County.
"I know it's caused by algae and it can kill fish and sometimes give an odor at the beach," said Joy Testa, visitor from Tennessee.
In Collier County near the Naples Pier, there is no signs of red tide. The beach looks clear, but a sign is posted warning beachgoers of the possible impact of the bloom.
Kamila Diddle with the county's Natural Resources department took water samples on Thursday. The county tests twice a week when red tide is present.
To report dead fish or red tide symptoms, please call Collier Co. Natural Resources Department at (239) 252-2502.
Collier County red tide updates are available on the Red Tide Hotline at (239) 252-2591 . This recording is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Bill Nelson, Everglades Foundation lament Ken Salazar's departure
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
January 16, 2013
Though his boss has yet to visit the Everglades, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was a regular visitor who made restoring the River of Grass one of the Obama administration's top environmental priorities.
Salazar on Wednesday became the latest Cabinet member to step down for the president's second term. The Everglades Foundation, an influential advocacy group based in Palmetto Bay, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, praised the former Colorado senator's role in reviving Everglades restoration.
Salazar, who visited Florida at least 10 times during his four-year term, championed efforts to ban the import of Burmese python and create a new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Area north of Lake Okeechobee. Federal spending on the Everglades ramped up dramatically during the Obama administration, with $1.5 billion directed toward restoration programs. He supported adding more bridging along Tamiami Trail. Interior, working with the Environmental Protection Agency, also negotiated a landmark expansion of Florida's pollution clean-up efforts.
Eric Eikenberg, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation, said Salazar's departure in March meant "the loss one of the nation’s true friends of America’s Everglades.”
Nelson said the Interior secretary, a rancher who typically showed up in cowboy boots and hat, would be missed.
“Ken Salazar is my personal friend, and he’s much more,'' Nelson said in a statement. "He’s been a good friend to Florida and will always be a friend of the Everglades.''
Canals, pumps now moving water
KeysNet.com – by Kevin Wadlow
January 16, 2013
The western portion of the C-111 Spreader Canal Project to move more fresh water toward Florida Bay officially went into service Friday.
The $26 million series of canals and pumps will "help restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay, preserve clean water in Everglades National Park and maintain flood control" for nearby homes and farms, South Florida Water Management District staff said in a prepared statement.
The eastern portion of the C-111 project -- which would be visible from the 18-Mile Stretch of U.S. 1 between Key Largo and Florida City -- remains to be built.
"We need to move forward with planning for Phase 2 of the C-111 Spreader Canal Project," said Kahlil Kettering, an analyst with the National Parks Conservation Association.
"Phase 2 will provide most of the envisioned benefits for restoring natural salinity patterns through Everglades wetlands and habitat for wildlife, ultimately revitalizing Florida Bay and Biscayne National Park," Kettering said.
Finishing the C-111 western section "is a great example of a project that meets the broader ecosystem restoration goals of getting the water right, and restoring natural habitats and species," Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said.
The new western system prevents fresh water from draining out of the national park.
The western C-111 project includes two pump stations, 10 plugs or water-control structures, and barriers that can hold up to 1,200 acre-feet -- an acre-foot is a foot of water covering an acre -- of fresh water from rain. That retained water should flow south through Taylor Slough, helping to Florida Bay return to a more natural salinity level.
Decades of construction and road building in South Florida disrupted the historical water flow and changed the nature of the 850-square-mile bay.
Everglades restoration means climate change protection, advocates say
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
January 16, 2013
South Florida leaders say there's a new reason to restore the Everglades. They think bringing Florida's famed ecosystem back to full health will prevent salt water from getting into interior parts of the state. 90.7's Amy Green reports that to them, repairs to the Everglades including its headwaters in Central Florida are key to preserving the state's water supply.
South Florida leaders say rising sea levels already cause flooding in residential areas during high tide, without any help from rain.
They're concerned the region's interior is at risk, too, because of the porous limestone that makes up much of the state.
At this weekend's Everglades Coalition conference in Coral Gables, environmental scientists said rising salt water pushes fresh water out from underground and into places where it isn't supposed to be.
Ernie Barnett, director of Everglades policy at the South Florida Water Management District, says that means flooding and contaminated drinking water.
"Fresh water flowing through the Everglades will push the salt water back. In addition to that the actual land mass will increase in size because the organic soils that are underneath the surface in the Everglades are built up."
Already a seven-county coalition of South Florida public and private stakeholders is working to prepare for climate change and rising sea levels.
Florida rivers getting sicker, Sentinel investigation finds
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
January 16, 2013
Florida's rivers are in trouble.
That's what the Orlando Sentinel found after a yearlong evaluation of some of the state's biggest and smallest, most urban and remote, cleanest and dirtiest, protected and abused rivers.
Of the 22 rivers studied, from Miami to Pensacola, nearly half are in decline because of pollution from lawns, street runoff, wastewater and agriculture, and because of shrinking flows caused by drought and rising demand for water by cities and industries.
Other rivers in the group, while either stable or improving, are profoundly impaired.
Taking care of rivers is difficult and expensive in a state of nearly 20 million residents and in an era of shrinking government budgets and assaults on environmental regulations. Fixing just two rivers, the Kissimmee and St. Johns, which both originate in Central Florida, has cost $2.5 billion so far. Floridians shell out an additional $1 billion a year to various river-related state agencies.
But the state has a compelling reason to protect its rivers: If Florida's rivers are not healthy, then neither is its water.
The Hillsborough, Peace, St. Johns and Kissimmee rivers, for example, deliver drinking water to the state's biggest metropolitan areas. The Apalachicola nurtures a bay famed for its oysters. The state's giant springs, sources of rivers such as the Silver and the Wekiva, are an unmatched collection of natural treasures. And wilderness areas tied to rivers, such as the Suwannee's and Fisheating Creek's, are awesome, humbling places.
Rivers come from and flow to and through wetlands and lakes. Rivers born at springs join rivers created by wetlands, which then nourish the food webs of coastal estuaries. Rivers are the veins of the state's water-driven environment.
"Once a river or spring touches you and you recognize it as a living, vibrant system, it becomes a part of your life," said Pat Harden, a founder of the Friends of the Wekiva River.
Ups and downs
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard often says, "I want to get the water right." It's a difficult goal.
Florida is struggling with water pollution and water shortages even as state government has been making unprecedented cuts in the size and strength of its environmental-protection agencies.
Protecting rivers is controversial. Last month, most notably, an impatient federal judge ordered Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finally implement pollution regulations that have been on the books for nearly 15 years. Many state lawmakers and industries have fought the regulations as overly burdensome.
Amid that rules uproar and throughout 2012, the Sentinel asked various state officials whether Florida has been gaining or losing ground in efforts to protect the systems that link and define most of its environment: its rivers.
Nearly all have answered with a variation of: "I don't know."
Of the 22 rivers studied by the Sentinel, many showed clear trends, and it wasn't difficult to determine whether they are getting healthier or sicker.
The $1 billion repair of the Kissimmee, one of the four found to be in some degree of recovery, involves filling in the enormous canal built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s and restoring the river's natural, sinuous channel as it flows from Osceola County to Lake Okeechobee. Project scientist Lawrence Glenn said the work is restarting the "liquid heart" of what was once "a mini-Amazon."
Meanwhile, Orlando's Wekiva has gotten sicker. The Indian River — the riverlike lagoon along Florida's east coast — has been rocked by persistent and destructive algae blooms. The Wakulla near Tallahassee is plagued with dark, tannic water. Health authorities warn nearly every year that algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee in South Florida are toxic.
"We have a definite trend toward degrading water," said Rae Ann Wessel, a defender of the Caloosahatchee and member of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Among the more difficult rivers to judge were the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee. Both Panhandle rivers were found to be getting worse by the Sentinel, though Florida DEP officials say their water-quality data show no decline in either river's health.
In most respects, those rivers do have clean water, said Joe Hand, who retired recently after 35 years as a top DEP water-quality analyst. The Sentinel sought his assistance to study each of the 22 rivers.
What's not well-reflected in the water-quality data, however, is the core plight of the Apalachicola: It doesn't have enough water, both because of drought and because of withdrawals in Georgia and Alabama. Its wetlands are wasting away, and Apalachicola Bay, according to recent warnings by alarmed state officials, is getting too salty and is now on the verge of biological collapse.
The Choctawhatchee is choking on sand and silt from agriculture, timber cutting and unpaved roads in Alabama, according to a leading defender of the river and to one of the river's residents, H.T. Brown, whose family members have lived and worked on the Choctawhatchee for four generations.
"The river north of Highway 20 used to have a rock bottom, and now it's filled with sand and mud," Brown said.
According to Hand's analysis, the Choctawhatchee suffers from the state's worst case of "turbidity," a haziness in the water caused by muddy runoff.
Eight of the 22 rivers aren't changing significantly in either direction, according to a consensus of experts consulted by the Sentinel and to Hand's data trends. Among these "stable" rivers, however, is the Fenholloway, in Florida's Big Bend region, which has been repulsive since the 1950s because of paper-mill pollution. The pollution's intensity has lessened in recent years, but the river remains an aquatic zombie.
Florida's rivers were once its main transportation network, carrying people and commerce by boat from places such as Jacksonville to Sanford on the St. Johns and from Fort Myers to Kissimmee on the Caloosahatchee and Kissimmee rivers. But now they are so removed from daily life that many Floridians would struggle just to name the river closest to their home.
In a state crisscrossed by both waterways and highways, rivers are experienced most often through the window of a moving car. The Loxahatchee is barely noticeable beneath Interstate 95 in Palm Beach County, the Miami's drawbridges simply annoy baseball fans going to Marlins games, and the St. Johns is a curious blip for Orlandoans headed to the beach.
But from a kayak, the Loxahatchee is a cathedral, with a floor of amber water, walls of cypress trees and a ceiling of green canopy, while the Miami might not be much of a natural river but is one of the most energizing, entertaining and intensely visual outdoors locations in Florida. The St. Johns is probably the most ecologically complex river in the state, coming to life in a semitropical climate near Vero Beach before flowing north for 310 miles to a more temperate climate, where it spills into the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville.
The variety hardly stops there. The Wekiva thrives with so many turtles — one of the state's biggest populations — that seemingly every low log is bumpy with shells. In South Florida, Fisheating Creek curls about as a tea-colored ribbon between gnarled, gnomish cypress trees that seem about to growl.
Each of those rivers — and most other rivers in the state — experienced epic insults in past decades, typically from sewage plants and power shovels.
Dredges clawed the Apalachicola without mercy, crippling its sloughs, or creeks, while the Loxahatchee's forest was poisoned by seawater that invaded after repeated dredgings to make Jupiter Inlet's access to the Atlantic Ocean deeper and wider.
In the Orlando area, sections of Shingle Creek and the Little Wekiva and Little Econlockhatchee rivers were turned into giant culverts to carry away subdivisions' rainfall. A growing metro area also filled those rivers with poorly treated sewage — common practice at the time.
Jim Hulbert, a state biologist who for decades worked on ways to assess rivers' health, documented how repulsive they had become by the late 1960s.
Suds generated by sewage in the Little Econ drifted like snow flurries across State Road 50. The water in Shingle Creek and the Little Wekiva thickened with bacteria that looked like toilet paper. River ecologies were taken over by rat-tailed maggots and sludge worms that bore headfirst into the mud, their tails exposed like threads of shag carpet.
"You wouldn't have gone canoeing," Hulbert said. The rivers were that unappealing.
Even the mighty St. Johns was feared. Environmental activist Linda Young remembers an uncle who took her family sightseeing along the river docks in Jacksonville.
"He would say, 'If you kids don't behave, I'm going to throw you into there, and you'll die of a hundred different diseases,' " Young recalled. "We'd be standing on those docks, and I'd be thinking, 'Oh, my God, you'll die just from falling in?'¿"
Fortunately for Florida's rivers, the environmental horrors of the 1960s were followed by an awakening across the U.S. in the 1970s and '80s, said Jim Stevenson, a retired chief naturalist for the state.
"Those were golden years for environmental protection," Stevenson said.
Florida was prodded by regulations and grants that flowed from the momentous Clean Water Act, a federal law that recently had its 40th anniversary. For example, Orlando built its advanced Iron Bridge Water Reclamation Facility in the early 1980s, and the Little Econ is dramatically better off today as a result.
The state launched its Save Our Rivers program, which would be used to acquire 1.7 million acres of open space to protect river basins. Restorations of the Kissimmee and St. Johns, ongoing for decades, are among the most ambitious in the world.
The hazards faced by rivers today, while less obvious, Stevenson said, are more potent, even as the state has dramatically scaled back its environmental-lands purchases and the strength of its water-management agencies.
One of the less-obvious enemies now is nutrient pollution, which spills off lawns as dissolved fertilizer; seeps into the aquifer from septic tanks; and bleeds into wetlands from cattle ranches, citrus groves and farms. Nutrient pollution can overwhelm a river's ecology, as in the case of the Silver River near Ocala, by triggering invasions of weeds and algae.
The other enemies: climate change and drought, exacerbated by all the water taken each day from the state's aquifers and rivers by utilities and agricultural operations in Florida and Georgia.
The Wekiva River, one of two U.S. Wild and Scenic rivers in Florida, is nevertheless polluted by nutrients, and in recent years its water flow has shriveled to the minimum its ecology can tolerate, according to state officials.
Defenders of the state's other Wild and Scenic River, the Loxahatchee, are begging for a small but guaranteed supply of fresh water from nearby canals in South Florida. The water is needed during the dry season to keep at bay the seawater that otherwise kills the Loxahatchee's wetlands.
Peace River in Polk County temporarily dies of thirst every dry season, nutrient pollution in the Kissimmee is killing Lake Okeechobee, and the North Florida springs that feed the magnificent Suwannee are in decline.
Ed Lowe, top scientist at the St. Johns River Water Management District, warns that increasing use of fertilizer, plus population growth and climate change, are making river protection so daunting that simply preventing further decline could be a victory.
Case in point: The St. Johns is no longer in a death dive thanks to a colossal restoration, yet it remains seriously ill.
"Big stretches of the river are stable," Lowe said. "I take that as a measure of success."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar leaving Cabinet
Associated Press – by Julie Pace and Matthew Daly
January 16, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who oversaw a moratorium on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill and promoted alternative energy sources throughout the nation, will step down in March.
Salazar, a former Colorado senator, has run the Interior Department throughout President Barack Obama's first term and pushed renewable power such as solar and wind and the settlement of a longstanding dispute with American Indians.
In a statement, Obama said Salazar had helped "usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water and wildlife" and had played a major role in efforts to "expand responsible development of our nation's domestic energy resources."
Salazar said the Interior Department was helping secure "a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation's first Americans."
He entered the Senate with Obama in 2005. At Interior, he gained the most attention for his role in the drilling moratorium, a key part of the administration's response to the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. It was one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history and led to the unprecedented shutdown of offshore drilling.
Business groups and Gulf Coast political leaders said the shutdown crippled the oil and gas industry and cost thousands of jobs, even aboard rigs not operated by BP PLC.
But Salazar said the industry-wide moratorium was the correct call and that his ultimate goal was to allow deepwater operations to resume safely. He acknowledged that the drilling ban caused hardship, but he said his job was to protect the public and the environment even as the administration tried to boost domestic energy production.
The moratorium was lifted in October 2010, although offshore drilling operations did not begin for several more months. Some Gulf Coast lawmakers continue to complain about the slow pace of drilling permits under the Interior Department, which renamed and revamped the agency that oversees offshore drilling in the wake of the spill.
Salazar also approved the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, off the Massachusetts coast.
On land, Salazar has promoted solar power in the West and Southwest, approving an unprecedented number of projects, even as oil and gas continue to be approved on federal land.
Salazar also oversaw the settlement of a multibillion dispute with Native American tribes that had lingered for more than a decade.
Throughout his tenure, Salazar tangled with oil companies.
"We don't believe we ought to be drilling anywhere and everywhere," Salazar said in 2010, before the BP spill. "We believe we need a balanced approach and a thoughtful approach" that allows development of oil and gas leases on public lands while also protecting national parks, endangered species and municipal watersheds.
Salazar criticized the Bush administration for what he called a "headlong rush" to lease public lands. Early in his tenure, Salazar suspended 60 of 77 leases in Utah that had been approved by the Bush administration.
"In the prior administration the oil and gas industry were the kings of the world. Whatever they wanted to happen, happened," Salazar said in January 2010, adding that those days were over.
Salazar, 57, is the latest Cabinet secretary to leave the administration as Obama heads into his second term. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are also leaving. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is widely expected to leave, though his departure has not been announced. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson has announced that she will leave.
The administration officials who discussed his plans spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly before any announcement.
Silver Springs spurs discussion
Alligator.org – by Andrew Kays, Contributing Writer
January 16, 2013
The site of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” supposedly escaped rhesus monkeys from a Tarzan film and the Ross Allen Reptile Institute are legacies of Ocala’s Silver Springs. But what the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is currently concerned with preserving is the crystal-clear water.
The department presented a draft of its plans to acquire the Silver Springs nature theme park lands and turn them into a Florida state park at an open meeting Monday night.
Following a Dec. 12 meeting with about 350 attendees and a rising concern for the water levels and purity of the springs, the proposed plan aims to clean and remove old animal pens and amusement park buildings, set up environmentally sound foundations and make it more nature-focused by opening hiking trails and camping opportunities.
“Silver Springs, the attraction, has a long history of being exploited for economic benefit and not for its natural environmental benefits, and that’s what I don’t want to see with any plans to move forward,” UF adjunct professor and founder/director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute Robert Knight said at the meeting.
If the plans are approved by Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet, the FDEP will establish a timeline for changes, wrote department representative Jennifer Diaz in an email.
Some attendees Monday were worried about what the state planned to do about the employees. Others expressed concerns about the fate of the animals belonging to Palace Entertainment, the current owner of the land lease.
“Moving a lot of these animals is very stressful, and during that stressful time they could die, and you could be signing their death certificate, really,” Silver Springs zookeeper Wayne Carr said at the meeting. “All I ask is: Take into consideration the animals that are there, even if you just keep them there until they pass.”
Silver Springs is part of the St. Johns River system and is one of the largest artesian springs in the world.
Its flow and environment is influenced by the Rodman Dam, built in 1968 to prepare for the since-scrapped Cross Florida Barge Canal.
Several argued Monday that the dam should be removed to allow the natural environment to recover.
Steven Noll, senior history lecturer at UF and author of “Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future,” disagreed.
“I think, too often, people look at these things by themselves instead of looking at the big picture and how it’ll affect the area,” Noll said. “It’s not the panacea some people think it is.”
He thinks turning the land into a state park will help, but wants to see a decline in nitrate-rich fertilizer usage, better reclaimed water usage and fewer land-use permits for golf courses and subdivisions.
Palace Entertainment plans to go forward with planned events at the park until definitive action is decided, said Mike Friscia, vice president of the water parks division.
“We will always keep an open mind about what may be the best long-term interests of the park, the surrounding community and the state of Florida in general,” he said.
Delays for restoration, not for permits
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
January 15, 2013
I ran across a disturbing report from North Florida.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District decided to back off of plans to set minimum flows for Wakulla Springs until sometime in the next decade.
Wakulla Springs is now a state park, but for years was in private ownership and featured glass-bottom boat rides. The water in this deep spring was once so clear it was used for underwater scenes in movies, including the classic “Creature of the Black Lagoon.”
Springs advocates, who have been concerned with Wakulla Springs’ decline, are understandably outraged.
Setting minimum flows could affect water use in the region though it’s hard to know how much without a scientific study that’s required to set the minimum flow.
What’s troubling about the delay–water officials were late to the table in setting minimum flows in Central Florida, too–is the lack of urgency on this issue and the cliche excuse of needing to “get the water right.”
That would be more credible if Florida’s environmental officials were consistent.
However, there doesn’t to be any caution about “getting the water right” when they decided to speed up giving out permits to tap the aquifer or the nearest river or to dredge and fill wetlands.
Something’s not right.
Don't turn over pollution control to DEP
Tampa Bay Times – Letter by David Guest, Earthjustice, Tallahassee
January 15, 2013
As Bill Maxwell wrote in his column, Gov. Rick Scott's administration is laying off experienced regulators at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and replacing them with people from the polluting industries.
So this is the worst possible time to put the polluter-friendly DEP in charge of enforcing the Clean Water Act. But that's what could happen.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in November that it will do what the state of Florida hasn't — that is, set specific, enforceable numbers to limit how much sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution is allowed in our water. The EPA's standards are like easy-to-read speed limit signs. Instead, the DEP wants to use bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that allows water to become unsafe before requiring pollution control.
The EPA's number limits apply to about 85 percent of Florida waters. The DEP rules apply to 15 percent of streams, canals and estuaries. We need the EPA's enforceable numbers for 100 percent of our waters. The EPA is now hoping that DEP will propose its own rules for 85 percent of Florida's waters; that would allow the EPA to transfer authority over those waters to DEP as well. It is irresponsible to turn this over to the DEP — we'll be stuck with more slimy algae outbreaks and dead fish littering our shores.
The EPA has scheduled two open house public information sessions at the Hotel Tampa (formerly Hyatt Regency Tampa), 211 North Tampa St. — one on Thursday from 1-7 p.m., and another on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Effective against pollution
Mary Yeargan, Southwest District director, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Temple Terrace
I have been an environmental regulator for the past two decades. In our district, and around the state, we have dedicated professionals working every day to create a model where we stop pollution before it happens.
While our daily activities and hard work aren't reported in the paper, it does not mean we are not doing our jobs and it is a great disservice to our staff for the media to report that because we have assessed our operations and made staffing changes and are attempting a new process, that any of our staff are being prevented from or not interested in doing the right thing.
Most people and businesses want the same thing: a clean environment to pass on to our children. They also expect cost-effective, responsive government. The staff at the DEP Southwest District is encouraged to work cooperatively with homeowners and businesses to identify and resolve pollution issues, rather than immediately jumping into enforcement. My experience has shown this to be a vastly more effective, faster and cheaper way to achieve remediation, rather than waging lengthy and costly legal battles while nothing gets cleaned up during the process.
Of course, there will always be that minority of individuals who don't care about the results of their actions. Be assured, enforcement is and will be taken swiftly in those circumstances.
Environmental protection at stake in high court case
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
January 15, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a Florida case that could severely limit the tools that states and government authorities use to protect sensitive lands. The case asks whether it is constitutional for an environmental permit to require that the owner restore wetlands on land miles away to mitigate the damage of his project. If the court rules for the landowner, Florida could be hamstrung in its wetland mitigation efforts and in its attempts to get developers to pay for the public impact of their development.
The case began in 1994 when Coy Koontz Sr., who died in 2000 (the case has been carried on by his son), sought a permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District to develop 3.7 acres of his land near Orlando. Koontz's project called for dredging 3.25 acres of wetlands. To secure a permit, Koontz agreed to give the district a conservation easement on 11.5 acres. But water management officials told Koontz he would have to pay to restore wetlands on other district property miles away as well, or he would have to reduce his development plans to 1 acre. Koontz rejected these conditions, and the permit was denied.
Koontz sued, claiming the permit rejection constituted a taking of his property by the government without just compensation in violation of the federal and state constitutions. He said he shouldn't be forced to pay for environmental repairs that have little relationship to his property or project. He won before a trial judge and was awarded $376,000 in compensation for lost expected rental income. But that victory was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling, though three justices joined the judgment alone and not the court's reasoning. The court recognized how dangerous it would be if government were stripped of flexibility to negotiate a permit that includes fees to offset the harm of development.
Writing for the majority, Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis made the essential point that if landowners could file a lawsuit any time negotiations over a permit were unsuccessful, government agencies would simply opt to deny permits outright. That, said Lewis, would bring land development in some parts of the state "to a standstill."
The high stakes are evident. Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court could use this case to curb the power of government, expand property rights and weaken environmental regulations. That's why more than a dozen amicus or "friend of the court" briefs have been filed. The Obama administration and 19 states (not including Florida) are supporting the water management district. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and builders' groups are siding with Koontz.
Developers should be careful in what they hope for out of this case. Fewer permits issued could be one of the unintended consequences. Both developers and the environment could end up the losers.
Ocala.com - Editorial
January 15, 2013
If Marion County’s two water management districts need any inspiration for expediting their similar but separate plans to clean up the county’s two renowned first magnitude springs — Silver and Rainbow — we encourage them to look at the recent news out of South Florida about the Everglades. What they will see and learn is that taking action to clean up our waterways does produce results — and rather quickly.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hailed as a success its C-111 Spreader Canal that is aimed at restoring the natural flow of freshwater through the Everglades into the ailing Florida Bay. Years of dredging and building canals to benefit Miami-Dade County development not only drained the Everglades significantly but drastically altered the fragile salinity level of Florida Bay, home to a massive aquatic wildlife habitat.
Construction on C-111 began in 2010 and is one of the first phase projects of the Everglades restoration project. Park and South Florida Water Management District officials, who are charged with overseeing the joint state-federal Everglades restoration, say they already are seeing results. Specifically, less freshwater, which is needed to keep Florida Bay healthy, is flowing out of the Everglades.
“Restoration is not an idea, it is actually happening,” Everglades Park Superintendent Dan Kimball told The Associated Press.
The C-111 experience is a reminder of Mother Nature’s healing powers, if we humans just give her a chance.
Which brings us to Silver and Rainbow Springs. The St. Johns Water Management District, in which Silver Springs is located, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, in which Rainbow Springs rests, both recently set “total minimum daily load” goals for nitrates. Nitrates are the springs’ most harmful pollutants and come from wastewater runoff, fertilizers, animal waste, stormwater and septic tanks.
Silver Springs, as of last summer, had a nitrate level of 1.47 milligrams per liter, and Rainbow Springs was at 1.92 mg/L. Both water management districts set their long-term TMDL goal at .35 mg/L — ambitious, to say the least.
To achieve such a sharp reduction in nitrates flowing into our spring water — which, lest we need to remind our water managers, is the same water we drink — will require equally ambitious programs and funding to reduce the flow of nitrates from their sources. It will require education, first and foremost, and it will require behavioral changes in how we build, how we grow crops, how we manage our livestock, how we handle our wastewater and how we maintain our septic tanks, for starters.
But our water managers and the scientists who study our springs and waterways know what the solutions are. Now, our water management districts need to begin implementing what they dub “basin management plans” — soon. Even first phase initiatives, like C-111 is to the Everglades restoration, can produce positive and measurable results.
Again, Mother Nature has incredible power to clean herself up, if we humans will merely quit fighting her. We are heartened by the advancement of the Everglades restoration, even if C-111 is just a small first step. We see it as evidence that nature can perform miraculously to start correcting the mistakes of man and help restore our springs, too, if we will just start taking substantive action.
time and, if so, what the impact would be on the groundwater, area springs and neighbors.
Water district has more questions for Adena Springs Ranch
Gainesville Sun - by Fred Hiers, Staff Writer
January 15, 2013
OCALA - Florida water regulators want more information from Adena Springs Ranch as they continue to review the farm's request to draw an annual average of 5.3 million gallons of water per day in the Fort McCoy area.
One Adena official describes the regulators' aggressive data gathering as "unprecedented," and said the tactic should cause other agriculture businesses to be concerned.
The St. Johns River Water Management District's request for additional information about the 25,000-acre plus project is only the latest in a back-and-forth volley that began in December 2011.
Environmentalists have opposed the project, expressing concern about the effect such a large water withdrawal would have on the aquifer and nearby Silver Springs.
Lawyer John Thomas, who represents some project opponents, said the latest request from the water district stems from Adena officials dragging their feet in giving regulators the information they wanted.
Thomas said the applicants play "a cat-and-mouse game" whose goal is "to submit as little information as possible."
The ranch is being developed by former Canadian-based car parts billionaire Frank Stronach. He owns about 30,000 acres in Marion County and more than 30,000 acres in Levy County. His goal is to build the cattle ranch in addition to a meat processing plant on some of that land in northeast Marion.
St. Johns' latest request focuses on specifics of potential water withdrawal and how the farm would dispose of animal waste from about 17,000 cows. The ranch has until May 11 to respond.
The ranch's average water use is proposed at 5.3 million gallons per day (mgd). But St. Johns wants to know more about potential daily peak usage, citing the ranch's application for a potential maximum daily irrigation use of 21.57 mgd.
The water district wants to know if the ranch plans to use all of its proposed 34 irrigation areas at the same
In its 16-page request for more information, the water district also focused on how the ranch would treat the waste from so many cattle.
Among several waste nutrient questions, the water agency said the ranch's "Nutrient Management Plan" didn't demonstrate that the ranch's water use wouldn't contribute to water pollution. It wants an explanation of how area springs would be protected.
The water agency also wants to know how much cattle waste would be generated in the ranch's irrigated areas and how it would be disposed of. It also seeks assurances that the waste would not seep into groundwater from those irrigated areas.
The water agency further asks how much unwanted nitrogen and phosphorus would be generated from the waste. Those two pollutant nutrients can make their way into groundwater and pollute springs.
The issue of unwanted nutrients from waste is apparently a potential concern among Adena Springs officials themselves, according to internal emails.
One email, obtained by the Star-Banner through Florida's public records laws, involved consultant Daniel Colvin.
Colvin is an Adena consultant and also director of research programs at University of Florida's Plant Science Research and Education Unit.
He wrote to Adena spokeswoman Honey Rand that he had concerns about reducing the irrigation areas from 87 to 34 and how it would impact pasture/forest ratios and nutrient impact.
Adena lawyer Edward de la Parte emailed in response that although the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was planning to set nutrient standards for Silver Springs, those standards would not apply to Adena as long as the ranch followed Florida's agricultural "Best Management Practices."
He advised that Adena officials during an Aug. 22 public meeting discuss the lower number of irrigation areas, but not discuss details about nutrient plans.
Thomas said the internal emails reflected an attitude by Adena officials presenting Adena in the best possible light and how Florida farms were immune to many state water and pollution standards.
Thomas obtained the emails because UF is a public entity. The Star-Banner subsequently sought and received the same emails.
Rand said St. Johns' requests are extensive. "There has never been this level of scrutiny. This level … has been unprecedented."
"We're very disappointed that the (water) district did not find our application complete," she said.
"The next step is a face-to-face meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page," she said. "This level of surprise (for more information) warrants a face-to-face meeting.
"If this is an indication of what is to come from the water management district, anybody with an agricultural permit (application) out there should pay attention and be very concerned," Rand said.
Climate Change: A Bill of Billions
NJtoday.net – Opinion by Judy Weiss
January 14, 2013
Climate change is here, real, and already costing consumers, taxpayers, corporations, and federal, state, and local governments billions. Here’s how:
1. Soaring weather disaster damages: The biggest threat to our economy, now and in future, is climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Short-term, Hurricane Sandy (worsened by rising sea levels) caused $82 billion in damage and losses – economic harm that will impact the national economy, agree 100 major corporations including Time Warner, MasterCard Worldwide, Alcoa, and Xerox.
Weather-related disasters in North America increased five-fold in the last thirty years, costing $1 trillion in damages, says Munich Re, a reinsurance company. And the record drought now impacting 60 percent of the U.S. is putting us on track for another bad year.
2. Coastal communities and businesses threatened: Annual revenues from U.S. fisheries exceed $4 billion and employ one million. But East and West coast commercial fishing is suffering as warmer waters disrupt fisheries and push schools northward. Super-storms are jeopardizing fishing fleets, docks and fish processing centers on all our coasts. Worse, the oceans are getting more acidic due to carbon emissions – acidic seawater prevents oysters and other shellfish from developing.
Beach tourism is also at risk. Florida tourism annually brings in $62 billion and creates more than a million jobs. Virginia tourism employs 300,000 people and generates $31 billion. However, beach tourism will suffer as popular beaches erode, rising seas flood famous resorts, and freakish storms cause vacationers to cancel travel plans. Not to mention the economic impacts on the beach vacation home industry.
3. Drought endangers U.S. transportation system: Shipping on the Mississippi River is a $180 billion industry that may come screeching to a halt this winter if river levels drop further after an extended drought and reduced Western snow packs. More than 20,000 jobs, $130 million in wages, and $2 billion worth of agricultural commodities are at risk if river traffic ceases for just two months, says Bloomberg Businessweek.
According to scientists, climate change is causing the Mississippi to experience extremes – the heavy rain and flooding of 2011, and droughts and low water of 2012.
4. Rising food prices: 2012’s drought reduced corn production by 13 percent and soybean yield by 4 percent from 2011 levels – increasing food prices. Since cattle and pigs feed on both corn and soybeans, that also meant reduced livestock and higher meat prices. Now the ongoing drought is seriously threatening the U.S. winter wheat crop.
Typically, U.S. food prices increase 2.5-3 percent annually, but in 2013 consumers can expect food prices to rise 3-4 percent, largely due to climate change. In future, scientists forecast long-term drought for many of the nation’s food growing regions.
5. Less water means less electricity, higher energy costs: Ninety percent of our electricity comes from nuclear or fossil fuel power plants, which need cooling water. In August 2012, the Millstone nuclear plant, providing half of Connecticut’s electricity was forced to close for two weeks because seawater was too warm to cool the plant. Coal plants also require water for cooling, and many are dependent on Mississippi barges for coal deliveries.
Low water levels can cause other problems. Hoover Dam provides electricity to 29 million people. However, the water level in Lake Mead has dropped by 60 percent, causing Hoover Dam’s electrical output to drop by more than 20 percent. Less water, and warmer water, in U.S. waterways means higher electricity costs.
6. Climate change is economic death by 1,000 cuts: Drought, extreme storms, extreme heat, acidifying oceans and other climate impacts are hurting the U.S. economy – and that harm will only worsen. A new poll shows 88 percent of Americans want government to slow climate change, even if those efforts have economic costs.
The situation is serious. How can we avert catastrophe? Many scientists, economists, politicians, and legal scholars favor a carbon tax with rebates to households. See citizensclimatelobby.org and carbontax.org to understand why this is the best approach. Ask your Representative and Senators to support carbon tax legislation.
Rabbi Judy Weiss, Ph.D. of Brookline MA, is an active member of Citizens Climate Lobby, a national volunteer organization lobbying for carbon tax legislation to stabilize the climate. ©Blue Ridge Press 2013.
The report breaks down climate change impacts into seven areas, including human health, water and forests, and also takes a look at various regions of the country. It also explores the current state of adaptation.
Feds publish candid draft report on global warming
SummitCountyVoice.com - by Bob Berwyn
January 14, 2013
FRISCO — Coming shortly after the National Climatic Data Center reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the U.S., a new federal report on global warming doesn’t mince words, starting with the first paragraph of the executive summary:
“Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heatwaves, heavy downpours, ain, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising oceans are becoming more acidic and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting.”
Along with laying out the science, the report cites experiences that most Americans can relate to. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience. So, too, have coastal planners from Florida to Maine, water managers in the arid Southwest and parts of the Southeast, and Native Americans on tribal lands across the nation.”
2012 fall global temperature profile compared to long-term average
The introductory letter acknowledges that global warming may have some beneficial effects, including a longer growing season, but explains that those positive effects are likely to be outweighed by detrimental impacts, “largely because society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate of the past, not for the rapidly changing climate of the present or the future.”
The basic facts are well-known; average U.S temperatures have increased by about 1.5 degrees since 1895, with more than 80 percent of that change in just the last 30 years. The most recent decade was the hottest on record, and temperatures are expected to climb another 2 to 4 degrees in the next few decades, and up to 10 degrees by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed.
That will lead to increased chances of record-breaking high temperature extremes. It’s also clear there’s a trend toward persistently high nighttime temperatures, which have widespread impacts because people and livestock get no respite from the heat.
“In other places, prolonged periods of record high temperatures associated with droughts 36 contribute to conditions that are driving larger and more frequent wildfires. There is strong evidence to indicate that human influence on the climate has already of extreme heat events like the record-breaking summer of 2011 in Texas and Oklahoma.
The report is online at the federal advisory committee’s website, along with information on how to comment.
Silver Springs could become Florida state park
WUFT.org - by Leanna Scachetti
January 14th, 2013
Silver Springs, a Florida attraction for more than 80 years, could be named a state park.
Dr. Robert “Bob” Knight, director of the H. T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, said with the springs colorful history and famous glass-bottom boat rides in Ocala, that the state thought it would be great to convert to a state park for years.
But the springs have seen better days. Biological factors have contributed to low, murky water. Luckily, the proposal created by the Florida Park services to make Silver Springs a state park could help renew interest in its restoration.
“The last two years the average water flow has been one-half or less of the long-term average flow in Silver Springs,” said Knight.
He said that because these factors are detrimental to the health of the springs, he hopes becoming a state park could draw awareness.
Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service, is enthusiastic about plans to retain the original feel of Silver Springs and its road-side attraction theme.
Forgione said that the Park Service has previous experience converting private attractions into state parks and those projects were met with success.
Knight said definite plans are still in the works for the proposal, including getting rid of things not compatible with the state park system.
The Park Service is holding a meeting today at Vanguard High School in Ocala at 7 p.m. to get public input on the plan.
U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms settled precedent for regulating transfers of water through stormwater systems and other water infrastructure
Mondaq.com - by Lawrence R. Liebesman , Jerrold J. Ganzfried and Amy L. Edwards
14 January 2013
Ruling Provides Greater Clarity for Clean Water Act Compliance
On January 8, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned a judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that would have had vast consequences for stormwater systems and other water infrastructure across the country.
In Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., the Court held that "the flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the very same waterway does not qualify as a discharge of pollutants" under the Clean Water Act.1 By overturning the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the flood control district had violated its stormwater permit, the Justices awarded an important victory to Los Angeles County.
In many areas, stormwater, snow melt and other runoff from various non-point sources is conveyed through a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) before being discharged into navigable waters that are regulated subject to the Clean Water Act. Because such runoff is often polluted, every MS4 serving a population of at least 100,000 people must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which limits the quantity of specified pollutants that can be discharged via the MS4.2
In this case, the Los Angeles Flood Control District (District) has operated its MS4 under an NPDES permit since 1990.3 The Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper filed a citizen suit, claiming that the District had failed to comply with the water quality standards mandated by its MS4 permit, based on data from monitoring stations in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers.4The district court dismissed these claims, finding that because the water quality monitors measured stormwater combined from multiple sources, including but not limited to the District's MS4, there was insufficient evidence that the District had definitely violated the terms of its permit.5However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling, reasoning that the stormwater was "discharged" when it passed from concrete channels to unimproved portions of both rivers. Because the District controlled the improved portion of the rivers, the Ninth Circuit held that it alone had discharged the water.6
The Court's Decision
In its opinion, the Supreme Court flatly rejected the Ninth Circuit's reasoning. The specific issue before the court was whether a discharge of pollutants occurs when polluted water flows from one portion of a navigable water of the United States, through a concrete channel or other engineered improvement, into a lower portion of the same river. Based on well-settled precedent, the Court's answer to this question was clearly no.
In arriving at its decision, the Court relied on its 2004 opinion in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, in which it held that the transfer of polluted water between two parts of the same water body did not constitute a discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act.7
In Miccosukee, the polluted water was removed from a canal, transported through a pump station and then deposited into a nearby reservoir. 8 The Court held that this water transfer would count as a discharge of pollutants under the CWA only if the canal and the reservoir were "meaningfully distinct water bodies," relying on the reasoning that a "discharge" of a pollutant into a water body requires that pollutant to be added to that water body, and that no pollutant is added when already-polluted water is merely transferred from one location to another. To support this reasoning, the Court cited the Miccosukee Court's analogy that "if one takes a ladle of soup from a pot, lifts it above the pot and pours it back into the pot, one has not 'added' soup or anything else to the pot."9 Finding that reasoning to be equally applicable in this case, the Court stated "it follows, a fortiori, from Miccosukee that no discharge of pollutants occurs when water, rather than being removed and then returned to a water body, simply flows from one portion of the water body to another."10 As a result, Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's judgment.
Interestingly, the Court also flatly rejected NRDC's alternative argument for upholding the Ninth Circuit's ruling, which it had raised for the first time in its reply brief. The NRDC had argued that "the Court of Appeals reached the right result albeit for the wrong reason," because "the monitoring system proposed by the District and written into its permit showed numerous instances in which water quality's standards were exceeded," which therefore was "sufficient to establish the District's liability under the CWA for upstream discharges." In a direct rebuke of NRDC, the Court expressly refused to address this alternative argument because "it is not embraced within, or even touched by, the narrow question on which we granted certiorari."11
In reaffirming its Miccosukee decision, the Court further clarified that the mere movement of water through an engineered structure within a single navigable water cannot constitute the "addition" of a pollutant. Indeed, the implications of this decision extend far beyond Los Angeles County's MS4 system.
The decision averts what could have been potentially disastrous consequences for thousands of engineered water management systems across the country, including MS4s, dams and flood control systems, ecosystem preservation projects, and irrigation and drinking water supply networks, some of which convey crucial water supplies over long distances to meet important public needs. Had the Ninth Circuit's decision been upheld, movement of water though any one of myriad in-stream structures would have required a Clean Water Act NPDES permit. This new level of regulation would have been particularly onerous for authorities charged with transferring significant amounts of water over long distances to meet critical public needs. Instead, by reversing the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court upheld existing precedent and provided managers of such water transfers systems with greater degree of clarity and stability in the Clean Water Act's regulatory landscape.
Lawrence Liebesman, Jerrold Ganzfried and Amy Edwards are Partners in our Washington, D.C. office
1) Los Angeles County Flood Control Dist. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., No. 11-460, slip op. at 4 (U.S. Jan. 8, 2013) (hereinafter, LA Flood Control Dist. V. NRDC).
FL Capitol -
change the filling !
Legislators, not pythons, are the real threat to Everglades
Highlands Today – by Susan Clary, Florida Voices
January 13, 2013
There was a story in the news recently about a college student who, for a class experiment, placed a fake turtle in the road to watch how drivers would react.
Would they swerve to avoid hitting it? Pull over and brave traffic to save it ? Or ignore it and run over it ?
Sadly, he found that many people actually swerved over the center lane to intentionally smash the small, brown plastic turtle.
Now think about how most people feel about snakes. No matter how much we try to educate the public, people fear and hate snakes, even if they have never seen one up close.
The state of Florida is encouraging people to head down to South Florida to kill as many Burmese pythons as possible with guns and machetes. The state says the pythons are harming the Everglades.
It is sponsoring the "2013 Python Challenge" and even offering cash prizes. More than 640 hunters from 17 states have paid $25 to enter. The hunt started yesterday and ends Feb. 16 with an awards ceremony.
Participants are required to watch a 30-minute instructional video, but there is no doubt that native Florida snakes will be killed in this process, and perhaps other fragile wildlife. Many species look alike and hunters won't take the time to pull out their guides to check.
For a hunter to win a prize, the snake must be in no more than two pieces (though snakes in multiple pieces will count toward the grand total). The rules for this state-sponsored bloodshed allow for decapitation, though decapitated snakes can remain alive and writhing in pain for hours.
There is neither an exact count of the number of these snakes in Florida nor research to point to the actual harm they cause.
Pythons are among more than 500 exotic species in the state, including the prairie dog, 72 species of parrots and the squirrel monkey.
Long before the Burmese python entered Florida, there were slithering snakes sitting in the Capitol in Tallahassee bent on destroying our beloved River of Grass. The Everglades have shrunk to half their size through the growth of the sugar industry and skyrocketing development of Florida's east coast.
Lawmakers' decisions to siphon water away from the national park to cater to residential development has decimated populations of wildlife found nowhere else in the world, including the Florida panther and Cape Sable seaside sparrow.
Saving the Everglades through restoration projects and programs has been hampered by a lack of support, anemic funding and constant delays by our elected leaders.
Let's abandon the "2013 Python Challenge" and propose a new kind of contest to protect our Florida Everglades. We'll call it the "2014 Legislator Challenge" and the goal will be to cut off these errant lawmakers at the voting booth.
The grand prize ? Taking back Florida.
'Python Challenge' kicks off: 800 hunters scour Florida Everglades for invasive Burmese pythons
NYdailyNews.com – by Erik Ortiz
January 13, 2013
Wildlife officials are offering a bounty for the snakes as part of the month-long contest that started Saturday. A reward of $1,500 will go to the person who catches the most snakes, while $1,000 will be given to the hunter who finds the longest one. The pythons have been an invasive species since at least the 1980s.
Burmese pythons are now public enemy No. 1 in the Florida Everglades.
State wildlife officials are handing out a $1,500 grand prize to the hunter who can bag the most of them after a month-long contest that began Saturday.
RELATED: HUNTERS TARGET EVERGLADES' BURMESE PYTHONS IN SOUTH FLORIDA PYTHON CHALLENGE
Almost 800 people have signed up for the first-ever "Python Challenge," with the majority just average citizens who would normally lack the permits to legally eradicate the invasive species, organizers said.
“If there is a tactic, I don’t know it,” would-be hunter Steve Martinez told CBS 4 Miami. “We’re just out here to have a little fun.”
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said it doesn't take an expert tracker to catch the creatures.
“It’s very safe, getting out in the Everglades," he said, according to The Associated Press. "People do it all the time.”
The state is desperately trying to pare down the number of Burmese pythons, which are native to Asia, after seeing the adult snakes becoming top predators in the Everglades and disturbing its ecosystem. The number of pythons in the area hasn’t been determined.
It remains prohibited in Florida to own the creatures as pets, and their interstate sale is banned under federal law.
Burmese pythons have been spotted in the Everglades since the 1980s, but state officials speculate they blossomed after escaping a breeding facility damaged during Hurricane Andrew.
Finding even one of the snakes — known for their blotches similar to those on a giraffe’s body — can prove difficult in the vast wetlands of South Florida. The snakes’ dark and tan colors allow them to seamlessly slither in their surroundings.
“It’s advantage-snake,” mechanical engineer Dan Keenan said after slashing his way through a quarter-mile of scratchy sawgrass, dried leaves and woody overgrowth near a campsite in the Big Cypress National Preserve, about 50 miles southeast of Naples.
The recommended method for killing pythons is the same for killing zombies: a gunshot to the brain, or decapitation to reduce the threat. (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn't approve of the latter method, though.)
Justin Matthews, 55, a wildlife rescuer from Manatee County, told the Orlando Sentinel he plans to give the creatures a swift death.
“I grab him behind the head and stick the knife through his brain,” he said. “End it quickly.”
RELATED: 'MONSTROUS' 17-FOOT PYTHON DISCOVERED IN FLORIDA EVERGLADES
Another hunter, Warren Geffre, of Naples, told the Sentinel he brought an arsenal of weapons to aid in his search, including a .380-caliber pistol, a .40-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge pump shotgun and a 20-inch machete.
Besides a reward for killing the most Burmese pythons, $1,000 will go to the hunter who stalks the longest snake.
The largest Burmese python in the Everglades National Park was found last year, measuring 164-1/2 pounds and 17-1/2 feet long. It also was pregnant with 87 eggs.
“They were here 25 years ago, but in very low numbers and it was difficult to find one because of their cryptic behavior,” Kenneth Krysko, of the Florida Museum of Natural History, said at the time. “Now, you can go out to the Everglades nearly any day of the week and find a Burmese python."
The Python Challenge ends at midnight Feb. 10.
Wattsburg native pursues passions in Florida's Everglades
Erie Times-News - by John Dudley
January 13, 2013
Brent Anderson never wanted to choose between his two passions, biology and photography.
So he didn't.
As a result, Anderson, a 33-year-old Wattsburg native, has carved out a career with the South Florida Water Management District working on a massive project to restore the Kissimmee River.
And he's continued to shoot photos along the way, leading to the recent publication of Anderson's first book, "The Northern Everglades," a 64-page coffee-table collection of landscapes and descriptions.
"It was a dream come true putting it all together because the book is a combination of the things I'm really passionate about," said Anderson, who graduated from Mercyhurst Preparatory School and Mercyhurst College before completing work on a master's degree in biology from Florida Atlantic University six years ago.
See Monday's Erie Times-News or GoErie.com for more coverage.
CEO, Everglades Foundation
Everglades activists hope to maintain progress
Bradenton Herald – by Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald
January 12, 2013
The last few years have been good for Everglades restoration.
After a decade of delay, there have been a string of ground-breakings and dedications, most recently Friday for a pump station in deep South Miami-Dade that will send more freshwater to both parched Everglades National Park and a too-salty swath of Florida Bay. Next month, a ribbon-cutting is scheduled for a new one-mile bridge along Tamiami Trail, which has blocked the flow of the River of Grass for a century.
Florida, which fought a federal lawsuit for years, also finally agreed in June to an $880 million expansion of vast artificial marshes intended to clean up damaging farm pollution.
The challenge now: Maintain progress and, most important, the flow of money for complex and expensive projects. That was the mes
sage Friday at the annual meeting of the Everglades Coalition at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a three-day gathering that brought together some 300 activists, state and federal agency managers and political leaders.
The tone was generally optimistic from activists and the Obama administration, which has kick-started stalled efforts with some $1.5 billion in the last four years.
"The momentum of Everglades restoration continues, even during tough times," said Terrence "Rock" Salt, a longtime restoration manager and assistant secretary of the Army who oversees the Corps of Engineers.
But political and economic reality suggests tough slogging ahead. Deep federal budget cuts loom unless a divided Congress can cut a deal. With Florida still crawling out of an economic slump, state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott also have been loathe to boost the depleted budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which directs restoration for the state.
Scott, who was in Miami Thursday night, made an unscheduled stop at the coalition's opening reception. Activists said he committed to continued funding for the historic $880 million cleanup settlement.
But environmentalists are worried that district plans to pay for the clean-up will siphon money from a host of other pending restoration projects. The district's current $50 million Everglades budget, which the coalition wants to see doubled, calls for devoting $32 million to pollution clean-up alone.
Erik Eikenberg, chief executive office of The Everglades Foundation, said activists support the clean-up plan but remain concerned the state is putting too much of the bill on South Florida taxpayers and not enough on sugar growers and other farmers responsible for most of the pollution.
"We all have to come together and figure out how we are going to fund this in the long run," he said.
Federal funding, and construction work, also could begin to dry up unless Congress formally authorizes a string of restoration projects lined up and ready to go -- including projects that would begin to restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay, construct storage reservoirs in Broward County, increase water flows through the central Everglades and add another 2.5 miles of bridges on the Tamiami Trail.
Approval for such large-scale projects typically come in massive spending bills called Water Resources Development Acts. Congress hasn't agreed to one of those since 2007.
Coalition co-chair Dawn Shirreffs was hopeful that political bickering wouldn't undermine restoration, which has historically won bipartisan support, in part because it produces positive ripple effects, from protecting the water supply to producing thousands of jobs.
"This is not only just a feel-good legacy issue, this is a very pragmatic, human health and economic issue,'' she said.
National Co-Chairwoman of the Everglades Coalition
Everglades advocates making renewed push for state, federal money
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
January 12, 2013
For Everglades advocates, "going green" often means going after the money.
The Everglades Coalition this year is calling for $100 million from the belt-tightening Florida Legislature to help revive the famed River of Grass.
Also, the long-standing coalition of environmental advocates hopes to succeed where others have failed in Congress — to dislodge partisan gridlock to get overdue federal funding.
The coalition even hopes to dip into restoration money available in the wake of the BP oil spill, arguing that helping the Everglades also benefits the Gulf Coast.
The Everglades Coalition sales pitch is more than just saving what remains of one of the world's most unique habitats and endangered wildlife that lives there.
In addition to an environmental boost, restoring the Everglades protects South Florida's drinking water supply as well as fishing grounds and other waterways vital to tourism.
"This is a legacy issue [and] a human health and economic issue," said Dawn Shirreffs, national co-chairwoman of the Everglades Coalition. "It's a big challenge."
The Everglades Coalition gathered in Coral Gables over the weekend for its 28th annual conference aimed at rallying help for Everglades restoration.
The three days of meetings at the Biltmore Hotel included state and federal leaders as well as a host of environmental advocacy groups.
Their goal is to jump start slow-moving Everglades restoration. That involves cleaning up water pollution from agriculture and development and restoring stormwater flows to the Everglades. Much of that water now gets siphoned away for drinking water and irrigation or drained out to sea for flood control.
Spending billions to construct more water storage and treatment areas envisioned for restoration also leads to much-needed job creation, according to the coalition.
"These projects will bring real jobs to South Florida," Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said. "The Everglades is an economic engine," he emphasized.
But getting more state and federal money remains a huge hurdle at a time of budget cutbacks as well as lingering partisan standoffs plaguing Congress.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has so far proposed $50 million for Everglades efforts this year, half of what the coalition proposes. Meanwhile, Congress faces the prospect of deep spending cuts in the coming months if lawmakers can't agree on a federal spending plan.
"They are definitely not known these days for displaying their bipartisan support," Sarah Barmeyer of the National Parks Conservation Association said about Congress.
Supporters hope to overcome that congressional inaction and this year win support for more Everglades restoration projects. That includes the proposed Broward County Water Preserve Area that would store and clean up water. It's expected to cost nearly $900 million.
Other projects on the to-do list include transforming Palm Beach County farmland into water storage and treatment areas and raising additional portions of Tamiami Trail so that more water can flow to Everglades National Park.
Environmental advocates and government officials on Friday were able to celebrate a significant restoration achievement.
The state dedicated a newly completed restoration project aimed at keeping more water in Everglades National Park while also replenishing freshwater flows needed in Florida Bay.
The more than $51 million C-111 spreader canal project helps repair the environmental damage caused by a 15-mile-long canal in southern Miami-Dade County. The improvements help control the volume of water that flows into Florida Bay, while also protecting water supplies in Everglades National Park.
"Today we have taken another step toward our shared restoration goals," South Florida Water Management District Board Chairman Joe Collins said in a statement released Friday.
Florida Everglades restoration project: Spreader canal restores freshwater, saving wildlife
January 12, 2013
Finally there's some good news for the Everglades.
A canal project has successfully begun to restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay and preserve water for the Everglades, thereby helping to save nearby wildlife as well as the local fishing industry.
The C-111 Spreader Canal, part of the first phase of the Everglades restoration project, was dedicated Friday afternoon, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
The $26 million project, which began construction in 2010, pumps 290 million gallons of water daily into the eastern edge of the national park, the Associated Press reports, an area "starved for freshwater" after drainage by developments in Miami-Dade County.
"It keeps the water that's the right water in the right place and avoids those losses," said Tom Strowd of the South Florida Water Management District.
Audubon of Florida hopes this "hydraulic ridge" will help restore wading bird populations like that of the roseate spoonbill, whose numbers greatly decreased as freshwater became scarce.
The Associated Press reports that the canal project heeded environmental experts' warning of a "complete ecosystem collapse" due to Florida Bay's shallow waters.
Much of the Everglades was rerouted and diked in the early 20th century in an effort to drain what was then dubbed a "useless" swamp. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and her 1947 book "The Everglades: River of Grass" are largely credited with bringing international attention to the deteriorating conditions in the Glades.
This project is the latest in the federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a multibillion dollar effort to rectify developmental damage to and restore the health of the subtropical wetland.
Everglades project appears to work stopping loss of freshwater NewsChief.com (2013/01/11)
Freshwater canal project praised in Everglades Florida Today (2013/01/11)
With cash on the line, Python Challenge hunt gets underway
January 12, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- A new kind of hunting season is officially underway in Florida.
It now could pay to hunt pythons.
Wildlife experts say Burmese pythons are taking over the Everglades. So the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is holding a python challenge to help reduce their population.
More than 400 people have signed up, paying $25 and completing safety training online.
"If you use common sense and basically know what you are doing, or at the very least, understand the parameters that we want you to work under, I think we shouldn't have any problems," FWC spokesman Jorge Pino said.
On its website, the FWC lists preferred ways to kill the snakes.
The state will pay $1,000 to the hunter who kills the biggest python and $1,500 to the hunter who bags the most. The 2013 Python Challenge starts today and wraps up Feb. 10.
There are thousands of pythons living on state lands, some more than 17 feet long. Because of that, the FWC has issued special permits to licensed hunters to help remove the snakes. But the removal program hasn't done enough to protect native wildlife from the snakes.
These constrictor snakes are native to India, China and the Malay Peninsula and can grow to be 26 feet long.
Program of the Conference (CLICK)
28th Everglades Coalition Conference kicks off in Coral Gables
January 11, 2013
The 28th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference is in full swing in Coral Gables Florida. It’s a time for all those concerned about the future of the River of Grass to engage in discussions about restoration plans.
During Thursday’s reception, Governor Rick Scott shocked everyone in the crowd by showing up and doing a brief meet and greet. A spokesperson for Scott said due to a scheduling conflict, Scott was unable to attend the conference in person, but it just so happened that one of his non-public meetings, was in or nearby the Biltmore Hotel where the conference is being held. Scott said he’s happy about the latest Everglades restoration deal to clean up water pollution in the Glades, which he personally pitched in Washington.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we got an historic settlement done with the Everglades restoration project, we’re going to be funding the project over the next 12 years and we got a settlement done with the justice, Corp of Engineers, EPA and Interior, so it’s going to both increase the flow of water and the quality of water,” Scott said.
Everglades Coalition Conference Co-Chair, Dawn Shireffs said she was surprised by Scott’s visit but she’s happy he made the effort.
“Certainly having him to be able to stop by tonight and having him talk to many of us that are working Everglades restoration on the ground, shows that his support is unwavering,” Shireffs said.
But that support didn’t always seem so unwavering. Scott broke a long standing tradition, where according to the Tampa Bay Times, since 1987, every time Florida has sworn in a new governor, one of his first public appearances has been to deliver a speech at the Annual Everglades Coalition Conference.
Scott didn’t follow through, but Shireffs said his absence was understandable.
“He was able to join us last year and provide a key note address, the first year of his office it was actually the weekend of his inauguration so there was a conflict of scheduling, he wasn’t able to join us for that one and then in addition to appearing tonight he made a short vignette video that we will be playing during the coalition conference,” Shireffs pointed out.
When it comes to the decade’s long effort to restore the River of Grass, Everglades Foundation CEO, Eric Eikenberg said he’s not satisfied with where things are now.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied. I don’t think we are ever going to see ultimate restoration just based on the developments in South Florida, Southwest Florida, the dikes and the levies and the canals that have been constructed. But what we are doing is looking forward for restoration; this is a generational project,”
Eikenberg said it comes down to pushing for restoration projects and advocating for completion of those projects. On Friday officials will highlight the C1-11 spreader canal project. The canal serves to channel flood water away from western Miami-Dade County during the rainy wet Season.
Secretary Ken Salazar will be delivering the conference keynote address, tonight.
Agency seeks input on coral protection
Sun Sentinel – by D. Fleshler
January 11, 2013
Seven species of coral found off the South Florida coast may win federal protection, under a proposal to be discussed Monday at a public hearing in Dania Beach.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed extending endangered species protection to 66 coral species, including seven that live on the reefs off southeast Florida.
The proposal came in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group seeking to extend endangered species protection to additional animals.
"We really do have a coral reef crisis on our hands," said Miyoko Sakashita, senior attorney and oceans director at the center. "The scientists are telling us coral reefs could very well disappear
Corals, tiny animals that resemble sea anemones, are the ocean's engineers, constructing castles of calcium carbonate that provide homes to a vast range of marine life. The South Florida reefs are a major tourist draw for fishing and diving. One study found that reefs inject $483 million into the U.S. economy.
Among the biggest threats to corals are global warming, disease, excessive nutrients in the water and ocean acidification – a phenomenon noted in the past few years that has resulted from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.
Although these problems are beyond the powers of a single federal agency to solve, Sakashita said an endangered species listing could raise awareness of the impact of human activities on coral reefs, could lead to the designation of protected habitat and would play a role in decisions on local activities such as dredging or beach renourishment.
Putting corals on the list would not prohibit activities such as fishing, but would ban harming corals or engaging in commercial activities such as selling them, according to the fisheries service. It expects to make a final decision late this year.
The meeting Monday, intended to hear public comments, will be from 7-9 p.m. at the Nova Southeastern University Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystem Science, 8000 North Ocean Drive, Dania Beach.
Hearings are also scheduled Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. at John Pennekamp State Park Visitors Center, 102601 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, and Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 35 East Quay Road, Key West.
The whole continent is drying up -
Impact of climate change hitting home, U.S. report finds
Sun Sentinel - Reuters – by Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
January 11, 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The consequences of climate change are now hitting the United States on several fronts, including health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture and especially more frequent severe weather, a congressionally mandated study has concluded.
A draft of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released on Friday, said observable change to the climate in the past half-century "is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuel," and that no areas of the United States were immune to change.
"Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience," the report said.
Months after Superstorm Sandy hurtled into the U.S. East Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage, the report concluded that severe weather was the new normal.
"Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts," the report said, days after scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2012 the hottest year ever in the United States.
Some environmentalists looked for the report to energize climate efforts by the White House or Congress, although many Republican lawmakers are wary of declaring a definitive link between human activity and evidence of a changing climate.
The U.S. Congress has been mostly silent on climate change since efforts to pass "cap-and-trade" legislation collapsed in the Senate in mid-2010.
The 1,146-page draft report is available at http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/. A three-month period for public comment will now ensue, as well as a review by the National Academies of Sciences, before the final version is produced.
The advisory committee behind the report was established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to integrate federal research on environmental change and its implications for society. It made two earlier assessments, in 2000 and 2009.
Thirteen departments and agencies, from the Agriculture Department to NASA, are part of the committee, which also includes academics, businesses, nonprofits and others.
'A WARNING TO ALL OF US'
The report noted that of an increase in average U.S. temperatures of about 1.5 degrees F (.83 degree C) since 1895, when reliable national record-keeping began, more than 80 percent had occurred in the past three decades.
With heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere, temperatures could rise by a further 2 to 4 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees C) in most parts of the country over the next few decades, the report said.
Certain positive consequences of rising temperatures, such as a longer growing season, were said to be offset by more disruptive impacts, including:
● threats to human health from increased extreme weather events, wildfires and air pollution, as well as diseases spread by insects and through food and water;
● less reliable water supply, and the potential for water rights to become a hot-button legal issue;
● more vulnerable infrastructure due to sea-level rise, bigger storm surges, heavy downpours and extreme heat;
● warmer and more acidic oceans.
"This draft report sends a warning to all of us: we must act in a comprehensive fashion to reduce carbon pollution or expose our people and communities to continuing devastation from extreme weather events and their aftermath," Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Senate environment committee, said in a statement.
Some Democrats hope President Barack Obama will use his executive powers to clamp down further on some carbon-polluting industries. Obama has cited climate change as a priority since being re-elected in November.
Democrats could consider narrow legislation aimed at funding climate change mitigation, some environmentalists say. That might include making schools and community centers better able to withstand the extreme weather that is one expected consequence of a changing climate.
Interior chief pledges continued restoration at Everglades meeting, but mum on second term
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Post Staff Writer
January 11, 2013
Coral Gables — Speaking at the Everglades Coalition annual conference on Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar left no doubt about his support for Everglades restoration but left unanswered the question nagging the audience — would he stay for President Barack Obama’s second term?
“That’s the 10-gallon question,” said John Marshall, a long-time environmental activist and chairman of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades. “He’s done so much. Why change horses in the middle of the stream ?”
Ten cabinet members have announced they are leaving, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury of Timothy Geithner and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack have not announced their plans.
“The president’s agenda for the next four years is clear,” Salazar said, ticking off a list of projects, including Everglades restoration, that the would continue. “The Everglades restoration will continue no matter who is secretary of the interior.”
Salazar is widely seen as resurrecting interest in Everglades restoration that had waned in Washington. Under the George W. Bush administration, the department urged the United Nations’ World Heritage Committee, which monitors the globe’s important natural and cultural sites, to remove the Everglades from its endangered list.
Salazar’s dedication to restoring the Everglades became apparent in his frequent trips to Florida — 10 since he was appointed secretary in October 2009 — and his admission that of all the thousands of federal projects and programs, he spends the most time on Everglades restoration.
In 2010, Salazar announced $1.25 million of money from Obama’s stimulus plan would be used to remove nuisance exotic species from the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Delray Beach.
That same year he created the position of director of Everglades initiatives and appointed Shannon Estenoz, a civil engineer and former member of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District, to fill the position.
In 2011 Salazar visited Florida to unveil the Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, a collaborative effort between landowners north of Lake Okeechobee and federal and state agencies. To reinforce the administration’s commitment to restoration, Salazar called Gov. Rick Scott shortly after Scott was sworn in, saying he was concerned that Florida would start backtracking on the Everglades restoration effort: “I told him it was important not to lose that momentum.”
Scott traveled to Washington in October 2011 and met with Salazar to unveil his own Everglades restoration plan. Salazar said he was “delighted” with Scott’s trip to Washington but questioned the science behind Scott’s plan and Scott’s estimates on how long it would take to get the job done.
In a meeting with The Palm Beach Post’s editorial board in November 2011, Salazar summarized the administration’s feelings towards Florida’s efforts, saying “If there is a dance going on between the United States of the America and the State of Florida, we hope it’s a good dance.”
Lake Apopka cleanup project could be money-maker
January 11, 2013
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An experiment to clean decades of muck out of Lake Apopka could actually pay back some money. Some researchers said the project could pay for half of the costs of cleaning up the lake.
Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer said the project is a beautiful sight.
"These kinds of advances make me giggle, it's the kind of thing where you say yes, it's a success, we need to keep after it," said Brummer.
Brummer said his longtime mission is to see Lake Apopka once again become a useable lake.
"You can't find this kind of a resource anywhere. God gives you this one time. We messed it up, now we've got to fix it," said Brummer.
"See any boats? Might as well declare it a wilderness area," said Dr. Dan Canfield, a lake management specialist from the University of Florida.
Canfield is the mastermind behind the project.
"We, the state, has spent a quarter billion to a half billion dollars on restoring up this lake, and you've got nothing," said Canfield.
Canfield said if the new process works, the lake could once again be a vibrant bass fishery with five years and $25 million.
The problem at Lake Apopka, one of the largest lakes in Florida, is that it is filled with a thick, smelly, soupy muck.
In previous attempts to clean the lake, the muck is spread across acres of land.
The new method spins the mucky water through a machine that spits the muck out as odorless, crumbly dirt that can then be turned into potting soil. And the water comes out clean.
"If we can create the access and the boat basin and the habitat for plants, you can eventually turn this lake around," said Canfield.
"Will this project work? I'm hoping. I'm praying," said Brummer.
Sen. Alan Hays and state Rep. Brian Nelson and secured $1.4 million for the project.
Right now researchers are trying to figure out how fast the potting soil can be created and how much it could sell for.
Hotter and drying up -
U.S. will be 2-4 degrees hotter in coming decades, new Climate Report says
January 11, 2013
Temperatures will continue to rise in America, "with the next few decades projected to see another 2 degrees [Fahrenheit] to 4 degrees [Fahrenheit] of warming in most areas," according to the latest National Climate Assessment, which came out Friday afternoon.
That means we can expect to see more "extreme weather events," according to the report, such as heavy precipitation — particularly in the Northeast and Midwest — and intense Atlantic hurricanes. Other parts of the U.S. will experience heat waves and droughts, especially in the West.
By 2100, U.S. temperatures are projected to rise 3 to 5 degrees, under the most optimistic estimates — and 5 to 10 degrees if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.
While it doesn't seem to bring any startling new facts to the table, the assessment's authors say that "evidence for a changing climate has strengthened considerably" since the last report, issued in 2009.
Some of that evidence has been on display recently. Earlier this week, we were told that 2012 was the hottest year on record for most of the U.S. The year's weather, marked by droughts and powerful storms, led NPR's Adam Frank to call 2012 "the year that climate change got real for Americans."
Seeking to highlight the everyday effects of those changes, the report's advisory committee included a "Letter to the American People," in which they laid out some of the ways the changing weather has begun to affect livelihoods and futures:
"Many more impacts of human-caused climate change have now been observed. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience. So, too, have coastal planners from Florida to Maine, water managers in the arid Southwest and parts of the Southeast, and Native Americans on tribal lands across the nation."
The 1,193-page report, the work of more than 240 scientists, is in "draft" form; it has been released for three months of review and comment by other scientists and the public. That review period will begin Monday.
"This could help restart a national conversation about climate change," writes Todd Sanford, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It gives us a road map for climate change. And the road is much bumpier if we continue along a higher emissions pathway."
What kind of role will Congress play this year in Everglades restoration efforts ?
WFSU.org - by Sascha Cordner
January 11, 2013
Congressional, state, and environmental leaders are hoping to continue trying to make the Everglades a focus this year. From a bipartisan group of lawmakers working together in Congress to federal and state officials exploring ways to continue their efforts through an open forum, restoring Florida’s River of Grass could take center stage this year.
“It’s something that I’m very passionate about and it’s something that’s a priority for most of the folks in my district.”
Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, a new face in Congress, says preserving a historic site like the Everglades is one of his main goals, not only for himself, but also for House District 18, the South Florida area he serves.
So, he’s partnering with another Florida Congressman, Tom Rooney, a Republican, on some legislation that he says would do some needed good in the area. Murphy says what it comes down to is improving the water quality, and one of the ideas they’re talking about is preventing the disrupting flows of dirty water.
“There’s these discharges that leave Lake Okeechobee when the lake fills up to a certain level. And, because of a failing dike, that’s at risk for nearly bursting at the seams, they have to discharge the water and they do it out of the east and the west. And, when it comes out of the St. Lucie River. It really causes a lot of problems, not to mention the smell and it’s filthy and it leads to algae blooms," said Murphy.
"So, bottom line: How do we best prevent these discharges? And, overall, how do we improve the water quality. And, there’s a lot that’s been done, don’t get me wrong. But, it takes a lot of time and unfortunately, it’s very expensive.”
He says if something isn’t done about the water quality, it will continue to affect areas, like Florida’s real estate, the fishing industry, and tourism. Murphy says these are all things Congress should be worried about, which is why he’s all for the revival of the Congressional Everglades Caucus by two senior Congressmen, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Alcee Hastings.
“I plan on joining that Caucus ASAP. And, it’s really about education and informing other members of Congress and the public about the urgency of the situation here and why it’s so important to really so much of Southern Florida. So, I think if more people understood the importance of it, when it comes to the Appropriations time in Congress, these projects will get funded,” Murphy remarked.
And, Dawn Shirreffs, the National Everglades Coalition Co-Chair agrees. She says there’s a four to 1 return on investment on Everglades restoration, and Congressional leaders need to know.
Shirreffs says with Republicans and Democrats working for the benefit of the Everglades this year can only mean more good things in the future to help with barriers to Everglades restoration.
“Well, one of the biggest challenges that we have had is that Everglades Restoration when it was passed as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan relies on as we design each project, we would have to return to Congress, even if the project overall had already been reauthorized. And, the trouble with that is it relied on a vehicle called the Water Resources Development Act, which traditionally passes every two years. But, Congress hasn’t been passing the Water Resources Development Act over the last 7 years," said Shirreffs.
"And, so we’ve had a challenge about how can we get the projects that are already to go authorized so that we can begin construction.”
Shirreffs says overall, despite some setbacks, in the last four years, she’s seen outstanding progress with restoration efforts and hopes to work with policymakers in the future.
At the time of her remarks, Shirreffs was at the the Everglades Coalition 28th Annual Conference, one of the largest open forum for exploring restoration ideas for Florida’s Everglades hosted by the Everglades Foundation. Also, in attendance were members from Congress, like Democrat Patrick Murphy, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and even a surprise appearance by Governor Rick Scott.
Audubon Florida CEO
Audubon state president talks with Martin County club members about preserving Florida's Special Places
TCPalm.com - by Alisha McDarris
January 10, 2013
STUART — Audubon of Martin County members and many other individuals passionate about the wildlife and waterways of Martin County got a special treat last night.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and president of the Florida Audubon Society, gave a presentation at the Port Salerno Civic Center in Stuart on the preservation of Florida's Special Places — parks, forests and waterways that make Florida unique.
"We're so lucky to live in Florida with all the Florida special places," Draper said.
Draper talked about local wildlife like the Florida grasshopper sparrow and Everglade snail kite that are endangered due to mistreatment of the Everglades and surrounding lands and water.
"We measure ecological health by wading birds. What would the Everglades be without its birds? A big wet area. Birds are the measure and treasure of Florida," Draper said.
Draper also led a charge to action, encouraging Martin County residents to get involved in the preservation and restoration by: Taking yourself to a park, taking a friend, taking photos and notes, sharing the experience and taking action.
"Martin County residents can really make a difference. They need to be involved. They need to pay attention to what's going on in Tallahassee," Draper said.
He suggested that writing to congressmen, signing petitions like the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, and joining the Florida Conservation network are good places to start.
The amendment petition was available to sign at Draper's presentation and would dedicate state funds for water and land conservation, management and restoration across the state, including Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River.
If passed, the amendment would redirect less than one percent of Florida's 60 billion dollar budget to conservation efforts.
The amendment can be reviewed at www.floridawaterlandlegacy.org.
Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Estuary were also hot topics at the presentation as Draper and several audience members discussed their concerns about how water from the lake is endangering wildlife locally and farther south in the Everglades.
"Water belongs to all of us," Draper said, as he encouraged residents to get involved.
Draper motivated attendees to learn about the issues and upcoming decisions, visit local and state parks to be inspired, and make themselves heard among elected officials so that local lands and waterways can be preserved and protected.
Big Sugar land deals in Everglades plan draw environmental concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 10, 2013
Big Sugar land deals lumped into Florida's revamped Everglades restoration plan are raising concerns with environmentalists worried about prolonging water pollution for decades.
The state would trade 8,700 acres of taxpayer-owned farmland in Palm Beach County to sugar giant Florida Crystals for about 1/3 as much private property more strategically located for new restoration plans.
The state also would extend leases, some for as long as 30 years, allowing Florida Crystals and other sugar cane growers to continue farming publicly owned land that was once part of the Everglades.
In addition, about $2 million of South Florida taxpayers' money would be used to buy 638 acres of agricultural land west of Lake Okeechobee.
The goal is to acquire more land to store and clean up stormwater needed to replenish the Everglades and to start meeting overdue federal water quality standards.
But Audubon of Florida and the Everglades Foundation question the newly surfaced lease extensions that would leave sugar cane farming — and the influx of polluting phosphorus that can come with it — entrenched for decades in areas targeted for restoration.
"We are very concerned," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida. "It has just been very under the table. … It hasn't been open to the public at all."
The collection of land trades, lease extensions and purchases goes before the Florida Cabinet for approval on Jan. 23.
The South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday gave initial approval to the $2 million purchase of the 638 acres of A. Duda & Sons, Inc. farmland in Glades County west of Lake Okeechobee. It's contingent on Duda getting 30-year lease extensions on state-owned farmland in Palm Beach County.
District officials contend that the chance to store more water for Everglades restoration is worth extending leases on land where farming already occurs.
"This is a fantastic project from all sides," District Board Member Daniel DeLisi said.
Florida Crystals would get more land than it is giving up because its 2,000 acres — near the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — is more productive farmland than the property to the north that the district is offering in the trade, Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said.
"They object to things just because there is progress being made," Cantens said about the environmental groups. "It's just unbelievable."
A revamped $1.5 billion Everglades restoration plan unveiled in June calls for building new water storage and treatment areas along with other improvements over more than a decade.
The proposed land trades would result in Florida Crystals acquiring a large portion of land formerly owned by competitor U.S. Sugar Corp.
The water management district in 2010 acquired 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land in a high-profile, $197 million Everglades restoration land deal that Florida Crystals fought in court.
Florida Crystals has "moved on" from its fight over the district's deal with U.S. Sugar and was always willing to trade land for Everglades restoration, Cantens said.
"We have always supported legitimate restoration efforts. … Certainly this is one of them," Cantens said. "It's the land that the district owns that is available for sugar cane farming, which is what we do."
Regulating Florida’s environment or easing environment regulation ?
Palm Beach Post – Editorial by Randy Schultz, Editorial Board
January 10, 2013
For the last two weeks, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been sending out “setting the record straight” news releases in response to critical newspaper editorials. The talking points, though, mostly talk past the facts.
The editorials followed a Christmas Day story in the Tampa Bay Times that the the DEP had laid off 58 employees, some of whom were veteran, effective environmental regulators. One had prevented severe damage to Tampa Bay from a phosphate plant. Also, since Gov. Rick Scott named defense contracting executive Herschel Vinyard DEP secretary two years ago, the department has filled top management positions with people who had worked for industries the department regulates.
The DEP release says the layoffs came from “reorganizations…after months-long assessments of procedures and processes as well as staffing and workload levels.” OK, but why did all those “assessments” result in these particular employees being laid off ? A DEP spokesman said it was part of a “changed management structure” that placed 50 regulators under one supervisor in the agency’s Tampa office.
“We still have thousands of employees,” the spokesman said, echoing yet another of the talking points in the releases. True, the DEP still employs roughly 4,000 people. But these layoffs seem concentrated in the area of regulation. More to the point, the agency could have twice that many employees and Florida’s environment still would be at risk if those employees weren’t very good or weren’t allowed to regulate forcefully.
Which brings us to those fresh-from-industry hires. The DEP’s deputy secretary for regulatory programs is Jeff Littlejohn. He had worked for the North Palm Beach engineering firm of Isiminger & Stubbs. The firm’s job is to obtain environmental permits for its clients. Mr. Littlejohn is the son of Charles Littlejohn, a Tallahassee lobbyist whose clients include large landowners that seek DEP permits. An engineer who worked for developers oversees water resource management for the DEP. Air pollution regulation belongs to a lawyer whose former firm regularly seeks permits for polluters.
Florida has at least a two-decades history of sometimes conflicted people serving as the top environmental regulator. Similarly, a man who had aggressively lobbied for developers wound up running Florida’s growth-management agency. But once in office, Tom Pelham became a strong-growth management advocate. And at the levels where policy is set, environmental regulation went on fairly consistently.
Gov. Scott, though, has made clear that he considers regulation a burden to business. We would argue that a healthy environment helps to attract business, by raising the quality of life and increasing property values. Judging by its news releases, the DEP seems more concerned with trying to make bad publicity go away rather than make a persuasive case for controversial decisions. Which doesn’t set the record straight about the DEP’s commitment to protect Florida’s environment.
Salazar expected at Florida Everglades conference
San Francisco Chronicle
January 10, 2013
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to join Everglades activists, elected officials and business leaders to discuss state and federal restoration projects.
The three-day Everglades Coalition Conference opens Thursday in Coral Gables. Organizers say this year's conference will focus on advancing existing efforts that protect wildlife, preserve clean water and promote the economic benefits of Everglades restoration.
On Friday, the South Florida Water Management District will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Miami-Dade County canal project that is the first to be completed under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The canal project helps restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay, keeps clean water in Everglades National Park and maintains flood control for communities east of the Everglades.
Congress approved the sweeping, multibillion-dollar plan in 2000, but little progress has been made.
State's water rules better than the federal regulations, agencies say
Bradenton Herald – by Nick Williams
December 9, 2012
MANATEE -- State and private agencies in Florida say the federal government should have allowed the state to implement and regulate its own water rules, rather than having to follow pollution rules set forth by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that they say will cost the state millions of dollars to reach compliance.
The federal water rules were in addition to rules drafted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protect Florida's waterways from excess nitrogen and phosphorus, which cause algae blooms and contaminate drinking water sources.
State rules established numeric limits on pollution in Florida springs, lakes, streams and some estuaries outside of South Florida, which includes a major portion of the Everglades. The limits must not exceed a certain threshold more than once in a three-year period.
Pollutants in the Manatee River estuary, for example, must not exceed 0.37 ton of total phosphorus, 1.80 tons of nitrogen and 8.8 micrograms per liter of chlorophyll-A more than once in a three-year period.
Fortunately for Manatee, the county department of natural resources has already assured it meets the required estuary criteria.
"At first glance, we feel we're OK," said Rob Brown, the department's division manager of environment protection.
Brown said the Manatee River estuary is protected under the Tampa Bay Reasonable Assurance plan, but in regards to Manatee's lakes, streams and creeks, the county is in the process of trying to meet DEP and EPA requirements.
The EPA approved the state's rules but determined the rules do not cover certain waters. EPA then proposed federal numerical limits on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in estuaries and coastal waters, as well as streams in South Florida, and Florida's inland waters. A notice was filed in federal court in Tallahassee last month requiring Florida to adopt the rules.
The action taken by EPA did not resonate well in Florida.
"The EPA's approval of DEP's numeric nutrient criteria benefits Floridians in that these rules are based on the best available science, will yield measurable environmental improvement and cost less to implement than the rules EPA had at one time proposed," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
"However, in approving Florida's criteria, the EPA also proposed additional rules on some of Florida's estuaries and canals beyond what was proposed by the state.
"While I'm glad to see we're making progress, we will, undoubtedly, continue to debate this issue," Putnam said. "I will continue to work to ensure that Florida remains in control of Florida's own destiny."
Prior to the judge's ruling last month, DEP estimated it would cost between $51 million and $150 million each year to comply with its rules.
The implementation of the EPA's proposed rules, however, could potentially cost the state and the affected sectors an additional $239 million to $632 million annually.
Each household could see an additional cost of $44 to $108 annually, according to EPA documents.
Compliance could result in up to $100 million annually in ecological, human health and economic benefits, according to the EPA.
The state's DEP office defended its original draft proposal on water rules.
"Not only are the DEP rules the most comprehensive nutrient standards in the nation, they in fact go beyond the federal rules by including additional criteria which measure biological health, coverage for numerous additional water bodies, and provisions to take action for any adverse nutrient trends regardless of levels," Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for Florida's DEP, said in an email to the Bradenton Herald.
Compliance with federal rules may pose a challenge for the DEP, which recently removed 26 employees from its Southwest District office in Tampa and eliminated 14 vacant positions, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national non-profit agency.
Florida's Farm Bureau backed the state's approach to water rules.
"We would have preferred for the EPA to say, 'Florida, you're better equipped,'" said Charles Shinn, the Farm Bureau's director of government and community affairs. "They should be patting DEP on the back because of the proactive stance they have taken."
Shinn, who said the Farm Bureau does not oppose the EPA's rules, said most of the waters that are of concern for agriculture use fall under state regulation, not the EPA.
The Farm Bureau has yet to determine how federal rules will affect farmers and ranchers in Florida, Shinn said.
Environmentalists, however, praised the EPA's decision.
"DEP has been deficient in water quality analysis and protection of water body for many years," said Glenn Compton, director of ManaSota-88, a regional environmental watchdog protection group.
"We have to look at the federal level for protection because the state is not doing it."
The EPA will hold a public hearing on its proposed rules Jan. 17-18 in Tampa.
Bipartisan Florida team to revive Everglades Caucus in U.S. House
Times/Herald - by Curtis Morgan and Alex Leary, Staff Writers
January 9, 2013
For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.
With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the "Everglades Caucus" in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.
In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.
"The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy," Diaz-Balart said. "We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem."
Hastings called the Everglades "a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water."
DEP on clean-up plan for 'Glades Clean-up’
January 9, 2013
"This integrated plan will clean up water to protect the unique wetland system that makes up the Everglades Protection Area," said (SFWMD) District Executive Director Meeker. "With a firm commitment to design, construct and operate a comprehensive and science-based suite of remedies, the District is taking a landmark step toward meeting the water quality needs of America's Everglades. We will continue to work closely with our federal partners to finalize and implement these important projects."
Highlights of the strategies include:
● Design, construction and completion of 90 percent (99,000 acre-feet) of the required associated storage within four years. Capable of storing 32 billion gallons of water, the Flow Equalization Basins will be located adjacent to existingstormwater treatment areas in the Everglades. This advanced combination of "green" technologies will better optimize water deliveries to new and existing treatment facilities, allowing water managers to treat runoff to extremely low levels of phosphorus for the first time in the state's environmental history.
● Doubling the size of Stormwater Treatment Area 1-West adjacent to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The District will construct 4,700 acres of additional treatment by 2018 and start construction on another 1,800 acres that same year. This expansion spanning ten square miles will increase by 50 percent the treatment capacity of water quality facilities currently discharging into the Refuge.
● Improving treatment in the western Everglades by adding 11,000 acre-feet of associated storage in the C-139 Basin that is capable of storing 3.5 billion gallons.
● Improving the operation of existing treatment wetlands in the western Everglades by retrofitting 800 acres of constructed wetlands in Stormwater Treatment Area 5.
● State-issued and enforceable Everglades Forever Act and Clean Water Act permits, including stringent discharge limits, for each of the District's stormwater treatment areas.
● A robust science plan to ensure continued biological, ecological and operational research to improve and optimize the performance of water quality treatment technologies. The District's constructed wetlands and flow equalization basins utilize cutting-edge science and engineering and are the largest of their kind in the nation.
● Utilizing thousands of acres of land already in public ownership, which minimizes impacts to Florida's agricultural-based economy and accelerating construction of new projects.
Regional source controls in areas of the eastern Everglades where phosphorus levels in runoff has been historically higher.
● Creation of approximately 1,550 direct jobs and 15,350 indirect jobs through construction of these facilities.
To protect the Everglades' unique makeup of flora and fauna, the Department established a stringent phosphorus water quality standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb). This ultra-low phosphorus limit for the Everglades is six times cleaner than rainfall and 100 times lower than limits established for discharges from industrial facilities.
To reduce nutrient pollution to the Everglades and achieve state and federal water quality requirements, the District constructed massive treatment wetlands known as Stormwater Treatment Areas that use plants to naturally remove phosphorus from water flowing into the Everglades. State law also requires best management practices on the 640,000 acres of agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.
More than 45,000 acres-or 70 square miles-of treatment area are today operational and treating water to average phosphorus levels of less than 40 ppb and as low as 12 ppb. The District is completing construction of an additional 11,500 acres this month. Together with best farming practices, stormwater treatment areas have prevented more than 3,800 tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades since 1994. This past year, the treatment wetlands treated 735,000 acre-feet of water and reduced the total phosphorus loads to the Everglades Protection Area by 79 percent.
This plan to improve water quality builds upon Florida's $1.8 billion investment in Everglades water quality improvements to ensure achievement of the 10 ppb ambient water quality standard for the Everglades Protection Area. The schedule for implementing new projects balances economic realities with engineering, permitting, science and construction limitations. The plan proposes to utilize a combination of state and district revenues to complete the projects.
EPA rules for Florida's waters
SierraClub.org – Press Release by Frank Jackalone
January 9, 2013
We are at a major turning point in the battle over Clean Water Act enforcement in Florida.
Most of you are aware that on November 30, EPA made a complex decision on setting numeric nutrient standards for Florida's waters. Environmental leaders and the media initially reported it as a major victory, but so did many of the state's biggest water polluters.
So what really happened ?
The plaintiffs in the litigation which forced EPA's action - Earthjustice, Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, St. John's Riverkeeper and the Environmental Confederation - spent the past few weeks analyzing EPA's full decision and reading the political tea leaves.
Here's a quick summary of what we know:
1. EPA approved Florida DEP's nutrient rules for 15% of the state's waters. DEP's rules contain "thresholds" and standards that are less stringent than EPA had proposed.
2. EPA proposed strong rules for the remaining 85% of Florida's waters, but it also has signaled that it is prepared to withdraw those rules and transfer that authority to Florida DEP. -- That would turn a major clean water victory into defeat.
This is the worst possible time to put the Florida Department of Protection in charge of enforcing the Clean Water Act. As the media have reported, the DEP is firing experienced staffers and replacing them with people who represent polluting industries.
Polluter lobbyists, in fact, crafted the DEP’s ineffective rules. They hold enormous influence in the Scott Administration and in Legislature. It is simply irresponsible to turn this over to the DEP.
See the attached fact sheet for our detailed assessment of EPA's action.
EPA also announced that it would hold public information sessions in Tampa on January 17-18 to answer questions and take comments on the rules. It is of vital importance that hundreds of clean water advocates gather in Tampa to demand that EPA not turn clean water enforcement over to Florida DEP. Details follow below in our action alert.
EPA will soon decide whether it will enforce the Clean Water Act or hand a "get out of jail free card" to Florida's polluters. The moment is now to let our voices be heard and take action together.
Oil and dispersant from Deepwater Horizon disaster prove toxic to Florida coral reef species
Tampa Bay Times - by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
January 9, 2013
Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster would have killed coral reefs in the Florida Keys if the plume had reached that far south, especially when mixed with the dispersant Corexit 9500, according to new study published Wednesday.
"Dispersant and oil combined is worse than the oil alone," said Kim Ritchie, a senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota who is one of the authors of the paper.
The oil and dispersant from Deepwater Horizon likely damaged or killed coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, Ritchie said, but no one has reported any studies on that aspect of the disaster. At one point about a month after the spill began, the plume of oil floated over the western edge of a roughly 61-mile expanse of 300-to-500-foot-deep reef south of Louisiana known as the Pinnacles.
Coral reefs provide shelter, breeding grounds, and nursery habitat for a variety of fish and other creatures. They are made up of corals, living organisms that work with other corals to create underwater ridges.
The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers. Two days later oil began spewing from a pipe a mile beneath the surface, and BP and its partners were not able to stop it until July. Before BP could cap the well, 5 million barrels of oil gushed into the gulf.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved BP using a dispersant to try to break up the oil slick before it reached land. The EPA had tested Corexit on fish and shrimp before clearing it for use.
BP sprayed the dispersant directly at the wellhead spewing oil, even though no one had ever tried spraying it below the water's surface before. BP also used more of the dispersant than had been used in any previous oil spill, 1.8 million gallons.
Ritchie, who has spent 20 years studying coral reef organisms, said she and other scientists in the Keys during the 2010 disaster wondered if it would make it to the Keys and if so what the effects would be, as well as the effects of using a dispersant.
They collected two species of coral —- brooding coral and broadcast spawning coral. Then they bought Corexit from the manufacturer, Texas-based manufacturer Nalco Energy Services, and acquired some of the oil that spilled from Deepwater Horizon, and exposed the coral to different levels of each both separately and together. Their study was funded by money from the sale of Florida "Protect the Reef" license plates.
That the oil itself was toxic to the corals was no surprise. But no one had tried mixing in Corexit before, Ritchie said.
"The results of the present study clearly indicate that dispersants are highly toxic to early life stages of coral," the scientists concluded in the study, which was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Ritchie said the results of this study should be taken into account by any federal agency reviewing plans for dealing with a potential spill anywhere near a coral reef — especially off the Florida Keys.
A study released last month on the impact of the oil spill on microscopic marine creatures called rotifers found that a mix of dispersant and oil was more than 50 times more toxic to them than the oil alone.
In November, Kitson & Partners offered to sell the acreage to Lee County's Conservation 20/20 program for about $33.7 million.
Picking out a prime land parcel
News-Press.com – by Thomas Himes
January 9, 2013
Officials tour chunk of Babcock Ranch for possible designation for conservation 20/20 program.
Lee County officials Tuesday toured a 2,500-acre chunk of Babcock Ranch that could be purchased with conservation funds.
The excursion offered members of the Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Committee a chance to examine the land before they formally consider moving it along in the county's purchasing process.
"It has great conservation value, and hopefully it will continue through the process," Parks Supervisor Cathy Olson said after returning from the tour.
Funding for Conservation 20/20 comes from a 50 cent tax the county levies on every $1,000 of taxable property value. The program is to preserve open spaces and natural habitat in Lee County.
The parcel is a prime candidate for conservation, Olson said.
Not only is it close to other conservation lands, much of its natural habitat is intact, she said.
"The most important thing is it's a very large piece, adjacent to some of our other conservation land, which is very important when you're trying to conserve land," Olson said.
Before the county offers to buy conservation land, CLASAC evaluates its size, proximity to other conservation lands, abundance of native habitat and other attributes.
Larger properties that are close to existing nature preserves and feature diverse native habitats receive more points under the county's scoring process.
County officials use that scoring process to rank properties against each other and prioritize them for purchase.
Also of concern to county officials is a property's price. In a series of audits, the Clerk of Court concluded last year that the county paid exorbitant amounts for conservation lands.
At $15,000 per acre, Kitson's asking price amounts to roughly double the per acre price the county paid for 5,620 acres of Babcock Ranch in 2006 - before the real estate market crash, according to property appraiser documents.
The asking price, however, has fallen since 2008, when the county was offered the same property for $20,000 an acre, according to county documents.
"It's like selling any other piece of property: you've got to start somewhere," Babcock Ranch President Tom Danahy said. "Basically, we think that's pretty close to what the value is."
After the county appraises the property, the county will start talking dollars with Kitson.
Danahy said the opportunity to sell the property in the "short term" prompted his company to offer it to the county. Over the long run, he said, Kitson will have the chance to use the land to other ends.
"It's a beautiful, pristine property," Danahy said.
Governing board members have demonstrated remarkable independence, at times, from politics and from inappropriate state supervision. Those days seem to be over. The centralized command-and-control methods now exerted from Tallahassee over the five regional water management districts will not be reversed with future board appointments. Governors and legislators have learned how to nulllify WMD independence.
Real water management reforms
Watery Foundation – Blog by Tom Swihart
January 9, 2013
Florida’s water management system is probably still one of the best in the country even with crippling legislative restraints imposed in the last 10-15 years and after successful attacks by the current one-term governor. Assaults on the state’s water management system have been strengthening for a number of years. It seems to me that this long-term pattern calls for major changes to forestall more deterioration.
I plan to discuss some possible major reforms in the next several posts. Some of these ideas have moved beyond what I said in my 2011 book. The first idea: Elect, not appoint, board members of the water management districts. A big change !
Why ? The reasons usually given for the appointment system are to insulate the governing board from political pressure and to promote independent regional action on behalf of the water resource.
In the past, that made sense.
These new realities require an appropriate response. For a number of reasons, board members elected in their region today would be much more likely than appointed members to work on behalf of their region’s needs and would not be nearly as beholden to Tallahassee.
More next time on how this would work.
Red tide problem persists
January 9, 2013
A red tide bloom that’s lingered off the Southwest Florida coast since September appears to be gaining strength again, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation reports.
Counts for Lee County waters released Wednesday ranged from not present to 1 million cells per liter or more. Coastal areas from Tampa south to the Florida Keys have shown at least a trace of Karenia brevis in recent weeks.
Charlotte Harbor posted million-plus counts in several areas. Collier county water monitoring groups found low concentrations in North Naples and near Marco Island.
For Lee County, the most toxic measurements came near Sanibel, where thousands of dead sardines washed up in recent days.
Fish kills and respiratory problems in humans and marine mammals can begin once levels reach 10,000 cells per liter. Red tide here is caused by Karenia brevis, a natural algae that occurs off the coast.
Scientists and water quality experts have suggested that polluted stormwater run-off can increase the impacts of a bloom or extend the duration of the event.
Red tide: Thousands of dead sardines wash ashore on Sanibel
Red tide kills thousands of fish in Sarasota, Charlotte counties
Tallahassee receives honors from EPA for water quality
January 9, 2013
City of Tallahassee Release: 2012 Water Quality Report Recognized For Excellence
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the City of Tallahassee the prestigious Excellence Award for its exemplary annual 2012 Water Quality Report as well as its outstanding public awareness activities and long history of environmental stewardship in the community.
The Water Quality Report is also known as the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). It is a federally mandated publication that provides customers with important information on the City’s drinking water quality and supply, advanced technology and resource protection accomplishments.
The City’s report placed first in the Large Groundwater System Category (serving 100,000+ customers) among the eight other state winners from EPA Region IV. This area includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), which reviews all CCRs in the state, chose Tallahassee’s report as the state winner in its category and nominated it for the regional competition.
“Being recognized by the EPA reinforces what we know to be true, that the City of Tallahassee provides the best-tasting, highest quality drinking water that exceeds all federal and state standards and the importance we place on communicating with our residents,” said City Commissioner Nancy Miller, lead commissioner on the City’s Long Range Planning Target Issue Committee. “Achieving this top honor reflects our longstanding commitment to preserving local water resources and protecting the environment.”
The EPA’s annual Excellence Award recognizes water systems that demonstrate a commitment to go beyond compliance to produce outstanding and highly informative CCRs. It also highlights the Water Utility’s strong commitment to ensure safe drinking water, protect public health, foster water resource education and encourage citizen support to maintain the utility’s noteworthy status.
Since 1999, Your Own Utilities has provided customers with an annual CCR in accordance with federal mandates set forth by the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act.
The educational brochure is mailed to all City Water customers and is available online at Talgov.com/YOU.
Florida Power & Light is seeking the use of up to 90 million gallons of wastewater a day to cool two new reactors, and to create a network of coastal wells that would tap groundwater under Biscayne Bay as a back-up cooling system.
Miami-Dade to consider FPL bid for two new South Miami-Dade reactors
Miami Herald – by Charles Rabin
January 8, 2013
County commissioners will meet Tuesday to decide whether to allow FP&L to build cooling systems for two new proposed nuclear reactors at Turkey Point in South Miami-Dade.
Miami-Dade County commissioners will meet for a second time Thursday to vote on “unusual use” permits that could pave the way for a pair of controversial new reactors at the existing nuclear power plant at Turkey Point in South Miami-Dade.
When commissioners last met over the issue in December, not enough attended to constitute a quorum.
Environmentalists argue the treatment plant would destroy about 40 acres of wetlands. They also fear the shallow wells could hurt efforts to restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay and worsen the inland march of saltwater that could threaten the county’s drinking water supply.
FPL says the plan is one of the last significant hurdles it needs to clear to add the reactors to the complex on Biscayne Bay.
The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First Ave. It is open to the public.
Oysters, oysters and (no) more oysters
ApalachTimes.com - by David Adlerstein
January 8, 2013
If there was one story that dominated the news pages this year, it was all about oysters. The good, the bad and the beautiful.
First came the good news, a shattering second-year success for Apalachicola’s annual Oyster Cookoff in January.
“It’s been awesome,” said Marisa Getter, one of the event’s key organizers. “Look at all these people. So far so good, this is awesome.”
Caroline and Jeff Ilardi, took top honors with their Tupelo Oysters, raw oysters topped with kumquat jelly, kumquat pulp, jalapeno peppers, tupelo honey, rice wine vinegar and chopped shallots.
By mid year, though, there was clearly trouble beginning to brew in the oyster industry.
In May, a directive from federal immigration officials led to the dismissal of 41 Hispanic workers from Apalachicola’s Leavins Seafood, due to their failure to comply with regulations they produce valid documentation of their right to work in the United States.
Grady Leavins, 68, said Tuesday he was saddened by having to release the workers, many of whom he said worked there several years and were like family to them. He said the facility remains open six days a week, and is continuing operations, although with fewer staff and a larger volume of product imported from other states.
By September, the crisis befalling the oyster industry was far broader than one oyster plant’s workers.
Before an overflow crowd held in the main courtroom, several hundred seafood workers and their families appealed for economic justice to help them cope with the declining productivity of Apalachicola Bay.
The special meeting called by the county commissioners came two days after oystermen pleaded for their help Sept. 4, and Governor Rick Scott wrote to federal officials asking them to declare a commercial fishery failure for the state’s oyster harvesting areas.
“The drought conditions in the bay have caused the oyster resources to decrease to a level that will no longer sustain Florida’s commercial oyster industry,” wrote Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam in an appeal to the governor, noting the August assessment showed current oyster levels have not been this low since immediately after Hurricane Elena in 1985.
Mark Berrigan, bureau chief of the Division of Aquaculture with nearly 30 years of resource assessments under his belt, said decline in the county’s $6.6 million oyster industry accelerated over the last two years, and sped up due to the recent rains.
“We are a proud people, we’re not scared to work, never have been,” said Commissioner Smokey Parrish, who has represented the county in the RESTORE Act discussions. “It’s all we’ve ever done is work. We’re not looking for a handout; we’re looking for resources to help ourselves.”
In October, Governor Scott dived headlong into the distress facing the county’s oyster industry by spending an hour at a resource fair in Eastpoint to meet with local officials and residents seeking help.
Escorted by County Commissioner Pinki Jackel, Scott greeted a bevy of state, regional and local officials, discussed the industry’s needs with seafood dealers talked at length with Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association.
“We talked about getting some immediate assistance for relay and shelling,” said Hartsfield. “We talked about possibly closing (Bob Sikes ) cut off, temporarily, for a short term, possibly a long term, because we’re fixing to get these low winter tides and fixing to get a little bit of fresh water there and we don’t want it all going out the cut.”
By the end of the month, a couple of colonels from the Army Corps of Engineers tonged for oysters, ate them fresh on the boat and later at an evening reception, and then talked about how to prevent the Apalachicola estuary from becoming the late, great bay.
The trip, sponsored by the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the Tri-Rivers Water Way Development Association, brought Cols. Donald “Ed” Jackson and Steven Roemhildt, commanders of the Corps’ South Atlantic and Mobile districts respectively, out on the water to see first-hand the challenges facing oystermen.
By year’s end, the county had received a solid dose of good news to carry forward into 2013. Word of a $2.7 million infusion of federal money for a program to re-shell the oyster bars was welcome, indeed.
The seafood industry also embarked on a new community based collaborative effort - the Seafood Management Assistance Resource and Recovery Team (SMARRT) –designed to build a local capacity consensus to ensure the future of Franklin County’s seafood heritage.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida was established by the National Audubon Society and volunteers in 1954, just barely escaping the lumber crews who were coming to level it.
Saving the swamps
January 8, 2013
On the Road
Oldtimers in our area of Southeast Missouri are not unfamiliar with the pristine wildernesses that were once a part of this region. A drive west to Zalma. Mo. will take the motorist past a sign which identifies what was once the Dark Cypress Swamp, a region where, history tells us, hunters could get lost. Now, because of the draining of the swamps, this region no longer exists.
A vacation trip to southern Florida will offer the curious visitor a glimpse into such a wilderness which has been preserved. In this swampland, a 700-year-old bald cypress tree towers 130 feet above the 3-mile boardwalk, and alligators lurk in the murky waters.
Today, the sanctuary houses the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress in the country.
Additionally, it is the site of the largest nesting federally endangered wood stork population in the world.
The sanctuary can be credited with saving endangered species, such as the roseate spoonbill, which was slaughtered almost to extinction in 1915 by plume hunters, greedy for feathers for ladies' hats.
The early history of the 14,000-acre preserve is fascinating, as there were no roads in the area, and early supporters had to hike in, often wading chest deep in the swamp to explore the "lettuce lake" and other inaccessible regions. The building of the boardwalk was quite an accomplishment, which opened the sanctuary to the public in 1960.
Visitors walk through several distinct habitats on the maze of boardwalks--marshes, bald cypress forests, pond cypress forests, pine flatwoods, and wet prairies.
The preserve harbors over 200 species of birds and other wildlife. Some of the more uncommon birds are the roseate spoonbill, the great egret, the wood stork, the American bittern, the white ibis, the pileated woodpecker, the limpkin, and the swallow-tailed kite. Some of the little blue herons are so tame that they fly up on the boardwalk and show off for photographers. The Ahinga, or "snakebird," can be seen diving in the water to catch fish and resting on branches to dry its black and silver wings.
Of particular interest to visitors over the last three years has been a protective mama alligator, who has been watching over her brood of 27 or so yellow-striped babies in one of the sloughs. Game wardens on watch near the slough tell visitors that a mother alligator will guard her brood until they are about two years old, chasing off the males who try to eat the babies.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center is open 365 days a week and is very well attended and supported by volunteers and guests.
For the small price of $12.00, visitors can spend two days exploring a living museum piece that captures the Western Everglades as they once were, before hoards of people overcrowded the landscape.
Water managers will also have an option to purchase an additional 2,489 acres from Duda for $16.9 million. Water managers will have four years in which to exercise that option, states the resolution.
SFWMD may buy more Glades County land; Glades County Commissioners unhappy about proposed SFWMD purchase
Okeechobee News - by Eric Kopp
January 8, 2013
OKEECHOBEE—By a 3-0 vote, commissioners Tuesday agreed to send a letter to water managers asking them to hold off on their proposed purchase of 638 acres of A. Duda & Sons property in Glades County.
Commissioners Paul Beck, Donna Storter-Long and Dennis Griffin directed staff to pen the letter of opposition that will be presented to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) governing board at their meeting Thursday, Jan. 10.
The governing board is slated to vote on Resolution 2013-105 which would pave the way for SFWMD staff to enter into negotiations with A. Duda. According to that resolution the district will pay Duda $1.9 million ($2,984 per acre) for the 638 acres, which is a 56 percent discount from the appraised value of $6,800 per acre.
Duda land between Lake Hicpochee and Highway 27, Glades County:
This entire deal, however, is contingent on A. Duda receiving a 30-year extension on two of its land leases with the state.
At their Jan. 8 meeting, Glades County commissioners forcefully voiced their displeasure over this proposed deal and the fact that the district has kept them in the dark.
Commissioner Beck and Commissioner Storter-Long both oppose the proposed purchase for a number of reasons which include the possible loss of jobs and the stifling of future development.
“It’s our tax dollars buying this property that’s going to hurt us,” decried Commissioner Storter-Long.
Commissioner Beck chimed in and said it’s not just the sale of the property but the way Glades County is being treated and, at this late date, the fact that there really isn’t too much the county can do about it.
“I don’t oppose the sale of the property, it’s their treating us like a bunch of idiots,” said Commissioner Beck. “We’re just as toothless as a newborn baby.”
He added that if water managers have their way they will turn “... all of Glades County into an STA (stormwater treatment area).” The commissioner added that SFWMD already owns 13,000 acres in Glades County.
Commissioners Russell Echols and Tim Stanley did not vote on the issuance of the letter due to a conflict of interest.
Commissioner Echols works for A. Duda, while Commissioner Stanley works for the district.
In an effort to glean more information about the proposed sale, commissioners asked that Gary Ritter, director of the SFWMD service center in Okeechobee, attend Tuesday’s meeting. But, early on, Mr. Ritter told commissioners he really didn’t know much more than they did about the situation.
He did tell them the district was wanting to buy the property in order to rehydrate Lake Hicpochee and that the district was in need of 1.4 million acre feet of water storage in the watershed.
Pressing on, Commissioner Beck then questioned Mr. Ritter on why did SFWMD need to buy additional lands for more STAs when they already own property in northeastern Glades County that is supposed to be used as an STA and filter phosphorus from stormwater before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.
The commissioner was referring to a letter penned by Ruth Clements, the former head of the district’s real estate division, on Oct. 31, 2005, to Keith Fountain, the director of protection for The Nature Conservancy. Ms. Clements retired from her position in 2012.
In that letter Ms. Clements states that the purchase of 4,734 acres from PomCor “... will be utilized as a portion of a 16,000-acre stormwater treatment area (STA) to help reduce phosphorus loading to Lake Okeechobee ... .”
The property to which she refers are three non-contiguous parcels the district currently leases to the Old River Cattle Company of Okeechobee. The property lies to the north of S.R. 78 W.
Ms. Clements further states in her letter that phosphorus loads to the open water region of the lake tripled from the early 1970s to 2000.
“The parcel in question will be utilized to capture and treat runoff in the Indian Prairie/Harney Pond Basin. This basin has the largest phosphorus load reduction target in the watershed (60 metric tons per year must be captured in the STA),” stated Ms. Clements.
She then added that the district “... is committed to the acquisition of any and all other lands within the STA footprint that might be necessary for the construction and proper operation of the STA.”
That “footprint” to which she refers does not stretch to the north shore of Lake Hicpochee in Glades County, which is where the 638 acres in question lie.
Why then, asked Commissioner Beck of Mr. Ritter, doesn’t the district just buy the some-10,000 acres in the Indian Prairie/Harney Pond Basin and “clean the water before it goes into the lake?”
Mr. Ritter replied that the district needed 1.4 million acre feet of water storage, whether it was north or south of the lake. He went on to say that SFWMD has a number of water quality projects in the counties it serves, as well as on the east and west coasts and the northern portion of the watershed.
Commissioner Beck said he was also unhappy about the fact that there has been no public meeting and that no one from the district bothered to tell he and his fellow commissioners about the proposed purchase.
“They’ve (water managers) blind-sided everybody with this. This is something that needs to be brought out,” said Commissioner Beck.
Mr. Ritter told commissioners he would attend Thursday’s governing board meeting and that he would return to give commissioners more information on the proposed project.
Water resource author to speak at FSC on Florida's vanishing fresh water
TheLedger.com - by Mary Toothman
January 8, 2013
LAKELAND | A journalist and author with expertise in Florida's scarce water resources will speak at Florida Southern College on Thursday night.
Award-winning writer Cynthia Barnett will give a lecture on Florida's vanishing water at 7 p.m. Her talk is part of the college's Florida Lecture Series. The event, which will be held in the Hollis Room, is free and open to the public.
Barnett won the 2008 Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Nonfiction for her first book, "Mirage." It also was named one of the top 10 books every Floridian should read.
Her most recent book, "Blue Revolution," calls for a water ethic for the country.
Barnett's stories were often about public policy and of an investigative nature.
"Over the years, everything kept coming back to water," she said. "I did cover stories on desalination, the Everglades, bottled water, wetlands mitigation banking, et cetera, and many of those ended up in my first book, ‘Mirage.'"
Barnett said that she watched as the same industries that drained Florida's water in the first place suddenly became desperate to find water. That motivated her to write books about the issue, she said. "That irony is what got me thinking (that) someone should write that book," she said.
FSC's Florida Lecture Series is in its 17th year. It is a forum designed to bring speakers to the campus who can talk about life and culture in Florida from a wide range of disciplines. People from the community, faculty and student body interact and learn from the speakers.
Professor James Denham, director of the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History, said in a prepared statement that the college is "delighted" to have Barnett come and talk.
"Her close study of water issues in Florida, the nation and the world has contributed to a deeper awareness of this invaluable resource," he said.
Assaults on environment pile up
TheReporterOnLine.com – by Bill Maxwell, a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times
January 7, 2013
In his 1998 book “Some Kind of Paradise: A Chronicle of Man and the Land in Florida,” environmentalist Mark Derr wrote that “in these past 100 years, man has reshaped and re-landscaped the peninsula, leveling forests, draining the marshes. The process continues at such a rapid rate that many residents of more than a decade barely recognize the areas around their homes.”
Since Derr wrote those observations, the process of destruction has gone on at breakneck speed.
Two out of three Florida residents come from other states or foreign countries, and they have no memory of our old natural beauty and too often little respect for that beauty. Most have no qualms about electing lawmakers who dismiss the intrinsic value of our environment. As a result, Derr wrote, the “tale of Florida’s development often is sordid, marked by the greed of people intent on taking whatever the land offered and leaving nothing in return.”
Gov. Rick Scott is an outsider, and he is proving to be no friend of the environment in almost every move he makes.
Most recently, as suggested by an article in the Tampa Bay Times, the future of Florida’s natural environment was put in jeopardy when Hershel Vinyard, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, laid off 58 employees who have what is described as a “history and knowledge” of the state’s critical environmental problems.
It is no secret that Vinyard, like the governor, is a pro-business crusader who has little use for environmental regulations.
“The majority of positions they were eliminating are compliance and enforcement positions,” Jerry Phillips, a former attorney for the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told the Times. “They want to essentially turn the agency over to the regulated industries.”
Phillips is right, of course. In addition to the layoffs in November, Vinyard brought in several new top administrators who had been high-level consultants or engineers for companies the department regulates.
Before the layoffs, Scott appointed Juan Portuondo to oversee the South Florida Water Management District, the board ostensibly responsible for protecting South Florida’s water supply and wetlands from pollution. Portuondo once operated a trash incinerator in Miami that Greenpeace and other organizations showed was “a major source of mercury emissions” that were responsible “for much of the contamination in the Everglades.” He also was linked to air and water pollution in Miami-Dade, and the company was heavily fined for violations.
No matter. Scott deemed Portuondo the best person for the board.
In another travesty, the Department of Environmental Protection suspended wetlands expert Connie Bersok from her job after she bucked politics and denied a permit to Highlands Ranch, formed in 2008 as a joint venture between a Jacksonville company and the Carlyle Group, a powerful private equity firm. Highlands wanted to turn a pine plantation, which was mostly high and dry, into a business that makes up for wetlands that are destroyed by new roads and development.
If Bersok had granted the permit, the company potentially could have collected millions of dollars in wetlands “credits” that could be sold to the government and developers.
The Scott administration’s assaults on the environment keep piling up. Common sense, if not a little pragmatism, should show rational lawmakers and other officials that threatening our fragile environment also threatens our economy.
They do not seem to know that our natural environment creates our tourism, our most lucrative industry, attracting nearly 90 million visitors annually who put $67 billion into the state’s economy. In fact, Florida is the top travel destination in the world, according to www.stateofflorida.com/florquickfac.
People come here to experience our parks, beaches, wetlands, woodlands and amusement venues. They come to swim, scuba dive, fish, bird watch, kayak, boat and hike.
More business leaders and state lawmakers need to realize that viable tourism is directly connected not only to our pleasant weather but also to the health of our waters, beaches, greenery and clean air.
We need leaders who respect this interconnection. They need to be stewards of the environment, not profiteers who destroy and leave nothing in return.
Draining wetlands killing lakes
Gainesville Sun - by Paul Still, Special to The Sun
January 7, 2013
The Dec. 25 Sun article “Districts eye ways to replenish aquifer” illustrates that the Suwannee River Water Management District has failed to identify the causes of lower lake levels, and reduced flows in springs and rivers. Unfortunately the Suwannee district also has convinced others that groundwater withdrawals are the problem.
This misdiagnoses can not only be very costly but it will also result in delays in developing projects that could have a positive impact on spring and river flows. Lake levels are determined for the most part by rain, which we cannot control.
It is like a person going to the doctor with a head cold and a headache and the doctor prescribes a decongestant but fails to see the headache is being caused by a brain tumor. For our aquifer system the cold is groundwater withdrawals and the brain tumor is the loss of aquifer recharge caused by over a century of draining wetlands in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.
If you look at the declines in groundwater levels over time and throughout our area it is pretty clear that withdrawals in the metropolitan parts of northeast Florida in the St. Johns district are not the cause of lower lake and aquifer levels, and reduced flow of rivers and springs in the Suwannee district.
It was much easier for the Suwannee district to blame JEA than to admit it had failed to take action to address declining groundwater levels that have been occurring even before the water management districts were formed.
Crowding of Florida ?
We’re paying for that in sacrificed panthers, manatees and other wild creatures, as well as in springs that are drying up just as the state’s beset by climate change and rising sea levels. We’re at a crucial moment that demands careful governance.
Florida’s population paradox
Miami Herald – by Jerry Karnas, the population campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity
January 7, 2013
Explaining why 600 people a day moved to the Sunshine State, the late Florida Senate President Jim King used to say, “Florida is the land of milk and honey.”
The axiom still applies: In December the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that more people move to Florida every year than to any other state. Over the course of the state’s history, its population has doubled every 20 years. Today there are more than 19 million Floridians.
Gov. Rick Scott recently touted this population growth as evidence that our economy is on the mend. It’s true that the state’s economy is predicated on growth, but that growth comes at a steep price. While we squeeze more people into Florida, we’re squeezing out wildlife, wild places, wetlands, fresh water sources and indeed our own quality of life. That’s the paradox of Florida: The very qualities that attract newcomers are continuously undermined and degraded by our attempt to accommodate them. There’s nothing new about this paradox. What’s different is the scale and the timing: Over the past 50 years the state has grown faster and more furiously than ever before.
In his seminal book The Swamp, author Michael Grunwald recounted a meeting early in Gov. Bob Graham’s first term, in 1981, when the governor was shown a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue — which featured not only Christie Brinkley photographed on Captiva Island but also an article called Trouble in Paradise that said the state was “going down the tubes” because of out-of-control growth. The piece shook Graham to the core. He hadn’t run for governor as an environmentalist; but eventually he dedicated a large portion of his governorship to the state’s environmental woes. In the end his leadership left Florida better prepared for future growth.
Most of our subsequent governors have shared, albeit to varying degrees, Graham’s understanding that a balance between growth and environmental protection is needed.. That’s not to say they were all paragons of environmental stewardship across the board; but a trajectory toward better management was visible.
Unfortunately, Gov. Scott has taken a radically different approach.
• His response to the housing crisis? Gut Florida’s growth-management laws.
• His response to the climate crisis? Deny that it exists, support oil drilling off Florida’s beaches and kill the state’s nascent renewable-energy industry for which his predecessor fought.
• His response to red tides, algal blooms and fish kills in Florida’s lakes, rivers and estuaries? Challenge the federal government’s efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act.
• His response to West Palm Beach coming within 20 days of running out of drinking water? Cut the budgets of the state’s water-management districts.
• His response to record panther deaths , degradation of our springs, and droughts threatening our water supply? Defund Forever Florida, the state’s land-buying program.
If we’re going to leave Florida better than we found it — a modest enough goal, if you ask me — then we need to start connecting the dots between population, growth, development and the loss of the wildlife and wild places that makes Florida such an incredible piece of paradise. That’s true at a larger scale too: The world’s population hit 7 billion people last year just as we’re in the midst of an extinction crisis for species around the globe hit by a triple whammy of habitat loss, human encroachment and climate change.
We’re overdue to address population, consumption and unsustainable growth, here in Florida and beyond. We can do it through a variety of solutions, from the personal — better family planning, access to reproductive health and consumer choices that reduce our environmental footprint — to the political, including smarter growth and policies that emphasize preservation of clean water, air, wildlife habitat and a healthy climate. Three years ago Florida was building record-breaking solar power plants, promising to power future growth with clean energy. We urgently need to get back to work on that.
It’s not too late to save a Florida that still has panthers, manatees, plentiful fish, open space and glorious coral reefs, but we need to act now. Future generations of travelers arriving at Florida’s door — still enticed, we hope, by its “milk and honey” — will thank us.
Ponce de Leon
My Word: Take a stand for state's next 500 years
Orlando Sentinel - by Lisa Roberts, executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation
January 7, 2013
This is a landmark year for our state, marking 500 years of La Florida, as Ponce de Leon named this land when he sighted it in March 1513.
What did the explorer intend when he bestowed the name? No one can say for sure, because his voyage journal has been lost. However, Florida historian Gary R. Mormino writes that a Spanish historian who had access to the journal observed, "Believing that land to be an island, they named it La Florida, because it appeared very delightful, having many fresh groves, and it was all level, and also because they discovered it at the season which the Spaniards call Flowery Easter (Pascua Florida)."
Roughly translated, La Florida means "flowery place" or "land of flowers." Regardless of Ponce de Leon's intentions when he named it, there is no doubt he stumbled upon a paradise in which riches were counted in glorious natural resources rather than the gold he sought. This wealth consisted of springs of pristine water; mystical cypress swamps; majestic longleaf pine forests; uplands that were once ancient islands; and stunning white beaches.
La Florida is still a paradise to many, a much-lauded vacation destination with swaying palms, theme parks and world-class shopping. Many visitors and residents venture forth to sample its natural treasures — sinuous rivers, meadows of swaying wildflowers and trails through scrub, oak hammocks and primeval swamps.
But five centuries of exploitation have left ugly scars. Longleaf pine forests are all but gone, harvested for their wood. The withdrawal of millions of gallons of water each day has the Floridan Aquifer reeling. Saltwater is intruding into wells, and pollution from septic tanks causes algae to grow thick in waterways. Wetlands have been filled or drained, and parts of the Everglades have vanished.
Meanwhile, money with which to purchase conservation land has become scarcer than a Florida panther.
The course for the next 500 years is ours to set. What will we write in this blank book? We all have the power to make changes that are good for Florida, whether it's to use rain barrels in order to conserve water; to plant native species that provide wildlife habitat; to reduce our impact by living simpler; or to elect politicians who support conservation of our water and land.
This year is not only about the commemoration of 500 years of La Florida; it's about our stand for the future.
New Frontiers: A once-booming Florida oil industry tries to get back to the past
Platts.com - Blog, Starr Spencer in Houston
January 7, 2013
Florida actually was a decent-sized producing state in its past. But that was a while ago. In this week’s Oilgram News column New Frontiers, Starr Spencer looks at that past and some possible paths for its petroleum-producing future.
Think Florida, and relaxing images come to mind of white sandy beaches … palm trees … oranges … sunny warm weather … oceanfront hotels … gentle waves lapping at the coastline … and oil production?
Well, there’s not large amounts of the last item on that list. But although many people mistakenly believe a ban against drilling offshore Florida’s parcel of the Gulf of Mexico extends to the entire peninsula, the reality is that the state does have some oil and gas exploration—albeit on land.
It’s not much. By the US Energy Information Administration’s reckoning, Florida produces about 6,000 b/d of oil, a level that has kept fairly steady throughout most of 2012 and represents a gradual decrease over the last decade. But many operators are trying to at least hold the volumes steady and possibly eke out a little more.
Florida’s oil production has dwindled over the years, but as recently as 1981 the state was producing over 100,000 b/d, according to data from EIA, the statistical arm of the US Department of Energy. Natural field declines paired with the oil price collapse of the 1980s to depress output, so that by 1990 it was a mere 20,000 b/d, and it has been well under 10,000 b/d for most of the last decade, EIA data show.
“Our state peak production was in 1978, but has been on the decline ever since,” said Ed Garrett, administrator of the oil and gas regulatory program at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “A few fields were discovered and produced in the 1980s, all relatively small, but they too have declined.”
The state has had no discoveries since 1988, Garrett said.
Just last week, Florida basked in industry’s spotlight not for its tropical climate and scenery but from an acquisition by a small, aggressive public oil producer, Houston-based QR Energy. QR paid $145 million to its sponsor, privately held Quantum Resources Fund, to own 93% in the Jay field.
Jay, spread across 14,600 acres in the far western Florida Panhandle and a tiny nick of Alabama’s Escambia County, now supplies about 2,500 b/d of equivalent oil production—about 88% oil and 13% natural gas liquids.
The field, located about 30 miles north of Pensacola, was discovered in 1970 by Exxon (now ExxonMobil), and originally was estimated to contain 1 billion barrels of oil. That amount now in place has dwindled by about half, QR Energy CEO Alan Smith said during a conference call last week on the transaction, which was announced late January 2.
Jay is one of Florida’s biggest and oldest oil fields with 93 active wells, according to data on the Florida DEP website.
But other producing fields are also found in the Panhandle. One is Blackjack Creek, which Exxon discovered in 1972 and is now operated by Petro Operating Company; it produced about 270 b/d in September 2012. Another is Raccoon Point, which produces just under 1,300 b/d and is operated by small operator Calumet Florida, DEP records show.
South Florida is another relatively large oil production area, at least by local standards. The main trend in South Florida is Sunniland that spreads over the southwest Everglades. DEP’s site lists five fields there that were collectively producing just over 2,000 b/d in September 2011, the most recent reporting month.
But Garrett said that is a far cry from years past, when Calumet Florida brought in a Raccoon Point well whose production debuted at 3,000 b/d. “That brought a resurgence of South Florida production in the late 1990s,” he said.
More recently, as crude prices lifted in the mid-to-late 2000s, operator interest in the region picked up, Garrett said. “We had a bunch of new drilling, mostly horizontal wells trying to exploit what was left in South Florida fields,” he said.
The Baker Hughes rig count lists Florida as having two rigs active in the state for the week ended January 4. Garrett said a third rig is preparing to drill in southern Florida in a few weeks.
According to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, the first recorded dry hole in Florida occurred in 1901 when two wells were drilled to 1,620 feet and 1,720 feet respectively. In the 1920s, other drilling attempts were made but were also dry holes. By 1939, prospectors had racked up almost 80 dry holes, the deepest at 6,180 feet.
Another entrepreneur switched directions and went sniffing around Florida’s Everglades, in the state’s southwest, drilling to just over 10,000 feet—but it too was dry. Then, according to Collier Resources, which owns leases at the Sunniland field in Collier County, Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) discovered the Sunniland Trend in 1943.
Garrett said South Florida production is from much shallower Cretaceous reservoirs of 11,000-12,000 feet, whereas in the Panhandle the formations are Jurassic age and are deeper.
Sunniland has produced “something like 120 million barrels since 1943,” he said.–
Scott maintains narrow view on water, energy issues
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 7, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott says he is asking DEP to look at Florida's springs and he said he wants to ensure that the flow of natural gas to the state is not interrupted.
Scott met with The Florida Current staff on Friday and was asked to lay out his legislative agenda on a variety of issues.
Asked about his goals and programs for leaving waterways for future generations, Scott talked about his Everglades restoration plan that won federal approval in 2012.
"It's going to focus on improving the flow of water and quality of water going to the Everglades," he said.
He also said, "What I have asked, what DEP (the Florida Department of Environmental Protection) is doing, is why do we have some of our springs that are way down?"
"I have asked, I want to make sure our water management districts are very focused on their jobs, their core missions -- not doing a mission other than that," he said.
Victoria Tschinkel, a former Department of Environmental Regulation secretary in the 1980s and founding member of the Florida Conservation Coalition, said Scott's comments reflect a "general understanding and anecdotal examples of problems."
"However, these problems are prevalent all over the state," she said. "We need a single, focused, well-financed program that connects the responsibilities of state agencies -- from DEP to agriculture to transportation -- working with local governments and water management districts if these problems are to be solved."
On energy issues, the Department of Economic Opportunity last week issued a report on the state's business climate that included a call for a statewide energy strategy "to ensure reliable and cost-effective sources of energy to sustain economic development while helping protect the environment."
Asked whether he agrees that an energy strategy is needed, Scott replied that the state is benefiting now from local natural gas prices.
"I think what we have to do from an energy policy standpoint is keep the flow of natural gas into the state from being disrupted. That is very important," he said.
Scott also said he was "very cautious" about offshore oil drilling after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Kevin Doyle, executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, said Florida should be concerned about federal regulations that could possibly restrict natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the effects of fracking on drinking water.
"If any one of those agencies (studying fracking) start to impose regulations that are over-excessive, that can disrupt the supply chain," Doyle said. His group supports affordable and reliable energy including increased oil production.
Susan Glickman, an advisor to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the state needs to develop energy supply diversity with renewable energy, conservation and increased efficiency.
"We are in this kind of transition stage that quite frankly requires leadership," she said. "Because of the influence of political (campaign) contributions at all levels, we just haven't seen much leadership in recent years."
Scott also said he will request funding for the Florida Forever land acquisition program in his 2013-14 state budget request but he did not say how much he will seek.
* 2012 DEO report on state business and economic development climate
* South Florida Water Management District Everglades website
* Dec. 2012 Everglades restoration program update
With Florida python hunt about to begin, humane killing urged
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 7, 2013
Decapitating Burmese pythons — a sanctioned method for killing the invasive snakes in the upcoming Python Challenge contest — is “despicably cruel” and may violate state animal cruelty laws, animal-rights activists say.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter on Friday to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the event sponsor, urging the commission to ban hunters from decapitating snakes in the month-long hunt that starts Saturday. As an alternative, PETA is urging the commission to promote “immediate destruction of the brain by gunshot.”
According to PETA, the snakes “remain alive and in agony” for up to an hour after their heads have been cut off. The commission is reviewing the letter and offered no further comment Monday.
“There really is just no good way to do this,” said Lori Kettler, general counsel for the PETA Foundation. “It’s a problem and we just want a humane solution.”
More than 500 hunters from 24 states have registered for the hunt. Hunters must complete a course on snake identification and follow the rules on how to kill the snakes humanely.
Because transporting live pythons is illegal, the snakes must be killed in the wild. According to the FWC’s PythonChallenge.org website, a captive-bolt gun — used to stun animals into unconsciousness before slaughter — is the preferred method. Guns can also be used but require an effective caliber and good aim.
Decapitation is “not the recommended method of euthanizing pythons” but is “an acceptable method of euthanizing large snakes by the American Veterinary Medical Association,” according to the website. Participants in the Python Challenge have an “ethical obligation” to kill the snake in a humane manner and will be disqualified for posting inhumane photos or videos on social media, according to the rules.
How pythons got into the Everglades is not known but it is believed that Burmese pythons escaped from a breeding facility destroyed during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It is also likely pet pythons have been released in South Florida. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated between 5,000 and 100,000 exist in the Everglades.
The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world. Adult Burmese pythons caught in Florida average 6 to 9 feet long, with the largest captured in Florida measuring more than 17 feet.
Because of their size, the pythons have few predators and prey upon native species, upsetting the balance of the Everglades ecosystem. A study published in December 2011 reports that sightings of rabbits, foxes, raccoons, white-tailed deer and opossums in the Everglades have all declined by more than 90 percent as python sightings have increased.
Although python hunting is already legal, the Python Challenge is the first competitive hunt sponsored by the state. A grand prize of $1,500 will go to the hunter who kills the most pythons and another $1,000 will be awarded for the longest python.
But PETA says putting a bounty on a non-native, exotic reptile to get rid of it does the opposite because the bounty puts a value on the species.
For the FWC the Python Challenge is as much about educating the public as killing Burmese pythons.
“We are constantly trying to think of different ways to deal with non-native species,” said Carli Segelson, a commission spokesperson. “It’s been a good opportunity to raise awareness.”
Everglades bird nesting declines
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
January 6, 2013
After a boom in 2009, wading bird nesting has dropped in the Everglades, with seesawing water levels largely to blame
For the third straight year, wading bird breeding was down in the Everglades.
Nesting numbers, considered an important measure of the health of the overall system, fell by 39 percent compared to average activity over the past decade, according to an annual survey compiled by the South Florida Water Management District.
The drop-off wasn’t as disastrous as in decades past, but it continued a relatively poor trend since an encouraging breeding frenzy in 2009, when white ibises, wood storks, great egrets and a handful of other key species produced more than 77,500 nests — the biggest season since the 1940s. The 26,395 nests estimated last year were almost the same number as in 2011, and a slight increase from 2010.
Mark Cook, the water district’s lead scientist for Everglades assessment, said swings in seasonal water levels are mostly to blame for inhibiting breeding in a sprawling system that has been shrunk and strangled over the past century by development, roads and drainage canals.
Back-to-back drought years reduced the numbers of tiny fish that provide food for many birds. Then, in the prime nesting month of April, untimely storms disrupted seasonal drying cycles that concentrate fish and other tiny prey, which wading birds depend on to feed their fast-growing and voracious chicks.
As rising waters disperse prey, Cook said, “the parents are just unable to keep up with the demand,” and many chicks don’t survive.
Environmentalists said the recent dips after a decade of generally rising nesting point to the need to move forward on Everglades-restoration projects.
Some species, such as the wood stork and tricolored heron, suffered worse drops than others.
The population of wood storks, long classified as an endangered species, has expanded across the southeastern United States to the point that federal wildlife managers last month proposed proposing reducing its status to the less-severe “threatened” category. But for the fifth time in the past six years, there were no wood storks nesting in what once was the largest breeding colony in the United States — the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Southwest Florida.
Jason Lauritsen, director of the Audubon-managed Corkscrew sanctuary, said the storks’ disappearance from a prime breeding ground points to a troubling disruption of seasonal cycles that flood and drain marshes that are critical to wading birds.
“If we hope to recover the largest historic colony in the U.S., immediate focus must be put on restoring and protecting short-hydroperiod wetlands in the western Everglades,” he said.
While breeding has crept up in Everglades National Park, once home to about 90 percent of wading bird rookeries in South Florida, Audubon points out that the number still falls far short of restoration targets.
Cook agreed that the $12 billion Everglades restoration effort should ultimately reduce extreme swings that have been exacerbated by an antiquated flood-control and water-storage system.
But even the unspoiled Everglades was a boom-or-bust system tied to South Florida’s shifting weather patterns. Birds begin breeding as water levels fall, so rainfall timing and volume are a key to their success.
In the 1900s, the wading birds of the Glades were almost blasted into oblivion by plume hunters cashing in on a craze for feathered hats. By the 1930s and ’40s, after a public outcry brought a crackdown on hunting, breeding rebounded, resulting in 35,000 to more than 200,000 nests each year.
But after the ’40s, drainage canals, flood-control levees and rampant development reduced the historic Everglades by half, cutting populations of the nine surveyed species by an estimated 70 to 90 percent. Poor water-management practices helped drive the number of nests to a low of just 5,000 in 1983 and 1985.
There have been occasional upticks — more than 50,000 total nests in 1972 and 1992 — but it has only been over the past decade or so, with improved water management practices, that the trends began steadily improving. Some birds, however, continue to struggle for reasons that Cook said are not well understood, including the snowy egret and tricolored heron.
On the plus side, droughts appear to spark the bird booms, with exceptional nesting years occurring two years later. The prevailing theory, said Cook, is that the dry spells knock back populations of large fish that feed on crayfish and smaller fish that make up many birds’ primary diet. When the water comes back, the plentiful prey help power the avian sexual surge.
After a healthy rainy season last year, many marshes across the Glades appear to be full of birds. If the typical drying patterns prevail into early spring, the birds could be back on their games this year, Cook said.
“It all looks good at the moment,” he said.
LO water releases are
VERY polluted !
Lake Okeechobee water 'far from polluted' ? Really ?
TCPalm – Letter by Mike Conner, Stuart, FL
January 6, 2013
After reading the Dec. 14 letter "Write clearly on water issue," I can understand the writer's intention to defend the lake she lives next to (Okeechobee). But to claim that "the water that leaves the lake is far from polluted" is like saying the sea is not salty.
The writer takes exception to what she claims are "untruthful" articles about the condition of the lake, but it is commonly accepted that its water and ecological health have long been compromised, as are "downstream" dumping grounds for it.
Sadly, the lake is as infamous for its pollution as it is famous for sport fishing. Not polluted? In 2007, state water and wildlife managers removed thousands of truckloads of toxic mud from the lake's floor to restore the lake's natural sandy base and create clearer water and better habitat for wildlife. The ooze contained elevated levels of arsenic and other pesticides.
South Florida Water Management District tests showed arsenic levels on the northern part of the lake bed were as much as four times the limit for residential land. And let's face it — limits tend to be pretty lax in general. Independent tests found the mud too polluted for use on agricultural or commercial lands, and therefore difficult to dispose of on land.
And the lake is far from polluted ? Really ?
That toxic pollution in Lake O comes from the water running off land around and north of it, not from coastal lands "downstream" from it, unless we include filthy water occasionally back-pumped into the lake from sugar cane fields.
The writer closes by inviting all to keep an open mind about this "pollution problem," adding, "I invite you to Okeechobee and to drink our water." She says Lake O water is her drinking water.
Let's just hope she has a Brita water filter.
Red tide could soon hit Florida
Examiner.com - by Jim Ford
January 6, 2013
Recent readings taken in waters along the West coast of Florida show an increase in the number of organisms that cause red tide. This could signal the start of the largest red tide event since the massive outbreak of 2005.
According to a report published today in the Bradenton Herald, water samples taken from many locations along the Southwest Florida coast are showing spikes in the number of Karenia brevis, the microscopic algae responsible for most of the red tide outbreaks in Florida Gulf coast waters. When the algae population reaches a certain point, K. brevis produces toxins that affect the central nervous systems of fish, potentially causing death. When the toxins become airborne through rough seas or very windy conditions, human respiratory systems are also affected.
The number of fish kills reported along the coast are already on the increase. Thousands of fish were found dead near Manasota Key on December 26, and more than 5,000 were reported dead last week near Blind Pass Key. Mote Marine Laboratory has issued this status report: “A bloom of K. brevis extends alongshore of the southwest coast between southern Sarasota and Collier counties and offshore of the lower Florida Keys. Respiratory irritation and multiple fish kills have also been reported this week in the affected areas.”
Whether this outbreak turns into another marine disaster for the Florida coast is difficult to predict. According to Hayley Rutger of Mote Marine, “Florida red tide depends on biology, chemistry of the water, and physics -- winds, waves and weather moving the algae around."
22nd Annual Southwest FL Water Resources Conference
January 6, 2013
The 2012/13 conference focuses on the nexus of water and energy - the water that goes into energy and the energy that goes into water.
Energy production systems, whether conventional fossil fuels or the newer biofuels, consume large volumes of water and can also degrade its quality. Similarly, water related systems can be energy intensive in both their capitalization and operations. Thus, it's important to understand energy and natural resources accounting methods that can serve as a yardstick in assessing the sustainability of ecologic and economic systems and to begin using these metrics as a better way of comparing options.
The conference will be held on Friday, January 25 at the Royal Palm Yacht Club in Ft. Myers. A buffet lunch is included as part of the conference and a wine & cheese reception will follow the technical sessions.
Climate change is here, it is real and it is bad
January 5, 2013
WASHINGTON, January 5, 2013 – Climate change is here. Climate change is real. There is no use denying it is made worse by greenhouse gas emissions. The real questions to ask are: why should we care?
1. Disasters cost too much money
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the biggest threat to our economy, both long term and short term, is climate change. From a short term perspective, Hurricane Sandy (worsened by rising sea levels) caused damage and losses estimated by the governors of NY, NJ and CT at $82 billion. According to Munich Re, a reinsurance company, weather-related disasters in North American increased five-fold in the last thirty years, costing $1 trillion in damages. A group of 100 executives of major American corporations emphasizes that the damage from Sandy weakens the Northeast and therefore will continue to harm the national economy until repairs are made.
2. Threats to coastal communities and businesses
According to the NOAA, U.S. fisheries have annual revenues in excess of $4 billion and employ one million. However, in the Northeast, commercial fishing is suffering because warmer ocean waters force local fish to move north. Super-storms jeopardize docks and fish processing centers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. On all our coasts, the oceans are becoming more acidic due to extra CO2, and acidic sea water prevents oysters and shellfish from developing properly. Beach tourism is another valuable coastal industry at risk from climate change. In Florida, annual tourist spending exceeds $62 billion, and creates more than a million jobs (not counting lodging and restaurants), but since almost 40% of Florida's tourists come for the beaches, tourism is at risk if the storm season lengthens or intensifies. Similarly in Virginia, the tourism industry employs about 300,000 people making it the fifth largest source of jobs in the state, and generates $31 billion in annual revenues. However, the industry will suffer as beaches erode, rising seas flood popular tourist spots, and hotter, more humid weather or freak storms cause vacationers to cancel travel plans. In the Chesapeake Bay area, climate change's rising sea levels, disrupt both the iconic blue crab's natural habitat and threaten human homes in Delaware, the state with the lowest elevation.
3. When a main artery shuts down many functions cease
Barge, tugboat and towing operations on the Mississippi River comprise a $180 billlion industry that may halt if river levels drop further after an extended drought, and reduced snow packs. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, more than 20,000 jobs, $130 million in wages, and the shipment of more than $2 billion worth of agricultural commodities are at risk if river traffic ceases for just two months.
Furthermore, barges bring fertilizer north to farmers, but if the river is closed to traffic, farmers will have to pay more for fertilizer to be trucked. According to scientists climate change causes the river to experience extremes, both the heavy rain and flooding of 2011 and the droughts and low water levels of 2012.
4. Food prices increase as production and distribution are disrupted
According to the USDA, 2012’s heat wave and drought caused corn production to be 13% lower, and soybean yield to drop 4%, from their 2011 levels. As a result, prices for both corn and soybeans rose. Since both are used in animal feed, many meat growers reduced their herds so prices for meat and dairy products will rise in 2013.
Typically, U.S. food prices increase annually about 2.5-3%, but in 2013 consumers should expect food prices to increase 3-4%. According to the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, climate change poses long term risks to food supplies. Much of our food comes from plants pollinated by bees, beetles, birds and insects. Our long term food supply will be vulnerable as these pollinators suffer from the effects of climate change.
5. Less water means less electricity
Approximately 90% of our electricity comes from nuclear or fossil fuel power plants which need water for cooling. According to the Hartford Business Journal, the Millstone CT nuclear power plant, providing 50% of CT's electricity, closed a reactor for two weeks in August 2012 because sea water was too warm.
Coal plants also require water for cooling, and many are dependent on Mississippi barges for coal deliveries (see above). The Hoover dam uses water from Lake Mead to provide hydro-electrical power to 29 million people in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. However, the water level in Lake Mead has dropped by almost 60% causing Hoover dam’s electrical output to be cut by more than 20%.
As climate change continues, water shortages will lead to power shortages, higher electricity rates, and higher water prices.
Most Americans understand that we cannot afford the costs associated with runaway climate change. According to a recent poll, 88% of Americans say they want the government to work to slow climate change even if efforts have economic costs.
Next week we will consider ways in which the Federal government can help to control climate change.
Greenland’s coastline shapes ocean currents The Varsity.ca (Jan.6, 2013)
Conserve, protect beauty of Florida
TampaBayTimes.com - Letters to the Editor: Jim Morin, Miami Herald and Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
January 5, 2013
This year is a landmark for our state, marking 500 years of La Florida, as Ponce de Leon named this land when he sighted it in March 1513.
What did the explorer intend when he bestowed the name? No one can say for sure, because his voyage journal has been lost. However, Florida historian Gary R. Mormino writes that a Spanish historian who had access to the journal observed, "Believing that land to be an island, they named it La Florida, because it appeared very delightful, having many fresh groves, and it was all level, and also because they discovered it at the season which the Spaniards call Flowery Easter (Pascua Florida)."
Roughly translated, La Florida means "flowery place" or "land of flowers." Regardless of Ponce de Leon's intentions when he named it, there is no doubt he stumbled upon a paradise in which riches were counted in glorious natural resources rather than the gold he sought. This wealth consisted of springs of pristine water, mystical cypress swamps, majestic longleaf pine forests, uplands that were once ancient islands, and stunning white beaches.
La Florida is still a paradise to many, a much-lauded vacation destination with swaying palms, theme parks and world-class shopping. Many visitors and residents venture forth to sample its natural treasures — sinuous rivers, meadows of swaying wildflowers, and trails through scrub, oak hammocks and primeval swamps.
But five centuries of exploitation have left ugly scars. Longleaf pine forests are all but gone, harvested for their wood. The withdrawal of millions of gallons of water each day has the shrinking Floridan Aquifer reeling. Salt water is intruding into wells, and pollution from septic tanks causes algae to grow thick in waterways. Wetlands have been filled or drained, and parts of the Everglades have vanished completely. Meanwhile, money with which to purchase conservation land has become scarcer than a Florida panther.
The course for the next 500 years is ours to set. What will we write in the blank book set before us ?
We all have the power to make changes that are good for Florida, whether it's to use rain barrels to conserve water, plant native species that provide wildlife habitat, reduce our impact by living simpler, or elect politicians who support conservation of our water and land.
The year 2013 is not only about the commemoration of 500 years of La Florida; it's about our stand for the future.
Protecting Florida's polluters
TampaBay.com – Times Editorial
January 5, 2013
Few operations have been as compromised under Gov. Rick Scott as Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. An agency that time after time has put the interests of developers and the polluting industry ahead of the state's natural resources struck again last month, laying off nearly 60 employees — many if not most of them responsible for enforcing compliance with environmental regulations. This agency is supposed to protect the environment, not enable its destruction.
The layoffs included veterans with two or three decades worth of service. Charles Kovach came up with a solution that saved Tampa Bay after a leaky gypsum stack in 2003 threatened to kill a vast cross-section of marine life. Gone. Mark Bardolph blew the whistle on DEP more than a decade ago for failing to protect the aquifer from animal waste. He's gone, too — and so is his boss. Kovach said he's seen politics at work in the past, "but never like this." Bardolph calls the agency "all a political farce." A former DEP attorney, Jerry Phillips, now with an outside advocacy group, said Scott's administration wants "to essentially turn the agency over to the regulated industries."
A DEP spokesman defended the moves, saying the intent was to flatten the ranks and make the bureaucracy more responsive. The agency noted that the layoffs amounted to only a fraction of DEP's nearly 4,000 full- and part-time staff. But the loss in numbers is secondary to the loss in experience, program priority and institutional history that DEP caused with the layoffs. The agency makes a ridiculous argument that it would rather improve outreach to industry than to fine a polluter after the fact. Can't it do both?
This is what Floridians have come to see under Scott's DEP — an agency that has worked hand in hand with the governor to dismantle the regional water boards, weaken clean water standards and second-guess the experts, local authorities and the science behind regulatory decisions. Former employees say the layoffs, and DEP's hiring of industry consultants into upper management ranks, reflect the Scott administration's interest in appeasing the development community.
These individual moves to set back environmental protection have a compounding effect. The loss of experienced voices at the state level leaves the public lacking a counterweight to oversee the private sector. Scott also has pushed off more of the responsibility for protecting the state's natural resources to cash-strapped local governments, which don't have the resources or expertise to do the job. The end result is harmful to Florida's future and economy in the long run.
Foxes guard the henhouse
Miami Herald – Editorial
January 4, 2013
OUR OPINION: Governor gives industry insiders too much sway over regulation
As states compete for whatever economic growth that they can secure, especially in this slowly recovering economy, Florida is smart to make clear that it is open for business.
However, the Scott administration has been too intent on not just holding open the door for those who come to do business in the state, but also handing over the keys to business interests as it works to loosen regulations on industries that pollute and profit from the state’s assets.
That may be good for business — too good — while degrading some of the state’s most precious resources, including the quality of life for many of its residents.
In the name of reform and governmental oversight, Gov. Rick Scott has been too willing to allow business interests to rewrite the playbook, giving them an outsize role in how they are governed — if at all. Earlier this year, in the face of horrible deaths at some of the most negligent assisted-living facilities in the state, Mr. Scott vowed to improve conditions for seniors and disabled people living in ALFs.
He appointed a task force to come up with recommendations, and immediately overpopulated it with industry insiders. The result? Just about every proposal to punish the most negligent of ALFs went absolutely nowhere.
Was Mr. Scott’s vow sincere ?.
The latest example comes from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. This month, its leaders decimated the ranks of longtime, experienced — and apolitical — employees, 58 in all. This is the sad, but not surprising, culmination of the slow erosion of the agency’s regulatory imperative to ensure that growth and development did not come at the expense of unreplenishable natural resources. The DEP is charged with protecting the quality of our air, water and land. As its website states, it is “the lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.” Regulatory programming and permitting decisions fall under its purview, and therein lies what shouldn’t be a problem, but is.
The purge got rid of regulators who had the backbone to say No to politically connected developers and engineers. With them went decades of experience and commitment to DEP’s mission, basing their decisions in science and research. Now, the department is being populated by administrators who come directly from the industries that regularly seek the DEP’s favor. It’s telling, disturbingly so, that most of the employees dismissed were in the compliance and enforcement divisions.
It’s a policy shift that clearly comes from the top. DEP’s leader, Herschel Vinyard, is a former Jacksonville businessman whom at least one developer felt very comfortable approaching when, in seeking a permit, he didn’t get his way with DEP’s wetlands expert. The way DEP handled the Highlands Ranch permit has been at the center of two inspector general investigations. The first, in June, cleared the agency’s top wetlands expert, Connie Bersok, who had refused to approve the permit to build a wetlands mitigation bank. Bosses had accused Ms. Bersok of leaking damaging information about the project.
DEP’s mission is of critical importance to Florida’s long-term economic health. Our beaches and trails and parks and rivers draw visitors from around the world, and businesses prosper because of them. Gov. Scott and his appointees should abandon their unmitigated zeal for deregulation and instead seek balance. Responsible development and environmental wellbeing can, and do, coexist in Florida.
Harbor Branch study conclusively ties St. Lucie Estuary damage to Lake O releases
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
January 4, 2013
Several factors have combined to environmentally damage the St. Lucie Estuary, but discharging water from Lake Okeechobee is "the 800-pound gorilla," according to the lead author of a study by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute researchers.
The study led by Brian Lapointe, a research professor at the Fort Pierce-based institute of Florida Atlantic University, analyzed water samples from 25 sites in the St. Lucie River in and around Stuart during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, when there were significant releases from Lake Okeechobee, and during periods of low rainfall and no releases.
The conclusion: The lake releases combined with local stormwater runoff to create a "perfect storm" that has killed off oysters and seagrasses, given fish lesions, caused algal blooms and raised coliform levels in the water to a point that's unsafe for humans.
Lapointe said Thursday the study, funded by the city of Stuart and the Martin County Commission, began as an effort to determine the effects of stormwater runoff from septic systems, agriculture and golf courses.
The study found that the local runoff contributed to the estuary's pollution problems, Lapointe said, "but we determined that discharging water (from Lake Okeechobee) via the C-44 Canal was the 800-pound gorilla in the room as far as impact."
Estuaries in general, and the St. Lucie Estuary in particular, contain a mixture of salt water and fresh water. Lowering salinity levels for extended periods kills the marine life that has adapted to the brackish water.
In its natural state years ago, Lapointe said, the St. Lucie Estuary could handle periodic influxes of fresh water.
"But the watershed around the estuary has been altered to such a degree with land use and canal systems," Lapointe said, "that the estuary, as well as the organisms living in it, can't tolerate all the fresh water that's being dumped into it."
In the Harbor Branch study, salinity in the estuary was less than 1 part per 1,000 in June and November 2005 because of releases from Lake O versus the norm that typically exceeds 12 parts per 1,000.
Besides killing oysters and seagrasses, the low salinity also allowed coliform bacteria, which can't survive in salty water, to thrive. The bacteria problem was made worse by elevated concentrations of nutrients, mostly fertilizers from agricultural and residential runoff.
The study also noted the harmful impact of freshwater releases extends to the coral reefs just outside the St. Lucie Inlet, which marks the northern boundary of tropical reef corals in South Florida.
To combat the damage that has been done, and continues to be done to the estuary, the study recommends increased stormwater retention, minimizing freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and enhanced treatment of both stormwater and sewage.
Lapointe noted that "significant action is being taken at the local and county levels to deal with stormwater issues."
Several municipalities along the Treasure Coast have adopted ordinances to limit fertilizer use during the wet season and have invested in stormwater retrofit projects. Efforts to retain stormwater include the $364 million, 12,000-acre C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area in western Martin County.
"We're still waiting on the (Army) Corps of Engineers to deal with the big problem, the releases from Lake Okeechobee," Lapointe said.
The releases have continued periodically, whenever heavy rainfall in southern and Central Florida pushes Lake O above 15.5 feet, the maximum set by the corps. Most recently, the corps released water from Sept. 19 until Nov. 7 after a month of above-average rain began Aug. 25 with Tropical Storm Isaac.
The corps says the discharges are necessary to move huge volumes of water quickly to prevent a catastrophic failure of the 110-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around the 730-square-mile lake during the wet season.
"The wetter it gets, the more limited we are in terms of our decision making," Army Corps Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the Jacksonville district deputy commander, told the Martin County Commission on Oct. 9. "We don't want to release one more gallon than is necessary."
The study does not specifically call on the Corps of Engineers to stop the releases.
"We're just dealing with the science, for now," Lapointe said. "If we were to get into water policy, that would open another Pandora's box. But we do hope the science will be useful to the (nongovernment organizations) that are working on these issues. Maybe that will lead to something that will get the corps to bust a move."
Mark Perry, executive director of the Stuart-based Florida Oceanographic Society, said the study "gives credence and credibility to a correlation we've known about for years — that the problems in the estuary are tied to the releases from Lake Okeechobee. Rather than us saying, 'It looks like this' or 'It could be that,' (the study) backs us up. And maybe it will inspire more people to get involved with the cause, which is to get the water (from Lake O) moving south to the Everglades like it's supposed to."
Juvenile gray snapper
NOAA scientists continue to develop and improve the approaches used to understand the effect of climate change on marine fisheries along the U.S. east coast. Their latest study projects that one common coastal species found in the southeast U.S., gray snapper, will shift northwards in response to warming coastal waters.
Scientists link climate change and gray snapper
January 4, 2013
In a study published online December 20 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and the University of North Florida developed projections of gray snapper distribution under several climate change scenarios. Gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus) is an important fishery species along the southeast U.S. coast. Associated with tropical reefs, mangroves and estuaries, gray snapper is found from Florida through the Gulf of Mexico and along the coast of Brazil. Juvenile gray snapper have been reported as far north as Massachusetts, but adults are rarely found north of Florida, leading researchers to look at estuarine habitats as a key piece of the puzzle. "Temperature is a major factor shaping the distribution of marine species given its influence on biological processes," said Jon Hare, lead author of the new study and director of the NEFSC's Narragansett Laboratory in R.I. "Many fish species are expected to shift poleward or northward as a result of climate change, but we don't fully understand the mechanics of how temperature interacts with a species life history, especially differences between juvenile and adult stages."
Map showing estuarine locations along the US east coast used in the gray snapper study. Researchers used observed temperature records and made projections for winter estuarine water temperatures at these locations. The sites are color-coded based on latitude, with southern locations in red, and northern locations in blue. Credit: Jon Hare, NEFSC/NOAAHare and NOAA colleague Mark Wuenschel, a fishery biologist at the Center's Woods Hole Laboratory, worked with Matt Kimball of the University of North Florida to project the range limits of gray snapper, also known as mangrove snapper, using coupled thermal tolerance-climate change models. Kimball also works at the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve in Florida. Gray snapper was chosen for this study given previous temperature and physiological studies by all three authors, providing a foundation upon which to build. Hare and colleagues believe their approach applies more broadly to other fishery species that use estuarine areas during their life history. Those include a large number of commercially and recreationally important species such as summer flounder, black sea bass, weakfish and pink shrimp.
Unlike earlier studies on climate change and its impact on species like Atlantic croaker, Hare and colleagues developed a model based on a specific hypothesis that is supported by laboratory experiments and field observations. Their new study is based on laboratory research that determined the lower thermal limit, the temperature at which a fish can no longer survive. This limit is expressed as cumulative degree days below 17°C (about 63°F). The team then equated these limits to estuarine water temperatures. Prior research has shown that estuarine temperatures are closely related to air temperatures, so the team then linked the thermal limits to air temperature. Projections of coastwide air temperature were then extracted from global climate models and used to project changes in the distribution of thermal limits for juvenile gray snapper. The researchers made climate projections for winter water and temperatures for 12 estuaries from Biscayne Bay in south Florida to northern New Jersey. Data collected in previous studies from the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve near Jacksonville, Florida, along with temperature data from the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserves in New Jersey, provided valuable background information. The results indicate that gray snapper distribution will spread northward along the coast into the future. The magnitude of this spread is dependent on the magnitude of climate change: more CO2 emissions resulted in greater northward spread. The uncertainty in the study's projections was also examined by the researchers, who looked at multiple global climate models and the uncertainty in each model's estimates of lower thermal limit. Surprisingly, biological uncertainty was the largest factor, supporting calls for more research to understand and characterize the biological effects of climate change on marine fisheries. This latest study by Hare, Wuenschel, and Kimball joins a growing number of studies that predict climate change is going to affect marine fish distribution and abundance, creating challenges for scientists, managers, and fishers in the future. "Further, this works supports the conclusion that along the U.S. east coast, some species will be positively affected by climate change while other species will be negatively affected." Hare said. "There will be winners and losers." "In the past we have assumed that ecosystems were variable but not changing. Now we understand that they are both variable and changing," said Hare. "That complicates the big picture since each species and each ecosystem is different." "The challenge facing scientists, managers, and fishers alike is identifying the potential effects of climate change and developing a response that will increase the long-term sustainability of resources," Hare said.
More information: PLOS One article: "Projecting range limits with coupled thermal tolerance – climate change models: an example based on gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus along the US east coast." www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0052294
South Florida lawmakers bring back congressional 'Everglades Caucus'
Miami Herald – Blog by Patricia Mazzei
January 4, 2013
For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing that Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.
With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the “Everglades Caucus” in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.
In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.
“The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy,” Diaz-Balart said. “We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem.”
Hastings called the Everglades “a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water, and is home to many endangered and unique species. It makes up a large portion of my Congressional district, and therefore I am acutely aware of the vital need for its restoration.”
WLRN - by Elaine Chen and Stefania Ferro
What's a better name: Broward or Lauderdale ?
||Look at the pictures - the size of words reflects peoples' associations with the terms/words: BROWARD - LAUDERDALE.
An interesting way of mapping/sizing almost subconscious impressions, meanings, relationship, interpretations -
January 4, 2013
Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca wants to transform Broward County by changing its name. LaMarca says many outside Florida don't recognize "Broward" and associate Fort Lauderdale with fun in the sun. He plans to propose the name Lauderdale County, an idea that will be debated next week in a function hosted by the Tower Forum, a Broward (soon to be Lauderdale?) non-profit business organization. Miami-Dade changed its name in 1997.
WLRN social media editor Danny Rivero points out the less-than-noble actions of some whose names were adopted by counties: Napoleon Bonaparte Broward drained the Everglades and Francis Dade fought against Seminole Indians. Beyond that history, the decision whether to change the name of a place often reflects broader issues: what defines our community? How do we want to be known?
We asked Public Insight Network members who live in Broward what the words "Broward" and "Lauderdale" mean to them. Below is a graphic showing what responses were most popular.
Broward did not conjure up as many distinct or positive associations. But as Rob Vango from Hollywood points out:
People go to a certain place or destination, not a county. When people go to South Beach, they don't say, "Hey, I'm going to a beach in Miami Dade County." Or when they go to Key West, they don't say "Hey, I'm going to Monroe County"....Leave it alone, this county has been named this for 100 years. Let each individual city in the county worry about its own tourism advertising.
So, perhaps a county name is less relevant. Given that public money will be required to change letterheads and signs, we'll see if boosters can build up enough momentum this time for an identity change that some view as unnecessary.
Birds' nests drop by 39 percent in South Florida
News-Press.com – by Kevin Lollar
January 3, 2013
Numbers have dropped for three straight years.
South Florida’s wading and diving birds had another bad nesting season in 2012.
According to the South Florida Wading Bird report, released this week, wading and diving birds built about 26,395 nests in the region, a 39 percent decline in the 10-year average.
This was the third consecutive year nesting numbers have been down after a spike in 2009, which produced 77,505 nests, the highest total since the 1940s.
Wading bird nesting success depends on the right amount of water in wetlands at the right time; typically, summer rains raise water in wetlands and allow fish and invertebrates to breed in large numbers.
Then the wetlands dry down to concentrate prey items and make them easy to catch.
“We had two years of drought, in 2010 and 2011, and for birds that feed on animals that live in water, that’s not a good thing,” said Mark Cook, the South Florida Water Management District’s lead environmental scientist. “So there was not a lot of prey base.
“But in 2012, we had good hydrological conditions from January to April. We had good rain, and the water was drying down nicely; then we had a major rain event, and the water shot up, dispersing all the prey, and the birds were without a food source.”
Compounding problems caused by uncooperative weather is habitat loss.
“Clearly the Everglades and Southwest Florida have been affected by man’s influence,” Cook said. “We use water for agriculture, swimming pools, to drink, so we take water out of the system.
“We’ve removed wetlands so we don’t have the storage capacity like we used to.”
While nesting numbers were down for all wading bird species, the endangered wood stork showed one of the greatest declines — 44 percent below the 10-year average.
For the fifth time in six years, wood storks failed to nest at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the largest wood stork nesting colony in North America.
“There are two things going on,” Lauritsen said. “One is low water levels and a dry winter, so the water dried fast.
“The other thing is the status of the habitat: Outside the sanctuary and places like Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand, there’s not much habitat left.”
Everglades airboaters' nasty battle over big bucks
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Jon Tayler
January 3, 2013
Out in the East Everglades along the Tamiami Trail, on the thin strip of asphalt that runs between Miccosukee Resort & Gaming and Naples, plenty of dangers await the unsuspecting visitor. Alligators, pythons, cottonmouth snakes, and snapping turtles lurk in the marshes, ready to strike at a moment's notice.
But to Gary Matthews, nothing is more treacherous than airboat captains — those wizened, weathered men who pilot tons of metal backed by a ten-foot propeller over a few feet of water and miles of sawgrass. Threats, intimidation, theft, and underhanded tactics are as abundant in the Everglades as lilies and gators, he says.
"It's very cutthroat. It's a bloodbath," says the 61-year-old Matthews, who is tall and bald, with a face tanned from decades under the sun in the swamp. He runs private tours in Everglades National Park for Airboat USA, a company he purchased about a decade ago. Since then, he says, the other companies along the Tamiami Trail — namely Coopertown Airboats and Everglades Safari Park — have made his life a living hell.
"All we've tried to do is run a successful business," Matthews says. "They've tried about seven times to get me put out of business."
It's a soap opera set in a sleepy part of the swamp that includes profanity, cops, and tens of thousands of dollars in profit. Matthews lobs accusations at his competitors; they deny them. According to Jesse Kennon, owner of Coopertown Airboats, Matthews has become persona non grata among airboaters. "The only one stirring up trouble here is Gary Matthews," he says. "Everybody's tried to help him, but he wants to come in and take over. Not many people here like him."
The South Florida airboat industry dates to the years immediately following World War II. Coopertown, the oldest concern in the East Everglades, opened for business in 1945; Safari Park started up in 1968. Since 1989, the National Park Service (NPS) has allowed only four companies — Coopertown, Safari Park, Gator Park, and Airboat USA — to operate in Everglades National Park. Those four hold a virtual monopoly on roughly 100,000 acres of land, ten times the size of Manhattan.
Though airboat companies exist as far north as Orlando, the most popular operators are along the Trail. Coopertown entertains about 90,000 visitors per year — 75 percent of them from outside the country. Overall, Kennon estimates, about a half-million people a year ride the airboats in South Florida. At $20 a head, those numbers have added up to big money.
But the airboating territory might shrink. Since the addition of the East Everglades to Everglades National Park in 1989, the NPS has considered limiting access to parts of the fragile ecosystem. Acting public information officer Mary Plumb says the NPS is evaluating "how many, if any, of the four operations are necessary and appropriate for visitors."
And competition is growing in Miami. Dozens of smaller companies have popped up on the Trail all the way through to Naples and into Everglades City. Kennon says that, since 1980, the area has gone from roughly 25 companies to 2,500.
Matthews is one of those small operators. A retired airline pilot, he began to airboat professionally in 2001. Back then, he helped government agencies and research organizations — the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Environmental Protection, scientists from Louisiana State University — travel the Everglades to conduct studies. After doing an educational show about frogs for New York City's PBS affiliate, he began to think of expanding his business.
Soon he started working with TV shows such as The Amazing Race, CSI: Miami, and Burn Notice and a number of projects for Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. He even appeared in an episode of Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami, the Magic City-based spinoff of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in which Matthews discovered the sisters stranded in the Everglades and found them a cabin in the swamp.
Matthews is full of impressive claims — for instance, he used to own a repair shop for Porsches and Ferraris in Coral Gables in the '70s and '80s, and Animal Planet approached him to replace Steve Irwin after the Australian explorer's death in 2006. "I didn't nail the audition, so to speak," he says, chuckling. But there's little mirth in his voice when he talks about his run-ins with other airboat captains.
"I have no respect for Coopertown or Safari Park," he says. "I've done nothing to hurt them."
In November 2007, he says, Kennon verbally and physically threatened him during a tour. As Matthews recalls, he was leading a private tour in the park when Kennon approached on an airboat.
"Jesse flies in and he's screaming, 'Get your motherfucking ass out of my Everglades,' " Matthews says. "Then he grabs a pipe, and he's going, 'I'm going to kick your fucking ass!' "
It's difficult to imagine the 70-year-old Kennon, who is soft-spoken and quiet, threatening to beat a man. With a wispy ponytail, glasses, and a green polo shirt tucked into jeans, he looks more like a retired high school science teacher than a swamp denizen. Though he acknowledges that he and Matthews had an argument, he vehemently denies any physical threat was made.
"He was disrupting my tours, and I said I didn't appreciate it, and how long was he going to stay there, and he got all smart-mouth," Kennon says, irritated by the memory. "The pipe? That's part of Gary's imagination. He almost got me put in jail for something I didn't do."
Miami-Dade police were called in, but no charges were filed against Kennon, who says witnesses disputed Matthews' account. One thing is clear: The incident permanently soured the relationship between the two men. "I have no reason to talk to him," Kennon says of Matthews.
Javier Morejon, who works for Airboat in Everglades, a 1-year-old private tour company that operates along the Trail, has another sort of complaint about Matthews from when Morejon worked for him. He, along with two other former Airboat USA employees, sued Matthews in April 2012. They claim Matthews stiffed them out of wages.
Matthews contends the lawsuit is a shakedown attempt designed to divert attention from Morejon's crime against him: the alleged theft of nearly $70,000 from Matthews between 2010 and 2011. "He tried to steal from every part of the company he could," Matthews says.
(New Times found no legal charges or lawsuits confirming this allegation.)
Like Kennon, Morejon says Matthews is fabricating events. "If that were true, I'd be incarcerated," says Morejon, who was arrested and convicted of armed robbery in 2008. "I never did anything illegal." Pressed about his relationship with Matthews, Morejon says, "I've got nothing to talk about that," and hangs up.
At Everglades Safari Park, about four miles down the road from Coopertown, owner Rick Farace has bigger matters on his mind than Matthews. Wearing a khaki uniform that makes him look like an overgrown Boy Scout, Farace is preoccupied with a tour involving the Kardashians — which ones, he doesn't know — that has been delayed nearly a week. He mills about the park's ticket booth while watching a TV production crew inspect the airboats. With his hair neatly combed back and graying at the temples, Farace brushes off concerns about Matthews and other competitors.
"We don't worry about other people," he says. "Our advantage is our reputation."
Most airboat owners play down talk of fights and bad blood, but Russ Larkin of the Airboat Association of Florida believes Matthews has contributed heavily to the tension. "When you do a business deal with Gary, you need to grab a jar of Vaseline, rub some on, and back up, because you're about to get screwed," he says. "Gary has no respect for nobody."
The NPS downplays the friction. "The National Park Service does respond to disputes between airboat companies and operators," Plumb writes. "They do not occur frequently, and our law enforcement rangers indicate most are unfounded or cannot be substantiated."
Indeed, Matthews claims he has tried to bury the hatchet with the others. "The more invisible we are to the Park Service, the less chance we'll be modified. A house divided will not stand."
But Kennon says Matthews has a habit of saying one thing and doing another. "He's like a mosquito that keeps buzzing around. He figures he can knock me out of here. He'll try anything. The rest doesn't interest me. I'm not interested in soap operas."
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CERP projects - Locator
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Everglades restoration projects start moving
News-Press.com - by Chad Gillis
January 3, 2013
A decade later, heavy lifting under way to protect fragile ecosystem.
Everglades restoration projects, which have been in the planning stages for a decade and may cost well over $8 billion, are moving forward in 2013, and more than $2 billion of ecological projects are either under way or approved for this region.
The South Florida Water Management District met Thursday in West Palm Beach to discuss updates.
Funding for the projects — and projects related to the Everglades but not funded by the federal government — in Lee and Collier counties were approved by the district last year.
There are 13 major Everglades projects still in the works with various funding sources and completion dates. Some projects, such as the $500 million Picayune Strand Restoration in Collier County, will be finished by 2016. Others, such as rehabilitating the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee, won’t be done until 2025, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans.
“There’s only one true Everglades restoration project, and that’s Picayune Strand,” said Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “That’s the only project where they’re pulling out roads and plugging ditches. It’s the only project that’s turning back the clock.”
Smaller projects funded by local government agencies and the state are contributing to the overall restoration of South Florida waterways as well, even though they don’t get the federal attention or boast enormous swaths of undeveloped lands.
Southern CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed) is a water quality and storage project east of Bonita Springs that’s expected to clean up water flowing into the Imperial River and eventually Estero Bay, the state’s oldest aquatic preserve.
Flooding in 1995 caused hundreds of Bonita-area residents to evacuate their homes. Officials determined that restoring historic water flow patterns on lands east of Bonita Grande Drive and north of Bonita Beach Road would help ease flooding and provide green space for water storage and natural purification.
Many of the exotic plants that dominated the CREW lands have been removed, and the water management district will eventually take out roads and plug ditches to restore sheet flow.
The district has invested nearly $30 million in the project and has removed roads and plugged ditches on nearly 700 acres of the 4,760-acre project area.
The state has been tied up in eminent domain cases for about 50 homesites in the Southern CREW boundary, as well as several small businesses. More than 97 percent of the lands had been purchased by October of 2010, according to water management district records.
Work in SW Florida
Picayune Strand and the Caloosahatchee aquifer storage and recovery system (called C-43 Reservoir) are the two largest Everglades restoration projects on this coast. Work at Picayune Strand will largely be completed this year, but the Caloosahatchee reservoir’s completion dates are unknown.
Payton has been fighting for the public purchase and restoration of Picayune Strand since 1994. Over the years, funding and interest in some projects faded as agencies cut budgets, positions and projects. Picayune Strand, however, rose in the ranks.
“In 2000 it wasn’t clear at if all the parcels would be purchased, and it wasn’t clear what priority it had,” Payton said. “Ten years ago, 15 years ago people were saying it wouldn’t be done, it couldn’t be done because the land was owned by people all over the world.”
Picayune Strand was gridded for construction and sold to people who mostly lived outside of Florida. Miles of roadways were installed, and a few people even built structures in what was planned to be the largest subdivision in the world.
The South Florida Water Management District last fall started a small pump operation on the Caloosahatchee reservoir land in Hendry County. The plan is to eventually build water storage compounds on the site, take excess freshwater from the river during the rainy season, store it and release it during droughts, if water is available.
Everglades restoration projects east and south of Lake Okeechobee are expected to help the Caloosahatchee as well.
Tom Teets, the district’s federal policy chief, said four alternatives are being considered to send water south from the lake, which should help ease higher-volume freshwater releases through the Caloosahatchee estuary.
Seminole Tribe member Wovoka Tommie proposed that the district build a connector ditch from the Caloosahatchee reservoir site and divert that water south to the Seminole Tribe lands.
Tommie said the tribe can act on its own and decide whether to allow waters onto their lands, which sit north of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
“A dehydrated man is going to take whatever water he can get,” Tommie said. “We’ve got a dying ecosystem out there, so we will take whatever water we can get.”
Teets said that the district is taking input and ideas on many of the remaining projects. Building a giant canal from Lake Okeechobee south to the Seminole Tribe would be a Herculian task.
“I take my kids fishing and try to teach them about the ecosystem,” said Tommie, 36. “But what I’m teaching them is not half of what I learned because the ecosystem has changed.”
The problem is that some of this contaminated water flows back to the surface too, along with added contaminants picked up deep underground, such as naturally occurring salts and radioactive elements.
Frack wastewater a threat to South
HoumaToday.com – by Erica Gies, Guest Columnist
January 3, 2013
In January 2003, two tanker trucks in Rosharon, Texas, unloaded oil and gas wastewater, disposing of it deep underground in a so-called “injection well.” The pouring of the water into the well released flammable vapors, and when one of the idling trucks backfired, the cloud ignited, killing three workers. Seven years later, thousands of gallons of polluted wastewater that had been injected underground in Rosharon burbled back to the surface.
Deep disposal of industrial waste has been common practice in the U.S. since the 1930s and was widely considered to be safe. More than 150,000 active injection wells dot the nation, absorbing 2 billion gallons of waste daily from the oil and gas, chemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries, according to the EPA, which supports the practice as a way to protect soils and surface water from contamination.
Injection wells currently underlie at least 32 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, California, states on the Gulf Coast, in Appalachia, and around the Great Lakes
But as the incident in Texas, and similar events in Louisiana, Florida, Oklahoma and California show, this pollution may not stay down. The injection wells used are mostly old oil and gas drill holes; they have no container at the bottom to trap waste. Thousands of injection wells are now leaking, bringing chemicals and waste to the surface or into shallow aquifers reports ProPublica.
Of particular concern are injection wells that are now disposing of huge amounts of wastewater from natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells across the country.
Drilling companies use an average of 5 million gallons of water per “frack” to crack apart underground bedrock and release natural gas. Into that water they mix chemicals — biocides to kill bacteria, scale inhibitors to clear pipes, and lubricants to ensure smooth machinery operation.
They also add proppants — tiny particles of sand, quartz or ceramics to hold underground fractures open, allowing gas to flow up to the surface.
Frack, baby, frack - until you muck - the aquifers - for good !
Companies dispose of this frack wastewater differently depending on region, though each method is problematic. In the South, Midwest, and West, injection wells are standard practice. In the Northeast, wastewater is disposed of in three ways: It is trucked to Ohio for dumping down injection wells; or processed at municipal sewage treatment facilities and then piped into local rivers; or treated onsite and reused in fracking.
Wastewater disposal underground is popular because it’s typically cheaper than treating or recycling. But now that injection wells have been shown to cause surface water pollution, the practice should be carefully reconsidered. Injection wells also forever deprive drought-prone areas of the nation of trillions of gallons of invaluable fresh water.
When selecting disposal alternatives, Southern regulators should recognize that water treatment is no silver bullet solution, either. Municipal plants were designed to treat sewage, not radioactive frack water, and those materials can pass straight through into local waters. Chemicals in frack water can also kill the beneficial bacteria used in standard sewage treatment plants, making those facilities less effective.
Another approach is for gas companies to treat wastewater onsite and reuse the water in future fracks. However, this can be energy intensive and costly. Gas companies also sometimes sell the byproduct – a super salty waste called brine that contains heavy metals and other pollutants – to state transportation departments to melt highway snow in winter and suppress dust in summer. This use conveys salts and chemicals to waterways via runoff, and should be discontinued.
Costs to clean water tainted by fracking — whether injected underground, treated and dumped or reused — are currently being externalized by oil and gas companies, with cities and states, and ultimately us — the taxpayers — picking up the tab. Toothless federal and state laws and industry exemptions to environmental laws have so far failed to address the problem.
People tout natural gas as a cheap fuel, but that is faulty logic that fails to add in water cleanup costs. When proper accounting is done, we may discover that natural gas is simply not cost-effective – or environmentally friendly – and that it is time for the U.S. to pursue other energy options.
Red tide continues to linger off Collier beaches
NaplesNews.com - by Eric Staats
January 3, 2013
A red tide continues to plague Collier County beaches, but county pollution control monitors are not receiving reports of dead fish or coughing fits.
Water samples taken Monday showed red tide at medium levels at Vanderbilt Beach, Seagate and South Marco Beach and at low levels at Naples Pier. More samples are set to be collected today.
Red tide is a bloom of microscopic algae that emits a toxin that can kill marine life and cause respiratory irritation and watery eyes in humans.
Collier County has not received reports of dead fish since Nov. 27, but respiratory irritation was reported last week on South Marco Beach, monitors said. Offshore winds this week should minimize red tide effects.
The county still is warning people with emphysema and asthma to avoid the beach to keep from exacerbating their conditions.
To report dead fish or red tide symptoms, call the county's natural resources department at (239) 252-2502 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (239) 252-2502 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Red tide updates are available on the red tide hotline at (239) 252-2591 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (239) 252-2591 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images shows elevated levels of chlorophyll offshore of Collier County, a possible indicator of red tide.
Last week, officials reported thousands of dead fish washing ashore in Sarasota and Charlotte counties, likely after swimming through an offshore red tide, officials said.
Red tide in Sarasota
Executive Director of
Florida Audubon executive director to speak on Florida’s Special Places
TCPlam.com – by Nancy McCarthy
January 2, 2013
STUART — During a time when Florida lawmakers have cut conservation spending more deeply than any other part of government, environmental activists have been lobbying to increase the state’s budget for water and land conservation.
Eric Draper, a veteran conservation activist, and executive director of Audubon Florida, has taken an active role in advocating for the conservation of land through Florida Forever, promoting Everglades restoration, defending state water policies and advancing clean energy legislative proposals.
Martin County residents will have a rare opportunity to meet with Draper when he visits the Audubon of Martin County to provide an update on the grassroots initiative “Florida’s Special Places” as well as the Florida Water & Land Legacy campaign. The presentation takes place on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at Port Salerno Civic Center, 4950 Anchor Ave. in Stuart. The event is free and open to the public.
“As a leading advocate for Everglades restoration, water resource protection, land conservation, and state energy policy, we are delighted that Eric is making time to visit with our Audubon chapter,” said Fran Stewart, president of Audubon of Martin County.
Draper’s discussion will include details about the campaign to protect Florida’s most cherished waters and natural areas. One element of the grassroots “Florida’s Special Places” campaign is to encourage Audubon chapters to adopt their own “special places” within their community for conservation work, bird surveys, and other efforts.
A recent focus of this effort has been the launch of the “Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign” – a major constitutional amendment campaign with a goal of being on the November 2014 ballot. The campaign is relying on mostly volunteer signature gatherers, of which Audubon chapters and staff are leading the way. A constitutional amendment is the best way to ensure adequate funding is dedicated solely to restoring critical natural areas, like the Everglades, and protecting Florida’s magnificent waters and lands for future generations.
“Floridians understand the value of clean and abundant water for people and wildlife, and they cherish the natural areas that make Florida special. That’s why the amendment would ensure that these values have a place in our state’s constitution,” said Draper.
For more information, visit www.audubonmartincounty.org or call 772-288-2637
About Audubon of Martin County:
Founded in 1955, Audubon of Martin County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a certified chapter of the National and Florida Audubon Societies. Its goal is to protect and conserve natural ecosystems in Martin County – focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats - through education, advocacy and public awareness.
Audubon of Martin County’s main office is located at the Possum Long Nature Center in Stuart. The office maintains an extensive collection of taxidermy specimens. The Sanctuary itself is adjacent to the center and includes an almost five-acre urban forest that is open to the public. This wetland sanctuary attracts many birds, including wood ducks, woodstorks, great blue heron, great egrets, and others species. Recently, yellow-crowned night herons have been spotted nesting on property.
Audubon of Martin County is located at 621 SE Palm Beach Road in Stuart. For more information, call 288-2637 or visit http://www.audubonmartincounty.org or http://facebook.com/audubonmartincounty.
About Eric Draper:
Eric Draper, a veteran conservation advocate, is executive director of Audubon Florida, the state’s oldest conservation group. He lobbies the Florida Legislature and executive agencies and is recognized as a leading advocate for Everglades restoration, water resource protection, land conservation, and state energy policy.
A Florida native, Eric Draper’s career has focused on conservation advocacy. He previously worked as National Audubon Society senior vice president for policy, staff director of the Florida House of Representatives’ Majority Office, and government relations director for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida program, where he led efforts to fund Florida’s $3 billion Preservation 2000 program and a dozen local land conservation programs.
In 2008, Draper was awarded the National Audubon Society’s highest honor, the Charles H. Callison Award of professional distinction. In 2009 he was named one of the top 40 “influencers” in Florida politics by Campaigns & Elections’ Politics magazine.
During the past 17 years, Draper helped orchestrate organizational growth for Audubon of Florida, which now employs more than 50 people with an annual budget of more than $5 million. Florida Audubon’s 100-year history as the Voice of Conservation is now backed by four science research centers, a suite of sanctuaries, 44 local chapters, and the state’s most effective conservation advocacy operation.
Current public service includes the Florida Soil and Water Conservation Council, the Council for a Sustainable Florida and the Florida Ocean Alliance. Previous service included the Clinton-Gore Transition Team, the Florida Water Management District Review Commission and the Governor’s Climate Action Team Technical Working Group on Energy Supply and Demand.
How healthy are our Florida rivers ? Click on each of the 22 rivers and read more – interactive graphics:
Newly dressed, the Caloosahatchee comes calling
January 2, 2013
For more than 25 years, Pam Degeer, born and raised on a Michigan farm, has been able to step out the front door of the French Connection Cafe, her tenderbar retreat on First and Jackson streets downtown, and spot the mile-wide Caloosahatchee River less than 200 yards to the north.
That proximity has not proved a good thing for countless neighboring businesses, the ones that existed when (post-Edison Mall) she kicked off her career, with co-owner Larry Wilkerson, as a restaurateur.
All the others are now gone, along with many more recent incarnations.
Ms. Degeer’s die-hard work ethic and good sense, however, along with her genuine affection for her customers, has afforded her the long view and the title, survivor.
But suddenly that long view has changed, because the Caloosahatchee River, for the first time in generations, has moved much closer to Ms. Degeer’s restaurant, and to every other business downtown.
It’s done so under the redevelopment auspices of the tentatively named River Basin. The $5.3 million project officially opened recently with two large pools acting as filters for storm-water runoff, fountains, walkways, and the still-empty surrounding space where officials hope to see restaurants, retail shops and a hotel arise beside the Harborside Convention Center in the next few years.
As an architectural marvel, the project harnesses a great but neglected river, moving it from Edwards Drive to Bay Street to rejoin the humans it fed and protected historically along its south bank. That’s happened over a portion of the city’s namesake fort and first settlements — a fact officials ignored until it was too late to do anything about it, critics say — likely burying forever the archaeological evidence of pioneering soldiers and citizens.
If there’s a payback for that loss, it will come in the form of contemporary downtown prosperity.
In recent days, the project’s images have appeared in newspapers, on television and scattered like fountain spray across Facebook.
But as a business investment it only earns Ms. Degeer’s ambivalent — call it very cautious —optimism.
“My first view was, this is the most stupid thing in the world,” she explains.
That view has changed.
“Now that it’s finished, it looks awesome, and it really does bring the river into downtown, so it’s more of an attraction. But how fast will it bring development? That’s anybody’s guess.”
Like Ms. Degeer, Don Paight is also a record setter downtown. When he moves past his 26th anniversary as the City of Palms’ redevelopment director in March, he will hold the record as the longest-serving city redevelopment director in the Sunshine State.
This may be the project that he’s labored to birth for a quarter century — the counterattack by the river, if you will, 47 years after developer George Sanders’s invading Edison Mall opened on U.S. 41. His was the first in the United States to put a JCPenny and a Sears in the same location, eviscerating downtown beginning in 1965.
“The River Basin has turned out a lot better than I expected it to,” says Mr. Paight, who has seen a lot of misfires downtown.
This is not likely to be one of them, in his opinion.
“It’s one thing to have architects drawing it up and rendering it beautifully, but it’s another to have it turn out like this, with details like railings that have a mangrove-root basis to them, the soft lighting, the fountains, the walkways, the music — it’s just a superlative project.”
That sets the stage for the project’s encore act, he says — “doing what we hoped it would do, which is bring in additional development.”
And not just along the river, but throughout the historic district.
“Because of that time in the 1930s and ’40s when they did that expansion, it left the downtown historic area disconnected from the river,” he explains.
“We wanted to reestablish that connection, but not just focus on the waterfront.”
Officials want to bring back the convention business to downtown, too, Mr. Paight says, an economic rocket dependent on a big proximate hotel Such business had only just begun to lift off early in the last decade, before the recession. Now, he says, in an era when no one wants to finance or build a big hotel, a Sarasota developer has shown interest.
Meanwhile, somebody might tune up the name, suggests Stephanie Davis, known as the “Downtown Diva” in her column for The News- Press, a Gannett daily newspaper.
“The Downtown Diva is so superthrilled with the brand-spanking-new river thing downtown that I can’t even think straight,” she wrote last week. “OK, I get it, it IS a basin and functions as a basin, but I’m not enjoying the WORD basin.”
Ms. Davis suggests, instead, Downtown River Walk.
Ms. Degeer, meanwhile, can think very straight.
If the project succeeds, she says, everybody will do better.
“Every little thing down here helps my business,” she notes, echoing the opinions of other merchants.
“Every new restaurant, every business that opens, every project, anything we can do. So I’m optimistic as always, but holding my breath and waiting for that hotel.”
Panthers have up, down year
News-Press.com - by Kevin Lollar
January 2, 2013
More were killed in wild, but more born, as well.
To determine whether Florida panthers had a good or bad year in 2012, all the numbers need to be considered.
On one hand, a record 26 of the endangered cats died in 2012; a record-tying 17 were killed by vehicles.
Scientists say 100 to 160 Florida panthers remain in the wild, so last year’s death toll is 16 to 26 percent of the total population.
That’s a bad year.
At the same time, 15 radio-collared female panthers gave birth to 40 kittens (26 males and 14 females), and an unknown number of uncollared females had an unknown number of kittens.
That’s a good year.
“We look at it more optimistically,” said Kevin Godsea, manager of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County. “From a biological standpoint, we look at recruitment. Are we seeing an uptick in panther kittens?
“But we have to be a little guarded and make sure we keep monitoring collared cats and their reproduction, and it’s certainly concerning to see the number of mortalities, especially on roads.”
With the survival rate among panther kittens at 30 percent, 12 of the kittens born to collared cats in 2012 should live long enough to produce kittens of their own.
Florida panthers, a subspecies of the mountain lion, also known as cougar and puma, once ranged through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Hunting and development drove the whole panther population into South Florida, and by the 1990s, only 20 to 30 remained in the wild.
Such a small population led to inbreeding and genetic defects. In 1995, state and federal wildlife officials released eight female Texas cougars into South Florida to breed with local cats and improve the gene pool.
Panther numbers soon rebounded.
High panther mortality in recent years (141 deaths, including 83 roadkills, since 2007) is a direct result of growing human and panther populations.
“We’re certainly happy the population has risen since the numbers of the 1990s,” said Marc Criffield, a wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “At the same time, the human population has risen, so there are more roads, more cars and more panthers.
“We’re always going to see some vehicle deaths. That’s the reality. So every year, we plead with drivers to go slow, especially when they see panther-crossing signs.”
Report on state business climate cites need for energy and environmental planning
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 2, 2013
A Florida Department of Economic Opportunity report on the state's business climate is calling for a statewide strategy to ensure adequate future water supplies and for a statewide energy strategy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The Legislature in 2011 passed bills reducing state oversight of local government land-use decisions and eliminating the Department of Community Affairs, while moving state planners to the new Department of Economic Opportunity. The Legislature also directed the new department to issue a report on Florida's business and economic development climate each year before Dec. 31.
While mostly laying out strategies for attracting new industries and creating jobs, the 2011 report made only slight mention of the need for protecting "critical lands, waters and habitats" and addressing potential harm from major developments.
The 2012 report, received Wednesday from DEO in response to a request, still deals mostly with the need for coordination among government agencies to attract new businesses and create jobs. But it also adds a few details about the need for policies dealing with growth management and environmental protection.
The report says there is a critical need for a more "proactive, effective and collaborative approach" on development and infrastructure decisions at the state, regional and local levels.
DEO calls on the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection to initiate a statewide process to address economic development, land use, infrastructure and environmental stewardship over a 50-year period.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said work on the statewide planning process will not begin until after the Department of Economic Opportunity issues a five-year strategic plan for economic development, which is expected early this year.
Regarding energy, the Department of Economic Development report says Florida can develop talent and innovation economic "clusters" that include "clean" energy. The report also says state and local governments should focus on research and development of new energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
"Policies need to ensure reliable and cost-effective sources of energy to sustain economic development while helping protect the environment," the report said.
The report, though, doesn't say who should develop the statewide strategy nor does it mention the state energy office, which the Legislature in 2011 moved from the governor's office to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Regarding planning for water, the Department of Economic Opportunity said there remains "significant concerns" about the availability of water in the future.
"The fundamental asset in ensuring healthy communities and long-term business growth is adequate supply of water," DEO said. "A statewide water strategy will enable Florida to balance residential, agricultural and industrial uses."
A Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the department and the state's five water management districts are working to ensure adequate water supplies. DEP also is working to develop proposed rules for statewide permitting consistency that would encourage water conservation, spokesman Patrick Gillespie said.
How healthy are our Florida rivers ? Click on each of the 22 rivers and read more – interactive graphics:
Saving Florida’s rivers
Miami Herald – Editorial
January 2, 2013
Urgent task can no longer be postponed.
Like Florida’s Everglades, the unique “River of Grass,” many of the state’s other rivers are also beset by pollution and fluctuating water levels thanks to seasonal droughts and increasing demand for drinking water in urban areas. Unlike the Everglades, however, many of these threatened rivers are getting no relief. So says a year-long study, Down by the river, of 22 rivers statewide conducted by the Orlando Sentinel.
From the Apalachicola River in the Panhandle to the Miami River in the heart of the state’s largest urban core, Florida’s waterways, which stem from springs and lakes and often intersect, need more help. There are no quick fixes, and certainly no cheap remedies. The state doesn’t completely neglect its abundant waterways — Florida taxpayers already send more than $1 billion a year in fees and taxes to several state agencies that regulate waterways. But all who understand the dimensions of the widespread pollution say much more money will be needed over time.
Largely because of the expense, the state has spent 14 long years resisting the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 1998 requirement that states write water-quality controls with effective measures to curb pollution in their rivers, lakes and other waterways by 2004.
Florida balked, citing enormous costs, with state officials and EPA bosses in a perpetual sparring match. The state missed the 2004 deadline, and in 2008, exasperated environmental groups sued the state in federal court, citing the federal Clean Water Act. Finally, under court pressure, the EPA agreed to write the rules and impose them on Florida, which continued to resist. But in what is largely seen as a bit of election-year politicking, the EPA in late 2011 backed off, saying the state could write the rules after all.
Still, Florida officials, citing huge compliance expenses for urban areas, industry and agribusiness, resisted. And all the while, the state’s waterways grew more nasty things like algae blooms and dead zones, as runoff of every kind continued. But the end of this battle may be in sight. Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle denied the state’s request for more time. He ordered the EPA to implement its water-quality rules in Florida.
What the state does next is anybody’s guess. But what it should do is comply with the judge’s ruling. This will not be easy, yet it’s vitally necessary if the state is to protect its drinking-water supply, which come from waterways, springs and underground aquifers. The costs are high, but the stakes are higher. If Florida is to continue to attract new business investment and residents it has to safeguard this most fundamental basic need of existence.
There are some ongoing efforts to protect and restore some waterways. In the 1980s, the Save our Rivers program bought nearly 2 million acres of open space to protect river basins. The restoration of the historic, north-flowing St. Johns River is one of the state’s most ambitious environmental projects. So is the restoration of the Kissimmee River to its traditional ox-bow flow by the U.S. Corps of Engineers . The cost for both restorations totals $2.5 billion so far.
And then, of course, there is the 20-year plan to restore the Everglades, which is an example of how the state’s waterways are interconnected. The Kissimmee River, located north of Lake Okeechobee, dumps polluting nutrients and urban runoff into the lake, which in turn dumps them into the Everglades and magnificent river estuaries on both coasts of Florida. Cleaning up the Kissimmee is as necessary a step toward Everglades restoration as all the other related cleanup projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
It’s also an example of how complex the state’s waterway systems are and why cleaning up and protecting all the state’s water bodies from further pollution can’t be avoided any longer.
U.S., state must confront reality of climate change
January 2, 2013
Earth is growing warmer; the records prove that. Some still doubt human activity has anything to do with it, but it's past time for the rest of us to face reality.
We need, first, good leadership. The United States should provide it, as it has repeatedly promised but failed to do. To begin with, it needs to join those other nations that have committed to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions.
Florida should be a leader among the states, because it is among those most threatened with ecological problems and rising sea levels.
Tallahassee should take its cues from South Florida, where local governments have long recognized the dangers associated with climate change. Raising sea-wall heights, moving drinking-water well fields farther inland and imposing tougher development regulations for particularly vulnerable areas — ideas once unthinkable are now part of a regional climate-change plan designed to help local communities address the impacts.
While the flooding and saltwater intrusion now seen in South Florida occur regularly, far more devastating effects are happening in other parts of the world. According to a 20-nation consortium of developing countries, failure to act will result in 100 million deaths worldwide by 2030 from droughts, floods, disease, crop failure and major water shortages. These findings are consistent with those from the world's authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Some skeptics say "many" scientists don't believe in global warming or don't believe it's caused by human activity. But the "many" is actually a small minority.
Floridians may think droughts and wars in faraway places are no threat to them. They are wrong, but in any case, we are dealing with the effects of climate change here at home.
Some of our cities have wisely begun to include resources to address the problem in their long-range planning. Their foresight is commendable.
"We need to have the will to do things we've never done before and do them quickly," said Richard Grosso, professor of land-use law at Nova Southeastern University, at a recent regional climate-change conference. "We need to elect officials who will not be paralyzed by doubt."
In 2030, most young people who graduated from college this year will turn 40. They will have moved or be moving into positions of power and influence in government and industry. The world's problems will be in their laps.
These are our children. We're already saddling them with a crushing debt, much to our shame. Do we also want to burden them with the possibly catastrophic effects of climate change, just because we lack the will to act now?
Florida Audubon executive director to speak on Florida's Special Places in Stuart
TCPalm.com - News Release
January 1, 2013
STUART — Eric Draper, a veteran conservation activist, and executive director of Audubon Florida, will visit the Audubon of Martin County to provide an update on the grass-roots initiative "Florida's Special Places" as well as the Florida Water & Land Legacy campaign.
The presentation takes place at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 10 at the Port Salerno Civic Center, 4950 Anchor Ave., Stuart. The event is free and open to the public.
Draper's discussion will include details about the campaign to protect Florida's most cherished waters and natural areas. For more information, visit www.audubonmartincounty.org or call 772-288-2637.
Vultures Pick at Visitors' Cars in Fla. Everglades
January 1, 2013
Visitors to parts of Everglades National Park are getting tarps and bungee cords to make their vehicles less delectable to vultures.
Migrating vultures have developed a habit of ripping off windshield wipers, sunroof seals, and other rubber and vinyl vehicle parts.
Visitors to the park's Homestead and Flamingo entrances are loaned "anti-vulture kits" to protect their vehicles.
Park wildlife biologist Skip Snow says that the vultures are migrating as normal. It's just not clear why the birds are picking at parked cars and trucks. Park employees have tried to scare away the vultures, but nothing has worked.
Park Superintendent Dan Kimball says complaints about the vultures have declined since employees began distributing the tarps and bungee cords last year.
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