130228-a Gov. Scott announces $3 million commitment for water projects in Apalachikola
ApalachTimes.com - by David Adlerstein
February 28, 2013
Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senator Bill Montford and Representative Halsey Beshears to announce that the Florida Families First Budget invests $3 million in water projects for Apalachicola to enhance the community’s infrastructure while improving water quality in the bay. The Governor also highlighted current activities to assess and improve the area’s fisheries, and efforts to improve the economic conditions of the region. The Governor was also joined by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District Jon Steverson, Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity Jesse Panuccio and Executive Director Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Nick Wiley.
Governor Scott said, “When one community hurts in Florida, we all come together to help – and that’s why the Florida Families First Budget makes important investments in this community. Our budget provides a targeted investment of $3 million for Apalachicola water quality improvement projects, which will provide this area with cleaner water to create healthier fisheries.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District will prioritize critical projects that address storm water needs, which will enhance area infrastructure and improve the quality of water that enters the bay. The district will have the flexibility needed to retrofit storm water infrastructure to keep storm water from impacting the local fisheries. These initiatives will be crucial for the long-term restoration and sustainability of water resources in Apalachicola Bay, and will work to clean this ecosystem so it provides quality water for oysters.
Included in the $3 million is up to $500,000, to help fund an analysis of the river flows necessary to maintain estuarine resources.
Senator Bill Montford said, “We’re working hard to get this community back up on its feet, and I applaud the Governor for making critical investments in the area to improve the fisheries and infrastructure. We’ll continue to find ways to protect the generations of families who rely on this bay and the rivers for their livelihoods.”
Franklin County Commissioner Pinki Jackel said, “The Governor and his agencies have been very engaged in the needs of this community – and I’ll continue working to improve the fisheries and support more job growth for area families.”
“Governor Scott recognizes the critical importance of Apalachicola Bay and River as an ecological treasure, an economic driver and a way of life not just for Franklin County residents but for the entire state of Florida,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. “The Governor’s Florida Families First budget illustrates his commitment to improving water quality to restore this vital ecosystem.”
“The Scott administration recognizes the importance of this essential industry to our state and the Department of Economic Opportunity will be working to sustain and diversify this community as a vibrant center of business and continue to be a provider of Florida Fresh seafood for generations to come,” said DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio.
“I applaud the Governor’s efforts to provide continued assistance to the oyster producing industry in the Apalachicola area,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Executive Director Nick Wiley. “FWC remains committed to the people of this community as we partner to find solutions to restore the oyster production for which Apalachicola is so well known.” Current Activities in Franklin County
Currently, the regional workforce board, Franklin County, the Department of Agriculture and Fish And Wildlife Commission are working together to move oysters from poor growing areas to other sites, where the oysters can grow to a good size for oystermen to harvest. Today, there are oysters developing in areas of poor water quality, which impacts the growth of the oyster – and impacts the pocket books of oystermen who are prohibited from selling oysters from these identified reefs. In a process known as “relaying,” oysters that are developing in poor condition areas are moved to areas with better water quality. From these areas, healthy oysters can develop into something that oystermen can sell, which is great news for families in the area.
Department of Economic Opportunity is coordinating with Franklin County in depositing processed oyster shell on depleted oyster reefs and bay bottom areas to provide a base for oyster larvae to attach and grow. The benefits of this project provide short term and long term gains to families in the area. First, the partnership with Department Of Economic Opportunity and the county will employ individuals to deposit the oyster shells, providing job opportunities to area families. Second, the shells will provide a great habitat for oysters to attach to and grow in, which benefits the oyster industry here as a whole. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has been working with the University of Florida to monitor the Big Bend area outside of Apalachicola, which may provide scientists with greater opportunities to better understand the potential of the oyster fisheries. Also, the University of Florida Oyster Recovery Team is studying the decline of oysters in Apalachicola Bay to create short-term and long-term strategies for restoring oyster populations – and their first strategy report is expected this Spring.
The Department of Economic Opportunity is working with the county to develop strategies for the regional economy to ensure the community remains whole.
Governor Scott said, “Let me be clear, our number one goal is restore these fisheries so that generations of families who have relied on the waters of Apalachicola can continue to do so. The Department Of Economic Opportunity is working with Franklin County to complement and enhance the local economy, so families have access to good jobs.”
Through the work, the regional economy is being assessed to find additional opportunities that exist for businesses and families in Apalachicola and what can be done to provide families with a long-term sustainable strategy to ensure families can put food on the table. (TAGS: pollution, algae, water quality)
130228-b Learning to live with red tide
UF-IFAS - by John Stevely
February 28, 2013 Check out the Beach Conditions Report
Since the devastating red tide of 2005, we have been fortunate in that there have only been infrequent minor red tide events along Florida’s southwest coast. During 2005, residents and tourists were subjected to what seemed like endless months of dead fish washing up on our beaches and beach-goers fled our beaches due to the respiratory distress caused by the neurotoxin produced by the red tide organism – the stench from rotting fish didn’t help matters. Newspapers trumpeted headlines about “dead zones” in the Gulf where essentially every living creature had died.
Red tide is caused by the presence of a microscopic plant-like organism that secretes a nuerotoxin.
Unfortunately, in recent months, there have numerous reports of red tide along Florida’s southwest coastline. We can only hope that we do not see a repeat of the 2005 red tide event during the upcoming year. Such severe red tides like we saw back then usually only occur once every several decades, but there are no guarantees.
Red tide is a natural phenomenon. Accounts of red tides have been reported since the days of the Spanish explorers. Currently, there is debate among scientists as to the extent to which nutrients in urban run-off prolongs and/or intensifies red tide events. Following the red tide of 2005 several local governments have adopted ordinances aimed at trying to reduce nutrient enrichment of run-off by regulating the use of lawn fertilizers. However, even if such measures prove to be effective in reducing the severity of red tide, we will never completely eliminate red tide.
Now we have a tool to help us cope with red tides. Thanks to the Internet you can quickly check the Beach Conditions Report. This website provides a real-time assessment of how severely red tide is affecting local beaches (reports on individual beaches are supposed to be updated twice a day). Information is provided on whether dead fish are present and whether beach-goers are experiencing respiratory problems. How is this helpful ? Let’s say you were thinking of spending a day at the beach or perhaps just enjoying dining at a waterfront restaurant. A few days ago or perhaps last week you remember hearing something about there being red tide in local waters. The prospect of coughing and smelling rotting fish causes you to abandon your plans. However, by checking the Beach Conditions Report you can determine if this is really necessary.
It is important to note that red tide conditions can change from day to day and from beach to beach as water currents sweep the red tide along the coast. Perhaps conditions at your favorite beach have dramatically changed in the past week or even from a few days ago. Perhaps you see that red tide is indeed present at the beach, but conditions at a beach just 10 miles away are fine and you can still take the kids to the beach. My experience has been that this is indeed possible. For example, today (2/28/2013) beach-goers at Siesta Key can expect to experience some slight respiratory distress, but everything seems fine at the Manatee Co. beaches.
We may not be able to completely eliminate red tide, but at least now you can easily obtain the information you need to make good decisions on your water related activities during red tides.
Want more Red Tide information ? Check out these websites: Charlotte Co. Sea Grant Red Tide Fact Sheet FWC Red Tide Status Report and links to other Red Tide informational links
130228-d New poll finds Americans are worried about runaway population growth
TheDailyBeast.com - by Jerry Karnas
February 28, 2013
The planet’s population could hit 10 billion by 2050, and a national poll by the Center for Biological Diversity finds a majority of Americans believe the growth could make some species extinct, is making climate worse, and is an important environmental issue.
There’s a price for screwing around like we are. And Americans know it.
Every day, we add 200,000 more people to the planet—that’s like adding a city the size of Phoenix every week. We’ve already tipped the 7 billion mark, and we’re on pace for 10 billion by 2050, perhaps 14 billion by 2100.
Think of what it takes to accommodate that many more people: the roads, the pollution, the strip malls, the fresh water, the oil, the land to grow food, the ungodly amount of electronic gadgets and gizmos that have become practically intertwined in our DNA.
And all of these come at a price. The more people we add, the more fossil fuels we dig up, the more wild land we log and pave and mine, the worse the climate gets, the more pesticides we use, the more land we take from wildlife, the more species that are put on an accelerated ride toward utter extinction.
But there is some good news. The American people understand. They‘re connecting the dots. They get that we can’t keep growing our human population as if there’s never a price to be paid.
A new national poll commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity (where I work) and conducted by über-pollsters Public Policy Polling finds a majority of Americans believe the world’s growing human population is driving wildlife species toward extinction (60 percent) and is making climate change worse (57 percent). Respondents also said addressing the human population—which topped 7 billion in 2011—is an important environmental issue (59 percent).
But wait, you might be saying, didn’t I just read a slew of recent pieces on The Daily Beast sounding the alarm on how the U.S. was a facing a population catastrophe, that we weren’t breeding enough?
Didn’t I just read how hordes of city slickers were choosing childless lives and about a book titled What to Expect When No One’s Expecting? Didn’t regular Beast contributors Joel Kotkin, Megan McArdle, and Justin Green all write pieces about how the real problem is not population growth but population decline? What’s going on here?
Well, seems there are a few media-savvy growth boosters who like the man-bites-dog allure of a narrative that says, “Nope, the problem isn’t too many people, it’s that we’re not producing humans fast enough.” These folks have a worldview where population growth is all wisdom and no vice. Grow or die, they say. The bad news is that these folks have a habit of generating a lot of press. The good news is that the American people aren’t buying it.
Do Americans feel the planet is growing too fast ? You bet they do. Our poll found 50 percent said the world’s population was growing too fast. Only 4 percent said too slow. The belief in the tooth fairy would poll higher than that.
The U.S. adds 5,000 people a day to the population ranks. That’s like adding a city of Philadelphia every year. And we certainly take a toll on the planet. Americans consume 18.8 million barrels of oil per day—more than the next four highest oil consumers combined. The same is pretty much true for meat, grains, water, coal, natural gas, and a host of other resources.
Are Americans aware of our disproportionate levels of consumption ? Yes, they are. Are Americans OK with these levels of consumption ? Forty-eight percent of the poll respondents said the average American consumes too many natural resources. Only 17 percent said we consume too few.
Are Americans concerned about the rate that wildlife is disappearing? Absolutely. Sixty-one percent were concerned about vanishing plants and animals.
Here’s the key question. Do the American people believe population growth is impacting the disappearance of wildlife? Yes: 57 percent said population growth was a significant cause of plant and animal extinctions. Asked another way, 60 percent agreed with the following statement: “Human population growth is driving other animal species to extinction.”
We also asked about future growth and its impacts. Our poll found 64 percent of Americans believe a 10 billion–person planet would result in adverse effects. Only 8 percent thought this population level would be beneficial.
What about climate change? Do Americans connect the cooking of the planet to making babies willy-nilly? Without a doubt: 57 percent of those polled said population growth was making climate change harder to solve.
Do Americans think stabilizing population will help protect the environment ? Fifty-four percent believe stabilization will.
Nothing on earth happens in a vacuum. It’s a closed system that begins to buckle under the sheer weight of human demands. Scientists are increasingly linking population growth and overconsumption to our environmental challenges. In just the past few months scientists have found:
• The Colorado River system is under assault by a growing population, and there are serious doubts it can meet the West’s demand for water in the coming decades.
• Florida’s aquifer, the water supply for 19 million people, is experiencing saltwater intrusion because of overpumping.
• The United States will lose 36 million acres of forest to urban sprawl by 2050.
• Sixty-six species of coral should be classified as endangered because population and consumption of resources are a driving factor in the threats they face.
• The Gunnison sage grouse merits endangered-species protection in part because the human population has doubled in its habitat and will double again in the next 20 years.
• Florida panthers experienced the second year in a row of record-breaking road-kill deaths due to increased traffic and development in panther habitat.
What is most heartening about our poll is that the American people get it. There is no disconnect between what the scientists are measuring and finding and what Americans are perceiving and experiencing. They aren’t freaking out about population declines. They are increasingly of the view that the world’s population and consumption levels are seriously out of whack with the ecological safety net the earth provides free of charge to us all.
And finally it comes to this: We asked, if mass extinctions of plants and animals were unavoidable due to population growth, do we have a moral responsibility to address the problem? Sixty percent said yes.
In the end that is the most important conclusion. Americans believe we should do the right thing. And in this case the right thing is to start a real conversation about what’s happening to life on earth. If we don’t, in the end we will only be screwing ourselves.
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(TAGS: population growth, environment, policy, urban planning) Jerry Karnas is the population campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity
130228-e Red tide detected on Sarasota County beaches
February 28, 2013
SARASOTA COUNTY - Recent beach water samples collected by the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County and analyzed by Mote Marine Laboratory for the red tide algae (Karenia brevis) show an increase over test results from last week.
Higher levels of Karenia brevis were found at the following Sarasota County beaches: Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, Nokomis Beach, North Jetty, Venice Beach, Service Club Park, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard Beach, Caspersen Beach and Manasota Beach. Lifeguards at impacted beaches post signage advising the public about the red tide and recommending that they check Mote Marine's Beach Conditions Report about red tide effects on local and other regional beaches in Southwest Florida.
Sarasota County lifeguards are reporting slight to moderate respiratory irritation caused by red tide's airborne toxins blowing ashore at various beaches. Beachgoers may experience coughing, sneezing, scratchy throat or teary eyes. These effects should be temporary and go away when those affected leave the beach. However, people with asthma, emphysema or other chronic respiratory impairments should be aware of places where red tide impacts are being reported and should avoid those areas. If persons experience symptoms - especially if they have a chronic lung condition - health officials advise that they make alternative plans away from red tide-affected areas. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention. Residents living in beach areas where red tide is present are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner (making sure that the AC filter is maintained according to manufacturer's specifications).
Prevailing southerly winds earlier this week are believed to have contributed to the resurgence of red tide in Sarasota County. It is important to note that since winds are variable, conditions can change frequently throughout the day. For those who are susceptible, the symptoms associated with red tide tend to become more noticeable when the winds are blowing onshore.
Small amounts of dead fish have been reported and are being cleaned up atBlind Pass Beach, Manasota Beach, Venice Beach and Caspersen Beach to Service Club Park. As a precaution, health officials recommend that beachgoers wear shoes when walking on the sand. This will help to prevent puncture wounds from the spines or bones of dead fish.
Most people can swim in red tide, but it can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If your skin is easily irritated, avoid red tide water. It is advisable to get out and thoroughly wash off with fresh water. Swimming near dead fish is not recommended.
Pet owners are advised that red tide poses a risk to animals brought to the beach. Red tide can affect dogs after they come out of the water, lick their paws or fur and ingest the algae which can be harmful to their health. Be sure to rinse dogs off with freshwater if they swim in red tide waters.
Beachgoers are encouraged to check the Mote Marine Laboratory Beach Conditions Report before they go to the beach since conditions can change daily. The report is updated twice a day and can be accessed online at www.mote.org/beaches. Click on the same link to the mobile-friendly version of the beach conditions report.
Visitors also can register to receive email reports about specific beaches. For telephone updates, call 941-BEACHES (232-2437) and press "1" for Sarasota County beaches. For the latest red tide status reports and general information about red tide, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) website athttp://myfwc.com/Research. The FWC-Mote Cooperative Facebook page iswww.facebook.com/FLHABs.
130227-a Clean Water Act: The potential impact of LA County v. NRDC
Jurist.org - by guest columnists Eric Delio and George Thompson
February 27, 2013
The recent US Supreme Court case, Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. [PDF], presented an issue that stemmed from a factual misunderstanding by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and was not addressed at length in oral argument. However, some of the underlying issues in this case could have important ramifications for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in its future legal efforts, as it gained a significant legal victory in the rejection of the "good faith compliance" argument advanced by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District ("the District").
The issue presented in the case was whether water moving from one portion of a river to another, through a man-made channel, could constitute a discharge under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Both the District and NRDC agreed that the answer was "no" based on the holding of S. Florida Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. Miccosukee held that there is not an addition, and therefore not a discharge under the CWA, when water is transferred between "two hydrologically indistinguishable parts of a single water body."
Instead, the parties argued about whether pollutant concentrations detected by in-stream mass monitoring stations in the Santa Clara River, the Los Angeles River, the San Gabriel River and Malibu Creek — which exceeded the water quality standards established in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit — could result in liability imposed on the District and whether the District must actually comply with the permit's water quality standards.
The District operates a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), which is a network of storm drains and pipes that conveys stormwater runoff to local water bodies. MS4s are owned and operated by public entities, such as cities or counties. MS4s do not transport sewage; however, stormwater runoff can pick up pollutants before entering a storm drain.
MS4s require specialized NPDES permits under section 402(p) of the CWA. Because MS4s can have hundreds of outfalls discharging into various parts of a water body across miles, they are granted area permits. MS4 permittees are subject to the water quality standards of the receiving waters, meaning the terms of the permit establish certain pollutant levels that are not to be exceeded. Exceedances of these standards are generally considered a violation of the CWA.
In the Los Angeles County MS4, monitoring stations are located in concrete-channeled sections of the rivers. NRDC produced data taken from these monitoring stations that indicated that the receiving waters have exceeded their designated water quality standards 140 times over a five year period. NRDC argued that these exceedances should impose liability on the District to correct the violations. However, the District argued that it can't be established that water moving through the MS4 added pollutants to the water bodies. Further, the District argued that its compliance with certain sections of the permit absolved it from complying with water quality standards and instead the District only had to make a good faith effort to comply with the standards.
The district court agreed with NRDC that the District violated the terms of the permit. However, the district court wanted specific evidence "showing that discharges from the District portions of the MS4 are contributing to the exceedances at the mass emissions stations." On appeal, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that the exceedances of water quality standards constituted violations of the CWA. Importantly, the Ninth Circuit flatly rejected the District's "good faith" argument. Further, the Ninth Circuit found the District liable, holding that water flowing by the monitoring stations constituted a discharge under the CWA.
However, as the US amicus brief [PDF] suggests, the Ninth Circuit's holding reflects a factual misunderstanding of the relationship of the MS4 to the rivers. The brief posits that "the court mistakenly believed that the monitoring stations at issue were sampling water from a portion of the MS4 distinct from the rivers themselves," and not from inside the rivers.
Although the Ninth Circuit's holding was likely the result of its factual misunderstanding, the US Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether water moving from one portion of a river to another, through a man-made channel, could constitute a discharge under the CWA. The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and reaffirmed its holding in Miccosukee that transferring "polluted water between 'two parts of the same water body' does not constitute a discharge of pollutants under the CWA." Accordingly, the District could not be liable for the exceedances detected at the monitoring stations.
The Court's opinion did not resolve the plaintiff's contention that "exceedances detected at the instream monitoring states are by themselves sufficient to establish the District's liability under the CWA for its upstream discharges." However, it remanded that question to the Ninth Circuit, which already decided this question against the NRDC.
Accordingly, at oral argument [PDF], Justice Antonin Scalia asked NRDC's attorney, Aaron Colangelo, to articulate reasons why the Ninth Circuit would answer that question differently on remand. Colangelo suggested that the Ninth Circuit might answer the question differently because "a permit is interpreted like a contract, and it is a cardinal rule of contract interpretation that a contract should be read ... where possible to be both lawful and enforceable." And if the Ninth Circuit does not change its answer, then it "would render [the permit] unenforceable because none of the permittees can be held liable."
Colangelo's answer was apparently persuasive to the Court because it remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit. However, it seems unlikely that the Ninth Circuit will be persuaded by this theory for two reasons.
First, the NRDC is assuming that if the exceedances detected at the mass monitoring stations do not establish a permit violation, then the only other way to prove that the District violated its permit in the pollutant amounts alleged by the NRDC would be to "engage in the Sisyphean task of testing particular storm drains in the County for the source of each pollution." However, the Ninth Circuit previously rejected this assumption, stating: "Contrary to the Plaintiff's contention, [establishing the District's liability] would not require independent sampling of the District's outfalls. Indeed, simply ruling out other contributors of stormwater," or sampling from "'at least one outflow that included a standards-exceeding pollutant'" could satisfy the NRDC's evidentiary burden. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit is unlikely to agree that the permit is unenforceable unless the mass monitoring stations are sufficient to establish the District's liability.
Second, the Ninth Circuit is likely to reject the NRDC's argument because the District is now subject to an updated MS4 permit, which, according to Attorney Colangelo, "adequate[ly]" fixes the alleged defect by requiring new monitoring stations to be placed next to outfalls rather than in the rivers. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit should be hesitant to hold the District in violation of the old permit based on general contract interpretation principles.
If the Ninth Circuit rules against the NRDC, then it is unclear whether the NRDC will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The NRDC has a significant legal victory in the Ninth Circuit's rejection of the District's argument that MS4 permittees only need to make a good faith effort at compliance rather than strictly comply with the water quality standards. So, even though the District would prevail, the NRDC could use the precedent to establish violations under the new permit. The NRDC could also possibly wield the decision to allege violations against other MS4 permittees throughout the US.
However, if the Ninth Circuit agrees with the NRDC, the District will likely appeal the decision. This would finally give the Supreme Court the opportunity to decide whether the CWA requires MS4 permittees to comply with the water quality standards contained in the permits, or whether the permittees only need to make a good faith effort at compliance with its terms. (TAGS: pollution, policy, water quality)
130227-b Everglades Foundation beefs up Tallahassee lobbying team as governor dines with board
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 27, 2013
The Everglades Foundation has beefed up its lobbying team in advance of a legislative session that is expected to include debate over who pays for Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott in 2012 won federal approval of an $880 million plan to build additional stormwater filter marshes and reservoirs to reduce phosphorus pollution. How to pay for the plan remains an issue of debate between environmentalists and sugar farmers.
SB 768 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, is expected to be the vehicle for amendments to the Everglades Forever Act, which applies a "privilege" tax paid on sugar farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
"We want to make sure the Everglades Forever Act continues to protect the Everglades and it's not there to protect sugar industry profits," Everglades Foundation spokesman Brian Crowley said this week.
Also Wednesday, the governor was scheduled to have dinner with the Everglades Foundation board of directors at the Governor's Mansion. Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. and the governor's staff have met with sugar farmers on multiple occasions, a spokeswoman for the governor said Wednesday.
The Everglades Foundation last month boosted its eight-member legislative lobbying corps in 2012 to 14 members, according to registration information as of Wednesday. New members of the team are Robert S. Beck, Paul R. Bradshaw, David Browning, Claudia Davant, Christopher F. Dudley, Candice D. Ericks, David L. Ericks, Towson Fraser and Anna Holt Upton.
The new lobbying team will monitor action on the Everglades Forever Act and support the governor's 2013-14 budget request for $60 million for Everglades restoration projects, Crowley said.
"We are glad we managed to hire some of the best lobbyists in Tallahassee," Crowley said. "We certainly know the sugar industry hasn't been shy about hiring a small army of lobbyists up there, and also some very good lobbyists."
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg also was added to the lobbying team replacing former CEO Kirk Fordham, who left the foundation in July. Noah Valenstein also has withdrawn as a lobbyist to work for the governor's office, where he became coordinator of the environmental policy unit in December.
There were still more than 30 lobbyists registered this week for Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp., two of the main growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area. U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyists include Brian D. Ballard, John M. "Mac" Stipanovich and Screven Watson.
Sugar farmers remain committed to finding solutions for Everglades restoration, said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Florida's sugar farmers.
"Since we are all advocates for the successful completion of Everglades restoration, it seems like we all should be scaling back and focusing on how best to get the job done," Hughes said. "Unfortunately, their (Everglades Foundation) massive increase in lobbyists indicates they are prepared to choose contentious policy fights over common-sense, collaborative problem-solving." FC Editor's note: This story was revised after initial publication to reflect the updated number of lobbyists registered for sugar farmers and to remove trend assumptions that could not be verified immediately.
(TAGS: politics, environment, lobbying, big sugar, Everglades Foundation, farming, water quality)
* Everglades and Sugar Registered Lobbyists for 2012 & 2013
130227-c South Florida Water Management District board member resigns
February 27, 2013
DeLisi, area's only rep, quits to take chief of staff post.
A South Florida Water Management District governing board member turned in his resignation last week and was offered the job of district chief of staff Monday, a move that could have lasting implications for the area’s water quality, permitting and Everglades restoration projects. Dan DeLisi, 39, lives in Estero and is a principal at consulting firm DeLisi Fitzgerald in Fort Myers. He was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in May 2011 and was to serve until 2015.
“I was working two full-time jobs and something had to give,” DeLisi said. “I’ve been incredibly stressed because I didn’t know if I’d get the (chief of staff) job.”
The South Florida Water Management District oversees a $537 million annual budget and includes 16 counties, stretching from the north side of Lake Okeechobee to the east coast and
Florida Bay. The state agency is involved with restoration, permits, Lake Okeechobee management and water control structures in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
No applications have been filed for DeLisi’s seat, according to Gov. Scott’s office.
DeLisi was the only Southwest Florida representative on the nine-member board. In his new role, DeLisi would report directly to the district’s Executive Director Melissa Meeker and will oversee public outreach and community relations. DeLisi said he and his family will likely move to West Palm Beach.
“To take the job you need to relocate,” DeLisi said.
There is a perception that that water management officials pay little attention to this coast because they live and work in or near West Palm Beach, where the district is based.
DeLisi said he didn’t experience that perceived disconnect while serving on the board.
DeLisi said he is most proud of bringing attention to the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary.
Water quality and environmental groups aren’t sure how to take the news.
“This is tough to get over,” said Brad Cornell of Audubon Florida. “This is the person who represents the western Everglades, the only person to speak up for our issues. I thought Dan was a good board member. We didn’t always agree with him, but he tried to find workable solutions to the Caloosahatchee estuary.”
DeLisi’s vacant seat must be filled by someone on this coast.
“(DeLisi) really advanced the issues of the west coast very effectively in his time with the governing board — working on getting funding for the long, languishing Lake Hicpochee restoration project,” said Rae Ann Wessel of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Nancy Payton, of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said she was surprised . DeLisi was also a board member for the Big Cypress Basin, an arm of the water management district that deals almost exclusively with water issues in and near Collier County.
“I’m disappointed because he was someone local and who did a pretty good trying to reach out to the environmental community,” Payton said. “I’m a little worried about his replacement.”
130227-d 'Water ethic' topic of Thursday speech by award-winning journalist
Tallahassee.com – by Jennifer Portman
February 27, 2013
Award-winning Florida journalist and author Cynthia Barnett will be speaking Thursday evening in Tallahassee about the need for a “water ethic” to preserve and protect the nation’s limited and fast-depleting freshwater supply.
Barnett’s talk will kick off the Tallahassee Scientific Society’s Horizons 2013 speakers’ series.
“We couldn’t have a better speaker to open our series than Cynthia Barnett,” said society president Frank Stephenson. “Not only is her message timely, it’s balanced and rational and presents a Florida perspective that applies to a national problem.”
Barnett, of Gainesville, has been writing about freshwater issues for 25 years. Her most recent book, “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,” follows her previous acclaimed book, “Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.” She brings a passionate, positive voice for sensible conservation.
“The average caring person just doesn’t realize their tap is directly attached to the Floridian Aquifer,” Barnett said during a telephone interview last week. “The problem is for too long water has been the purview of a very small group of people.”
Barnett said conversations and action regarding the finite nature of our freshwater needs must expand beyond board rooms and courthouses filled with attorneys, water management officials, environmentalists and politicians. Government can set the tone, she said, but it is not likely to solve the problem. It’s going to take a shift in public awareness.
Barnett draws a parallel between the need to conserve water with the national effort to reduce littering. In the 1960s, she said, more than half of American adults admitted to littering. Today that number is about 15 percent.
“What changed the culture was a community-wide judgment. I really think it will be the same with water,” she said.
There are already are signs of hope. In Florida, for example, the average person in 2000 used 178 gallons of water. By 2010, the per-day usage dropped to 134 gallons. Nevertheless, the problem of freshwater degradation is hitting home now with the threats facing the state’s signature springs, such as Wakulla Spring.
Perhaps, she said, the suffering of the state’s springs will be a wake-up call.
“I am optimistic. I believe people truly don’t know and once they understand they’ll want to live differently with water,” she said. “What we have to do now is make the invisible visible,” she said.
The first part of her talk will focus on the “illusion of water abundance” here in Florida and elsewhere. The second half of the program will be devoted to ways people can change their relationship with water to one that is more sustainable.
“Water is not Republican or Democrat or more government or less government,” she said. “It’s really just good government.”
130227-e Water quality expert Kenneth Hudnell calling for shift in policy and treatment strategies to make near term impact on impaired water bodies FortMillTimes.com
February 27, 2013
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Dr. Kenneth Hudnell, one of the foremost experts on harmful algal blooms, cyanobacteria, their toxins, and their effects on health and aquatic ecosystems is calling for a significant shift in government regulatory policy and remediation strategies being applied to impaired freshwater bodies. “Current remediation efforts focus almost entirely on the watershed and stopping pollutants from entering water bodies – but ignore the impaired water bodies themselves. This approach can take 20-30 years to restore a water body’s designated uses, if ever, and is far too expensive,” states Hudnell, Vice President and Director of Science at Medora Corp and Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina. “We need a systems approach that combines the best of watershed management with appropriate waterbody management technologies to restore designated uses in the near term at a lower overall cost.”
Dr. Hudnell has recently published an article entitled, “An Alternative Approach to Regaining Designated Uses of Clean Water Act Section 303 (D) Impaired Waters,” in the February Florida Water Resources Journal that explores government policy and technologies for improving water body conditions using a balanced approach to freshwater management. “Waterbody management is the use of technologies within impaired waters to reduce the stress on impaired biochemical processes and enable recovery. Current technologies can circulate water to suppress cyanobacteria and enable nutrients to ascend the food web, creating outstanding fisheries, and deactivate pathogens through repeated exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. Other technologies can capture excessive nutrients for reuse, and degrade toxic substances through bacterial digestion.”
U.S. EPA estimates of eutrophic water bodies have grown from 10-20% of US fresh water bodies in 1972 to about 50% today. “We need a policy in place that requires treating the impaired water body itself, not just trying to prevent pollutants from entering water bodies,” continued Hudnell. “Present policies are tantamount to a doctor recommending healthy life style choices to an ill patient without directly treating the illness and symptoms of the disease.”
Some of the measures and technologies Hudnell recommends include: 1) Satellite Imagery from Blue Water Satellite for monitoring conditions, locating problems, and managing progress 2) Long-Distance, Solar-Powered circulation units that continually circulate the waters 3) Floating mats that remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the water body and 4) Algae Wheels to remove nutrients by growing nontoxic algae that can be processed into biofuel, animal feedstock, or fertilizer.
The paper cites a case study in the Falls Lake Watershed of North Carolina where the projected cost of the watershed management strategy is about $2 billion. Implementation of waterbody management strategies to stop harmful algal blooms and remove nutrients would cost about $25 million. “If we use only the most effective and cost efficient watershed management tools in combination with appropriate waterbody management tools, we could restore Falls Lake’s designated uses in months to years, not decades, at a much lower overall cost. This is a systems approach; it brings about the conditions desired by the users of the system in the most efficient manner,” concludes Hudnell. To contact Dr, Kenneth Hudnell, Click Here. Related: Kenneth Hudnell calls for shift in policy and treatment strategies for treating impaired water bodies BioFuelDigest.com
(TAGS: water quality, algae, nutrients, eutrophication , environment, satellite imagery)
130227-f With cuts looming, Southwest Florida agencies face uncertain future
News-Press.com – by Staff
February 27, 2013
While President Obama and the White House send out daily warnings of the disasters waiting to happen if no budget agreement is reached by Friday, local recipients of federal dollars say they are unsure how they’ll be impacted.
The $85 billion in cuts over seven months, known as sequestration, goes into effect Friday if Democrats and Republicans in Congress can’t reach an agreement. The cuts range across the board from the military to social programs. Gary Jackson, an economist and director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at FGCU, said the sequestration will likely affect federal employees through furloughs. In December, there were 2,400 federal employees in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area and 600 in the Naples-Marco Island area, according to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Current Employment Statistics.
There is also concern that it will cause delays in some services, such as getting a passport or long lines at airports. The government already warned it could have an impact on the region’s three small airports.
If it does impact travel, then Jackson said the sequestration could affect Southwest Florida during its peak season that runs through March. Tourism
Neither Everglades National Park nor Sanibel’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge have plans to adjust park hours. Both parks already have a hiring freeze.
Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said his bosses on Monday told him to plan for a 5 percent or $841,000 cut in its operations budget.
While many national parks are about to gear up for the summer vacationers, “we’re actually winding down at the end of March and early April,” Kimball said.
Kimball hopes the situation gets resolved quickly. If it doesn’t, he said, “we’d be faced with a challenging situation going into the next high season, which starts around mid-December.” Education
The federal automatic budget cuts would affect Title I programs for students from low-income families, Head Start, teacher training and recruitment and special education programs.
“These are kids that have specific needs, this is why those funds have gone to them,” said Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton. “We’ve tried holding back 8 percent of district dollars and working budgets around that, still 8 percent is a big chunk. So we figured out what happened if there was an 8 percent loss where can we make adjustments, but every time you make an adjustment that’s less service to the child.”
Like Collier, most federal programs are estimating the cuts to about 8.2 percent per year.
For school districts, many federal funds arrive through the state for school districts, which means that funding is often pushed ahead a year.
“The effect of this is that the immediate impacts of sequestration for the 2012-13 school year will be delayed until the 2013-14 state fiscal year begins on July 1,” said Jeff McCullers, Lee’s director of grants and program development, in an email. “Delaying the cuts means that the 8.2 percent for the current school year will be added to the 8.2 percent cut for the coming school year, for a total immediate cut of up to 16.4 percent.”
For Lee that could mean anywhere from $8 million to $12 million in cuts to programs that range from Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund and Head Start, McCullers said.
Across the state some 2,700 children could lose access to Head Start and 1,600 children would lose child care subsidies, said Susan Block, chief executive officer for the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida.
The automatic cuts would also mean the elimination of some teaching positions and other staff, McCullers said. Health care
Southwest Florida health centers and public health agencies say they expect little immediate impact from automatic budget cuts. But, prolonged, they would affect services, their representatives said.
Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, which provides primary medical and dental care to the under-insured, did not immediately comment on the sequestration issue. But its equivalent non-profit provider in Collier County, the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, might lose $611,000 over the course of a year if budget talks continue to stall, an unlikely scenario, said Steve Weinman, the organization’s chief operating officer. That roughly translates into medical treatment for about 800 people, he said. The Network had 36,000 patients last year.
“Obviously, if I thought this would go on for a full year, we’d have to make some adjustments,” Weinman said. “Unfortunately, the people who are the most vulnerable are the poorest people who don’t have coverage.”
Lee Memorial Health System would lose an estimated $6.5 million from Medicare if the cuts stay in place for a year, according to its budget planners.
The organization is already in the middle of a five-year effort to reduce $125 million in health system spending, largely as a remedy for these kinds of health care cuts.
Local health departments declined to speculate on how their services be affected.
“State budget managers will decide if, when and how any cuts will be passed on to local authorities,” said Lee County Health Department spokeswoman Diane Holm.
Lee’s health department receives about $5.1 million a year in federal funding, about a third of its budget. It vaccinated about 24,000 children last year. Collier’s department received about $3.3 million in federal funds, also about a third of its budget, and administered about 21,000 pediatric vaccinations. Related: Federal budget cuts would hit South Florida from ports to national ... Charlotte Observer Budget Cuts' 'Impact on Wildlife' at Everglades Yahoo! New Zealand News
130226-a Environment back on the table this legislative session, says Senate Majority Leader
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
February 26, 2013
Tough economic times put environmental issues on the Florida Legislature's back burner in recent years, but this session should be different, according to Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), who sat on the panel at Monday night's Town Hall Session 2013 hosted by WLRN and the Miami Herald.
Hot-button issues like education reform, property insurance and Medicaid expansion dominated the agenda for Monday's Town Hall. But the panel did field one question about current environmental oversights -- or the lack thereof -- in Florida.
During an open question-and-answer period, Matthew Schwartz of Fort Lauderdale raised the issue of developmental regulation in the state and specifically the 2011 dismantling of the Department of Community Affairs, which previously handled growth management in Florida.
Citing a 2011 survey conducted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which found that 49 percent of residents and 47 percent of tourists participate in wildlife viewing in Florida, Schwartz asked, "What role do you believe the Florida legislature should play in safeguarding our environment and wildlife in the future?"
"I agree totally that we need to maintain the environment that brings in a lot of tourists and new residents to Florida," said Latvala, the Senate's majority leader. He was joined on the panel by Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale), Mary Ellen Klas (Capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald), and moderator Phil Latzman (senior anchor/reporter for WLRN-Miami Herald News).
Florida's previous growth management system under the Department of Community Affairs "was broken" at either the county or state level Latvala said, but he didn't agree with ditching the system altogether. Latvala said that while he had "always been a voice" for the protection of the Everglades and other state natural resources, the recent economic crisis took precedence.
"Some of these types of programs didn't rise to the importance of educating our kids or keeping our populations healthy," Latvala said of environmental projects. "They went by the wayside, but I think they'll be back."
Latvala pointed to Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $74.2 billion budget, which includes $60 million for Everglades restoration and $75 million for kick-starting the Florida Forever Coalition land-buying projects. (Read more about the proposed budget and what it would mean for South Florida environmental projects here.)
The crowd of roughly 600 people at Monday's event responded enthusiastically to mention of the proposed funds for environmental welfare. With the budget set to go before the Florida Legislature for approval, voters will need to let elected officials know whether those projects are of value. It's a point echoed by Klas, who urged the crowd to stay vigilant about issues that matter to them and to demand government transparency; "Keep the pressure on."
The Florida Legislature's 2013 regular session will convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 5. Couldn't attend Monday's Town Hall session? Tune in to WLRN at 11 a.m. Thursday for a broadcast. Or watch it in its entirety here. On Twitter, search the hashtag #FL2013 to see what others had to say about the event.
Prof. Len SCINTO
130226-b Everglades project may drain well field in Miami-Dade County
FIUSM.com – by Junette Reyes/Staff Writer
February 26, 2013
Water throughout the Miami-Dade county area could be disappearing fast.
An Everglades restoration project may affect a well field that supplies Miami-Dade County with much of its drinking water.
The plan itself, titled the Central Everglades Planning Project, is a form of experimentation from the partnering of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), along with a “working group” of other state and federal agencies, environmentalists and outdoors groups.
The plan is expected to use up to 65 million gallons of water annually to revive the dehydrated Everglades and salty Florida Bay as well as relieve parts of the marsh where flooding has been historically high, which has caused the destruction and demise of tree islands and wildlife populations.
Alternatives have been combined into a new plan known as 4R, which will include a seepage barrier meant to moderate the groundwater flow from the Everglades to the suburbs.
This can turn out to be problematic, though, because it can affect, and even diminish, the water flow to Miami-Dade’s well fields. Leonard J. Scinto, director of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at FIU, believes in being able to tweak the plan as needed moving forward and that people should not worry about not getting enough water.
“It’s always kind of this balance between too much water and too little water,” said Scinto. “The problem is how you manage those extremes for [a] constant supply of fresh water to taps [and] constant release from flooding during the periods of high water.”
Scinto said that one of the main points of the plan is that there is going to be an additional 200 thousand to 240 thousand acre-feet, which would add about 10 to 15 percent more to the total volume of water that is currently in the system.
“More water is good,” said Scinto. He noted that this can also mean more natural flow characteristics.
The importance of the Central Everglades plan lies not only in the restoration of the Everglades through the returning of healthy water flows to the marsh but also in the endeavor of moving past Congress’ drawn-out 30-year restoration plan, titled the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which was approved in 2000. The U.S Army Corps intends to speed up the planning process alone from 5 or 6 years to 18 months.
However, the speediness of the planning as well as the short time of frame to deal with possible issues is actually a concern for some, such as Central Everglades program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association and working group member, Dawn Shirreffs.
“Things kind of slowed up a bit in the last couple of years and this is one way of trying to get things back on track; it’s not that we’re moving superfast, it’s just that we’re playing catch-up for a couple of slow years,” said Scinto.
Scinto expands on this by saying that everyone will have an issue, despite how very well vetted the plans are.
“I’d like to see more water down the Southeast side of Everglades National Park; I work in that area and I know it’s drier than it has been historically,” said Scinto.
Scinto said they will eventually end up with a “compromised model” because of differing opinions.
Scinto said it is all to supply the most good for the most uses, such as urban water withdrawal, urban flood protection, ecological restoration, the Everglades National Park and hydrologic restoration of Florida Bay.
A plan of restoration has not been formally selected yet but it is expected to happen by April 2013, followed by Congress’ approval of funding. The plans will probably go unsupported, however, until deficiencies are addressed.
130226-c Global warming and airflow changes 'caused US and EU heatwaves'
Reuters - Guardian (UK)
February 26, 2013
Air systems that encircle planet can slow to standstill, as greenhouse gas heats Arctic and causes temperature imbalance.
Global warming may have caused extreme events such as a 2011 drought in the United States and a 2003 heatwave in Europe by slowing vast, wave-like weather flows in the northern hemisphere, scientists said on Tuesday.
The study of meandering air systems that encircle the planet adds to understanding of extremes that have killed thousands of people and driven up food prices in the past decade.
Such planetary airflows, which suck warm air from the tropics when they swing north and draw cold air from the Arctic when they swing south, seem to be have slowed more often in recent summers and left some regions sweltering, they said.
"During several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks," wrote Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
"So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays," he said in a statement of the findings in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A difference in temperatures between the Arctic and areas to the south is usually the main driver of the wave flows, which typically stretch 2,500km- 4,000km (1,550-2,500 miles) from crest to crest.
But a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, blamed on human activities led by use of fossil fuels, is heating the Arctic faster than other regions and slowing the mechanism that drives the waves, the study suggested.
Weather extremes in the past decade include a European heatwave in 2003 that may have killed 70,000 people, a Russian heatwave and flooding in Pakistan in 2010 and a 2011 heatwave in the United States, the authors added.
The authors wrote that they proposed "a common mechanism" for the generation of waves linked to climate change.
Past studies have linked such extremes to global warming but did not identify an underlying mechanism, said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute and a co-author, who called the findings "quite a breakthrough," he wrote. The scientists added that the 32-year-period studied was too short to predict future climate change and that natural variations in the climate had not been ruled out completely as a cause.
The study only considered the northern part of the globe, in summertime. Petoukhov led another study in 2010 suggesting that cold snaps in some recent winters in Europe were linked to low amounts of ice in the Arctic Ocean.
Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out by the end of 2015 a deal to combat rising global greenhouse gas emissions that will enter into force from 2020.
Deep Horizon oil rig on
fire in 2010
130226-d High-stakes trial resumes over 2010 Gulf oil spill
Associated Press - by Michael Kunzelman
February 26, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A University of California-Berkeley engineer who played a prominent role in investigating levee breeches in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is scheduled to be the first witness Tuesday at a trial involving another Gulf Coast catastrophe: the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Robert Bea, an expert witness for the plaintiffs who sued BP PLC and other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will share his theories about what caused BP's Macondo well to blow out on April 20, 2010, provoking an explosion on the Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and spewed an estimated 172 millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf.
Bea's testimony was scheduled for the second day of a civil trial that could result in the oil company and its partners being forced to pay tens of billions of dollars more in damages. The case went to trial Monday after attempts to reach an 11th-hour settlement failed.
The second witness slated to appear on the stand is Lamar McKay, president of BP America. The highest-ranking executive of BP scheduled to testify in the courtroom, McKay is likely to discuss corporate decisions that were made throughout the duration of the disaster. It was not clear if there would be time for his testimony Tuesday, however. Other BP officials were expected to give videotaped testimony.
In pretrial depositions and in an expert report, Bea argued along with another consultant that BP showed a disregard for safety throughout the company and was reckless in its actions - the same arguments made in opening statements Monday by attorneys for the U.S. government and individuals and businesses hurt by the spill.
Attorneys for BP tried to block the testimony of Bea, whom they accused of analyzing documents and evidence "spoon-fed" to him by plaintiffs lawyers. BP accused Bea and the other expert, William Gale, a California-based fire and explosion investigator and consultant, of ignoring the "safety culture of the other parties" involved in the spill, in particular Transocean Ltd., the drilling company running operations aboard the Deepwater Horizon.
Gale does not appear on a list of potential witnesses to be called during the trial.
Just last year, Bea testified for plaintiffs who sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over broken levees in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
In opening statements Monday, U.S. Justice Department attorney Mike Underhill said the catastrophe resulted from BP's "culture of corporate recklessness."
"The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment," Underhill said. "Despite BP's attempts to shift the blame to other parties, by far the primary fault for this disaster belongs to BP."
BP attorney Mike Brock acknowledged that the oil company made mistakes. But he accused Transocean of failing to properly maintain the rig's blowout preventer, which had a dead battery, and he claimed cement contractor Halliburton used a "bad slurry" that failed to prevent oil and gas from traveling up the well.
BP has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges and has racked up more than $24 billion in spill-related expenses, including cleanup costs, compensation for businesses and individuals, and $4 billion in criminal penalties.
But the federal government, Gulf Coast states and individuals and businesses hope to convince a federal judge that the company and its partners in the ill-fated drilling project are liable for much more in civil damages under the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations.
One of the biggest questions facing U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is hearing the case without a jury, is whether BP acted with gross negligence.
Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil; the fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent, meaning BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.
The judge plans to hold the trial in at least two phases. The first phase, which could last three months, is designed to determine what caused the blowout and assign percentages of blame to the companies involved. The second phase will determine what efforts the companies made to stop oil from spilling, and how much crude actually spilled into the Gulf.
During opening statements, BP and its partners pointed the finger at each other in a tangle of accusations and counter-accusations. But BP got the worst of it, from its partners and the plaintiffs in the case.
Jim Roy, who represents individuals and businesses hurt by the spill, said BP executives applied "huge financial pressure" to "cut costs and rush the job." The project was more than $50 million over budget and behind schedule at the time of the blowout, Roy said.
"BP repeatedly chose speed over safety," Roy said, quoting from a report by an expert who may testify.
Roy said the spill also resulted from Transocean's "woeful" safety culture and failure to properly train its crew. And Roy said Halliburton provided BP with a product that was "poorly designed, not properly tested and was unstable."
Brad Brian, a lawyer for Transocean, said the company had an experienced, well-trained crew on the rig. He said the Transocean workers' worst mistake may have been placing too much trust in the BP supervisors on the rig.
"And they paid for that trust with their lives," Brian said. "They died not because they weren't trained properly. They died because critical information was withheld from them."
A lawyer for Halliburton defended the company's work and tried to pin the blame on BP and Transocean.
"If BP had shut in the well, we would not be here today," Halliburton's Donald Godwin said.
Brock said Transocean's crew members ultimately were responsible for well control on the rig and didn't need permission from BP supervisors to shut in the well.
"Shut in the well, then seek advice," he said.
Underhill, the Justice Department attorney, heaped blame on BP for cost-cutting decisions made in the months and weeks leading up the disaster. He said two BP rig supervisors, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble.
Kaluza and Vidrine have been indicted on federal manslaughter charges.
The 2010 spill fouled marshes, killed wildlife and closed fishing grounds. Scientists warn that the disaster's full effect may not be known for years. But they have reported dying coral reefs and fish afflicted with lesions and illnesses that might be oil-related.
five-term Martin County
130226-e Lake Point sues Maggy Hurchalla claiming 'false statements' interfering with rock mine, stormwater project
TCPalm.com - by George Andreassi
February 26, 2013
STUART — The Lake Point rock mine filed a lawsuit against Maggy Hurchalla claiming she made false statements in an attempt to kill a deal that would transfer the 2,000-acre property to a state agency and allow mining for 20 years.
“Hurchalla is singling out Lake Point and is attempting to put Lake Point out of business,” the suit claims.
The complaint filed Feb. 20 in Circuit Court in Martin County asks a judge to order Hurchalla, a well-known environmentalist and former county commissioner, to retract statements plaintiffs claim are false and stop interfering with Lake Point’s business.
Located in southeastern Martin County near Lake Okeechobee, Lake Point is the largest rock mine in Martin County.
A prior Martin County Commission majority signed off on a deal in 2009 in which Lake Point would donate its property to the South Florida Water Management District in exchange for the right to continue mining for 20 years.
Lake Point has been working with several government agencies on plans to redevelop its property into a stormwater treatment facility that would improve the quality of the water flowing into the St. Lucie Estuary and provide a new source of drinking water to Palm Beach County.
Lake Point’s suit claims Hurchalla made “false statements of material fact” in an effort to convince the new “slow growth” Martin County Commission majority to scrap the deal.
Lake Point’s suit claims Hurchalla falsely stated “the project has been ‘fast tracked and allowed to violate the rules.’”
The suit also claims Hurchalla falsely stated the project “destroys 60 acres of wetlands.”
In addition, the suit claims Hurchalla falsely stated “There was no public knowledge of any plan, concept or idea that required purchase of the Lake Point property.”
Lake Point’s suit says the project has followed the rules, has not destroyed wetlands, and has met normal public notice requirements.
Hurchalla could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Lake Point, Honey Rand, said, “No one wants to be in this position, but Maggie’s false statements have had a material impact on Lake Point’s business operation, costing time and money and harming the reputation of the project and the owners.”
Lake Point has also filed suit against Martin County claiming the county breached its agreements to allow the continuation of the mining operation and the development of the stormwater treatment facility.
The commissioners were discussing their legal strategy Tuesday afternoon in a private session with the county’s legal staff.
130226-f State DEP scores legal win on its water rules
Ocala.com - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
February 26, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection scored a legal victory this week when Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a 2012 administrative law judge's ruling that state regulators acted within their authority by establishing Florida's own water nutrient rules.
The ruling Monday was the latest in a series of legal parries that date back to 1998, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first ordered Florida and other states to come up with more stringent freshwater standards. Florida didn't comply, so state environmentalists sued the EPA to force the federal agency to develop water nutrient standards for the state if it wouldn't do so on its own.
When the EPA put forth a set of rules three years ago, Florida lawmakers, utilities and businesses complained they were too harsh. Later, the FDEP developed its own set of rules, based, in part, on EPA standards. The Florida Legislature later adopted the FDEP rules as the state's own guidelines.
In December 2011, a group led by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club filed a petition with the state Division of Administrative Hearings challenging the new state rules. Florida Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter, in mid-2012, ruled that the FDEP acted within its authority. On Monday, that ruling was upheld.
Meanwhile, in November 2012, the EPA approved the FDEP's water nutrient rules as sufficient and withdrew its own pollutant nutrient rules.
The water nutrient standards will regulate nitrogen and phosphorus, which, in excess, cause algae blooms and are dangerous to fish and wildlife. Those nutrients typically come from fertilizers, septic tanks, wastewater and manure.
The FDEP is currently writing implementation documents that will dictate how it oversees its new water standards for springs, lakes and rivers. Those rules will include guidelines for such things as discharge permits and how waters will be monitored for compliance.
The FDEP is accepting public input and suggestions for writing those rules, which it will then pass on to the EPA for approval.
People can contact the FDEP to submit suggestions at 850-245-8429 FREE.
The FDEP's rules do not cover all coastal waters and most estuaries. Therefore, the EPA is still moving forward with its federal rules for those waters. FDEP rules also do not apply to South Florida waters.
Until now, Florida used primarily qualitative standards to decide whether its waters were polluted. That meant if the water and its associated wildlife and vegetation appeared healthy, then the water body met Florida's standards, regardless of the level of nutrients. The state now will use numerical standards in combination with biological ones. That means the FDEP will consider the biological health of a water body — in addition to numeric standards — in deciding whether a water body is impaired.
Although the state agency's nutrient rules are similar to those originally proposed by the federal agency, environmentalists opposing FDEP rules complained because that agency also incorporates a water body's biological health in its evaluations. They say the water body would have to be polluted before the state could protect it, rather than keeping excessive levels of nutrients out of the water in the first place.
The debate hits close to home and the state agency has not had a good track record of protecting area waters. In Marion County, pollution levels for Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs are three times higher than the new FDEP limits. Only the secluded Silver Glen is well under the limit.
Popular Lake Weir also routinely failed to meet total nitrogen standards, with levels sometimes reaching double what the FDEP will allow.
And the county's rivers don't fare much better. The Ocklawaha, Withlacoochee and Rainbow rivers consistently surpass river standards.
The debate is far from over, said EarthJustice attorney David Guest, who is predicting a lengthy legal battle. Guest was the lawyer who spearheaded efforts to force EPA in 2008 to come up with nutrient standards for Florida because the FDEP wouldn't do so. He said FDEP's rules do not apply anywhere in the state because of a "poison pill" in the Florida legislation that says unless the FDEP rules are adopted in their entirety by the EPA without modification, the standards will not go into effect.
Guest said that criteria should keep the EPA from accepting FDEP's rules because the federal agency cannot promise never to come back and cite shortcomings in Florida's nutrient standards.
The EPA, in emails to the Star-Banner, said the criteria issue, which it refers to as the "all or nothing provision," doesn't stop the agency from approving FDEP's nutrient rules in place of its own federal rules but is hedging its bets in case it is misinterpreting the legislation.
EPA would not grant an interview request, but cited its website explanation of the nutrient rule changes, which states: "It is EPA's understanding that the all-or-nothing provisions are not triggered by the actions EPA is taking. However, if those provisions are interpreted in a manner that prevents FDEP's numeric nutrient criteria from becoming effective … then EPA will finalize (its own) numeric nutrient criteria…"
Guest said he doesn't understand how the poison pill doesn't keep EPA from approving FDEP's rules. Drew Bartlett, of FDEP's division of environmental assessment and restoration, said he saw nothing blocking the EPA from approving the FDEP nutrient rules.
Meanwhile, Guest said FDEP's patchwork of rules combining numeric nutrient limits with makeshift biological standards results in the most complex nutrient guidelines he's ever encountered. He described the nutrient rule combination as a series of chutes and complex pathways involving previous biological studies that will take years for anyone interpreting the rules to understand, much less apply.
As for future litigation, Guest predicts a lot of it, especially if EPA's rules apply. In the meantime, Florida's waters will suffer from a continued lack of protection by the FDEP, he said.
"(EPA nutrient rules) are going to be challenged by everyone under the sun," Guest said. "This is litigation that will go on forever."
130226-g Too rosy a story of success
NewsChief.com – Letter by by David Gore, Davenport, FL
February 25, 2013
The rosy Ledger story portraying the Disney mitigation type of success is far from accurate ["Disney Wilderness Preserve: Marking a Score; Site Is Internationally Recognized Model for Success," Feb. 17].
I hunted this land area as far back as 1949, when it was part of a huge cattle range that included all of the Johnson Island land that makes up Poinciana.
The ranchers did little to damage the ecology or native animal species of most of the land area, compared with the dewatering effect of this land area by the channelization of the Kissimmee River and lakes that surround this area.
The truth about this type of mitigation is that the state protection of wetlands has never prevented the channeling, filling and sloping of the wetlands or floodplains, or any of Florida's land area that is draining down the overall water table of Florida and keeping it down. It is just a deceptive way to keep on draining and destroying a part of our low wetland area by agreeing not to destroy another portion of these areas.
The state's protective agencies have done everything they can do to hide or ignore the effects to Florida's water resources and natural systems by this growing damage to the land's water containment ability. This includes the well-being of our springs, lakes, streams and Floridan Aquifer, on which we depend for water supply.
The state's minimum flows and levels and Southern Water Use Caution Area protection plans that only restrain our use of water have nothing in them to prevent more draining-type impacts to the land that keep lowering more of Florida's water table and reducing our water supplies and natural systems.
Chief of Staff
130226-h Water district board member Delisi resigns for paying job with district, as chief of staff
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 26, 2013 South Florida Water Management District governing board member Dan Delisi has resigned and accepted a position as the district’s chief of staff.
Delisi, 39, sent his resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott last Thursday, saying “it is prudent to resign in order to be able to pursue other opportunities.” On Friday, Delisi said he submitted his application for the chief of staff position. Although he did not interview for the position, on Tuesday Delisi was offered the job over 53 other applicants. Job interviews are not required for top-level executive positions, said district spokesman Randy Smith.
The chief of staff position had been open since last September when Deena Reppen left the district to become Legislative Director of the Florida Association of Counties. The district posted the job opening on Feb. 2.
Besides speaking with the district’s general counsel about possible ethical and conflict of interest issues, Delisi said he spoke with no one at the district about his intention to apply for the job. District spokesman Smith said executive director Melissa Meeker spoke with Delisi after he applied for the job last Friday but there was no formal interview.
Delisi, who earned his masters degree in city planning at MIT, is a partner in a Fort Myers consulting firm that specializes in land use and civil engineering.
“It’s a position that, quite honestly, I feel pretty well qualified for,” Delisi said, saying he learned about the job from the routine emails the district sends to all employees to post openings. “I thought it was a great match.”
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Delisi to the governing board in May 2011. Governing board members serve for four years and receive no compensation. As chief of staff he will earn $135,012 plus benefits.
Delisi, who often met and spoke with regional stakeholders, including environmental and business interests, in addition to travelling to the governing board’s monthly meetings in West Palm Beach, said he felt like he had “two full-time jobs.”
“I love being a governing board member,” Delisi said. “It had to come to a head sometime. You can’t put as much time in as a volunteer and have that be sustainable.”
Delisi, who has young children in school, said he will split his time between the district’s headquarters in West Palm Beach and his home in Estero, south of Fort Myers.
The district is responsible for flood control, water supply and restoration throughout the 16 counties south of Orlando, including Lee county, where Delisi lives. The district has satellite offices in Fort Myers and Naples.
Delisi’s departure leaves three seats empty on the 9-member governing board. Terms will expire in March for board chairman Joe Collins, an executive at Lykes Bros. who represents Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Highlands, Glades, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties; and for vice chair Kevin Powers, a partner in Indiantown Realty Corp., who represents parts of St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Powers has requested to be reappointed by the governor.
Delisi’s hiring fills one of two top executive positions. Bob Brown, the district’s assistant executive director, left the district Feb. 15 to became executive director of the Lake Worth Drainage District. Related: South Florida Water Management District board member moves up ... The News-Press
danger of drug
residues in our waters
130225-b Drugs in our drinking water ?
Tallahassee.com – by by Zakiya Hoyett, PhD and Michael Abazinge, PhD
Antibiotics, analgesics (pain killers), lipid regulators and antidepressants are commonly found inside of home medicine cabinets. Until recently, few would think to examine the presence of these drugs in our drinking water. Yet, these pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are among a variety of organic chemicals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now refers to as “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs). While CECs are not necessarily new pollutants, their presence in the environment and significance are only now being evaluated. The occurrence of PPCPs in sewage treatment plant run off, surface waters, seawaters, ground water, and some drinking waters has lead to an increasing concern about the impact of these chemicals on the aquatic environment.
In fact, the aforementioned drugs were evaluated in two bays on the gulf coast of Florida, namely, Apalachicola Bay and Tampa Bay. The compounds selected were chosen based on a national survey of the number of prescriptions, persistence in the environment, the possibility of environmental impact, and the availability of analytical standards for testing. Scientists detected two chemicals out of the 40 analyzed. Sulfamethoxazole (SMZ), a common drug used in animals and humans, exists in both bays; however, it appears to be more concentrated and dispersed throughout Apalachicola Bay (detected at 3 of 5 sample sites) than Tampa Bay (detected at one site). Carbamazepine (CBZ), an anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing drug, was also detected in Tampa Bay.
Based on these results, CBZ or SMZ do not appear to threaten the ecological health of Apalachicola Bay or Tampa Bay; however, the occurrence and threat from these chemicals and the ecological and economical ramifications in the future, particularly in Apalachicola Bay, cannot be ruled out. This is because it is a highly productive fishing area generating $70-80 million dollar per year. If the concentrations of PPCPs in Apalachicola Bay continue to increase, the productivity of the bay would be adversely impacted. In addition, the potential for detrimental public health impacts caused by the consumption of seafood harvested from the area will rise.
Furthermore, the majority of the waters in the Apalachicola Bay estuary are Class II waters, meaning they are used for shellfish propagation or harvesting. Reclassification of these waters could result in the termination of the fishing industry in the bay, which will adversely affect Florida’s economy. Ways to Help Stop Water Contamination
Municipal sewage, both treated and untreated, is the most common route for drugs used by humans to enter the environment. There are several simple ways to reduce our personal contribution to the emerging concern of PPCPs in the environment. For instance, using personal care products made of natural ingredients rather than synthetic materials. Also, living a healthier lifestyle will, in turn, reduce our dependence on drugs and consequently reduce the quantities of PPCPs entering our water bodies. Nonetheless, lifestyle changes take a major commitment and much devotion. An equally important habit that anyone can adapt is to properly dispose expired and/or unused medications, thereby reducing the amounts of the compounds in our water supply. Zakiya Hoyett, Ph.D. is a recent graduate of Florida A&M University who worked as research assistant to School of the Environment. Interim Dean Michael Abazinge, Ph.D. on this project. Join Hoyett on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. for a live Twitter chat for expert advice on ways to prevent water contamination from pharmaceuticals.
130225-c Future of Florida if automatic spending cuts kick in
February 25, 2013
Unless Congress acts by March 1, a series of automatic cuts - called the sequester - will take effect that threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.
If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Florida this year alone are:
● Teachers and Schools: Florida will lose approximately $54.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 750 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 95,000 fewer students would be served and approximately130 fewer schools would receive funding.
● Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Florida will lose approximately $31.1 million in funds for about 380 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
● Work-Study Jobs: Around 6,250 fewer low income students in Florida would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,700 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
● Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 2,700 children in Florida, reducing access to critical early education.
● Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water:
Florida would lose about $5.2 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Florida could lose another $1.1 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
● Military Readiness:
In Florida, approximately 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $183.2 million in total.
● Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $7 million in Florida.
● Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in Florida would be cut by about $23 million.
● Navy: $135 million in funding for aircraft depot maintenance in Jacksonville and four
demolition projects in Pensacola ($3.2 million) could be canceled.
● Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution:
Florida will lose about $970,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
● Job Search Assistance to Help those in Florida find Employment and Training:
Florida will lose about $2.3 million in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 78,960 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
● Child Care:
Up to 1,600 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
● Vaccines for Children:
In Florida around 7,450 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $509,000.
● Public Health: Florida will lose approximately $1.8 million in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Florida will lose about $5 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 4500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Florida State Department of Health will lose about $1.4 million resulting in around 35,900 fewer HIV tests.
● STOP Violence Against Women Program: Florida could lose up to $404,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 1,500 fewer victims being served.
● Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Florida would lose approximately $3.8 million in funds that provide meals for seniors. Related: White House outlines 'devastating' budget cuts for Florida Tampabay.com (blog)
Waterweed Hydrilla - one stem can grow 160
feet in just 1 day
130225-d Opinions differ over battle to clear waterways of hydrilla
February 25, 2013
OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Hydrilla is an invasive weed that has crowded central Florida's waterways.
Channel 9's Berndt Petersen has learned that several special-interest groups are fighting over whether they should kill it or let it grow. Ed Harris is Florida Fish and Wildlife's hydrilla hunter.
Hydrilla is an exotic water weed from the Far East that entered the Florida ecosystem back in the 1950s when somebody dumped an aquarium near Tampa.
"In 2003 and 2004, this lake almost looked like a putting green," said Harris, referring to Lake Tohopekaliga, an 18,000-acre state treasure.
The name hydrilla comes from Greek mythology. The hydra was a nine-headed marsh monster. When a head was cut off, two grew in its place. Hercules finally defeated it. But he never wrestled anything like
hydrilla found in Florida. It's one of the fastest-growing weeds on the planet.
The rapidly growing plant can choke a lake, making navigation nearly impossible. And it has ruined many a motorboat.
"The hydrilla sucks up around the water pump and your alarm goes off. If you don't get [the engine] shut down in time, it's too late," said boater Perry Horton.
So the state is bombing hydrilla with herbicides and using large machines to chop it to pieces. But it keeps growing back. Statewide, the attack on hydrilla has now cost taxpayers more than $230 million.
"Have taxpayers gotten their money's worth?" Petersen asked Harris.
"It's difficult to say because it changes every year," said Harris.
Some tourism officials wish the state would spend even more. Less hydrilla would open Lake Tohopekaliga to pleasure boating, and lure more multimillion-dollar fishing tournaments.
Duck hunters love the plant because it attracts waterfowl. And even the federal government approves because the plant provides a habitat for one of Florida's rarest birds, the endangered snail kite.
"You might have to pick and choose. Either 20,000 or 30,000 jobs here in central Florida produced by the lake, or a handful of birds," said professional fisherman Terry Seagraves.
That leaves the hydrilla hunters stuck in the middle, waging a very expensive war and fighting what may be a losing battle.
"I think hydrilla is in this lake to stay," said Harris.
According to state officials, hydrilla is present in 40 percent of all the freshwater lakes and rivers in Florida.
130223-a A refreshing water bill
TBO.com – Editorial
February 23, 2013
A refreshingly sensible water bill in the state Legislature would make it easier for utilities to invest in drinking water sources other than our imperiled groundwater supplies.
Tampa Rep. Dana Young sponsored an identical measure last year that passed unanimously in the House, but its companion bill stalled in the Senate.
This year both chambers should adopt her measure, which allows utilities to receive longer permits for the production of alternative water sources, such as desalination. Under current law, the standard permit lasts 20 years. The restriction can drive up bonds rates and the costs of financing construction, and thus discourage utilities from making the long-term investment.
Young's bill would allow permits for alternative water supplies to be issued for 30 years and up to 37 years, depending upon when the bonds are issued for construction.
Some environmentalists worry about giving utilities such a long-term commitment to the water. Their concern should be the long-term depletion of our underground water, already threatened by overpumping and pollution.
As Young told The Florida Current website, "In Florida today, it is vital that we look to the construction of alternative water supply infrastructure and preserve our groundwater to the greatest extent possible."
The measure would make it more economically feasible for utilities to pursue alternative water sources.
Florida Audubon, a stalwart defender of state waters, supports the measure. So should the Florida Legislature.
130223-b Everglades restoration clash looming over questions of water quality
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
February 23, 2013
The good news is that there's a new plan in the works to restore water flows to the struggling Everglades. But the bad news is that the water might not be clean enough to meet water quality standards.
Then there's also the matter of the $1 billion tab, which state officials don't want to pay.
Now the water quantity versus water quality problem, as well as cost concerns, threaten to derail the latest effort to jumpstart overdue Everglades restoration.
State officials are questioning whether water quality standards intended to help the Everglades could result in hurting restoration progress.
"Until this issue is addressed, we are not going to be able to send that water south," South Florida Water Management District Board Chairman Joe Collins said at the board's February meeting in Orlando.
Environmentalists contend that instead of trying to soften or circumvent water quality regulations, the state should require Big Sugar and other agriculture to do a better job cleaning up the pollution that flows off farmland.
"The water management district has not done enough to reduce the level of phosphorus," said Charles Lee, of Audubon of Florida. "This is not a new issue. It is something the district has known about literally for decades."
State and federal leaders are crafting a new "Central Everglades" plan that would take a new approach to restoring water flows to the Everglades that through the decades have been drained away to make room for farming and development.
Water once naturally overlapped Lake Okeechobee's southern shores and flowed in shallow sheets through the Everglades, all the way down to Florida Bay. Now those natural flows have been mostly cut off to clear the way for farming and development, leaving the Everglades about half its historical size.
South Florida's vast system of levees, pumps and canals redirects water that once replenished the Everglades and uses that water to irrigate agriculture and restock urban drinking water supplies while also dumping billions of gallons of water out to sea for flood control.
The new Central Everglades plan calls for trying to mimic some of those historical flows by removing portions of levees, filling in sections of canals and boosting pumping capacity to get more water flowing toward Everglades National Park.
The state and Army Corps of Engineers, working with growers and the environmental community, explored four alternative routes and methods for those reconfigured water flows. This month they unveiled a combination of the plans that is earning praise from environmentalists. It would cost about $1 billion, according to early projections.
But the consequences of getting more water to the Everglades is that water potentially bringing with it more polluting phosphorus.
Phosphorus, found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil, washes off agricultural land and urban areas and drains into the Everglades.
The state and federal government have recently agreed on a $1.5 billion effort to improve Everglades water quality by building more reservoirs and pollution-filtering stormwater treatment marshes to clean up water that washed off agricultural fields.
Now state leaders are questioning how to move ahead with the Central Everglades plan if it means adding to the pollution problem.
"We are concerned about the water quality," said Melissa Meeker, South Florida Water Management District executive director. "We all recognize it is a problem."
Central Everglades plan supporters contend that the water quality concerns may be premature. The proposal remains in the works and can be tweaked based on ongoing computer modeling intended to better understand its effects on water quantity and quality in the Everglades.
Potential changes may be needed to avoid redirecting too much water from coastal areas, officials said.
"The team is currently evaluating effects on water quality associated with changes in water flow to Everglades National Park," Army Corps spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said.
As for paying to get the water flowing, state leaders contend that it's time for the federal government to pick up more of the Everglades restoration tab. That means getting congressional approval at a time when Washington, D.C. is plagued by partisan gridlock.
The hope is to formalize the Central Everglades plan by the end of the year and get Congress to sign on in 2014.
"If this project is going to go ahead, it's going to be with [federal] dollars and not ours," water district board member James Moran said. "If we can't get that, we are wasting our time here."
130223-c If we don't continue water restoration, we deserve blame
TheLedger.com – Letter by Ken Thornton, Lakeland, FL
February 23, 2013
Thanks are in order to Tom Palmer concerning his column about the Catfish Creek restoration project ["Better Days Ahead for Catfish Creek," Jan. 27]. It was a fine article.
If we don't continue, and even accelerate, our efforts to clean up all our waters in Florida, our children will be blaming all of us. We certainly will have deserved blame. These type projects cleanse all the waters downstream and help replenish the aquifer that we depend on for our living.
We have been guilty for most of my life of not just sending but speeding all our precious water out of our creeks and rivers to the bay, gulf and ocean.
There has been a steady degradation of our lakes and rivers. The few springs left today in our area, such as Lithia and Crystal, are now hazy from nitrates.
It is hard to convince folks who should who know better to stop sending trash and pollutants down our watershed.
But we can allow Earth a chance to cleanse itself. That is what will happen when the Kissimmee and Peace rivers' levels are allowed to rise and the old floodplains are restored.
The waters are given a chance to be cleansed by cattails, lilies and weeds. I urge everyone who loves Florida's natural beauty, as I do, to support these environmentally sound plans.
I would like also to commend Tom Palmer on his level-headed support of fishing and hunting on these state and county parks and preserves. He is one of the few environmentalists I know of who can see both sides of an issue. I enjoy all his columns.
130223-d Looking to the future with today's money
TCPalm.com – by Anthony Westbury, columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers
February 23, 2013
Perhaps this might be a constitutional amendment we can actually live with.
Florida voters, as you’ll recall, savaged the last 11 constitutional amendments tacked onto November’s ballot. Only three were not rejected. And all that extra paperwork clogged voting machines and left St. Lucie County elections office personnel bamboozled.
Never again, on the amendments, I’ve heard many of you say, and it’s hard to disagree. Yet a new proposal to amend the constitution in 2015 may have a lot more merit.
For almost 20 years, as authorized by a voter referendum in 1994, the state of Florida set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase endangered or threatened land through the Florida Forever program.
At its peak, the program had a budget of $300 million a year, and it secured more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion between 1994 and 2008.
That all came to a screaming halt during the hardest years of the recession. Starting in 2009, when Florida Forever funding was reduced to zero, lawmakers shut off the spigot because they had their own bills to pay and a plummeting sales tax account with which to do that.
Between 2009 and 2012 — during which time the original program would have generated $1.2 billion — Govs. Crist and Scott allocated only about $23.7 million over two budgets for Florida Forever. That adds up to less than a dollar a year for each Florida resident.
Ironically, as pointed out by Charles Pattison, president of the land conservation and growth management nonprofit 1000 Friends of Florida, land could have been picked up on the cheap in the past three years, as prices sank to historic lows.
Now, as we climb slowly out of the recession, Gov. Rick Scott has proposed nearly $75 million for state land purchases in his 2013-14 budget. Yet only $25 million of that is guaranteed. The remaining $50 million would have to come from the sale of existing state lands, which seems rather counterintuitive.
Enter a Tallahassee-based nonprofit group called Florida’s Water & Land Legacy. They are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would use money from real estate transaction document stamp tax funds, as was done between 1994 and 2008. The amendment also specifies these funds would be protected from “borrowing” by lawmakers in times of trouble,
Land acquired under the Florida Forever program, say Water & Legacy advocates, is needed to ensure future drinking-water needs, for jump-starting the on-again-off-again Everglades restoration process, improving water quality in Florida’s rivers and waterways, and a chance to save the state’s last remaining natural lands.
Under the proposed amendment, 33 percent of doc stamp tax money would go to Florida Forever; at the moment, the program receives less than 3 percent of that source.
Florida’s Water & Land Legacy is busy collecting the 675,000 signatures needed to get this on the 2014 ballot.
Granted, Florida has plenty of other deserving candidates for state money, aside from environmental land buys. Yet this proposal wouldn’t add a penny to anyone’s tax bill. It would also enable the purchase of pristine land we may never see again.
A large majority of voters said yes in the 1994 referendum. I think the number next year might be smaller, but I believe enough Floridians would still vote for this course of action.
It’s just the right thing to do — for us, our children and grandchildren.
130222-a As EPA rejects rules, new talks eye voluntary path to cut POTWs' nutrients
COSPP.com – by David LaRoss
February 22, 2013
State regulators, environmentalists and water researchers are in talks for a "new path" to reduce nutrient discharges from wastewater treatment plants via voluntary, non-regulatory methods, such as wider use of biosolids, just weeks after EPA rejected a petition from other advocates pressing the agency to craft new rules to curb the plants' nutrient releases.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Water Environment Federation (WEF), together with the nonprofit environmental "facilitator" group the Johnson Foundation, Feb. 13-15 hosted a meeting, "Crafting A Vision for Nutrient Management in Wastewater Treatment," intended to produce a "roadmap" to more stringent levels of nutrient treatment at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).
"The technology discussion would provide an overview of current and future technologies with an emphasis on innovation and a consideration of realistic opportunities for nutrient management," the Johnson Foundation says of the effort on its website.
According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the participants are looking for a "non-regulatory approach" that will lead to greater nutrient reductions, possibly including a renewed focus on recovering usable resources from wastewater during treatment, rather than a push for stricter state and federal water quality standards.
Instead of pushing new regulations, the source says, the organizations -- including the Association of Clean Water Administrators, which did not formally organize the meeting but was an active participant -- intend to take a "technical approach" to developing guidance that would aid regulators and POTWs in reducing nutrient discharges, with or without stricter permit limits. "It's more of what I would call a systems approach to management of nutrients and nutrient recovery," the source says.
The talks come just weeks after EPA formally rejected a 2007 petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental groups which had urged the agency to update its 1985 secondary treatment technology standards to curb releases. They argued that the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires EPA to make secondary-treatment requirements more stringent as the limits of treatment technologies advance.
EPA rejected the petition Dec. 14, arguing that the water law establishes no such mandatory duty. Deputy water chief Michael Shapiro said in his letter rejecting the petition that the agency is focusing on controlling nutrient levels through stricter water quality criteria -- the risk-based limits that regulators use, along with waterbodies' designated uses and antidegradation policy to set permit limits and other standards -- rather than targeting POTWs specifically for stricter regulation.
But the agency appears to have backed off its push to require states to institute strict criteria after its test case in Florida resulted in a bitter series of lawsuits and produced regulations that environmentalists have attacked as unlawfully lax.
After EPA rejected the petition, the parties agreed to drop a pending deadline suit, NRDC, et al. v. EPA -- but the agency's formal rejection of the petition could be grounds for new litigation on the merits of EPA's current treatment standards. It is unclear how -- or whether -- NRDC will respond to EPA's rejection of their petition.
In the meantime, the talks facilitated by the Johnson Foundation are proceeding, and the source involved in the development of the "new path" says it will have "a strong technical and research-and-development bent." The source added that groups like NRDC were unlikely to be invited.
"We didn't invite folks to the meeting who were what I'd call combatants or litigants," the source says.
The wastewater treatment sector has long sought voluntary and cost-beneficial approaches to nutrient reduction. WEF, for example, has long urged POTWs to adopt a "resource recovery" model for wastewater treatment, extracting nutrients from wastewater for use in renewable energy and other applications rather than discharging them into protected waters. The group has touted the model both as a way to reduce water pollution and as encouraging clean energy development by increasing the supply of biofuels.
"WEF believes that recognizing wastewater generated energy as a renewable resource could have positive, long-term impacts by stimulating greater production from water resource recovery activities, creating more clean energy jobs, and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by alleviating electricity demand from fossil fuel-based power plants. It could also assist advocates in future policy discussions and encourage widespread adoption by making the practice eligible for federal funding," the federation says in a policy statement adopted Oct. 18, 2011.
And the meeting summary says the groups "could use the WEF Energy Roadmap as a model for program development." The roadmap is a 2012 policy document that details steps to "help wastewater utilities plan and implement a wastewater energy program . . . whether plants choose simply to increase energy efficiency or to build a full-scale cogeneration system."
The source characterized the Feb. 13-15 meeting as a "first step," with any action based on the talks "far on the horizon." But the Johnson Foundation's website indicates that the groups may present proposals sometime this year, saying that its timeline "would include milestones such as the July 2013 Nutrient Removal and Recovery conference and the October 2013 WEFTEC conference."
Hoover Dike reinforcement and
130222-b Corps of Engineers holding dike meetings
February 22, 2013
CLEWISTON, FL. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, will host two public meetings to discuss the initial phases of a Dam Safety Modification Study (DSMS) that is underway on Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee.
The Corps is conducting the DSMS to determine the final phase of rehabilitation projects for the dike, a 143-mile earthen structure that encircles Lake Okeechobee in south Florida. The Corps has been engaged in projects since 2007 to address concerns with the dike’s integrity.
"The results of the Dam Safety Modification Study will be used to define the finish line for this major project," said Tim Willadsen, Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project Manager. "We will continue to reduce risk by replacing water control structures around the lake through 2018; this study will be the guiding document for projects we execute in the future."
The meetings will be held in two locations in south Florida:
Feb. 26—John Boy Auditorium, 1200 South W.C. Owen Ave., Clewiston, FL.
Feb. 28—Okeechobee County Health Dept 1728 NW 9th Ave., Okeechobee, FL.
Both meetings will begin with an open house at 6:30 p.m. followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. After the presentation, all interested stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment. These meetings will also serve as scoping meetings as required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
Prior projects at the dike include installation of a partially penetrating cutoff wall between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade, filling in a quarry near Belle Glade, and replacin g water control structures near Port Mayaca and Moore Haven. For more information on the Herbert Hoover Dike project, visit the Jacksonville District website athttp://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee/HerbertHooverDike.asp
130222-c Environmental experts find Everglades Foundation report 'grossly inaccurate'
SunshineStateNews.com - by Nancy Smith
February 22, 2013
(Related WSFU brief on Feb. 21, 2013)
For the last year the Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit organization claiming to be the authority on Everglades restoration, has been circulating a flawed and "grossly inaccurate" assessment of pollution in South Florida waters, according to a technical evaluation of the study released Thursday.
The evaluation, paid for jointly by the Florida Sugar Cane League and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, shoots some very large holes in the data used in the claims the Everglades Foundation is making as it attempts to influence Florida's policymakers.
The 34-page technical evaluation, prepared by environmental consultant Cardno ENTRIX, finds and describes major areas within the Foundation study "riddled with flaws from invalid assumptions, incorrect analyses and unsupported conclusions." Doug Durbin, Cardno ENTRIX's lead author on the evaluation, said in a written statement that even the conclusion in the Foundation report -- that the annual cost of nutrient removal (from various sectors) is $866 million -- is wrong.
"Their total attributes costs that have little -- and sometimes nothing at all -- to do with nutrient removal. For example, the (Foundation) study assigns 100 percent of the cost ($515 million) of operating wastewater treatment facilities to nutrient removal, when public safety, not nutrient removal, is the purpose of that sector."
The Cardno ENTRIX report says that since 1996 and the passage of the Everglades Forever Act, a total of 3,643 tons of phosphorus have been prevented from entering the Everglades, of which 70 percent has been removed through the efforts of Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers. On top of that, farmers have paid a tax on every acre of their land for the last 18 years, plus another $200 million to maintain their on-farm phosphorus reduction program. Philip Parsons, attorney for the Florida Sugar Cane League, who was involved in the creation of the Everglades Forever Act, addressed reporters at the Press Center in Tallahassee. "The overall criterion for phosphorus removal in the Everglades is 10 parts per billion. That criterion has always been met at Everglades National Park. And it's been that in 80-to-90 percent of the Everglades system. We achieve that number within 2 miles or less from the points of discharge from our farm areas into the water conservation area."
The Everglades Foundation's $185,000 assessment was performed by RTI International of Raleigh, N.C., and paid for by the Foundation.
In a summary of the RTI review, engineer Galen Miller of Burns & McDonnell, said of the study, "It identifies 22 'caveats and uncertainties,' every one of which directly and substantively impacts their assumptions, analysis and conclusions." Miller was a lead architect of the Everglades Construction Project. He was the designer of the nutrient removal system.
The RTI report, “Enterprise Assessment for the Reduction of Nutrient Pollution in South Florida Waters,” has been widely used in the Foundation’s recent lobbying and public relations efforts.
"While sugar farmers are working in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation with their state restoration partners, it is counterproductive to have false or misleading statements made that threaten to derail what experts agree have been successful Everglades restoration efforts," said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Florida's sugar farmers.
For the last year the Foundation has used the RTI study to pressure legislators into demanding more Everglades cleanup money from sugar interests.
When the study was released in 2012, Kirk Fordham, Foundation CEO at the time, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he hoped the study would “start a conversation with policy makers" and "shift the cost" of Everglades restoration to the polluters -- sugar growers.
Perhaps a telling sign of the dynamics of this ever-increasing heated battle between the Foundation and the sugar farmers comes in the form of lobby teams. The latest lobbyist registration list shows the Everglades Foundation’s political machinery is loading up on Tallahassee insiders, with 16 registered lobbyists, a count that surpasses even Big Sugar’s Florida Crystals, but still a couple of bodies shy of U.S. Sugar Corp.
Several attempts to reach CEO Eric Eikenberg, or any Everglades Foundation spokesperson, were unsuccessful on Thursday.
130222-d Report says red tide lingering in Southwest Florida waters
February 22, 2013
A red tide bloom that has fluctuated in intensity since last fall is still lingering in Southwest Florida waters, according this afternoon’s update by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. The report identified the Pine Island Sound System as the most affected area waters.
The Lee County Department of Health suggests beachgoers use caution.
“It’s possible, if you go to the beach, you may encounter the algae or see dead fish,” said DOH spokesperson Diane Holm. “It’s possible, but it’s not a warning.”
Red tide is caused by the single-celled algae Karenia brevis, which releases a neurotoxin as is dies. It gets its name from the reddish-brown tint that can coat the water when concentrations are medium to high. When airborne, red tide toxin can cause respiratory irritation. In the water, it can paralyze and kill marine life.
Dead fish and a moray eel were reportedly found today on Fort Myers Beach.
130222-d USA: Army Corps publishes EIS for FEB
February 22, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Jacksonville District has published a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the A-1 Shallow Flow Equalization Basin (FEB) project proposed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The draft document is available for public review and comment through April 8, 2013.
The SFWMD has requested a Department of the Army permit to construct a shallow FEB on the A-1 project site in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The site is approximately 16,150 acres between U.S. Highway 27 and the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area and was formerly used as farm land. Excess phosphorus discharged into the Everglades Protection Area (EPA) has caused exceedances in the water quality criterion and ecological impacts within the Everglades. The FEB is designed to improve the phosphorus treatment performance in Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) 2 and 3/4 by retaining and then delivering water to the STAs with improved flow and timing prior to discharge in the EPA.
The Corps’ regulatory responsibilities were initially authorized under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which provided for the protection and maintenance of the nation’s navigable waterways. Historically, the EAA was Everglades wetlands until it was ditched and drained. Today, much of the EAA canal system, including the extensive network of ditches and canals along the perimeter of the A-1 project site, is considered navigable waters. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Corps is responsible for regulating dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States, including many wetlands. Once the land on the site was no longer used for agriculture, wetland plants and hydrology returned. Thus, the site currently contains freshwater wetlands. Additionally, a number of federally listed threatened and endangered species use the project site.
The draft EIS evaluates construction of a shallow FEB, which is the applicant’s preferred alternative. Other alternatives evaluated include the No Action Alternative, a deep FEB and an STA. The Corps analyzed these alternatives to determine if the applicant’s preferred alternative is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative and within the public’s interest.
The proposed shallow FEB is 15,000 acres with a maximum operating depth of approximately four feet. The project would include perimeter levees about 20 miles long and eight to 10 feet high and operable water control structures to control FEB water levels and flows into and out of the FEB. At an estimated construction cost of about $60 million, it is the least costly of the alternatives considered; it is also anticipated to have the least impact on wetlands in terms of acres. The applicant has proposed on site compensatory mitigation for unavoidable wetland impacts, to include hydrologic and vegetation benefits within the project footprint.
The project is being developed with input and consensus from federal, state and local agencies and the public, as well as ongoing coordination with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. Issues under discussion include wetlands, water quality, flood protection, wildlife and habitat and threatened and endangered species. A permit decision is required to comply with federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act and others. A number of state and local requirements would also apply.
The draft EIS is available for public review and comment on Jacksonville District's website, www.saj.usace.army.mil . Click on Missions, then Regulatory, then Items of Interest. Comments must be received by April 8, 2013 and may be submitted to project manager Alisa Zarbo by email: Alisa.A.Zarbo@usace.army.mil or to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, ATTN: CESAJ-RD-SP (Alisa Zarbo), 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410.
Contact: Nancy J. Sticht, 904/232-1667 , email@example.com Related: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publishes draft Environmental Impact Statement WaterWorld.com (Feb. 23, 2013)
130221-a DEP kicks off Lake Okeechobee Restoration Plan development
WaterWorld.com - by Targeted News Service
February 21, 2013
Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection took a major step forward in drawing up a detailed restoration plan for Lake Okeechobee and met with key area stakeholders. At the same time, the Department has committed $4 million toward restoring the lake through an Istokpoga Marsh water quality improvement project.
This restoration plan, called a basin management action plan, or BMAP, will identify additional water quality projects moving forward, funding sources and an implementation schedule necessary to bring the Lake Okeechobee watershed back to health. Lake Okeechobee is a source of water for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries as well as the Everglades. Completing the Department's restoration plan will be another step toward achieving the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program's goals, set by the Florida Legislature in 2007.
"This restoration plan, along with the restoration plans for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, are important to the health of these South Florida waterbodies," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "We are grateful to the South Florida Water Management District, not only for contributing $2 million to the Istokpoga project, but for numerous nutrient-reduction projects already being implemented throughout the watershed."
The Istokpoga Marsh water quality improvement project is located in the Istokpoga Marsh Watershed Improvement District and covers 19,262 acres acres. Upon completion, the project is expected to reduce the annual agricultural irrigation discharge from the watershed by 60 percent and cut phosphorus loading by 70 percent to the lake. Phase 1 involves construction of 308 acres of impoundments to collect runoff irrigation water and release it back into the Improvement District's system of canals. Reusing the water will satisfy irrigation demands while reducing the amount of phosphorus that ends up in Lake Okeechobee.
"The South Florida Water Management District shares the vision for improving and restoring Lake Okeechobee, often called the "liquid heart" of South Florida," said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker. "The BMAP process is essential to identify the projects, partners and funding that will help us all achieve that vision."
The first meeting of Lake Okeechobee BMAP stakeholders was held Wednesday at the South Florida Water Management District's Okeechobee Service Center to update the status of current Lake Okeechobee restoration efforts and discuss new efforts to achieve the long term water quality targets. The meeting also included updates on ongoing efforts by local governments and agriculture to tackle pollution problems now. It will be followed by a technical meeting in late March when the detailed work of developing new projects and management strategies will occur.
"Lake Okeechobee is a state treasure. We will do everything we can, working with the many dedicated local stakeholders, to promote innovative thinking and creative solutions that expedite restoration," said Drew Bartlett, Director of the DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. "I am particularly pleased to continue our partnership with the Istokpoga Marsh Water Improvement District and Highlands County, which continue to invest time and money toward the success of the Istokpoga project and the rest of the hard work ahead." For more about Lake Okeechobee, visit : http://www.evergladeshub.com/okeechobee/okeechobee.htm www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm www.sfwmd.gov/okeechobee.
130221- Huge trouble
NaplesNews.com - Letter by Edwin Thomas, Bonita Springs, FL
February 21, 2013
Congratulations to Bill Booth, Brandenton; Ruben Ramirez, Miami; Brian Barrows; Fort Myers; and Paul Shannon, Leigh High Acres, for catching the big snakes.
Congratulations to all involved in the python hunt as well.
If there are an estimated 150,000 pythons in the Everglades, this small hunt didn’t even make a dent. Why not have year-round open season on snakes?
If snakes swallow up all the wildlife, will they swallow each other after that? Or do they come after humans?
There is another python in the Everglades not mentioned often — the rock python. Beware. His teeth point inward and they are razor sharp. If one should show up on my doorstep, he is in huge trouble.
130221-c Sugar farmers attack Everglades water-pollution report
WFSU - by Jessica Palombo
South Florida sugar farmers are attacking an Everglades water-pollution report being circulated among lawmakers as flawed and misleading. They’re saying the report under-represents the amount they’ve spent on cleaning up polluted water.
The sugar farmers are complaining the report, paid for by the Everglades Foundation, relies on incomplete information. They says it greatly inflates the amount of money the public sector has spent on removing pollutants from water, which makes the $200 million they’ve spent on the cleanup effort look smaller in comparison.
Florida Sugar Farmers spokesman Brian Hughes said the state, which leases land to the farmers, needs a more complete picture when making decisions.
“We need to make sure that all parties have accurate information and are working from a common set of assumptions that are based in science and not in flawed research," he said.
The farmers commissioned their own analysis of the report that shows there was too much information missing for it to be credible. The Everglades Foundation has been presenting the report to committees.
Paul Tudor JONES
Board Chairman of the Everglades Foundation
130221-d Tudor Jones, Gibbons hunt python in Everglades
StamfordAdvocate.com – by Amanda Gordon, Bloomberg News
February 21, 2013
"I've seen 'em," said Paul Tudor Jones of the pythons that eat mammals from rabbits to deer in Everglades National Park.
"I'm not afraid," ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons added of the reptile, which isn't venomous.
The hedge-fund manager and the rocker talked snake at the eighth annual Everglades Foundation benefit, held a few days after a month-long python hunt organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"The only thing scarier than pythons is letting thousands of rednecks with guns go shoot the pythons -- and I say that as a redneck," said Carl Hiaasen, whose next book, "Bad Monkey," comes out in June.
Pythons are the least of the Everglades' troubles, Hiaasen said. "The problem is pollution," he said, "stuff coming off the sugar fields for 60 years."
"It's us," said singer Jimmy Buffett.
The Feb. 15 event at the Breakers in Palm Beach raised more than $2 million to restore "the heart of Florida's ecosystem and economy," said Tudor Jones, the chairman and chief executive officer of Tudor Investment in Greenwich.
Among the 600 guests were Peter Kiernan of Kiernan Ventures, music executive Tommy Mottola and Greenwich resident Mario Gabelli, chief executive officer of Gamco Investors.
Asked if he ever had a stock like the python -- one he had too much of and couldn't eliminate -- Gabelli replied, "Too many." Kevin McCluskey, managing director of investments at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management in Palm Beach, in a vintage Lilly Pulitzer jacket, said he once shot a rattlesnake and would be glad to hunt python, though he's more of a sailor.
Ferns and gummy alligators in martini glasses were part of the Everglades-themed decor. For event designer Jay Bell of DeJuan Stroud Inc., the Spanish moss hanging from chandeliers recalled the beards of ZZ Top's front men.
The Texas musicians performed after a dinner of mini-tacos, "redneck" short ribs, and brownie sundaes served in chocolate guitar cases.
The band also inspired the suggested attire, "cheap sunglasses and legs." Highbridge Capital Management co-founder Glenn Dubin kicked up a denim-clad thigh for a photograph. More ZZ Top-ready limbs belonged to his wife, Eva Dubin, and Kim Havlicek, wife of JPMorgan Private Wealth managing director and Palm Beach market manager Chris Havlicek. Barbara Nicklaus had the funkiest sunglasses, with oval lenses decorated like pineapples. Her husband, Jack Nicklaus, the golfer and course designer, serves on the board of the Everglades Foundation with Tudor Jones, its chairman.
"He is unbelievably energetic," Jack Nicklaus said. "When he believes in something, get out of the way."
Seinfeld's Moron Jerry Seinfeld did 17 minutes of stand-up for the Everglades. In between riffs on the U.S. Post Office and Pop Tarts, he took aim at Florida's Republican senator.
"Marco Rubio, that's funny. What a moron," the comedian said of the senator's water grab during a speech after the State of the Union address.
"I'm sure he's a fine man and a wonderful statesman and a brilliant mind," Seinfeld said, "but just get the water afterwards. You know, it was the little water, that's what was sad about it. It was the Poland Spring that big. How about a glass of chardonnay? Look like you don't give a damn." Author Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.
130220-a Front & Center: Protecting Florida's waterways
February 20, 2013 Bob Graham has worn many hats in a long, distinguished public-service career. Florida state legislator. Florida's 38th governor, U.S. senator.
Now, he's donning the white hat — charging to the rescue of Florida's ailing waterways.
On Saturday, Graham headlined the Speak Up Wekiva rally, concerned with finding solutions to save the badly polluted Wekiwa Springs.
Graham recently met with the Editorial Board to discuss green efforts and other issues. Excerpts follow in today's Front & Center. Q: Why you chose to take a leadership role in this campaign ? A: 2011 was a disastrous year of the Florida environment. Many of our land and water policies that were 40 years in the making and implementing were eliminated and the capability of the agencies to carry out their response was severely cutback by budget and personnel reduction. So, we came together in the summer of '11 with the commitment that we would stop the bleeding in the 2012 session and then go on the offensive. I think we largely accomplished our 2012 goals ... and now in 2013 we're going to try to do some [aggressive] things, much of which is going to be in the budget and with a heavy focus on springs and streams protection. Q: There used to be a robust environmental movement in Florida for some years, and then something happened ? What do you think happened ? A: Florida up until the 1970s was a commodity to many Floridians. It was something to be used for whatever immediate purposes: if it was land and you wanted water, you dug it up; if it was water and you wanted land, you filled it in. Beginning in the early '70s, under the administration of Claude Kirk ... the state began to change its fundamental values from commodity to treasure. We are privileged to live in a special place, and with that, comes the responsibility of passing it onto future generations. I thought that battle had been fought and won, but it broke out again in 2011. Why did it happen ? The recession was a big contributor. People made, I think, the false argument that by regulating the proper use of our water we were in some ways adversely affecting job creation. In my judgment, not only does the environment, but the economy of Florida, depends on our protection of natural resources. But the recession gave cover to that argument that there was competition. I think ... there was a significantly more conservative majority in the state Legislature and Gov. [Rick] Scott is quite conservative, and they saw this as an opportunity to repeal some provisions that people like them hadn't approved of when originally adopted 40 years earlier. Q: Gov. Scott's latest budget proposal includes $6.5 million for springs restoration. Is that enough? A: No. The five water management districts were asked to develop budgets for springs and streams protection and that amount was about $112 million. So, the departments — all of which are under persons appointed by the governor — have come to a budget that is substantially more than is being recommended. Q: Gov. Scott's budget also earmarks $75 for Florida Forever. Is that enough ? A: The governor has recommended $75 million for land acquisition, but $50 million of that is derived from the sale of existing land. Now whether that is realistic — to find that much land which was purchased because of environmental value and contribution to conservation or which can be acquired in the next 15 months — is questionable. Q: What grade would you give governor. Scott on environmental causes ? A: I'm going to be generous and give him an incomplete; my hope is that he and those around him responsible for this area have gone through a learning process and are beginning to apply some of that. Q: Last month the Florida Supreme Court ruled against the lawsuit you filed and found that the Legislature, and not the Board of Governors, has ultimate control over university tuitions. Will this have a negative impact on higher education in Florida ? A: I was disappointed and surprised, frankly. The amendment we wrote followed similar amendments in states such as Michigan and Minnesota, which have had a constitutional body to oversee their university system — in the case of Michigan, for over 100 years. They have all been granted the authority to set tuition and fees, so we were surprised the court came to a different conclusion. The good news was that the court explicitly said that its ruling was limited to the issue of tuition and fees, and that it was not making any rulings on the other authority that had previously been in the Legislature and that our amendment had as its purpose to transfer to the Board of Governors. Our litigation was constrained to tuition and fees because under the court's ruling on standing, the only standing a group of citizens had was to challenge the portions of the amendment that related to fiscal matters. Our original litigation included the other powers of the Board of Governors, but they were limited to stay within that limited standing. So, we'll see if the Legislature reads the opinion as saying those other powers, such as powers of establish a new university, have now been transferred to the Board of Governors, and that the Legislature no longer has authority to authorize universities, new programs, and other academic activity. Q: What is the idea behind the proposed Florida Water and Land Legacy constitutional amendment? A: It would basically commit a certain proportion of the real-estate transfer tax to a state fund limited to purchasing environmental and public-use lands. I think the benefit of that is it would give stability to the program — it would not depend on the Legislature's willingness to support it on a year-to-year basis. It would be at the scale as we've had in the recent past — which has been in the range of $200 [million]-$300 million a year. And third, it would depoliticize [the issue]. I think it will result in the public getting what it wants — a scientifically derived list of priority land acquisition, which in turn will result in our ability to continue purchasing flood plains along our rivers and other initiatives that have played a key role in protecting our water supply. Q: One of your former colleagues in the Senate, Chuck Hagel, has been nominated for defense secretary but run into strong opposition from Republicans. Do you think he should get the job? A: Yes. I know Sen. Hagel quite well, and have high regard for him. I think he is, with his experience in Vietnam, would bring a unique, enlisted man's perspective to the Department of Defense. I believe he will be confirmed. Q: You're former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Would you be supporting John Brennan to be the next CIA director? A: I would vote for his confirmation. I don't know him as well as I do Hagel, but he's spent his career in intelligence, has a good reputation. What the CIA needs almost as much as anything else is stability. I have counted up, since I left the Senate, which was seven years ago, I think there have five CIA directors. You can't run an organization of that complexity with constant turnover at the top. I would hope Brennan would be confirmed and his performance would justify his staying there for at least four years. Q: Are you troubled by the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attack in Benghazi? A: I'm concerned about that situation, yes. From what I know ... it was one of those fog of war situations in a very difficult and remote location where there wasn't a lot of backup capability, with the tragedy of the four Americans losing their lives. But I haven't seen anything that has indicated to me of any conspiracy of incompetence or coverup. Q: In your book Intelligence Matters, you criticized the Bush Administration's handling of matters leading to 9-11. How would you grade the intelligence apparatus under the Obama administration ? A: I would say during the first term, Panetta was an outstanding intelligence director. .. Petraeus was not there long enough to have much of a record, and of course, left under [trying circumstances]. On a scale of zero to 10, I would give the CIA during the first term of Obama a 9.218. Q: Your novel, "Keys to the Kingdom," suggests a 9-11 coverup. Are still of a mind that U.S. authorities should reopen an inquiry 9-11? What questions remain unanswered ? A: Yes. I think there are some important aspects that are not just an ,matter of getting the historical record current, but also making current judgments. And the center questions revolve around Saudi Arabia. What was the extent of their involvement ? Why were they involved ? And why has the United States, through now two administrations, gone to the lengths that it has to disguised the Saudi involvement. I think those are important questions regarding our future involvement with Saudi Arabia.
130220-b Phosphorus phobia ?
PorkNetwork.com - Commentary by Dan Murphy
February 20, 2013 Geneviève Metson is a doctoral student at Montreal’s McGill University who is studying an interesting offshoot of agricultural sustainability: Phosphorus.
That’s right. Phosphorus. Not exactly top of mind when it comes to potential crises in food production.
However, as Metson’s research statement explains, “Phosphorus is a scarce resource essential to food production, but in too large quantities can also cause pollution in water bodies. More sustainable phosphorus management is essential for food security and pollution abatement.”
No argument here.
For the most part, phosphorus is considered a non-renewable resource, since its principal commercial source in modern times is apatite, phosphate-containing rock (in previous centuries, phosphorus was primarily obtained from animal bones or phosphorus-rich guano). Although significant deposits of apatite are found in Florida, Tennessee, Idaho and Utah, fully one-half of the world’s reserves of phosphorus are located in Arab nations.
That makes sustainable phosphorus management an important strategic priority and Metson’s research something more than an intriguing thesis topic.
But here’s the kicker: She’s focused on finding out how much of the phosphorus that’s mined for use as a nutritional additive in animal rations or for commercial fertilizer to grow feed crops ends up directed toward meat production.
That fits right in with the current fad of calculating the carbon footprint and the resource consumption required to produce a pound of beef, pork or chicken. Those charts provide a visual snapshot of the land area, water use and energy consumption—allegedly—needed to put a hamburger or a chicken breast on somebody’s dinner plate. (Here is an example of one such infograph, developed by Dr. Judith Capper, a dairy scientist who has done extensive research on sustainable livestock production: www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/06/27/155527365/visualizing-a-nation-of-meat-eaters)
It’s all about the footprint
Not surprisingly, Metson determined that meat production is one of the most prominent food sectors dependent on phosphorus. Thus, as she argued in a communication published in Environmental Research Letters, meat’s phosphorus footprint is reason enough to eat less of it, given that phosphorous is a finite resource.
“Changes we can make in our diet to decrease the demand for mined phosphorus can also decrease the use of other resources,” Metson told National Public Radio. “We need to manage our food system in an equitable and sustainable way.”
To be sure, extracting phosphates from deposits around the world has helped fuel a major increase in global food production. Phosphate production in 2012 was 220 million tons, up from 165 million tons in 1994.
But is phosphorus availability really a serious concern? Not according to the Alabama-based International Fertilizer Development Center, an organization dedicated to improving food security, agricultural productivity and economic development through farm efficiency.
I have a lot of respect for IFDC, an organization that gets involved with controversial issues but maintains its focus on initiatives that move the needle. For example: Its priorities include projects to reduce food waste, improve access to modern farming technologies and fertilizer, expand sustainable energy production and improve market access for farm products grown in developing countries.
As for phosphorus, Steven Van Kauwenbergh, the principal scientist and leader of IFDC’s Phosphate Research and Resources Initiative, stated that, “Phosphorus is pretty far down the list of things we’re going to suddenly run out of.”
A 2010 IFDC report titled, “World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources,” projected that even with current rates of production, phosphate rock reserves should last another 300 to 400 years.
Van Kauwenbergh also noted that IFDC’s approach to improving farm productivity, particularly in areas where improper management or monoculture cropping has depleted the soil, includes a combination of organic soil amendments and use of inorganic fertilizers to rebuild fertility. It’s not just about adding nitrogen (derived principally from natural gas) or phosphorus; soil fertility also depends on a proper balance of organic matter to promote water retention and root development.
Metson, however, argued that the growth of phosphate usage worldwide is unsustainable, noting in her letter that, “[The] global per capita phosphorus footprint has increased 38% over the last 50 years.”
In making the point that meat-eating corresponds with phosphorus use, she noted that Luxembourg—considered the world’s heaviest meat-eating country—consumes 16.8 pounds of phosphorus per person, while The Congo’s per capita use is less than one pound a year. (Interestingly, though, Canada—certainly a country that’s hardly adverse to meat eating—has seen its per capita use of phosphorus actually decrease since the 1960s.)
So while it’s difficult to make conclusive judgments about phosphorus and meat production, it seems safe to say that the world will face critical shortages of oil—a far greater concern for agriculture—much sooner than any imaginable phosphorus crisis.
Phosphorus is something to think about, but nothing to lose sleep over.
FL Agriculture Commissioner
130219-a Adam Putnam: Florida needs a statewide water plan
SunshineStateNews.com - by Jim Turner
February 19, 2013
The numerous regional fights over water rights across Florida continue to threaten the long-term sustainability of the state’s vital agriculture industry, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned state senators Tuesday.
Appearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Putnam listed the maintenance of water resources, along with expanding the "Fresh From Florida" promotion of Sunshine State produce both in schools and abroad, and the eradication of invasive species and diseases, among his legislative priorities for the 2013 session.
“There is not a corner of the state that’s not in some type of water scarcity conflict,” Putnam said.
“We’ve got to work our way and manage through those things, with a particular sensitivity to agriculture because it is such a foundation for our economy.”
He pointed to ecological and economic collapse facing Apalachicola Bay, to regional fights over spring sheds from Jacksonville to Central Florida, to the pressure of population growth on water supplies in the Southeast.
“For the past decade-and-a-half the Everglades have received the bulk of attention when it comes to water policy. I think that we need to have a statewide strategy for water, and that includes protecting our springs and the aquifer that feeds those springs, as well as our surface water issues,” Putnam said after the committee meeting.
The message isn’t anything new from Putnam, who has been sounding the alarm since taking office that Florida must increase its alternative water supplies and desalination plants and offer incentives to developers to help conserve water supplies.
With Florida expected soon to surpass New York as the third most populated state in the nation, the projections have been that the Sunshine State will need to increase its water production by 2 billion gallons a day by 2025, a task the state’s five water management districts have started planning for.
Also to help the citrus industry, Putnam told the committee he is backing a $9 million request for citrus greening research, to match the $60 million already invested to fight the disease by the state’s $9 billion a year citrus industry.
130219-b Critics strike state over python challenge
ActionNewsJAX.com – 47WTEV – by Amanda Warford
February 19, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For one month, 1,600 Florida hunters trudged through 1 million acres of Everglades swamp, searching for Burmese pythons, an invasive species that the Florida Wildlife Commission says is taking over the ecosystem by eating native animals.
The total number of snakes caught during the month-long competition was 68.
“Obviously that speaks for itself in that there aren't that many down there,” says Lisa Brezil, Owner of Blazin' Reptiles in Mandarin.
Many of Brezil’s customers took part in the competition, but she doubted it from the beginning. Especially after reports estimated as many as 100,000 Burmese living in the Everglades.
“I find it hard to believe. You’d be stepping all over them if you're down there, which is not what people are finding.”
Blazin’ Reptiles is home to a 12-foot, 30-pound Granite Burmese named Mojo. Despite Mojo’s calm personality, Brezil says most people are scared of Burmese.
According to National Geographic, Burmese pythons are the largest snakes on Earth, capable of reaching 23 feet and weighing up to 200 pounds. They are native to Southeast Asia, but may have been released into the wild during Hurricane Andrew, when many of South Florida’s exotic animal farms were destroyed. In the spring, they can lay as many as 100 eggs, leading to high reproductive rates, even though only about 30 percent of the eggs hatch and even fewer mature into adults.
Those that do, Brezil says, are often intimidating to the average person. She thinks the state took advantage of that fear to pump up attention and make money.
“I think they did it for publicity, personally. They’re putting fear into people that is unfounded.”
The FWC tells Action News a profit was never the goal. Roughly $40,000 was raised from participant registration fees, but most of that, they say, covered marketing instead of using taxpayer dollars. Even with only 68 pythons, they call it a success.
Brezil, however, calls it sad, and she hopes the first python challenge is the last.
“They're just part of the environment now. It would be nice if they could just leave them alone.”
Most of the snakes caught during the 2013 Python challenge are at a lab in Gainesville where scientists are studying what they eat and how they reproduce. A full report is expected later this year.
130219-c Ethanol bill clears committee by a single vote
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 19, 2013
A bill that would repeal a state requirement that gasoline contain ethanol passed a House subcommittee on Tuesday by one vote.
HB 4001 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, would repeal the requirement passed in 2008 as part of an energy bill championed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
Gaetz last year proposed repealing the requirement but said Tuesday he settled on a "faux compromise" that made it clearer in state law that the sale of gasoline without ethanol is legal for use in boats, small motors, antique cars and other purposes.
Gaetz told the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee that HB 4001 this year is needed because ethanol is harmful to some engines, increases gas prices, increases food and grain prices, is bad for the environment because its production uses water and creates greenhouse gases.
He said the state ethanol requirement "tries to dictate consumer behavior." And he said the energy market since last year has changed with huge shale oil reserves being discovered in the United States.
"All the investment in energy that is occurring today is occurring to refine and transport the massive amounts of cheap energy that exists in the Midwest," Gaetz said.
Groups supporting the bill included the Florida Cattlemen's Association, the Marine Industries Association of Florida and the Southeast Milk cooperative. The Florida Petroleum Council is neutral on the bill, council Executive Director David Mica said. Dan Cummings, vice president of external affairs for INEOS Bio in Vero Beach, said his company in 2012 completed a $130-million biofuels plant in Vero Beach with 400 construction jobs and more than 60 full-time jobs.
"Sending a message by repealing the RFS (renewable fuel standard) now sends a really chilling message not only to ourselves and emerging technologies but a lot of other companies that have invested money here," Cummings said.
Democrats on the committee joined Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, in arguing against the bill. Her late husband, Stan, was House energy committee chairman in 2008 when it passed the requirement, and a University of Florida biofuels pilot project in Perry is named after him.
"We said that we were going to be a renewable energy state," she said. "We were going to encourage businesses to come into the state of Florida to do this. When we are sending a message to them, 'Sorry, we are changing our mind,' that is not a good message to send out to businesses."
After his bill passed the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee 7-6, Gaetz said a "big change" for the bill going forward is that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is not opposing it as he did last year.
"He is not supporting it," Gaetz said, "but he is not opposing it, which is helpful."
A spokeswoman for Putnam said the agriculture commissioner did not oppose the bill last year. A Miami Herald report in advance of the 2012 session quoted a neutral Putnam as saying the legislation sends the "wrong message" to the biofuels industry.
Putnam is not opposing the bill this year, spokeswoman said. But because a federal requirement for ethanol production remains in place, she said Putnam "does not feel that repealing the state ethanol requirement will have any impact on consumers."
* Feb. 19, 2013 Rep. Matt Gaetz press release on HB 4001
* Feb. 19, 2013 House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee meeting materials
* Feb. 19, 2013 Video from WFSU-TV/The FLORIDA Channel
130219-d Obama can act alone on climate; President has options to bypass those who oppose carbon limits
Power-Eng.com – by C. Stapleton, Palm Beach Post
February 19, 2013
President Barack Obama needs the Republican Party's blessing for many of the proposals he outlined in his State of the Union address last week, but climate change is not one of them.
Using existing laws, regulations and international agreements, the president can bypass Congress and accomplish significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are widely believed to contribute to global warming, many experts say. In particular, the Clean Air Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by states, gives the president broad authority over air pollution.
"Republicans may say something like, 'It's an administrative overreach,' but in fact all he would be doing is enforcing the Clean Air Act as passed by Congress, signed into law by George (H.W.) Bush and interpreted by the Roberts court," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by the Republican president. "If the Republicans don't like it, they can try to change it."
However, some Republicans have recently argued that taking action on climate change now is futile unless other major polluters, such as China and India, also join the effort.
"If we unilaterally impose these sorts of things on our economy, it would have a devastating impact on economics," Sen. Marco Rubio said during a Feb. 5 interview with BuzzFeed, a website of trending news.
"I think that's what's standing in the way of doing anything about this," the Florida Republican said. "The benefit is difficult to justify when you realize that it's only us doing it."
Beyond economics, there are those who argue that climate change is a natural phenomenon and fighting nature is a losing battle.
"The Earth has been around 4 billion years and we know there has been massive heating and cooling," said state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, during a climate change workshop in Tallahassee. "We can do this stuff, and I'm not challenging that we ought to do it, but inevitably the cycles of the Earth are going to overcome any artificial stuff that we do."
However, many experts say the president does not need to get bogged down in scientific and political debates but can take numerous unilateral actions that include:
Requiring the EPA to set carbon-pollution standards for power plants, refineries and other major industrial sources under the Clean Air Act and to finalize standards for new plants.
"Power plants account for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions," said Nicholas Bianco, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute and co-author of the article "Can the U.S. get there from here? Using existing laws and state action to reduce greenhouse gas emission."
At the 2009 United Nation's convention on climate change in Copenhagen, the administration committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below the 2005 levels by 2020. Energy that comes from coal, oil and natural gas account for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. -- which makes setting performance standards for power plants a top priority, Bianco said.
Phase-out ozone-depleting hydroflurocarbons, known as HFCs -- used for refrigeration and air conditioning -- through the Montreal Protocol. The international agreement was negotiated in the 1980s under then-President Ronald Reagan. The EPA also could ban ozone depleting chemicals, such as HFCs, for which there are safer alternatives, Bianco said.
Set stricter ozone smog standards. In 2011 the administration rejected a recommendation from the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to strengthen the public-health standard for ozone smog, saying it would reconsider in 2013 after additional research is complete.
Reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline and set emission limits on new vehicles. Also, require federal agencies to use low-emission vehicles and those that rely on alternative fuels when possible.
Require a percentage of the electricity generated on public land to be clean and renewable, such as wind, solar or hydropower. Already, as much as 40 percent of coal and 20 percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. come from public land or waters.
"I'm very optimistic because the president is going to reduce carbon pollution and make communities more resilient by implementing existing laws," Weiss said. "That means a do-nothing Congress won't have much impact."
At the state level, the prospect for climate-change legislation is even bleaker than in Washington, D.C. No bills have been introduced and no money was designated in Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget.
Still, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said much can and already has been done at the local level. Rather than waiting for Washington or Tallahassee to act, Pafford said, Florida's unique vulnerabilities to rising sea levels mean coastal communities must act.
To highlight the threat and what leaders in South Florida have done despite the Legislature's inaction, Pafford hosted a workshop in Tallahassee for the region's lawmakers Feb. 14. County officials and water managers from Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties -- members of the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact -- explained how they conducted their own research and formulated plans for dealing with rising sea levels.
"If we hadn't come together as a region to do this work, I don't think we would have gotten this kind of support from state and regional agencies and the academic institutions," said Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator John Van Arnam. Still, members of the compact acknowledge that their effort will require the Legislature's participation -- especially with money to help communities fortify sea walls, roads, buildings and public utilities.
"If we have an enemy right now, it's Mother Nature," Pafford said. "Do we want to be reactive or engage and plan ?"
130219-e Report finds Floridians value water resources, want to conserve
Phys.org - by Mickie Anderson
February 19, 2013
Floridians are more concerned with water quality than quantity, the results of a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences water survey suggest. google_protectAndRun("render_ads.js::google_render_ad", google_handleError, google_render_ad);Ads by GoogleTransportation Logistics - Online Transportation & Logistics Degree. Classes Start Mar 4. - www.APUS.edu The survey of some 469 Floridians found that when respondents were asked to assign levels of importance to 16 water-related topics such as "plentiful water for cities" and "clean groundwater," residents rated having "clean drinking water" most important. The survey respondents were selected as a demographically representative sample of adult Floridians, said Alexa Lamm, the University of Florida assistant professor who led the December 2012 survey effort on behalf of the Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center. "The survey strongly suggests that people in Florida are very interested in conserving water and in maintaining its quality so that it will always be available for life-sustaining uses," she said. "And they're willing to make sacrifices to make it happen." The survey is the first of what PIE Center officials hope will be four such public opinion surveys a year, covering topics such as Florida residents' experience with endangered and invasive species and their perceptions of organic and non-organic foods. Officials with the PIE Center, part of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, then plan to repeat the surveys each year, so that changes in public sentiment can be tracked over time, said Tracy Irani, the PIE Center's director. Kicking off the surveys with one that focused on water resources was completely by design, said Jack Payne, UF's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. "Water is, without a doubt, one of our state's most critical issues," Payne said. "As such, IFAS is going to focus a great deal of our research and outreach efforts into trying to ensure that our water resources are preserved and protected. The PIE Center water survey is a giant step in that effort." The water survey and results can be found at a special IFAS water report website: www.piecenter.com/water/. The survey produced a number of noteworthy results, among them: After clean drinking water (93 percent), the survey respondents listed having clean beaches (90 percent), oceans, bays/estuaries (89 percent), lakes and rivers (89 percent) as highly or extremely important, followed by plentiful water for industry and commerce (80.5 percent) and plentiful water for household landscapes (61 percent).Roughly 40 percent of respondents reported having had a negative water-quality experience, such as poor-quality drinking water, closed beaches, springs, rivers or lakes, and catching fish deemed unfit for human consumption.Just over 65 percent reported willingness to use recycled wastewater for lawn or landscape irrigation (though few said it was an option available to them); nearly 53 percent said they have low-flow showerheads, nearly 52 percent have water-efficient toilets, 33 percent said they use drought-tolerant plants in their gardens, and nearly 19 percent use rain barrels to collect water for gardening and yard use.
130219-f Tallahassee lawmakers hear how rising seas threaten South Florida
WLRN.org - by Gina Jordan
February 19, 2013
The rising sea level threat facing South Florida communities is on the radar of the region's lawmakers.
They recently met at the Capitol to hear from a panel of experts.
Monroe County administrator Roman Gastesi says the waters off Key West have gone up 9 inches in the last hundred years, and the rise is accelerating.
“What we’re looking at now is 9 to 24 inches in the next 50 years,” Gastesi says. “Three to seven (inches) in 20 years.”
The meeting didn’t address the reasons why the sea is rising, just that it’s happening.
Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Jon Van Arnam says just one foot of water will impact property values by billions of dollars in Southeast Florida.
“We’re looking at a 50 year horizon of 9 to 24 inches of sea level rise and it’s exponentially increasing,” Van Arnam says.
Democratic West Palm Beach Representative Mark Pafford says tourism will be impacted soon if communities don’t move quickly.
“The beaches are gone. You’ve got palm trees that are actually dying of salt water,” Pafford says. “These are negative changes that we’re now living through and it requires immediate action.”
Water managers are working to push more water into the Everglades and coastal canal systems. They’re also searching for alternative water sources and implementing conservation efforts to protect the drinking water supply.
Democratic Lake Worth Senator Jeff Clemens says lawmakers need to start appropriating dollars now.
“We’ve got to find a way as three delegations to convince the rest of the state that this is a potential economic disaster for the state of Florida if we don’t do something about this,” Clemens says. “There are infrastructure needs and plans that need to start now.”
The experts say communities can buy themselves at least four decades of protection just by raising sea walls.
Threats to Southeast Florida from extreme weather and rising seas:
Threats to public and private infrastructure – Flooding; Beach erosion; Wind damage
Impacts on water supplies -- Water shortages; Salt water intrusion
Compromised natural systems – Everglades; Coral reefs
130218-a Company offers Florida a free state park, but state DEP says no
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
February 18, 2013
The 4,100-acre Peaceful Horse Ranch lies along seven miles of the Peace River, its banks thick with sabal palms, cypress and live oak, its woods and wetlands full of bald eagles, gopher tortoises, wood storks, sandhill cranes and ospreys.
Three years ago, Florida officials added that land to the list of environmentally sensitive properties they wanted to acquire. But the ranch was valued at $14 million, a steep price at a time when the state Legislature had cut back money for the state's land-buying program. Then a phosphate mining company bought it.
Last year, the state caught a break. The phosphate company, as part of a legal settlement with environmental groups, agreed to hand it over to the state for free. Mosaic mining officials would even throw in $2 million for upkeep.
But to the surprise of both Mosaic and the environmentalists who sued it, the state has said no thanks.
"They decided they were not in a position to take it at this time," Mosaic phosphate spokeswoman Martha Monfried said.
Why would the Department of Environmental Protection turn down free land?
"Crazy, huh?" said Beverly Griffiths, who chairs the Sierra Club Tampa Bay Group, the lead plaintiff in the legal settlement with Mosaic.
She said DEP officials had told her group that they were hampered by legislative budget cuts: "They said they didn't have the money to restore it and maintain it and build the facilities that would be needed to make it a state park."
However, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said it wasn't the money. Instead, he said the agency's own high standards convinced him to turn down the donation. The DEP's park experts toured the ranch, he said, and "determined the property was not appropriate to take on as a state park."
"We have very high standards for our visitors' experience," said Donald Forgione a 29-year DEP veteran who heads up the award-winning state park system. "While there might be a need to conserve it, it doesn't lend itself to becoming a state park at this time."
In June 2010, though, the DEP was eager to get hold of the ranch — roughly as big as Fort De Soto Park and the Weedon Island Preserve combined.
A four-page DEP document explained why the ranch qualified for purchase in 2010, talking about the "largely pristine" shore along the Peace River, the 5 miles that lie along equally pristine Horse Creek — the river's main tributary — and how it would be an ideal location for canoeing, kayaking, camping and horseback riding for visitors seeking "beautiful vistas along the river."
The Peace River, which provides drinking water for residents of Sarasota, Charlotte and De Soto counties, needs protection against pollution that flows out of developed land, the DEP listing noted. Buying the ranch property would keep it from being developed and also create a new state park that could be linked with nearby Myakka River State Park, the DEP reported.
But now the ranch's proximity to other state parks is a strike against it, according to Vinyard. The ranch is also near Paynes Creek Historic State Park in Hardee County, which doesn't draw many visitors.
"We don't want to harm other parks," Vinyard said.
The ranch wound up in Mosaic's hands after its owners went bankrupt and the phosphate giant bought it for $10 million.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had sued to block Mosaic's planned expansion of a mine on the border of Hardee and Polk counties that would produce 30 percent of the rock that its Florida plants process into diammonium phosphate fertilizer. The mine expansion would have destroyed 534 acres of wetlands.
To clear the way for mining, Mosaic agreed to donate the ranch to DEP for a state park. Because the property was on the list for purchase, no one asked DEP if it wanted the property.
Two decades ago, property rights advocates frequently contended that regulations and lawsuits were not the right way to save environmentally sensitive land. Instead, they said, the state should buy the land outright, guaranteeing the preservation of both the environment and the owner's rights.
Using programs called Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, the state has spent millions of dollars assembling an impressive collection of swamps, forests, beaches and other parks and preserves.
But now a backlash has begun, with critics in the Legislature complaining that the government owns too much of Florida. Local, state and federal government agencies own more than 25 percent of the 34.2 million acres of land in Florida — although that includes not only parks but also prisons, military bases, college campuses and other uses.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed SB 584, which would forbid local and state government agencies from buying any more conservation land unless they sell off an equal amount. While Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget calls for spending $75 million on buying Florida Forever land, $50 million of that would come from selling off existing state land.
As for the Peaceful Horse Ranch, the terms of settlement say that if the DEP rejects it, the property goes to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, an environmental group.
"It's an extraordinary piece of property," said Andrew McElwaine of the conservancy. "I want to get it into a preserve as quickly as possible." He said officials from another state agency, the Division of Forestry, have expressed interest in turning it into a state forest, even though "it's mostly open pasture."
130218-b Florida concludes its disastrous Python Challenge by naming the wrong winner
DeathAndTaxesMag.com - by Alex Moore
February 18, 2013
The final tally on Florida’s Python Challenge, which upset animal lovers by attempting a mass slaughter of Florida’s roughly 100,000 Burmese Pythons running wild in the Everglades, clocked in at exactly 68 snakes.
The 1,600 permitted and non-permitted hunters who participated in the challenge managed to put just a roughly %0.0005 dent in the python population. State organizers had expected a much larger haul of snakes—into the thousands, at least.
This weekend, the Python Challenge managed to conclude an unequivocal failure of a snake slaughter by announcing the wrong winner among the scant few who actually caught snakes. Miami Herald reports Ruben Ramirez was announced the winner for his 10 foot, 7 inch Burmese Python, when in reality Blake Russ, 24, and Devin Belliston, 26 were the real winners, having captured an 11 foot, 1 inch snake.
“I am the one who made the mistake that prevented Blake and Devin from getting the recognition they deserved,” said Professor Frank Mazzotti. “I know how important, and rightfully so, the recognition of who got the longest was.” [Insert penis joke here.]
The confusion apparently stemmed from the fact that the winning snake wasn’t actually “euthanized,” (a nice term for decapitated via machete, Florida’s recommended hunting method) but tagged and released back into the wild for the sake of science.
“The mix-up might have come up because that was the python that we didn’t euthanize so that scientists could place a radio transmitter in it,” Belliston said. Russ and Belliston will now be awarded their $1,000 prize for longest snake, and Ramirez will not have to return the prize money he already received.
It’s not exactly Florida’s worst-ever mixup—for instance, there was the time governor Rick Scott mistakenly announced a phone sex hotline as the number for a state-sponsored meningitis help line.
But Python Challenge 2013 was a disaster for everyone but the pythons. Hey, there’s always next year.
130218-c Forever and ever, amend ?
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
Feb. 18, 2013
Groups seek constitional mandate for state to fund conservation program.
Environmental groups are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would secure funding for what was once the nation’s premier land conservation program: Florida Forever.
The funding push for the half-century-old program has always come from the governor’s office and the Senate and House. Now, when funding is unstable at best, conservation groups and people such Fort Myers resident Carl Veaux want voters to have a final say in 2014 on just how much land the state should own and preserve for drinking water aquifer recharge, multibillion dollar industries like tourism, fishing and green space.
“It’s so they can’t raid our Florida Forever funds,” said Veaux, who plans to secure 1,000 of the 683,149 signatures required to get on the 2014 ballot. “They’ve taken this away for years now.”
From 2009 through 2012, a period that would have generated $1.2 billion under past regimes, administrations under Charlie Crist and Rick Scott set aside about $20 million combined for Florida Forever. Crist pushed for the full $300 million in funding in 2009, but the House overruled, suggesting instead that offshore oil drilling tax revenue fund land acquisitions — an idea that wasn’t well-received by many Democrats and environmental groups.
Land acquisition has been funded nearly every year since 1963, through 11 administrations with various political affiliations. Florida Forever, the latest rendition of taxpayer-funded land-buying programs, had an annual budget of $300 million for nearly 20 years, securing more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion since 2001. Those glory days came to a screeching halt four years ago as Florida’s general tax revenue had suffered years of decline from the housing bust and consequent economic recession. Land prices fell to previously unimaginable lows.
“You had the best opportunity to buy land at the lowest cost to the public that you’ll likely see,” said Charles Pattison, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, a land conservation and growth management non-profit group based in Tallahassee.
Scott has proposed nearly $75 million for state land purchases in the 2013-14 budget. Only $25 million of the funding is guaranteed. The remaining $50 million would need to come from the sale of state-owned lands, a process that some doubt could actually happen in a fiscal year. Even if the $75 million is available, Pattison said it’s simply not enough.
“We thought there had already been a public commitment to continue those programs,” Pattison said. “Of course the governor has, to his credit, put something in the budget for this year. That’s a start, but you have to have a reliable funding sounds. You can’t start and stop and start again.”
Some elected state officials have said in recent years that Florida owns too much land more than it can manage, and that no lands should be purchased until some are sold to private entities or local or federal agencies.
“There’s the attitude that the state has more land than it can manage. If that’s the case why are we buying land. But I think the public understands the importance of drinking water protection and services like that,” Pattison said. “As Florida grows, there needs to be a proportionate funding for land conservation. I think the public is saying that.”
130218-d Proposed Everglades pathway: A waste of resources
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Terrence McCoy
February 18 2013
Late last week, a great call went out among the bureaucracies to assemble behind an apparently innocuous, win-win plan: an automobile-free pathway cutting through the Everglades so that walkers and bikers can enjoy the quiet beauty of the park without concern. Who could be against that? It was perfect PR.
Problem is, protectionist organizations say, there are already loads of options for bikers to explore the park -- and this 75-mile pathway, which is expected to shoot beside the Tamiami Trail, is just another manifestation of bureaucratic waste that may damage one of the world's rarest ecosystems.
"What's the problem that we're trying to solve with this?" asked Dawn Shirreffs, program manager of Everglades Restoration. "There are numerous ways to access the Everglades' resources by foot and bicycle, and we need to consider whether adding more is worthwhile." Already, the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County, Collier County, and that National Park Service have gotten behind the pathway, the River of Grass Greenway.
They say the path will afford an opportunity for people to experience the Everglades without chugging more carbon gas into the environs -- you know, for the time you finally embark on that 75-mile walk you've been meaning to do for years.
It's unclear whether there will be any rest stops halfway through the path or some means to replenish one's rations while walkers "experience" all of the alligators, snakes, and absence of drinking water.
Indeed, the only part of the plan that's intended to affect the Everglades is the pathway itself, which will be paved and may become a "barrier" decreasing water flow to and fro, Shirreffs said.
"The overarching message is why would we take an activity that would degrade the ecosystem when cyclists can already go [elsewhere in the Everglades] and get a pristine view?" Shirreffs said. "Our first effort needs to encourage existing opportunities, not present more plans that will degrade the Everglades." Organizers, who have already netted $5 million, say igniting public support is essential to getting this pathway done, which they hope to complete within the next few years.
Over the next month, there will be a series of workshops to pow-wow with the public.
Shirreff's offers one early idea: Don't do it.
The forests already have "miles and miles" of public trails, she said.
130218-e Senate bill would expand role of agriculture in water supply planning
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 18, 2013
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would have an expanded role on par with utilities in regional water supply planning under a Senate bill filed Monday.
SB 948 was filed amid concerns about billionaire Frank Stronach's recent purchase of 12,000 acres in Taylor County to raise beef cattle, as reported in the Perry News Herald.
Stronach's Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County, with its initial permit request in 2012 to use 13.2 million gallons of water per day, has been a rallying cry among environmentalists who say springs need protection from groundwater over-pumping.
State agriculture officials says the industry, with $100 billion in sales and 1 million jobs it provides across Florida, needs assurance that water will be available. SB 948 is a priority for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, said Rich Budell, director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy at the agriculture department.
"The future availability of adequate supplies of water to support agriculture is possibly the single largest variable in its sustainability," Budell said. "We need to make sure our water supply plans statewide adequately capture the estimated needs of the industry as a land use."
SB 948 By Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, would require the department establish an agricultural water supply planning program.
Under the legislation, DACS would collaborate with federal agencies and universities to provide estimates of agricultural acreage and crop water use, putting agriculture on a level playing field with municipalities and utilities in water supply planning, Budell said.
The Adena Springs Ranch water permit request was reduced last fall to 5.3 million gallons per day. The St. Johns River Water Management District has requested additional information from Adena Springs.
Sleepy Creek Lands LLC, which applied for the Adena Springs Ranch permit, has applied to transfer a water-use permit for 155,000 gallons per day on the 12,000 acres in Taylor County, according to the Suwannee River Water Management District.
Annette Long, president of Save Our Suwannee, said Stronach's acquisition of land in Taylor and Levy counties is raising concerns about his possible plans to use more water in the Suwannee River region.
She said she's concerned that the legislation would give the agriculture industry more control over how agencies handle water decisions.
"When you let businesses that make a profit be a part of the water management system, it defeats the purpose of having an agency," she said.
Budell said water management districts will continue to do the water supply planning, not state agriculture officials.
The agriculture department, he said, will provide agricultural water-use data to improve planning consistency across districts.
The districts, he said, will have to justify why their plans vary from the data, just as they do now with the projected water needs of urban areas.
"It's the same argument -- it plays both ways," Budell said. "All we are trying to do is come up with reasonable estimates on what we think the reasonable demand will for future fresh water -- urban and rural users." Related Research: * Nov. 21, 2012 Adena Springs Ranch permit update by St. Johns River Water Management District
* Feb. 12, 2013 Water presentations to House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee Related Current Study panel urges that PSC be allowed to fine private water utilities for bad water quality (02/15/13) Legislation would require 5-year plans for restoring Florida's threatened springs (02/14/13)
130217-a Climate change action within Obama’s grasp
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
February 17, 2013
Enforcing laws, international treaties could make huge changes, experts say.
President Barack Obama needs the Republican Party’s blessing for many of the proposals he outlined in his State of the Union address last week, but climate change is not one of them.
Using existing laws, regulations and international agreements, the president can bypass Congress altogether and accomplish significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, widely believed to contribute to global warming, many experts say. In particular, the Clean Air Act, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by states, gives the president broad authority over air pollution.
“Republicans may say something like, ‘It’s an administrative overreach,’ but in fact all he would be doing is enforcing the Clean Air Act as passed by Congress, signed into law by George (H.W.) Bush and interpreted by the Roberts court,” said Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by the Republican president. “If the Republicans don’t like it, they can try to change it.”
However, some Republicans have recently argued that taking action on climate change now is futile unless other major polluters, such as China and India, also join the effort.
“If we unilaterally impose these sorts of things on our economy, it would have a devastating impact on economics,” Sen. Marco Rubio said during a Feb. 5 interview with BuzzFeed, a website of trending news.
“I think that’s what’s standing in the way of doing anything about this,” the Florida Republican said. “The benefit is difficult to justify when you realize that it’s only us doing it.”
Beyond economics, there are those who argue that climate change is a natural phenomenon and fighting nature is a losing battle.
“The Earth has been around 4 billion years and we know there has been massive heating and cooling,” said Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, during a climate change workshop in Tallahassee. “We can do this stuff and I’m not challenging that we ought to do it, but inevitably the cycles of the Earth are going to overcome any artificial stuff that we do.”
However, many experts say the president does not need to get bogged down in scientific and political debates but can take numerous unilateral actions that include:
Requiring the EPA to set carbon-pollution standards for power plants, refineries and other major industrial sources under the Clean Air Act and to finalize standards for new plants.
“Power plants account for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Nicholas Bianco, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute and co-author of the article, “Can the U.S. get there from here? Using existing laws and state action to reduce greenhouse gas emission.”
At the 2009 United Nation’s convention on climate change in Copenhagen, the administration committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below the 2005 levels by 2020. Energy that comes from coal, oil and natural gas account for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. — which makes setting performance standards for power plants a top priority, Bianco said.
Phase-out ozone-depleting hydroflurocarbons, known as HFCs — used for refrigeration and air-conditioning — through the Montreal Protocol. The international agreement was negotiated in the 1980s under then-President Ronald Reagan. The EPA also could ban ozone depleting chemicals, such as HFCs, for which there are safer alternatives, Bianco said.
Set stricter ozone smog standards. In 2011 the administration rejected a recommendation from the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to strengthen the public-health standard for ozone smog, saying it would reconsider in 2013 after additional research is complete.
Reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline and set emission limits on new vehicles. Also, require federal agencies to use low-emission vehicles and those that rely on alternative fuels when possible.
Require a percentage of the electricity generated on public land to be clean and renewable, such as wind, solar or hydropower. Already, as much as 40 percent of coal and 20 percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. come from public land or waters.
“I’m very optimistic because the president is going to reduce carbon pollution and make communities more resilient by implementing existing laws,” Weiss said. “That means a do-nothing Congress won’t have much impact.”
At the state level, the prospect for climate-change legislation is even bleaker than in Washington, D.C. No bills have been introduced and no money was designated in Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget.
Still, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said much can and already has been done at the local level. Rather than waiting for Washington or Tallahassee to act, Pafford said, Florida’s unique vulnerabilities to rising sea levels mean coastal communities must act.
To highlight the threat and what leaders in South Florida have done despite the legislature’s inaction, Pafford hosted a workshop in Tallahassee for the region’s lawmakers Feb. 14. County officials and water managers from Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties — members of the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact — explained how they conducted their own research and formulated plans for dealing with rising sea levels.
“If we hadn’t come together as a region to do this work, I don’t think we would have gotten this kind of support from state and regional agencies and the academic institutions,” said Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator John Van Arnam. Still, members of the compact acknowledge that their effort will require the Legislature’s participation — especially with money to help communities fortify sea walls, roads, buildings and public utilities.
“If we have an enemy right now, it’s Mother Nature,” Pafford said. “Do we want to be reactive or engage and plan?”
130217-b More Okeechobee acronyms won't solve any real problems
TCPalm.com - Letter by Mike Conner, Stuart, FL
February 17, 2013
Out of the never-ending barrage of planned projects proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, we are now told that a new one, CEPP, might save the St. Lucie River.
This latest acronym stands for Central Everglades Planning Project. Not to be confused with CERP, which many will recognize as the grandiose Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which, as the years march on, looks more and more like an overly ambitious undertaking that has not been undertaken very well, thanks to endless talk and repeated delays.
CEPP, if funds are ever appropriated by the feds (and good luck with that), will reportedly move excess Lake Okeechobee water south over public-owned land, though only half of what is typically discharged to our estuary annually. So this just sounds like another Band-Aid that very well may never come out of the box. Army Corps officials say this latest plan won't move excess lake water to the Everglades until 2024, if the planning goes well and if there is money to pay for it.
Sorry, but I'm just not impressed by another acronym, that like CERP, won't deliver as promised any time soon. Especially if promised by acronyms such as the USACE. Or SFWMD, which as most river advocates like to quip, "sorta" stands for SWIFT MUD.
Polluted FL canals -
130216-a Florida EPA proposal would force strict water standards on State's canals, ocean, and Intracoastal
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
February 16, 2013
Florida may soon be forced to clean up the water washing into canals, the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, but businesses and governments say the cost would be too draining.
A proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency takes aim at the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that smothers coral reefs, kills fish and chokes rivers with algae. The pollutants come from sewage, lawn fertilizers, farms and other sources. They cause outbreaks of algae, from the mats of vegetation covering reefs to the microscopic organisms that turn rivers green.
The proposal could cost each Florida household an estimated $44 to $108 per year for sewage plant upgrades, stormwater management and septic system improvements, according to an EPA analysis. The amounts would vary widely, depending on whether you live in a city that needs major sewage improvements or have to upgrade your septic system.
The proposal, the EPA's first attempt to impose numerical nitrogen and phosphorus standards on a state, results from a 2008 lawsuit by the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and other environmental groups. David Guest, managing attorney for the Florida office of Earthjustice, called the EPA's proposal a "night and day" improvement over the current vague state rules. He said they should lead to cleaner water within a few years.
In South Florida, for example, he said the rules would require substantial upgrades along the West Palm Beach, Hillsboro and Miami canals, which carry to the ocean loads of nitrogen and phosphorus washed off farms, golf courses and lawns.
"You'll see improvements within five years," he said. "You'll see modernization of sewage treatment plants, hopefully improved methods for handling stormwater runoff."
The business community and local governments say the EPA proposal goes too far.
A letter to the EPA from 58 organizations representing virtually every major industry in the state says the pollution limits would "impose burdensome costs while not improving environmental protection." Among the signers were the American Forest and Paper Association, Florida Home Builders Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Florida Golf Course Superintendent's Association, Florida Sugar Cane League, Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group and Associated Industries of Florida.
Local governments, responsible for disposing of wastewater, keeping water bodies clean and providing safe drinking water, say the standards may be too strict for canals and coastal waters in urban areas. They say they want to improve water quality but don't want to waste millions chasing an impossible standard.
"If they were talking about the Loxahatchee River, we'd agree with them," said Bevin Beaudet, Palm Beach County's water utilities director. "But our the canals run through agricultural areas, they run through urban areas, they're man-made water bodies."
In particular, Beaudet is concerned the rules could interfere with the county's highly successful program of using treated wastewater -- called "reclaimed water" -- for irrigating golf courses and housing developments, since that water, which contains nitrogen and phosphorus, could end up in canals.
More worrisome to Broward County are the rules for estuaries, which would include the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal waters, said Jennifer Jurado, the county's director of natural resources planning and management. The EPA would hold Broward's estuaries to a standard based on conditions in northern Biscayne Bay, a cleaner water body where the water gets flushed out by tides more thoroughly.
"It is an inappropriate use of data," she said. "We will be unable to comply if this is our standard." Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said the department is reviewing the EPA's proposal but would prefer the solution not come from the federal government.
"Our goal is to have the state's criteria rules in place for all of Florida's waterways in lieu of federal criteria," she said. "A state-led solution is the best answer for Florida, and Florida remains committed on the path to work with EPA to adopt criteria for remaining estuaries and coastal waters."
Yet some environmentalists say the proposal is too weak to make much difference, either environmentally or financially. They say it allows looser state standards to prevail in 15 percent of waterways, exempts farms around the Everglades, and fails to impose tough compliance deadlines.
"It's pretty toothless," said Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network.
The EPA estimates an annual compliance cost of $313 million to $773 million, with urban stormwater treatment upgrades accounting for the largest share of the costs, followed by municipal sewage treatment and then septic systems.
Balanced against the cost, of course, are the benefits of clean water, healthy ecosystems and a robust tourist industry. Although difficult to quantify, the EPA estimates the annual monetary value as $39 million to $53 million.
Public comments are being accepted on the EPA's draft until Tuesday. The agency is scheduled to produce final rules by Sept. 30.
Under the Clean Water Act, states establish and enforce water pollution standards under the supervision of the EPA. But environmentalists for years had said state standards are too subjective since they tend to rely on judgments rather than on strict numerical pollution limits.
The lawsuit was largely inspired by the need to reduce pollution in the rivers and springs of central and northern Florida, such the periodic algae outbreaks in the St. John's River that have been dubbed "The Green Monster."
South Florida has a lot at stake in the process, too. The region's coastal waters account for a big share of the state's $5 billion a year saltwater fishing industry. Even the region's canals, not pristine by any standard, provide home for a large range of wildlife.
"They support fish, they support aquatic vegetation, we've got manatees, aquatic insects, fish that rely on food from the canals," said Nancy Craig, natural resource specialist for Broward County's Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department. "You don't want them to look nasty. You don't want to look out your window and see dead floating things."
130216-b Perspective: State needs to overhaul its contracting, out-sourcing procedures
February 16, 2013 (This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald on Friday, Feb.15, 2013)
If a private business did business the way the state of Florida does business, it soon would be out of business. A report on state contracting procedures — the way the state goes about buying goods and services from the private sector — makes it clear that the system is haphazard, inconsistent and desperately in need of a thorough overhaul.
At stake is some $50.4 billion, which is how much the state spent on vendors this year, out of a $70 billion budget. This includes just about everything the state does, from buying cars to leasing buildings and purchasing cell phones and computers, from leasing parking spaces and out-sourcing prison services to writing contracts for healthcare services.
Florida’s taxpayers are ill-served by the state’s failure to maintain a cost-efficient procurement system. The only winners are the army of lobbyists in Tallahassee who know how to navigate the labyrinth of rules and lead their client-vendors to the pot of gold — a fat contract with the state. Among the abuses:
■ The Department of Management Services is not allowed to seek competitive bids for legal services, health services, artistic services, lectures, training and education services and substance abuse and mental health contracts — an estimated total $8.4 billion a year.
■ Legislators have also carved out exceptions for 32 vendors whose services don’t have to go through the state’s Web-based contracting database, known as MyFlordaMarketPlace. This online system handles only about $1 billon of the state’s contracts.
■ David Wilkins, a retired executive tapped by Gov. Rick Scott to review contracting, found a the state’s guidelines woefully inadequate. Some agencies adhere to strict performance standards, but some don’t. Uniform contract standards are non-existent, and often the providers can lowball their bid to get in the door and then file cost overruns.
■ If a vendor doesn’t deliver, often there are no penalties, either. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has spent $48 million to settle dozens of bad contracts and grants that he described as “hogwash” because the state did a poor job in cutting the deals. Mr. Atwater’s office figured it was cheaper to settle the contract at a loss than take the seller to court.
■ The loophole lobbyists and their clients love: Insert language directly into legislation to get what you want. In 2012, a lobbyist close to then-House Speaker Dean Cannon wanted to allow billboards on state lands. Surreptitiously, language to get that done was inserted into a must-pass bill to fund water management districts. Next thing you know, the board that runs the Everglades had granted a company led by its own former board member a lucrative, 10-year contract to manage the so-called “public information systems” on its lands.
The deal was canceled after a public outcry, but the loophole still exists and will no doubt be used to bilk the state out of more money if lawmakers don’t put a stop to this sleazy practice. Senate President Don Gaetz, who says he wants to reform the way contracts are let, can show that he means business by refusing to tolerate secret appropriations any longer.
There are many other ways to improve the state’s contracting process, like giving Mr. Atwater’s office the power to review contracts before they’re signed, creating a uniform contracting process and shifting more vendors into the state’s online contracting system.
The issue should serve as a test for Florida’s legislators: Does their primary allegiance lie with lobbyists whose cash fuels their campaigns or with the public they have pledged to serve? In a state as enamored of out-sourcing and privatizing as Florida is, lawmakers have a duty to make sure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.
130216-c Politicians wake up on environmental issues
Orlando Sentinel – by Scott Maxwell
February 16, 2013
Last week — when most Florida politicos were still buzzing about the guilty plea of former GOP party boss Jim Greer — some of the state's biggest names were throwing a party.
It took place on the 14th floor of a stately law firm in downtown Orlando where elevators delivered attendees to a lobby with an open bar on one side and a gourmet-grilled-cheese station on the other. (Bacon and sautéed onions were preferred toppings.)
Attendees came at the invitation of a host committee that included the likes of Bill Nelson, Bill McCollum, Charlie Crist, Alex Sink, Jeff Atwater, Buddy MacKay and dozens more.
Though the atmosphere was celebratory, the cause was serious: the environment.
In that regard, it was also unusual.
Because in recent years, when leaders of this state have gathered, our natural resources have often paid the price.
In fact, they have been savaged.
Lawmakers have rolled back environmental safeguards, cut funding for conservation, reduced pollution enforcement and abandoned water-quality monitoring.
They systematically dismantled programs touted by leaders of parties. Even protections that Jeb Bush found key to preservation have been wiped away by Republicans who cavalierly labeled them "job-killers."
"I'd like to be more optimistic about the state of the environment," said Charles Pattison, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, "but that's hard."
Similar thoughts came from Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, who summed it up this way: "We are depleting our water supplies and fouling our nest."
Finally, we may be waking up to that reality.
On Saturday, about 1,200 gathered at Wekiwa Springs State Park to rally on behalf of Florida's rivers and springs — most of which are in declining health.
If that sounds to you like some gathering of earthy-crunchy tree-huggers whining about issues of little relevance to everyday Floridians, you're woefully uninformed (and possibly a Florida legislator).
This state depends on its natural resources for everything from its economy to sustaining life.
Yet on scale after scale, we are sullying and diluting those resources — through pollution, sprawl, overdevelopment, intense agriculture and even human-waste byproducts released directly into the water sources that ultimately lead back to our kitchen sinks.
That's why it's encouraging to see some momentum — both among everyday Floridians rallying at the springs, as well as the bipartisan political leaders who gathered at the law firm last week.
At that event, organizers were determined to raise $300,000 to provide law-school fellowships at the University of Florida to aspiring protectors of the environment in the name of the late GOP patriarch and environmental steward Thom Rumberger.
I was also on the host committee, partly because I respected Rumberger and partly because I'm pragmatic enough to know that courtroom is where many of the environment's battles come to a head.
If the veteran politicos who backed that event keep that momentum going, good things could happen.
Some of it involves money. Draper of the Audubon Society suggested an environmental trust fund of $1 billion — less than 1.4 percent of the state budget — so that environmental efforts are guaranteed at least a sliver of the pie each year.
Would you rather spend $10,000 protecting a stream now or $1 million later to clean up the hydrilla-choked lake fed by the spring?
Pattison said legislators also must stop demonizing any and all regulations — especially those that protect our water supply, noting that it's "key to Florida's growth and prosperity."
Generally, the governor and legislators must learn to treat the world as more than an inexhaustible resource.
They need to listen to the statesmen and -women who came before them, the residents who live around them and generations ahead who depend upon them.
130216-d Wekiva River lovers rally for elusive goal: Return of 'unspoiled natural jewel'
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
February 16, 2013
River lovers rally at Wekiwa Springs State Park to support cleanup
A map that suggests there's smoking-gun evidence for what's killing the Wekiva River was prepared years ago for state environmental officials in Orlando.
It shows that aquifer water flows beneath hundreds of septic tanks in Orange County neighborhoods before gushing to the surface at Wekiwa Springs. That spring water is contaminated with the stuff that septic tanks leach into the ground — nitrogen pollution — which feeds a rampant growth of algae.
The same map also depicts the small but thriving Miami Springs, which also drains into the Wekiva River. According to the map, water in the aquifer, before emerging at the springs, passes beneath Seminole County homes connected to a modern sewage plant rather than aging septic tanks. And that spring's water has just a trace of nitrogen pollution's key ingredient, nitrates.
Despite this provocative heads up in 2005, state officials have not pushed to find out why Wekiwa Springs is badly polluted and Miami Springs is not polluted at all. Why not, when knowing that information about the aquifer and nitrates could accelerate the healing of Wekiwa Springs, a process that will otherwise take an indefinite number of years?
"My quick answer is, they want to avoid the controversy that would be raised," said Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, who was the featured speaker during Saturday's Speak Up Wekiva rally at Wekiwa Springs State Park.
From the January morning in 1988 when then-Gov. Bob Martinez stepped into a canoe for a tour of the Wekiva River and called for its protection as an "unspoiled natural jewel" until Saturday, when about 1,200 people rallied in support of that now-spoiled natural jewel, the river and Wekiwa Springs have been a focus of ongoing controversy over how to restore and protect them.
Under a maple tree just leafing out and with background scenery of the springs rippled by breezes, speakers emphasized that much work lies ahead.
"People from all faiths have a moral obligation to take care of God's creation," said the Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood. "There is no expiration date to do that."
The most informative probe of Wekiva River pollution, completed three years ago, concluded that one of the two biggest sources of nitrates — accounting for 26 percent of the total — was septic tanks nearby in Orange and Lake counties.
Agricultural fertilizers accounted for another 26 percent of the nitrates, while the remainder was blamed on sewage treatment, lawn fertilizer and other sources.
But what's not known is whether a big share of the nitrates from residential septic tanks comes from those clustered only one or two miles away.
On the grounds of Wekiwa Springs State Park itself, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection decided not to wait for confirmation that dumping nitrates into the ground near the springs is a bad idea.
In 2009, the department launched a costly effort to get rid of the park's tiny, "package" sewage plants, because the treated but nitrates-laden sewage was sprayed on parkland near the springs and river.
During Phase 1, the DEP spent $572,000 to divert the sewage from the park's office, picnic area and concession-stand bathrooms — the equivalent of fewer than two-dozen homes — to an Orange County sewer system.
In remaining phases, the agency expects to spend $1 million to hook the park's campground bathhouses to the same sewer system.
"We know we are close to the springs," park manager Warren Poplin said. "We are doing our part."
When progress will occur with septic tanks off park property is anyone's guess.
The Florida Legislature passed a law in 2010 that would have required inspections of all septic tanks to ensure they were working properly. But homeowners' outrage that such inspections could lead to costly, government-ordered repairs prompted lawmakers to reverse course last year and essentially do away with inspections.
Orange County officials have studied the expense of extending sewer lines to homes with septic tanks near Wekiwa Springs. It would cost the owner of each home $10,000 to $15,000. That option has drawn little public support.
Another controversial proposal: a mandatory phasing in of septic-tank models that don't release as much nitrogen pollution.
The issue has been in slumber for the past several years as the state Department of Health experiments with septic-tank designs that could turn out to be more affordable while still reducing nitrate discharges. That investigation is to take two more years.
"I would expect at that point there's going to be some legislative action, to give us some direction for what to do," said Gerald Briggs, bureau chief of the health department's septic-tank program.
130215-a Everglades plan could siphon water from county wells
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
February 15, 2013
Federal engineers say an important Everglades restoration project on the fast track can be tweaked to protect water flow to Miami-Dade’s major well field.
For years, Everglades restoration engineers and scientists have been working on ways to control the ripple effects when they finally start returning healthy water flows to the marsh.
Increased suburban flooding has long been the big concern from raising water levels in the Everglades but a critical plan now on the fast track surprisingly poses the opposite problem.
Initial computer modeling for the $1 billion plan, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is rushing to complete by year’s end, suggests the proposed re-plumbing of assorted levees, canals and pumps could divert too much water from a well field that supplies Miami-Dade County with much of its drinking water. At certain times of the year, it also could reduce already meager freshwater flows to southern Biscayne Bay that have turned much too salty. Kim Taplin, chief of the Corps’s Central Everglades branch, acknowledged the results from the first modeling runs last month were unexpected but she also stressed that the suite of projects can be tweaked to ensure groundwater continues to recharge county wells in West Miami-Dade.
“It is truly a tentatively selected plan,’’ she said at a meeting on the plan this week. “There are a lot of policy issues that have to be worked out.’’
But the time frame for resolving the problem and other issues is short, and the stakes are high.
This particular plan, called the Central Everglades Planning Project, is an important experiment by the Corps to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that has tangled and slowed restoration since Congress first approved the joint state-federal restoration effort in 2000. The Corps — partnering with the South Florida Water Management District and a large “working group” of other state and federal agencies, environmentalists and outdoors groups — is trying to crunch its typical planning process of five-to-six years to 18 months.
The goal is to formally select a plan by April and have it approved by Corps leadership in Washington in time to include it among a handful of already authorized Everglades projects stalled until Congress approves funding — most likely through a massive public works spending bill. Such measures, called water resources development acts, are passed periodically, with the last one coming in 2007. Everglades supporters are pushing hard for another one.
The Central Everglades plan is designed to finally help the ailing heart of the Everglades — moving more water through state-owned water conservation areas south of Lake Okeechobee, down through the Shark River Slough, the historic headwaters of Everglades National Park and finally out into Florida Bay.
Though the plan wouldn’t do everything called for in the larger $13.5 billion restoration plan, which was expected to take decades to complete, it would represent a major first step toward restoring natural flow to a system long bottled up by dikes and drainage canals.
The plan calls for siphoning water currently released from the lake and “lost to tide” down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and redirecting it to the south.
The water — up to 65 million gallons annually — is intended to refresh long-parched swaths of the Glades and too-salty Florida Bay and offer relief to sections of state-owned marsh where water has historically been held too high, destroying tree islands and reducing wild life populations. After studying four alternatives, a working group hammering out the plan made a tentative choice last month, combining features from two alternatives. The new plan, known as 4R, includes nearly 20 separate projects to backfill portions of canals, remove or shorten levees, add gates and pumps, extend bridging along Tamiami Trail and remove the old road bed.
It also includes an underground wall called a “seepage barrier” south of Tamiami Trail designed to reduce the flow of groundwater from the Everglades east toward the suburbs. Because South Florida’s porous limestone geology behaves much like a sponge, adding water on one side of a levee tends to raise ground water levels on the other side as well, which can reduce the drainage capacity of canals and increase suburban flood risks.
Computer modeling last month, however, showed the design cut off so much seepage it reduced water flows to Miami-Dade’s well fields — an impact the county wants alleviated before endorsing any plan.
“We have very serious concerns at this point, and we aren’t prepared to support 4R for sure and probably any of the others until we can see some actual results of whatever can be done to address the shortcomings,” said Susan Markley, a section chief for the county’s division of environmental resources management.
Markley also cautioned that moving ahead with the plan without solving the issue could force expensive and time-consuming delays down the road. The Everglades restoration agreement includes a “savings clause” that legally obligates the Corps and district to preserve the existing water supply of utilities and other users.
At a meeting this week, Taplin agreed the design had gone overboard on stopping seepage. But she said tweaks to the seepage wall design and levees and pumping schedules should keep more groundwater around the well fields. Barry Rosen, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who is vice chair of the project working group, said it wasn’t uncommon for initial modeling runs on complicated projects to produce such surprises.
“You have to draw it up once to see how you can refine it,” he said.
Biscayne National Park also has raised question about the plan, concerned that it will further reduce freshwater flows to the bay, which is also supposed to be targeted for restoration under the broader Everglades plan. But Taplin said improving conditions in Biscayne Bay is outside the scope of the Central Everglades effort. Dawn Shirreffs, Everglades program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association and a member of the working group, admitted the expedited process was “a little scary’’ after years of dealing with the Corps’ grinding analysis.
Much of the focus, she said, had been on deciding what project to build to rapidly improve conditions in the marsh itself rather than on outside impacts like seepage. Still, she was confident that the “nitty-gritty details” would be addressed despite the fast track effort, which the Corps hopes to use as a model nationally if it succeeds.
“The Corps is not going to move forward with something that shows a violation of the savings clause,” she said.
130215-b Keys hospitals submerged by climate change, legislators told
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Fire Ant
February 15 2013
They were asked not to politicize the issue. And apparently, they succeeded. State legislators both Dem and GOP from throughout South Florida gathered this week to educate themselves (and the public, who can watch it here) on climate change, its impact on our region and what, if anything, can be done about it. A first step, only, but every journey...
Meeting Wednesday evening in Tallahassee, chaired by Rep. Mark Pafford (D-WPB), with staffers from the offices of Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in attendance, the pols took in reports from experts with the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. The news was sobering.
"We're not here to tell you we have all the answers," Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Jon Van Arnam kicked things off. And while the region in and of itself can do little to turn the tide of climate change, he said, "Failure to prepare will leave us vulnerable to sea level rise [and] extreme weather conditions, effecting property values, business prosperity and infrastructure investments."
The sea level rise scenarios, as described in the experts' studies:
-The upper estimate of current taxable property values in Monroe, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties vulnerable in the one-foot scenario is $4 billion with values rising to more than $31 billion at the three-foot scenario.
-Three of Monroe's four hospitals, 65 percent of schools and 71 percent of emergency shelters are located on property at elevations below sea level at the onefoot scenario. Power plant properties in Miami-Dade and Broward as well as energy transmission facilities in Monroe begin to become inundated at the one-foot scenario. While railroads are negligibly impacted, more than 81 miles of roadway from Miami-Dade through Palm Beach are impacted at the one-foot scenario, increasing to more than 893 miles at the three-foot scenario.
As things now stand, the experts stated, "a sea level rise of one foot is projected to occur between 2040 and 2070 with sea level continuing to rise into the future."
The experts have proposed a multi-year plan to address the issue, a massive undertaking that involves designing more sustainable communities, including transportation planning, water supply, agriculture...virtually every aspect of everyday life in South Florida.
How to pay for it, implement it? "There are four delegations here," Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) noted. "We're parochial. What areas need it the most ?" "What are the next steps ?"asked Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach). "What do the engineers, the environmentalists say?"
So there's a ton of questions remaining. But Pafford is hopeful, and as a first step, told New Times "I intend to forward the meeting packet to the Governor's office and appropriate agriculture and natural resources committees in the House and Senate. I also intend to bring the issue up in committee and on the floor."
Which raises the prospect, and the likelihood certainty, that politics will enter the equation. "I'm hoping to get somebody to acknowledge we have a serious issue in Republican leadership," Pafford said. "Somebody told me that there has never been a formal discussion of this subject in the Capitol. [The Wednesday meeting] was a first."
Rising seas - -
130215-b Raise our voice on climate change
Sun Sentinel - Editorial
February 15, 2013
If only South Florida's 50 state lawmakers would join forces to address issues of key regional concern, something significant might get done. After all, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties are home to 30 percent of the state's population. How can we be ignored?
So it was good to see 20 of the region's lawmakers gather this week for a rare, multi-county session in Tallahassee. The topic: climate change and the threat we face from rising sea levels, a concern literally lapping up South Florida's shores.
The attendance was a success, considering the many pressing issues before the Florida Legislature, not to mention the distraction of the University of Miami-Florida State University basketball game scheduled around the same time.
State Rep. Mark Pafford, who chairs the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation, deserves credit for bringing half the region's delegation together. For if ever there were an issue that should galvanize our representatives and senators, it is the disproportionately high risk we face from climate change because of our low elevation and rising sea levels.
The Atlantic Ocean is expected to rise at least a foot along Florida's southeast coast between 2040 and 2070, according to projections outlined in a 2012 report by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
That's enough to put 81 miles of South Florida roads, power plant properties and roughly $4 billion in beachfront homes under water.
Already, Key West has seen a sea level rise of nine inches in the past 100 years.
While some still doubt whether human activity has anything to do with climate change, it's past time for the rest of us to deal with the reality around us.
Many South Florida communities are grappling with ways to protect their shorelines. In Delray Beach, officials are seeking state approval to renourish storm-ravaged public beaches. In Fort Lauderdale, officials are reducing the number of lanes on State Road A1A because of the coastal devastation. In Palm Beach County, commissioners scuttled a breakwater proposal because of its impact on sea turtles.
Across the region, there's talk of raising seawall heights, moving drinking-water wellfields farther inland and imposing tougher development regulations along the coast.
While responsible action is being taken locally, at a national level, members of Congress continue to sit on their hands. Just last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged climate change is a global problem, but questioned whether our nation should do something about it since the world's largest polluters — China and India — impose no limits on carbon emissions. "The United States is a country, not a planet. If you did all these things they're talking about, what impact would it really have?"
Better if Rubio, the so-called "savior of the Republican Party," put aside tired talking points and took to heart the words of India's late spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, who so rightly said: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
At a state level, South Florida lawmakers used this week's gathering to familiarize themselves with the threats that climate change poses to beach erosion, coastal tourism, neighborhood flooding, waterfront developments and saltwater intrusion into our drinking water supply.
Now, coordinated and collective action is needed. We urge our leaders to raise their voices in a call for action. Again and again. For nothing will get done unless this defining problem of the 21st Century stays front and center.
Here's an idea. Last year, lawmakers asked voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would have put us on record as opposing the federal health care law known as Obamacare. As it turns out, the measure failed because a majority of Floridians support the law.
What about if this year, our delegation pushes for a constitutional amendment that allows Floridians to be heard on the need for action on climate change ?
Working together, our delegation can help us be heard. Working together, our delegation can make something happen. But will they come together ?
Remember, only half showed up. But there was that basketball game -
130215-c Thanks, President Obama, for supporting Everglades restoration project; please help us complete the job
TCPalm – by Sarah Heard, Chair of the Martin County Commission
February 15, 2013
Dear Mr. President:
We understand that you will be enjoying a weekend in our community. We are honored that you chose our community and welcome you to our home — a place unlike any other in South Florida.
Waterways such as the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon are the lifeblood of our community, and they support the most ecologically diverse estuary in North America. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presently is constructing the C-44 portion of the Indian River Lagoon-South project in western Martin County. This Everglades restoration project, which you have generously supported, is critical to saving this beautiful estuary. As you enjoy the water views this weekend, we want you to know how much we appreciate your support in restoring this national treasure.
The Martin County Board of County Commissioners and County citizens strive to lead the way in the protection of our estuaries and in furthering Everglades restoration. In fact, Martin County citizens have voluntarily taxed themselves, generating $75 million for land acquisition for Everglades restoration projects. Restoration matters to our community because without it, our economy and environment suffers, and we lose the natural beauty that defines Martin County.
Damaging freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee continue to plague the St. Lucie Estuary, with no substantial hope in sight until the Herbert Hoover Dike is repaired and significantly more water moves south into the Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan gives us an opportunity to move more water south in the future.
We must stop these harmful discharges that plague the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. Last year the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, together with the community, launched a new campaign called, “Speak Up for the St. Lucie.” By posting comments or sharing photos on our Facebook page, attending meetings, or writing letters to the Army Corps or elected officials, thousands of citizens are “speaking up.”
In fact our youngest community advocates, “The River Kidz,” are lending their voices to the cause, expressing themselves through art or song. They are asking us, as their local representatives, to advocate to our federal partners just how important the health of our rivers is to everyone.
We are pleased to see progress being made in Everglades restoration, but restoration depends on continued funding if we are to save this national treasure. Support through your budget request will allow progress to continue on projects such as the C-44 reservoir project. The restoration efforts now well under way will preserve this natural and economic marvel for generations to come.
Mr. President, thank you for visiting our community. We encourage you to keep “speaking up” for the Everglades — and we hope you come back soon. Sarah Heard is chair of the Martin County Commission.
130214-a Anti-Slime brigade packs Florida EPA meeting
EarthJustice.org - unEarthed blog by David Guest
February 14, 2013
Don't let agricultural pollutants kill magic waterways, they say
In a fantastic show of grassroots support for clean water, Floridians packed a Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Tampa on Jan. 16, saying they are fed up with repeated slimy algae outbreaks on the state’s beaches, rivers, spring and streams
More than 150 protested, and they wore fluorescent green T-shirts saying, “Ask me about slime.” They asked the EPA to stay strong and enforce pollution limits for sewage, manure and fertilizer—three culprits which are fueling algae outbreaks all over the state.
"I'm tired of seeing green slime outbreaks on the St. Johns River and having to explain to my boys why we have fish kills every summer," St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said at a press conference that clean water advocates held outside the EPA meeting. “Florida waters bring magic to the state and we can't let that magic die on our watch."
St. Johns Riverkeeper is one of five groups Earthjustice represents in our legal fight to enforce the Clean Water Act by setting enforceable, numeric limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen allowed in state waters. Our other clients are the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida.
We’ve become increasingly concerned that the EPA could cave into pressure from powerful polluting industries who want the EPA to abdicate its Clean Water Act enforcement and instead approve weak, substitute rules proposed by the polluter-friendly Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
"EPA officials say they are prepared to withdraw their proposed strong rules and transfer Clean Water Act authority to Florida DEP. That would be disastrous," said another one of our clients, Sierra Club Florida staff director Frank Jackalone.
The folks who showed up at the EPA meeting also had stickers with the simple message: “EPA Yes, DEP No.”
This is the worst possible time to rely on Florida’s environmental agency. The Florida DEP is in shambles because of the anti-environmental bent of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature. The Scott administration is not just going soft on polluters—it is actively eviscerating the state environmental protection agency, firing experienced regulators and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.
There’s long been a joke that the DEP stands for ‘Don’t Expect Protection,’ and in this case, it’s never been more true.
As reader of this blog will remember, the EPA in November announced it is setting enforceable, numeric limits on the amount of pollutants allowed in Florida’s waters. The EPA’s number limits apply to about 85 percent of state waters. Unfortunately, the EPA allowed Florida to impose ineffective state rules for 15 percent of streams, canals and estuaries, and has been signaling it might withdraw its proposed rules for 85 percent of Florida's waters and transfer that authority to the DEP.
Our position is that we need EPA’s enforceable numbers for 100 percent of the state’s waters. It was great to see so many people show up in Tampa to give the EPA that message. Let’s hope the EPA heard us loud and clear.
and Nathaniel REED
130214-b Demand that Scott, Legislature restore Florida’s rivers
Palm Beach Post – Commentary by Bob Graham and Nathaniel P. Reed
February 14, 2013
Recent reporting by Craig Pittman of The Tampa Bay Times and Kevin Spear of The Orlando Sentinel reveal the dramatic, widespread problems facing many of Florida’s rivers and springs. Editorials across the state then called on Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Legislature to take action.
Unfortunately, efforts in Tallahassee have focused on rolling back environmental safeguards and growth management guidelines, cutting funding for conservation and regulatory programs, reducing enforcement against polluters and liquidating public lands.
Budget cuts are compromising the ability of the DEP and the water management districts to protect our state’s natural resources. Our state has lost decades of knowledge and expertise from significant layoffs, resulting in less capable agencies with insufficient resources and demoralized personnel. Although the DEP recently claimed that “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. The Northwest Florida Water Management District recently delayed for 11 years setting minimum flows and levels for Wakulla Springs. Reduced monitoring and legal protections endanger our environment and public health, while polluters profit. Gov. Scott’s proposed budget fails to address these issues.
Efforts are underway 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. Scott’s watch, unwise policy decisions, draconian budget cuts and excessive influence of special interests has 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.
We now face one of the greatest emergencies in Florida’s modern history. Our supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are “sick” from pollution and in need of help from state agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens’ concerns and determination to correct the current 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 nearly five times higher than the maximum levels for healthy waters. And while the largest of Wekiva’s springs have reported water flows below established minimums for the past two years, the St. Johns River Water Management 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” on Saturday at Wekiva Springs State Park. We are organizing this event to celebrate our outstanding water resources, and to educate and engage the public and policymakers about the challenges facing the Wekiva River and the springs that feed it, and to advocate for the protection and restoration of all of Florida’s impaired waterways. Join the coalition to speak up for our environment and ensure its protection for generations of Floridians to come. Bob Graham, former Florida governor and U.S. senator, is chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition. Nathaniel P. Reed, former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is vice chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition.
New Scientist used the data to create an interactive map that allows readers to see how the scientists' findings predict sea level rise by the year 2100. Press "play" on the map and watch as oceans and seas turn a darker shade of blue, indicating a rise in centimeters. By this model, the water level off the coast of the Florida peninsula is projected to hit around 80 centimeters by 2100, which would be a bit above the "global average" of the upper 70 range.
New Scientist last year reported on a study that showed "sea level rise off the US east coast is accelerating up to four times faster than the global average." That report suggested the region is a "hotspot" in sea level rise.
For a more zeroed-in map of how climate change issues like sea level rise and storm surge could impact South Florida, and specifically, the Florida Keys, check out the Coastal Resilience Network's "Future Scenarios Map." The interactive feature allows you to track things like: how many people live in areas that are less than 10 meters in elevation (hint: a lot). Or, look at the ominous-sounding "multi-hazard mortality risk index." Bear in mind, of course, that these are all projections and The Nature Conservancy (which owns the map's website) states it is "a compilation of data merely for informational purposes."
Read more about what Coastal Resilience has to say about sea level rise in the Florida Keys.
130214-d Lawmakers propose effort to restore Wekiwa Springs
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
February 14, 2013
On the eve of a big rally meant to rescue the ailing Wekiva River, a couple of state lawmakers are calling for a renewed effort to restore and purify the Central Florida river's source, Wekiwa Springs.
Rep. Linda Stewart and Sen. Darren Soto, both Orlando Democrats, have drafted a bill designed to revive the flow and purity of Florida's famous but now degraded springs, including Wekiwa. They said the legislation was prompted by a series of articles in the Orlando Sentinel in December that attributed a significant portion of the declining health of Florida's rivers to problems with its springs.
"The articles helped me target what I thought we could do this year," Stewart said of the Sentinel's Down by the River series. "Some of our critical rivers are getting some money and some attention, though not everything they need. So I thought we should concentrate on what doesn't get a lot of attention: springs."
The lawmakers' proposed Springs Revival Act would require the state's water-management districts to work with other environmental agencies for a year to identify imperiled springs and establish plans to restore those springs within five years.
Filed earlier this week, Stewart's bill is HB 789, while Soto expects to file his Senate version early next week.
Florida's water districts and the state Department of Environmental Protection have an assortment of programs in place now that address elements of springs restoration, but there has been much uncertainty about the speed with which those efforts are progressing.
Soto said he's willing to be flexible on the timing of the restoration work but stressed that his proposed legislation will aim to remove politics — and thus delays — from the process.
"We deliberately left the science of this to the scientists and not to legislators," Soto said. "It would give the water districts the means to regulate restoration." Richard Hamann, a St. Johns River Water Management District board member, said it's difficult to say a how long it would take to restore the dozens of ailing springs in Florida.
"I don't think we know yet all we need to know about what's wrong with springs," Hamann said. "But I appreciate putting more emphasis on springs."
As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend Saturday's Speak Up Wekiva rally at Wekiwa Springs State Park. A gathering that large would rival any previous event held in behalf of the river, which is as sick as it has ever been because of a monster invasion of underwater weeds.
The event, which starts at 10 a.m., will include music, food, nature tours and talks by Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, and Lee Constantine, a Seminole County commissioner who was active in Wekiva-related issues while serving in the Legislature as a state senator.
The rally was organized by the League of Women Voters of Orange County, Friends of the Wekiva River, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Florida Conservation Coalition. The groups hope a sizable turnout will end a message about the Wekiva's plight to state environmental officials and legislators.
The Wekiva's problems will be readily apparent to rally participants who canoe down the river. Dark, stringy algae covers the sandy riverbed and smothers the river's eel grass, which has long, tape-like blades that should be emerald green in sunlight.
Environmental experts blame the algae on high levels of nitrogen pollution making its way into the state's aquifer from sewage-treatment systems and fertilizers spread on lawns and farmland.
The first half mile of the Wekiva below the springs is also overwhelmed by hydrilla, a weed so thick in places that it has "topped out," having spread from the riverbed to the surface of the water. Growing in long tentacles, the hydrilla has blanketed eel grass and wrapped itself around other natural features, including floating plants and fallen tree limbs.
Hydrilla has been a problem for many years in a lagoon next to the springs. But for the first time, a state crew will resort later this month to chemical treatment of hydrilla in the river, hoping to kill or stunt the aggressive plant so it won't spread farther downstream. Nathalie Visscher, a state invasive-plant biologist, said the hydrilla will be doused with Aquathol Super K, a herbicide that requires no restrictions on fishing or swimming. However, the treated area will be closed to the public on the day the chemical is applied. Bob Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville, said excessive hydrilla growth has been linked to high levels of nitrogen pollution. But more needs to be learned, Knight said, about the dramatic fluctuations in river biology that occur when a big buildup of hydrilla is mowed down by weedkiller.
"Based on my experience the side effects of these efforts are worse than the benefits," Knight said.
130214-e Legislation would require 5-year plans for restoring Florida's threatened springs
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 14, 2013
A House bill that would require water management districts to develop five-year plans for restoring springs water quality and flows was filed Thursday.
HB-789 By Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, was filed amid intensifying criticism of state agencies for not doing enough to protect springs from over-pumping and nutrient pollution.
A column by Florida Conservation Coalition members criticizing the state was published in The Palm Beach Post on Thursday in advance of a rally at Wekiva Springs State Park this weekend. Also Thursday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a news release highlighting the state's springs protection efforts.
HB 789 would require each water management district by Oct. 1 to identify springs that have declining water quality or reduced flows or are listed by the DEP as "impaired." The districts would be required to set five-year restoration plans by July 1, 2014 and provide quarterly reports on their springs restoration efforts.
Some environmentalists said they viewed the bill as a good start. Stewart could not be reached for comment nor could Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, who has said he is working with DEP on possible springs legislation. Robert L. Knight, president of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, said the legislation may need to require more details on steps that will be taken to reduce springs pollution.
Estus Whitfield, coordinator of the Florida Conservation Coalition, said the group hasn't taken a position on the bill. But he thanked Stewart's efforts and said the quarterly reports required by the bill could keep action going towards springs restoration.
The Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the bill, a DEP spokesman said. An attorney representing a group of wastewater utilities said he also was reviewing the bill and his group has not taken a position on it.
In a news release issued on Thursday, DEP said it has adopted restoration goals for reducing nitrate-nitrogen in Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River in Marion County and Jackson Blue Spring and Merritts Mill Pond in Jackson County. Gov. Rick Scott has requested $7.1 million in fiscal 2013-14 for springs restoration.
“The department has made springs restoration a statewide priority and (we) are working hard to address nutrient impacts to these unique waterbodies,” DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said.
Knight said the pollution goals take too long to develop and take too long to achieve reductions -- sometimes as long as 20 years.
The bill, he said, may need more detailed language to require significant accomplishments within five years.
"Whether it will be twisted, modified (or) amended to take away those benefits I have no idea," Knight said. Related Research:Feb. 14, 2013 Florida DEP news release on springs protection
130214-f South Florida delegations urged to recognize reality of sea level rise
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 14, 2013
Legislators from South Florida counties are being urged to help their communities combat sea level rise by supporting funding for alternative water supplies, beach and Everglades restoration and renewable energy.
Fifteen of the 50 members of the legislative delegations for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties attended a workshop Tuesday night dealing with climate change. The 12 Democrats and three Republicans were told that sea levels have risen by 9 inches in the past decade and could rise another 9 to 24 inches in the next 50 years, causing flooding, beach erosion and damage to homes, roads and other property.
"We've to get past that conversation, 'Is this really happening?'" said Roman Gastesi, Monroe County administrator. "Yes, it is happening. Now what do we do about it? How do we adapt to it?"
Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties in 2010 created the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact and they issued a report in October on responding to climate change.
Water utilities in Southeast Florida have been moving their water wells inland to retreat from encroaching salt water intrusion in aquifers caused by sea level rise.
Gastesi recommended that the Legislature provide funding for alternative water supply projects as provided by SB 444 in 2005. He said new bill language will be offered to make eligible for funding water supply projects that are needed to adapt to sea level rise.
Gastesi also recommended that the Legislature provide $30 million or more for beach restoration projects to offset erosion. Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he's not convinced that climate change is occurring, has requested $25 million for the program in his 2012-13 budget request.
A slide that Gastesi showed during his presentation included recommendations for funding Everglades restoration, Florida Forever conservation land-buying and establishing a renewable energy requirement for utilities and incentives for renewable and alternative energy programs.
Several legislators asked the representatives of the counties what they should do.
"We as three delegations have to convince the rest of the state that this is a potential economic disaster for the state of Florida if we don't do something about this," said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
Gastesi said after the meeting that the Legislature needs to recognize that sea level rise is a reality, and provide funding for water supply projects.
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach and the workshop chairman, said now the responsibility is for the legislators to develop a list of potential actions. He said the turnout, which he estimated at about 20 percent of the delegation from the four counties, was good.
"This is just a first step," he said. "There is going to have to be a recognition by legislative leaders, by the governor and by the agencies involved of the various roles" in dealing with the issue.
130214-g Thirty-five water conservation methods for agriculture, farming, and gardening (Part 3).
BigPictureAgriculture.com - by K. McDonald
February 14th, 2013
A leading concern facing the future of agricultural production is the availability of water. It is expected that climate change will cause more extreme climate events including droughts and floods and shifts in plant growing zones. As populations grow, more efficient use of water in growing food will be of key importance.
Today, some 2.8 billion people live in water-scarce areas, but by 2030, it is expected that about half of the world’s population will live in water stressed areas.
Past overuse of fossil water from aquifers will make it necessary to improve the efficiency of irrigation and rainfed agriculture methods to grow tomorrow’s food. The increasing competition for water in urban areas and for energy uses will lessen what is now available for agriculture, estimated to be 70 to 80 percent of global fresh water use. As other interests gain a share of the fresh water supply, the production of food will need to increase at the same time that the water used to grow it decreases.
Agriculture is done using both rainfed and irrigation farming. About 80 percent of globally cultivated land is done with rainfed farming, accounting for 60 percent of world food production. Using smart methods to enhance efficient and creative water use in rainfed agriculture has the potential to increase production. The majority of the world’s poor and hungry live on rainfed farms in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, so techniques which can improve water use in these regions are very valuable. While irrigation levels have declined since the 1970s for various reasons, irrigation has the potential to expand in the future in parts of Africa.
Productivity of irrigated land is more than three times that of unirrigated land. Around 40 percent of the world’s food is produced on the 20 percent of land which is irrigated. The monetary value of the yield of irrigated crops is more than six times that of unirrigated crops because crops with higher market values tend to be grown on irrigated land.
Many of the methods known to conserve water and use it efficiently have been practiced for thousands of years in some very arid regions of the world with great success. The best systems require little maintenance while yielding maximum results. The ability to add water during crucial growth periods can greatly increase crop yields.
To follow, is a list of water saving techniques which will be helpful in growing more food with less water. Because every parcel of land requires its own best unique solution, I hope readers find this post both useful and inspirational. Please feel welcome to add other methods not included on this list, in the comments below.
1. Drip, or Micro-Irrigation
2. Bottle Irrigation and Pitcher (Olla) Irrigation
3. Zai Pits
4. Drought Tolerant Crops and Seeds
5. System of Rice Intensification (SRI) or System of Crop Intensification (SCI) or
System of Root Intensification (SRI)
6. Ripper-Furrower Planting System
8. Subsurface Irrigation Systems
9. Water Storage
10. Black Plastic Mulch, and Organic Mulches Can Save 25% in Water Requirements
11. Sand Dams
12. Plastic Buckets for Starting Young Trees - Top of Form
13. Efficiency through Center Pivot Irrigation - Bottom of Form
14. Rotational Grazing Systems
15. Gravity Drip Bucket Irrigation Systems for Vegetable Gardens
16. Organic Farm Soils Require Less Water to Grow Crops
17. Drought Tolerant Livestock Breeds
18. Change our Diets
19. No Biofuels Mandates, Please
20. Recycle Wastewater
22. Rain Water Harvesting and Rain Gardens
23. Canal or Ditch Irrigation
24. Polyethylene or Aluminum Gated Pipe Irrigation
25. Half Moons, Bunds, and Terraces (- more methods will be presented later …)
130214-h U.S. sea level rise along East Coast to accelerate with Gulf Stream slowdown
Huffington Post – by Michael D. Lemonick
February 14, 2013
Experts on the sea level rise triggered by climate change have long known that it will proceed faster in some places than others. The mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S. is one of them, and the reason — in theory, anyway — is that global warming should slow the flow of the Gulf Stream as it moves north and then east toward northern Europe.
Now there’s a smoking gun that appears to validate the theory. A study in the February Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans ties the measured acceleration of sea level rise in this area to a simultaneous slowdown in the flow of the Gulf Stream. “There have been several papers showing (sea level rise) acceleration,” said lead author Tal Ezer, of Old Dominion University’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography. “This new paper confirms the hypothesis for why it’s happening.”
Even without faster-than-average sea level rise, America’s East Coast would be at high risk. On average, scientists have projected that the oceans
should rise by about 3 feet by 2100, inundating low-lying land, contaminating water supplies and undermining roads, airports, port facilities and power plants. Add the storm surges that come with hurricanes and other severe weather, and the danger gets even worse. A worldwide average of 8 inches of sea level rise since 1900 has already put millions of Americans at risk; 3 feet more will greatly multiply that risk; and the even higher levels that Americans could see will be a very bitter icing on top of that already unpleasant cake.
The slowing of the Gulf Steam is not the only reason the U.S. coast will see higher sea level than the world average in coming decades, Ezer said. In some places, the land itself is slowly sinking as it readjusts to the disappearance of continental ice sheets more than 10,000 years ago.
But that process can’t explain why sea level rise should actually be speeding up, as a report in the Journal of Coastal Research documented in October 2012. Another study, which appeared in Nature Climate Change in June 2012, showed the same thing, and suggested that a Gulf Stream slowdown could be a contributing factor. Ezer’s own paper in Geophysical Research Letters in September 2012, documented the phenomenon in Chesapeake Bay, and once again, suggested the Gulf Stream’s possible role.
What makes this new study different is that it includes actual measurements of the Gulf Stream’s flow, from instruments mounted on underwater cables that stretch across the Florida Strait. It also uses satellite altimeter data to document changes in the height of the ocean from one side of the Gulf Stream to the other. Normally, the northeasterly flow of the stream literally pulls water away from the coast.
“It keeps coastal sea level a meter or a meter and a half lower than the rest of the ocean,” Ezer said. In recent years, however, the satellites show that the midpoint of the Gulf Stream doesn’t have as high an elevation as it used to, and that the edges aren’t quite as low — again, evidence that the stream itself is starting to slow down.
Theory says this is just what should be happening. Ordinarily, the Gulf Stream brings warm surface water from the tropics up along the U.S. coast, and then across to the eastern North Atlantic, where it cools and sinks to the bottom of the sea. The cold bottom water then flows south to the tropics, where it gradually warms, rises to the surface, and begins flowing north again. This constant flow, which meanders through all of the world’s oceans is sometimes called the global ocean conveyor belt, and the section that operates in the North Atlantic is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
In a warming world, two things happen to throw a monkey wrench into the conveyor belt. First, melting ice, mostly from Greenland, dilutes the surface waters where the Gulf Stream reaches its northernmost extent. Since fresh water is less dense than salty water, the water has a more difficult time sinking to begin its journey southward. Second, the surface water is warmer than it used to be, and since warm water is less dense than cold water, this just adds to the problem.
Put the two together and you start to jam up the works, with the result that the whole conveyor belt slows down. And the water along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. begins to rise at an accelerating rate. While scientists expect sea level to rise by about 3 feet over the next 90 years or so, in places like New York City and Norfolk, Va., it could be significantly more. New York, where sea level is already a foot higher than it was in 1900, was just reminded of what happens when higher seas are pushed ashore by a major event like Superstorm Sandy.
Add several more feet of sea level to that destructive equation, and the potential destruction is difficult to imagine.
130213-a Biologists ask: Why won't the Feds fund protection of Florida's nearly extinct grasshopper sparrow ?
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
February 13, 2013
One of Florida's endemic species, the Florida grasshopper sparrow, is on the path to extinction. The bird lives only in the dry prairies south of Orlando and it's believed that less than 200 of the highly-specialized sparrows remain in the wild, though funding doesn't exist to adequately track the population. Part of the problem has been drumming up the public support -- and money -- necessary to study what has happened to the subspecies.
"People don't tend to care about a sparrow," said Dr. Reed Noss, a research professor at the University of Central Florida and one of the state's foremost authorities on the rare species. "They're beautiful little birds."
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a three-year, $833,000 grant submitted by the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group -- a volunteer group of biologists, researchers, and non-profit environmental groups -- that would've funded field research on the endangered bird.
Noss was quoted in an Orlando Sentinel story this week about the USFWS decision: "This subspecies will be extinct soon, and we have largely the USFWS to blame for turning down proposals for essential field research."
This was the fourth major field proposal put forth by the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group since 2007. All have been turned down by the USFWS, though the agency has funded smaller projects, including some genetic sampling.
Reached in the field Tuesday morning, Noss conceded that the USFWS is "underfunded by Congress and they have to make some tough calls." But he speculated that the decision is political (at least in part) given that "more charismatic species" tend to get more funding. A small bird that is challenging to spot may be a more difficult sell than, say, a bird of prey, like the Everglades snail kite, or a large mammal, like the Florida panther.
There are a number of factors at play in the sparrow's decline and much that remains a mystery. The bird has long had to contend with habitat loss. Prior to European settlement, Florida had approximately 1.2 million acres of dry prairie. That number is now around 100,000 acres, according to best estimates.
The bird's population has seen an estimated 90 percent decline in just the last decade, Noss said. Human fire suppression or burning "at the wrong time of year" has been a factor. Without necessary and natural fire cycles, the ecosystem cannot sustain itself and transforms into a different ecosystem altogether. The proliferation of invasive fire ants has come into play, as the ants are known to predate on sparrow nestlings. Scientists have been unable to determine the full impact of the fire ants.
Without funding to conduct thorough surveys, much is left unknown. Noss said there may be another cause of decline that hasn't yet been fully identified. There's also the possibility that there are more birds in the wild than reported, but Noss seemed doubtful of that scenario. He's operating in crisis mode and wondered after this latest funding loss, whether "it could possibly be too late."
The bird's situation calls to mind the well-documented tale of the dusky seaside sparrow, a native South Florida bird that went extinct in 1986. By the time researchers began capturing the few living dusky seaside sparrows in the state, only males remained. Noss said a similar thing is happening with the Florida grasshopper sparrow population which is also predominantly male.
Noss and his colleagues have speculated that "some pressure from a public official" might help to persuade the USFWS to reconsider funding for the species. When asked why the public should care about the bird, Noss said studies have shown that people have expressed interest in preserving wildlife that is specific to their region.
"Any animal or plant that is found nowhere else in the world; it's something to be proud of," Noss said. "It's part of our natural treasure."
Learn more about the Florida grasshopper sparrow and what groups like Audubon Florida are doing to educate the public about its decline by visiting the Audubon's website.
130213-b Environmentalists and agri-businesses square off in Everglades
NonProfitQuarterly.org (from Miami Herald) - by Rick Cohen
February 13, 2013
Florida environmentalists are squaring off with the administration of Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott over agricultural activities in the Everglades. Since 1994, the state has leased public land in the Everglades to sugar and vegetable farmers. The Scott administration recently decided to extend that leasing practice for 30 years.
The Miami Herald reports that the Florida Wildlife Federation is challenging the Scott decision in federal court. The nonprofit Earthjustice, which has one of the best taglines in the nonprofit sector (“Because the earth needs a good lawyer”) is representing the Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups in the suit.
Unlike the Miami Herald report, which discusses “sugar and vegetable farmers,” the webpage of the Florida office of Earthjustice discusses “Big Sugar” and “corporate vegetable plantations.” The actual lease agreement allows A. Duda & Sons and Florida Crystals to have access to just under 14,000 acres in the Everglades.
Duda isn’t a small farmer but, as its website states, a family of companies conducting agricultural business operations on 90,000 acres in several states plus subsidiaries or related companies such as the Viera Company, which manages Duda’s non-agricultural land. That land includes the town of Viera, Fla., a master-planned community. Florida Crystals describes itself as the world’s largest sugar refiner. It operates in Florida, California, Louisiana, New York, Maryland, Canada, Mexico, England and Portugal and markets its products under well known names such as Domino, Jack Frost, and, of course, Florida Crystals.
The Earthjustice complaint contends that the run-off from the agricultural activities of Florida Crystals and Duda result in pollution discharges, such as excessive levels of phosphorus, that adversely impact the Everglades ecosystem. The Earthjustice website adds that the chemical discharges have led to “nuisance vegetation growth [that]…crowd[s] out native vegetation, destroying the base of the food chain.” According to Earthjustice lawyer David Guest, there are neither pollution discharge limits nor requirements for pollution clean-up attached to the leases.
Is this controversy a clash between the nonprofit sector’s commitment to public benefit and the Scott administration’s belief that private, corporate priorities lead to positive results for all? The question is fundamentally one of competing interpretations of what constitutes the public interest. Guest says that the lease decision “is obviously not in the public interest.” A representative of Florida Crystal told the Miami Herald that the lawsuit will simply “delay progress in the Everglades,” claiming that the firm’s “goal is Everglades restoration.”
We suspect that the Scott administration is counting on lease revenues, tax payments, and jobs from the Duda and Florida Crystals operations. If things turn sour along environmental lines, it will be the officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the hook here. The Florida DEP delivered a statement to the Scott administration minimizing or rejecting concerns about environmental harm in relation to the leases.
130213-c Rising sea levels more than just South Florida’s costly problem, officials say
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy
February 13, 2013
South Florida lawmakers got a stark look Wednesday at how rising sea levels could dramatically change Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade counties and the Keys in coming years, leading to calls for more state aid to stem the tide.
County planners and water managers from officials presented an 84-page action plan to regional legislators that was compiled last fall. While climate change has caused sea level to climb nine inches over the past century, that rate is accelerating and could advance an at least an additional nine inches over the next 50 years, analysts have concluded.
Evidence of the changes are already being seen across South Florida, where regional flooding and saltwater intrusion is becoming common in area canals and waterways. Several lawmakers said a goal for this spring’s legislative session should be to convince more of their colleagues that South Florida’s problems have a statewide impact.
“We’ve got to convince the rest of the state that this is an economic disaster,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “We can’t wait for sea levels to keep rising. We’ve got to plan for the future.”
Making more funding available for the region is a likely push, said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, chairman of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation, who organized Wednesday’s hearing. “This demands our attention,” he said.
Officials speaking at Wednesday’s hearing offered plenty of anecdotes about South Florida’s changing coastline. In Broward County, several waterside neighborhoods commonly flood during high tides; on Stock Island, in the Keys, Monroe County officials are elevating the ground floor of a new fire station, in anticipation of future flooding, officials said. Roads, sewer systems and development decisions will all be affected by the changing water line across the region, officials said.
In Palm Beach County, Everglades restoration efforts could be slowed by rising saltwater intrusion, hurting water management efforts, said Ernie Barnett of the South Florida Water Management District.
“You can fight water with water,” Barnett said. “We need to push more water through the Everglades toward the coast.”
The report by local officials included some sobering conclusions about the impact of rising water on the area.
The report found, “The upper estimate of current taxable property values in Monroe, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties vulnerable in the one-foot scenario is $4 billion with values rising to more than $31 billion at the three-foot scenario. The greater values reflected in the financial impacts are coastal residential properties with ocean access and high taxable value.”
But Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, offered a darker view. He said lawmakers and county officials will have a challenging time convincing many Florida leaders to direct dollars toward fighting what he said was an inevitable change.
“We can do this stuff,” Hager said. “But inevitably, the cycles of the earth will overcome whatever we do.”
130212- Florida Gov. Scott highlights budgetary planned investments in environmental projects
February 12, 2013 From the Office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott:
Governor Rick Scott highlighted his planned investments into environmental projects at the Forum Club of the Palm Beach’s monthly luncheon recently. Governor Scott said, “The health of the Everglades and Florida beaches is critical to our communities. We stand behind our commitment to the water quality plan and our obligation to support the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Our natural treasurers play a major role in attracting 90 million tourists a year to our state – and maintaining systems are essential to continuing in our efforts to create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
As part of the Florida Families First budget submitted to the Legislature two weeks ago, Governor Scott says he proposed $60 million in Everglades funding for the water quality plan, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan, and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River Watershed Protection Plan.
“The Governor’s funding recommendations generously support our work to improve Everglades water quality and implement the science-based Restoration Strategies plan achieved under his leadership,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director, Melissa L. Meeker. “The recommended budget also supports the District’s important work in the state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and other vital projects that sustain and protect South Florida’s water resources.”
Executive Director of Audubon Florida, Eric Draper said, “Governor Scott’s Everglades water quality plan and budget recommendations are welcome demonstrations of his commitment to conserving Florida’s wildlife.”
CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Eric Eikenberg said, “We applaud Governor Rick Scott for his development of the Water Quality Plan and his support of including $60 million in the 2013-2014 budget for Everglades restoration. America’s Everglades provides drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians and is a critical driver of our state’s economy. We look forward to working with Governor Scott on the critical issues facing America’s Everglades.”
Scott said his budget also proposes $25 million of financial assistance to local and state governments and special taxing authorities for beach and dune restoration, beach nourishment, inlet sand bypassing, regional sediment management and innovative projects. In addition, Governor Scott has proposed $8 million to fix and maintain the local levee system in Palm Beach County, and additional funding for state parks. Herschel T. Vinyard, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said, “By requesting more than a billion dollars to continue our pursuit of robust environmental protection, Governor Scott clearly understands that the future of Florida depends on its natural resources. This funding will restore water quality in the Everglades, rejuvenate our springs and provide a clean environment for all Floridians.”
The Florida Families First budget also includes $75 million for Florida Forever funding, which will focus in part on acquiring lands needed for springs protection, military base buffering and other water resource protection. Col. Alan Dodd, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District said, “Progress continues to be made in Everglades restoration and this progress is contingent upon the commitment of this district and our partnering agencies. Through a dedicated and collaborative effort with the state of Florida, we will not only continue to move forward in our restoration goals, but also fulfill our obligation to the nation to preserve this national treasure.”
South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Joe Collins said, “The Governor’s commitment to protect South Florida’s unique ecosystems is clear in this recommended budget. Investments by the state and the South Florida Water Management District together will continue the progress we are making in Everglades restoration, including water quality improvements vital to these natural systems.”
130211-a Environmental group sues State over Everglades leases
February 11, 2013
WMFE - The state of Florida is facing a lawsuit after extending no-bid, long-term leases for 14,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area to several sugar growing corporations. Environmentalists are raising concerns over the length of the lease.
The environmental law group Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation. The group is contesting a lease that would allow two sugar growers to continue farming state land in western Palm Beach County for the next 30 years.
Earthjustice attorney David Guest says extending the leases for such an long period adds to the pollution in the region and counteracts efforts to clean up the Everglades. Guest contends that the leases are illegal.
“If this was anybody but these guys, they would get at most a six year lease. That’s what everybody else gets.” Guest says. “That’s a good idea in a circumstance like this because six years from now, you may decide you want to use that land for Everglades restoration or pollution reduction.”
But Robert Coker with the United State Sugar Corporation says long term leases in the Everglades Agricultural Area are nothing new.
“Lawton Chiles recognized that the businesses that function in the EAA have to have a reliable supply of sugar cane to operate those giant harvesters and those giant mills down there and so Lawton Chiles extended the leases for 20 years. This is nothing new. And the environmental community agreed to it.”
When they approved the leases, state officials said they felt confident they could enforce strong environmental standards and get the land back if they needed it before the lease ended.
South Florida Water Management officials say the leases were needed in order to negotiate for tracts of land the state wanted for restoration projects.
130211-b Everglades bill filed, described as starting point by both sides in dispute
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 11, 2013
A bill was filed Monday that has been described by both sides in the dispute over Everglades water quality as merely a starting point for the upcoming debate in the Legislature.
With Gov. Rick Scott's $880-million Everglades restoration plan being approved in 2012 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, both the sugar industry and environmental groups have said they expect the Everglades Forever Act to be revisited by the Legislature.
SB 758 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, incorporates Gov. Rick Scott's 2012 Everglades restoration plan into Florida law and eliminates previous references to restoration phases.
"This legislation is a starting point," said Brian Hughes, spokesman for sugar farmers. "And we look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure the Everglades restoration process continues to successfully move forward." Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said he thought the legislation was unnecessary because the Florida Department of "Environmental Protection could take the action on its own that is called for in the legislation.
This is draft one -- the first draft" of legislation, Eikenberg said.
Robert E. Coker, left, of U. S. Sugar Corp. and Gaston Cantens of Florida Crystals Corp. discuss Everglades water quality and possible legislation with reporters
Sugar industry representatives and environmentalists have supported the governor's Everglades restoration plan, which calls for spending $880 million over 12 years to build reservoirs and treatment marshes to filter water runoff. Some environmental groups, though, say sugar farmers should shoulder more of the cost with some taxes on sugar farms set to expire.
During a House committee hearing two weeks ago, there was finger-pointing over whether sugar farms were doing enough to clean up water leaving their farms. On Friday, industry representatives told reporters they're not getting enough credit for their use of best-management practices to reduce phosphorus pollution.
"No one ever recognizes the success Everglades restoration truly has been," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corp.
"We agreed to pay our fair share, and we're continuing to agree to pay our fair share," said Robert Coker, senior vice president of public affairs at U.S. Sugar Corp. "But it seems very hypocritical when someone says, 'You should be doing more.' "
Eikenberg said Monday that state taxpayers shouldn't have to carry the full cost of the governor's restoration plan.
"Why are we continuing to spend $880 million to clean up polluted water?" Eikenberg said. "Clearly it (the sugar industry cleanup effort) is not enough if we have to spend $880 million."
130211-c Lake O water release continues
February 11, 2013
LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Water is still being released from swollen Lake Okeechobee.
The Army Corp of Engineers says the lake is at 14.4, significantly higher than years past. It was at 12.5 last year at this time.
The goal is to be at 12.5 by the start of hurricane season June 1.
In September, federal engineers started letting water out into the Caloosahatchee after rain from Tropical Storm Isaac caused the lake to rise. The process will ease pressure on its aging dike.
130211-d Scott banking on Everglades, education in $74.2 billion Florida budget push
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 11, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott brought his new going-green budget sales pitch to Palm Beach County on Monday, telling local leaders that his plan to invest more in Everglades restoration would be a long-term economic boost for South Florida.
The same Republican governor who was criticized for advocating deep cuts to everything from environmental spending to education after taking office in 2010, this year also proposes $2,500 pay raises for teachers and more than $60 million to help Everglades restoration.
To reinforce his perceived about-face, the governor had representatives from Audubon of Florida and the Everglades Foundation — along with other state and federal officials involved in Everglades restoration — join him on stage in West Palm Beach as he spoke to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.
A new "cost effective, achievable" Everglades restoration plan helps the environment while also protecting South Florida's drinking water supply, according to Scott.
"The health of the Everglades ecosystem is critical to the future of our state and clearly critical to this area of the state," Scott said. "I am personally committed to making sure … that we do the right thing for the Everglades."
Environmentalists are "very encouraged" to have the governor, who they contend in previous years pushed for cutting too deeply, now advocating more investment in Everglades restoration, said Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida executive director.
"We are really turning the corner with this governor," said Draper, who joined Scott on stage at the Palm Beach County Convention Center luncheon. "Florida's environment is an important part of economic growth. I think he is getting the message on that."
The governor's $74.2 billion state budget proposal to the Florida Legislature would include $60 million for restoration efforts that reach from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. It also includes a proposed $75 million for the Florida Forever land-buying program, used for conservation.
The Legislature, which approves the state's budget, starts its spring session in March.
Scott's proposal would help pay for the initial phases of a new Everglades restoration plan pushed by the governor, which calls for increasing stormwater storage and treatment to clean up water needed to replenish Florida's famed River of Grass.
After years of Everglades restoration efforts getting "waylaid" by litigation between governments and environmental groups, as well as delays from changes in state and federal politics, Scott's new Everglades plan brings renewed hope for a resolution, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
"If this doesn't do it, we don't know what will," Miedema said.
Scott Monday also highlighted his push to boost education spending by $1.2 billion for public schools, including a $2,500 salary increase for "classroom teachers." Scott estimates that would cost about $480 million per year.
"We have got to make sure that we fund education properly," said Scott.
This follows Scott in 2011 backing $1.3 billion in public-school funding cuts and then last year supporting a nearly $900 million increases for schools.
More than 800 people — including business leaders, elected officials and even a few high school students — attended Scott's speech at the Forum Club.
The speech comes as the governor tries to reverse poor public opinion polls as he gears up for his 2014 re-election campaign.
During the question-and-answer portion of the speech, Scott was asked about issues ranging from gun control to immigration.
When asked by a high school student if he would support an assault weapons ban in the wake of recent school shootings, Scott said he "will continue to defend the Second Amendment" and that he supported working with law enforcement to improve school safety.
When pressed afterward about his stance on gun control, Scott told reporters that he hadn't seen a specific proposal for an automatic weapons ban and repeatedly said: "I believe in the Second Amendment."
For immigration reform, Scott said it would have to start with securing the border and then establishing a worker visa program that allows foreign workers in for two or three months to "work and go home."
To help increase manufacturing in Florida, and the jobs that could follow, Scott advocates eliminating the state sales tax on manufacturing equipment. He said the tax puts Florida at an "economic disadvantage" in competing with other states for new businesses.
130211-e Water district takes public comment on possible sale of surplus open land
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear,
February 11, 2013
The state's systematic review of whether to keep or dump certain environmental lands continues with a public discussion of possible surplus sales in south Orange, Osceola and Polk counties.
The South Florida Water Management District, an agency that takes in all or part of 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys, will take comments at its St. Cloud Field Station from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Up for review: Tibet¿Butler Preserve, a 438-acre parcel in southwest Orange County; nearly 2,500 acres of conservation land along Shingle Creek in Orange and Osceola counties; nearly 13,000 acres along Lake Marion and Reedy creeks in Polk and Osceola counties; and the 4,000-acre SUMICA tract in Polk County.
"We have a lot of land that we bought so we could build reservoirs or stormwater treatment ponds or other water facilities," said Tommy Strowd, district director of operations. In some cases, Strowd said, the reservoirs and ponds didn't require as much land as originally expected, leaving portions of some properties unneeded or unused.
"So the question is for those remnant parcels, what should we do with them ?" Strowd said. "Do they have ecological value in and of themselves? Or should we surplus them and no longer spend the money to maintain them?"
The water agency will have other public meetings in coming weeks before its staff recommends any sales, trades or donations. The district owns a total of 750,000 acres in its part of the state. Whether the staff will have further public meetings to consider those recommendations has not been determined.
Other agencies are much further along in reviewing their lands for possible surplus tracts.
The South Florida district's St. Cloud Field Station is at 3800 Old Canoe Creek Road, St. Cloud. Go to sfwmd.gov/landassessment for details or to make a comment online.
130210- Evidence abounds that our water future is bleak
Ocala.com – Opinion by Steve Kesterson Sr., Inglis, FL
February 10, 2013
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.
For 25 years, I have watched bureaucrats and politicians dance around the reality of Florida’s natural water supply depletion and degradation. I have spent hundreds of hours on the Ocklawaha and Silver rivers and the Harris Chain of Lakes, where agricultural nutrient loading and arbitrary water-flow controls did one thing — increased the poor quality of the nine-lake system to the point that Lake Apopka could only support two things: a 90 percent biomass of shad and an algae bloom cycle that seldom allowed more visibility than 1 foot and obliterated sunshine penetration at 2 feet below the surface.
As a child, I remember vividly the astounding numbers of fish, including two to three saltwater varieties that Silver Springs and its outflow hosted. I remember the small pond behind our Alachua-area farmhouse that was fed by an artesian well roiling persistently and off-gassing sulphur fumes that made me gag. However, my grandfather thought this place was the Fountain of Youth.
Recently, we attended a meeting of the Withlacoochee Area Residents Inc. in Yankeetown to hear a presentation by Dr. Bob Knight, founder and director of the Florida Springs Institute.
Armed with facts, logical examination of historic data and common sense, Knight presented an irrefutable analysis of the Floridan Aquifer’s status and the state’s water supply.
There are approximately 10,000 springs and/or natural wells across the state. There are 27 springs of first magnitude. Two of these are classic examples of overuse of the aquifer ground-water resource.
Silver Springs at one time was the leader in water flow and Rainbow Spring’s outflow, though less in gallons per day, paralleled that of Silver Springs — i.e. when flows increased in Silver, they did likewise with Rainbow Springs. Decreased flows mirrored the same pattern.
Today, outflow for Silver Springs has fallen to such a point that Rainbow Springs’ daily outflow actually exceeds Silver Springs’. Water consumption surrounding the Ocala area has reached a point where as water extraction from the aquifer exceeds recharge, natural outflow at the surface continues to fall.
In Jacksonville/Duval County, water consumption has lowered the aquifer enough that the greater pressure from the surrounding aquifer system of South Georgia and to the west in the Suwannee River watershed are now flowing east to the Jacksonville area and causing interdicted spring flows and historic low-water levels in the Suwannee River and surrounding area. Ask people in the Big Bend if the quality of their oysters has degraded recently.
If you recall, it’s only been in recent years that Tampa Bay began searching desperately for a replacement source for their water supply. They’ve even come to our backyard proposing to pipe our water south from the Withlacoochee.
Knight also revealed the awful fact that consumptive-use permits for agriculture, business and residential appear to represent a solid mass on the topographical map of the area from Ocala to the west coast. These permits issued by our water management districts cost the applicants very little in fees, and the millions of dollars in our public water supply that they pump out cost them nothing — into perpetuity.
We are ignoring the obvious. We are inviting a natural disaster that knows no scope or limits.
If we allow the water management districts and the Florida Legislature to continue with the present water policy, we only have ourselves to blame.
130209- Python search ends up with two men getting lost in the Florida Everglades
GroundReport.com - by Barbara Smith
February 9, 2013
Fox News reported that Broward County sheriff's office was responding to a call about two young men being lost and possibly suffering from disorientation in the Florida's Everglades were they were searching for python's. The men were reportedly from the Tennessee area and in search of hunting python's in the Everglades.
They were rescued by the Air rescue units in about 1/2-hour after the rescuers began their search for the men. The men were located in an area 15-miles west of U.S. 27 at the northernmost border of the county.
Rescue units were waiting for the men as a Air rescue unit helicopter landed and the men were transported to safety. The men were complaining of weakness and exhaustion. They were found to be suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. The men were treated and they refused to be transported to a local hospital.
I cannot imagine the fear these men must have been feeling as they knew they were lost and stranded in the dangerous Everglades which is full of all types of critters lying in wait for prey? The men were in a very dangerous situation if they had not been located when they were.
The sun dehydrates people quickly; and if they should've possibly passed out, they could have come under the attack by an alligator or some other vicious critter and they would not have been able to defend themself.
Fifty Burmese python's have been captured by approximately 1,500 participants in a month-long hunt being held in the Florida Everglades.
People who are inexperienced and not well-trained about the Florida Everglades should not hunt for python's unless they're with others trained to the area. No-one should take it upon them to go into the Everglades if they're not properly trained to do so. Life is short and a python find is not worth a life.
130208-a A lawsuit and public outcry: A busy week in the Everglades
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
February 8, 2013
The soon-to-wrap Python Challenge isn't the only headline-making activity in the Everglades this month. Florida's imperiled wetlands have been the focus of several contentious issues in the past week.
Most notably, a lawsuit was filed by the Florida Wildlife Federation against Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet over Everglades restoration. The issue at hand: land deals signed in January that grant two sugar cane farming companies continued access to 14,000 acres in west Palm Beach County.
The action was filed on the Florida Wildlife Federation's behalf by Earthjustice, a non-profit "public interest law organization" whose past battles have included taking the Environmental Protection Agency to task over "weak air pollution standards." Sun Sentinel reports;
The disputed leases, approved in January, were part of a collection of state land purchases and trades aimed at acquiring farmland that could be used to store and clean up stormwater needed to replenish the Everglades, but several environmental groups...objected to the deal also allowing polluting agricultural operations to remain in place for 30 years on the 14,000 acres of state-owned land that was once part of the Everglades.
South Florida companies A. Duda and Sons and Florida Crystals were able to hold onto the leases -- initially negotiated in 1994 -- by making land trades and sales elsewhere in the state. For their part, the companies argue the legal action will stall the state's efforts to make acquisitions needed for continued restoration. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection stands by the details of the no-bid leases, which would allow for expanded stormwater treatment in Palm Beach County, it said.
A Miami Herald story quotes Earthjustice lawyer David Guest as saying, "This is obviously not in the public interest. These leases would allow corporate agricultural pollution to continue unabated, and there is no requirement for additional cleanup."
No Billboards On Public Land, For Now
Meanwhile, an unpopular proposal that would have allowed for billboards on public land died a public death this week after local and national media called attention to the details. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) -- whose primary tasks include Everglades restoration and water quality -- agreed in December to allow for large electronic signs to be installed on public lands it oversees as a way to bring in revenue. The Miami Herald's Carl Hiaasen said of the law "even in a state of perpetual sleaze, some dirty deals stink more than others."
Hiaasen writes; "The water agency's staff, parroting the coy language in the law, refers to these digital monstrosities as 'public information systems.' The term billboard is being avoided like an embarrassing disease."
SFWMD, which "owns more than 1 million acres from Orlando to the Keys," dropped the proposal on Tuesday, according to the Sun Sentinel, which reports that public outcry motivated the district to distance itself from the billboard issue. The Audubon of Florida weighed in, saying "water managers don't have time to spare for billboard management."
130208-b EU is burning more coal, looks to “burn” seawater instead
CleanTechnica.com - by Tina Casey
February 8, 2013
Europe’s use of coal has been going up, not down, but it’s not all bad news. The trend looks to be short-lived as mammoth wind farms and the DESERTEC international solar project come on line, and now a new EU research consortium based at the University of Aberdeen is looking to use seawater as a source of biofuel. Plenty of that stuff to go around, right?
The consortium is called AccliPhot, and while the basic concept isn’t exactly spanking new (they’re talking about using seawater to grow microalgae, in other words algae biofuel), the use of seawater presents some interesting challenges and opportunities. The Great Seawater Algae Biofuel Race
The main issue that seawater resolves for algae biofuel is the fact that algae cultivation is water-intensive, and water scarcity has become a critical issue at least as far as fresh water is concerned.
The U.S. has also been checking into seawater algae biofuel, and back in 2009 our sister site Gas2.org reported that California-based Aurora Biofuels was making good progress on an open-pond saltwater algae biofuel pilot project in Florida. It has since moved on to a larger demonstration algae cultivation site in western Australia, also using open ponds.
That solves the freshwater problem but it opens up land use issues. One way to get around that is to grow algae in vat-like bioreactors. These could be sited in derelict industrial properties and other brownfields, and the AccliPhot team plans on taking that approach.
As explained by the University of Aberdeen’s Dr. Oliver Ebenhoeh:
“We need to find efficient ways of supplying our energy demand in a way that doesn’t compete for valuable resources like arable land or fresh water…Cultivating algae using water that can’t be used for irrigation, like salt water or brackish water, makes sense because it’s so vast – it’s all around us and there’s no competition to use the land to grow other things.”
Specifically, the multidisciplinary team will seek optimal light conditions and other variables that optimize microalgae biofuel yields.
The four-year project is also expected to produce other products including cosmetics, nutritional supplements and antibiotics. Drinking Our Way Out of Rising Sea Levels
Not that it would have a direct mitigating effect on rising sea levels, but putting seawater to use in new ways could become an important piece of the climate change management puzzle.
Aside from using seawater directly to cultivate algae for biofuel, another track is to desalinate seawater.
Conventional desalination is an energy intensive process, but more energy efficient desalination processes are under development, including one under way at MIT that uses our favorite material, graphene.
Projects like Sahara Forest are also on track to resolving the desalination energy issue by using renewable sources, namely solar power.
Desalination systems could also be designed to run as a multipurpose renewable energy generators. At the University of Colorado – Denver, researchers are developing an integrated system based on microbes that desalinates water (or purifies wastewater), generates electricity and produces hydrogen, which can then be used as fuel.
Gov. R. SCOTT
130208-c Florida Governor Rick Scott sued over Everglades farm leases
Huffington Post - by Kathleen Haughney and Andy Reid, Sun Sentinel
February 8, 2013
TALLAHASSEE The Florida Wildlife Federation is suing Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet over Everglades restoration land deals that enable two major farming companies to get no-bid, long-term leases for 14,000 acres in western Palm Beach County.
The disputed leases, approved in January, were part of a collection of state land purchases and trades aimed at acquiring farmland that could be used to store and clean up stormwater needed to replenish the Everglades.
But several environmental groups objected to the deal also allowing polluting agricultural operations to remain in place for 30 years on the 14,000 acres of state-owned land that was once part of the Everglades.
"We should be using these public lands to clean up the Everglades, not allowing corporations to continue to pollute our public lands," the federation's attorney David Guest said Thursday.
The renewed leases are held by two major South Florida sugar growers, A. Duda and Sons and Florida Crystals.
The legal challenge is "ridiculous" and threatens to derail the state's efforts to acquire land for restoration, according to Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said.
"What else is new? ... Any time there is progress, they file another lawsuit," Cantens said. "It stops all the progress that is being made."
The lease extensions are tied to deals for the South Florida Water Management District to buy 638 acres from Duda for $2 million and to trade 8,700 acres of district land for 2,000 acres owned by Florida Crystals.
Getting that Florida Crystals land would enable expanding a stormwater treatment area in Palm Beach County. Acquiring the Duda property would help restore the area around Lake Hipochee in Glades County.
But environmental groups that oppose the lease-portion of the deal say the state shouldn't be locking in more polluting agricultural production for decades to come while taxpayers are spending billions to restore the Everglades.
"It is public land [and] you are basically telling everybody you never intend to use the land for Everglades restoration," said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club in Palm Beach County. Related: Environmental group sues over 'Glades farm leases Sun-Sentinel Enviro group sues over Everglades land deal Orlando Sentinel Lawsuit alleges Big Sugar 'sweetheart deal' Gasparilla Gazette Everglades agriculture leases being challenged Naples Daily News Wildlife Federation sues Scott over Everglades leases Bradenton Herald
130208-d Hey, big spender ! How the budget process works
HernandoToday.com - by Paula Dockery, was a term-limited Republican state Senator from Lakeland after 16 years in the Florida Legislature
February 8, 2013
Much has been written since Gov. Rick Scott released his budget – that's right, the $74.2 billion budget. You got it, the budget that includes more than $4 billion in spending above the prior year. Yes, you heard right, that would be the largest budget in state history.
And there's something in there for virtually everyone!
Teachers have been very unhappy with the governor and the policies he has supported. But no worries: There's $480 million for them. University funding was cut $300 million last year, but, hey, that was only temporary. Here's $393.3 million to make up for that.
The environmentalists are unhappy about decimating the water management districts, purging the Department of Environmental Protection employees and selling off state lands. Not a problem. There's $135 million for programs to take their minds off that.
State employees ? Let bygones be bygones. There's a $1,200 bonus for each of you! In fact, let's throw in some spare change for discretionary bonuses. Heck, all told, that's only $315 million.
What's amazing about this complete transformation from two years ago is the utter and complete silence from the tea party movement.
Let's take a look back, shall we ?
At the governor's unveiling of his first official budget, he addressed a predominately tea party crowd in Lake County to boast of his courageous cutting of unnecessary and/or wasteful spending. The crowd went wild. Conservatives gave him credit for balancing the budget as though this was a rarity in Florida government.
Since becoming a big spender with our tax dollars -- crickets.
Don't get me wrong; many of these proposed spending items have merit. As do many of the criticisms of the governor's motivations. And the lack of backlash from fiscal conservatives could be a calculated political risk on the part of the governor whose popularity lies pretty much within that group alone.
It's important to understand a few facts about the state's budgeting process.
First, the Legislature is constitutionally required, unlike the federal government, to pass a balanced budget every year. So despite the fawning over Scott's first recommended budget and making "the tough cuts," in reality those tough decisions are made and have been made every budget year.
Second, the Legislature -- the House and Senate -- have only one requirement in their 60-day legislative session: to pass a balanced budget. If they take up no legislation other than an appropriations act, they have fulfilled their duties.
Third, the governor's role in the budgetary process comes after the Legislature passes the appropriations bill. The governor can sign the spending bill or veto it. And, unlike the president, the governor does have the ability to veto specific line items, without having to veto the entire budget. This gives him tremendous power and responsibility for allowing the spending or cutting the spending. The governor cannot, however, add a spending item to the budget.
So if the Legislature is responsible for writing the budget, why does the governor offer a proposed budget and what does his budget mean?
With malice toward none, bluntly speaking, the governor's budget means close to squat. It is an attempt to provide a framework to the Legislature, which generally says, "Thank you, but we'll take it from here."
In or near an election year, the governor's budget might prove effective in garnering new friends or sending a strong message regarding the direction he wants to take. Knowing the Legislature might completely ignore a recommendation; there is little risk or downside to proposing these thoughtful gestures. After all, it is the Legislature and not the governor who has to balance the checkbook at the end of the day.
The line-item veto power of the governor does give great incentive to legislators to include some of the governor's budget priorities in their budget so the annual mating ritual can begin. It should surprise no one that horse-trading and deal-making do take place between the two chambers and between the Legislature and the governor's office.
With a probable matchup in 2014 with former Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott needs to be better liked, to compete with the amiable Crist, who enjoys the adulation of teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, state employees and environmentalists.
In an attempt to widen his base of support, Scott wants to shower them with affection and our tax dollars.
Only time will tell if these groups, like the teachers, will "take the money and run" or whether Gov. Scott will find out that "money can't buy you love."
130208-e Local estuaries see improved water quality
SANIBEL, FL -- For the first time in many dry seasons, marine biologists say the balance between salt water from the Gulf of Mexico and freshwater from the Caloosahatchee in area waterways is about where it should be.
"It's never a good balance, there's too much or not enough," said Mick Denham, Sanibel Vice Mayor. "This is a major impact to our environment, to our tourism trade and to our property values."
Getting the right balance is a struggle for scientists and engineers, but so much in Southwest Florida depends on it, including the health of sea life and tourism.
"I can't remember the last time, this time of year, that we weren't begging for more fresh water for the estuary," said Rick Bartleson of Santibel-Captiva Conservation Marine Lab.
Too much salt water in the estuary between Lee County and its islands can make harmful algae blooms worse.
Not enough and the sea grasses beneath the surface die.
Bartleson praises the water managers who control freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee.
"I credit them, the Corps of Engineers, for doing what they can when the estuary needs water," Bartleson said.
With many demands on the limited water resources around the state, maintaining the balance remains difficult.
"You'll get a lot of people that still complain it's too much, it's not enough, but they're doing a better job in my opinion, working really hard in a very difficult situation," Denham said.
Next week, Lee County leaders and scientists will bring top state officials here—hoping to show them just how important keeping this balance is to all the people here.
130208-f Pathway through Everglades planned
February 8, 2013
Completion is years away, but officials are optimistic
A paved 75-mile path through the Everglades is being planned that would allow cyclists, joggers and pedestrians to encounter alligators without dodging automobiles.
The River of Grass Greenway would parallel Tamiami Trail most of the way, starting at Krome Avenue in Miami-Dade County and running through Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and other wilderness lands that are home to Florida panthers, black bears, alligators and other wildlife.
"This is a way people can learn about the Everglades, learn about the history and culture of the area," said Patty Huff, an avid long-distance cyclist who helped come up with the idea and who publishes the Everglades City newspaper The Mullet Rapper.
The path, which would be 12 to 14 feet wide, would be available to cyclists, bird watchers, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs – but no motor vehicles.
The project is in the early stages, with funding yet to be obtained and construction years away. There are clear environmental issues involved with any sort of road-building along a national park, particularly on a route surrounded by wetlands.
But the project has the backing of the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County, Collier County and the National Park Service, with $5 million available to get it started.
The Florida Department of Transportation has begun the initial planning work. Workshops to gather ideas from the public are being held Feb. 26 to March 2 at Everglades City Hall and March 12-16 in Miami-Dade County, at a location to be announced later.
FDOT expects to present alternatives at public meetings this summer, with the final plan completed early next year and submitted for approval to the Federal Highway Administration, FDOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower said.
Like the Transcontinental Railroad, the trail would likely be constructed from each end, meeting in the middle. The first segment is likely to be the 16-mile stretch from County Road 29 to State Road 29 in Collier County. Another early stretch would be from Krome Avenue to the Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park, where a 15-mile bike loop runs through the Everglades. Mark Heinicke, project manager in the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, one of the agencies leading the effort, said the construction of the initial segments should stimulate public interest in getting the whole job done.
"The key is to get the public involved and get them excited," he said. "We think it could be a fantastic economic engine and draw for tourism."
The exact route has yet to be determined, although options may be limited because of the National Park Service land on both sides of the road. Heinicke said there may be alternatives to sticking near the road, possibly by routing the path over levees running through the Everglades or through Loop Road which veers south of Tamiami Trail. Jonathan Ullman, Everglades representative for the Sierra Club, said the greenway could be a fine way for people to experience the Everglades without pumping pollution into the air from automobile tailpipes. But he questioned the option of running part of the path over levees, saying these are impediments to the recovery of the Everglades that are likely to come down as part of the restoration work.
"On the existing corridor – great, but not on the levees," he said. "They have to come down to restore the flow of water, and that is the most important recovery goal."
The project was originally conceived in 2006 by the Naples Pathways Coalition, a group dedicated to establishing safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians. Maureen Boness, a coalition member, said the project would be done with great respect for the environment and would allow people to get close to the Everglades without harming it.
"There should be a way to experience the Everglades at a slow pace and not get their feet wet," she said. "They can witness the Everglades as it's being restored, at a pace that's appropriate, not at 55 miles per hour."
130208-g The future of agricultural water
AgProfessional.com – by John Maday, Managing Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork
February 8, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – Our nation needs agriculture and agriculture needs water. Those points came through clearly as Paul Genho, PhD, discussed water issues in a Cattlemen’s College presentation at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention this week in Tampa. Genho, who currently is president of Farmland Reserves Inc., is well known across the industry as a former manager of the King Ranch in Texas and the Deseret Ranch in Florida. His presentation summarized a white paper titled “Agricultural Water: Protecting the future of our nation,” recently published by the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management.
Agriculture, Genho says, shaped and sustained our past, provides abundant food, fuel and fiber today and will determine our future. And, he stresses, agricultural productivity in the United States plays a key role in economic and social stability across the globe. “What happens in a cornfield in Iowa influences food supplies in Pakistan,” he says. When U.S. agricultural production drops, high food prices create unrest and instability overseas, such as during last year’s “Arab Spring.” Instability in the Middle East leads to higher energy prices, which result in higher production costs for U.S. farmers and reductions in food production – a vicious cycle.
The white paper resulted from a stakeholder meeting held in May 2012, where participants focused on three areas: water supply, water resource stewardship and long-term water policy.
Water supplies are becoming increasingly short in the United States as population growth shifts to areas of lowest precipitation and weather patterns become dryer. The water crisis is equal to the energy crisis, but most people, including policy makers, do not recognize its importance. Food remains cheap while gas prices rise, Genho says, keeping looming water shortages off the radar.
Meanwhile, a list of factors will influence future water supplies for agriculture.
Many critical water facilities are more than 50 years old with no redundancy or reserve capacity.
Federal policy does not provide funds to maintain or replace federal facilities and local economies don’t have the funds.
Water infrastructure has not kept pace with population.
Weather patterns, population distribution and technology changes are bringing obsolescence.
Current policy discourages private investment.
To address the issue, Genho stresses that farmers, ranchers and others directly involved in water and land management must take a leadership role, even though they comprise a small minority of the overall population. The agricultural community must demand science-based policy development, create opportunities for private investment, increase certainty of water rights and permits and replace federal regulatory reach with basin-specific policies.
Finally, the authors of the white paper note that cooperation with other stakeholders in water supplies including municipalities and industry, will contribute to long-term solutions.
130207-a 14th Annual Everglades Day is Saturday at Loxahatchee Refuge
Palm Beach Post - by Eliot Kleinberg, Staff Writer
February 7, 2013
BOYNTON BEACH — The Everglades isn’t as far away as you think. It’s as close as State Road 7.
And on Saturday the 14th Annual Everglades Day Festival takes place at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, west of Boynton Beach. This year’s theme: “Healthy Everglades, Healthy People.”
The free event — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine — features plenty of talks, walks and looks.
The keynote is a panel discussion featuring refuge manager Sylvia Pelizza, environmental scientists, and others, focusing on the health of both humans and the Everglades
The day includes guided nature walks and presentations of wildlife, along with live music, food and more than 30 exhibitors. Highlights include presentations by photographer Lance Warley, live raptor birds with Clive Pinnock, and live animal presentations by the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and Palm Beach Zoo.
Parking is available at Monte’s Packaging, which is a half-mile south of the refuge entrance. There’s a free shuttle to the refuge.
The refuge, which draws more than 300,000 visitors a year, celebrated its 60th birthday in 2011. It was established June 8, 1951, “for use as an inviolate sanctuary” to protect and manage the north end of the Everglades, which once sprawled to Lake Okeechobee. Over the decades most it gave way to farming and neighborhoods.
It was the 216th refuge established in a network that’s now up to 561 and protects 150 million acres.
It’s named for Art Marshall, the biologist, naturalist, lecturer, writer and philosopher hailed as the father of Florida’s environmental movement. He died at 65 in 1985.
Marshall was a voice in the wilderness as far back as 1955, when he began 15 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before becoming a University of Miami professor.
He even had his own “Marshall Plan,” a blueprint for repairing the Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades system that evolved into the Save Our Everglades program.
The refuge — owned by the South Florida Water Management District and leased to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — covers 221 square miles west of State Road 7 from Southern Boulevard to the Broward-Palm Beach county line. A 57-mile levee surrounds a classic Everglades environment: marshes, wet prairies, and tree islands from 1 acre to more than 300 acres.
The refuge protects endangered species such as the snail kite, wood stork and tropical curly grass fern, as well as alligators and red-bellied turtles. It’s composed of five different habitat types: tree islands, wet prairies, sloughs, sawgrass communities and the largest remnant of a cypress swamp in Palm Beach County.
The Visitor Center, whose renovation was completed in 2009, features interactive exhibits and an introductory refuge video, as well as an observation tower and observation platform, a fishing platform, nature trails and a 5½-mile canoe trail.
From the nearly half-mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, visitors can see several types of ferns and lichens as well as the majestic cardinal wild pine. The Marsh Trail, which runs eight-tenths of a mile, is an open levee trail that features views of wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What: 14th Annual Everglades Day Festival Where: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 10216 Lee Road, along State Road 7 two miles south of Boynton Beach Blvd. When: Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.
Parking: Available at Monte’s Packaging, a half-mile south of refuge entrance. Free shuttle to refuge.
Information: Refuge: (561) 734-8303 ; www.fws.gov/loxahatchee/. Arthur R. Marshall Foundation: (561) 233-9004 ; www.artmarshall.org/
130207-b At what price ?
NaplesNews.com – by Paul Watkins, Naples, FL
February 7, 2013
There are many who want to see more business attracted to and established in Florida.
Among those who want to see this happen are politicians in the state capital and the editors of this newspaper.
There are clear advantages in growing Florida's permanent business base beyond the oft-stated "sun and fun" image we currently enjoy. More permanent business will lead to a general rise in our economic climate and, perhaps, less seasonal volatility. The last may be a curse as well as a benefit.
Florida's climate is that of a semitropical desert. That's right, we have a water problem which leads to water restrictions as a near permanent condition. After the "tourist" season, the population drop allows the rainy season to replenish the water supply in readiness for the next season.
Eventually increased year-round water demands will not allow the replenishment to happen. What then ? Business exodus ?
Desalinization plants will be a pricey solution. Can we afford that ? Do we want to ? Tomorrow's precious commodity will be fresh water and business leaders know that.
Status quo isn't always a bad thing.
130207-c Bill would kill conservation land buys
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
February 7, 2013
During every session of the Florida Legislature, some legislator files a bizarre bill.
No one expects these to pass, probably not even their sponsors, but it’s a great political act because they can always tell the constituent group that pushed the idea that at least they tried.
That brings us to Senate Bill 584, which is sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
The bill has been filed, but has not been referred to any committees yet and there is no companion bill in the House. That means it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
Nevertheless, it’s worth keeping an eye on the fact that stuff like that is out there.
It would effectively prohibit state, county or city officials from buying any more conservation land.
It doesn’t say that, but it requires any purchases to be offset by the sale of another piece of government land of equal size.
There are, of course, no large tracts of public lands except other conservation lands unless you want to bulldoze some interstate highways or toll roads that could be sold off in compensation for buying more land.
Some people have suggested this is an attempt to thwart the Florida Land and Water Legacy Amendment, which aims to put funding for conservation land purchases in the Florida Constitution.
Another explanation could be that it’s a reaction to some conservatives who contend the government owns enough land already.
Or, it could support the Tea Party folks who think conservation land buying is part of some nefarious United Nations plot.
If you’re interested in this issue, you might keep an eye on it and contact your legislator if you think it’s necessary.
130207-d Scott budget's land-buying, springs and cleanup items draw lawmaker interest
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 7, 2013
Conservation land-buying, springs protection and cleaning up contamination sites were among the issues raised by legislators Thursday while being briefed on Gov. Rick Scott's budget request.
The governor last week submitted to the Legislature his fiscal year 2013-14 budget request of $74.2 billion. His aides told committees on Thursday the goal of the request is to reduce the cost of living for Florida's families.
For environmental spending, his request included $75 million for conservation land-buying, $60 million for Everglades restoration, $135 million for cleaning up petroleum tank contamination sites and $25 million for beach restoration projects. The request slices Department of Environmental Protection expenses by $12.3 million by cutting 125 positions through a "right-sizing" initiative.
The Florida Forever land-buying request includes $25 million in new revenue plus $50 million from the sale of surplus state land to be identified by the DEP.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, warned during a meeting of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government that the process of selling lands should be "advertised" early in the legislative process.
"We are not going to have a last-minute deal where then there is a question over whether we are selling conservation lands -- or what kind of lands -- on that," Latvala said. Noah Valenstein, the governor's environmental policy unit coordinator, said the $50 million would come from DEP's ongoing process of reviewing state lands within current state law.
During an earlier House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, asked whether the state could make better use conservation easements, which involve payments to landowners to prevent them from developing their land, rather than the state buying land.
"Any time you talk about taking lands out of private ownership and off the tax rolls and into government hands, I have a concern," Edwards said. "So this raises red flags for me."
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said he thinks Florida should spend more on land acquisition, stating that Everglades National Park was purchased first as a state park in 1916.
"We must better understand the value of pure conservation and purchases," Pafford said. "That's not to say its unimportant to use those dollars to maximize partnerships, but there is a value to this state from outright conservation."
The department also has labeled $7.1 million for springs restoration, including $3 million for setting pollution limits called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), $3 million for springs restoration in the Suwannee River Water Management District and $1.1 million for retrofitting aging agricultural irrigation systems to save 14.3 billion gallons of water per year.
"Our springs are in serious trouble," Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said during the Senate subcommittee meeting. "I want to know if this will make it where they will be somewhere I can go and enjoy again."
Valenstein responded there is not a single springs line item in the budget, but he said that many DEP activities help improve springs water quality.
"Every request sent either from the Department of Environmental Protection or through the board of the water management districts for state assistance for springs has been funded in this budget recommendation," Valenstein said.
Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, suggested that the backlog for "brownfields" contamination site cleanup tax credits could be reduced by diverting some of the $10 million increase for petroleum contamination site cleanups. That $135 million for petroleum sites comes from a tax on petroleum that generates $150 million to $160 million a year.
130207-e Scrooges squandering Florida's future
Orlando Sentinel – My Word by Chuck O'Neal, Longwood, FL
February 7, 2013
"'Ghost of the Future,' he exclaimed. 'I fear you more than any specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.'
"'Lead on,' said Scrooge."
So began Ebenezer Scrooge's guided journey into the future.
What would that journey look like for today's scrooges, who squander this state's natural resources for their personal gain?
Agri-scrooge, who seeks to pump millions of gallons of water for his factory farm; yard-of-the-month-scrooge, who over-fertilizes and over-waters his lawn to boast a $20 sign for 30 days; developer-scrooge, who buys up wilderness-recharge areas to bring in more homes, more mini-malls, more town centers — come walk with the ghost of the future to see what you have wrought.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, and as the fresh water in the Floridan Aquifer is being pumped out faster than it is replaced by rain, the void must be filled. The void is filled by salt water seeping into its limestone labyrinth from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf.
The deep wells that once supplied fresh water to Vero Beach now draw up a salt water/fresh water mix that its municipal system must desalinate at high cost.
The ghost shows us a vision of the future, as salt water seeps permanently toward the center of the state. Springs that once yielded clear, drinkable water now yield brackish, undrinkable water. Cities scramble to build desalination plants, raising taxes, raising rates.
But not all drink from municipal sources. A stench of death fills the air as raccoons, opossums, bears and panthers perish from dehydration. The surfaces of rivers and lakes become coated with dead fish and aquatic plants.
People move, values drop, the "happiest place on Earth" now becomes a specter of dead trees and wildlife.
"'Good Spirit,' [Scrooge] pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: 'Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.'"
Yes, this is the future for Florida, unless we change our ways. We can alter the shadows that have been shown to us — but only if precious time is not wasted. Citizen involvement is needed now. Learn, think, act to preserve what you hold dear.
130207-f The leadership drought on water
Ocala.com - Editorial
February 7, 2013
Environmental groups heralded Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2013-14 state budget for calling for renewed spending on conservation lands, Everglades restoration, state park improvements and a massive fuel tank cleanup. It was not everything they wanted, but after years of humiliation and defeat, Scott’s plan is seen as an environmental victory. Everything is relative.
What was egregiously shortchanged in Scott’s budget, however, was protecting, indeed restoring Florida’s diminishing water supply. Maybe Scott and his chief environmental regulator, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, are still unclear about the state of Florida’s water resources. Let us remind them.
More than half of the state’s rivers, lakes and springs are considered polluted, indeed “imperiled” in DEP’s own estimation — our own iconic Silver Springs among them.
A majority of Florida’s 700 springs, which we would remind the governor and Vinyard are nothing more than windows into the aquifer, are flowing at alarmingly, even historically low levels, if at all.
Areas of Florida that once thought they were immured to the pressures of population growth and overpumping — the Suwannee River Valley, for example — are girding to fend off what they see as water raids from overpumping by urban centers. Bob Graham, the former governor and U.S. senator who is now a leading environmental activist, and 1,000 Friends of Florida chairman emeritus Nathaniel Reed summed up the state of Florida’s water in a column that appeared in Sunday’s paper:
“We 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 governmental agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens’ concerns and determination to correct the abuses of negligence.”
But where is the lawmaker, the governor, the agency head who will be the unbridled and unyielding champion for Florida water resources? Why are none of our lawmakers, not a one, making water their signature issue when virtually every Floridian is affected? Where is Scott, who touts his business savvy, when we all know it is water that fuels Florida’s economy and always has ?
To its credit, the DEP under Vinyard has been giving increasing acknowledgement to the water issue. Here in Ocala/Marion County in the past year, the agency has unveiled plans to reduced nitrate levels in Silver and Rainbow springs and has moved to secure Silver Springs to be turned into a state park and put on a course for restoration. At the same time, however, there has been minimal investment of dollars or any real results.
Maybe Scott just does not get the gravity or the breadth of Florida’s water crisis. In an interview with the Florida Current last month, he was asked what he was doing to protect Florida waterways for future generations. His response, in part: “What I have asked, what DEP is doing, is why do we have some springs that are way down ?”
Please, someone, anyone, explain to the governor just why our springs are way down. It is no secret. Nor are the long-known solutions to rescuing and restoring our lakes, rivers and springs.
But we need a water champion in Tallahassee. Will anyone step up ?
130207-g Top state planner heading from DEO to Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 7, 2013
A top state planning official in the Department of Economic Opportunity is leaving to take another top job in the Department of Environmental Protection. Tom Beck, director of DEO's Division of Community Development, is leaving to become director of DEP's Office of Water Policy. His last day at DEO is Feb. 15.
Beck will be replaced at DEO by William “Bill” Killingsworth, who is a past director of the Planning and Development Department at the city of Jacksonville. He starts Feb. 25.
The departure of Beck reflects continued turnover at Department of Economic Opportunity since it was created by the Legislature in 2011. Beck was a division director at the Department of Community Affairs when it was abolished in 2011 and its planning division became part of the new DEO.
Beck will earn $115,000 a year at the Department of Environmental Protection, the same amount he earned as a division director at the Department of Economic Opportunity. Killingsworth also will earn $115,000 at DEO.
At DEP, Beck replaces Anne Shortelle, who was director of the Office of Water Policy from August 2011 until June 2012, when she became executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
130207-h Washington: First restoration component to directly benefit the Park
February 7, 2013
US National Park Services, The Government of USA has issued the following news release:
Everglades National Park joined other federal and state partners to celebrate the completion of a key component in improving freshwater deliveries to the southern end of the Everglades ecosystem, during a January 11 dedication ceremony at the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project. A key component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project will help restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay, preserve clean water in Everglades National Park, and maintain flood control for eastern communities.
"Everglades restoration is not just an idea; today we celebrate that it is actually happening!" said Dan Kimball, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Park Superintendent. "This project is the first project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to provide direct benefits to Everglades National Park. It will keep the water that is in the
park, in the park. At the same time, it assures that our neighbors to the east receive flood protection. This is a great example of a project that meets the broader ecosystem restoration goals of, "Getting the water right," "Restoring natural habitats and species," and, "Ensuring compatibility with the built environment."
Superintendent Kimball expressed thanks to the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District, on behalf of the park and the Department of Interior, for deciding to invest the $30 million in this project, and for moving forward with expedited construction.
"This is a great gift to Everglades National Park and to our visitors from the United States and from around the world!" said Kimball. "The beauty of this project is both the partnership, and the tangible progress in meeting Everglades restoration goals. We are very grateful for our partnership with the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District."
With its series of pump stations and canals, the project raises groundwater levels directly outside the eastern boundary of Everglades National Park, creating a hydraulic barrier between the park and urban areas of Miami-Dade County that retains fresh water in the
The project will also help achieve healthy salinity levels in Florida Bay by restoring the quantity, timing and distribution of freshwater flows via Taylor Slough to the bay ecosystem. Located at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and spanning 850-sqare miles, Florida Bay comprises one third of Everglades National Park and is a valuable economic resource for the region. The bay's waters and seagrass beds serve as a nursery for an array of aquatic life and are home to dozens of commercially and recreationally important species such as spiny lobster, snapper and pink shrimp. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study found that Florida Bay contributed approximately $1.7 billion in the form of "destination spending" in one year alone.
130206-a Got opinions on Florida's environmental future ? State agencies want to hear from you
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
February 6, 2013
Citizen scientists and environmental stewards take note: Two state agencies are in the process of soliciting public comment on issues that could impact Florida's overall ecological outlook.
First up is the South Florida Water Management District, which is accepting public comments on four parcels of land in the Upper Lakes Management Region located north of Orlando. These include Tibet-Butler Preserve, Shingle Creek, Lake Marion Creek and Reedy Creek, and SUMICA.
The SFWMD is in the midst of a review of the agency's "fee owned lands -- approximately 750,000 acres in which the agency has full ownership rights." The Upper Lakes assessment is the initial phase of a project that aims to look at all similar lands in the state by mid-2013.
According to SFWMD objectives and evaluation criteria,
To provide the most benefit to taxpayers, lands that do not directly support the core mission may be considered for alternative uses or recommended to the SFWMD Governing Board for surplus. The surplus process may result in lands being swapped for more needed properties or offered for public bid...
Audubon Florida Advocate encouraged action from its readers and members, saying "we believe all of the listed properties should be retained in public ownership as conversation land; they constitute the true 'Headwaters of the Everglades'."
The agency will host a public meeting on the Upper Lakes parcels from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the St. Cloud Field Station. Public comments are open through Feb. 18 and can be submitted through an online form. A "detailed land portfolio" of the Everglades Assessment Region -- which includes Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties -- likely will come up for public review later this year.
Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission -- the folks responsible for the much ballyhooed Python Challenge -- has invited the public to weigh in on "draft species actions" for threatened Florida wildlife.
The first group of 23 species presented for comment includes 11 birds (including the white ibis, roseate spoonbill, and Scott's seaside sparrow), as well as five freshwater fish, four mammals, two reptiles, and one amphibian. FWC will present plans for a total of 60 species.
Once the process is complete, FWC will issue an Imperiled Species Management Plan "that will be the blueprint for conserving 60 species on Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species list." The comment period for the first group will remain open through March 13. View the species plans and comment by visiting the FWC's imperiled species page and clicking the links under "Your Opportunity to Participate in Species Action Plans."
130206-b Marco Rubio not convinced climate change an actual problem (VIDEO)
The Huffington Post - by Meredith Bennett-Smith
February 6, 2013
One of the Grand Old Party's brightest young stars claims he's still not convinced climate change is a real problem.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), spoke at the inaugural BuzzFeed Brews event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night. The conversation eventually turned to environmental reforms. Speaking with BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Rubio said that climate change was not a proven fact, and that even if it was, it would not be cost-effective for the U.S. to take action.
Rubio's skepticism contrasts with a study, published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that surveyed 1,372 climate researchers and found that "97–98 [percent] of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of [anthropogenic climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."
Furthermore, several of the world's most prominent national science academies have acknowledged that the world's climate is changing as a result of man-made causes.
Regardless, Rubio mainained that "The U.S. is a country, not a planet. On the other hand if we unilaterally impose these things on the economy it will have a devastating impact. There has to be a cost-benefit analysis to everyone of these principles people are pushing on. The benefit is difficult to justify when it’s only us doing it, no one else is doing it."
Rubio added that while the "climate is always changing," he said he is not convinced that it is changing because of man-made activity.
"I know people said there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle," Rubio said.
The junior Senator was a popular name in the GOP party this year, and was rumored to have been considered for Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election, according to Mother Jones. His record on environmental issues is complicated, the magazine reports: While still in the state legislature, he helped pass a greenhouse emissions bill; but once he took his current seat in the U.S. Congress, he supported a pro-oil campaign.
In February of 2010, Rubio told Florida's Tampa Tribune that there wasn't "scientific evidence to justify" environmental reforms.
ThinkProgress reports that one study in Rubio's home state shows climate change may cause more economic damage than it would cost to try and cut down on climate change causes.
A recent analysis by the World Economic Forum found that the world must spend an additional $700 billion annually to reduce the use of fossil fuels and curb the effects of climate change. According to a study from the Climate Vulnerable Forum, climate change is already costing the world over $1.2 trillion, or 1.6 percent of global GDP, and contributing to almost 400,000 deaths annually.
130206-c Obama breaks the rules, appoints nature-lover to Interior instead of oil-lover
February 6, 2013
For the first time in memory, President Obama has appointed an environmentalist – REI’s Sally Jewell - to head the Interior Department.
For the first time in memory, President Obama has appointed an environmentalist – REI’s Sally Jewell - to head the Interior
For as long as I can remember, whether Democrats or Republicans have been in power, the Department of the Interior has been pretty much owned by the extraction industries it’s supposed to regulate.
With global warming and climate change being the biggest challenges humanity currently faces, Jewell could be a game-changer at Interior.
“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” Obama said as he introduced her at the White House. “She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress, that, in fact, those two things need to go hand and hand.”
Sally JEWELL nominated for the DOI Secretary
As the New York Times notes in its glowing profile, Jewell isn’t just an outdoors enthusiast; she’s an award-winning environmentalist:
■ The 2009 Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation from the Audubon Society
■The 2008 Nonprofit Director of the Year award from the National Association of Corporate Directors
■The Green Globe/Environmental Catalyst Award from King County, Washington
■2012 Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson Center
Under her leadership, REI’s outdoor apparel and camping equipment stores also pushed the envelope on corporate responsibility:
■Their stores were cutting-edge green, breaking new ground in LEED ratings
■REI launched an eco-sensitive apparel line featuring renewable and/or recycled organic fibers
■The company also sourced green power and FSC-certified paper for catalogs
■They give 3% of operating profits every year as grants to environmental organizations; that comes to $3 to $4 million.
Jewell was not your typical CEO, because REI isn’t your typical corporation. As Jewell told Grist in a 2007 interview,
There’s also an element of Robin Hood to REI: Because we’re a co-op and because we aren’t having to talk about our quarter-to-quarter profits with shareholders all the time, we can actually take some of what we generate and recycle that back out to organizations that are doing a great job of connecting people to nature, taking care of wild and scenic places, and so on.
But Jewell also has industry ties that will make it hard for the GOP to paint her as an extremist (not that that’s likely to stop them):
■She’s a mechanical engineer her got her degree from the University of Washington and took her first job in the Oklahoma oil patch, working for Mobil.
■She then moved to Rainier Bank as their resident petroleum engineer, helping to value oil company assets
As Philip Bump notes in his write-up at Grist,
… Jewell’s background makes her the perfect pick to run the Interior Department…. Jewell’s career reflects the transition the country itself is making, away from raw exploration at all costs, toward sensible stewardship. The environmental accolades Jewell has acquired in her new role — andthe efforts REI has made to reduce its own environmental impact — reinforce that transition.
Jewell’s favorite quote:
“Never underestimate the ability of a small group of people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
Hopefully, in her new perch at Interior, Jewell will be able to make some BIG changes.
130206-d Weak state water-quality standards let A. Duda & Sons look good
Palm Beach Post – Letter by Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon Florida, Maitland, FL
February 6, 2013
Regarding Monday’s letter to the editor from A. Duda & Sons CEO David J. Duda (“A Duda & Sons good steward of land,”): It left out some important facts.
A. Duda & Sons was recently granted a 30-year lease extension to farm on state land by the governor and Florida Cabinet. However, in making this decision, Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet missed an important opportunity to clean farm runoff without the public having to pay for it.
Mr. Duda is correct that his farm operation complies with the South Florida Water Management District’s permits and regulatory requirements. But he does not tell you that the district’s limp rules are really easy to comply with.
These rules let the Duda farm get away with dumping water at 254 parts per billion (ppb) phosphorus concentration into the district’s canal system in 2011. The Duda phosphorus discharges were 391 ppb in 2010, 589 ppb in 2009, 462 ppb in 2008 and 446 ppb in 2007.
That is really dirty water. The state water quality standard for phosphorus is only 10 parts per billion. And after Duda gets away with dumping all that dirty water, the taxpayers have to pay billions of dollars to attempt to clean it up.
Why is Duda’s water so dirty ? Consider that Duda’s own records submitted to the state in 2010 show that the company applied 339 tons of phosphorus fertilizer to its 5,000-plus-acre lease area that year.
A. Duda & Sons is a fine company, and its farms produce high-quality food products we all enjoy. However, the phosphorus discharges running off the land Duda leases from the state in the Everglades Agricultural area are particularly dirty. Gov. Scott and the Cabinet missed a prime opportunity to require Duda to clean up its mess by including appropriate conditions in the lease extensions.
130205-a After boom in 2009, wading bird nesting has dropped in Everglades
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
February 5, 2013
MIAMI — 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 last 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 as 2011 and slight increase from 2010. Mark Cook, lead scientist for Everglades assessment for the district, said seesawing swings in seasonal water levels are mostly to blame for inhibiting breeding in a sprawling system that has been shrunken and strangled over the last 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 risings 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 in December proposed reducing its status to the less severe "threatened" category. But for the fifth time in the last six years, there were no wood storks nesting in what once was the largest breeding colony in the U.S. - the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in southwest Florida. Jason Lauritsen, director of the Audubon-managed Corkscrew sanctuary, said the disappearance of the storks in prime breeding ground points to a troubling disruption of seasonal cycles that flood and drain marshes 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 some 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 nearly 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 percent to 90 percent. Poor water-management practices helped to drive nesting 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's only been over the last 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 aren't 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 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.
and Nathaniel REED
130205-b Crisis over Florida's waterways calls for action
TampaBay.com – by Bob Graham and Nathaniel Pryor Reed, Special to the Times
February 5, 2013
Recent investigative reporting by Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman 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.
Unfortunately, instead of resolving the serious problems that threaten our state's most precious natural resources, Tallahassee has focused on rolling back environmental safeguards and growth management guidelines, cutting funding for conservation and regulatory programs, reducing enforcement against polluters, and liquidating public lands.
Severe budget cuts are already seriously compromising the ability of Florida's DEP and water management districts to protect our state's natural resources. Funding for many important conservation, restoration, monitoring, research, enforcement and education programs has already been either 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.
DEP efforts are under way 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.
Under 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 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 governmental agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens' concerns and determination to correct the 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 two years, the St. Johns River Water Management 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" on Feb. 16 at Wekiwa Springs State Park. We are organizing this event to celebrate our outstanding water resources, to educate the public and policymakers about the challenges facing the Wekiva River and the springs that feed it, and advocate for the protection and restoration of all of Florida's impaired waterways.
Join the Florida Conservation Coalition on Feb. 16 to speak up for our environment and ensure its protection for generations of Floridians to come. Bob Graham, far left, chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition, was governor from 1979 to 1987 and represented the state as a U.S. senator from 1987 to 2005. Nathaniel Pryor Reed, the coalition's vice chairman, served as assistant secretary of the interior under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and is chairman emeritus of 1000 Friends of Florida.
130205-c DEP moving on adopting water quality rules implementation document
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 5, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to possibly adopt a rule that would clarify how new water quality standards would be implemented.
Adoption could help resolve one legal challenge to Florida's water quality standards. But there remain other legal challenges filed by environmental groups.
Those groups and DEP have been at odds for the past three years over proposed state and federal rules.
The environmental groups say tougher federal rules are needed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus that are causing waterways to become choked with algae. DEP says its proposed rules provide more flexibility and cost savings while protecting waterways.
The groups filed an administrative challenge to block use of a document submitted to the EPA describing how the state will implement its rules.
The environmental groups said the department had failed to go through formal rule-making.
DEP told a state hearing officer on Monday it was considering adopting the implementation document as a rule. During the hearing Tuesday, department officials discussed the document and heard criticism from environmentalists.
"We are workshopping it to get comments in order to understand the public's perspective on whether this should move forward," Drew Bartlett, director of DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, told The Florida Current.
The public has until Feb. 12 to submit comments on the implementation document, which last month was included in a routine rule review conducted every three years. If the department moves forward with proposing adoption of the implementing document, the Environmental Regulation Commission would consider adoption on March 21 along with other rule changes.
Representatives of the Clean Water Network of Florida and the Earthjustice law firm said they were unhappy DEP was limiting public comment to seven days.
Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer said the length of the implementation document shows the Florida rules are not viable. Earthjustice represents the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida in state and federal court cases.
The U.S. Environmental Protection 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.
In federal court, the groups are opposing the federal agency's request to delay implementing its own water rules for inland waters as provided under a 2009 court agreement.
DEP may ask the Legislature to amend its ratification of the state rules in 2012 because the legislation, HB 7051, delayed implementation if EPA was still working on its own rules. Related Research: "Implementation of Florida's Numeric Nutrient Standards FDEP Workshop document, Feb. 5, 2013
Criticized by a new
memo, former water
says his agency didn't
have the financial
resources to conduct
water flow studies
for Wakulla Springs
130205-d Former water district director defends record on Wakulla Springs
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 5, 2013
The former executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District on Tuesday said his agency didn't have the financial resources to conduct water flow studies, and he questioned the usefulness of doing them in the region. Douglas Barr, who was executive director of the district, was responding to a new district memo that placed blame on past leadership for delaying a required water flow study for Wakulla Springs.
The new unsigned memo provided Monday to The Florida Current stated that prior to a leadership change in 2012, it had become "blatantly obvious" that the district never intended to conduct those minimum flows and levels (MFL) studies.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are facing criticism because the district missed a 2012 study deadline and the district now proposes completing the study in 2023.
The new proposed schedule represents "for the first time in district history, a realistic and achievable plan for moving forward with MFL development," water district spokeswoman Lauren Engel wrote in an email Monday.
Barr said the district, with its property tax capped in state law and the Florida Constitution at a fraction of other water management districts, did not have the money to pay for such studies.
Engel said Tuesday the agency will spend more than $2 million over the next two years to get started on flow studies. The district will spend reserve funds beginning in fiscal year 2013-14.
Barr also said he questioned the usefulness of the studies -- at the time state law was amended in 1997 to require them for springs and in subsequent conversations with DEP officials.
Although some environmentalists and scientists say the studies are needed to help prevent overpumping of groundwater, Barr said there is not a fine line in determining when the "significant harm" prohibited by state law begins to occur.
Furthermore, he said setting minimum flows for rivers in Northwest Florida would have undermined the state in earlier negotiations with Georgia over water flowing into Florida from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river systems. Georgia only wanted to provide only a required minimum flow, Barr said, but Florida wanted variable flows that matched historical flooding cycles.
Barr said he sought to focus district work on projects that he said actually solved problems and reduced effects of water pumping, such as moving coastal water plants farther inland to avoid water shortages. He said a better tool to prevent over-pumping can be found in water-use permitting requirements under Florida law.
"That is what that (requirement) is there for -- to say, 'Enough is enough,'" Barr said. "Consumptive-use permitting is specifically intended to avoid harm."
Barr said he didn't want to discuss why he was not reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012, but dismissed the idea that it involved minimum flows and levels. Scott said this past year he didn't want to discuss why he chose not to reappoint anyone. Related Research:
* Feb. 1, 2103 NWFWMD memo to "interested parties"
* Feb. 1, 2103 NWFWMD memo attachments [Zipped Folder]
* Jan. 15, 2013 "Water district proposes 11-year delay in setting flows for Wakulla Springs," by The Florida Current
* Feb. 4, 2013 DEP response to Times column by Graham and Reed
130204-a Call this a sign of our sleazy times
Miami Herald – by Carl Hiassen
February 4, 2013
Even in a state of perpetual sleaze, some dirty deals stink more than others.
The most recent is a weird little law approved last spring that allows the South Florida Water Management District to enter the commercial billboard business.
The water agency usually sticks to flood control and Everglades restoration, touting itself as a defender of imperiled wetlands. Yet in coming months, 10 large electronic billboards are due to be installed on district holdings, which are public lands, with an additional 20 signs to follow in 2014.
And dig this: The water agency's staff, parroting the coy language in the law, refers to these digital monstrosities as "public information systems." The term billboard is being avoided like an embarrassing disease.
How did this latest travesty occur? Palm Beach Post reporter Christine Stapleton broke the story and did a fine job connecting the dots.
The billboard provision was quietly shoehorned into a crucial bill for the water district. Oddly, the amendment had no named sponsor in the Legislature, no footprints anywhere.
Even stranger: The billboard industry's main lobby group apparently knew nothing about the proposal, including where it came from.
In time, though, the muddy waters would clear.
After the law took effect in July, the district's staff informed its governing board that the agency could now erect these "public information systems" to display important service announcements such as flood warnings, drought advisories and Amber alerts. And oh, by the way, they could sell some advertising on them, too.
Board members, who are political appointees, voted 5-3 to move ahead with contract talks. Barely a month later, a company called Florida Communication Advisors was formed by a man named Harkley Thornton.
You might not be shocked to learn that Thornton was once on the board of the water management district, or that he's a friend and former business partner of its current executive director, Melissa Meeker.
Likewise, you might not be flabbergasted to know that Thornton was also a Republican fundraiser and very tight with former House Speaker Dean Cannon, under whose reign the billboard giveaway was sneaked into law.
And finally, your jaws probably won't drop when you hear that Thornton's brand-new company, FCA, was picked over several other billboard firms to get the lucrative 10-year contract with the South Florida water district.
When one of the other companies complained, the agency backed down and gave it half the job. The digital signs will be owned by the water district, which hopes to someday make $3 million annually from its puny share of the profits.
As the final deal was put before the board, no mention was made of Thornton's past tenure with the agency nor of his connection to Meeker.
And of course that vile word "billboard" was never uttered.
However, Meeker's staff did finally admit that the gargantuan flashing devices mounted on conservation lands would carry public-service announcements only about 5 percent of the time, max.
The other 95 percent would be commercial advertisements, digitally rotating every six seconds. Not too distracting for motorists, right?
Once the Post got the story, all that remained was to gather the indignant denials.
Thornton, who has billboards in Louisiana and Ohio, declared he did nothing wrong - there were no secret deals, and he didn't speak to a soul at the water district before his company got the contract.
His buddy Meeker at the water agency said the same thing. Favoritism? Naw, it's just a big happy coincidence.
Former House Speaker Cannon, who now has his own "consulting" firm, says that while he's good friends with Thornton, he had nothing to do with slipping the unusual billboard provision into the funding bill.
Cannon's account is disputed by a fellow Republican, Sen. Paula Dockery, who says the then-speaker himself was behind the billboard amendment.
Still, knowing how a fix was arranged doesn't make it any less outrageous.
Unless the water district's governing board reverses itself, electrical billboards (and their power lines) will soon sprout on state environmental lands in Broward, Palm Beach, Lee, Martin, St. Lucie, Collier, Orange and other counties.
The signs are exempt from other billboard regulations, so they can be as obtrusive as the contractors want. (The city of Boca Raton has already threatened legal action.)
For their part, state water managers say they'll place the ever-strobing structures along busy roadways where other billboards already exist, not in areas with sensitive ecosystems.
No matter where the signs end up, none of those flashing highway messages will say, "SCREWED AGAIN, SUCKERS!"
Not even for six honest seconds.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
130204-b Coastal damage from rising sea levels and storm surge during storms will cost millions to repair
Daily Business Review - by Paola Iuspa-Abbott
February 4, 2013
Before Superstorm Sandy flooded New York City subway tunnels and streets, a surge from the storm combined with a high tide to swallow the beach, palm trees, parking meters, sidewalks and a chunk of A1A near Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. During a similar storm on Thanksgiving weekend, part of A1A and the sidewalk gave out.
About 34 miles south, the same weather system flooded roads in Miami Beach, and stormwater drains were spitting the overflow back into the streets for days.
The same surging ocean stole part of Carlin Beach Park in Jupiter, where public restrooms and a lifeguard stand will probably have to be relocated.
Extreme weather is inflicting increasing damage on South Florida's infrastructure, and various climate-change scenarios have it getting worse as the sea level rises. For a region built only a few inches or feet above the water table, thrashing storms riding high tides are a recurring threat — not only to coastal cities, but also to western suburbs perched on canals that push floodwater east to the Atlantic Ocean.
Little by little, South Florida's elected officials are waking up to the reality that a rising sea has become a critical issue with short- and long-term impacts.
For the first time, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties have joined forces to develop a road map to help deal with the encroaching ocean. The four-county alliance known as the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact has produced a regional climate action plan. The document, masterminded by scientists and public agencies, spells out strategies to adapt to the challenges caused by the rising sea level. The action plan could guide decisions on what, where and how structures should be built or rebuilt in vulnerable areas.
Participants believe the regional effort is the first of its kind in the country.
The action plan recommends counties and cities amend their comprehensive development master plans to include language about the rising sea level and climate change. That would influence decisions and policies on land use, zoning, water management, flood control, clean energy and more.
The plan also recommends that counties and cities identify the areas most vulnerable to inundation and determine the kind of public investment needed for roads, bridges, flood gates, storm drainage and sand dunes, among other things. Increments In Inches
More importantly, the compact provides scientific data on sea-level rise that all the parties seem to embrace. Tides have risen about 3 inches in the past 30 years and about 6 to 7 inches over the past century, according to data collected in Key West, said hydrologist Jeremy Decker with the U.S. Geological Survey.
While Decker concedes "projecting future sea-level rise is quite difficult," the compact projects a rise of 3 to 7 inches by 2030, and 9 to 24 inches by 2060.
With images of crumpled sidewalks on A1Astill fresh in their minds, some elected officials are paying more attention to climate change.
There is enough understanding of the problem among South Florida politicians to suggest the issue will move forward regionally but not at the state level, said Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter.
"The local level is where the rubber meets the road, where the problems become visible," he said. "Mayors and commissioners on a bipartisan basis recognize that they have problems that they need to deal with."
Miami-Dade County commissioners unanimously approved a 2013 legislative agenda to lobby federal and state elected officials to adopt policies in line with the regional climate action plan. Commissioner Sally Heyman sponsored the item at the Jan. 23 meeting. Her district includes the coastal cities from Miami Beach to Golden Beach. Commissioners plan to discuss adopting the compact's action plan to align Miami-Dade's sea-level rise adaptation and mitigation plans with the region Tuesday.
Climate change "is a real concern to me," Heyman said. "Storm Sandy and Hurricane Sandy was a real awakening. We didn't get hurt bad, but it really eroded our beaches in Miami-Dade."
The erosion is dangerous because beaches, especially those with dunes, protect coastal development and infrastructure from flooding.
Sandy, which built into a Category 2 hurricane, was the biggest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, with winds spanning 1,100 miles. The damage estimate stands at $65 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"About 80 percent of our state is coastal," Heyman said. "It really got our attention with what happened in New York."
The storm didn't land in South Florida but coincided with extreme high tides in late October. In November, mid-Atlantic storms again combined with extreme tides to cause a second round of flooding around Thanksgiving. Planning Changes
Until recently, hardly anyone was talking about incorporating sea-level rise into a city or county's comprehensive development master plan, Berry said. "In the last five years we have seen major progress and it's partly because the problems have become more apparent."
The fact that elected officials are discussing sea-level rise is a victory, said James Murley, executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
"There is a change in the attitude that people have," said Murley, a senior associate for energy and climate change at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies. "The most important thing that the compact does, it allows for a healthy discussion about what's going on based on science, and allows different opinions to be proffered."
In November, Miami Beach approved a stormwater management master plan that takes into account the rising sea. The plan will be implemented over a 20-year period at a cost of about $206 million.
"It sets a new design standard for all future projects," said Miami Beach public works director Fred Beckmann. "It takes into account sea-level rise projections for the next 20 years."
The new stormwater system will include backflow preventers, more pump stations, higher seawalls and stormwater storage.
Miami Beach, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Biscayne Bay to the west, is considered a pioneer in making climate change part of its capital improvement planning.
"We are one of the few, if not the only one in Florida, that has taken sea-level rise into consideration when [creating] a stormwater master plan," said Mayor Matti Herrera Bower. Frequent Flooding
She said she knew very little about the issue until she attended summits on climate change and had discussions with city staffers.
The staff turned its attention to the rising sea after a so-called 50-year storm produced flash flooding on June 5, 2009. The city got almost 10 inches of rain, its drainage system was overwhelmed, and flooding was reported in more than 20 locations, Beckmann said.
130204-c Researchers to investigate Everglades ecosystem, climate change
February 4, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa -- Water management in the Florida Everglades is the focus of a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Jose Fuentes, professor of meteorology.
The project will explore the hydrologic, ecologic and economic impacts of management strategies designed to increase the resilience of the Everglades ecosystem to climate variability, climate change and sea level rise. This research is part of a larger, ongoing project at Florida International University looking at coastal ecology and hydrology. The Penn State award is for five years at $300,514.
With southern Florida's population of 6 million projected to grow to 10 million in 20 years, management of urban fresh water becomes critical. Sea level rise and salt-water intrusion into the water table already impact drinking water supplies and threaten low-lying environments as diverse as Miami Beach and the Everglades.
Fuentes, working with Michael Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology, Penn State, will use regional climate change scenarios to develop management strategies that ensure the resilience of water supplies. The researchers will assess approaches to ensuring effective communication of scientific information to stakeholders in the face of potential biases in cognition and perception. They will also try to determine how regional climate change and variability, and sea level rise will affect the future water supply and its management.
130204-d Some environmentalists encouraged by Governor Scott's budget plan
WMFE – by Tom Parkinson
February 4, 2013
When Gov. Scott released his budget proposal last week, some environmentalists were disappointed to see that overall spending on conservation programs is down. But taking a closer look, some groups like the Florida Everglades Foundation, see encouraging signs.
According to the governor’s office, what comes out to about a $225 million dollar reduction in the environmental budget is due to a variety of factors such as a reduction in debt.
But Gov. Scott’s plan also includes a number of increases, like a $30 million dollar bump for Everglades restoration. Eric Eikenberg with the Everglades Foundation says that money will be put to good use.
“We have to continue the conservation agenda to continue the restoration of America’s Everglades.” Eikenberg says. “Even in tough economic times, we have to have a sustainable water supply and the governor’s recommendation continues us on that approach.”
Under the governor’s plan, the Florida Forever fund would also see an increase of more than $66 million dollars, as well as an increase in funding for beach restoration.
130204-e Water district defends Wakulla Springs study delay, pointing finger at previous leadership
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
February 4, 2013
The new leadership at the Northwest Florida Water Management District now is saying that it had become "blatantly obvious" in 2012 that the district never intended to conduct required water flow studies before a leadership change was made.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are facing criticism after the Current reported last month that the district has proposed delaying flow studies for Wakulla Springs by 11 years -- until 2023.
The Legislature in 1972 passed a law requiring "minimum flows and levels" to be established for water bodies few were set by water districts through the 1990s. None have been set in the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
On Monday, former Sen. Bob Graham and Hobe Sound environmentalist Nathaniel Prior Reed cited Wakulla Springs in a column published in the Tampa Bay Times, "Crisis over Florida's waterways calls for action." Graham is chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition and Reed is vice chairman.
The delay for Wakulla Springs "raises serious concerns about the ability of Florida's water management districts to perform their critical missions at current funding and staffing levels," Graham and Reed wrote.
On Monday, the Northwest Florida Water Management District provided the Current with the unsigned memo sent Friday from the agency to "interested parties."
The memo describes delays in setting minimum flows and levels (MFLs) since 1997 when the law was changed to require flow studies for springs, rivers and aquifers that were threatened by water use.
District spokeswoman Lauren Engel said the unsigned memo was developed to address questions raised by reports "unfairly characterizing" as a delay the agency's proposal to conduct the minimum flows and levels in 2023 rather than 2012.
The proposed schedule instead represents "for the first time in district history, a realistic and achievable plan for moving forward with MFL development," Engel wrote in an email.
The memo describes how past district officials had blamed delays on their inability to collect water flow data or perform modeling. However, the memo noted that the district's budget didn't include money for modeling and data collection.
The delays continued until Gov. Rick Scott took office and appointed DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. two years ago, the memo said.
"When a letter was sent to the district asking directly about the lack of MFLs in the district, the district’s response was that the law only required the creation and submittal of a priority list, not the actual creation of any MFLs," the memo said.
"It then became blatantly obvious that the NWFWMD had no intention of following the law and implementing MFLs," the memo said. "It should be noted that an MFL has never been established or implemented for any water body on any of the priority lists submitted by the District."
Water Management District Executive Director Douglas Barr was not among those appointees who were returned to their positions by Scott in March 2012.
Asked why Barr wasn't reappointed, the governor said he didn't want to give reasons for not reappointing anyone. Barr was not immediately available for comment on Monday. Ron Piasecki, chairman of the Wakulla Springs Alliance, said he had not seen the memo and doesn't know of any one who has received it. After reading the memo, he said it offers some hope that the district can set minimum flows and levels for Wakulla Springs earlier than 2023.
"We are still hopeful we can expedite getting MFLs for Wakulla Springs," Piasecki said. Related Research:
* Feb. 1, 2103 NWFWMD memo to "interested parties"
* Feb. 1, 2103 NWFWMD memo attachments [Zipped Folder]
* Jan. 15, 2013 "Water district proposes 11-year delay in setting flows for Wakulla Springs," by The Florida Current
* Feb. 4, 2013 DEP response to Times column by Graham and Reed
130204-f What should happen to Warm Mineral Springs ?
Herald Tribune - by Dale White
February 4, 2013
The Herald-Tribune recently asked readers for their opinions about the North Port City Commission's 3-2 decision to sell the city's half-interest in Warm Mineral Springs.
Nearly 50 readers, mostly North Port residents, responded. Some want the commission majority that favors selling (Mayor Linda Yates and newly elected commissioners Cheryl Cook and Rhonda DiFranco) to rescind the decision. Others want the city to accept Sarasota County's buy-out offer so the county can negotiate with a private developer to enhance the tourist attraction. Still offers think the 81-acre property should be in private ownership again.
Here is a sampling of the comments: Hilda M. Boron, North Port, secretary of the Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeological Society: "I, for one, think that the county commissioners should offer North Port the traditional $1... Not only that, I think the county should go ahead and meet with those that will bid to run the Springs. Invite North Port to the meeting. When a vote comes up there will be at least six votes for anything the county decides on." Michael Raby, North Port: "Sell it. The government has no business being in business. This should be in private hands and back on the tax roll." Christine M. Totten, Englewood: "Practically all European mineral water resorts are owned by the state or a municipality. They all operate in the black and add to the fame and to the attraction of their location." Patti Byrski, Punta Gorda: "My family has had a home in Warm Mineral Springs since 1976... Build a nice motel-cabin village concept surrounding the springs. Maybe an Indian theme. Make it a family destination... Warm Mineral Springs is not Naples; so, do not try to make it be!" Horst Grassmann, North Port: "I personally would leave the Springs just the way it is. To develop the Springs, the way I see it, is wrong. The reason: development brings traffic and it would change the tranquility of a beautiful natural setting." Dave Shremshock, North Port: "I have been a resident here for many years and have been waiting for the city to snatch up this diamond in the rough, polish her up and see what happens. I thought it was a nice start with the agreement with the county and the proposed joint effort... Instead of giving up we should be moving forward and working harder to make things better." James Sawyer, North Port: "The city of North Port should not sell Warm Mineral Springs... I think it was a good idea for Sarasota County and the city of North Port to reach out to negotiate with private enterprises to see what ideas the private sector has." Jill Luke, North Port: "I believe the purpose of the joint commissions at the time of the purchase should be followed." Denise Courtney, North Port: "Warm Mineral Springs is an environment of beauty and if properly developed it will in no way change that beauty and will bring more tourism to this area. I believe some of our new commissioners are not looking at the whole and future picture and are listening to the words of one person's opinion. A sorry time for North Port." Janice Collins, Venice: "It is not clear to me how those residents who are clamoring for the Springs to be 'put back on the tax rolls' think this will be accomplished by selling North Port's share to the county (which is one option)... In my opinion, the city residents' interests would have been better served by the commission maintaining their half interest. That would allow them to have a voice at the table as to what eventually happens." Edward G. Siderits, North Port: "It is time for government to get out of business. They can't even get their own house in order let alone trying to do outside business. What happens if the spring gets colder, or more polluted, or maybe a big sinkhole drains the spring? Who is out the money then? The taxpayers! The people are tired of government using our money to buy things we don't want like the spring and professional stadiums. It's time for them to take care of government business and our city. That's why I voted for Linda Yates, Cheryl Cook and Rhonda DiFranco." Jono Miller, Sarasota: "It is always heartwrenching when the parents are in the living room arguing whether they are getting back together, separating or getting a divorce while the child stands silently in the doorway, unattended. Warm Mineral Springs is the child and the Springs' needs should be addressed regardless of whatever the county and city decide to do... The county has demonstrated it is serious about keeping the Springs in public ownership with its $2 million buyout offer, which would make the county the sole owner. But instead I would advocate partnering with the Southwest Florida Water Management District." Janet Schumann, North Port: "I believe everything possible should be done to retain Warm Mineral Springs and not turn it over to the county... I think we have a great opportunity to put North Port on the map and still not break the bank." Ellen Bick Asmussen, Sarasota: "Major tourist attraction? Never! Warm Mineral Springs has the clientele and ambiance of a slice of Europe... If one wants to ruin Warm Mineral Springs, then clone it just like every other local attraction. What one must do is encourage the public to enjoy the fine unique ambiance of what it is now!" Becky Zremski, Sarasota: "Sarasota County should buy Warm Mineral Springs. The Springs should return to a more natural setting and be for health, nature and recreation... There could be walking and fitness trails, separate from the fee of enjoying the waters of the Springs. Sarasota County Parks should manage Warm Mineral Springs."Edward Bush, North Port: "Rather than address issues when they have an equal seat at the negotiating table, some (city) commissioners determined the best way to prevent over-commercialization is to put Sarasota County and potential buyers of North Port's interest in complete control. If there are no known financial issues that would have a serious impact on North Port, Warm Mineral Springs should remain as an equally shared resource to be developed for the benefit of the city and Sarasota County." Chris Bates, Sarasota: "Sarasota County should purchase North Port's ownership and keep the mineral springs as a park. At all costs access to the park should always be open to everyone and not restricted by age or the size of your wallet... Also, leasing a small portion of the property to a resort spa hotel that would have access to the springs, but not in control, of them, would provide additional income to the county." Ray N. Stoner, president of Friends of Warm Mineral Springs: "How many times does officialdumb have to be told by their employer, the taxpayers of North Port, that they do not want their government involved in any more private-public business ventures? ... This message was made loud and clear to the then-sitting commissioners, who then in their omniscience, ignored the voters and bought out Cypress Lending... The taxpayers were outraged and at the next election two of the perpetrators were voted out of office." Doreen Eastwood, North Port: "Major mistake! North Port is fortunate to own a half interest in such a valuable property. If we lost it, we shall always regret it." Jodi Johnson, North Port: "... the City Commission's actions have been embarrassing and show a lack of ability in fully understanding the importance of this site... We have a responsibility to this spring and the City Commission's flip flopping and lack of desire to work jointly with the county is coming at a huge loss to the city, its citizens, and doing an injustice to one of the most valuable sites in America." Norm Fitzgerald, North Port: "I believe the North Port commissioners are totally wrong. Following the recent election, I was optimistic North Port could finally enjoy some credible leadership. Sadly, as the newly elected commissioners and mayor have proven, that is not the case... If North Port maintains control over the Springs, it has the potential to make a lot more money for North Port than (property) tax revenues." Donna Sherman, North Port: "Sell. Sell. Sell. I don't think we should have purchased it in the first place... Please keep the city focus on fire, safety, utilities and keeping the tax money in budget." Stanley Cruden, North Port: "As a new full-time senior citizen resident of North Port, I am dismayed at the apparent unknown motive of the two new city commissioners... While a sale to a private operator would put the property back on the tax rolls, I think all parties — the city, county, residents and worldwide visitors included – would best benefit by keeping the ownership as is. Leasing the property to a responsible operator could bring more money than tax revenues as the Springs is modernized and promoted." Richard Dixon, North Port: "I agree North Port should not own part of Warm Mineral Springs. Our taxes should not be used to finance private ventures." Toni and Dennis Rash, Port Charlotte: "I feel it behooves the state of Florida to purchase this unusual property and turn it into a state operated facility-park." Jackie Rowe, Bradenton: "Makes me wonder what would have happened to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone if we hadn't had the foresight to set some land aside for all to appreciate and enjoy." Jim Pack, North Port: "In my opinion, the city of North Port doesn't have much of a clue as to the true potential of this local landmark because the commissioners have little insight as to the true health value others place on the Springs." Bill Gibson, North Port: "Go back to previously approved partnership/contract and get to work. Find a common ground on use and development." Walter DeAnna, North Port: "We finally have a City Commission that is displaying some effort at restoring fiscal responsibility to North Port... May our new leaders continue on this path of responsible government." Steve Christian, Venice: "I do not understand why the North Port Commission has chosen to sell their half. By doing that, they give up all control. When the ostrich stuck his head in the sand did all his problems go away? I understand that it was a split vote so some sanity does exist within the commission." Margaret Jean Cannon, Sarasota: "It was disappointing to me that North Port could not see the jewel (in the rough) that they have with Warm Mineral Springs... This could be a top health destination with just a little help and perhaps a partnership with business could really make this happen." Paul J. Valois, North Port: "First, we must ask what precautions are needed to protect this treasure and not act irresponsibly. Before building anything in the area, like a hotel, there should be a study — including a seismic study to determine the stability of the ground surface. Then there is the water quality issue... Too many questions need to be answered before we jump."
130103-a DEP's part-time $83-an-hour employee helped oversee layoffs and agency shakeup
Tampa Bay Times - by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
February 3, 2013
Randy Greene, who lives in Brandon, turned down a full-time job in Tallahassee.
To hear him tell it, Brandon business executive Randall F. "Randy" Greene never wanted the job he has with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that pays $83 an hour.
"I've never worked for any public entity before," said Greene, 63, a Palatka native with a Wharton School MBA.
Greene didn't even apply for the newly created post of chief operating officer, a job that put him in the driver's seat during a recent agency shakeup involving the layoffs of 58 veteran employees.
After Gov. Rick Scott was elected, Greene said, he applied for an unpaid position on the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board, which oversees water use permitting in a 16-county area.
In his application, he cited no prior experience with government or environmental regulation. He didn't mention his stint with a chemical company or his work coaching CEOs. Instead his application touted his background as a subdivision developer from 1977 to 2000 and as a utility company president from 1977 to 1984.
But when Greene sat for an interview with DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard in mid 2011, Vinyard offered to name him the COO.
Why the head of the DEP decided to hire the former developer for an agency position that did not previously exist is a mystery.
When a Times reporter tried to ask Vinyard about Greene's employment during a public meeting in Tallahassee, Vinyard said he did not trust the newspaper to tell his side, turned and walked away without answering the question.
In response to further interview requests, a week later Vinyard's staff emailed a three-paragraph statement from Vinyard that called Greene "an incredible asset to DEP," and declared, "Our environment and Florida's taxpayers benefit from Randy's service to our state." However, the statement did not say why Vinyard hired him.
According to Greene, Vinyard needed his part-time help because "it's a large agency with a lot of operational issues. He has a lot on his plate. My charge was to look at all the operations of the agency and see what could be improved."
The DEP, which is supposed to protect Florida's natural resources, manage state parks and enforce environmental laws, has an annual budget of $1.4 billion and employs more than 3,000 people.
Greene said Vinyard gave him no contract or written directions, just told him to make DEP more efficient. He started in September 2011. In a five-page memo to Vinyard listing what he has done during the past year, Greene included these accomplishments:
• Initiated a reorganization of the Tampa district office, including hiring a new director and assistant director.
• Consulted on the reorganization of the DEP's Division of Water Resources Management in Tallahassee, including interviewing candidates for the new deputy DEP director to head it up.
• Interviewed candidates for at least eight more upper management jobs at the agency, including director and assistant director of the agency overseeing all state lands.
• Negotiated the state's takeover of the Silver Springs amusement park so it can be converted into a true state park.
• Recommended opening up Wakulla Springs to recreational divers, a controversial move that springs advocates warned could endanger the state-owned property. After a contentious public hearing, state park officials decided against it.
Greene's memo says he helped lead the reorganization of the two agency sections that saw 58 layoffs, some of them veterans of 20 years or more. However, Greene said, "I didn't make the decision on which program administrators to retain." But he said he "might have" made some recommendations about which ones should get the ax.
As part of the Tampa reorganization, Greene said, he interviewed people whose companies are regulated by the DEP — big utilities, engineering companies and environmental consultants.
"Their perspective was interesting but it didn't make any difference in the decisionmaking," he said.
Greene's memo on his work product did not mention one of his least popular tasks: He wrote a two-page memo for the agency's deputy secretaries explaining the best way to handle layoffs and firings.
Greene's work has apparently satisfied Vinyard. Originally hired for $75 an hour, he got an $8 raise to $83 in July, at a time when state employees hadn't gotten a raise in six years. A review of his time sheets shows he earned about $103,000 in 2012.
But Greene's employment may be illegal, according to Doug Martin, legislative director for the Florida chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
When Vinyard first tried to hire Greene as a full-time employee, Greene said no. His wife had just gone through cancer treatment and he did not want to uproot his 12-year-old daughter to move to Tallahassee, he explained.
So Vinyard changed the offer: instead of a full-time job, he said he would hire Greene under a category known as "Other Personal Services," OPS for short. That way he could work his own hours and commute to Tallahassee every week from Brandon. Greene agreed to that arrangement, although it means he gets no vacation or other benefits, he spends eight hours a week on the road and most of the week he sleeps in a hotel instead of at home.
State law describes OPS employees as being in "a temporary employer/employee relationship used solely for the completion of short-term, temporary, or intermittent tasks," Martin noted. The way Greene has been employed "doesn't sound proper," he said, especially since he's filling a position that wasn't approved by the Legislature's budget bosses.
The way Greene was hired "sounds like an end run around the authority of the Legislature," he said. "Even for Florida government, this is shocking,"
DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie said the agency is convinced Greene's employment does not violate the law's requirements because he is not considered to be management, doesn't have anyone reporting to him and works part-time. His time sheets show that in some two-week periods he put in fewer than 40 hours, while in others he worked nearly 70.
After more than a year, Greene said he sees plenty more to keep him busy at the DEP. But he has no idea how much longer Vinyard will keep him on the payroll: "I serve at the pleasure of the secretary."
130103-b Governor's proposed budget: Act of self-preservation
TheLedger.com - Editorial
February 3, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott laid out his proposed state budget Thursday in Tallahassee. The Legislature could use Scott's budget as a starting point when its annual session opens in March, or it could rip the proposal into confetti.
No matter the outcome, Scott will have gained political value by numerically defining policy shifts that are aimed at softening his record as a just-say-no slasher of state services.
Scott has learned that broad swaths of Florida's voters place great importance on state services — education, for instance — on which he had been brutal during his first year in office, 2011.
Indeed, in a December 2011 meeting with the Editorial Board, when asked what issue he was hearing about most as he visited residents across the state, Scott said education.
So it came as no surprise that educators from around Florida — including State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan and University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, and many from K-12 public schools — formed a smiling semi-circle of support behind Scott as he unveiled the highlights of what he has named the Florida Families First budget.
The question is whether Scott's budget for July 2013 through June 2014 — the last full fiscal year before the November 2014 election — is aimed more at supporting state needs and residents' desires for state action, or his own need to reverse his status as one of the nation's worst-ranked governors in polls.
If passed, Scott's budget would set a spending record of $74.2 billion. It would exceed the state's largest budget, $73.8 billion in 2006-2007, by $400 million. And it would tower over the $69.9 billion budget signed by Scott last summer — a $4.3 billion increase.
EDUCATION: Scott got public school cuts of $1.3 billion in the first budget he signed. For this fiscal year, Scott sought a public school rebound and signed off on an increase of $1 billion, although that only offset growth in the school system. For 2013-2014, Scott seeks an increase of $1.25 billion.
The flagship feature is a $2,500 raise for all public school teachers. The raise would consume $480 million of the $1.25 billion for K-12 schools.
Funding per student would increase $412, from $6,387 to $6,799 as a state average. In Polk, it would increase $400, from $6,290 to $6,690.
The increases brought praise from educators across the state. In Bartow, interim Superintendent of Schools John Stewart said, "It is only natural I would applaud any action that would help us accomplish our mission of providing a high-quality education for all students."
STATE WORKERS: Employees have received no raise since 2006. In 2007, state workers received a one-time bonus of $1,000. Scott proposes one-time bonuses: $1,200 for those with a satisfactory evaluation, and, for as much as 35 percent of the workers, $2,500 for a commendable evaluation and $5,000 for an outstanding evaluation. State workers totaling 2,447 would lose their jobs; 1,200 vacant positions would be cut.
BUSINESS: Sales tax on equipment for businesses would be eliminated, at a cost of $115 million. About 2,000 businesses would be exempted from the corporate income tax at a cost of $20 million. Scott's long-term plan is to eliminate the tax, as a stimulus.
However, the compounding of such cuts in state revenue by Scott and his recent predecessors has withered the state's income, resulting in reduced services and no raises. These business perks would further limit government's ability to meet its obligations. ENVIRONMENT: Spending on Everglades restoration would double to $60 million. Florida Forever, a program that buys environmental land for safekeeping, would receive $75 million after appearing all but dead in recent years. However, $50 million of the land-buying money would come from selling protected land that is now considered surplus.
The proposed expenditures are laudable.
However, the recent dismissal of the 58 of the most accomplished and experienced environmental experts in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has undermined the state's ability to fend off threats to the quality of water, air and land.
Many aspects of Scott's budget would be improvements. Conversely, many cuts would weaken the state's well-being. If the Legislature uses Scott's budget as a reference, it must rectify these pitfalls.
130103-c More public land will be assessed
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
February 3, 2013
Environmentalists were keeping tabs last year as the Southwest Florida Water Management District was going through a state-mandated review of all of the tens of thousands of acres it has purchased to figure out whether all of the real estate was still needed.
There was one heart-stopping moment in the middle of the process when one of Swiftmud's governing board members floated the idea of selling off all of the land on the southeast shoreline of Lake Hancock that wasn't needed for a couple of water projects that already were under way.
That land has been proposed for a new trail system to open more of the land around the lake to the public.
When the dust settled, the idea never went anywhere, and the only property that will be sold off is property farther from the lake that still has some development entitlements and some property with U.S. 98 frontage on the other side of the lake.
Now, the neighboring South Florida Water Management District is beginning to review its 750,000 acres, and environmentalists are getting edgy again.
The review is starting in the northern part of the district, which includes sections of Polk, Osceola and Orange counties.
These properties are on the review list: Tibet-Butler Preserve, a 438-acre preserve near Lake Buena Vista that is one of reintroduction sites for the endangered scrub lupine and has a nature center operated by Orange County. Shingle Creek Swamp, a 2,431-acre natural area containing a scenic blackwater stream that runs through an intact wetland forest corridor north and south of U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. It sometimes is referred to as the northernmost headwaters stream for the Everglades. Reedy Creek and Marion Creek, a pair of natural creek systems covering 12,915 acres of water
130103-d Scott takes up environmental cause
NewsChief.com - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
February 3, 2013
Has Rick Scott, the governor who dismantled the state's land-planning agency and changed the direction of the Department of Environmental Protection, suddenly become a pro-environment governor?
Judging from the reaction to the governor's $74.2 billion budget plan from environmental advocates, who have been critical of some of the Scott administration's decisions, that might be the case. It might also be another sign of the governor repositioning himself for his 2014 election.
Scott is advancing two major environmental proposals that drew praise from the environmentalists.
Scott's plan — subject to legislative approval — would double state funding for the restoration of the Everglades, the once-vast South Florida wetlands that plays a critical role in the state's ecology and water supply. Scott wants to spend $60 million on the project in the 2013-2014 budget year.
"Restoring America's Everglades means re-establishing its natural water flow to the 2.4 million-acre marsh, reviving habitat for more than 60 threatened species, creating a reliable water supply for millions of Floridians and providing flood control to South Florida," the budget plan said.
The money would be used to continue the state's comprehensive plan to restore the water system. Additionally, Scott noted his budget also contains money for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to find ways to further limit any farm-related pollution in the area.
That action drew this statement of thanks from Eric Eikenberg, head of the Everglades Foundation.
"We strongly support his recommendation to provide $60 million for Everglades restoration," Eikenberg said. "We appreciate the governor's commitment to Everglades restoration and we believe the Florida Legislature will more than match his recommendation."
But Scott didn't stop there. He also surprised some by asking to spend $75 million in the coming year on Florida Forever, the state's landmark environmental program that, along with its predecessors, has allowed the state to preserve more than 2.4 million acres over the past two decades.
In Scott's first two years in office, the program — which once had an annual budget of $300 million — dwindled to $8 million. Its future also was cast in doubt by Scott's firm reluctance to issue new bonds as part of his effort to reduce the state's debt.
Environmental groups were pushing for a $100 million Florida Forever program next year, arguing the state was on the verge of paying off a series of previous land-buying bonds that would free up more than $250 million. The DEP, the agency that oversees the program, backed a plan that would generate $50 million for land purchases financed by the sale of "surplus" land that already had been acquired.
Scott met the environmentalists halfway with a $75 million proposal, adding $25 million in state funding on top of the DEP's plan to sell off $50 million worth of land.
Plenty of questions remain about the proposal, including whether the state can find and sell $50 million worth of land without threatening the value of some of its preservation holdings.
Nonetheless, Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said Scott deserves credit for both the Everglades funding as well as his increase for the Florida Forever program.
"This looks like an environmental budget," said Draper, who had personally lobbied the governor and Cabinet in December to increase spending on the Florida Forever program. "We're back in a place where we're seeing serious political support for environmental spending.
"We're hopeful that the Legislature will adopt these parts of the governor's budget."
WINNER OF THE WEEK
The University of Florida. UF was singled out in Scott's budget plan for a special $15 million appropriation that is designed to help the school hire more faculty in an effort to achieve top 10 status as a public university. The question remains how the funding will fare in the legislative process when the other universities are likely to ask, where's mine?
LOSERS OF THE WEEK
Hospitals. Scott, a former private hospital executive, brings a great deal of scrutiny to Medicaid spending among Florida hospitals. He thinks the money can be spent more efficiently. Along those lines, he is advocating an $82 million cut in Medicaid spending for hospital in-patient rates in the next year. Bruce Rueben, head of the Florida Hospital Association, told the Tampa Bay Times that compared to a proposed budget cut of $2 billion last year, this budget is "clearly a better start."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"It's going to be a Shakespearean play where everyone dies in the end," former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer told the Miami New Times about his upcoming trial on corruption charges, where he is expected to try to tarnish some of the state's top Republican leaders.
130103-e SFWMD land surplus plan draws questions
TheLedger - by Tom Palmer
February 3, 2013
Last year when the Southwest Florida Water Management District was going through a state-mandated review of all of the tens of thousands of acres it has purchased to figure out whether all of the real estate was still needed, environmentalists were keeping tabs on the process.
There was one heart-stopping moment in the middle of the process when one of Swiftmud’s Governing Board members floated the idea of selling off all of land on the southeast shoreline of Lake Hancock that wasn’t needed for a couple of water projects that were already under way.
That land has been proposed for a new trail system to open more of the land around the lake to the public.
When the dust settled, the idea never went anywhere and the only property that will be sold off was property farther from the lake that still has some development entitlements and some property with U.S. 98 frontage on the other side of the lake.
Now the South Florida Water Management District is beginning its review of its 750,000 acres and environmentalists are getting edgy again.
The review is starting in the northern part of the district, which includes sections of Polk, Osceola and Orange counties.
The properties on the review list are:
Tibet-Butler Preserve, a 438-acre preserve near Lake Buena Vista that is one of reintroduction sites for the endangered scrub lupine and has a nature center operated by Orange County.
Shingle Creek Swamp, a 2,431-acre natural area containing scenic blackwater stream that runs through an intact wetland forest corridor north and south of U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. It is sometimes referred to as the northernmost headwaters stream for the Everglades.
Reedy Creek and Marion Creek, a pair of natural creek systems covering 12,915 acres of water management district lands. The creeks flow through a still relatively undeveloped corridor between Kissimmee and Haines City. Some additional land along the creeks is owned by Polk County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sumica, a 4,009-acre mosaic of marshes, pinewoods and oak hammocks east of Lake Wales that is jointly owned by the water management district and Polk County and managed by Polk County’s Environmental Lands Program.
There was some early concern that the decision to sell off any of this land would be based primarily on whether the water management district received much public comment.
SFWMD officials have clarified this somewhat by saying it will also be based on input from the staff, though anyone who wants to make sure this property remains in conservation shouldn’t be hesitant about speaking up.
There will be a public meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 12 at SFWMD’s Field Station, 3800 Old Canoe Creek Road, St. Cloud.
The deadline to submit public comments is Feb. 18. The comment form asks what properties you use, what forms of recreation you pursue there and whether its use matches the agency’s core mission..
To comment, go to the comment page on the website.
The issue is scheduled to go to SFWMD’s Governing Board in West Palm Beach in March.
The review of the other regions will follow a similar format, including the 30-day comment period.
Some other lands in the area will be part of future evaluations.
That will be the Kissimmee-Okeechobee region, which includes the land along the Kissimmee River and other land around the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The other regions are East Coast, West Coast and Everglades.
For more information on the assessment program, go to its webpage.
130203-f Sugar industry would wither without big government
Washington Examiner – by Tim Carney
February 3, 2013
SOUTH BAY, Fla. -- From a distance it looks as if tornadoes are churning in the fields. But as you get closer, you see that the dark plumes are clouds of black smoke. And if your smell is keen enough, you realize it's sugar cane that's burning.
Trucks hauling trailers full of cane stalks crowd the northbound lanes of Route 27 for a stretch just south of Lake Okeechobee. In the southbound lanes the trailers are empty. They're running between the cane fields that dominate this northernmost part of the Everglades and the Okeelanta sugar mill, owned by the Fanjul family.
The Fanjuls are the most important family in the Okeechobee area. Sugar is easily the most important industry. So it's no wonder that folks here are protective of the federal programs that prop up the industry at the expense of its customers.
"I'm not supportive of that NAFTA business," sugar farmer James Dickson tells me over a Miller Lite at Tiki Bar, on the shore of Okeechobee in Clewiston, Fla. By "that NAFTA business," Dickson is speaking generally about free trade. Dickson supports, without apology, current federal restrictions on importing sugar.
By reducing supply, these restrictions drive up the price that Dickson's Enterprises receives for each pound of refined sugar. Last fiscal year, Americans paid about 69.9 cents per pound of refined sugar. The world price was less than 27.8 cents.
How to justify such punishing protectionism? "Go down to Brazil," Dickson says. "Check out the working conditions." Brazil's labor costs are much lower, and so are its environmental regulations. "They do stuff to their sugar we would never do."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has a similar defense: Brazil subsidizes its sugar, and so if we allow sugar imports, Rubio said last summer on CNBC, "You're going to wipe out your agricultural industry."
You hear these arguments to justify any sort of protectionism. There's some validity to the view that an existing industry is worth protecting from rapid upheaval.
But this is a bit rich coming from Florida's sugar cane industry, which was born as a heavy-handed, almost radical experiment by federal and state government, and which has always relied on big government for profit.
Drive through a cane field, and you'll see why sugar growers cluster around Okeechobee: A series of man-made canals, built by Florida's progressive governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward before World War I and later maintained and expanded by the Army Corps of Engineers, drain this portion of the Everglades in order to make it arable. They also provide irrigation.
Without the massive government effort that transformed the ecosystem of this giant swamp, there would be little or no Florida cane.
The federal government also made it possible for the industry to get cheap labor from the Bahamas and Jamaica. Through the British West Indies program, which was created during the Great Depression, "the United States government played a direct role in negotiating employment contracts for offshore laborers," explained Everglades historian David McCally. Uncle Sam even paid to ferry cane-cutters from the islands to Florida.
The guest-worker program put in place exploitative pay levels and work rules. For its part, Florida helped the industry by making it difficult or even illegal for cane cutters to quit. One farmer, lobbying the USDA against allowing Puerto Rican cutters, explained his reason: "Labor transported from the Bahama Islands can be deported and sent home, if it does not work, which cannot be done in the instance of labor from domestic United States or Puerto Rico."
Cane is no longer cut by hand. Field workers burn off the leaves -- producing the columns of black smoke -- and tractors are used to gather the stalks and put them on trucks. But Dickson remembers the days of hiring Caribbean workers. "You would check them out like they were cattle," he said. "You would look at their hands. You would make them take off their shirt."
Without the Army Corps of Engineers' dredging and building, the cane growers wouldn't have the soil or the irrigation they need. Without Washington's decades of rigging the labor market, the companies wouldn't have had the workers they needed before mechanization. Now the industry says it deserves to be protected from foreign competition. And the growers are putting their profits behind the fight.
Sugar mogul Pepe Fanjul has been hosting fundraisers for Rubio since he entered the 2010 Senate race as a heavy underdog. Dickson has given $6,800 to the Florida Sugar Cane League, which hires former staff from the USDA and congressional agriculture committees to lobby to preserve the sugar program.
Florida sugar cane is an industry literally built on big government, and growers know it will wither in a free market.
Early Europeans were
confounded by Florida's
terrain. There was more
water than land, making
mapping difficult. Note
the marked mountains
which don't exist, and
no sign of Lake
130103-g When conch shells were sharpened into knives
NewsSun.com – by Christopher Tuffley
February 3, 2013
LAKE PLACID -- "Most people are surprised there's archeology in Florida," Catherine Smith told her audience Thursday.
In fact, not only are there thousands of years of history to study, but the indigenous people of Florida have confounded scientists and upset long held theories, she said.
Smith is a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University and resident at the Lawrence E. Will Museum of the Glades. She gave a presentation, sponsored by the Lake Placid Historical Society and held at the Woman's Club, Thursday about the Glades Period (500 BC - 1500 AD) indigenous people.
Smith said a complex, highly sophisticated society known as the Belle Glade Culture developed in Central Florida, populating an area roughly from north of Avon Park to south of Clewiston, and all around Lake Okeechobee. Because its people lived in harmony with the waters of Central Florida, they are also known as the Water People. People of the water
Smith put their story into a geographical context.
At the time Spanish explorers first arrived in Florida, she said, there was more water than land. Lakes and rivers mostly drained south into the Everglades creating wet lands and swamps that blended into bays, rivers and lakes.
Lake Istokpoga was much larger -- today's caladium fields well under water -- and part of a well traveled water route to Lake Okeechobee, which was also much bigger. Long gone rivers created significant flow through the lakes. Travelers could go in any direction, which was convenient for locals, but confusing to strangers. Spanish explorers go in circles
The terrain was hot, harsh and flat, flat, flat. Stretches of saw grass, palmetto palms, cypress swamps and wet prairies went on to the horizon, broken only by occasional hammocks of live oak or pine.
The first Spaniards found themselves overwhelmed in the beginning. Not only were conditions hard, but finding their way and creating maps were almost impossible. The vast expanses of water and saw grass confused them. They kept going in circles and getting lost.
"It was almost impossible to figure where you were in Florida," Smith told the audience. "It was hard to get to the interior."
That is if you were a European.
The Water People, having settled in the Lake Okeechobee basin thousands of years earlier, had no such difficulty. Not only did they navigate the area with ease, they improved it and adapted it to their use, building a network of canals and slews connected into a widespread water borne network, "like Venice, but on a bigger scale," Smith said.
"While Europeans struggled, the indigenous people took a tough environment and mastered it," she added. "That's pretty impressive, because it was not an easy place to live. They couldn't grow crops because the sand had no nutrients. They had no rock or stone. The Water People were resourceful, because they had to be." Upsetting scientific theories
Smith explained how The Belle Glades Culture has revolutionized scholarly thinking. For decades scientists believed it was the development of agriculture that allowed societies to advance.
She said. "We know that's not true, because of what happened in Florida. There had to have been more going on."
The fact that communities in Florida -- which were hunter-gathers exclusively - not only thrived, but became master engineers with power over others, upsets that long held idea. A new hypothesis, Smith explained, suggests that instead of agriculture, settling in one place with a stable food supply may be what makes it possible for a society to advance.
In any case, Smith said the Water People were inventive, creatively adapting local resources.
They were fine engineers, Smith added, pointing to the extended networks of canals. Even more impressive, she said, are the many burial and habitation mounds scattered throughout Central Florida.
Many people, Smith said, think of the mounds as primitive because they were constructed out of local muck and soil.
"But these mounds were massive -- huge," she said. From the remains it is estimated many had walls 20 feet high. Building them required a large workforce and tons of material.
"To even have the idea to build something up, in such a flat land, took imagination," Smith said. "It took a design plan and math to create their mounds and community centers," adding it also required coordinated team work. We know this because all the remains have the same layout, careful workmanship and balanced portions, she said.
The Water People were practical, Smith said. Early on they recognized their central location allowed control of the water traffic, and so to demands of tribute. Blood flowed in the water
Smith said the Belle Glade Culture was not laid back and passive. Evidence suggests it was just the opposite -- aggressive and territorial.
For example, when the Spanish came ashore, indigenous people on the coast -- who were themselves fierce -- warned the Europeans not to go into the interior. Worse people live there, they warned. Don't go near the lake, bad things happen there. People who go, the Spanish were told, do not came back.
Smith said skulls recovered in the area show the kind of damage that is caused by jamming a severed head on a stick. She said it is highly likely these skulls were stuck on poles as a warning for strangers.
As it turned out, the Spanish got their bearings and proceeded to spread disease and wreck havoc. By the time the British gained control of the peninsula in 1763 the last of the Water People in the Okeechobee area were fleeing to Key West and from there to Cuba.
The Belle Glade Culture was gone.
For years the land remained empty of people, until Creeks, escaping the increasingly crowded and hostile states of Alabama and Georgia, began their migration into Florida, leading to the rise of the Seminole and Miccosukee nations.
130102-a Bob Graham: Fix bay with RESTORE Act
News Herald - by Jacqueline Bostick
February 2, 2013 at 20:16 PM.
PANAMA CITY — Former Gov. Bob Graham on Saturday urged the use of RESTORE Act funds to ensure the future of Apalachicola Bay.
Graham, also a former U.S. senator, spoke at a press conference at Florida State University Panama City, directing state citizens’ attention to the opportunity the Apalachicola Bay has to be restored through the settlement that could be as much as $20 billion.
“We need to be sure, that when it comes to Florida and its share of those funds, that the Apalachicola, which has been one of the major contributors to the quality of the Gulf of Mexico … that it gets proper attention so that it can be back to its historic levels.”
Graham said the RESTORE Act calls for allocating 80 percent of the funds received through the settlement to restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.
The press conference was called during the annual Books Alive conference of writers. Graham, who wrote the book “Intelligence Matters,” was one of the guest speakers.
Graham challenged state citizens to take steps to visit the bay, conserve water and call on state government leaders to confront water overuse by neighboring states.
“I urge you to contact Governor Scott and our state leaders and ask them to add their voices to the request of the Corps of Engineers for the establishment of policies that will assure the Apalachicola does not get left out of the allocation of the water that’s coming through this system,” Graham said, adding that “Florida needs to be a leader by example” and conserve water as well.
Apalachicola Riverkeeper representative Dan Tonsmeire highlighted the dire need for immediate attention to the bay.
“While the drought takes its toll, the additional thousand to three thousand cubic feet per second that is removed from the rivers in ground water for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes are then evaporated through the reservoirs, increase the damage and decrease the resiliency of the system to recover as it would under less strenuous conditions,” Tonsmeire said.
The decline of the river’s flowing area has disrupted fish habitat, forest and seafood harvest, hitting the oyster industry especially hard.
Former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Allan Bense said the river itself, aside from industry and marine life, is beautiful and a part of Florida’s history.
“We can’t continue to allow water to go into agricultural uses in Georgia and parts of Alabama because by the time it comes to Florida, there’s nothing left,” Bense said.
“We’ve got stand up … we can’t just allow lawyers to fight the fight; we have to fight the fight as citizens of Northwest Florida,” he said.
130202-b Lake Apopka targeted for $4.8 million in restoration projects
Orlando Sentinel - by Ludmilla Lelis
February 2, 2013
Dredging. More aquatic plants. Fish attractors. And new techniques to remove the phosphorus.
Those are the $4.8 million in projects funded by a legislative appropriation last year and planned for this year as the next stage in restoring the long-troubled Lake Apopka.
State legislators and Orange and Lake county officials learned more about the environmental projects at a meeting this week in Winter Garden about Lake Apopka's restoration.
Several attendees discussed Lake Apopka's future in ecotourism, particularly for birding, trails and fishing. That will be discussed at an upcoming summit in Mount Dora, planned for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Mount Dora Community Building.
Following questions on a wildlife refuge declaration for the area, state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said such action would be premature.
"I am all for it at the right time in the right way," said Hays, who hosted the meeting with state Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka. "But if we do it now, it would torpedo the work taking place.
"We want to clean up this lake. I'm not in favor of prematurely approving a declaration that would inhibit the cleanup," Hays said.
Of the upcoming projects, about $3 million of the appropriation will pay for dredging near Winter Garden and Magnolia Park in Apopka to remove about 50 acres worth of muck, with $150,000 to test the use of "geotubes" as a wave breaker. About $600,000 will be spent on new techniques for removing phosphorus.
About $850,000 million will be spent on planting aquatic vegetation to help rebuild the habitat for fish. Steve Shea with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the project includes the planting of bulrush, a perennial grass-like sedge, and spatterdock, another wetland plant.
Last year, about 2,900 spatterdock and 60,000 bulrush were planted as a test and the survival rate was good, Shea said. About 30 acres of the lake bottom were planted.
Though the low lake levels in Apopka have been a concern to some, Shea said that creates the ideal situation to plant.
"If the water is too deep, we can't plant," Shea said. "We're trying to capitalize on the drought and establish these plants this year."
About $200,000 will be spent on building about 30 "fish attractors" or artificial habitats that would be set up throughout the lake, concentrated near the public boat ramps and the Apopka-Beauclair canal, said Dale Jones, also with the wildlife commission.
The attractors consist of brush, anchored by concrete blocks, that mimic a habitat.
Construction of the fish attractors and the aquatic planting are expected to start this spring.
130202-c Much progress being made to restore Everglades, work still needed
February 2, 2013
(BLACK PR WIRE) – The Everglades is one of the most prized ecosystems on Earth. It provides a home for rare and endangered plants and animals, provides fresh water and flood control for a 16-county region of south Florida, and is known world-over for its vast and glittering wetlands.
Today the Everglades is being restored, however the picture was not always as rosy.
For nearly a century, America's Everglades was ditched and drained to make way for development in central and south Florida. Approximately half of the famed River of Grass disappeared; and areas that did remain often suffered from water of a poor quality, and in the wrong amounts.
In the 1970s, efforts began to restore the greater Everglades ecosystem. One of the earliest, and to date most successful projects, is the Kissimmee River restoration at its headwaters. Now, many other programs and projects are under way as well. Ground is being broken for individual projects across the region. Important water quality programs have been developed and are being implemented. And new science and research is being conducted every year.
Perhaps the single most important effort is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) approved by Congress in 2000. This plan will "get the water right" throughout the 16-county ecosystem.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are taking the lead conducting these restoration programs and projects.
Just this past January 2013, more than 300 Everglades advocates and leaders gathered at the 28th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Coral Gables, Fla. to discuss restoration highlights, action that needs to take place, and participate in field trips and other events. Both Democratic and Republican leaders alike often are very supportive of Everglades restoration, in a truly bipartisan effort.
Speakers included Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar; Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, along with many other elected and appointed leaders.
One message was clear at the conference: While much progress has been made, there is much to do. Funding is needed at both the state and federal levels. It is hoped Congress will pass a Water Resources Development Act in 2013, which includes essential federal funding.
There are many actions individual citizens can do to help keep up the Everglades restoration momentum. This includes getting involved in local advocacy groups, learning online (please visit www.evergladesplan.org; www.sfwmd.gov; and www.evergladesfoundation.org just to name a few great sites); and by exploring a national park, refuge or other public natural area in the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas is credited with saying: The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet. We are making progress on this vision. Today, much work remains to be done, but it is rewarding to see so many successful projects and programs under way now.
130202-d No private exploitation of Florida’s natural public resources
Palm Beach Post – Editorial by Randy Schultz
February 2, 2013
When Floridians last were stuck with Gale Norton, she was George W. Bush’s secretary of the interior and doing her best to make Everglades restoration fail. Ms. Norton is back, at least indirectly, with yet another small-government group that wants business to profit from public land, such as Florida’s coral reefs.
As The Post’s Christine Stapleton reported, Ms. Norton is among the leaders of the Conservation Leadership Council. It believes that “many of the best solutions to the country’s environmental challenges will be found in the market-oriented policies, public-private partnerships and bottom-up solutions at work in many successful local initiatives occurring across the country.” Translation: Let us make money exploiting public resources.
In 20011, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature talked of turning state parks over to private operators; one brilliant idea was a golf course in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Tallahassee learned quickly that people of all political parties visit Florida’s parks to get away from theme parks and golf courses.
Among other things, the Conservation Leadership Council has suggested letting for-profit companies — cruise lines? — control access to the reefs. In theory — not our theory — private groups would spend money on the reefs, to protect their investment.
The public, though, should not trust those who seek to exploit public treasures. When she wasn’t advocating the use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, despite the damage the machines do to the environment, Ms. Norton was trying to let oil and gas companies drill closer to the beaches on which Florida’s tourism industry depends. She allowed a rock mine in Florida panther territory. A judge called that decision “arbitrary.” Florida’s natural treasures need Gale Norton and her ilk as much as the Everglades needs more pythons.
130202-e Path to disaster
NaplesNews, com - Letter by Diane Bostick, Marco Island
February 2, 2013
I read in the paper on Feb. 1 that a study is being done to consider putting in a bike lane along the Tamiami Trail for the use of bikers, walkers, tourists and birdwatchers.
Five million dollars has already been found for a study and design, and that's before the real money has to be spent for construction.
Can you imagine the final cost of actually building such a bike lane? I cannot see how in the world this idea is even being considered. The very thought of combining bikers and walkers with wandering minds watching for wildlife in the Everglades near the same road as cars speeding along and passing each other headed to their destination is ludicrous.
It is already a tight squeeze, especially at the numerous bridges.
That is just asking for tragedy. I cannot imagine any biker or walker even wanting to put themselves in that situation.
We already read about bikers and cars crossing paths in downtown Naples, with bikers often thinking they have the right of way. Can you imagine what would happen with the cars going that much faster ? Next thing you know they will want to have the speed limit on the Trail lowered to 45 mph the whole way to Miami for the safety of the riders and walkers.
This is a bad idea all around, any way you look at it.
Gov. R. SCOTT
130202-f Scott now pro-environment ?
TheLedger.com - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
February 2, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Has Rick Scott, the governor who dismantled the state’s land-planning agency and changed the direction of the Department of Environmental Protection, suddenly become a pro-environment governor?
Judging from the reaction to the governor’s $74.2 billion budget plan from environmental advocates, who have been critical of some of the Scott administration’s decisions, that may be the case. It may also be another sign of the governor repositioning himself for his 2014 election.
Scott is advancing two major environmental proposals that drew praise from the environmentalists.
Scott’s plan — subject to legislative approval — would double state funding for the restoration of the Everglades, the once-vast South Florida wetlands that plays a critical role in the state’s ecology and water supply. Scott wants to spend $60 million on the project in the 2013-14 budget year.
“Restoring America’s Everglades means re-establishing its natural water flow to the 2.4 million-acre marsh, reviving habitat for more than 60 threatened species, creating a reliable water supply for millions of Floridians and providing flood control to South Florida,” the budget plan said.
The money would be used to continue the state’s comprehensive plan to restore the water system. Additionally, Scott noted his budget contains money for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to find ways to further limit farm-related pollution in the area.
That action drew this statement of thanks from Eric Eikenberg, head of the Everglades Foundation.
“We strongly support his recommendation to provide $60 million for Everglades restoration,” Eikenberg said. “We appreciate the governor’s commitment to Everglades restoration and we believe the Florida Legislature will more than match his recommendation.”
But Scott didn’t stop there. He also surprised some by asking to spend $75 million in the coming year on Florida Forever, the state’s landmark environmental program that, along with its predecessors, has allowed the state to preserve more than 2.4 million acres over the last two decades.
In Scott’s first two years in office, the program — which once had an annual budget of $300 million — dwindled to $8 million. Its future was also cast in doubt by Scott’s firm reluctance to issue new bonds as part of his effort to reduce the state’s debt.
Environmental groups were pushing for a $100 million Florida Forever program next year, arguing the state was on the verge of paying off a series of previous land-buying bonds that would free up more than $250 million.
The DEP, the agency that oversees the program, backed a plan that would generate $50 million for land purchases financed by the sale of “surplus” land that had already been acquired.
Scott met the environmentalists halfway with a $75 million proposal, adding $25 million in state funding on top of the DEP’s plan to sell off $50 million worth of land.
Plenty of questions remain about the proposal, including whether the state can find and sell $50 million worth of land without threatening the value of some of its preservation holdings.
Nonetheless, Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said Scott deserves credit for both the Everglades funding as well as his increase for the Florida Forever program.
“This looks like an environmental budget,” said Draper, who had personally lobbied the governor and Cabinet in December to increase spending on the Florida Forever program. “We’re back in a place where we’re seeing serious political support for environmental spending. We’re hopeful that the Legislature will adopt these parts of the governor’s budget.”
Democrats have been skeptical of Scott’s spending proposals, emphasizing the cuts he made in to schools and other areas and saying he is simply seeking to boost his sagging public poll numbers as he seeks re-election.
WINNER OF THE WEEK: The University of Florida. UF was singled out in Gov. Rick Scott’s budget plan for a special $15 million appropriation that is designed to help the school hire more faculty in an effort to achieve top-ten status as a public university. The question remains how the funding will fare in the legislative process when the other universities are likely to ask: Where’s mine?
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Hospitals. Scott, a former private hospital executive, brings a great deal of scrutiny to Medicaid spending among Florida hospitals. He thinks the money can be spent more efficiently.
Along those lines he is advocating an $82 million cut in Medicaid spending for hospital in-patient rates in the next year. Bruce Rueben, head of the Florida Hospital Association, told the Tampa Bay Times that compared to a proposed budget cut of $2 billion last year, this budget is “clearly a better start.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It’s going to be a Shakespearean play where everyone dies in the end,” former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer told the Miami New Times about his upcoming trial on corruption charges where he is expected to try to tarnish some of the state’s top Republican leaders.
130202-g Sink on brink of completion
Hernando Today - by Michael D. Bates
February 2, 2013
BROOKSVILLE -- The Peck Sink stormwater project off Wiscon Road was nearing completion last June when Tropical Storm Debby sloshed in and caused substantial damage.
Eight months and $274,000 in restoration repairs later, the county is once again ready to declare an end to the long-awaited project.
Director of Transportation Services Brian Malmberg said this will help improve the quality of water for residents by removing the impurities that go into the underground aquifer. It also should help stop the flooding on Wiscon Road and other highways during rainy season.
Located on 2,986 acres west of U.S. 41 between Wiscon Road and State Road 50, Peck Sink is a direct pipeline to the Floridan Aquifer, and in its former state, did nothing to filter surface pollution from the groundwater.
The $1.5-million project is being funded through a joint venture with the county, state and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Malmberg invited Hernando Today to tour the site Friday morning, where crews continued to water the new sod around the repaired ponds and the grouting of the "rip-rap" was taking place.
Rip-rap is composed of rocks and other material poured along the embankment to provide a firm foundation and prevent water erosion.
The site has been graded and swales built on the south and east side of the site. A modified intake debris screening structure was built to help divert water from the sink.
Malmberg said substantial completion is scheduled by Feb. 13 with final completion a month later.
County commissioners last November approved spending $274,220 for restoration and mitigation of the sink. Of that, $97,087 was covered by a National Resources Conservation Services emergency watershed protection program grant.
Other funds came from a combination of Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant funding ($115,000); sensitive land funding ($32,362) and stormwater Municipal Services Taxing Unit MSTU funding ($29,771.00) for the completion of mitigation measures to help alleviate future damage to the site.
The contractor, Goodwin Brothers Construction, trucked in — at no charge to Hernando County — a sandy clay material from excavations they had on another project.
The fill was mixed with sand recovered from the bottom of the ponds during the repair phase and used to repair the pond side slopes and create a small diversion berm along the south and a "diversion structure" to direct the water going directly into the sink and into a nearby settling pond.
The system will trap the trash and sediment from going directly into Peck Sink.
All of these measures are designed to help alleviate erosion damage from future storms.
Peck Sink has long concerned the county because the preserve would trap all the debris from nearby homes and businesses and, without a conduit, the water would cause flooding along Wiscon Road.
County commissioners embarked on a project to improve Peck Sink by installing man-made devices and berms to make sure the water spill-off could be contained on-site.
"It was a project that needed to be done," County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said Friday.
It also provided a lesson to the county, he said, to stick to a prescribed building plan.
"There were some deviations from the design and we ended up paying for that," Dukes said.
County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the state and county reviewed this project from the standpoint of improved water quality and it ranked high on the appropriations list.
"The design and the function is going to help water quality," Russell said.
130201-a Proposed changes in SWFWMD board draw fire from Manatee officials
Bradenton Herald – by Sara Kennedy
February 1, 2013
MANATEE -- Proposed state legislation that would dilute Manatee County's representation on the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board have drawn fire from local officials.
The bills, which would eliminate 4 of 13 seats on the board, could curtail local control of how Manatee tax dollars are spent, or even divert local tax dollars to projects outside the county, according to a letter the Manatee County Commission sent opposing their passage.
The commission supported the current makeup of the board, which oversees water issues in a 16-county region, it said in the letter.
Under the current arrangement, Manatee County holds its own seat. If the proposed changes pass, it would hold a seat jointly with Sarasota County.
Manatee County not only supplies water for its own residents and businesses, but for six municipal partners and Sarasota County as well, and boasts a long record of progressive stewardship of its water resources and reliability as a water supplier, the letter said.
It calls the bills, House Bill 147 and an identical companion, Senate Bill 412, "harmful" and recommends the county's continued direct
representation on the water authority board.
Manatee County officials are not the only ones who will be opposing the idea. Pinellas County will also be in opposition when its commission reviews legislative priorities in coming weeks, said Pinellas Assistant County Administrator Carl Harness.
The House version was filed by state Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, with state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, sponsoring the upper chamber's version.
Manatee Commissioner Vanessa Baugh was concerned that Sarasota County politicians were pushing for the bills' passage.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino complained, "We don't need to be removed from the equation. We're giving water to Sarasota County."
County Commissioner John Chappie questioned why, if the board is working well with 13 members, should its membership be changed to nine ? He urged the commission to act quickly.
"I think we need to take some type of action, and the sooner, the better," he said earlier this week, adding that its passage would have "negative ramifications" for Manatee County.
The legislation's intent is to provide consistency and fairness in the composition of the governing board, since four other boards across the state have nine members each, Pilon said Thursday.
"My intent is not to short anybody on representation but to create a fair scheme," said Pilon, who acknowledged that Polk County officials don't like the plan, either.
"I appreciate the counties' letting me know how they feel about it, it's understandable when they first see it," Pilon said.
He plans to host a "stakeholders' meeting" in March to take suggestions on how to create a fair balance on the SWFWMD board.
Drinking water for the customers of Manatee County Utilities Department is a blend of purified groundwater and purified surface water.
In 2012, an average of 13.66 million gallons per day of deep groundwater and 12.71 million gallons per day of surface water was used, according to Amy Pilson, a county spokeswoman.
Groundwater is pumped from the Floridan Aquifer from seven, 1,200-foot deep wells in eastern Manatee County; surface water comes from the Lake Manatee Reservoir in central Manatee County.
The county has taken stringent measures to protect its water sources.
"In the late 1980s, Manatee County voters approved the purchase of 20,500 acres of the 82,000-acre watershed area, which drains into and includes the reservoir and wellfield," the county website said.
"County and state agencies have continued to purchase additional watershed acreage, and today approximately 35,000 acres are in public ownership."
The Florida Legislature session starts on March 5 in Tallahassee.
130201-b Researchers restoring oyster reefs in lagoon, river
Hometown News – by Samantha Joseph
February 1, 2013
TREASURE COAST -- Discarded oyster shells from Tin Fish, Conchy Joe's and several other seafood restaurants around the Treasure Coast are making their way back to the water as part of a project to restore reefs in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River estuaries.
Scientists at the Florida Oceanographic Society are quarantining the shells, so that staff and volunteers can deploy them as new reefs for oyster larvae.
They use the latest acoustic technology to monitor the process and help repopulate waters devastated by fresh-water discharges into the estuary.
About 400 acres or 80 percent of the total oyster reefs in the St. Lucie River have been lost in the last 70 years, said Vincent Encomio, the research scientist who spearheads the project.
"It's not easy to track down oyster shells. The restaurants we've been working with have been cooperative and willing to be part of a restorative effort," Mr. Encomio said. "By talking to them, we've been able to take that first step. It's an ongoing process to help repopulate the river."
The reefs are important for the growth of oyster larvae, which attach to the shells and use them as a habitat.
Oysters, in turn, are critical to the river, as they clean the water and provide habitat and food for hundreds of estuarine species.
The project is a long-term one that will likely last decades, officials said.
In the meantime, the Florida Oceanographic Center is growing oyster larvae. When they mature, Mr. Encomio and others lead volunteers in building oyster-shell reefs and populate local waters.
At Tin Fish, restaurant owners said they were happy to be part of a program that helps replenishes the area's vital oyster supply.