130331-a Environmentalists call this a greener Legislature
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
March 31, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — The 2013 legislative session is proving to be a re-greening year of sorts for Florida's once-beleaguered environmental community.
Nearing the midpoint of the 60-day session, the House has already passed an Everglades bill (HB 7065) that extends a $25-per-acre tax on sugar growers through 2025 and provides $32 million in state dollars annually toward the $880 million Everglades water-quality-restoration plan.
And buoyed by surplus cash, Gov. Rick Scott and House and Senate leaders look ready to reverse years of austerity and provide as much as $95 million for Everglades projects and conservation-land buying.
But it isn't all roses for environmentalists.
Those likely victories are overshadowing bills moving through committees at the behest of agricultural interests, polluters and developers that conservation groups say would cause environmental harm, impair land conservation or drain precious water resources.
Environmental groups have played defense for the past five years as the recession-racked economy prompted lawmakers to try to help developers in other ways — such as repealing growth-management regulations, making it easier to obtain permits to fill wetlands and slashing funding of water-management districts and regional-planning councils.
But this year, most of the more-controversial environmental bills have already been weakened to the point where groups such as Audubon of Florida, Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy are applauding lawmakers.
"The bills that are likely to pass that have the worst threat to us have pretty much been handled," said Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper.
But there are still pro-development bills likely to prompt fights during the next five weeks.
Two years after scaling back the state's Growth Management Act in an effort to make it cheaper to build new shopping malls, subdivisions, factories and office parks, lawmakers are advancing a bill (SB 1716/HB 321) to impose a three-year moratorium on local-government impact fees and transportation-concurrency requirements — which mandate when roads have to be in place to handle new development — for projects of 6,000 square feet or less.
The sponsor, Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, has said the bill is needed to prevent local governments from stifling growth.
"It lowers the barriers for new companies," La Rosa said. The bill is backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Home Builders Association, and opposed by cities, counties and environmental groups.
1000 Friends of Florida Director Charles Pattison said the 2011 growth-management rewrite was intended to empower local governments to make their own decisions. Some are already imposing impact-fee moratoriums on their own.
"This is something local governments ought to do on their own, not mandate it across the board for everybody," Pattison said.
Another bill (SB 466/HB 33) would create a process for large landowners to seek to take over state conservation lands the government decides it doesn't need. The measure has been pushed by cattle ranches, citrus growers, business groups such as Associated Industries of Florida and even some environmental groups.
Its sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, said he was pushing the bill at the behest of Citrus County cattle ranchers who want to use state lands adjacent to their property.
But critics say the Florida Cabinet already has the power to allow that, and the bill could encourage expansion of farming operations onto lands taxpayers purchased for conservation.
Another (SB 1028/HB 743) creates a process for tracking the chemicals used to release oil or natural gas through hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," which critics say could open the door for such energy exploration in Florida.
Fracking involves pumping chemicals into the ground through horizontal and vertical pipes to flush out oil that otherwise would be too costly to extract. The bill is backed by the Florida Petroleum Council.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, told a House panel this week that a single landowner had amassed rights to nearly 200,000 acres of land in Collier and Lee counties, and environmental groups testified they fear fracking is destined to be attempted in Florida in the future.
"My view is its better to do this now before we have fracturing going on in the state, so we will always know what chemicals are going into the ground," Rodrigues said.
Yet another wide-ranging environmental regulation bill (SB 1684/HB 999) is designed to, among other permitting tweaks, make it easier for developers to build marinas and drill wells — and harder for state or local governments to regulate them.
The House bill is being pushed by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who has carried environmental-deregulation bills into law for the past two years. This year's bill is drawing backing from solid-waste-management companies, the Florida Farm Bureau, community developers and the Florida Chamber.
And lawmakers are again attempting to ease coral-reef and coastal-water-protection requirements on South Florida polluters who pump their wastewater through "outfalls" into coastal waters.
HB 707, sponsored by Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, maintains the 2025 deadline the Legislature adopted for cutting the pumping of waste into the ocean, in part by requiring governments and private polluters to install wastewater-reuse systems. In past years, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have lobbied to move back the deadline.
But the bill would allow utilities to still pump some waste into the coastal waters during peak-flow periods and lowers the amount of wastewater they must clean up for reuse. For instance, it would allow Miami-Dade County to count the water reused by Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point nuclear plant toward its targets.
Cities and counties are backing the bill, which would significantly cut their costs for compliance with the 2025 deadline.
But a bill to shrink the number of policies in Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is being hailed by environmental groups who have long pushed to curtail rampant coastal development.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, has including language in SB 1770 prohibiting the state-run insurer from selling policies for new homes built seaward of the coastal-construction line if they don't meet a higher code for being hurricane-hardened.
"That's actually pretty remarkable," said Nature Conservancy lobbyist Janet Bowman.
"It's just a common-sense kind of thing," Simmons said. "They ought not be insuring … unless it's insurable."
130331-b Gov. Rick Scott: Everglades restoration plan working
Sun Sentinel - by Rick Scott, Governor of Florida
March 31, 2013
With Florida's booming tourism industry, our natural treasures play a critical role in efforts in making Florida the best place to find a job. Florida's natural systems protect our wildlife, provide families with recreational opportunities, and supply our growing population with a secure source of clean water and air. It also provides an invaluable welcome to Florida's growing workforce, supports robust coastal and real estate industries, and protects our state's agricultural industry.
As Florida's economy continues to grow, it is essential that we work to protect and restore our Everglades.
Just over two years ago, our economy was wrecked, efforts to provide a clean supply of water to the Everglades were mired in litigation and projects were stalled. In addition, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, meant to restore the natural timing and quantity of the flow of water in the Everglades, was also suffering from lack of direction and increasing costs.
Unfortunately, the history of restoring this valuable ecosystem involves decades of delay and disagreement, at the expense of the resources that provide clean drinking water for Florida families, and one that defines this nation just as much as the Rocky Mountains or Yellowstone National Park. The status quo was simply not working and we had to get to work.
That's why I directed the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to come up with a plan to ensure, once and for all, the water flowing into the Everglades is clean; a simple but evasive goal. I am proud to say that after a year of work between my agencies, our federal partners, and local stakeholders that a solution was reached.
Last fall, the federal government approved Florida's landmark water quality projects that, once constructed, all parties agree will provide the clean water the Everglades need. It should also be a point of pride for our state that not only have we turned the page on years of disagreement over restoring the Everglades, but that we were able to do so at nearly half the cost of the federal alternative; without increasing taxes on families.
This was possible only through the hard work of our agencies' scientists, and through input from Florida's farmers and environmental groups, like the Florida Audubon Society and the Everglades Foundation. These projects must be codified into law and funded, which under the leadership of Sen. Wilton Simpson and Rep. Matt Caldwell and Rep. Steve Crisafulli, the Florida Legislature is poised to do.
Just last week, the Florida House of Representatives unanimously voted to enhance the Everglades Forever Act to support water quality projects and provide a dedicated source of funding – ensuring the implementation of this restoration effort is not delayed due to lack of funds or the lack of clear law. This legislative success would not have been possible without the support of Florida farmers.
Now we must work to have the same success with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This series of projects to restore the historic timing and quantity of water flowing into the Everglades and estuaries has faced high price tags and delays. The good news is that the partnership between the state, the federal government, industry and environmental groups is working.
Over the last year and a half our administration partnered with the federal government and local stakeholders on a planning effort called the Central Everglades Planning Project. Like we did with Florida's water quality plan, we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure that we have the same success with the Central Everglades Planning Project.
We are continuing our work to restore America's Everglades, to better support our ecosystem and our state's economy. And it's working. Rick Scott is governor of Florida. He wrote this exclusively for the Sun Sentinel
130330-a Climate change is here, ready or not. So what now ?
TheDailyBeast.com - by Eugene Linden
March 30, 2013
Welcome to a warmer, wilder world! We need to stop debating and start accepting that climate change is happening. Eugene Linden on how adaptation and market forces (hint: insurance companies) might temper the coming catastrophe. To paraphrase Hemingway, climate change first comes gradually and then all at once. Now that the negative impacts of changing climate have become undeniable, there is also a dawning realization that—at this point—climate change is unstoppable. This puts into wistful perspective the developing consensus that we should do something about it. Witness Obama’s bold statement in the State of the Union Address that he is prepared to use executive powers if Congress doesn’t act. A cautious politician, it’s doubtful that he would have been so bold unless he felt that he had the public’s backing. And it’s great—except it’s too late. We’re in for it, and the rash of extreme weather events is giving us a taste of what “it” might be.
The time to act was at least 25 years ago—back when George H.W. Bush promised to take action (he deep sixed that promise almost immediately after his inauguration). Given the lag in the climate system, the extreme floods, droughts, storms, storm surges, and tornado swarms are partly a response to greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere of past years that we have since exceeded. The accelerating release of the greenhouse methane—the crystal meth of global warming—from the melting permafrost in the warming Arctic will continue regardless of whatever actions the developed nations agree to take in the coming years. It’s quixotic to think that humanity can take any action to reverse the overtaxing of the oceans’ ability to absorb CO2 (evidenced by the seas’ increasing acidity) on any timeframe meaningful to those living today. The most unsettling thing about the accelerating pace of extreme weather events is that they may signal that even as the momentum in the rise of CO2 makes it difficult to reverse the cause of climate change, we are entering a new period in which change itself comes ever more rapidly. The retreat of the Arctic sea ice shows us how this works. The white surface of sea ice reflects about eight times the heat of open water. So, as the ice retreats, heat that previously was reflected from the surface and trapped below the ice is now absorbed and released, vastly amplifying the pace of change. So how should we respond? Most obviously, we should stop making things worse. Tax penalties, tax credits, and import tariffs can nudge consumers, producers, and exporters towards reducing emissions without wasting more years on fruitless international negotiations or creating cumbersome new bureaucracies. Second, we need to start adapting to the changes that are inevitable. Emergency loans and other financial aid to redress the billions in damage from extreme weather of the past couple of years already pressure budgets from the federal government on down. Hurricane Sandy showed the Northeast, for instance, where the vulnerable spots were. If someone wants to rebuild in one of those areas, so be it, but there is no reason that taxpayers should subsidize individual folly. The rates a private insurer would extract to enable a person, corporation or farmer to rebuild or replant in vulnerable areas would largely accomplish the necessary relocations—again with no bureaucracy. Most importantly, we need leaders with the courage to steamroll the deniers and the vested interests. After a very short respite greenhouse gas emissions are getting worse. The Great Recession largely stalled U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for several years (though globally CO2 increased thanks largely to China). The respite ended in 2012, which saw the biggest jump in CO2 in the atmosphere in this millennium. The journal Science just published a reconstruction of past climate that showed that current temperatures are the highest in 4,000 years. Still, this won’t convince the deniers – nothing will – and the U.S. and the rest of the world are going to have to act over the loud objections of vested interests just as the government took action on smoking over the objections of the tobacco lobby. If government stopped smothering the market signals coming from the insurance market, both adaptation and calls for action on dealing with global warming would accelerate enormously. This brings us to a roadblock as formidable as the great ice wall in Game of Thrones—we haven’t had those leaders. Since it’s open to question whether the present Congress would have the courage to take on the tobacco lobby if the link between smoking and cancer first arose today, how can we expect them to act against the vastly richer fossil fuel lobby? How can a political system that could not institute real reform in the financial system even after near collapse in 2008 be expected to act rapidly to impose new taxes—the most polarizing word in the political lexicon—and do that during a time of weak economic growth? The answer is obvious: it can’t—at least not without overwhelming pressure from powerful groups that can’t be bought off or befuddled.
Therein lies the faintest glimmer of hope. With $5 trillion of invested capital, the American insurance industry has as much economic clout as the fossil fuel industry. Insurers lose money if they under-price the myriad risks of climate change. If they can’t raise prices to match the estimated risk, they simply pull out of the market. This happened in Florida where a series of governors stymied insurers’ requests for rate increases to adjust for increased risks of hurricane damage. The insurers said sayonara leaving the state to backstop homeowners who insisted on living in harm’s way. Thus we have the delicious irony of Florida having a free-market champion and climate change denier governor, Rick Scott, presiding over the socialization of climate change risk. A study by the non-profit CERES estimates that government—meaning us the taxpayers’—exposure to climate-related risk has increased fifteen fold since 1990 as private insurers have pulled back and extreme events increased. If government stopped smothering the market signals coming from the insurance market, both adaptation and calls for action on dealing with global warming would accelerate enormously. Outside the U.S., developed nations take climate change seriously, and if the international community started imposing tariffs on goods coming from nations that fail to address emissions, that would get the attention of Congress. It’s sad, but at a time of imminent peril, we are stuck with a political system that will not act without adult supervision. President Obama made strong statements about the importance of climate change when he first ran for president. Then, in his first term, he abandoned the issue, just as every other American leader has done since global warming first entered the national conversation. Now he is promising to do what every previous administration could have done by using executive powers to actually lead on the issue. Presidents are said to care about their legacy. Climate change is a civilization killer, and if we continue down the climate rapids, future generations probably will not be thinking about any presidential legacy of our era—except to assign blame. Eugene Linden is the author of The Winds of Change: Climate Weather, and the Destruction of Civilization
130330-b Florida Governor Scott fills two seats on South Florida Water Management District board
March 30, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott filled two vacant spots on the South Florida Water Management District on Friday, unpaid government seats that are designed to help environmental and water interests in Southwest Florida as well as agricultural communities along the east coast.
Frederick “Rick” Barber, 66, of Bonita Springs and Mitchel A. Hutchcraft, 46, of Fort Myers will take spots on the nine member governing board. Scott also reappointed Kevin P. Powers, 42, of Indiantown to the board.
The appointments must still be approved by the Florida Senate.
The South Florida Water Management District is a $567 million regulatory arm that issues permits for water usage, guides Everglades restoration projects and is responsible for flood control in 16 counties and for nearly 8 million people.
Former governing board member Dan DeLisi resigned from the district last month to take a chief of staff position at the district.
Hutchcraft works for King Ranch, the largest juice orange producer in the state. He has the support of environmental groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“I think there’s a huge amount of common agreement,” Hutchcraft said in a previous story in The News-Press. “The difficulty is how you go about implement that common agreement. Let’s get away from hyperbole and trying to place blame and focus on the facts and then agree on how we work together to make it happen.”
He has said that his top concerns for Southwest Florida are polluted water flows from Lake Okeechobee and area Everglades restoration projects such as the Caloosahatchee reservoir, a planned, man-made project that’s designed to take excess water from the river, store that water and the release it during drought conditions.
Barber is the chief executive officer of Agnoli, Barber & Brundage. He serves as a member of the Big Cypress Basin, a non-regulatory arm of the water management district that deals almost exclusively with water quality and flood control issues in much of Collier County.
Like Hutchcraft, Barber has worked in the private sectors as a planning and development consultant. Barber said water quality and flows are high on his priority list as well.
“It’s a changed system,” Barber said back on March 25. “People talk about how we need to revert to the way things were 100 years ago but that’s just not possible. You can’t change the fact that we get a lot of outflow from Lake Okeechobee. We have to deal with the system we have and understand how it works and what the limitations.”
Powers is a partner at Indiantown Realty. He serves as vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District and chairman of the Water Resources Advisory Commission. Related: Governor appoints two new South Florida Water Management ... Sun-Sentinel Rick Barber, Mitch Hutchcraft Appointed to South Florida Water ... Sunshine State News
130329-a Climate change and the Everglades: Earth image of the week
March 29, 2013
A sparkling early spring day across South Florida reveals from space one region of the world poised to be reshaped by climate change.
The image to the right shows how the sprawling urban environment of metropolitan Miami and coastal areas northward past Palm Beach have grown westward to a sharp edge at the border of the Everglades region.
The view was captured by NASA’s Terra as it passed over the Caribbean and Florida Peninsula at about noon Eastern Daylight Time on March 21, 2013. (Some cloudiness over the open Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico was removed from the image for contrast.)
The Everglades and its adjacent areas are unique because of their low elevations and subtropical climate.
Seasonal pulses of fresh water from the north during the summer rainy season meet with the constant fluctuation of the tides over the Everglades.
The combination nurtures several distinct ecosystems, including many in the mangrove vegetation despite massive human redirection of the fresh water for agriculture and other uses.
Some endangered tropical orchids and herbs are found only in the Everglades wetlands. But this ecology is likely to be either wiped out or forced to undergo large-scale evolution to survive as rising sea level due to a warming climate inundates the region.
Scientists aren’t sure if the species can tolerate the increased salinity that will come with the higher tides.
Over the last 50 years, researchers have observed an increase in the water level at some inland, freshwater sites in the wetlands that is consistent in pace seen elsewhere affected by higher sea levels.
While is is unclear if the two are related, most fear that encroaching salt water will have a major impact on the interior of South Florida within the lifetimes of many of the region’s human residents.
More information on climate change's anticipated effects on the Everglades can be found here.
130329-b Florida 500th anniversary
WTSP.com – by Grayson Kamm
March 29, 2013
On April 2, the state of Florida marks a big milestone -- its 500th birthday!
On that date in 1513, Juan Ponce de León landed on the East Coast of the area he named La Florida.
History states he became the first recorded European to walk on what's now the continental United States of America.
Saint Augustine was founded two years later, making it the country's oldest city.
As part of a year-long celebration, there will be hundreds of events to help visitors and residents learn more about Florida's history and some fun facts.
For example, the Florida Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live side by side.
Florida will see a special anniversary next week. April 2 marks 500 years since Florida got its name.
What does the name Florida mean? And how did we get it? It's probably not the story you learned in school.
Why do they call it Florida ?
If we're going to find out about the name Florida, we should probably start by pronouncing it right.
It's "La Flor-EE-da," says Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.
"Ponce de Leon would have pronounced it 'Flor-EE-da,' not 'FLOR-uh-da,' because in Spanish, when a word ends in a vowel, you emphasize the vowel before that," Kite-Powell explained.
Ahh, gotcha. Glad we have that straight. Let's try this:
Juan Ponce de Leon discovered "Flor-EE-da" 500 years ago...
No? Ok, what's wrong with that? "Not discovering Florida -- naming Florida. And we make that differentiation because, of course, there were Native Americans who were here for thousands of years," Kite-Powell said.
Good point. Okay. How about this:
Five hundred years ago, Juan Ponce de Leon became the first European to ever see...
No? Seriously? "When he arrived here, there were some of the Native Americans on the East Coast who spoke Spanish, or at least understood Spanish," Kite-Powell said.
Wait -- how did that happen? American Indians lived all over Florida, including along the waterfront in what's now Downtown Tampa. And they had trade networks that reached hundreds of miles into the Caribbean.
So the same way that today we can get a computer cable from China, they could get supplies like hemp rope from Havana. And that meant somewhere along the way, someone had to deal with the Spaniards. "Also, there were Spaniards who came to Florida before 1513 basically trying to enslave those Native Americans," Kite-Powell said.
So slave traders and merchants were the ones hinted to Ponce de Leon that he would find something if he sailed north and west of Cuba.
All right. Then here we go:
Five hundred years ago, Juan Ponce de Leon named La Florida, which means "land of flowers"...
No!? Oh come on! I learned that in middle school! "The idea that we heard growing up that Florida means "land of flowers" -- that's probably not true," Kite-Powell said. "When Ponce de Leon arrived here, it was during Passover, Easter time, and one of the words for Passover in Spanish... is Pascua Florida."
So we owe our name to Pascua Florida, the flowery festival celebrating the Easter season.
Why do they call it that? Now you know.
Starting in September, the Tampa Bay History Center will have a really incredible exhibition to mark this anniversary.
It's the premiere of "500 Years of Florida Maps," a look at how explorers have seen Florida over the years.
It goes from when they were supposedly looking for the Fountain of Youth to when they were looking for a turkey leg at Disney World.
It'll even feature photos of Florida from space taken by Clearwater astronaut Nicole Stott.
Find out more about it at the Tampa Bay History Center exhibits page.
130329-c Rising sea levels a major threat to Miami area
FIU Student Media – by Junette Reyes, Staff Writer
March 29, 2013
Forget about Atlantis; give South Florida a few more years of sea-level rise and Miami will definitely be the new “Lost City” of the world. Only this time, it would not be as mythical but as serious as finding our very own FIU to be the new underwater university of the future.
This predicament of the rising sea-level is the focus of the South Florida Water, Sustainability and Climate project, led by FIU’s Dr. Michael Sukop, associate professor in the department of earth and environment. The SFWSC study has been recognized by the National Science Foundation as part of their Water, Sustainability and Climate Program, who has awarded the project a grant of $5 million.
The SFWSC is using an integrative approach to do research on the hydrologic, ecologic, and economic components of managing South Florida’s water in order to understand how plans can be formulated when it comes to decision-making for water management.
“We can’t come up with any kind of definitive, binding plans for people to follow but we can come up with strategies and try to understand the whole process,” said Sukop.
Miami is ranked first in a list of 20 cities worldwide as having the most infrastructures exposed to the sea-level rise and coastal flooding. The value of these economic assets are estimated to be $416.29 billion as reported by the Cities and Climate Change project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
A currently exposed population of 2,003 puts Miami in ninth place in an additional list of 20 cities. The estimations are projected to only go up from there to the point of year 2070 seeing a little over $3 trillion worth of infrastructures and a population of nearly 5 million exposed to the sea-level rise.
“Sea-level rise is an issue for us in the sense that there has always been seawater intrusion; seawater intrusion means that the saltwater from the ocean comes underground into the wells that supply our water and sea-level rise will make this problem worse,” said Sukop.
The SFWC research team is made up of a group of diverse and multi-disciplined scientists, including hydrologists, engineers, behavioral scientists, economists, ecosystem scientists and landscape ecologists.
According to Sukop, ecologists are focusing on the mangrove forests which are collecting a lot of peat, an organic soil with a lot of carbon, as well as an estuary in the same area that acts as a nursery and feeding ground for fish.
Economists are working on aspects such as the economic valuation of ecosystem services and the value of water for other uses.
Sukop explained, for example, that bringing in more fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, as well as other sources, can possibly hold back the sea water more efficiently.
“But it’s a double-edged sword; to hold the seawater back, we have to raise the water level on the land side but the problem is that the water level is only a few feet or meters down in a lot of places already and by raising the water level to hold the seawater back, you can actually create more flooding problems,” said Sukop.
Behavioral scientists are working on the decision-making aspect of the research, particularly individual valuations of water management and the perception of risk.
The research proposal placed an emphasis on a “hydro-economic optimization model” meant to incorporate the decision-making criteria of water allocation by comprehending the cognitive and perceptual biases in both individual valuations and group decision-making.
“We have people who are behavioral specialists, basically, trying to understand how people make decisions about this; not only just how they make decisions but how, when presented with information in different ways, like the framing of the questions, that changes the possible decisions,” said Sukop.
As project leader of the study, Sukop has attended what NSF calls “principal investigator” meetings, which involves people that have projects in the WSC program.
“It’s really kind of a pleasure to go up there and hear about everybody else’s but it also allows me to put South Florida’s circumstances into perspective; I can see that we really have some potentially dire circumstances here relative to other places,” said Sukop.
The SFWSC project has a five-year expectancy and is a collaborative effort alongside University of Miami, University of South Florida, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of Hawaii, Michigan Technological University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pennsylvania, and Geodesign Technologies.
130328-a Congressman Murphy announces funding for local dredging projects
Dredging News Online
March 28, 2013
As a follow-up to a recent announcement regarding the Army Corps of Engineers awarding funding to restore Fort Pierce Beach and the Martin County shore to their pre-Hurricane Sandy conditions, Congressman Patrick E Murphy (FL-18) has also announced that the US Army Corps has allocated funds to begin engineering and design activities to prepare for dredging the Fort Pierce Inlet and the St Lucie Inlet to respond to shoaling impacts from Hurricane Sandy.
"On the heels of my meeting yesterday where the Army Corps discussed award announcements for beach restoration for Fort Pierce Beach and the Martin County Shore Project, I am pleased to announce that the Army Corps has slated funding to begin dredging projects for the Fort Pierce and St. Lucie inlets. These funds are vital to the health of our beaches and waterways, which is crucial to our local community and economy," said Rep Murphy.
"I have been working closely with the Army Corps and the officials from St Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach counties and it is great to see that through this collaboration we were able to get funding allocated for four local projects that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
"The importance of these and similar projects cannot be understated, which is why I have been advocating continuously for them since being elected. I will continue to work closely with the Army Corps and local officials to support additional projects that are vital to our community such as these."
Congressman Murphy has been actively working with the Army Corps in support of these projects since his first days in office. In January, he met with Rock Salt, a senior Army Corps official, at the Army Corps headquarters at the Pentagon to express his support for the projects in Martin, St Lucie, and Palm Beach counties that were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
At this meeting he also emphasized his support for Everglades Restoration Projects and the progress of the C-44 Reservoir project. Following this meeting, Congressman Murphy sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Darcy, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, advocating for supplemental funding for these projects.
He also met with the Jacksonville District Commander Colonel Dodd on February 20th, again stating the importance of shore renourishment and inlet dredging projects in Martin, St. Lucie, and Palm Beach counties. Congressman Murphy then hosted senior Army Corps official Mark Mezzanti and Martin County Commissioners in his DC office on March 20th where he again expressed the importance of inlet dredging and shore restoration, and again sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Darcy advocating for emergency funding for these important projects that were negatively affected by Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, Congressman Murphy met again with Colonel Dodd and St Lucie County Commissioners to discuss these pending projects. More articles from this category
130328-b Floridians launch lawsuit to ensure endangered species enjoy full Endangered Species Act protection
March 28, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Conservancy of Southwest Florida today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s attempt to hand over its management of endangered species to the state of Florida. The groups plan to sue the agency for violating the Endangered Species Act by granting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission the sole power to authorize activities that harm imperiled species without federal review.
“The Endangered Species Act is the nation’s most effective law for preventing species extinction, in part because it prohibits unauthorized harm to wildlife. Turning over the responsibility to authorize harm to the state would be a disaster,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida native and attorney at the Center. “It would leave the fate of Florida’s most at-risk wildlife in the hands of state leadership that’s denying the realities of sea-level rise, whose top priority is eliminating regulations necessary for protecting the environment.
“The Act has been enormously successful at protecting Florida species,” said Lopez. “Given the scale of development pressure in Florida, federal involvement is essential to ensuring science is followed and species are protected.”
“This agreement is part of a larger agenda to remove protective regulations under the guise of efficiency,” said Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “Federal and state review in permitting are complementary, not redundant, and provide checks and balances in protecting our native wildlife. Federal oversight of endangered species is less likely to be influenced by politics, is more open to the public and brings expert scientists to the table, all of which is of benefit to Florida’s most at-risk wildlife species.
“Diverse wildlife is one of the things that make Florida attractive to visitors and residents,” said McElwaine. “When we protect wildlife, we are protecting our quality of life and ensuring economic vitality.”
The Act prohibits actions that harm protected species, including new developments, mines and roads, without a federally authorized permit. The Fish and Wildlife Service may only approve such a “take” permit after it has ensured a variety of safeguards and determined that authorizing the activity will not jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy its habitat. Through a recently revised “cooperative agreement,” under Section 6 of the Act — which is typically reserved for assisting states in implementing programs for conserving species through research, habitat restoration, public education and other such conservation programs — the federal agency has delegated to the state of Florida its duty to protect species from harm.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has experience conducting scientific research, managing lands and recreational uses such as hunting and fishing. But the agency has little expertise in conducting the type of analysis required by the Endangered Species Act for permitting activities. Florida’s limited resources and budgetary cuts, past regulatory failures, limited involvement in reviewing development proposals and preference for nonregulatory approaches to management of listed species strongly suggest the state is not up to the task of implementing the Endangered Species Act.
Both groups are represented by the Everglades Law Center and the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190 Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. Contact: Andrew McElwaine, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 403-4210
Mouseover and/or CLICK to enlarge :
Everglades phosphorus: WHO pollutes
and WHO pays ?
130328-c Glades bill a giveaway to polluters
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
March 28, 2013
The Everglades bill speeding through the Legislature is not the sweeping victory that the unusual alliance behind it — the governor, his fellow Republicans, farmers and environmentalists — would have Floridians believe. The legislation awaiting Senate approval is better than a terrible version that sailed through the House, but it still unfairly shifts the costs for cleaning up the Everglades from the agriculture industry to the taxpayers. This is a handout to those who are causing the problem, and it violates the voters' intent behind the "Polluter Pays" protection in the Florida Constitution.
The legislation seeks to enshrine Gov. Rick Scott's agreement with the federal government for the state to spend $880 million over 12 years on stormwater treatment and water storage to intercept farm runoff before the pollutants filter south into the Everglades. That would curb further environmental damage to an ecosystem that is vital to South Florida's drinking water needs and to the state's economy. But the agriculture industry and its legislative allies pushed further. An earlier House version limited the state's ability to enforce water discharge permits. And it did away with a long-established agreement that held the cleanup effort as a shared responsibility between the farming community and the public.
The Senate brokered a deal last week that removed some of the worst parts of the House bill. It dropped provisions that cleared the way for farmers to violate antidumping rules. But the compromise legislation still retains an egregious sellout to the industry: language that would cap its contribution to the Everglades cleanup effort.
The bill says that more responsible farming practices and the industry's payment of an existing agriculture tax would fulfill the industry's obligation for the cleanup under Florida's "Polluter Pays" constitutional amendment. While the Senate bill would extend the growers' tax at a higher rate than current law, the change would raise less than $93 million in additional funds. That is hardly adequate given the $880 million price tag, especially since the Constitution holds that polluters "shall be primarily responsible" for the cleanup, and given that the industry accounts for two-thirds of the pollution entering the Everglades.
Environmental advocates defended their support of the deal by pointing to an uphill climb in the Legislature and noting that the "Polluter Pays" changes could be challenged in court. But there was no need to cave on one of the governor's priorities so early in the legislative session. At best, the "Polluter Pays" cap creates a new legal and financial hurdle for holding farmers to account by forcing opponents to fight the legislation in court. And why would the state want to limit the industry's responsibility when the entire plan depends on future governors and legislators continuing to set aside money every year ? This is a bad deal, and moving the cleanup forward cannot mask that taxpayers are poised to pay mightily again for a well-protected industry that refuses to take full responsibility for the damage it has caused to the Everglades.
130328-d How climate change threatens the seas – and seafood
Wunderground.com - by Dan Vergano
March 28, 2013
The tide rolls out on a chilly March evening, and the oystermen roll in, steel rakes in hand, hip boots crunching on the gravel beneath a starry, velvet sky.
As they prepare to harvest some of the sweetest shellfish on the planet, a danger lurks beyond the shore that will eventually threaten clams, mussels, everything with a shell or that eats something with a shell. The entire food chain could be affected. That means fish, fishermen and, perhaps, you.
"Ocean acidification," the shifting of the ocean's water toward the acidic side of its chemical balance, has been driven by climate change and has brought increasingly corrosive seawater to the surface along the West Coast and the inlets of Puget Sound, a center of the $111 million shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest.
USA TODAY traveled to the tendrils of Oyster Bay as the second stop in a year-long series to explore places where climate change is already affecting lives.
The acidification taking place here guarantees the same for the rest of the world's oceans in the years ahead. This isn't the kind of acid that burns holes in chemist's shirt sleeves; ocean water is actually slightly alkaline.
(MORE: Is Global Warming Causing Harsher Winters ?)
But since the start of the industrial revolution, the world's oceans have grown nearly 30 percent more acidic, according to a 2009 Scientific Committee on Oceanic Resources report. Why? Climate change, where heat-trapping carbon dioxide emitted into the air by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels ends up as excess carbonic acid absorbed into the ocean.
That shift hurts creatures like oysters that build shells or fish that eat those creatures or folks like shellfish farmer Bill Dewey, who makes his living off the ocean.
"As fresh as they get, you could eat one now," says Dewey of Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, Wash., shucking an oyster open, mud running from its shell to reveal the opulent meat within, silver and white in the starlight. The black lip curling around the sweet-tasting shellfish reveals it to be a Pacific Oyster, farmed worldwide.
"Folks think we just get rich picking oysters off the ground. A lot of work goes into every one of these, and we can't afford to lose any of them," Dewey says.
Lose them they have, and lose them they will, to the water lapping at Dewey's hip boots where the low tide meets the flats.
"We are looking into the future happening now," Dewey says. And researchers are seeing similar corrosive effects on Florida's coral reefs that shelter young fish and on the tiny sea snails that feed salmon and other species in the Pacific Ocean.
Too Much of a 'Good Thing'
Because of ocean chemistry, water three times more acidic resides at greater ocean depths. When conditions are right, strong winds blowing over ocean water along steep coasts, such as along the West Coast of North America, generate "upwelling" of these deep waters.
The results bring this more corrosive seawater to the shallows of places such as Puget Sound, a foreshadowing today of how the oceans will look in a few decades.
(MORE: Climate Change May Be Causing a Mass Extinction)
"We are able to see the effects of ocean acidification," says oceanographer Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He first charted upwelling of deeper, corrosive ocean water on the surface of the Pacific Ocean along the West Coast on a 2007 expedition.
How did it get there in the first place? Atmospheric carbon ends up absorbed directly by the ocean, where plankton sucks up carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. "That's a good thing," Feely says, because the carbon dioxide they ingest means less warming of the atmosphere.
But when those sea plants and creatures die, they fall to the depths. Some of the consumed carbon ends up dissolved in deep ocean waters.
"Once we had the canary in the coal mine; now we have the oyster in the ocean," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says.
An Oyster Mystery
In the same year that Feely and his colleagues made their upwelling discovery, disaster struck the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts Bay, perched on the edge of Oregon's Pacific Coast. Baby oysters grown there to be shipped to shellfish farms worldwide were dying en masse, tens of millions of millimeter-size larvae filling hatching tanks, all dead.
"We were very close to going out of business. It was a major deal," says Sue Cudd of the Whiskey Creek hatchery. Bankruptcy threatened because of unfilled orders, and the entire industry faced collapse without the larvae, the seeds that shellfish growers needed to raise Pacific oysters over the next 18 months.
A second hatchery run by Dewey's employers, Taylor Shellfish -- one of only four in the region -- saw the same die-off the next year, with the same failure to spawn striking wild oysters in Washington's Willapa Bay, a longtime source of seeds for the industry.
(MORE: Will Giant Sequoias Survive This Century?)
It was only at the end of 2008 at a shellfish farmer's meeting that Feely delivered the bad news: On days in the summer along the West Coast when northerly winds blew, deep ocean water was likely dissolving the fragile young oysters.
Without industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, the upwelling wouldn't be a problem because really corrosive water wouldn't get high enough to reach the surface, says Burke Hales of Oregon State University in Corvallis.
"That extra kick from (man-made) carbon is what pushes the saturation point high enough," Hales says. "Anyone who says this is a natural thing just doesn't get it or is missing that key point."
Shellfish rely on calcium to build their shells, and a more corrosive water makes that harder for them to the point of becoming impossible.
Alan Barton, the staff scientist at Whiskey Creek, realized the seawater was far too acidic and started making phone calls to Hales to have the water examined. Last year, Barton, Hales and colleagues, including Feely, definitively showed that those deep waters do dissolve baby oysters only a few days old, ones which rely on a very soft form of calcium for their initial growth spurt.
"A lot of people out here I talk to don't believe in climate change, but ocean acidification -- to them that's real -- because they can see it eating into their livelihoods," Hales says. "The chemistry is really simple and really inevitable: More carbon in the air means more carbon in the ocean, and there is no getting around it."
An Ocean-Size Challenge
Benoit Eudeline, staff scientist for Taylor Shellfish, and colleagues such as Barton at Whiskey Creek have become evangelists on the topic for the seafood industry, warning their colleagues on the East Coast of what is coming. There, deep-water upwelling is not a problem, but warmer waters have shifted crab and fish populations while acidic mud on the Maine seafloor has hurt clamming.
"We were joking about what size antacid tablet you would need to fix the ocean," Eudeline said. "It is so tremendous that you can only make jokes about it."
That's because the ocean absorbs 23 percent of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, according to a 2012 Earth System Science Data journal report, more than 8 billion tons of the stuff every year. It would take a very large Alka-Seltzer tablet to fix that."
That's why talk about just avoiding warming from here on out in the atmosphere is missing the effects that are already locked in due to ocean acidification," Feely says.
Back on the tidal inlet at Oyster Bay, Dewey walks along rotting wooden dike walls placed there more than a century ago, by earlier shellfish farmers, down to where the low tide has fallen. All kinds of shellfish and other sea life, including the famed salmon of the Pacific Northwest, live in these same waters, enjoying the bounty of these waves.
"We only know what is happening to shellfish because they have spokesmen," Dewey says. "Only the good Lord knows what is happening to everything else out there."
130328-e Tamiami Trail's Everglades Skyway raises hope for faster progress on Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel – by Editorial Board
March 28, 2013|
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the first GPS satellite went up and Claude Pepper was still representing Florida in Congress.
It also was the year a federal project to restore the Florida Everglades got its start.
This month, at long last, we celebrated the opening of that project's first phase — the Everglades Skyway — a mile-long bridge that elevates a part of U.S. Highway 41 and promises to help restore a flow of fresh water to the withering River of Grass.
That's right. It took 24 years to complete the first leg of a six-mile bridge that promises to help undo the damage started 90 years ago when the road we call Tamiami Trail was built to make the Everglades passable.
Another 120 years shouldn't pass before the remaining five miles are built.
But a century-plus timeline isn't out of the realm of possibility, given how tough it's been to wrangle federal finances for this important venture coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Interior, the White House and members of Congress.
In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton and then-Gov. Jeb Bush agreed to allocate $200 million a year for Everglades restoration, in what was billed as a 50-50 partnership between Florida and the federal government.
Over time, the state has spent $2 billion on various restoration projects. The federal government ? Not so much.
The Bush administration was slow to pony up funds needed to start the Tamiami Trail project, and when it did, Congress refused to approve the budget. Under President Obama, federal government funding improved, but it took the federal stimulus bill to secure the funds for the first mile of the long-delayed bridge.
The new bridge offers a chance at a better future for the Florida Everglades. Once completed, the six miles of elevated highway will increase "sheet flow" into Everglades National Park and help relieve problems with draining Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Canal. It also will help stave off saltwater intrusion by hydrating the aquifer and the soil, as fresh water finally moves into the area.
The first mile represents a long overdue start. Next up is a two-mile bridge that Everglades advocates hope will be prioritized and expedited through the project's design and permitting process. If the past is any indication, that might be a pretty tall order, even though the next five miles of bridge should pretty much look like the first mile — long, straight and elevated.
The legislation that contains funding for water projects is found in the Water Resources Development Act. Congress most recently enacted the bill in 2007, but it took seven years to pass it. Reauthorization shouldn't take that long. Still, it's hard to have confidence in a legislative body gridlocked by partisan politics.
Everglades restoration must remain a priority in Washington, given that this natural resource is the primary source of drinking water for South Florida. And if our water supply is threatened, we will be forced to look north, adding to the water wars already underway between North Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Congressional funding for the next phase of the Tamiami Trail bridge is crucial.
Twenty four years is too long to wait.
When it comes to the Everglades, let's see less political wrangling and more ribbon cuttings.
130327-a Licensing Board upholds NRC's environmental impact statement for proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County, Fla.
Targeted News Service
March 27, 2013
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the following news release:
An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has rejected a challenge by two environmental groups to an application to license two new nuclear power reactors in Levy County, Fla. The ASLB is a three-member board of administrative judges independent of the NRC staff that conducts adjudicatory hearings on major agency licensing actions.
The groups, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Ecology Party of Florida, claimed the NRC's April 27, 2012, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) failed to adequately identify and assess the proposed Levy Nuclear Plant's direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts on wetlands and groundwater resources. The applicant, Progress Energy of Florida, and the NRC staff argued the FEIS satisfied all of the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The ASLB held an evidentiary hearing in Bronson, Fla., on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012, to decide these issues. The hearing involved more than 300 exhibits and 24 witnesses. The Board's more than 140-page decision, that the FEIS complies with legal and regulatory requirements, made findings that include:
. The statement fairly and reasonably describes the Levy area's geology and hydrology;
. Evidence from the hearing did not support the groups' claim that the site is underlain by active sinkholes, groundwater conduits, or significant "preferential pathways" for groundwater flow;
. The Levy Nuclear Plant application's groundwater modeling was reasonable and professional;
. The FEIS reasonably relies on the concrete and highly prescriptive monitoring and mitigation requirements imposed on the proposed Levy Nuclear Plant by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Florida and the Southwest Florida Water Management District via permits such as the state-issued water use permit; and
. It is reasonable to rely on the Corps and state agencies, such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to assure that Progress Energy of Florida will actually implement, and successfully perform, the prescribed monitoring and mitigation measures.
The ASLB's decision can be appealed to the five-member Commission in charge of the agency. Unless appealed, the ASLB decision becomes the NRC's final determination on the environmental issues raised by the environmental groups.
Documents related to the Levy County application (http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/col/levy/documents.html) are available on the NRC website. Documents regarding this ASLB proceeding are available on the NRC's Electronic Hearing Docket (http://ehd1.nrc.gov/ehd/) by clicking on the folder entitled "Levy_County_52-029&52-030-COL" on the left side of the page. More information about the role of the ASLB (http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/adjudicatory/aslbp-respons.html) in the licensing process is available on the NRC website.
130327-b The amazing kayak championship in the Everglades
FloridaSportsman.com - by Mark Naumovitz
March 27, 2013
Another kayak tournament ? In the Everglades ? These questions rolled around in my head from being asked by teammate Vickie Sallee to join her on this expedition. I had never fished the Everglades so that appealed to me and also made me raise an eye-brow as I’ve heard of big gators, big snakes, and hopefully lots of big fish. Without much thought I agreed to fishing this tournament with Vickie, not knowing fully what was ahead and to come. Within a few weeks we found ourselves heading south to do some pre-fishing and get a taste of the area. I had heard that the tides ripped which wasn’t too much of a concern for me since I’ve lived in Maine the majority of my life, and have literally watched the water sink a sandbar, then just hours later leave it to dry in the sun.
The boundary of the tournament, put on by Native Watercraft, was from the east side of Chokoloskee to Indian Key Pass south into the Gulf, roughly 20 miles around, a lot of new area to learn in three days of pre-fishing. One area was completely different than the next, from mangroves laying over deep moving water, to oyster filled shallow water, to open water with sandy bottoms – this area is both beautiful and vast. Over the course of three days, we made a small dent in the learning curve but too quickly found ourselves returning home already waiting for the return trip.
The rules of the tournament was simple – to survive! With all kidding aside, that was one of the major concerns of the event – safety. Individual anglers had to carry a gallon of water, rain jacket, and headlamp and other normal gear while the team of two anglers needed to carry a flair gun, gps, compass, map, sound making device and med kit in order to be able to handle any situation on the water. At each of the five checkpoints, check-in and check-out times were recorded in order to help locate teams just incase they didn’t make it back at the end of the day.
There were many things to take into consideration which made this one of the most physically demanding kayak tournaments to date. For starters the tide; starting high in the morning, flushing out fast and turning around about noontime – planning the course of the day around this was crucial, if you didn’t, fatigue would quickly set in as you would be paddling against ripping currents the majority of the time. The wind was forecasted to kick up to 25-30mph around 1pm.
Teammates could not help each other with paddling or towing, which would result in elimination. Anglers had to find five checkpoints (one being a double point checkpoint) scattered throughout the area and couldn’t fish until they picked up a wooden token from each, enabling them to then fish and take pictures with the token included, then having to return it before making the trek to the next checkpoint. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to make you think about where to go, it was only until just minutes before launch that you were given an envelope showing the location of the checkpoints – making quick decision making an important task.
Fishing was decent on tournament day, I was able to pull in a slam and we certainly had a good log of trout between the both of us with fish hitting the topwater and Logic Lure scented jerkbaits. The mixing and experience of planning, fishing, paddling, with an area as big as the Everglades made this tournament a true slam. With the first turnout having 33 teams (2 per team), I can only see this tournament getting bigger every year. Vickie and I were able to finish in the top 10 at 7th place and took home a nice pair of Watershed dry bags. A big congratulations to Mike McDonald & Billy Alstrom who had an impressive finish of 152 total inches, who each received a Native Slayer and other prizes.
Thanks to all of the sponsors who made this unique and ground breaking even possible. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Check out more on the even on their homepage: http://adventurefishingworldchampionship.com/
Also, sit back, relax and enjoy this excellent video they put together on the event.
Why won’t Florida’s government protect our water ?
(Florida Water Coalition)
A Florida Water
Coalition billboard in
features a bikini-clad woman holding globs
of green algae.
130326-a Column: Lousy water, lousy press for Florida
Tampa Bay Times - by Jack E. Davis, Professor
March 26, 2013
A long time ago, Florida attracted writers from across the country who waxed poetic about its natural beauty — haunting, unspoiled and profuse. Gradually, then rapidly, natural Florida was bulldozed under and paved over. Writers looked to unspoiled places elsewhere.
Now the national press is again paying attention to natural Florida. And the appraisal is not flattering.
A month after a sinkhole fatally opened beneath a Seffner man, the New Yorker published a story ominously titled "Florida's Sinkhole Peril." It explains why the state's terra firma is increasingly looking like Swiss cheese. Big agriculture, utilities, industries and residents smitten by green lawns are overtaxing groundwater sources and drawing down the Floridan Aquifer.
The aquifer is quartered in the state's limestone underbelly. An ancient permeable rock of tunnels, chambers and chinks, it needs water to support the weight above it — meaning all of Florida and all Floridians. The number and frequency of sinkholes increases as the water level decreases. The New Yorker quotes a veteran diver of the aquifer who describes conditions below as "looking like a death spiral."
No chamber of commerce welcomes this kind of national exposure. The New Yorker's circulation alone is over 1 million, and its readers are the sort of people who invest in Florida.
Subscribers ourselves, my wife and I recently considered buying a lakefront home east of Gainesville. We loved the house and the wooded property. The deal killer, however, was the lake, which had shrunken to a pond likely en route to becoming a sand pit.
Florida has lost half of its surface water since the mid 20th century. The state has issued more pumping permits than the aquifer can handle, and lakes and springs are rapidly drying up. Florida's water abuse is actually a double whammy, hitting quality as hard as quantity. Again, the state's image suffers.
Billboards greeting tourists on I-75, where the Coppertone girl used to blush fun and sun, feature a bikini-clad woman holding out eye-popping globs of green algae from a freshwater spring, once bottle-blue and gin-clear. The billboards ask why state government refuses to "protect our water."
That's a good question, which lurks in the shadow of the state capital itself, 30 minutes' drive south at Wakulla Springs. As one of those haunting, unspoiled and profuse examples of natural Florida, Wakulla was once a top tourist destination.
Nineteenth-century poet Sidney Lanier described the spring as "thrillingly transparent." But for the past decade, nitrate overloading from runoff and seepage has stimulated algae growth. The spring's famous glass-bottom boats rarely operate for want of transparent water.
The New Yorker piece brings all this to light. Wakulla Springs is both a remarkable creation of the aquifer and a manifestation of its troubles. Divers describe our chief source of drinking water as a cistern for a polluted, algae-laden soup.
Luckily for Florida, the story's publication preceded the most recent milestone in its water misadventures. Polluters, using state officials as their proxy, cut a sweet deal with the EPA. For years, the state and its congressional delegation have been quarreling with the federal agency over quality standards in Florida waterways. Caving in to incessant adolescent whining, the EPA agreed to let the state lead in regulating nitrogen and phosphorous levels.
That's a bad idea. Under state oversight, nearly half of Florida's bodies of water are impaired by pollution. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Hershel Vinyard Jr. says the agreement allows the state to "move forward" with "environmental improvements."
But at the moment his boss, Gov. Rick Scott, took office in 2011, state policymakers slammed the shift lever of environmental improvements into reverse and haven't looked forward since. The regressive water policies adopted the last two years — from dismantling smart septic tank rules to dismembering water management staffing — are legendary. The current leadership claims to seek a pragmatic balance between economic interests and ecological imperatives. Instead, it continues to push Florida's freshwater sources over a tipping point.
The result is what Annie Pais of Florida's Eden calls a "sinkhole economy." It haunts us with hiked-up rates in homeowners insurance, geologists shuttling about inspecting disaster sites and excavators running heavy equipment to fix broken ground. It embarrasses us when disappointed visitors are turned away from once magical springs that are dry and fouled.
Unless our leaders recognize that a stable and clean water supply is integral to a stable economy — and stable ground — our water crisis promises a major economic crisis. Not to mention more lousy press. Jack E. Davis, a professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, is the author of "An Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Environmental Century" and is writing a book on the Gulf of Mexico. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.
130326-b Environmentalists ask federal judge to continue to lord over State’s business
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
March 26, 2013
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, environmentalists -- who had said they agreed with the state’s new Everglades cleanup plan that was passed unanimously by the Florida House Friday -- made a request in federal court Monday to continue to have a federal judge meddle, and have the ultimate say, in Florida’s business.
After hearing complaints from Earthjustice attorney David Guest, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno postponed any action for 60 days, in order to give the state Legislature time to resolve the matter by instituting the plan agreed to by Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration.
Arguing on behalf of the state, Tallahassee attorney Chris Kise told the judge, “There's no problem for the court to solve." Kise was brought in by the Scott administration to put an end to more than 20 years of costly federal litigation over the Everglades.
Although environmental activist groups like the billionaire Paul Tudor Jones-backed Everglades Foundation, a heavy funder of environmental lawsuits, and Audubon Florida did a victory lap, taking credit for the Everglades compromise plan approved by the House and on its way to approval in the Senate, environmentalists Monday changed their tune in front of the federal judge. They now claim to not have had a seat at the table, instead of having driven the legislative compromise. "We participate in the sense that [state officials] explain what they come up with," said Guest, who was “representing a consortium of environmentalists,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.
If Moreno decides to issue an order, it will mean that the litigious environmental groups will have an arena to continue draining state taxpayer dollars. But, hey, what’s another 20 years of federal court fights?
130326-c Fla. sugar farmers applaud House passage of Everglades restoration legislation
March 26, 2013
The Florida House on Friday unanimously passed the Everglades Improvement and Management bill, HB 7065 , sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals Corp. and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida applaud the passage of the bill, which reflects an agreement by farmers, policymakers and environmental advocates.
According to a statement the three groups released to the media:
The bill will align state law and a bipartisan, state Everglades plan that Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration agreed to last year in order to move past litigation and finish restoration.
The language calls for Florida’s sugar farmers to continue their successful on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), paid for entirely by farmers, and recognizes their success as has been demonstrated by a reduction of phosphorus of 55 percent over the past 17 years. It extends the Agriculture Privilege tax, an additional payment made by Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) farmers, until 2035. The legislation also establishes the appropriation framework and provides for funding for ecosystem restoration project construction. Sugar farmers have invested more than $400 million in restoration efforts to date.
“This legislation demonstrates the art of compromise between all parties and is a victory for all of us who have been part of Everglades restoration efforts for 20 years,” Robert Coker, Senior Vice President of U.S. Sugar said. “We are committed to striking the balance that allows us to grow the nation’s food and also continue to serve as partners in the state’s restoration plans.”
In addition to House passage, the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation amended SB 768, Everglades restoration legislation by Senator Wilton Simpson, to match the House bill. This will allow the Senate to move swiftly, pass this Everglades bill, and send it to the Governor for his approval.
“For two decades, the Florida sugar industry has worked together with policymakers, environmental advocates, and other stakeholders in the best interest of Florida,” Gaston Cantens, Vice President of Florida Crystals said. “This agreement is a continuation of that successful collaboration and spirit of cooperation we know will get the job done for restoration.”
130326-d Tarpon Springs breaks ground for long-delayed water treatment plant
Tampa Bay Times – by Brittany Alana Davis, Staff Writer
March 26, 2013
TARPON SPRINGS — Wearing hard hats, Tarpon Springs officials plunged gold-painted shovels into the ground Tuesday in the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a $35 million project that will enable the city to generate its own drinking water.
It was a day of celebration for commissioners and other city officials, who hatched the plan for the reverse osmosis water plant three mayors ago and saw lawsuits and other issues delay the project for a decade.
The project is partially financed with a $20.1 million grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
"This is a significant milestone for the city," said Public Services director Paul Smith, adding that the project helps diversify the water supply in a region that's sensitive to droughts. "I think that's especially important now that the economy is rebounding, more people are coming to Florida and there will be a need for more water."
Now, Tarpon Springs buys its water from Pinellas County, but that won't be the case after early 2015. The plant will allow Tarpon Springs to pump and filter its own water, following in the footsteps of cities like Clearwater, Oldsmar and Dunedin.
The move requires a big upfront investment and no guaranteed savings.
But it allows cities to make their own decisions about fluoride, minerals and how much to charge residents, Smith said. It also will allow the city to offer softer water, with fewer minerals, and ensure the water quality is consistent, he said. Clyde Burgess, project director with Wharton-Smith Inc., the company building the plant, told the 30 or so people at the ceremony they had waited long enough for the project and his team would work to finish the project on schedule.
The plant, planned on a big grassy field at 1624 Industrial Blvd., will treat the water through a process known as reverse osmosis.
In short, the plant will filter groundwater pumped from wells, pushing the brackish, salty water through membranes to remove impurities. The process is expected to produce 5 million gallons of drinking water per day, flushing a leftover salty brine into the Gulf of Mexico.
That discharge is the reason resident Henry Ross sued the city over concerns about potential harm to sea life, delaying the project for years and costing the city more than $110,000 in lawyer fees.
Lawsuits were eventually resolved in favor of the city, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued permits.
Those years of headache seemed even more of a reason to celebrate Tuesday, with Mayor David Archie and others cracking jokes about the delays.
"I'm looking forward to this thing being built," said Archie, drawing laughter over the field's cold wind. "I never thought I'd be in office when this happened."
Project manager Bob Robertson, who orchestrated Tuesday's ceremony, said the day turns a page for him.
He'll now be charged with keeping tabs on the project as it's built.
"My job is to make sure the city is getting its money's worth," he said. "I'll be the one to make sure we get the quality of project we're expecting."
130325-a Impact of Tamiami Trail bridge 'will be huge,' says conservationalist
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
March 25, 2013
State officials, local dignitaries, and conservationalists gathered last Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Tamiami Trail bridge project. The plan took more than two decades to achieve and is part of a larger effort to restore fresh water flow to the Everglades. The Miami Herald summarized the project as a "one-mile-long bridge designed to begin healing the ecological wounds inflicted by a road that has blocked the flow of the Everglades for nearly 90 years." The newspaper wrote:
The $81 million bridge, scheduled to open to daily traffic in a few weeks, ranks among the most significant Everglades projects to date. It sets the stage for the first breach later this year of a historic road that has been far more than just a lime rock-and-asphalt barrier to reviving the shrunken, struggling River of Grass.
The bridge, which took four years to build and roughly 20 years to get off the ground, is "the first span of what will ultimately be a six-and-a-half mile Everglades Skyway, a series of bridges over Shark River Slough," said Jonathan Ullman, the South Florida/Everglades senior field organizer for the Sierra Club.
"The impact will be huge," Ullman said. "In the short term, the one-mile bridge will have some benefits to flow and wildlife, but its greatest advantage is that it has spurred further bridging."
Ullman said the bridging, combined with levee elimination projects and cleanup of "Big Sugar's effluent," all will work to "restore fresh water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay." Ullman said this also is an important first step in the process of fortifying the Everglades against the threat of climate change related sea level rise.
"Scientists tell us that the Park, which is less than three feet in most areas, has been sinking," Ullman said. "It's sinking because the land is not getting enough water and the organic peats and soils are disappearing at an alarming rate."
Restoring "historic fresh water flow" to the region will help rehydrate the aquifer, provide fresh water pressure southward, and "build up the land," Ullman said.
The Tamiami Trail bridging project will be included as a field trip destination for the upcoming meeting of the Congressionally-mandated Committee on Independent Scientific Review of the Everglades Restoration Progress. The field trip, planned for Wednesday, March 27, is part of a three-day, science-based exploration of issues relevant to the Everglades' health.
This spring's meeting -- held in the Marriott Airport Hotel in Miami -- will include an open session dedicated to climate change, including predicted climate scenarios for South Florida, impact on water supplies, coastal ecosystems, and restoration plans. The climate change session is Thursday and is open to the public. Find a full schedule of events here. For a registration form, click here.
130325-b Judge delays possible Everglades restoration order
Sun Sentinel - by Ben Wolford
March 25, 2013
MIAMI— — Environmentalists are asking a federal judge to set deadlines and order the state of Florida to bring the Everglades back to health.
On Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno delayed any order until after the state's legislative session ends in May, tacking at least 60 more days onto years of court battles over Everglades restoration.
"Eventually you gotta do something," he said. "At least before I reach senior status."
Several groups, from environmental activists to the agriculture industry, have agreed on a plan designed to encourage Everglades water flow and quality by 2025. But the state has violated terms in the past, and some of the groups want extra assurances that it will meet the obligations.
So they asked Moreno to issue a federal order; if state officials shirk the benchmarks, they have some recourse in federal court. The groups pushing for this kind of oversight are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Miccosukee Tribe and a long list of environmental activists.
The state and the agriculture industry say the issuance of state permits to execute the cleanup are safeguard enough. The permits are binding at the state level.
"There's no problem for the court to solve," said Christopher M. Kise, representing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
He said the environmental groups have been a partner all along. And Joe Klock, for Roth Farms in Belle Glade, said the EPA could have challenged the state permits, but didn't.
"We participate in the sense that they explain what they come up with," said David Guest, representing a consortium of environmentalists. Michael Frank, 55, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe, sat in the courtroom Monday to watch the debate, as he has for years. He said he used to live off the land, but there's too much pollution. Now, "we go to Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie."
"Whatever they say they're doing, nothing has changed," Frank said.
130324-a Big Sugar’s subsidy — how sweet it is
Miami Herald – by Carl Hiaasen
March 24, 2013
Cut by cut, the forced budget reductions known as the sequester are beginning to affect millions of Americans.
Head Start education programs for low-income students are being slashed. So are medical services for 2 million native Americans living on Indian reservations and in Alaska.
The Army is suspending tuition assistance for soldiers hoping to enroll in classes, while scholarship funds have been curtailed for children of troops who were killed in combat.
Cutbacks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection are causing long waits and security concerns at Miami International Airport. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture will furlough 6,200 food inspectors for 11 days this summer, which the agency says will create an $8 billion delay in meat exports.
Still, not everyone who depends on the federal government is suffering in these austere times.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the USDA is on the verge of purchasing 400,000 tons of sugar in a massive bailout of domestic sugar processors. The move would cost taxpayers about $80 million.
It’s the sweetest of deals for the big companies that grow cane and beets. For years the government has guaranteed an artificially high price for American sugar, undercutting foreign competitors and inflating consumer prices for everything from soft drinks to breakfast cereal.
Last year, sugar processors under the price-support program borrowed $862 million from the USDA. The loans were secured with about 2 million tons of sugar that was expected to be harvested.
And the harvest was very good. Too good, apparently. The market got flooded.
Between February 2012 and February 2013, the price of beet sugar fell from 51 cents a pound to about 28.50 cents. Raw cane dropped from 33.57 cents to 20.72 cents.
Consequently, the government’s loans to processors are in danger of default. To avoid that, the USDA would take all the sugar and sell it at a discount rate to producers of ethanol, who’d mix it with the corn from which that fuel is distilled.
The transaction would result in Uncle Sam losing 10 cents on every pound of sugar sold, which adds up to an $80 million hit on 400,000 tons of product.
What a brilliant system.
The major beneficiaries of this bailout would be cane growers in Florida and beet operations in Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota. Big Sugar has outsized political clout in Washington, as evidenced by the silence of so-called fiscal conservatives.
Heavy campaign contributions are spread among Democrats and Republicans alike. Barack Obama took money from the sugar industry, as did Mitt Romney. Hefty donations went to both of Florida’s senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.
Every time somebody in Congress tries to kill the sugar subsidy, the measure gets voted down — by some of the same lawmakers who love to rail against public spending on welfare benefits, health care and education.
In Florida, the bitter taste of the sugar subsidy goes back decades. The program helped to make multimillionaires out of people who prolifically polluted the Everglades, and who for years fought all efforts to make them clean up their waste water.
(One of the state’s largest cane producers, U. S. Sugar, said earlier this month that it has no outstanding USDA loans. The government hasn’t provided a list of the sugar companies that would gain from the bailout.)
Those who defend Big Sugar say price supports don’t really cost taxpayers anything — except, of course, when the price of sugar dives.
And, not that Americans need an incentive to buy more Snickers bars or guzzle more Mountain Dew, but subsidies jack up consumer costs by about $3.5 billion annually, according to a study by Iowa State University.
Remember all the feigned outrage on conservative talk radio when the government bailed out the auto industry? At least we taxpayers weren’t forced to buy up all those acres of unsold Hummers.
Incidentally, American car makers don’t have the advantage of being shielded from foreign manufacturers like Toyota or Honda.
If you’re in the sugar business in this country, you can depend on politicians to restrict imports and guarantee a set price for your crop — the antithesis of free-market competition.
It’s not a one-time shot, either. It’s an ongoing gush of entitlement.
While we’re cutting scholarships for the children of dead war heroes.
130324-b Environmentalists need a real plan
Ocala.com, Star-Banner - by Harold Sansing
March 24, 2013
It appears we, that is, us environmentalists, need a strong attention-getting lobby like the NRA. Call it the National Treehuggers Association (NTA) whereby we create a “brand” and establish lobbying power to stir things up.
Unfortunately, wimpy organizations like the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Conservation Society and all the rest of the return addresses on the envelopes on my desk soliciting funds serve, at best, mostly ineffective purposes.
All it is we need are some attention-getting publicity to get the NTA going. You know, like cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water, or polluted surface and ground water, or disappearing fish and aquatic life, or inundation by trash and other solid wastes, or the death of the Florida Everglades and other useless wetlands, or untreated runoff from mines, streets, yards and parking lots.
And hey, we need more unscrupulous real estate development in flood-, earthquake- and fire-prone zones. Give us some air quality like China, then a few oil-well blowouts, toxic lagoon spills and, for good measure, throw in a couple of Love Canals or Three Mile Islands, and we’ll be good.
Armed with these, all we need to complete our publicity campaign is to recruit a few solicitous half-baked political officials to support the effort by pumping their egos into believing they will be endowed profusely with untold wealth from kick-backs ripped from rich, little-old-lady NTA supporters who, after all, really don’t need the money.
Mark PERRY Executive Director, Florida Oceanographic
130324-c Mark Perry is still fighting for the St. Lucie River, 35 years later
TCPalm.com - by Eve Samples
March 24, 2013
Mark Perry was worried about dessert.
Some of his most generous donors were sitting under a white tent at Florida Oceanographic Society, and he didn’t want to keep them waiting.
He darted into the makeshift kitchen, but the staff waved him off.
It never occurred to him that the untouched carrot cake was for him — in honor of his 35th anniversary at Florida Oceanographic.
That’s Perry for you.
Since 1978, when he was hired as the nonprofit’s first paid staff member, he has humbly advocated for the health of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
It can be a thankless and frustrating role.
Perry is the guy in the turquoise Florida Oceanographic shirt speaking out at mind-numbing government meetings that other people can’t attend — much less understand.
He’s the guy who can tell you how many cubic feet of polluted water gushed from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River three decades ago (or last fall).
Those Lake O releases continue to plague the river, but that hasn’t dimmed Perry’s passion.
At 61, he still exhibits childlike enthusiasm when he spies one of his favorite river critters.
“He can get so excited about an arthropod,” said his wife of 20 years, Nancy Perry.
She knows what an arthropod is because she’s married to a man who has spent a lifetime studying the local waterways. For the rest of us: It’s a class of more than a million invertebrates with segmented bodies and jointed limbs — some of which live at Florida Oceanographic’s 57-acre Coastal Center on Hutchinson Island.
Nancy Perry spent 10 years as the center’s development director, inspired by her husband’s fervor. There was a selfish reason, too.
“I realized very soon after we were married that, if I ever wanted to see my husband, I needed to work there,” she said, laughing.
The St. Lucie Estuary is one of Mark Perry’s great loves. He grew up in Stuart, where he waterskied on it. His father, the late Clifton Perry, was one of the founding board members of Florida Oceanographic, which opened on Kreuger Creek in 1964.
Perry’s activism for the river started early. He and his classmates at Martin County High School staged a mock funeral for the St. Lucie River in 1970, on the first Earth Day, to protest pollution from Lake Okeechobee.
His disdain has not abated.
“Lately, he’s getting mad,” Nancy Perry explained.
Now let’s be clear — Mark Perry’s “mad” looks a lot nicer than other people’s.
The executive director of Florida Oceanographic has a naturally diplomatic disposition. Still, the years of unheeded warnings have been frustrating.
Mark Perry and other local advocates have long known how to heal the St. Lucie Estuary: By making the federal government stop dumping surplus Lake Okeechobee water into it. The fertilizer-tainted freshwater kills oyster beds, triggers algae blooms and is linked to bacterial outbreaks.
What’s worse is that it’s an epic waste of water. When the Army Corps of Engineers opens the flood gates to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, about 1.7 billion gallons a day end up in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, Perry estimates.
If it were sent south to the Everglades — as Mother Nature intended — it could be cleaned and used to supply water to millions of residents of South Florida.
It’s a win-win. But it’s expensive, and politics are at play.
Ever the optimist, Perry remains hopeful that it will happen in his lifetime.
In the meantime, he joins the chorus of voices fighting for sugar growers to keep paying their fair share for cleaning water in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake O.
Many scientists “complain in their laboratories, but they don’t get out there,” said Grant Gilmore, president of Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science and a longtime friend.
Perry got out there, and he never retreated.
“Over the past 35 years, governors and presidents changed ... but Mark kept his target before him,” Gilmore said.
There’s a fish in the local estuary that clones itself. Gilmore said he’d like to find a way to apply that phenomenon to his friend.
“We need more Marks up and down the lagoon,” Gilmore said. “We’ve got six counties here, and God knows how many politicians.”
I asked Perry what he was most proud of after 35 years at the helm of Florida Oceanographic — a period during which he grew its budget from $33,000 to $1.4 million.
He pointed to the education exhibits at the Coastal Center, which include sting rays and touch tanks.
“When you look out there and you see kids holding that animal for the first time it makes me feel really good to see those eyes open up,” Mark Perry told me. “Now you’ve got them. Now you’ve got them excited, like I was while I was growing up.”
If the past is any indication, we’ll need today’s children to carry the torch for the estuary in the future.
130324-d Who will get South Florida Water Management District post ?
March 24, 2013
Three of the most powerful unelected, unpaid government seats in South Florida are vacant as of this month, and Gov. Rick Scott is expected to soon announce which of the 11 candidates will fill those voids.
The South Florida Water Management District is a $567 million regulatory arm that issues permits for water usage, guides Everglades restoration projects and is responsible for flood control in 16 counties and for nearly 8 million people. The nine-member board currently has six members. Two of the appointments are set to expire this month. Former governing board member Dan DeLisi resigned from the district last month to take a chief of staff position at the district days later.
The seat DeLisi vacated is the only one designated strictly for Southwest Florida interests. The other two open seats represent agriculture and rural communities and municipalities along the East Coast.
Notable names who’ve applied to represent this area include former governing board member Charles Dauray of Estero; land planner Mitch Hutchcraft of Fort Myers; Big Cypress Basin Board members Kevin Powers and David Farmer; and former Conservation 2020 board chairman Rick Barber, who is also on the Big Cypress board. Joel Pusateri, Cape Coral; and Paul Reynolds, Fort Myers, also applied, according to Scott’s office.
Hutchcraft works for King Ranch, the largest juice orange producer in the state, and has the support of environmental groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation.
“I think there’s a huge amount of common agreement,” Hutchcraft said. “The difficulty is how you go about implement that common agreement. Let’s get away from hyperbole and trying to place blame and focus on the facts and then agree on how we work together to make it happen.”
Hutchcraft said his top concerns for Southwest Florida are polluted water flows from Lake Okeechobee and area Everglades restoration projects such as the Caloosahatchee reservoir, a planned, man-made project that’s designed to take excess water from the river, store that water and the release it during drought conditions.
The river and its estuary suffer yearly from either too much water flow or too little from Lake Okeechobee, which was connected to the Caloosahatchee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a way to drain South Florida for farming and development.
Barber currently serves as a member of the Big Cypress Basin, a non-regulatory arm of the Water Management District that deals almost exclusively with water quality and flood control issues in much of Collier County.
Like Hutchcraft, Barber has worked in the private sectors as a planning and development consultant. Barber said water quality and flows are high on his priority list as well.
“It’s a changed system,” Barber said. “People talk about how we need to revert to the way things were 100 years ago but that’s just not possible. You can’t change the fact that we get a lot of outflow from Lake Okeechobee. We have to deal with the system we have and understand how it works and what the limitations.”
Barber’s right as far as the limitations of the system. An act of Congress would literally be needed to stop polluted waters from flowing down the Caloosahatchee.
Nancy Payton with the Florida Wildlife Federation said her groups supports Hutchcraft and Farmer.
“We’ve worked with (Hutchcraft) on a number of projects,” Payton said. “He’s been very help with panther conservation. And I think he can provide that bridge between conservation groups and development interests.”
Go also to the "LEGAL" page
130323- FCC Legislative Update March 18-22
Florida Conservation Coalition - Founder and Chairman, Bob Graham; Vice-Chairman, Nathaniel Pryor Reed
March 23, 2013
Note: These are the Bills the FCC is following according to the FCC priorities of Water Policy and Management, and Public Lands. Please see many of our charter and affiliate members' sites for details on other important pieces of legislation. HB 33 - Allows individual and corporate private land owners to exchange state owned land for conservation easements over their private land holdings. This bill removes the state lands from public management, placing them back into the hands of private land owners for farming, grazing, timber and other private uses. Since the alteration of the original state lands for these new agricultural uses would be relatively irreversible, and since there is no requirement in the bills for the conservation easements to be permanent, this does not seem fair to Florida's taxpayers. This bill is opposed by the United Water Fowlers of Florida, Audubon Florida, and other conservation groups. The bills are still awaiting committee hearings in the House and Senate. HB 901 - Prohibits the purchase of public conservation lands by any governmental entity unless an equal amount of public property is returned to private ownership, effectively killing the acquisition of conservation land in Florida. (In fact, since much of the public lands have been purchased with bonds requiring the land to remain in conservation, it could be interpreted that the bill is really a prohibition against acquiring new public conservation lands) This bill is opposed by the FCC. See the previous FCC ACTION ALERT. The House and Senate versions have been referred to 4 Committees in each chamber. The FCC will keep you updated on these bills as and if they are heard by the Committees. HB 1063 - Places the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services in a powerful role in advocating for agriculture in the water management Regional Water Supply planning process. A new group within DACS would be established just for the purpose of providing estimates to the Water Management Districts, which they must consider. Certain provisions conflict with needs for protection from drought or recognition of environmental restoration priorities. The bill increases the power of other "self-suppliers" in the water supply planning process; and does nothing to advance the cause of conservation and efficient water use or help our springs.On March 7th this bill received a favorable vote by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The bill has yet to be heard by any House Committees. This bill, in current form, is opposed by the FCC.
Senator Grimsley, (the sponsor) has met with us twice in the last two weeks. She very graciously temporarily postponed her bill, which has the effect of giving us one more week to further work things out. The signs are good that this will happen following a two hour meeting with the Senator and DACS staff on Monday. However, we have not seen the second set of amendments, yet. The House Bill is being conformed with the Senate Bill in real time as amendments have been accepted by the groups. In the meantime, Senator Bullard has helped by preparing and submitting amendments to meet our concerns in case negotiations break down. The next stop will be a later meeting of the Senate Agricultural Committee. We are hoping for a bill that provides DACS specific ability to participate in the water planning process under the conditions that all data is available, the local planning process is recognized, conservation is specifically part of the DACS planning, and the effects of adding the self-suppliers to the planning and contracting process is clarified and made appropriate. If there is a need for a further alert, we will let you know. HB 7065 - As a result of persistent negotiations by conservationists, many, but not all, of our member organizations now support Everglades legislation moving forward this session. It is hard to estimate how difficult this session has been for the environmental lobbyists in Tallahassee. That, considered, the compromise reached is understandable.
This legislation, HB 7065 and SB 768, has been modified under this compromise and is moving rapidly towards adoption. Two of the most unacceptable provisions in the House Bill have been removed. The "Principles" for Everglades restoration have been restored, which set forth many of the most important policy parameters for restoration, including contemplated sources of funds and percentage contributions. The attempt by the sugar industry to be deemed in compliance with water quality standards (the "cause or contribute issue"), automatically, if they install best management practices (BMP), was also removed from the House bill. The third positive aspect of the bill lies in extending payments by the industry for Everglades restoration. For those for whom restoration of the Everglades is the top priority, the inclusion of "appropriations" for the next 10 years is also a good thing. However, the automatic transfer of $20 million/year from the Water Management Lands Fund for Everglades Restoration will make distribution from the Trust Fund even more political, and other Districts may be affected by this because the Trust Funds are no longer being managed in the way originally envisioned by the Legislature. Also, unfortunately, language still remains which exists in the current statute (and was arguably strengthened in this change), to "deem" the (now extended) sugar payments (plus, now the BMP's) to meet the Florida Constitutional requirements that the polluter pay for its share of the clean-up costs. It is probable that we really still do not know what the total bill for restoration will be.
The bill has been amended and the amended version passed the
house 114-0 yesterday. Senate Bill 768 by Senator Simpson has been amended to align it with HB 7065 and has been approved by the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation. HB 789 - Requires each Water Management District to identify first and second magnitude springs with declining flow levels and create a 5 year plan to restore these impaired water bodies. The FCC supports the efforts of Rep. Stewart and Sen. Soto to restore Florida's springs.
The House version has been referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committee. The Senate version has been referred to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation, Community Affairs, and Rules Committees. The FCC will keep you updated on these bills as they are heard by the Committees. HB 109 - Extends the duration of Consumptive Use Permits for Development of Alternative Water Supplies from 20 to 30 years and prevents the quantity of alternative water allocated to be reduced, unless the reduction is needed to address harm to water resources or to existing legal users. The FCC opposed similar language during recent Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Rulemaking, but with the recent change by Representative Young addressing environmental harm, we are not opposing this bill.
Last week, HB 109 and SB 364 passed through their referring committees. Both bills await second readings in their respective chambers. HB 999 - This bill creates, amendments and revises provisions relating to: development permit applications; marinas, boatyards, & marine retailers; general permits for special events; well permits; exemptions from permits, fees & related environmental requirements & regulation; regional water supply planning; agricultural water supply demand projections; major sources of air pollution; water quality testing, sampling, collection, & analysis; & restoration of seawalls. Unfortunately, and despite meeting with all the stakeholders, the environmental lobbyists who have been working with Representative Patronis have not yet been presented with the version of the bill likely to be heard in committee next week. You may see an alert on this bill in the next couple of days. HB 7 - Requires Water Management Districts (WMD) to include certain water bodies in priority lists and schedules, provides for adoption of certain reservations and minimum flows by DEP, and requires WMD to apply, without rule adoption, certain reservations, minimum flows and levels, and recovery and prevention strategies. Enables WMD to enter into interagency agreements to promote interagency coordination where boundaries overlap.
HB 7 is awaiting a hearing in the House Rulemaking Oversight & Repeal Subcommittee. SB 244 is scheduled for a second reading on March 27th. HB 319 - This problematic growth management bill restricts mobility plans and fees, which many local governments have adopted instead of transportation concurrency. Developers want to place the same restrictions on those plans regarding credits, proportionate share and prohibiting operating and maintenance costs. 1000 Friends of Florida met with stakeholders to voice concerns about the bill. After reviewing the amendments made, serious concerns remain. It did pass the first committee this week, and could be at the second committee stop next week. We believe the bill unnecessarily restricts local government flexibility regarding mobility plans and mobility fees even though it appears to protect existing programs. The Florida Association of Counties has expressed concerns about the bill. Currently, there is no Senate companion. HB321 - Prohibits any local government from applying school and transportation concurrency, including proportionate share contributions, through July 1, 2017, unless 2/3 of elected officials vote to do so. This bill would over-ride existing local government authority which already exists to suspend concurrency and/or impact fees, and interfere with local home rule authority.
Florida Forever and Everglades restoration Appropriations - As part of the compromise on HB 7065, $32 million has been allocated for Everglades restoration. This includes $12 million in general revenue fund and a $20 million transfer from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund. The FCC will continue to monitor Florida Forever and Everglades funding as specific budget proposals come out of the relevant House and Senate Appropriation Committees.
Don't stick taxpayers with Everglades bill
Bradenton Herald - Editorial
March 22, 2013
It never fails. The Everglades clean-up, set on the path -- again -- to completion is met by yet another well-funded effort to knock it off course. This time, polluters want the state Legislature to let them wriggle out of their longstanding responsibility to pay their fair share not just to clean the River of Grass of damaging phosphorous, but also to prevent the chemicals from entering the waterway in the first place.
Lawmakers should swat down these efforts, or else they need to have an extremely plausible explanation as to why they are sticking Florida taxpayers -- their constituents -- with an additional billion-dollar tab.
The Everglades Forever Act, passed in 1994 has traveled a very bumpy road of delays and detours, lawsuits and foot-dragging.
In spite of it all, the Everglades are cleaner, but still not clean enough to meet federal requirements.
Last year, the feds and the state forged an agreement that will lead to an expansion of stormwater treatment areas and construct "flow equalization basins" to serve as a buffer against surges of polluted water. The cost is $1.4 billion.
The sugar industry, among the producers responsible for much of the phosphorous runoff -- and for the costs of the clean-up -- doesn't want to take its proportional share of the hit and has turned to the Legislature to be let off the hook. But here's the damage that could be done if House Bill 7065 passes:
n The original "statement of principles" agreed to by the U.S. Department of Interior, the sugar companies and the state of Florida says that the costs of the clean-up would be proportional. If costs went up, Big Sugar would have to pay more. But the industry wants the Legislature to declare that it is already paying enough to insulate it from the latest and future costs.
n Growers are required to use "best management practices" to clean water before it leaves their fields.
According to the Audubon Society, some are doing well, others need to do much better. Sugar wants to maintain the status quo, with no efforts to force the recalcitrant growers to make their water cleaner.
n Regional water managers and the Department of Environmental Protection can require sugar farmers to do more if their water violates water-quality standards, even if a farmer has an existing permit. The proposed change would eliminate the state's ability to crack down, allowing permits to become a shield against additional clean-up requirements.
Rather than pull back, Big Sugar should want to build on its success. After all, regional water managers say that the industry has reduced the amount of phosphorous flowing south from Lake Okeechobee by 71 percent from 1994 levels. The Everglades clean-up is a gargantuan, decades-long project that will save a vital waterway that supplies drinking water for millions in South Florida, provides habitat for myriad wildlife species and is an economic boon that draws tourists from around the world.
Already, the federal government continues to rally behind the Everglades restoration. The Obama administration has committed $80 million to buy 23,000 acres of ranchland in the northern Everglades -- Florida panther habitat -- to ensure it remains undeveloped and pristine. On Tuesday, the Interior secretary unveiled a bridge that will replace a roadway, increasing the volume of water flowing south.
In Florida, Gov. Scott is on board, including $60 million in his budget for Everglades clean-up. Now, he should insist that lawmakers not muck up the River of Grass.
Fertilizer nutrient runoff
is a major source of
pollution coming from
130322-b Environmentalists, farmers strike deal on the Everglades
Sunshine State News – by Brandon Larabee
March 22, 2013
The fight over the Everglades in the 2013 legislative session ended up being relatively short-lived, as the agricultural industry, environmentalists and lawmakers struck a deal to move ahead with the latest version of the plan to restore the "River of Grass."
The deal, which unanimously passed a key Senate committee Thursday and is poised to pass the House on Friday, defuses what could have turned into a contentious battle over who pays for the $880 million project and how much responsibility agricultural permit holders bear.
"Clearly this is one of the defining moments for our state and our nation, to have the Everglades restored," said Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who sponsored the measure. "This is one step in that process."
Under the new plan, a $25-per-acre tax on farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area, near the northern edge of the marsh, would be extended to 2026 instead of expiring in 2017. The House bill (HB 7065) would have extended the tax to 2024.
And the compromise would phase the tax out more gradually; it wouldn't fall to $10 an acre until 2036, 11 years later than under the House bill. The law would also clearly connect the revenue from the tax to restoring the Everglades.
"Everything about this amendment is good," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "Everything about the underlying bill is good."
"This bill is exactly what is needed to move the restoration plan to this final phase," said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the sugar farmers who dominate Everglades agriculture.
The new version also drops House language that would have essentially said permit holders would not be considered to be contributing to the pollution in the Everglades if they followed their permits; environmentalists contend that those permits are often too weak.
For several, the agreement was a surprise.
"Senator Simpson, you are nothing short of a miracle worker," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. "I would have never thought that I would have lived long enough to see all these disparate groups stand up in a meeting and all agree to one set of law here."
Hours later, the House changed its bill -- the one that had most concerned environmentalists -- to follow the agreement.
"While it's not exactly everything everyone wanted to get, it is something everyone can agree to," said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres.
Draper said legislative leaders in both chambers had pushed the two sides to work together. But the agreement didn't come together until the bill was scheduled for a vote on the House floor, which is expected to come Friday.
He also said that environmentalists and the agricultural industry also plan to work together in the future.
"The fact is, at this point, our hope and I think that the industry's hope is that we find a way to work together for the future to persuade both the Legislature and Congress to fund the broader Everglades restoration plan," Draper said.
130322- Florida lawmakers pass Everglades restoration deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 22, 2013
Big Sugar money keeps flowing to Everglades restoration under the Florida Legislature's compromise measure that Friday drew support from environmental groups and agriculture alike.
The state House of Representatives unanimously approved changes to the Everglades Forever Act that extend taxes on sugar cane growers and other agriculture to help pay for cleaning up water pollution that washes off South Florida farms and into the famed River of Grass.
Environmental groups fought earlier versions of the legislation that they said threatened to cap Big Sugar's Everglades cleanup requirements and weaken the ability of Everglades' advocates to challenge water permits for polluting farms.
Those measures were dropped and the agricultural tax extended 10 years at existing rates under the compromise version. But Big Sugar succeeds in keeping the taxes from going up and gets a more concrete timetable for a gradual reduction of the $25-per-acre-per-year tax.
The bill, HB 7065, brought all groups to the table, said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. There was little debate Friday on the House floor other than comments praising Caldwell for his work before the measure was approved.
"It has gone 180 degrees from the original bill," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, which endorsed the new version of the legislation. "That was a big victory on the environmental side."
While the deal succeeds in securing one long-term funding source for some of Gov. Rick Scott's new Everglades water pollution cleanup plan, it doesn't cover the entire $880 million price tag.
The legislation still leaves Florida taxpayers picking up too much of the tab to clean up pollution phosphorus flowing into the Everglades — most of which comes from farmland, according to the environmental group Friends of the Everglades.
"So, the Republican, Tea Party-leaning legislature seems to favor Big Sugar over the taxpayers," according to Albert Slap, of Friends of the Everglades.
The environmental groups objected to earlier versions of the bill they warned could nullify attempts to add cleanup requirements for farmland and could shield agriculture from picking up more of the long-term restoration costs.
"The worry we have had all along [is] the public taking another shellacking from the sugar industry," said Charles Lee, of Audubon of Florida. "We are kind of in a mode I would call damage control. … The bill has been substantially improved."
The changes succeeded in taking out most of what concerned environmental groups and kept the "agricultural privilege" tax in place but also sets a window for it to gradually be reduced.
According to the new version, the $25 per acre tax on growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area remains until 2026 — 10 years beyond the current version was due for a reduction.
Between 2027 and 2035, it declines from $20 to $15 and then in 2036 holds at $10 per acre.
"It provides what [environmental groups] wanted, which is a stable source of funding. And it creates certainty for us," said Gaston Cantens, vice president for sugar producer Florida Crystals. "We reached a level of consensus." Related: Fla. House approves Everglades restoration WTXL ABC 27 Everglades clean-up compromise passes House unanimously Palm Beach Post House passes Everglades bill that pleases Governor, sugar ... MiamiHerald.com (blog) Editorial: New Everglades bill contains fewer favors for farmers Palm Beach Post Environmentalists, Farmers Strike Deal on the Everglades Sunshine State News Everglades Restoration Bill Passes House 114-0 Sunshine State News Everglades compromise hailed, passes Senate committee The Florida Current
130322-d House backs Everglades restoration
Associated Press - TBO.com
March 22, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- After initial skirmishes between environmental groups and sugar farmers over its wording, the Florida Legislature is moving ahead with a new plan to help pay for Everglades restoration. The House gave tentative approval to the measure on Friday and an identical version is moving through the Senate.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, called the bill a peace treaty that has been accepted by the all sides in a dispute that has been fought over the last two decades.
"While it's not exactly what everyone wanted to get, it is something everyone can agree to," Caldwell said.
The legislation will keep intact an existing tax on farmers who work within a region of the northern Everglades, although it calls for the tax rate to decrease starting in 2027.
The money from the tax will be used for water quality restoration projects that are part of an $880 million plan that was negotiated between Gov. Rick Scott and the federal government.
Both the House bill (HB 7065) and the Senate measure (SB 768) call for spending $32 million a year for the next 10 years in an effort to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the Everglades.
"It extends the funding and it creates a reliable source for Everglades cleanup," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.
There have been legal battles over the famed River of Grass since the late `80s as well as fights over proposed constitutional amendments.
Voters in 1996 defeated a proposal to place a penny per pound fee on raw sugar grown in the northern Everglades, but voters approved a measure that said that those who cause water pollution in the Everglades are primarily responsible for paying to clean it up.
Lawmakers passed a measure in 2003 that laid out a schedule for how long that farmers would have to pay taxes for associated restoration efforts. This year House Republicans unveiled a bill that would have changed that schedule, but it also included a provision dealing with permits that drew the ire of environmental groups.
Sugar growers and environmental groups, however, worked out a compromise in the last week that has now made into the legislation.
Gov. Rick Scott did not agree with the initial House version but has said he supports passing a measure that helps carry out the plan he negotiated. Scott is seeking an additional $28 million in state funding for Everglades restoration this year. Related: Lawmakers set to ok Everglades restoration plan Local10.com, WTXL-ABC27 Business and environmental groups happy with Everglades ... WFSU Editorial: New Everglades bill contains fewer favors for farmers Palm Beach Post Editorial: Don't stick taxpayers with Everglades bill Bradenton Herald Fla. Lawmakers Update Everglades Plan To Fund $880M Phase Law360 Everglades compromise hailed, passes Senate committee The Florida Current Gov. Scott lays down the law on Everglades: 'I want a clean bill' MiamiHerald.com (blog)
130322-e Who controls water standard levels in Florida?
WLRN - by Allison Goodman
March 22, 2013
The Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection Friday to turn over most of its control of water standard levels. The Florida Legislature will have to approve the plan by Dec. 1, 2014 for it to go into effect.
Behind a Florida waterway, a seemingly untroubled scene – behind the turtle sunbathing atop the limestone rock, the water control structure and layers of sawgrass – there’s a political backstage.
The actors: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which currently holds control over water standard levels in Florida, and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which wants it.
As of Friday, it seems that the two are one step closer to making the swap, which would afford the state jurisdiction over 98.9 percent of the water bodies in Florida.
According to the News Service of Florida,
“Florida’s control over water standard levels would expand to nearly all of its waterways under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday. The deal, which expands upon an agreement reached in November, would give the state Department of Environmental Protection power to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in more than 4,300 square miles of coastal streams, estuaries and rivers, including the Intracoastal Waterway running up Florida’s east coast. The Florida Legislature has until Dec. 1, 2014 to approve the agreement, with bills on the plan expected to be put before lawmakers this session. The state DEP will also set interim standards until the legislation is approved.”
With toxic nitrogen- and phosphorous-based fertilizers running off from the sugarcane fields adjacent to Lake Okeechobee, nutrient control in waterways has become of interest to state lawmakers. An influx of nutrients can, after all, cause algal blooms, which result in high concentrations of decaying organic matter, and even dead zones. Some argue that the most recent outbreak of red tide in Southwest Florida, which killed some 170 manatees, can be linked to nutrient pollution, although this is unconfirmed.
“We can now move forward to implementing nutrient reduction criteria, rather than delaying environmental improvements due to endless litigation,” DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said in a news release.
Two of the state’s biggest business groups, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, also jumped on board.
The list doesn’t end there. According to the Tampa Bay Times,
“Word of the EPA-DEP deal was greeted with delight by utilities, dairy farmers, pulp mills and other industries that had worked on drawing up the state's proposed standards. The head of one of the state's leading business lobbies, Tom Feeney of Associated Industries of Florida, said the credit for the EPA's agreement is due to the continued political pressure on the agency from Florida's congressional delegation.”
However, not everyone is as pleased. Earthjustice – a non-profit law organization that, alongside other environmental groups, sued the EPA in 2008, forcing them to develop new water pollution rules – does not think the plan holds water.
“This is an absolute sell out,” Earthjustice attorney David Guest said in a release. “This bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes. And what do we, the public, get ? More gross, slimy algae in the water.”
This is not the first time the EPA and DEP have worked together. In November, the federal government afforded the state the power to set the standards for nutrient concentrations on 10,000 miles of Florida waterways and 4,000 square miles of estuaries.
Want to dig even more behind the scenes ? You can read the full script of the newest agreement here.
130321-a A good move for Everglades
TBO.com – by Editorial Staff
March 21, 2013
It is encouraging to see a Florida House that has been notoriously unfriendly to environmental concerns in recent years work to transform a polluter-friendly Everglades bill into a reasonable cleanup plan.
Speaker Will Weatherford and his team deserve credit for working with environmentalists.
Originally, House Bill 7065, which was aimed at codifying the $880 million Everglades cleanup settlement reached by Gov. Rick Scott and Washington, included several slippery measures aimed at benefiting the influential sugar industry.
The initial proposal would have limited the industry's financial responsibility to far below the actual costs of cleaning up the mess it created. That would have directly contradicted a 1996 "polluters pay" constitutional amendment that passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
The initial legislation would have extended a $25-per-acre special cleanup tax on agriculture until 2024, when it would drop to $10 an acre and then essentially cap the sugar industry's liability.
This would have left taxpayers on the hook for the overwhelming bulk of the costs of building the water storage and treatment systems needed to restore a measure of health to the badly abused Everglades.
The bill also would have dictated that operations with permits must be found in compliance with water quality standards, regardless of how harmful their discharges, providing the polluters a free pass.
At first it appeared House leadership would force the legislation through. It passed a committee with only one legislator daring to oppose it.
But environmentalists fought hard, and the House leaders, rather than simply dismissing their objections, approved thoughtful changes.
Wednesday, the House amended the bill to extend the $25 tax to 2026, when it would be set at $20 per acre until 2029. Then it would be reduced to $15 until 2035, when it would finally drop to $10 per acre.
Holding the sugar industry more accountable will add more than $100 million to the cleanup effort.
Equally important, the House dropped the language giving permit-holders a pass for any polluted discharges.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, says the legislation changed from being a environmental threat to "a reliable funding source for the Everglades cleanup."
The Senate bill to codify the Everglades agreement, sponsored by Pasco Sen. Wilton Simpson, has never included any special interest machinations, so the odds look good that this Legislature will have at least one notable environmental achievement.
Considering the disregard for natural Florida exhibited by the last few Legislatures, that is good news indeed.
130321-b Former Sen. Bob Graham talks Florida conservation with News 13
Orlando Sentinel - by Hal Boedeker, Staff Writer
March 21, 2013
In local public-affairs programming this weekend:
Former Sen. Bob Graham and Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine visit "Political Connections" at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday on Central Florida News 13. Moderator Ybeth Bruzual asks them about the Florida Conservation Coalition, their project to protect the state's land, water and wildlife, Former Gov. Graham and former state Rep. Constantine seek a balance between nature and development. In another segment, analysts Lou Frey and Dick Batchelor assess Congress' efforts on the budget.
"Central Florida Spotlight" looks back at WFTV-Channel 9's investigative reports at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Moderator Greg Warmoth provided this preview: "We look at sex offenders living next to homeless children, officer-involved-shooting investigations, food stamp fraud, an Orange County commissioner's world travels on the taxpayers' dime, the high number of gun permits in one local county, the increasing problem of local teens being brought into sex trafficking, phone companies potentially accepting political influence and more."
"Orlando Matters" host Keith Landry interviews political analyst Frank Torres about health-care reform in Florida, tax incentives for businesses and education reform. The program airs at 7 a.m. Saturday on WRBW-Channel 65.
"Flashpoint" will repeat Lauren Rowe's interview with FDLE Lead Investigator Danny Banks about Internet child sex stings. The program airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on WKMG-Channel 6.
130321-c Gov. Scott lays down the law on Everglades: 'I want a clean bill'
Miami Herald – by Mary Ellen Klas
March 21, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott has put the kibosh on a fast-paced push by Florida sugar growers and the Everglades agriculture community to pass a bill that would cap their liability for clean-up costs over the next 30 years.
Speaking to the Miami Herald editorial board on Thursday morning, Scott insisted that he wants to "memorialize" the landmark settlement he negotiated in 2012 with the federal government to establish clean-up standards, water flow patterns and a payment plan for restoring the Everglades. But he said repeatedly, "I want a clean bill."
The bill, (HB 7065) by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-LeHigh Acres, had gone beyond the settlement by shifting some of the cost of cleaning up the Everglades from sugar and agricultural interests to Florida taxpayers and South Florida property owners.
But a compromise worked out on Wednesday between sugar growers and environmentalists appears to head in the direction the governor wants.
The compromise language was added to the Senate companion to the bill Thursday morning and is expected to be added to a bill up for its first floor vote by the full House today.
Under the amendment Caldwell has introduced, the compromise will scale back provisions of the bill that phase out the agriculture privilege tax the industry to pays for pollution cleanup in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and restores enforcement of water quality standards.
"It's a reasonable compromise,'' said Brian Hughes, spokesman for the Florida sugar farmers. "It gives us a certainty that this rate at those years is what we can expect."
Audubon of Florida director Eric Draper wrote in an e-mail to members that the amendment "fixes the major problems with the bill" and urged them to keep the pressure on.
Caldwell's bill has been on a fast track in the House, introduced on the first week of session, moved through two committees to reach the floor today.
The sugar industry has been one of the largest contributors to legislative campaigns and political committees in the last election cycle and have given Scott's political committee, Let's Get to Work, at least $550,000.
130320-a Deal with feds on water quality rules wins quick approval from House Committee
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
March 20, 2013
Setting up a likely quick passage through the House, the State Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to introduce a proposed committee bill to approve a plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on setting water quality standards in Florida.
Environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 to require stricter numeric limits for nitrogen and phosphorus to replace the state's narrative water quality standards.
While utilities and industry groups on Wednesday lined up in support of the bill, PCB SAC 13-02, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen said the plan violates a 2009 court agreement.
"Delay may be a good legal strategy," Cullen said. "It is not a good strategy for getting sewage, manure and fertilizer out of our waters."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday that it had reached agreement with the federal agency on a "path forward" plan to avoid having dual state and federal water quality standards.
The Earthjustice law firm responded Friday that the "bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes." Environmental groups represented by Earthjustice sued the federal EPA in 2008 to force it to require water quality standards, called numeric nutrient criteria.
The groups signed a legal agreement in 2009 that required the EPA to propose those standards in Florida. Industry groups, utilities and state and local officials immediately responded in opposition, claiming that the federal rules would be difficult and expensive to meet.
In 2011, the state resumed setting its own rules subject to EPA approval. A representative of wastewater utilities offered rule language that required the federal EPA to halt rule-making in Florida before state rules could be implemented.
DEP accepted the rule language, which wound up in HB 7051 in 2012. The bill passed the House and Senate with no opposing votes and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
DEP officials said in January they couldn't implement the state rules because EPA still was proposing federal pollution limits. A month earlier, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had refused a request by EPA to delay setting numeric limits as required by the 2009 court agreement.
PCB SAC 13-02 calls for removing the all-or-nothing provision from Florida rules (Rule 62-302.531(9), Florida Administrative Code) once EPA removes federal rules and ceases future numeric nutrient rule-making.
Groups supporting the bill included the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Water Environment Association-Utility Council, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Stormwater Association, the Florida Land Council, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.
But the Sierra Club's Cullen said many areas in South Florida won't have nitrogen limits and there is no set date for the state developing nitrogen and phosphorus limits for many estuaries.
"The flawed plan violates the consent decree, and it is subject to court review to ensure that it complies with the consent order and the (federal) Clean Water Act," Cullen said. "We suspect Judge Hinkle will not be satisfied."
But the bill won unanimous support on the State Affairs Committee. Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, congratulated the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for defending the state's right to deal with the problem on its own.
He also said that providing certainty for water resources "is bound to have a positive impact on our economy."
Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando and sponsor of HB 789 to require five-year plans for restoring Florida's springs and groundwater, told committee members that she may be surprising them by saying she supports the proposed committee bill.
"We've got to get started," she said. "We can't just wait around and have debate after debate and not accomplish anything. Related: EPA cuts pollution deal with state officials FCIR Florida's own numeric nutrient standards flow through House Committee Sunshine State News Related Research: * March 15, 2013 Florida numeric nutrient criteria "Path Forward" document
* March 15, 2013 Florida Department of Environmental Protection news release
* March 11, 2013 DEP draft water quality legislation
* March 15, 2013 Florida DEP-US EPA agreement in principle
* March 13, 2013 Numeric nutrient criteria implementation document
130320-b Florida House advances bill for DEP to reset water standards
SoutheastAgNet.com - by Randall
March 20th, 2013
From The News Service of Florida:
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE - - With the federal government recently expanding the state’s control over local water standards, a measure is advancing quickly in the Legislature to have the Florida Department of Environmental Protection establish the new water criteria.
The House State Affairs Committee agreed Wednesday to push a bill supported by some of the state’s most influential business advocates that would have the DEP set new water standards that must be in place by the end of next year.
Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, said the bill is intended to help improve waterways, but will also help Florida’s economy.
“We can’t go back to where we were in this state 125 years ago, we can’t do it,” Albritton said. “But we can certainly take this time right now to draw a line in the sand, make sure that we stand up as a state, we can handle our own issues, we can deal with our own challenges, and make the future the best we can.”
Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, expressed concerns about the potential impact of the standards, but supported the proposal saying the DEP needs get to work.
“We just can’t wait around and have debate after debate and not accomplish anything,” Stewart said.
On Friday, DEP announced it had reached a deal with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency that expands upon the November agreement that gives the state power to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in most of the state’s coastal streams, estuaries and rivers, including the Intracoastal Waterway.
The environmental community, with the group EarthJustice fighting the deal in federal court, hasn’t embraced the EPA-DEP agreement. David Cullen, the lobbyist for the Sierra Club of Florida, told committee members Wednesday that the bill allows too much pollution, and won’t adequately protect Florida waters from sewage, manure and fertilizer.
“If traffic rules were written like this, it would be a miracle that anyone ever got a speeding ticket,” Cullen said.
The Legislature has until Dec. 1, 2014 to approve the agreement that now gives the state control over 98.9 percent of the bodies of water in Florida, with the remaining waterways still under review to determine the needed standards. Drew Bartlett, the DEP director of the Division of Environmental Assessment, said workshops will begin next month for new standards on different water bodies, with the goal of having new levels set by the end of September.
“Our (standards) will go into effect when we’re certain that there aren’t federal criteria on the books,” Bartlett said.
130320-c Florida's own numeric nutrient standards flow through House Committee
Sunshine State News - by Anne Smith
March 20, 2013
Florida is on track to be the first state in the nation to implement statewide nutrient standards for its waterways, and the state is doing it its own way.
After locking horns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its effort to dictate a one-size-fits-all approach to numeric nutrient standards (NNCs) for Florida, the state prevailed in setting its own scientific-based rules for its water bodies. The House State Affairs Committee Wednesday gave its stamp of approval to the plan developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as they voted in support of PCB SAC 13-02, which sets in Florida statutes protections for downstream waters.
The bill is the culmination of 10 years of work by DEP to develop NNCs for Florida. In 2003, the department set up a technical advisory committee to begin collecting data about biological conditions in Florida’s waters. The step was in answer to EPA’s 1998 suggestion that all states develop nutrient standards for their waterways.
As is a pattern in Florida, environmentalists sued in federal court and EPA stepped in to mandate what Florida’s leaders deemed to be job-killing and arbitrary statewide rules.
Rep. Jake Raburn, the bill’s sponsor, said every water body in Florida is different and EPA did not take that into account when mandating their limits. “DEP has done a fantastic job collecting real science and using real data to come up with standards that work for our state and that make sense for water quality in our state,” said the Lithia Republican.
The irony of being singled out by EPA as the first state to have statewide federal rules placed on its waterways was addressed by Drew Bartlett, director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, who said the state already leads the nation in nutrient limits for its waterways, and in fact, there are 22 states with no rules on any of its water bodies.
“With this bill we will have statewide criteria for rivers and streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal criteria,” he said. “We will be the most represented state in the nation. And, we will lead the nation in setting numeric nutrient criteria, easily. We already do, this will make it even more.”
Florida is also home to the largest environmental restoration effort in the country with the Everglades. An unrelated Everglades bill is moving concurrently through the Legislature. Some members displayed concern about whether the NNC bill would affect the Everglades. But, Bartlett assured that there is no overlap, since South Florida canals and waterways in the Everglades Protection Area are already covered under other regulations and are already required to meet water quality standards. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, congratulated DEP for fighting for state’s rights and finding a pathway for the state to have certainty, which will have a positive effect on the economy. Even though it’s an environmental bill, he said, it’s a regulation that will come with a cost.
EPA will now present a package in federal court in September as part of its motion for dismissal from the 2009 consent decree that required the federal agency to set additional criteria for Florida.
130220-d Gov. Scott announces $2.2 million investment for Springs protection
March 20, 2013
Live Oak — Governor Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet approved a plan for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to purchase a tract of land in Madison County that will fill a critical gap for springs protection, flood control assistance and groundwater recharge. The Cabinet approved the Department’s $2.2 million purchase of a 599-acre property owned by the Damascus Peanut Company on the Suwannee River, located near Anderson Spring. The property will complete sections of the Ellaville Twin Rivers State Forest and will be managed by the Florida Forest Service. It is part of Florida’s First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever Project.
“This investment signifies our commitment to acquiring critical lands for water quality improvements,” Scott said. “A healthy environment is part of Florida’s economic engine and we depend on its health. This investment builds on our Florida Families First Budget which invests $269.5 million to improve water quality throughout the Sunshine State.”
The property marks another land purchase that aids in the Department’s goal of protecting springs throughout the state. On March 7, Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved a $1.5 million purchase of land outside Wakulla Springs and within the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone with Florida Forever money. Purchasing land near springs protects the springs, karst windows and the Floridian Aquifer from the effects of commercial, agricultural and residential runoff. “The Department saw the springs protection, water quality and water quantity that this property offered, so we worked hard to acquire it,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “This purchase keeps a key piece of land in state ownership and furthers the Department’s mission of land purchases that benefit springs.”
The property provides springs protection, a 100-year floodplain and surface water protection. The property lies partially within the springshed for Anderson Spring, which is located on state land directly across the Suwannee River from this property. Cave divers have mapped a connecting cave system that moves toward this property, meaning it has high spring recharge protection potential.
A large number of springs are located along the Suwannee River and this property has 1.6 miles of river frontage on the western bank of the river. Those springs are Hardee Springs, Madison Blue Springs, Falmouth Spring and Lafayette Blue Spring.
130320-e New bridge will aid in restoring Florida's Everglades
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
March 20, 2013
MIAMI -- It was touted as a triumph of modern engineering when it opened in 1928, a road across the once-impassable Everglades that took 2.6 million sticks of dynamite and 13 years to construct.
On Tuesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar led a celebration of a long-awaited,
different sign of progress on Tamiami Trial: the completion of a one-mile-long bridge designed to begin healing the ecological wounds inflicted by a road that has blocked the flow of the Everglades for nearly 90 years.
“It truly is a crown jewel of an achievement,” said Salazar, who snipped a red-ribbon, then took a ceremonial first drive across the span in a hybrid SUV.
The $81 million bridge, scheduled to open to daily traffic in a few weeks, ranks among the most significant Everglades projects to date. It sets the stage for the first breach later this year of a historic road that has been far more than just a lime rock-and-asphalt barrier to reviving the shrunken, struggling River of Grass. The effort to get more water under the bumpy two-lane black top, originally launched by Congress in 1989, has encapsulated all the numbing delays, doubts and disputes that have dogged the broader plans to restore the Everglades.
The bridge took four years to build — but it was a two-decade battle to simply get it started.
“It’s a day that a lot of folks thought they maybe would never see,’’ said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy coordinator for Audubon of Florida. In all, about 200 environmentalists, federal officials, park managers and rangers came out to mark the milestone and take in a new postcard vista. For the first time, motorists can view vast, bird-dotted marshes past the L-29 levee to the north and a tangled jungle lining the Trail to the south.
By itself, the bridge won’t initially make much of a difference to the health of the Everglades – at least until crews later this year remove the old road bed it replaces just a few miles west of Krome Avenue, which will boost current water flows by as much as 15 percent. When the project is completed by raising and reinforcing about 10 miles of the adjacent Trail to handle higher water levels, peak rainy season water flows could nearly double compared to the volume that passes through 19 culverts built under the old road.
That should provide some relief to one of the driest swaths of the Everglades fed by the Shark River Slough, once a major artery of life-giving water. The Trail, along with levees and drainage canals built in the 1960s, choked water flow to a fifth of its historic volume and profoundly altered the landscape, killing off marsh plants and driving away wildlife, with wading birds dropping as much as 90 percent in the park. The ripple effects extended down to a too-salty Florida Bay plagued by sea-grass die-offs and algae blooms.
“The big story is that water levels in the wetlands can go up and that’s a very good thing,’’ said Tom Van Lent, senior scientist for the Everglades Foundation. Re-establishing the broad “sheet flow” of the River of Grass – rather than gushing water through narrow culverts – also will start to help recreate natural conditions that shaped wildlife patterns and the “ridge and slough” geography that defines the Everglades marsh, he said.
“Besides just getting water across the road, there is a lot of stuff in that water: fish, turtles, nutrients, sediments,’’ Van Lent said. “Anything that is in that water needs to get to the other side of the road.”
Still, while the bridge is a milestone, park managers and scientists acknowledge it’s also only a stepping stone, one piece of a complex multi-billion-dollar overhaul of Everglades plumbing that will take decades to complete.
Just for starters, to move the massive amount of water scientists say is needed to restore the Glades, a lot more bridging will be needed.
The Interior Department, which oversees national parks, drew up blueprints in 2010 calling for an additional 5.5 miles of bridging. The $310 million plan, which would erect four more bridges of varying length along the Trail, has been “authorized” by Congress and is currently being designed.
Salazar, who is stepping down as Interior secretary after championing restoration in 11 visits to the Everglades, said the Obama administration intends to “shake the trees’’ looking for money for the work, with one possible source the hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the state from the settlement of the BP oil spill in the Gulf. But it remains uncertain if a divided Congress dealing with sequester budget cuts will sign off on the proposal.
For now, there’s also not nearly enough water to send south through the Everglades and much of what there is isn’t clean enough for the sensitive Everglades, tainted by too much phosphorus, a nutrient in farm, pasture and yard runoff that is damaging to sensitive Everglades plants. Now, much of it gets diverted down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, where it has triggered fish kills and algae blooms. Florida’s plans to build more storage areas and artificial marshes to absorb the pollution, already delayed by a decade, have been pushed back another decade under the state’s latest $880 million clean-up expansion plan.
Another on-going $1 billion plan to add reservoirs and speed up work on the Central Everglades is on the fast-track – but won’t work without additional bridging on the Trail. Beyond that, there are still unresolved technical questions. Raising water levels in the Everglades could raise ground water levels in surrounding lands, including the flood-prone suburbs of west Miami-Dade, or even divert water away from the county’s major well field and Biscayne Bay.
Still, for every other project to work, raising more of the Tamiami Trail is critical.
“There is no middle ground. Without a fix to this issue, Everglades restoration can’t go anywhere,’’ said Van Lent. “The one-mile bridge got us as far as you can go. Now, you have to do the rest of the road.’’
Environmentalists, park managers and federal officials hope fixing the rest of the road will prove easier than the first mile.
The bridge is the last major piece in the Modified Water Deliveries project, originally approved by Congress in 1989 as part of plan to restore water flows to a newly acquired 107,000-acre section of Everglades National Park. But “Mod Waters,” as it came to be known, became mired by shifts in restoration plans, disputes over flood protection for residents in a rural section once known as the 8.5 Square Mile Area and multiple lawsuits – four of them by the Miccosukee Tribe.
The Tribe, arguing that construction would violate an array of environmental rules and that a bridge was a waste of taxpayer money, eventually won an injunction in 2008 from a federal judge to block the work. The tribe, which did not respond to a request for comment on the new bridge, has long argued that a $17 million plan to clean out the existing culverts would provide faster relief for high water damaging tribal land, tree islands and wildlife north of the Trail.
The Sierra Club, meanwhile, complained the bridge was inadequate, championing a $1.6 billion, 11-mile “skyway” that was ultimately rejected as too expensive.
In 2008, the National Research Council summed things up in a report calling the project delays “one of the most discouraging stories in Everglades restoration.”
But the gridlock was finally broken just after that scathing report with an obscure amendment slipped into a federal spending measure. It granted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers an extraordinary exemption from federal environmental laws, lifting the injunction and finally allowing the bridge to move forward.
A handful of additional restoration projects also have broken ground since, giving advocates and engineers that have devoted decades, even entire careers to the Everglades a sense that all the talk of restoration is at long last becoming reality. For all the concerns, the mood on the bridge was upbeat, elevated by flocks of ibises and pairs of wood storks drifting by.
“We’ve been talking about getting more water to the park for my entire lifetime,’’ said Neal McAliley, chairman of the South Florida National Parks Trust. “Today, we’re doing it.’’
Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said his father, a 93-year old civil engineer and World War II veteran, helped him put the battle over the bridge in perspective when he showed him the plans several years ago to build one and then push for more in the future. His father, Kimball said, called the first bridge a “beachhead” – a critical foothold to wage a wider battle.
“Today,’’ Kimball said, “I’m pleased to report that our ‘beach-head’ is now secured and we’re moving out and on.’’ Related: Completion of critical project milestone celebrated for Tamiami Trail ... DVIDS New Bridge in Everglades Opens WTVY, Dothan Tamiami Trail Bridge Dedicated, Latest Structural Component To ... National Parks Traveler
130320-f Policy Note: The Everglades
March 20, 2013
Federal agencies in 2012 approved Gov. Rick Scott's proposal for the state to spend $880 million through 2025 on additional reservoirs and marshes to filter water flowing into the Everglades. Florida voters in 1994 passed a constitutional amendment requiring those primarily responsible for Everglades pollution to pay for cleanup. At issue is a $25 per acre tax on sugar farms that is set to be reduced to $10 in 2017. HB 7065, which sugar farmers support, would extend the $25 per acre tax until 2024. SB 768 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would codify the governor's plan but doesn't address the tax. Environmental groups, which have joined with Scott in supporting SB 768, say the tax needs to be addressed along with the adequacy of farming "best management practices" in reducing pollution -- but not this year.
UPDATE March 14, 2013: The House Appropriations Committee voted 23-1 approve HB 7065 and send it to the House floor.
UPDATE March 20, 2013: HB 7065 was placed on the special order calendar for March 21.
SB 768 is scheduled to be heard March 21 by the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation on its first of three assigned committee stops.
Audubon Florida, which had opposed HB 7065, said it supports strike-all amendments to the House and Senate bills that were filed March 20.
130320-g Rotten to the Corps: Public reviews targeted in new bill
NRDC Switchboard - Deron Lovaas (blog)
March 20, 2013
It has to be an early April Fools Day joke.
The Army Corps of Engineers has, at best, a checkered past when it comes to project designs that harm the environment. "Boondoggle" is almost synonymous with the Corps, as a simple google search would remind Congressional staff. Their shenanigans have been covered by publications from The Economist to Mother Jones. Oh, and lest you think the Corps is only infamous for costly mistakes domestically, check this out.
And the Mother Jones link is actually to an article by Michael Grunwald of Time Magazine, who has written a book, The Swamp, about his beloved Florida and the widespread damage the Corps wreaked on the Everglades in an effort to "tame" it. Now much of this beautiful natural resource has been eaten up by suburban sprawl and sugar plantations.
The respected group Taxpayers for Common Sense described the Corps this way in its 2011 Green Scissors report:
The Army Corps of Engineers has been a lever pulled by lawmakers to bring money to their home districts for nearly two centuries. The agency constructs water resource projects dealing with navigation, flood and storm damage reduction, and environmental restoration. Yet in many cases these projects serve little to no national interest, are not economically justified, have serious negative environmental impacts and are based more on political power than national priority.
Too often Corps projects are both economically and environmentally wasteful. Over the last several years, Corps projects have been challenged by the National Academy of Science, Government Accountability Office and even the U.S. Army Inspector General. With a focus on structural solutions like dams and levees, and a parochial bias that often inhibits regional or watershed planning, the Corps often ignores alternatives less costly for taxpayers and the environment. After Hurricane Katrina, the nation saw a glaring example of Corps failures in flood control and how Corps projects led to increased development in high risk areas.
In that report, Taxpayers notes that 9 Corps boondoggles could be canceled, saving you and me and other taxpayers about $5.6 billion.
So it's with dismay that I read that this week two Senators -- Boxer and Vitter, of the Environment and Public Works Committee -- have included provisions aimed at reducing the amount of scrutiny Corps projects receive in their draft Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the big bill that authorizes funding for the Corps! Say what?
These provisions place time and cost limits on reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act. They put heat on frontline reviewers by allowing a delay in project approval to be kicked upstairs to political appointees. And last but not least, they impose financial penalties if a decision takes too long -- $10,000-20,000 a week!*
I don't know about you, but if I hear of a distant federal agency wanting to bulldoze or steamroll someplace near my neighborhood -- especially if it's an agency that has historically been as ham-handed as the Corps -- I want adequate time and help to scrutinize and comment on the proposal! But a couple of Senators have decided that what matters more is making it easier for the Corps to get the 'dozers moving.
These provisions are a rotten joke, and they don't belong in WRDA. They must be stripped out before they spur more damage.
* To be fair, this penalty appears to transfer, not remove, funding within or between agencies so reviewers get an injection of new money to help finish their work. However, this section is written so it's unclear who loses and who gets the money exactly. I would expect bosses, who may be losing money, could put Cheney-type pressure on environmental analysis to go along to get along – and not cut the boss’s budget. In addition (speaking as someone who reviewed projects years ago, to determine air quality impacts), it is hard to see how this would help. If a project is delayed due to some analytical issue or impasse, I can't help but see stealing $20,000 from my boss and throwing it at reviewers with direction to spend it in a week as punitive and unlikely to be terribly effective.
130320-h Sea grass gains good sign for future for Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
March 20, 2013
A cleaner Tampa Bay is sprouting more and more sea grass, a sign that the bay is almost completely recovered from the time, decades ago, when it was a polluted cesspool.
The bay gained 1,745 acres of sea grass between 2010 and 2012, state biologists reported Wednesday, an increase of 5.3 percent.
Tampa Bay now supports 34,642 acres of sea grass beds. That's the largest amount of sea grass measured since the 1950s, according to scientists at the Southwest Florida Water Management District, more commonly known as Swiftmud.
"It's exciting to see the bay recovering like this," said Holly Greening, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. "No place else in the United States is showing this kind of recovery."
Swiftmud scientists began surveying the bay's sea grass beds in 1988, redoing their maps every two years. This is the fourth consecutive survey that found gains in Tampa Bay's sea grass.
Tampa Bay is Florida's largest open-water estuary, covering about 398 square miles at high tide.
Sea grasses are crucial to the bay's health because they provide food and shelter for a wide variety of fish and other marine species. They filter impurities in the water and stabilize the bay bottom's shifting sands. To thrive, sea grass needs water that's clear enough for a lot of sunlight to get through it.
In the 1950s and '60s, dredging created land for development around the bay but wiped out much of its sea grass, hurting commercial and recreational fishing. Polluted runoff killed even more sea grass. By the early '90s, the bay had lost 80 percent of its sea grass, more than anywhere else in Florida.
The Tampa Bay Estuary Program, created by Congress in 1991, has been working to cut the pollution flowing into the bay and restore the sea grass to the extent it covered in the '50s. The new survey indicates that the bay is now just 3,358 acres shy of that goal, according to Greening.
Since 2000 the region has cut by some 400 tons the amount of nitrogen pollution flowing into the bay even in normally rainy times.
The cuts required cooperation from business and people from all around the bay area, she said. Power plants cut the amount of nitrogen billowing from their smokestacks and settling on the water. Homeowners cut back on how much fertilizer they put on their lawns.
Middle Tampa Bay showed the largest acreage increase in sea grass with 817 acres, a 10 percent boost. To the scientists' surprise, the largest percentage increase — 73.2 percent, or 612 acres — occurred in Hillsborough Bay, which abuts densely developed Tampa and its industrial port.
"We were down to zero acres there in 1982," Greening said. "Now sea grass covers 1,033 acres."
The increase in sea grass has apparently boosted the population and diversity of fish in the bay, too. "We're hearing from fishermen that the fishing in the bay is better than it's ever been," she said.
Sea grass generally grows in waters less than 6 feet deep, but in the clear waters around Egmont and Anclote Keys it can be found in water 10 feet deep or more.
In addition to surveying Tampa Bay, Swiftmud checks the St. Joseph's Sound/Clearwater Harbor system every two years. The results there showed a decrease of less than 2 percent, small enough that it could be due to the accuracy of mapping methods. Related: District Reports Gains in Seagrass Coverage in Tampa Bay Water World Tampa Bay Waters Show Seagrass Gains Patch.com
130320-i SFWMD evaluating possible surplus lands
wotimes.com - by Kelsey Tressler
March 20, 2013
Lake Tibet-Butler Preserve and uplands north of Lake Apopka have been named to this list.
The South Florida Water Management District recently began assessing 750,000 acres of its fee-owned land to see if the areas can be classified as surplus.
SFWMD obtains lands to restore South Florida’s ecosystems and protect its water resources, as well as support flood control infrastructure. The SFWMD wants to look into the acres in question to make sure they are being used effectively toward these goals.
“The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether [the land] should continue at its current use, a different use or be considered for surplus,” said Rochelle Gilken, spokesperson for SFWMD.
The lands could be repurposed or sold depending on the assessments.
Properties under question include the Lake Tibet-Butler Preserve, the Shingle Creek floodplain properties in Orange and Osceola Counties, the Lake Marion Creek and Reedy Creek floodplain tracts in Osceola and Polk Counties and the SUMICA conservation area in Polk County. A 594-acre upland area adjacent to the northern marsh on Lake Apopka is also being evaluated.
The Lake Apopka land was bundled with marsh and farmland and was purchased by the SFWMD in one piece. According to Jim Thomas, the president of Friends of Lake Apopka, the land is useful and should be deemed as such.
“Our stance is that it could be a very valuable asset to the marsh once the marsh is restored,” Thomas said.
There are several different uses for the land, said Thomas, which could help the area with ecotourism. The uplands could be restored for educational purposes, and they could also house a lodge and campgrounds. Thomas is urging Orange and Lake counties to consider purchasing the surplus land, although Friends of Lake Apopka does not support the designation.
“We’ve objected to any surplus lands because they’re important, and we paid for them as taxpayers,” Thomas said.
The Orange County Environmental Protection Division has gotten involved with the purchase of the 594-acre Lake Apopka uplands and plans to form a coalition between the affected counties.
SFWMD is asking for public opinion on the lands in question. It has already received feedback and will produce recommendations for the lands, which will be announced to the public to generate more commentary from the community. According to Gilken, the SFWMD will take all public concerns into account before coming to a decision.
“The district wants this to be a very open process and is really looking for as much feedback as possible,” Gilken said.
In a statement, the Audubon Florida declared that the lands under inspection are useful to the SFWMD’s overall goals.
“We at Audobon Florida believe all of the listed properties should be retained in public ownership as conservation land,” the group said. “They constitute the true ‘Headwaters of the Everglades.’”
SFWMD has held a series of community members to inform the public of its evaluation process. The next meeting on Lake Tibet-Butler and other properties in the West Orange County area will be held in late April, according to Gilken.
The recommendations on the properties will be released by then, and residents are invited to attend the meeting. There is also a place to provide comments on the organization’s website, which is www.sfwmd.gov/landassessment.
St. Lucie River inlet
130320-j Work to begin on 8 Indian River Lagoon projects to benefit ecosystem in Martin and St. Lucie counties
TCPalm.com - by staff
March 20, 2013
TREASURE COAST — Work is scheduled to begin this month on eight projects costing a total of about $1 million designed to benefit the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Approved for implementation as part of a multiagency initiative administered by the South Florida Water Management District, the projects are designed to restore salt marshes, reduce estuary sediments and improve water quality.
Kevin Powers, vice chairman of the district’s governing board and a longtime Martin County resident, said the projects "will provide tangible, near-term benefits to the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem."
The lagoon is considered the most ecologically diverse estuary in North America and is home to more than 4,000 plant and animal species.
Paid for with state funding administered by the district, the projects and their costs are:
*Restoring tidal flow to a 178-acre salt marsh at Harbor Branch Preserve in St. Lucie County, $100,000.
*Retrofitting and erosion protection for Canals 1 and 4 in the Fort Pierce Farms Water Control District, $40,000.
*Retrofitting the Heathcote Park/Virginia Avenue stormwater canal in Fort Pierce, $359,189.
*Establishing a site for seagrass health monitoring at the Florida Oceanographic Society’s Coastal Center on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, $91,140.
*Researching nitrogen and phosphorus transport from agricultural fields to the lagoon by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, $98,000.
*Researching beneficial use of muck sediment from St. Lucie County waterways, $70,500.
*Developing a feasibility study for the Grove Land Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area near the St. Lucie-Indian River county line, $125,000.
*Collecting fertilizer nutrient data in Martin and St. Lucie counties, $44,000.
The projects were recommended for funding by the St. Lucie River Issues Team, a 15-member group representing organizations working together to accelerate and implement "ready-to-go" projects with quantifiable benefits to the St. Lucie River and the lagoon.
Since the St. Lucie River Issues Team was initiated in 1998, its recommended projects have received $63 million from the Florida Legislature, more than $65 million from local partners and $2 million from the federal government. So far, the project have restored more than 4,671 acres of habitat, 4,358 acres of wetlands and 25,940 feet of shoreline throughout the lagoon and its watershed. Related: 8 projects to help Indian River Lagoon in Martin, St. Lucie counties Stuart News
130319-a Fla. wins control of water regulations over EPA bullies
March 19, 2013
An important agreement was reached Friday between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allows the state to maintain nutrient regulations for its waterways instead of Washington-based bureaucrats.
After a protracted legal battle, state officials see the agreement as a positive step for the Florida economy that will limit the cost burden placed on farmers and other businesses while protecting our waterways. The decision is also expected to establish greater predictability that will benefit job creation.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. applauded the agreement, saying in a statement, “We can now move forward to implementing nutrient reduction criteria, rather than delaying environmental improvements due to endless litigation.’
Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that had sued the EPA over a delay in imposing stricter standards, said the “flawed’’ plan will still face federal court review, according to the Miami Herald.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who labeled the EPA’s previous efforts at regulating Florida’s water quality as “bullying,” released a statement calling Friday’s agreement a “significant win.”
“Keeping the EPA out of Florida on this effort is a significant win for job creators across the state,’’ Rubio said. “It will better ensure that the proper balance can be struck between protecting our water and making sure over-regulation doesn’t drive businesses and jobs out of Florida.’’
At a time when states’ rights have been under assault from an overreaching federal government, Rubio said Florida has set “a good example other states can emulate when facing similar undue pressure from EPA bureaucrats.”
130319-b Rising temperatures may cause more Katrinas
National Geographic News – by Daniel Stone
March 19, 2013
Small increases in temperature found to add power to storms in the Atlantic.
Hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean are expected to gain considerable strength as the global temperature continues to rise, a new study has found.
Using modeling data focused on the conditions in which hurricanes form, a group of international researchers based at Beijing Normal University found that for every 1.8ºF (1ºC) rise of the Earth's temperature, the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic that are as strong or stronger than Hurricane Katrina will increase twofold to sevenfold. Hurricane strength is directly related to the heat of the water where the storm forms. More water vapor in the air from evaporating ocean water adds fuel to hurricanes—also called cyclones and typhoons in different parts of the world—that build strength and head toward land. Hurricane Katrina is widely considered the measure for a destructive storm, holding the maximum Category 5 designation for a full 24 hours in late August 2005. It lost strength as it passed over the Florida peninsula, but gained destructive power right before colliding with New Orleans, killing more than 200 people and causing $80 billion in damage.
The study points to a gradual increase of Katrina-like events. The warming experienced over the 20th-century doubled the number of such debilitating storms. But the ongoing warming of the planet into the 21st-century could increase the frequency of the worst kinds of storms by 700 percent, threatening coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean with multiple Category 5 storms every year.
"Our results support the idea that changes in regional sea surface temperatures is the primary cause of hurricane variability," said Aslak Girnstead, a researcher with the Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. The large impact of small sea-surface temperature increases was more than Girnstead and his colleagues had anticipated. The entire study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Global temperatures have steadily increased, making the past decade the warmest on record. Earlier this year, climate researchers reported that the Earth's temperatures have risen faster in the last century than at any point since the last ice age, 11,300 years ago. The primary cause, a consensus of scientists has said, is the rising emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.
Past hurricanes have supported the study's finding that global temperature rise is linked to more destructive storms. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, while the frequency of storms doesn't appear to have increased, the percentage of strong ones has risen sharply over the past few decades. The trend may be similar further back in time, but comprehensive hurricane data doesn’t exist
130319-c The Mosaic Company enters phosphate joint venture with Ma’aden and SABIC in Saudi Arabia
March 19, 2013
PLYMOUTH, Minn. /PRNewswire/ — The Mosaic Company (NYSE:MOS) today announced that it has entered into a Heads of Agreement with Ma’aden and the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) under which the companies intend to enter a joint venture to develop integrated phosphate production facilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The parties contemplate that Ma’aden, Mosaic and SABIC would own 60, 25 and 15 percent of the joint venture, respectively.
The approximately $7 billion greenfield project, to be known as Wa’ad Al Shammal Phosphate Project, would be built in the northern region of Saudi Arabia at Wa’ad Al Shammal Minerals Industrial City, and would include further expansion of processing plants in Ras Al Khair Minerals Industrial City which is located on the east coast of Saudi Arabia. The joint venture would develop a mine and chemical complexes that would produce phosphate fertilizers, animal feed, food grade purified phosphoric acid and sodium tripolyphosphate for sale to customers worldwide. The highly cost-efficient facilities are expected to have a production capacity of approximately 3.5 million tonnes of finished product per year. Operations are expected to commence in late 2016.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mosaic would contribute expertise to the design, construction and operations of the new facilities and acquire a 25 percent ownership stake. In connection with its equity share, Mosaic would market approximately 25 percent of the production of the joint venture. Subject to final financing terms, Mosaic’s cash investment would be up to $1 billion, funded over a four-year period beginning in 2013.
“Our joint venture with Ma’aden holds great promise for Mosaic, and we expect it to be an excellent complement to our phosphate business in Florida and Louisiana,” said Mosaic President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Prokopanko. “This cost-effective phosphate project would enable Mosaic to further diversify our sources of phosphates and gives us improved access to key agricultural countries. Our growing global reach further enables us to fulfill Mosaic’s mission, to help the world grow the food it needs, while delivering compelling shareholder value.”
Facts about the project:
Phosphate production at the Ma’aden project would benefit from the availability of key raw materials which are available locally from sources within Saudi Arabia.
The project would provide logistical benefits to Mosaic, enabling it to ship phosphates to important phosphate geographies.
The parties expect to enter into a definitive shareholders agreement during the first half of 2013.
About The Mosaic Company
The Mosaic Company is one of the world’s leading producers and marketers of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients. Mosaic is a single source provider of phosphate and potash fertilizers and feed ingredients for the global agriculture industry. More information on the Company is available at www.mosaicco.com.
130318-a From an expert: Pamela Sweeney on Miami’s waterways
WLRN - by Ashley Lopez
March 18, 2013
As part of The Canoe Project’s mission to shed some light on Miami’s forgotten waterways, I spoke to Pamela Sweeney, a bona fide expert on Miami’s canal system and the Biscayne Bay. Sweeney is the Manager of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve.
Sweeney told me all about the cultural and natural histories of the Miami River, the Everglades, Biscayne Bay as well as how they are all connected– even today. Sweeney says, “Most of these canals are not man-made. These are natural tributaries and they have got a lot of natural and cultural history.” You can read our conversation below. The Miami Circle Site and the Cultural History of Miami’s Waterways
“Depending on which canal– it varies– there is certainly a lot cultural history, in terms of Tequesta Indians having lived along the banks of these rivers. The historic Miami Circle Site is a testament to that and we have been able to maintain that.
It tells a story that is sort of incongruous with what you see when you are on the Miami River. It looks a lot different than it did in just the 1900s. A little over a century ago it looked entirely different. The Miami Circle sort of reminds us of that, but it is certainly difficult to visualize it.” The Natural History of Miami’s Waterways
“The Miami River used to be entirely fresh and directly connected to the Everglades ecosystem. Of course, it still is, but in a much more changed way in terms of sea walls and being hydrologically connected in a way that really serves as flood protection for our area and not so much a natural system for the fresh water that is coming through the Everglades ecosystem.
In that, we are still connected to the Everglades ecosystem through these tributaries.”
The Miami River
“There used to be rapids on the Miami River–not a lot of people know that. Near the area where 27th Avenue is now, there used to be an area where if the Seminoles were coming to the Everglades and wanted to trade with people along the Miami River, they used to have to carry their handcrafted canoes over the rapids and make their way down the river down to where the Intercontinental Hotel is now. So, it has a lot of rich history.
The Miami River does still have the meandering character– it’s still there– in terms of the way it moves and how it is shaped, even though a lot of it, of course, is sea walls. It has been changed and there are water control structures on 27th Avenue now, but the delivery of water is what keeps Biscayne Bay alive.
Without the mixing of fresh water from the land side and ocean water from the east side, we wouldn’t have an estuary. An estuary is the mixing of fresh and salt water.
Even though these tributaries have changed, they still offer that fresh water contribution, giving Biscayne Bay the estuarine characteristic it has.”
Why are are the estuarine characteristics of Biscayne Bay important?
“The canals and these natural tributaries are connected to Biscayne Bay delivering this fresh water.
What we are trying to do with Everglades restoration is have the water delivered in a way that it’s not all coming out at one time. We are hoping to more evenly distribute water so it’s not just coming out of the canal all at one time. Essentially, we are trying to restore the way the water used to move, from the land to the bay.
Still, this fresh water at the northern part of the bay is how we get fresh water, so it’s important.
All of our natural tributaries here are critical habitats in the state protection plan, even though they look a lot different now. Considering what they used to look like, it’s no wonder why it was a haven for manatees. They had all the fresh water they needed. It was warm and shallow– and had all the vegetation they could eat.”
If you want to learn more about the Biscayne Bay Preserves, you can go to www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/biscayne. Additional questions can be sent to Biscayne.Bay@dep.state.fl.us or via phone at 305-795-3485; 305-795-3485 . You can also see the bay’s new management plan here: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/biscayne/plan.htm
130318-b What do The Palm Beach Post and Everglades Foundation have in common ?
SunshineStateNews.com - by Nancy Smith
March 18, 2013
If it's a Monday -- or Tuesday through Sunday, for that matter -- then there's something out there to blame on Big Sugar ... even if it has absolutely nothing to do with them.
It's almost funny, it's so absurd. But that's how The Palm Beach Post and the Everglades Foundation think.
The Post's latest screwball hit on sugar farmers came on a Friday. In its head-scratching coverage of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over statewide nutrient limits for Florida's waterways, the Post writes that it's a "sellout for Big Sugar" -- right there in the lead sentence. I almost spit out my coffee on this one !
As you have read in Sunshine State News' coverage of the numeric-nutrient-criteria battle over the past three years, the Everglades Protection Area is not part of the statewide NNC rule. As a farmer explained to me -- and probably would have to the Post if a Post reporter had bothered to ask -- the area is already under a different set of pollution-restricting mandates, for decades. That includes the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) where said "Big Sugar" has its farms.
And, just in case the Palm Beach Post doesn't know, that's in Palm Beach County.
What will they come up with next ?
Incidentally, for accurate coverage on the NNC deal, click here ...
Flooding in Miami
130317-a Deep trouble: How sea-rise could cause havoc in South Florida
Phys.org - by Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald
March 17, 2013
The maps were intended to show how rising sea levels threaten some of Miami-Dade County's most vital facilities.
If they prove anywhere close to accurate, the fate of three major sewage plants would represent only the tip of a hulking, hugely expensive iceberg of concerns for South Florida.
Drawn up by climate scientists as part of an environmental lawsuit, the maps indicate the plants in coastal South Miami-Dade, North Miami and Virginia Key would remain dry in coming decades. But they'd be reduced to shrinking islands as high tides flood land, streets and neighborhoods nearby. It could happen faster than experts predicted only a few years ago - with a damaging two-foot rise potentially coming in less than 50 years, not the next century.
The sobering scenarios were filed last month in federal court by Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, a clean-water advocacy group challenging Miami-Dade's $1.5 billion plan to repair the county's aging, spill-plagued sewage system. The Water and Sewer Department has drawn up the proposal, called a "consent decree," under the pressure of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit and threat of millions of dollars in potential fines.
Critics contend it has a gaping hole: It ignores looming sea-rise that both county and EPA planning policies acknowledge poses trouble, potentially deep trouble, for a region in line to feel the earliest effects of climate change. Miami-Dade endorsed a pioneering four-county compact that calls for adapting roads and buildings for climate change. Last year, the EPA released two reports promoting "climate ready" utilities.
Yet after 10 months of negotiations between agencies, the sewer plan doesn't contain a word about dealing with flooding tides or the sort of storm surge that devastated the Northeast during Hurricane Sandy.
No calls for sea walls, elevated separating tanks, stronger casks for pressurized liquid chlorine or other "armoring" measures.
University of Miami geology professor Harold Wanless, one of five experts from UM, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University retained by Waterkeeper, hopes the data will open the eyes of regulators before a deal is sealed. That could happen in the next few months, with any agreement subject to approval by county commissioners and a federal judge.
"At some point, and I hope it's this year, Miami-Dade government and everybody has to start truly recognizing that we're in for it, that this is coming," Wanless said.
When it does, it's clear there will be a lot more to worry about than sewage plants. Brian Soden, a UM professor of atmospheric science, said many communities and residents will be facing difficult, costly decisions.
Miami Beach last year approved a $206 million overhaul of an aging drainage system increasingly compromised by rising seas. Just another foot of sea-rise, possible within 20 years, could worsen high-tide street flooding there. It also would inundate much of coastal South Miami-Dade, leaving a sewage plant adjacent to the dump called Mount Trashmore, as well as Turkey Point nuclear power plant, virtual islands.
"If you look at downtown Miami, where all the new places have gone up, all the new condominiums, the billions going in there, those places are at some of the lowest levels," Soden said. "It's a broader impact all of South Florida is going to be facing sooner or later. Right now, a lot of people are choosing not to look at it."
With sea-rise trends appearing to accelerate, Waterkeeper and its hired science guns argue the county will be pouring nearly $1 billion into rehabbing plants likely to be incapacitated long before the 50-year life span expected of big-ticket public works projects. They believe the best choice is to move plants to more protected inland sites. At the least, they argue they should be built higher and much stronger, a choice they say the county hasn't realistically assessed that would likely add dramatically to costs.
Of particular concern: a nearly $600 million reconstruction of the trouble-prone plant on Virginia Key, where four spills over just three months in 2011 dumped some 19 million gallons of waste water into Biscayne Bay.
Even under conservative projections, the site is vulnerable, a sandy island fronting the Atlantic Ocean where beaches and mangroves could disappear within 35 years. "Why do we want to think about upgrading that plant?" Wanless said. Doug Yoder, deputy director of the water and sewer department, defended the county plan as a cost-effective approach to resolving the most pressing concerns - orders by the EPA, U.S. Department of Justice and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to repair a system that has spilled 47 million gallons of sewage in the past few years.
With so much uncertainty over timing - differences in projected impacts span decades - Yoder said it didn't make financial sense to abandon the most critical and expensive components. Moving the Virginia Key plant alone, Yoder said, could run $3 billion - five times the cost of an upgrade. Another plant also could be built in 20 or 30 years if needed, he said.
"If you put aside storm surge and just look at the groundwater levels that will result, that plant is going to be still dry after a lot of the rest of Virginia Key, South Beach and Key Biscayne would be pretty much at ground water level," Yoder said. By then, the county would have gotten its money's worth out of upgrades and sewage flow might be reduced anyway if people are forced to retreat from flooded areas.
Yoder disputed charges of ignoring climate risks, saying the issues were beyond the scope of a legal agreement to fix existing problems.
He insisted the county would evaluate threats and beef up vulnerable components as it begins the formal design process. Existing building codes, the toughest in the nation, also may call for added protections, such as surge barriers or pumps, he said.
The county, for instance, elevated and strengthened a building housing backup electrical systems for a recent $600 million project at the south plant - a site that lost power for two weeks after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The EPA and DEP declined to discuss ongoing litigation. Davina Marraccini, an EPA spokeswoman, said it was important for utilities to consider "all available information - including statistical data about population growth and weather patterns - and apply sound engineering practices." DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said her agency "certainly appreciates the concerns" raised by Waterkeeper.
Attorneys for Waterkeeper, which is seeking to join the EPA action as an intervener and has filed a separate citizen's suit as well, are pushing regulators to exercise stronger oversight of a county they argue has a history of penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions. Despite two decrees in the 1980s and 1990s, the sewage system has slipped into such disrepair that the department director, John Renfrow, last year likened it to "being held together by chewing gum."
Paul Schwiep, a Miami attorney who represents Waterkeeper, acknowledged EPA's latitude was limited under a Clean Water Act primarily intended to prevent pollution. But he argues the agency also can invoke broader "public interest" authority. Albert Slap, a Key Biscayne attorney also representing the group, said the county and EPA were ignoring their own initiatives encouraging climate "resilient" construction.
"They talk the talk," he said, "but when they have to walk the walk and spend money on climate change, they deny it."
With the county already under orders from state regulators to phase out the practice of pumping partially treated waste off shore by 2027, they also argue that would sharply reduce the economic advantage of coastal plants. But Yoder said Miami-Dade intends to ask Florida lawmakers for leeway and has plans to convert Virginia Key to deep-well disposal underground if necessary. Leonard Berry, director of FAU's Center for Environmental Studies, said the plan lacked enough information to make an informed choice between renovation or building inland.
"We need that cost benefit analysis to know for sure," he said. "That's the issue."
The scientists aren't alone in their concerns. In a recent letter, Nathanial Reed, vice chairman of the Everglades Foundation and an influential former state and federal environmental official, urged the EPA not to rubber stamp a "defective plan." Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Kaplan, in a letter last month to County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, asked for a "more thoughtful long-term engineering, environmental and economic evaluation" of plans to rehab Virginia Key.
"We're not demanding they move it. We didn't even ask that," Kaplan said. "We just want answers."
130317-b Ron Bergeron reappointed to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
Sun Sentinel - by Steve Waters
March 17, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Adrien “Bo” Rivard to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and re-appointed Ron Bergeron for a second term and Richard Corbett for a third term.
Rivard, 41, of Panama City, has been a partner with the law firm Harrison Rivard Duncan & Buzzett since 2002. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from Samford University. He succeeds Kathy Barco.
Bergeron, 69, of Weston, is owner and president of Bergeron Family of Companies and has been the FWC's point man on Everglades issues. Rivard and Bergeron's terms run from March 8, 2013 to Aug. 1, 2017.
Corbett, 74, of Tampa, is owner and president of Concorde Companies, which owns, operates, and develops real estate properties, including shopping centers. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Harvard University. His term runs from March 8-Jan. 6, 2018.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
A canal that drains water from the flat
130316-a Farm flooding fixes raise cost, environmental concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 16, 2013
Farm flooding threats could trigger a taxpayer-funded $152 million rerouting of water through western Palm Beach County, raising questions about the cost and environmental consequences.
Tropical Storm Isaac's historic soaking in August not only swamped neighborhoods from Boynton Beach to Loxahatchee, but the deluge also overtopped western canals and flooded farmland.
Now, the South Florida Water Management District is considering widening, deepening and lengthening a connection of east-to-west canals that stretch through the Everglades Agricultural Area — which includes about 700,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee that were drained through the decades to make way for farming.
The idea is to boost the water management district's ability to pump water farther west to dry areas during flooding threats. That offers an alternative to overwhelming the canals that drain water out to sea or "back-pumping" polluted stormwater runoff into Lake Okeechobee.
"The ability to move that water east and west gives us a huge flexibility in how we operate the [flood control] system," said Jeff Kivett, who oversees levee engineering for the district.
While keeping more farm-polluted water out of Lake Okeechobee and coastal estuaries is something environmental groups advocate, the prospect of steering more water to the west is raising calls for caution.
Florida is spending billions of dollars taxpayer money on Everglades restoration intended to get more stormwater cleaned up and flowing south to the River of Grass.
And in addition to concerns about potentially siphoning off water that could be used to replenish the Everglades, environmental groups don't want the $152 million canal project to take money needed for overdue Everglades projects.
Despite the "laudable goals," the lack of specifics about the canal project is causing "concerns," said Yvonne Gsteiger, of the Everglades Foundation.
"What projects, what programs or what other efforts are going to have to be … delayed or eliminated in order to accommodate these?" Gsteiger asked.
Isaac dumped 18 inches of rain over three days on central and western Palm Beach County.
That influx of stormwater overwhelmed South Florida's regional flood control system; producing too much water too fast to avoid the flooding of roads, yards and some homes.
Water management officials contend that the regional system of canals, pumps and levees worked better than expected for a storm that produced so much rainfall in a concentrated area.
But that still wasn't enough to avoid neighborhood flooding that lingered in hard-hit Loxahatchee for more than a week.
And while school closings and residents canoeing down flooded roads got much of the attention during the storm, farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area also flooded during Isaac.
The Ocean, Cross and Bolles canals — stretching from east to west across the northern end of the Everglades Agricultural Area — couldn't handle the influx of water, which damaged levees and flooded farmland and roads in eastern portions of the agricultural area.
The canals, commissioned back in the 1930s, have long been too shallow and too narrow in portions to handle the water a storm can bring, said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
As a result, during Isaac crops ranging from parsley to sweet corn were lost or planting was delayed due to lingering floodwaters, Miedema said.
"It just was system overload. You couldn't move that water," Miedema said. "It's time for [the district] to upgrade their infrastructure."
The proposal the district is considering calls for deepening and widening portions of the existing canals and removing barriers that lessen water flow.
The project could also include adding 7 miles of canals to move water farther west, linking to the L-2 canal that could move water south to treatment areas that filter water flowing to the Everglades.
Planning, engineering and design alone would cost about $5 million with construction costs of each section to eventually total $152 million, according to district estimates.
To deal with the cost, the idea would be to "do it in manageable chunks," district Executive Director Melissa Meeker said. "This is too big for our wallet these days."
The farmland canal proposal comes as Florida is in the midst of pushing for a new $880 million restoration plan aimed at jump-starting efforts to build reservoirs and water treatment areas to clean up water that washes off agricultural land before it flows to the Everglades.
District officials next month plan to meet with agriculture representatives to gauge support and refine plans for the canal proposal.
Environmental groups say they want a seat at the table as well. They want to help determine where the water goes and to make sure that the district doesn't shelve Everglades projects in favor of paying for more farm flood control.
"We should be able to weigh in," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center. "It helps avoid conflict."
Instead of focusing on benefits for farming, the district needs to "heighten some of those environmental benefits" of the canal project, Gsteiger said.
130316-b The Earth has another other CO2 problem
al.com – Opinion by James B. McClintock
March 16, 2013
With an increasing focus on a burgeoning list of extreme weather events, elevated temperatures, and rising sea levels, ocean acidification or “the other CO2 problem”, just doesn’t get its due respect. As a marine biologist I find this puzzling. After all, most everyone enjoys the fruits of the sea: mouth-watering shrimp, crabs, lobsters, clams, and oysters. And who doesn’t thrill in donning a snorkel and mask and finning themselves over a coral reef bristling with life.
Yet, all over the globe these treasures of palette and eye are under increasing chemical assault.
Ocean acidification is the result of our seas absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide that we release in to the atmosphere. Adding carbon dioxide to seawater adds hydrogen ions, and all you need to remember from high school chemistry is that more hydrogen ions translates into: more acidity.
Just as acid slowly dissolves away a human tooth, so too can it dissolve a seashell. Another unfortunate outcome of adding carbon dioxide to seawater is that it challenges the ability of animals to make their shells.
Currently, building blocks for shells saturate the seawater. But this is changing. By mid-century or even sooner, these building blocks will be in short supply. Accordingly, shelled marine organisms will have to expend additional energy to repair and construct their shells, energy that might have better been used to grow or reproduce.
Just as acid slowly dissolves away a human tooth, so too can it dissolve a seashell.
Chuck Amsler, who co-directs our UAB National Science Foundation funded research program on ocean acidification in Antarctica, and his wife, Maggie, a research associate, are currently at the U.S. Palmer Station on the western Antarctic Peninsula (you can follow their blogs at (www.uab.edu/antarctica/). Here, continuing work we initiated last year, they are directing a team of UAB graduate students studying how ocean acidification may make life difficult for algae and invertebrates.
The work is important because when it comes to “first-impacts” of ocean acidification Antarctica is the “canary in the coal mine.” This is largely because the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica is so cold. The colder the water, the more carbon dioxide absorbed and the greater the acidity. Accordingly, Antarctica has become the Earth’s natural laboratory to first study ocean acidification.
Will Antarctic organisms be able to adapt to the rapidly changing ocean chemistry?
Just last year marine scientists working in the Southern Ocean discovered populations of pteropods, tiny planktonic snails with wafer-thin shells, already showing signs of wear and tear. Their outer shells are pitted and rough, signs of dissolving. As abundant as the stars in the sky, shelled pteropods play a key role in the global cycling of carbon. Will these swimming snails and the cornucopia of marine organisms that carpet the sea floors of Antarctica survive? Should they not, we stand to lose the keys to potential cures to cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and other life-threatening diseases.
Our UAB Antarctic chemical ecology and natural products program, in collaboration with marine chemist Bill Baker at the University of South Florida, has discovered chemical compounds from Antarctic marine algae and invertebrates with potent activity against the H1N1 flu virus and melanoma skin cancer. It would be a shame for an acid sea to dissolve away such opportunities. James B. McClintock is the UAB Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology and the author of the widely acclaimed book "Lost Antarctica – Adventures in a Disappearing Land" (2012 Palgrave MacMillan -- www.lostantarctica.com). Email: email@example.com. This coming Dec. 10-21, 2013, he will lead his sixth cruise to Antarctica for Abercrombie and Kent Travel. Contact Jane Hazelrig at All Seasons Travel for further details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
130315-a EPA, state agree to Everglades pollution plan but environmental groups wary
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
March 15, 2013
State and federal environmental officials announced Friday that they reached agreement on a pollution cleanup plan for Florida waterways, but environmental groups quickly assailed the plan as a sellout to Big Sugar.
The plan, which emerged from years of legal battles, calls for rules and laws to limit phosphorus and nitrogen in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams and springs, using criteria proposed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in November.
“As a result of continued cooperation, the Department and EPA have developed a joint commitment to clean up Florida’s waterways,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We can now move forward to implementing nutrient reduction criteria, rather than delaying environmental improvements due to endless litigation.”
Pollution limits were set in order to settle a 5-year-old lawsuit by environmental groups to limit nutrients from fertilizer, manure and urban runoff that cause algae blooms, kill wildlife, pollute the Everglades and fuel the growth of unwanted plants.
EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming congratulated the Florida environmental agency and said the agreement “is a testament to the collaboration between EPA and FDEP.”
However, attorneys for the environmental groups that filed the lawsuit said they had not been told of the plan and that it needs the judge’s blessing and a new law to be passed before it can be implemented. The DEP expects a bill will be introduced next week.
“This is an absolute sellout,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “This bogus plan gives deep pocketed polluters even more loopholes.”
130315- b Everglades bill clears last House committee
March 15, 2013
A House bill aimed at bringing state law into line with the latest plan for Everglades restoration easily passed the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, clearing the way for the measure to go to the House floor.
In addition to the provisions in House proposal updating the restoration plan, the bill would extend until 2025 a $25-per-acre tax on farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area that was set to expire in 2017.
Environmentalists object to the measure because they say it doesn’t ask polluters to pay enough and would say permit holders aren’t contributing to pollution in Everglades as long as they follow their permits - even if those permits are flawed.
Permit holders, particularly sugar farmers, say their willingness to extend the tax shows they’re willing to pay their fair share.
130315-c Governor appoints Chipley man to Water Management District
ChipleyPaper.com - by Staff
March 15, 2013.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott announced on Tuesday the appointment of Gary Clark and the reappointment of Jerome “Jerry” Pate to the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
Clark, 45, of Chipley, is the vice president of West Florida Electric Cooperative Association Inc. He is a member of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and is the former chairman for Opportunity Florida. He received his associate degree from Chipola College. He succeeds Joyce Estes, and is appointed for a term beginning March 12 and ending March 1, 2017.
Pate, 54, of Pensacola, is the owner of Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation. He is a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Foundation and the Environmental Institute of Golf. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 12 and ending March 1, 2017.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
130315-d Make polluters pay in Everglades
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial:
March 15, 2013
One of the broadest assaults on the Everglades cleanup effort is speeding toward passage in the Florida House. The measure would put the state's taxpayers on the hook for pollution caused by the agriculture industry — and open an avenue for even more environmental damage down the road. Shifting cleanup costs from Big Sugar to those who are downstream from its dirty fields is Robin Hood in reverse and undermines the intent of a voters' mandate to have polluters pay. Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate need to stop it.
The measure, HB 7065, would rewrite the state's plan to clean pollution flowing from farms in the Everglades' agricultural zones to the protection areas in the south. Supporters say the legislation is needed to codify the agreement between Scott and the federal government that calls on Florida to spend $880 million over 12 years to build storm water treatment and water storage to intercept runoff from the farms, preventing further pollution of an ecosystem that is vital to the state's economy, environment and drinking water needs.
The legislation, though, does far more than that. It would roll back the enforcement of water discharge permits, clearing the way for farming operations to pollute regardless of how much the state erred in issuing them a permit or policing it. That opens a door for polluters and increases the pressure on regulators at the South Florida Water Management District to follow the Legislature's lead in going soft on the industry. Even the district opposes that measure. It would rather keep the permitting process intact than create a public impression that the system is corrupt.
The measure also caps the industry's financial obligation for funding the cleanup. While the legislation would extend the $25 per acre agriculture tax until 2024 — eight years longer than under current law — it holds that those payments and improved management practices would "fulfill" the industry's obligation for the cleanup under Florida's "Polluter Pay" requirement in the state Constitution.
That is an outright sellout. Extending the agriculture tax generates less than $7 million per year — pennies compared to the $880 million that taxpayers will spend to treat the polluted water. The very governor who forced the water management districts to cut their budgets now intends to ask Florida taxpayers to commit $32 million a year for 12 years for this program — all in addition to the money that will come from property owners in South Florida. Meanwhile the industry responsible for two-thirds of the pollution entering the Everglades walks away from any long-term obligations even before the new water projects are in place.
Just two weeks into the legislative session, HB 7065 has sailed through two committees and is headed for the House floor. This bill has leadership's blessing, which is why Scott and the Senate are likely the last defense. Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey, who is shepherding the Senate bill, which is much better, needs to do what the House and several of his bay area counterparts failed to do and insist that the polluters pay their share. Shifting these costs onto the public is unfair, and every dollar the state spends on behalf of polluters is a dollar it won't have for police, schools and other legitimate priorities.
130315-e Nutrient criteria battle: Florida, not EPA, knows best how to care for its waters
Sunshine State News - by: Anne Smith
March 15, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached an agreement Friday that grants the state the right to set nutrient limits for its waterways.
Florida has been at odds with EPA since 2009 when the agency announced Florida would be the first state to have statewide federal nutrient limits imposed on its waterways. The decision, which resulted from an environmentalist-driven lawsuit led by EarthJustice, was met with an uproar from state lawmakers, business leaders and utilities, who assailed EPA's standards as flawed and inappropriately costly and burdensome to Florida taxpayers. Reports were commissioned that estimated the standards would cost Florida tens of billions of dollars to implement and maintain.
The state recoiled against the Obama administration's intrusion and filed a lawsuit against EPA in 2010. In February 2012, the state won its argument on a key provision. At the time, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio minced no words in expressing his distaste for the whole affair. “Florida has one of the most aggressive water-quality protection programs in the nation, implemented by the people who know our state best, and it’s time EPA stop bullying us into accepting another Washington-contrived mandate that would devastate job creation," said the Miami Republican.
In another win for the state in November, EPA approved Florida’s scientifically-based criteria for its lakes, rivers, streams, springs and estuaries. The new agreement announced Friday will allow DEP to move forward with rule-making and legislation this session to finish setting limits for Florida's waterways.
"As a result of continued cooperation, the Department and EPA have developed a joint commitment to clean up Florida’s waterways,” said DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. “We can now move forward to implementing nutrient reduction criteria, rather than delaying environmental improvements due to endless litigation.”
While there are currently some water bodies in the state that have both state and federal rules on them, the legislation will removed the dual rule-making, and instead only require standards developed by state scientists. That was welcome news to Florida’s leaders.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, who filed the legal action against EPA, said, "I have always maintained that Florida -- not the federal government -- should enact the rules and laws to protect our unique waterways. After years of litigation, EPA has done the right thing by reaching an agreement with the DEP that allows Florida's leaders, who know our waterways best, to implement sound criteria that will safeguard our water from excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution."
Fellow Florida Cabinet member and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who had also been an outspoken critic of the federal maneuver, echoed Bondi’s praise of Florida’s experts. “The agreement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to defer to the state of Florida to implement its own water quality standards is a compliment to the unparalleled expertise of Florida’s water-quality scientists and confirmation that Florida knows best how to protect its own waterways.”
The NNCs are one of many water battles currently facing the state. A group lobbying for water funding, Florida Water Advocates, told a Florida House committee Thursday that while water quality, like NNCs, grabs much of the state’s headlines, water quantity is a problem that must also be addressed. Florida’s three top industries – tourism, agriculture and construction – all rely on water to keep their economic engines running. For that reason, Florida’s leading business-advocate groups have taken hold of the state’s water issues and have looked for consensus and means to resolve them. Among the leaders has been Associated Industries of Florida. Because of the devastating effects EPA's arbitrary rules could have on Florida’s economy, AIF developed the Numeric Nutrient Task Force to meet EPA head on.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, recognized the group’s efforts after the agreement was reached. “Today’s announcement brings a long-awaited resolution and reflects years of determined advocacy by AIF and its task force members,” he said. “Through their continued focus on this issue, we have forged a partnership with the federal government that ensures there will be clean water for future generations of Floridians without laying a heavy financial burden on Florida’s citizens and employers.”
Another large business group, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, also said they welcomed the news Friday.
While the agreement ends one battle, another could be on the horizon. Water advocates have warned of costly Phase II rules coming down from EPA.
130315-f Seagrass mapping shows Tampa Bay healthiest in years
BayNews9.com - by RaeChelle Davis, Reporter
March 15, 2013
TAMPA -- The health of Tampa Bay centers on seagrass, and scientists say it is healthier than it has been in years.
The tiny green blades that wave in the water are picked up by a high-tech camera and closely examined by Kris Kaufman and her team.
"We use aerial photography to capture pictures of the Bay and then we use those and GIS software, a computer software program to map the seagrass," Kaufman said. "And then we come out on days like this where we go out into the field and confirm where the seagrasses are."
Every two years the Southwest Florida Water Management District sends a team out to map the seagrass in the Bay.
The dead seagrass can be seen on beaches across Pinellas County. It might be a nuisance to beach goers, but it means the seagrass in the water is growing and shedding off older parts.
After Kaufman reviews the aerial photos, she heads out in a boat to confirm the findings. She will look to see what types of seagrass are growing and how many acres. She can compare her findings to the previous map completed in 2010.
“It's an indicator of the estuary health or the water quality and water clarity conditions of our bay,” said Kaufman, who just finalized the 2013 numbers.
The mapping revealed 34,642 acres of seagrass. The number is up 5.3 percent since the 2010 mapping. For Kaufman, her most impressive finding was the growth of seagrass in Hillsborough Bay.
"This year we were able to finally capture a lot of the presence of more seagrass then we normally do," she said. "So, it is the success story of this year: Hillsborough Bay."
Fisherman favorites like snapper grow up among the grass. It is also a sanctuary for shrimp and crab.
In the 1980s, the bay was nearly depleted of seagrass. Once the area turned to advanced wastewater treatment, Kaufman says it really turned everything around. Now, she says, securing a healthy future for the bay is up to all of us.
"Responsible boating is huge," she said. "Also, just being responsible in terms of pollution and also just being aware is helpful."
The Tampa Bay Estuary Program has a goal to maintain a seagrass coverage of 38,000 acres.
The 34,642 acres mapped this year is closer to meeting that goal than at any time in the last 20 years. March also marks Seagrass Awareness Month.
130315-g Stinky ditches are gone but red tide persists
BocaBeacon.com – Editorial by Nikki Heimann
March 15, 2013
The surrounding waters of Boca Grande and many other beaches along Florida’s coast have been hit hard with the malignant algae, Karenia brevis. The onshore winds have been affecting many people who spend their day on the island. It’s become normal to hear a chorus of coughing around town, especially when outdoors. This red tide has been lingering, coming and going since October. It has been reported that this is the worst outbreak since 2007.
The fish kills have been large these past few months – reaching hundreds of thousands just in this area – which is hazardous to the birds feeding on washed-up carcasses, and to the people who inhale the distinctive scent of rotting fish (with a side of airborne toxins). The algae can spread in warm or cold water, and becomes airborne once hitting the shore, traveling with the wind. Many longtime residents of this area agree, according to Sayer Ji of greenmedinfo.com.
“The blooms have been getting progressively worse, closer to shore,” he said, “and persisting for a greater length of time, indicating that if it is an entirely natural cycle, it has undergone concerning changes.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory are both informational authorities on marine environmental issues in the state of Florida. They update their websites regularly to warn people of red tide outbreaks. They claim that the Karenia brevis algal are a “natural phenomenon, beyond our ability to control.” These local environmental authorities claim that the algae is “explicitly not fed by nutrient pollution or causally linked to land-based, human activities.”
Red tide and its effects have been documented since the early 1540s, and its absolute cause is still unknown. Many scientists agree that natural organic decay and artificial fertilizers cause excess nutrients that run off into our waterways. This is important because those nutrients allow the algae to reproduce. Considering ocean currents as another factor, it can be hypothesized that the sporadic algae outbreaks are typically confined to waters surrounding certain masses of land. Although K. brevis can be found many miles offshore, large amounts are concentrated in certain areas where bloom formation is prevalent.
Consider Boca Grande as an example, with its lush golf courses and consistently maintained landscapes. In order to keep every blade of grass the brightest shade of green, workers have to spray fertilizers and pesticides onto plants on a regular basis. After it rains, the runoff carries excess fertilizer into a nearby waterway or it seeps into the ground. If there is no drainage for the chemically spiked water to escape to, it may fester on the surface, creating a very unsightly green sludge and nauseating smell.
Many residents and guests were exposed to this type of potentially-pesticide-filled pool a few months ago when passing by the north end of the island on the bike path. The stinky ditches became such an issue that county maintenance had to come suck the sludge out with special equipment and cover the remaining slime with rocks to suffocate the smell.
If the stinky ditches were so offensive that they had to be renovated, then think about how much the pesticide runoff could affect our nearby waterways. Granted, there is much more water in which the runoff can circulate, but the overall effect it is having on our wildlife and personal health is not something to be ignored. It could very well be correlated with this continuous bout of red tide.
It is not only Florida that is affected by algal blooms, many lakes and rivers up north are having similar issues that are devastating tourist industries and real estate agencies. The effects of fertilizers and pesticides seem to be disrupting ecological balances, and should be investigated further by concerned citizens and scientists. Most people do not enjoy spending time in a smelly environment or swimming in discolored water, so it would be beneficial to put forth an effort to determine what exactly is causing these peculiar acts of nature.
130314-a Clean Water Act in Fla.
TheLedger.com - Letters
March 14, 2013
Is it too much to ask of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to actually take responsibility for enforcement of the Clean Water Act here in Florida? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in November that it will enforce the Clean Water Act and do what the state of Florida hasn't — set specific, enforceable numbers to limit pollution.
The EPA's standards are like easy-to-read speed limit signs.
Instead, the Florida DEP wants to substitute bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that allows water to become unsafe before requiring pollution control. So, once again, Florida taxpayers will be back on the hook to clean up polluted streams and lakes in Florida.
The Mosaic Desoto Mine project is just the latest disaster that may soon occur in Florida. One of the most affected tributaries of the Desoto Mine is the largest tributary of the Peace River — Horse Creek.
Horse Creek is a stream that contributes to the potable-drinking-water resource in Charlotte and Desoto Counties. The Southwest Florida Management District describes it as being "famous for its scenic beauty and the purity of its water. Wildlife is plentiful, and the banks are lined with moss-draped live oaks."
It deserves better protection than allowing the permitting of three proposed phosphate strip mines.
Huge, industrialized projects such as three phosphate mines obviously will negatively impact and change the water in the Horse Creek, the Peace River and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary by increasing salinity, dissolved oxygen, and total nitrogen or phosphorus.
We urge our governor and lawmakers to not allow the Florida DEP to circumvent the U.S. Clean Water Act standards. TANYA BOND, SARA HOLLENHORST, BOB NAVIN, DOT CAMARANAVIN, PAM SULLIVAN, Arcadia, FL
130314-b Five things to look for in Thursday’s Legislative session
Miami Herald - by Mary Ellen Klas
March 14, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- The legislative cogs keep turning but tensions will remain high on the day the Capitol was rocked by the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Here are five things to watch on Thursday:
· Gov. Rick Scott begins his day at a breakfast for the annual Broward Days event in the Capitol.
· The House Appropriations Committee takes up HB 7065, which would put into law the settlement between the state and federal government over Everglades clean-up and cap the sugar companies’ share of the cost at an estimated $880 million.
· As a rift appears to be emerging between the House and Senate over whether or not to close the Florida Retirement System to new employees, police, firefighters and other first responders hold a press conference to voice their objections. Meanwhile, the House State Affairs Committee takes up its plan (HB 7011) to close the plan. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee hears SB 1392 that would give new employees a choice of a 401k-style plan or the traditional pension account.
· A bill to require local governments to give red light runners a little more breathing room when they are caught on camera gets a hearing in the House Economic Affairs Committee. The measure, by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is a middle ground between another proposal that would repeal the cameras.
· A bill to give Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater greater oversight over the state’s contracting process gets its first hearing in the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Commission. The measure would give the CFO the ability to review contracts before they’re executed to make sure it’s the best deal for the state.
130314-c Move over, health care: Florida's biggest future challenge is water
SunshineStateNews.com - by Anne Smith
March 14, 2013
Water could be the biggest challenge Florida faces over the next 20 years.
Florida’s water infrastructure is in dire need of help, Florida Water Advocates (FWA) told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday.
The state relies on water to propel its two most lucrative industries: tourism and agriculture. And, that’s on top of what's needed to quench the needs of Florida’s growing population, a segment tied to a third economic driver in Florida – construction.
But, with its critical need for water and the economic consequences of it, Florida has only invested 0.2 percent of its budget on water over the past five years. Frank Bernardino, of FWA, said the state “got out to a bang” after it implemented a dedicated revenue source for water sustainability in 2005, under SB 444. But, even in the good years, the funding was a mere 0.7 percent of total state spending. When the fiscal crisis hit, he said, water was one of the first items to be cut.
Now, Florida is looking down the barrel of a fiscal pounding over the next decade. Upcoming regulations and essential improvements to Florida’s water systems are estimated to cost tens of billions. Cardno Entrix, a Florida-based water consulting company, calculated it will cost $1 billion to $3.2 billion to implement federal water mandates. But, that pales in comparison to the nearly $25 billion for drinking and wastewater treatment facilities needed within a decade, along with a further $7 billion for repairs to delivery systems.
The question is: where will the money come from? FWA, which is currently working with House and Senate leadership on these challenges, believes the transportation model provides the answer for future planning. It identifies a recurring funding source, plans for its growth and provides a road map for communities to know when things will be available.
While water quality grabs much of the state’s headlines, water quantity is a problem that must also be addressed. The group warns of the perils of competition if new water sources are not cultivated. Although the state is constantly talking about water, said Lee Killinger, executive director of FWA, it is in terms of issues like litigations, nutrients, funding and permitting. He says Florida needs to also focus on taking steps to have adequate supplies of clean water for all sectors that need it, since competition between users, and even between states, has become fierce.
“When it comes to water, there are only losers when it comes to competing,” echoed Bernardino.
Domestic water usage has surpassed agriculture as Florida's biggest user, according to Rich Budell, director of Agricultural Water Policy for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “That line won’t flip again,” he said. “Agricultural water use over [the] last decade has been flat – it’s a good indication of agriculture’s water conservation.”
Nevertheless, competition is inevitable unless measures are taken. While FWA is adamant they are not recommending that funds be pulled from other trust funds, they believe the answer is in a dedicated funding source for water alone.
"Water is an essential part of our economic growth and future," said Bernardino.
130313-a Florida's energy future should include nuclear
The Tampa Tribune - by Julio Fuentes
March 13, 2013
Florida's energy future is a topic of much discussion these days, and rightfully so. Energy is not simply a discussion around what source of electricity — natural gas, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, etc. — we use to turn on the lights, it goes deeper than that. It's an industry that directly impacts our economy and employment opportunities for local residents. And the solution that is best for Floridians is a balanced, all-of-the-above approach, including nuclear energy as a vital source of our electricity supply rather than betting on one source.
To ensure the Hispanic community has a voice in this debate, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC) launched Balance Energy Florida (BEF), a coalition of consumers, industry, Hispanic-owned businesses and Florida families that seek to ensure a balanced energy portfolio in Florida.
FSHCC believes a balanced fuel mix that is reliable, affordable, safe and environmentally sound is paramount, and to truly have a balanced mix that is reliable, affordable, safe, and environmentally sound, we as a state — and more broadly, as a country — must not move away from nuclear energy.
Florida's economic growth is strongly tied to the energy industry, with direct and indirect employment and an economic windfall that comes with supporting a large nuclear energy facility. One nuclear reactor creates 400 to 700 jobs for regular operation, and construction of a new reactor creates more than double that — 1,400 to 1,800 high-paying jobs — during peak construction.
With the rate of growth within the energy industry and the expected turnover — nearly half of the nuclear workforce is either eligible for retirement or anticipated to move on through natural turnover by 2016 — these jobs are real. Hispanic community and business advocates need to raise greater awareness about the impact that this can have on the energy sector across the board and, more specifically, the impact for Florida's economic development potential.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the country. To capitalize on the promising opportunities coming down the pipeline, the time is now for preparing Hispanic students for the energy careers of the future. This means supporting efforts to implement energy industry-relevant education and training at the secondary and post-secondary levels, as well as efforts to create greater awareness about all that the energy industry has to offer through efforts such as the Balance Energy Florida effort and the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), of which I am a member.
When we consider Florida's future workforce needs, the energy industry is and continues to offer a healthy pipeline for future employment opportunities. Developing solutions to meet the current and future workforce needs of the state's energy sector is incredibly important.
As a result of these jobs our local economy is the real winner. Hispanics lead the pack when it comes to small business ownership. Over the last decade, Hispanic-owned businesses have experienced a steady growth rate of more than twice that of the national average. When you consider the supply chain and support system for a nuclear facility, Hispanic-owned businesses are well positioned to effectively compete in high-growth industries such as the energy sector.
Nuclear energy is among the cleanest energy sources available. It has the lowest impact on the environment of any energy source out there with virtually a zero greenhouse gas emission rating. As part of a balanced approach to providing electricity, nuclear is one option that can help protect our air, land, water and wildlife, while also contributing to the state's economic and employment outlook for years and generations to come.
130313-b Floridians value H2O quality over quantity
The Independent Florida Alligator – by Jacqueline Bond, Contributing Writer
March 13, 2013
With more than 7,700 lakes, 700 springs and 825 miles of sandy beaches, people might not believe water is depleted in Florida.
A new water survey from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Center for Public Issues Education showed that Floridians are more concerned with water quality than with water quantity.
Alexa Lamm, director for the National Public Policy Evaluation Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, led the survey of 469 Floridians in December. In a monthly webinar series, she said most Floridians are confident their community will have enough water, but not as confident about the safety of water in their homes.
Cynthia Barnett, water activist, author and journalist, spoke at the Lou Frey Institute’s Water and Florida’s Future Spring 2013 Symposium on Monday morning. She said she is concerned about the perception held by the public because Floridians have an illusion of water abundance.
“Water flows from our taps like magic,” Barnett said. “We enjoy an endless and cheap supply of clean water, and we are more than happy to be absolved for the realities of our wastewater.”
At the symposium, Blake Guillory, the executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, said his district uses about a billion gallons of water each day.
“We make sure there is enough supply available for the public, for industry and for agriculture,” he said.
Barnett said one solution that ensures Florida’s water future is as rich as its past is a new ethic for water.
“A water ethic means making sure that the way we live with water today doesn’t jeopardize fresh, clean water for our children and ecosystems of tomorrow,” she said.
130313-c Politicos make pitch for funding
KeysNews.com - by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
March 13, 2013
FLORIDA KEYS -- Delegations from Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo didn't get any promises of wastewater assistance last week during lobbying trips to Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee.
But officials said the trips were worthwhile, nevertheless.
"I think just going up there and talking to these people and reminding them who we are is important," Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District board member Steve Gibbs said of the Washington visit on March 4 and 5.
During those two days, Gibbs and district General Manager Margaret Blank were joined by Mayor Mike Cinque and City Manager Roger Hernstadt of Marathon, as well as Islamorada Vice Mayor Ted Blackburn, in a whirlwind circuit of Capitol Hill.
The delegation met personally with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. and Congressman Joe Garcia, D-Miami, as well as with staff of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. They also met with staffers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that parcels out wastewater grants to state and local governments.
The Keys are still pushing to receive the remaining $55 million from a $100 million 2000 Congressional authorization called the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Act.
No one expects all of that money to be provided this year, but the local officials left Washington hopeful that at least some money will be forthcoming, several said. Delegates said that Nelson and Garcia were especially supportive. They are less sure about Rubio, who is ideologically less disposed to the type of federal assistance the Keys are requesting.
"The Republican party has a strong position against earmarks and sometimes people consider this to be an earmark," Hernstadt said. "We think you can make an equal argument that this is a project that needs to be brought to conclusion."
Whether local governments leap the first hurdle in receiving federal wastewater grants this year is likely to be known by at least March 27, the deadline for Congress to pass a new continuing budget resolution if a shutdown is to be avoided. Continuing resolutions typically closely mimic existing budgets, and in fiscal year 2012 the Corps budgeted $29.6 million for environmental infrastructure projects like Keys wastewater systems.
Key Largo district lobbyist Fred Hicks said the federal budget sequester that went into affect two weeks ago could lead that figure to be cut by approximately 5 percent. Even so, that would leave just over $28 million, which Corps administrators would have to decide how to parcel out by the end of the summer, and likely sooner.
The Keys wastewater project is high on the Corps list, the local delegation says they were told by agency staffers.
"My feeling is if the moon and stars line up correctly, there's a chance we'd get some money," Blackburn said.
Two days after the Washington trip, delegations from the Upper Keys communities traveled to Tallahassee for meetings with Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo; Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami; and aides for Gov. Rick Scott, among others. Local governments' primary goal this legislative session is to achieve funding for the second of four promised $50 million installments of the Stan Mayfield sewer grant.
Gov. Rick Scott didn't include the $50 million in his proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but he didn't include it in his preliminary budget last year either before eventually signing off on the funding.
The Upper Keys cities also pushed for their own local items in Tallahassee last week. For example, Marathon officials used the visit to lobby state officials to pay the entire estimated $20 million cost of fixing the Old Seven Mile Bridge, Hernstadt said. The city would then cover perpetual maintenance, which is estimated to come to $400,000 annually.
While in Tallahassee, local cities and Monroe County also made their annual reports to the Florida Cabinet on the progress they have made in adhering to their requirements as part of an Area of Critical State Concern.
The reports were largely perfunctory this year, as the governments all received passing grades from the state's Department of Economic Opportunity in November for their work on items such as habitat restoration, hurricane evacuation planning and construction of sewer facilities.
130313-d Tree fungus spreading rapidly
DailyCommercial.com - by Tavares
March 13, 2013
A tree fungus known as laurel wilt is spreading rapidly across parts of Central Florida, killing hundreds of redbay trees in its wake.
The fungus carried by ambrosia beetles attacks very quickly, killing the trees almost overnight. Leaves then hang on the dead trees for weeks or months.
"Trees are dying everywhere," said Don Spence, a certified arborist who owns Native Florida Landscapes in Ormond Beach. The beetle infestation has spread across Volusia and Flagler counties, and has been spotted in the Ocala National Forest and up and down the St. Johns River.
"The redbays around here are all dead or dying from it," said Juanita Popenoe, director of the Lake County Extension Office.
The beetles actually have been in Florida for a few years now, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. They first appeared in Duval County in 2005 and are now in 41 of the state's 67 counties.
The beetles first showed up in Lake County in 2010 and Sumter a year later, state agriculture officials said. However, as spring approaches, the beetles are getting a lot more active in a lot more numbers, particularly along Florida's East Coast.
They drill into redbay trees and the female beetles inoculate the tree with rapidly multiplying fungi, according to Farley Palmer, who owns Palmer Biological Services in New Smyrna Beach. He said the bugs feed on fungus, which block the tree's capillaries and prevents water from getting into the limbs, branches and leaves. The leaves quickly change from green to brown.
The only hope is for trees to be treated early enough with a fungicide that protects the roots and keeps the fungus from taking hold. Palmer said that can cost between $100 and $300 per tree.
Officials said the beetles also attack other trees, including swamp bay, sassafras and avocado.
"So far, they have not moved to avocados in the area, but it is probably only a matter of time," Popenoe said.
Palmer and other experts say it's key for people to understand what kinds of trees they have in their yards. Many people mistake redbay trees for oak trees, he said.
"Making that connection between the species they have and the disease is the real key to saving these trees," Palmer said. The Associated Press contributed material to this report.
130312-a Everglades plan would cost more than $1 billion
KeysNews.com – by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
March 12, 2013
When done, 65 billion gallons of fresh water would flow into salty Florida Bay
Federal and state officials are close to settling upon a $1 billion-plus plan they hope will speed up Everglades restoration and bring more water, sooner, to the southern Everglades, including Everglades National Park.
"This is about restoring conditions north of Tamiami Trail and within the park and in Florida Bay," said Kim Taplin, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Central Everglades branch. “This is about improving conditions over a very large area.”
The Corps expects to officially put the plan forward for public comment and review in late April with hopes that it will receive formal approval before the end of the year. After that, it would be eligible for funding from Congress.
But details of what is currently being called the “tentatively selected plan” have already been laid out and presented at working group meetings for the Central Everglades Planning Project, a Corps initiative that began in 2011 in hopes of speeding up Everglades restoration. In a congressionally mandated report last year, the National Research Council panned the slow pace of the $13.5 billion ...
130312-b Gov. Scott, Cabinet approve land deals
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have approved buying land to add to a National Guard training site and a north Florida spring.
A land purchase request by Florida State University also was approved.
Scott and Cabinet members Thursday approved a $2.1 million deal to buy land around Camp Blanding in Starke. The extra space is needed to buffer against noise from artillery training. The federal government will contribute $1.5 million toward the purchase.
They also OK'd $1.5 million for more than 600 acres around Wakulla Springs to save it from development and protect the underground water.
And they gave approval for nearly $2.6 million for two privately-owned parcels inside Florida State's campus to allow for the eventual building of a new film school.
130312-c Governor names two to water management district
March 12, 2013
Tallahassee--Gov. Rick Scott announced an appointment and a re-appointment to the Northwest Florida Water Management District Tuesday.
Both appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate. Jerome “Jerry” Pate, 54, of Pensacola, would serve a second term, which would run through March 1, 2017. He is owner of Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, according to a prepared statement released by the governor’s office. Gary Clark, 45, of Chipley, will be a freshman on the water district. The vice president of West Florida Electric Cooperative Association Inc. would also serve a term that runs through March 1, 2017, the statement said.
130312-d The case against species revival
NationalGeographic.com – Opinion by Stuart Pimm
March 12, 2013
Conservation of species still alive should take precedence, the author argues. Editor's note: Stuart Pimm is the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, and the 2006 laureate of the Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences awarded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Check outour coverage on species revival, the topic of a Friday TEDx talk at National Geographic.
In the movie Jurassic Park, a tree extinct for millions of years delights the paleobotanist. Then a sauropod eats its leaves. This movie later shows us how to re-create the dinosaur but not how to grow the tree, which at that size would be perhaps a hundred or more years old, or how to do so metaphorically overnight. To sustain even a single dinosaur, one would need thousands of trees, probably of many species, as well as their pollinators and perhaps their essential symbiotic fungi.
De-extinction intends to resurrect single, charismatic species, yet millions of species are at risk of extinction. De-extinction can only be an infinitesimal part of solving the crisis that now sees species of animals (some large but most tiny), plants, fungi, and microbes going extinct at a thousand times their natural rates. (Related: Photos of Nearly Extinct Species.)
"But wait"—claim de-extinction's proponents. "We want to resurrect passenger pigeons and Pyrenean ibex, not dinosaurs. Surely, the plants on which these animals depend still survive, so there is no need to resurrect them as well!" Indeed, botanic gardens worldwide have living collections of an impressively large fraction of the world's plants, some extinct in the wild, others soon to be so. Their absence from the wild is more easily fixed than the absence of animals, for which de-extinction is usually touted.
Perhaps so, but other practical problems abound: A resurrected Pyrenean ibex will need a safe home, not just its food plants. Those of us who attempt to reintroduce zoo-bred species that have gone extinct in the wild have one question at the top of our list: Where do we put them? Hunters ate this wild goat to extinction. Reintroduce a resurrected ibex to the area where it belongs and it will become the most expensive cabrito ever eaten. If this seems cynical, then consider the cautionary tale of the Arabian oryx, returned to Oman from a captive breeding program. Their numbers have declined so much that their home, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was summarily removed from the register. (Pictures: Extinct Species That Could Be Brought Back.)
Yes, the set of plants alive a century or so ago when the passenger pigeon went extinct are probably still here. Is the pigeon's habitat intact? Surely not: The land use changes since then have been far too extensive.
In every case, without an answer to "where do we put them?"—and to the further question, "what changed in their original habitat that may have contributed to their extinction in the first place?"—efforts to bring back species are a colossal waste.
De-extinction is much worse than a waste: By setting up the expectation that biotechnology can repair the damage we're doing to the planet's biodiversity, it's extremely harmful for two kinds of political reasons.
Fantasies of reclaiming extinct species are always seductive. It is a fantasy that real scientists—those wearing white lab coats—are using fancy machines with knobs and digital readouts to save the planet from humanity's excesses. In this fantasy, there is none of the messy interaction with people, politics, and economics that characterizes my world. There is nothing involving the real-world realities of habitat destruction, of the inherent conflict between growing human populations and wildlife survival. Why worry about endangered species? We can simply keep their DNA and put them back in the wild later.
When I testify before Congress on endangered species, I'm always asked, "Can't we safely reduce the spotted owl to small numbers, keeping some in captivity as insurance?" The meaning is clear: "Let's log out almost all of western North America's old-growth forests because, if we can save species with high-tech solutions, the forest doesn't matter."
Or I'm asked, "Can't we breed in captivity the Cape Sable seaside sparrow?"—an obscure little bird whose survival requires the water in Everglades National Park to be the right amount in the right place at the right time. "Let's accommodate the sugar growers and damage large areas of the Everglades. Let's tolerate a high risk of extinction because our white-lab-coated science rock stars can save the day!"
The second political problem involves research priorities. I work with very poor people in Africa, Brazil, and Madagascar. Rich only in the diversity of life amid which they eke out their living, they generate no money for my university. Too many other universities equate excellence with funds generated, not with societal needs met. Over my career, molecular biologists flourished as university administrators drooled over their large grants and their expensive labs. Field-based biology withered. Many otherwise prominent universities have no schools of the environment, no ecology departments, no professors of conservation. It was all too easy to equate "biology" with molecules and strip faculty positions and facilities from those who worked in the field. De-extinction efforts can only perpetuate that trend.
Conservation is about the ecosystems that species define and on which they depend. Conservation is about finding alternative, sustainable futures for peoples, for forests, and for wetlands. Molecular gimmickry simply does not address these core problems. At worst, it seduces granting agencies and university deans into thinking they are saving the world. It gives unscrupulous developers a veil to hide their rapaciousness, with promises to fix things later. It distracts us from guaranteeing our planet's biodiversity for future generations.
130311-a Lawmakers must protect quality of life
Orlando Sentinel - by Milissa Holland, Radio Host for WNZF News, Vice-Chair of 1000 Friends of Florida Board
March 11, 2013
As Florida begins to emerge from the economic downturn, there is a nagging realization that we have done this before.
A boom-and-bust economy is part of Florida's history, where explosive growth is followed by recession and then more growth. We should have learned by now that we need to do everything possible to ensure that Florida remains a great place to live in the face of such growth.
Otherwise, at some point all the good things will be gone, like the largest number of freshwater springs in the world, clean drinking water and the iconic Everglades.
Rational people should understand that unless we plan for growth, our quality of life and our pocketbooks suffer. But instead, over the past few years, we have witnessed the effective elimination of the nation's largest land-buying and protection program, staff reductions in the very environmental agencies that are meant to protect our natural resources and drinking water, and the damaging relaxation of growth-management law by the governor and the 2011 Legislature.
Florida will surpass New York to become the nation's third-most-populous state within two years, hitting the 20-million mark shortly thereafter.
Does anyone believe we should weaken the ability to direct growth to protect Florida's environment and taxpayers? Are our roads in such great shape that we don't need to worry about future traffic impacts ? Are our drinking-water supplies so adequate and clean that we no longer have to worry about what happens at the tap ?
Have growth pressures surrounding the Everglades gone away? Are taxpayers so flush with cash that developers should pass on the costs of new infrastructure to us?
The governor and Legislature need to hear that essential environmental and growth-management programs and regulations need to be retained, regained and strengthened if we are to protect our quality of life, economy and rich environment.
Damaging bills have already been filed that would limit how local governments deal with traffic impacts from new development and ban development-related impact fees for three years. Both branches need to quit undermining local, regional and state efforts to protect one of the nation's largest states.
These regulations and programs are essential if we are to add millions of new residents without further damaging our great state and our quality of life.
130311-b Paralyzing algae is killing manatees at record pace in Florida
NBCnews.com - by Mark Potter and Erin McClam
March 11, 2013
An outbreak of paralyzing algae known as red tide is killing manatees by the dozens in Florida.
Florida wildlife officials report that 149 of the gentle giants have been killed by red tide this year in just two and a half months, making it almost certain that the state will pass the record of 151, set in 1996.
The bloom of algae this year covers a 70-mile stretch of the west coast of Florida, roughly from Sarasota to Fort Myers. That makes it particularly dangerous for the blimp-shaped, endangered mammals because they congregate in the warm water there for winter.
The algae contain a toxin that can stop the breathing of manatees when they eat it, and particles seep into sea grass, which manatees also eat. So the killing will probably continue for two months after the red tide dissipates.
“They’re basically paralyzed, and they’re comatose,” Virginia Edmonds, animal care manager of Florida mammals for the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, told the Tampa Bay Times. “They could drown in 2 inches of water.”
Eleven manatees, often called sea cows, have been rescued and taken to the zoo for treatment this year. Workers there take three-hour shifts standing in a water tank and holding a manatee’s head out of the water so it can breathe until it recovers and can breathe on its own.
“We just keep taking them in,” Edmonds told the newspaper. “We want to save as many as we can.”
The algae develop naturally, and when water temperature, salt content and nutrients are just right, they can bloom in an outbreak that turns the water reddish-brown. Red tide develops all over the world, including off California and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists say some studies have linked red tide to global warming because algae thrive in warmer water.
Adult manatees average about 10 feet long and glide through the water, steering with their flippers, at about 5 mph. They have to come to the surface every few minutes to breathe.
Florida has an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 manatees. The most common cause of death is not red tide but collisions with boats, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Watercraft killed almost 800 manatees from 1995 to 2005.
130311-c Sea level rise could threaten facilities in Miami
March 11, 2013
MIAMI - Three major sewage plants in South Florida could be reduced to shrinking islands in less than 50 years due to climate change, according to a group of climate scientists.
The scientists believe rising sea level will threaten some of the region's most vital facilities. It will also flood land, streets and neighborhoods nearby, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.
The scenario was drawn up by five experts from the University of Miami, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University retained by Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper. The clean-water advocacy group is challenging Miami-Dade's $1.5 billion plan to repair the county's troubled sewage system.
Most of the money would go toward repairing the county's aging, spill-plagued sewage system. Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper contends it would make more sense to move the plants to more protected inland sites.
"At some point, and I hope it's this year, Miami-Dade government and everybody has to start truly recognizing that we're in for it," University of Miami geology professor Harold Wanless said.
130311-d Water not addressed in Scott speech
NewsChief.com - by Bill Rufty
March 11, 2013
Out of the eight-member Polk County legislative delegation, Neil Combee was perhaps the most skeptical of last week's State of the State address by his fellow Republican, Gov. Rick Scott.
After mention of the environment in his budget message earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott said nary a word about it during his State of the State address to the Florida Legislature last week.
Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, said he noticed there was nothing about water policies in the speech.
"I believe he framed his speech in those things needing immediate attention, (but) I believe the governor will work with us on developing a statewide water plan. We have no more than eight years (to get it in place), and I believe we need to move in that direction very soon," Albritton said following last Tuesday's address.
Several environmental groups noticed the absence in the speech.
"There has been chatter on emails by environmental groups," said Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Audubon Florida. "Maybe he just framed the speech for the Legislature."
Scott did mention when unveiling his budget earlier in the year that he'd like to see nearly double the funding for the restoration of the Everglades and $75 million for Florida Forever, the program created with the help of former Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland to preserve environmentally sensitive land.
But an overall water policy for Florida is missing, Albritton noted.
There are two major water bills and other environmental legislation beginning to move through the Legislature, but no major overall umbrella policy.
The two biggest, Draper said, are House Bill 109, Consumptive Use Permits for Development of Alternative Water Supplies, by Reps. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, and Senate Bill 948, Water Supply, by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, whose district includes southern Polk County.
The problem with the divergent views on water, Draper said, is that the legislative leadership looks at the water problem as one of supply for agriculture and drinking, while most environmental groups are concerned with whether there is enough water in the environment — the lakes and streams.
But there are areas of conservation issues developing from elsewhere.
"Polk County itself has had a big push for alternative water supplies, and HB 109 is moving through the House," he said.
Alternative water uses, he said, would include reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and stormwater runoff for irrigation and perhaps treated for drinking water. Excess water during the rainy seasons also could be stored in reservoirs.
130311-e Water Water Everywhere
BloggerNews.net - Op-ed by Simon Barrett
March 11th, 2013
Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his opus The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has this great comment:
Water, water, everywhere
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.
It is a great quote. It sums up the current state of the planet quite well. There are few people that have not looked in awe of pictures of the Earth taken from space. The Earth is seen as a blue and green orb. The blue being the oceans that cover some 71% of the planet. So we are water rich? Well not quite. The oceans contain a staggering 97% of the water, but it is not in a form that is usable for us mere humans. It contains way too much salt. Taking the salt out of sea water (desalination) is a costly and energy consuming process. So while there are desalination projects we rely mostly on the remaining 3% of the remaining water, fresh water. As the worlds population grows, so does the pressure increase on ways to manage this resource.
There is a great documentary Blue Gold ~ World Water Wars
It is easy to say ‘But I live in the US, we are resource rich, water flows every time I turn the tap on’. Well, that is true today, but maybe false tomorrow. Fresh water is becoming a huge issue, the Colorado river is stretched to breaking point, parts of the Mississippi are so low that it is causing closures to shipping traffic, even the Great Lakes are shrinking.
I do not live in Florida, but I want to share a story about Florida. It is calculated to be slightly over 58,000 square miles, and have a population of around 20 million. So that means there are a little over 340 people per square mile. They all use water, they flush the toilet, they take showers, they do laundry, wash dishes, and even drink the stuff! Bottom line, they use a whole lot of water.
Water is at a premium. Likewise water prices, as Florida reaches for new solutions, desalination , the consumer must face ever increasing costs to consume.
For a few months I have been following an interesting, complex, and generally frustrating story. If I have it wrong, the mistakes are mine. But the email traffic is to say the least voluminous and tends to wander off topic into a series of law suits that should tie up the entire Florida justice system for decades!
The claim being made is that there is an aquifer in Sarasota that contains trillions of gallons of fresh water. It sits at a depth of 2000 feet and was discovered in the late 60’s. For one reason or another it has been removed from the geological maps, also exploitation of the resource is being blocked by the powers ‘that be’ at the Florida State level.
It doesn’t matter how you slice and dice it, something smells bad about this story. Is the state of Florida pulling a fast one ? Preferring to line its pockets from desalination plants and other sources. Why not permit an exploration of this aquifer? If it exists, great, if it is a figment of someones imagination, fine. To the best of my knowledge the State of Florida is not being asked for money, merely the permission to open up a resource that could ease the pressure on the water system.
130310-a Big Sugar mounts new attack on the Everglades
Palm Beach Post - by Randy Schultz, Staff Writer
March 10, 2013
Florida’s sugar growers say they really, really, really want to save what’s left of the Everglades. They mean it right up until the time comes to really, really, really save what’s left of the Everglades.
Last week, the sugar industry staged a classic Tallahassee ambush. This year, the Legislature must write a bill to implement the Everglades restoration deal Gov. Rick Scott made last April with the Obama administration. The Senate version is what environmental groups were expecting. It is five pages long. It adheres to the goal of cleaning farm runoff enough that it no longer harms the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County and Everglades National Park. It keeps financial pressure on sugar farmers, whose runoff fouled the “River of Grass” for decades until the Legislature passed the Everglades Forever Act in 1994.
As the session opened Tuesday, however, word of the ambush began to get out. The sugar growers were working their own bill in the House. Their bill is 16 pages long. Their bill could free them from higher costs associated with the last, toughest phase of the cleanup. Their bill could allow the sugar industry to decide in 13 years that it has cleaned up the Everglades — even if the Everglades isn’t clean enough for healthy wildlife and plant life — and that if the public wants a cleaner Everglades, the public can pay for it.
In fact, the public is helping to pay for Everglades cleanup. The money comes from an assessment on the South Florida Water Management District tax bill, and it amounts to about $30 for a house valued at $300,000. The growers pay through a separate tax on their land. They also must clean water before it leaves their land, using what are called Best Management Practices. The district then monitors the level of pollution in water leaving the farms.
As the growers point out, runoff is much cleaner. But the runoff isn’t clean enough, and it’s a good bet that getting the water clean enough would require more from the growers than they want to pay. The House bill seeks to give the growers a way around meeting that final standard and avoiding extra costs that might arise under the “Polluter Pays” constitutional amendment voters approved in 1996.
On Thursday, the bill had a hearing before the House State Affairs Committee. The Everglades is not just a World Heritage site. It’s key to South Florida’s water supply. Yet the bill passed 17-0. What bipartisan capitulation. While it was co-opting politicians, the sugar industry was trashing environmental groups — Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation — massed to oppose the bill. Gaston Cantens is a vice-president of West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals, the largest grower. He accused the environmental groups of “information pollution” and of “knowingly spreading garbage.” Such opposition was designed to “tarnish the successful restoration partnership between Everglades Agricultural Area farmers and the state.” Right. A “partnership” forced on the farmers. Robert Coker, a vice-president of U.S. Sugar, was even funnier: “While Audubon is busy filing lawsuits and spreading lies, farmers are on the ground every day producing food for the nation while also working to improve water quality in the Everglades. With the nation facing snowstorms sweeping across the Northeast, they depend on EAA farmers to produce their winter harvests.” Right. When residents of Connecticut were under three feet of snow last month, they survived on thoughts of sugar.
A vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative chimed in by referring to “environmental activists.” Yikes. Not activists! Cue the scary music.
We should have known 10 years ago that this was coming. The Everglades Forever Act set a deadline of 2006 to achieve that last, tough, Phase 2 anti-pollution standard. In 2003, the sugar industry got the Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush to push that deadline back 10 years. The governor’s plan pushes the deadline to 2026, in part because he won’t raise taxes enough to clean the water sooner.
The growers’ argument in 2003 was this: Hey, everyone knows that we can’t meet the standard, so why pretend? It was outrageous, but it worked. The delay passed the Senate 38-0 and the House 98-16. Among those House members voting yes was Gaston Cantens. Florida Crystals took notice.
In 2003, the South Florida Water Management District was on board with the anti-Everglades bill. This time, at least, the district’s position is that the Senate bill is better. District officials say they will work with the House. Gov. Scott said he prefers the Senate bill. But don’t underestimate the power of the ambush. The House State Affairs Committee chairman is a speaker-to-be.
Ten years ago, sugar growers got around the Everglades deadline. This year, they want to get around paying for it. Despite their claims to the contrary, they really, really, really don’t care about saving what’s left of the Everglades.
130310-b Local Events: Environmental and Earth Law Summit
Orlando Sentinel – Legal Eagles
March 10, 2013
Environmental and Earth Law Summit: 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m. March 22;
Barry University School of Law, 6441 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando.
This year's Summit speakers will consider The Worth of Water. Scheduled speakers include independent environmental advocate Karen Ahlers, springs protection biologist Jim Stevenson, and several environmental attorneys. Featured speaker Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel will discuss his recent investigation series on the water quality of Florida's rivers. The program will include legal, scientific, and citizen perspectives on Florida's water challenges and present innovative strategies for meaningful protection of our waters.
Reservations required. Free general admission, $50 for attorneys seeking CLE credits. 321-206-5691 321-206-5691 FREE
130309-a Home rule ?
NaplesNews.com – Letter by Michael R. Ramsey, President, Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association
March 9, 2013
There has been a major change at the policymaker level in Collier County.
Daniel DeLisi, the Southwest Florida representative on the governing board of South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), has resigned.
This position is automatically the chairperson of the Big Cypress Basin Board, which oversees surface water management in Collier County.
This change in the governing board provides an opportunity for the residents of Collier County to improve on how tax money collected is spent on needed services.
The residents of Collier County need to speak up and let Gov. Rick Scott, the governing board of the SFWMD in West Palm Beach and the Big Cypress Basin Board in Naples know that we need a representative to be appointed who truly understands the “independent function” of Collier County’s water resources.
Of the 16 counties in the SFWMD, Collier County is the only area that does not drain into the Everglades. The nine-member governing board of the SFWMD needs a daily reminder that Collier County is not part of the Everglades system and needs to be managed based on the natural functions of the land.
The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association finds that the expenditure of tax dollars and the management of our water resources is not best served by appointing a chairperson to the Big Cypress Basin Board via the governing board who does not reside in Collier County.
The infamous A1
reservoir is south of
130309-b South Florida Water District needs to complete its unfinished reservoir
March 9, 2013
Here we go again. Water managers are back touting another plan to build a badly needed reservoir in southwest Palm Beach County, this nearly five years and about $280 million after halting construction on a city-sized reservoir once hailed as the key to Everglades restoration. South Florida Water Management District officials are considering a scaled-down version of the unfinished reservoir, part of a $1.5-billion plan that Gov. Rick Scott hopes will address water pollution and help settle long-standing litigation over state water-quality standards.
At this point, South Florida would settle for progress of any kind.
For as it stands, the unfinished boondoggle along U.S. 27 near Lake Okeechobee is a testament to Florida's ever-shifting political winds and the power of Big Sugar to change the trajectory of big-money contracts.
In 2006, the state started work on a massive, 16,700-acre reservoir that held the promise of curbing pollution and providing the region with another reliable source of drinking water. But midway through construction in 2008, the project was scrapped after then-Gov. Charlie Crist and water management officials negotiated a blockbuster land-buying deal with U.S. Sugar.
Better than a reservoir, the pitch went, spending the money to assemble chunks of land would create a more natural path to water filtration and restoring Everglades flow.
Now that the piece-meal land-buying deal has been completed, the district is back to focusing on a reservoir, which was needed all along.
The new reservoir proposal, unveiled this week, calls for the creation of a "flow equalization basin," a smaller reservoir that will be built on the site of the original reservoir. Rather than 30-foot-tall levees, the scaled-back proposal calls for embankments that are 10 feet tall. And rather than costing $400 million to build, the project will cost $72 million.
The proposal has its drawbacks. The smaller reservoir won't have the same capacity as the earlier version to store enough storm water to bolster the region's water supply, a key selling point in enticing politicians outside of Florida to invest in the federal-state public works project. That is a concern water managers still must address.
The proposal is currently in the design phase, and, if the district stays on schedule, the board will approve the plan this fall with a completion date set for 2016.
Sticking to a timetable, though, has been the problem.
Things change, and stuff happens. But 180-degree turns are unacceptable in a major construction project, especially changes that leave taxpayers holding a multi-million-dollar tab.
Given their zig-zags in direction, water managers must shore up confidence in the district's ability to restore the Everglades and establish water policy that meets the needs of a robust region.
Completing a smaller but still-needed reservoir would be a good place to start.
130309-c Springs dreams
Ocala.com - Editorial by Jim Ross
March 9, 2013
It certainly is exciting to see the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wrapping its big arms around Silver Springs these days. It has been a long time coming.
DEP is aggressively developing a plan — finally — to curtail the flow of nitrates into the springs and Silver River so that its water will once again be crystal clear and its bottom once again glistening silver. And now, after years of pleas from the community, DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks is on the scene with a fast-track plan to turn Silver Springs Attraction into Silver Springs State Park.
While both the environmental action and the park development have been local dreams for years, DEP's involvement is rather recent — a year or so in the case of the water cleanup, a matter of months regarding the park plan.
It's a good, nay, great thing that Silver Springs is getting this long-needed attention from DEP. What is amazing is that it took so long to convince the folks in Tallahassee that the granddaddy of Florida's springs was worthy of its paternal attention. Now that it is focused on "Nature's Theme Park," they seem to be moving with speed not heretofore seen in government.
Bids are being let, plans are being drawn, contracts are being signed, buildings are being designated for demolition. Bim. Bam. Boom.
And who can quarrel with the DRP, which runs Florida's 160 state parks and 11 trail systems. Year after year it is judged among America's finest state park system, and, speaking from the personal experience of a lifetime of visiting so many of them, it is deserved.
glistening silver. And now, after years of pleas from the community, DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks is on the scene with a fast-track plan to turn Silver Springs Attraction into Silver Springs State Park.
While both the environmental action and the park development have been local dreams for years, DEP's involvement is rather recent — a year or so in the case of the water cleanup, a matter of months regarding the park plan.
It's a good, nay, great thing that Silver Springs is getting this long-needed attention from DEP. What is amazing is that it took so long to convince the folks in Tallahassee that the granddaddy of Florida's springs was worthy of its paternal attention. Now that it is focused on "Nature's Theme Park," they seem to be moving with speed not heretofore seen in government.
Bids are being let, plans are being drawn, contracts are being signed, buildings are being designated for demolition. Bim. Bam. Boom.
And who can quarrel with the DRP, which runs Florida's 160 state parks and 11 trail systems. Year after year it is judged among America's finest state park system, and, speaking from the personal experience of a lifetime of visiting so many of them, it is deserved.
Yet, I hope those in charge of DEP, DRP and any other set of vowels that might be applicable pause and recognize this is more than just another state park project to the people of Ocala/Marion County. We have state parks and trails. Acres and acres of them — not to mention a 400,000-acre national forest.
This is not just an environmental restoration. Not just a new state park. It is a resurrection of a part of this community's heritage that, for the home folks, anyway, carries promises of great things — more than just a state park. There are some big ideas floating around, and they're worth hearing.
Silver Springs is seen by many as the missing link, the linchpin, in what is potentially a national ecotourism magnet. It also could be the place state and private donors collaborate to establish a springs research center in hopes of finding ways to save all of Florida's increasingly endangered springs. It could be a hub of local economic development, and even an educational center. Imagine a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) magnet school being build nearby. A dream? Maybe. But worth discussing, for sure.
The point is, I appreciate what DEP is doing as much as anyone. It is overdue and badly, badly needed. But this can be so much more than another piece of an award-winning state park system. I just hope the people at DEP & Co. will take an award-winning breath and ask the community in earnest what its ideas are for Silver Springs — not just next year, but for generations to come.
130308-a Briefing: The strange science of sinkholes
NewScientist.com - by Sara Reardon
March 8, 2013
When a 6-metre-wide sinkhole suddenly opened and swallowed part of a house in Florida last week, killing a man, it seemed a freak accident. Four days later, a similarly sized hole opened just 3 kilometres away. What's going on? New Scientist takes a look at the forces at work behind this bizarre – and sometimes deadly – phenomenon.
What causes sinkholes?
They often occur in karst regions – areas where slightly acidic groundwater dissolves the landscape's underlying bedrock, resulting in large subterranean voids. Most karst forms in carbonate bedrock like limestone or dolomite, though water can also eat away at gypsum and salt deposits to create such formations. Underground spaces can also form when water erodes buried sediment deposits, or where ancient lava tubes are covered over.
When the supporting material is removed, the sediment layers above become unstable and can suddenly collapse. Weather events can trigger them: if a prolonged drought dries out soil, a subsequent heavy rainstorm may be enough to send it crashing down. That is probably what happened in Florida last week.
Extended wet weather can be just as bad, as it adds more water to underground structures, weakening them. Severe tropical storms in 2012 may have helped trigger about 200 sinkholes that opened simultaneously across Florida, says Bricky Way of Geohazards, a company that detects underground voids and investigates sinkholes. Human activities like drilling or pumping out groundwater can also trigger sinkholes.
How common are they?
Regions prone to sinkhole formation are widespread in the US (see map). Harley Means, a geologist at the Florida Geological Survey (FGS), says karst regions are widespread around the globe as well. Such areas are fairly well mapped, but there is no authoritative database of where and when sinkholes have occurred. The FGS's data largely comes from property owners' reports on damage. "If one happens in the woods, that data doesn't make it to us," Means says, which makes it difficult to put an exact number on how many there are each year.
Sinkholes the size of last week's are not uncommon, says Way – his company sees a few every year. But thankfully fatalities are rare. "In Florida, you've got a better chance of being bitten by an alligator," he says.
Are there more now than there used to be?
Sinkhole reports in Florida have tripled since 2006, suggesting that a "sinkhole alley" is ravaging the state. But that is probably just because they are being reported more often, says Means: Florida has one of the fastest growing populations in the US. Human activity in karst regions is increasing as well. Heavy construction activities and draining groundwater for drinking can make sinkholes more likely. Could climate change result in more sinkholes?
It is possible, says Means, although there is no direct evidence of this. Torrential rainstorms and long droughts are both predicted to become more common in the next century as the planet warms, particularly in the south-eastern US. "It's speculation right now," says Means. He suggests that research that compares climactic conditions with periods of high sinkhole activity could provide evidence.
Can we predict sinkholes?
Not precisely, says Means, although there are ways to detect which regions are most likely to develop them. Some tools used by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection include ground-penetrating radar and electrical imaging, which allow geologists to look at the physical properties of the underlying earth strata to see if there is empty space there. Then they can drill into this area and test whether sediments are starting to fall in. "We can make a fairly educated guess that one may occur," says Means. Related: Florida family living over a sinkhole NBC2 News When The Earth Swallows WGBH NEWS
130308-b Miami's ultimate vice may be its proximity to water
TakePart.com - by Lawrence Karol
March 8, 2013
South Florida’s coastline is particularly susceptible to the effect of climate change on rising sea levels.
Miami is known for its beautiful sun-drenched beaches, including South Beach with its trendy nightlife and Art Deco architecture. Lesser known is the fact that Florida, and especially Miami, is being threatened by a rise in sea levels if current climate change and sea level rise patterns continue.
These findings are part of a recently released draft climate paper, the "Climate Assessment Report," that was overseen by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC). Jayantha Obeysekara, the Director of the Hydrologic & Environmental Systems Modeling Department at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), tells TakePart that South Florida’s coastline is particularly susceptible to sea level rise.
“Miami-Dade and Broward counties are more vulnerable due to a variety of factors,” he says. “The topography of the coastal cities is very low and Florida has some of the largest cities with a million or more people living below three feet elevation—and that includes Miami. This causes the coast to be highly vulnerable to storm surges and waves, particularly during tropical storms. The flood control infrastructure has served its design life, about 50 years, and some are already facing capacity reduction due to higher sea levels.”
Obeysekara also explains that the geology of the region is characterized by highly porous limestone which favors saltwater intrusion towards utility water supply wells threatening them with sea water contamination. “Some wells have already seen this effect and the municipalities and counties are forced to move the well fields inland,” he says. “In the Everglades National Park, there is a concern that the organic peat near the mangroves may collapse with sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.”
Asked if there were changes that can be made to the region's flood control system that would make the area less vulnerable, Obeysekara says that SFWMD has done a preliminary screening analysis to identify the most vulnerable structures located in Miami-Dade county.
“There is one solution that we have implemented at two locations where additional flood discharge capacity has been added to existing gravity structure by constructing a new pump station for what we call ‘forward pumping,’ meaning from land to sea,” he says. “There are other places like Miami Beach which are outside the regional flood control system and they have developed local storm water management plans to construct several new pump stations.”
Obeysekara adds that, “In many places, the high tide and storm surge now comes through the older storm sewer system and flood streets—what we call ‘sunny day flooding.’ Fort Lauderdale is implementing ‘reverse flow preventers,’ valves which do not permit water to flow from the sea to land but allow storm water to discharge to the sea when conditions are right. And in the Keys, new construction now requires the structures to be built higher or allow for storm surges. For example, the first floor is a garage and the dwelling is on the second floor.”
The news is actually even worse for Florida’s neighbor, Louisiana. The Lens, a nonprofit, public-interest newsroom located in New Orleans, reported last month that, “researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have concluded that Louisiana is in line for the highest rate of sea-level rise on the planet.”
In a parallel to the efforts underway in Florida, the NOAA stated that Louisiana’s Master Plan needs to be adjusted to meet this larger, faster-approaching threat.
130308-c New hires will boost leadership team at South Florida Water Management District
Palm Beach Post - Letters by Post readers (Melissa Meeker)
March 8, 2013
I want to respond to coverage of the executive management team at the South Florida Water Management District (“Water board official quits, hired by district in 4 days,” and “Credibility level sinks again,” editorial.)
Executives in public and private organizations have the option and responsibility to hand-pick key managers who will work effectively with the leadership team and contribute to the organization’s success. Open recruitment with applicant interviews is one way to achieve this. But it’s not the only way to get the right people on board.
I recently selected two new members for the district’s leadership team. One is my chief of staff, a position that was advertised for many weeks without success in finding a candidate with the skill set I need for this role. I was surprised and pleased when one of the district’s governing board members, Dan DeLisi, stepped down and applied for the position. Dan had sought a legal opinion, which he followed. Also, in accordance with state and district ethics policies, he will resign and divest ownership from his Fort Myers-based firm before starting.
After joining the board in 2011, Dan became knowledgeable about district issues and passionate about South Florida’s water resources. His professional credentials are impressive: a master’s from MIT’s department of urban studies and planning, Environmental Policy Group, successful business owner, civil court mediator and member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
I also named Len J. Lindahl to oversee the district’s regulatory and business functions. His father, Len E. Lindahl, served on the district’s governing board from 2001 to 2007.
Len is a engineer with a wealth of experience in water resource management. Most recently, he oversaw Florida water operations for AECOM Inc., a multi-national Fortune 500 company that does work in industries including energy, water, transportation and the environment. Len also has served local water control districts as their engineer. He brings experience and talents that will serve the district well.
My selections of Dan and Len are the public’s gain in two outstanding leaders. Even more important, they join a nine-member executive team that collectively has more than 200 years of public and private-sector experience to oversee the complex and challenging work we do.
These hiring decisions were thoughtful, strategic and focused fully on bringing the best talent to the district. That’s been achieved, and I look forward to working with them as we serve South Florida’s citizens with responsible and effective water resource management.
MELISSA MEEKER, West Palm Beach, FL Editor’s note: Melissa Meeker is executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.
130308-d Rick Scott announces appointments to two Water Management District boards
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
March 8, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced the reappointments of Carlos Beruff and George Mann to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. He also announced the appointments of two new members to that same governing board -- Thomas E. “Tommy” Bronson and Bryan K. Beswick.
At the same time, Scott announced the appointment of Virginia Sanchez and the reappointment of Virginia H. Johns and to the Governing Board of the Suwannee River Water Management District. Beruff, 54, of Bradenton, is a Developer with Medallion Home Gulf Coast. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017. Mann, of Polk City, is a retired business development manager for Treatt USA. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017. Bronson, 76, of Brooksville, is the retired CEO of Meridian Aggregates. He is a former member of the Pithlachascotee River Basin Board and the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee. He is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2016. Beswick, 45, of Arcadia, is the grove manager for Blue Goose Growers LLC and a sales associate with Blue Goose Realty. He previously served on the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Peace River Basin Board, and received his bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. He is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2016. Sanchez, of Old Town, is the president of Sanchez Farms LLC. She is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017. Johns, 57, of Alachua, is the president of John Hipp Construction. She is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017.
130307-a Florida sugar growers win House vote on Everglades pollution payout
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy, Capital Bureau
March 7, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — The sugar industry won a round Thursday in the long fight over Everglades restoration, when a House panel approved extending a tax on growers that environmentalists say will leave South Florida taxpayers paying most of the cleanup cost.
The measure (PCB-SAC-13-01)cleared the State Affairs Committee on a 17-0 vote, after sugar lobbyists defended the legislation as advancing an $880 million Everglades plan crafted by Gov. Rick Scott and federal officials.
That widely supported effort will build stormwater storage and treatment areas over the next decade to improve water quality across the region.
“We are optimistic this plan is going to be successful,” Phil Parsons, of the Florida Sugar Cane League, told the committee.
But conservation groups warned lawmakers that a key provision of the bill complies with sugar’s demand to renew a tax rate not scheduled to expire for three years. The move could end future negotiations over how much of the $880 million plan the sugar industry should pay.
The legislation’s hurry-up timing could be shaped by next year’s governor’s race. Scott, a Republican, has been burnishing his moderate credentials in recent weeks and is eager to pass legislation that moves his Everglades plan forward.
The sugar industry is a heavy contributor to Republicans who dominate the Senate and House. The committee that approved the measure Thursday is led by Chairman Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, already tapped as a future House leader, but also an executive in the agribusiness and scion of an old Central Florida ranch family.
Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar Corp., alone, has 29 lobbyists registered to work the Florida Legislature.
“You’ve got to wonder, why are we doing this now?” asked Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, which opposed the bill.
The legislation approved Thursday would extend a $25-per-acre tax paid by growers since 1994. The levy is slated to drop to $10-per-acre in 2016, but the measure approved Thursday keeps the $25 standard now until 2024.
Losing the scheduled rate reduction will cost sugar growers another $6.6 million-a-year, analysts say. But environmentalists argued that’s a relatively modest price, given that researchers show runoff from farms in the agricultural area near Lake Okeechobee remain the Everglades’ biggest problem.
Farms have reduced phosphorus levels over the years – easing the life-choking nutrients that have fouled the fabled River of Grass.
But pollution “hot spots” remain and have spawned a lawsuit from Audubon of Florida, which claims that the South Florida Water Management District hasn’t done enough to regulate dirty farms.
Setting the sugar growers’ tax rate now — rather than leaving it open to future review — would embolden the industry’s claim that it is paying its proper share, representatives of Audubon, the Everglades Foundation, and 1000 Friends of Florida told the committee.
But the amount paid by growers leaves the bulk of the $880 million cleanup project on the shoulders of taxpayers across the Water Management District’s 16-county region.
“That’s an inequity that should be addressed,” Eikenberg said.
Scott, while he supports Senate legislation (SB 768) — which is silent on the tax issue — he declined to take a stand on the House measure Thursday.
“We put a lot of effort into making sure we got the Everglades settlement done, working with the federal government,” Scott said after the vote. “I want to make sure we have the funding to make sure that happens, so we improve the quality of water and the flow of water into the Everglades. And I want to make sure it happens not just this year but every year going forward.”
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, sponsor of the House bill (PCB-SAC-13-01), said his bill is not designed to help growers, but instead advance the governor’s efforts at continuing cleanup. “This was not some devious plan conjured up by folks looking to destroy the Everglades,” Caldwell said.
He said the legislation sets out a “shared responsibility to restore the Everglades and save the treasure every single one of us values.” Brian Hughes, who represents sugar growers, said environmentalists are reading too much into the bill, which he said is chiefly aimed at updating state law after two decades of lawsuits and negotiations between the industry, state, environmentalists and the federal government.
“The provisions in this House bill actually will cost sugar farmers more money,” Hughes said. “We are paying more in this bill than the current statute would require.”
Asked if resetting the tax rate now would close off any future demands, Hughes said, “We’re always about contributing our fair share.” But Eric Draper of Audubon said that if the measure is approved, it could end attempts at making growers pay more.
“It preemptively cuts off that discussion,” Draper said. Related: House panel approves Everglades plan amid cost arguments CBS Local Big Sugar wins first round in proposed changes to Everglades ... Sun-Sentinel House committee rejects environmental opposition, votes to file ... The Florida Current Bill to cap Glades cleanup costs for agriculture advances Bradenton Herald
Florida Capitol -
where it all takes place
130207-b High-stake environmental issues before the Florida legislature in 2013
WLRN- by Tricia Woolfenden
The Florida Legislative Session 2013 is in full swing, and environmental groups are worried about a number of bills before lawmakers. Organizations like Audubon of Florida are focused on proposed measures that would impact environmental funding, wildlife protection, water quality and land use and conservation.
One of the top priorities for Audubon of Florida and similar watchdogs is the security of Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, which earmarked $75 million for land conservation projects spearheaded by the Florida Forever Coalition.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida (a member organization of Florida Forever), said as the budget is debated by Florida legislators, his organization will be "concerned with maintaining funding in the budget."
Draper and company also are tracking more than two dozen House and Senate bills that would have direct or indirect impact on the environment. Of chief concern are bills that would involve the sell-off of state lands, those that "make it easier to develop on wetlands," or pollute waterways, Draper said.
Audubon of Florida has officially opposed bills, which include:
● HB 584 Hays/HB 901 Stone - Purchase of Conservation Lands - This bill would "limit the state, county, or municipality from purchasing state conservation lands without meeting certain criteria first," according to the bill's language.
● HB 33 Smith/SB 466 Altman - Conservation Easements - Proponents say the bill will encourage economic development while protecting wildlife. Audubon says this bill "allows individuals and corporations to exchange state-owned land for conservation easements over privately held land and encourages certain operations on these lands." Read the bill in its entirety here.
● HB 431 Broxson - Development of Oil and Gas Resources - This bill would allow for oil and gas drilling on certain state lands. Read the bill in its entirety here.
Bills on the group's "monitoring" list include those that; reduce the number of members on the Southwest Florida Water Management District Board, handle permits for urban redevelopment, oversee certain agricultural lands, legislate wastewater discharge, and other issues. The group supports bills that grant bonds for Everglades restoration, allow for local ordinances banning non-recyclable plastic bags, and support the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, among others.
Click here for the complete list of bills -- subject to change -- that Audubon of Florida has highlighted to watch in Session 2013. The list includes the Audubon of Florida stance on most of the bills and also includes links to the actual bills themselves. Want to weigh in on any of these issues? Use the Florida Senate's "find your legislator" search to contact your representative.
Read more about Scott's proposed $74.2 billion budget, which also includes $60 million for Everglades restoration, here.
Audubon of Florida
objects to proposed
changes to state law that the group says
could shield Big Sugar
from paying more
(By Andy Reid
March 6, 2013)
130306-a Environmentalists warn that law change helps Big Sugar dodge Everglades cleanup
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 6, 2013 Big Sugar is trying to change state law to dodge more Everglades pollution cleanup costs, according to Audubon of Florida.
Audubon Wednesday was rallying opposition to measures that the environmental group warns would help Big Sugar avoid paying more of the multi-billion-dollar-cost of Everglades restoration.
Also, Audubon argues that Big Sugar-backed changes to state law would make it difficult to force agriculture to clean up more of the water pollution that flows off farmland and into the Everglades.
Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper called it a “very troubling bill” that would be a “complete giveaway to sugar.”
But Big Sugar contends that the environmental opposition is off base and that agriculture already pays its fair share of Everglades restoration costs.
The proposed changes to state law are intended to clear the way for a new Everglades restoration plan – endorsed by Big Sugar and environmental groups alike – and wouldn’t stop the state from pursuing more pollution cleanup requirements on agriculture, according to U.S. Sugar Corp. spokeswoman Judy Sanchez.
“It does not do any of the things that Audubon is out there screaming about,” Sanchez said.
The proposal comes as Florida pursues a new restoration plan aimed at jumpstarting help for the Everglades and settling years of federal court battles over failures to meet water quality standards in the famed River of Grass.
The new $880 million restoration plan pushed by Gov. Rick Scott calls for building new stormwater storage and treatment areas along with other improvements over more than a decade.
That price tag goes up to $1.5 billion total when factoring in $700 million already spent on farmland and unfinished reservoirs from past sidetracked Everglades restoration projects.
Legislative changes are needed to “sync up” the new Everglades restoration plan with state law, Sanchez said.
Audubon warns that the proposed changes in the House version go too far. The group supports the Senate version.
Audubon objects to suggestions in the House legislation that growers’ existing “best management practices” are doing enough to reduce the influx of polluting phosphorus. The environmental group contends that the proposed legislation could nullify attempts to add cleanup requirements for farmland.
Audubon also opposes the legislation keeping the Everglades restoration cleanup tax levied on growers south of Lake Okeechobee at the “current minimal level” of $25 per acre through 2025.
Environmental groups blame agriculture for causing most of the water pollution in the Everglades and have called for the state to force growers to pick up more of the restoration tab.
“With mounting costs to the public for cleaning up the Everglades, the sugar industry is not even covering the interest,” Draper said.
Big Sugar counters that it is paying more than its fair share for restoration.
Growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have paid more than $200 million in special taxes toward restoration efforts and are meeting phosphorus reduction goals by changing farming practices.
Sanchez said Audubon is trying to “stir up” its members and that the draft legislation is “too early” in the legislative process for Audubon to be “trying to throw roadblocks.”
The issue goes before the House State Affairs Committee Thursday. Related: House committee bill on Everglades condemned by environmental ... The Florida Current Everglades Foundation's Bogus Stats Unworthy of Florida Audubon Sunshine State News
130306-b Marshall Foundation accepting applications for summer interns
Sun Sentinel – by Jan Engoren
March 6, 2013
The Marshall Foundation, dedicated to developing, promoting, and delivering education and public outreach programs to maintain and restore the Everglades, is celebrating its 15th anniversary Sunday with a family festival and is accepting applications for its summer internship program.
Undergraduate or graduate students majoring in environmental science, environmental education, engineering, economics and law are eligible to apply for the 11-week crash course in Everglades ecology and restoration, beginning May 17 and running through Aug. 2.
"Along with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my uncle Arthur Marshall, is a deeply respected early champion of Everglades restoration. He envisioned a plan, still valid today, for restoring the original flow of water through the Everglades," said John Marshall, chairman of the board. "He imagined preparing future generations of scientists and engineers, who through knowledge and commitment, would achieve Everglades restoration, new life for a unique ecosystem that is a precious American treasure, and perpetual protection of a primary water source for Floridians.
He said those are the principles that drive the summer internship program today.
Interns will receive a stipend and have the opportunity to explore the Everglades ecosystem through field experiences, network with prominent environmental leaders and contribute to ongoing research that makes a positive impact on the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem.
"The Marshall summer intern experience enabled me to develop a thorough basis and fundamental understanding of the Everglades, and the restoration of the Everglades will remain a personal as well as professional interest of mine for the rest of my life," said Katelyn Lynch, a 2009 intern.
Mary Crider, the foundation's education associate, and a former intern said, "I found it to be a very rewarding experience. I got to travel to all areas of the Everglades (from Kissimmee Chain of Lakes down to the Everglades National Park in Florida Bay) to learn about this unique ecosystem."
"We went to Lake Okeechobee and many people don't realize how beautiful parts of the lake are," she said.
"I met prominent scientists, engineers, politicians such as former senator Bob Graham, and other key players in Everglades restoration through my internship, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Fish and Wildlife staff and engineers from South Florida Water Management."
As part of her research project, she was charged with helping develop an eco systems services valuation, or putting a dollar amount on what it costs in real dollars to preserve the Everglades.
"People don't value something unless there is a dollar amount attached to it. Much of the Everglades has been drained for agriculture and urban development," said Crider, who earned her master's degree in environmental science from Florida Atlantic University. "How do we decide on a cost basis whether to preserve or develop this unique area?"
Based on her research project, she now knows the Everglades is worth billions of dollars.
On a separate note, the Marshall Foundation announced that Kathe Thompson, the former president of the Palm Beach County League of Women Voters, has been named to th eboard of directors.The Arthur R. Marshall foundation is at 1028 N. Federal Highway in Lake Worth.
Information and an application for the summer internship program are available at artmarshall.com. The application is due March 30.
Dawn SHIREFFS Restoration Program Manager, National
130305- Congress's help needed to build on work of Central Everglades Planning Project
TCPalm - Letter by Dawn Shirreffs, Hollywood , FL
March 5, 2013
The Feb. 13 editorial, “Embrace common goal — eliminate discharges from Lake Okeechobee into St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon” misses the mark on all of the great work that the Central Everglades Planning Project is doing to protect critical habitat for wildlife, improve water quality and quantity for Floridians’ water supply, and restoring America’s Everglades.
Everglades restoration has brought us leaps and bounds closer to reducing discharges of freshwater to the northern estuaries. CEPP plays a vital role in making water flow to the south possible, and results will be seen well ahead of the project completion date scheduled for 2024 as the editorial suggests.
Construction of the first mile of bridging on Tamiami Trail is nearly complete, removing a long-standing obstruction of water flow into the Everglades that will provide immediate benefits this year.
The next 5.5 miles of bridging has already been authorized by Congress, and the National Park Service is moving forward with planning for construction.
CEPP represents a significant step forward, putting in place the necessary “flow-way” to move 200,000 acre-feet of water south annually by utilizing storage and treatment facilities around Lake Okeechobee.
Unfortunately, legislation has been proposed in Tallahassee aiming to eliminate Florida’s ability to purchase such needed conservation lands.
Florida’s Legislature must commit to acquiring the adjacent lands in the Everglades agricultural area to provide additional relief and further eliminate harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie tivers.
For continued successful restoration efforts, we need Congress and the administration to complete the C-44 reservoir and storm water treatment in Martin County.
Congress must also authorize important projects like CEPP, the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir, and others that benefit the common goal of restoring the greater Everglades ecosystem. Dawn Shirreffs is Everglades restoration program manager, National Parks Conservation Association.
130305-b Rancher wants to fertilize with biosolid sludge
FloridaToday.com – by Jim Waymer
March 5, 2013
EEL officials to consider request
An environmental advisory panel today will consider allowing sewage “biosolids” — commonly called sludge — on more than 100 acres of conservation land in north Brevard County. Roy Roberts, a cattle rancher leasing that acreage within the northern section of the 1,500-acre Scottsmoor Flatwoods Sanctuary, wants to use the biosolids from Titusville’s Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility to fertilize the land for his 50 head of beef cattle he raises at the sanctuary.
Brevard County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands program owns the property. EEL has never allowed sludge to be used as fertilizer on its land before.
“They have treated the stuff now so much that it is just considered fertilizer,” Roberts said. “It’s cheaper, and it’s organic. It’s natural ... and it helps the city out, too.”
The biosolids — a residue left over after sewage is treated — would go just west of U.S. 1 and south of Stuckway Road (State Road 5A).
Biosolids contain organic matter and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Most metals and pathogens have been removed. EEL officials want eventually to restore the leased cattle grazing area to scrub and flatwoods, habitats typically low in nutrients. Matt Hixson, Titusville’s water reclamation superintendent, said the arrangement would provide another spot to dispose of the biosolids, which he says are treated to Class AA, the cleanest standard for sludge. According to state rules, Class AA biosolids must be treated to a level that essentially eliminates pathogens and meets strict concentration limits for heavy metals.
EEL’s Selection and Management Committee plans to discuss the idea when it meets today but won’t make an immediate decision on whether to allow the sludge.
“We’re just going through the process of trying to understand whether it’s better or worse than typical fertilizer,” said EEL Director Mike Knight. “The concerns are ... as you decide what you put in the soil ... you want to make sure that the decisions you make now are going to be good for that habitat in the future.”
The city’s sludge had been used to fertilize the property before the county had purchased it in 2008.
The state of Florida considers Class AA biosolids a fertilizer. In 2011, 34 companies or facilities distributed and marketed about 255,125 dry tons of Class AA biosolids in 57 Florida counties, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
“The smell is very short-lived,” said Roberts, adding that he puts biosolids on the pastures next to his house in Scottsmoor. “There is a little odor to it, but it’s very small.”
Roberts said putting the biosolids on the EEL sanctuary land he leases is “a win-win for everybody.”
“That stuff doesn’t disappear when you flush the toilet,” Roberts said. “That’s what people tend to forget: When we flush that toilet, it doesn’t disappear. It has to go somewhere.”
Another sinkhole -
130304-a At site of Florida sinkhole that swallowed a man, what's next ?
Associated Press - by Matt Sedensky and Robert Ross
March 04, 2013
SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — A backhoe chipped away Monday at the remains of a house where a sinkhole opened up and swallowed a man, but there was little certainty as to what would come next for the site of the freak geological incident.
Though thousands of sinkholes erupt in Florida each year, most are small, few affect homes, and even fewer cause deaths. The sinkhole in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, however, was different.
Crews still were working to remove enough of the home to see more clearly inside the hole and determine what steps would come after the property is razed. There has been no definitive word as to whether the hole will be filled or whether the property could be built on again. But some experts say the fact that the sinkhole claimed a life — that of Jeff Bush, 37 — and that his body is expected to remain below the surface make rebuilding less likely.
"It's kind of a bad omen," said Dave Arnold, a hydrogeologist who has surveyed sinkholes for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. "This is an even worse omen with someone buried under there."
Arnold and other experts expect that once the house if destroyed, crews will work to fill in the hole and the lot will likely remain empty. Depending on the circumstances, past Florida sinkholes have been handled in varied ways.
In Maitland, Fla., a sinkhole 325 feet across was discovered in the 1960s as Interstate 4 was built. The highway was diverted around the area, but in 2008 workers began a $9 million project to fill and stabilize the sinkhole in preparation for a planned expansion of the roadway. Engineers say a road can be put over it now without any problems.
In Winter Park, Fla., a sinkhole in 1981 swallowed several sports cars, parts of two businesses, the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool and a three-bedroom house. It stretched about 350 feet across and caused $2 million in damages. The area became a temporary tourist attraction, but most of it was ultimately deserted, filled with water and became a lake.
And in 2002, a sinkhole about 150 feet across and 60 feet deep swallowed oak trees, sidewalk and park benches near an apartment complex in western Orange County, Fla. Two buildings with more than 100 residents were evacuated, but the structures were ultimately saved. Metal sheet piling was placed around the hole to stop the soil from sliding, and it was filled.
Often, homeowners find clues to a pending problem by cracks in the foundation or a shifting floor. When that happens, and a sinkhole threat has been established, crews can pump a thick grout — a mixture of sand and cement — into the ground to fill the holes. It is a costly process, though it is typically paid by insurance companies, and can save a home from being destroyed.
"You inject the grout under pressure and attempt to fill all the cavities you can find," said Anthony Randazzo, a former University of Florida geology professor who started the consulting firm Geohazards, which handles about 1,000 cases a year of sinkholes and other settlement issues.
Though the specifics of what will happen to the Seffner property remain unknown, Randazzo said the hole would have to be filled to keep people from falling in it and to remove a potential neighborhood eyesore.
If the family decides to try to sell the property, they would be required to notify prospective buyers of the sinkhole issue.
Currently, various county agencies are at the sinkhole site to supervise, but officials haven't given a tally of the costs or said who is absorbing them.
For now, the focus in Seffner remains on a family mourning a loved one and trying to move on. Two large backhoes scraped and pulled at the house Monday afternoon, with one gently removing possessions including a flag, a jacket, family photographs, a bicycle and a china cabinet. The other machine loaded shattered pieces of furniture and construction material into a huge waste container.
The day's most solemn moment came at 4 p.m., when demolition stopped and workers joined family members for a brief ceremony. The many flowers and notes that had been left in front of the house were loaded into a tractor's bucket, which swung slowly toward the sinkhole and dropped the materials into the hole. There was applause from across the street.
Though the house's demolition was completed Monday, crews had not yet finished removing its foundation. After that is done, likely Tuesday, they planned to survey the hole to better understand its dimensions. Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz said workers would then "stabilize the hole," though he remained mum on details of what precisely would be done.
"Every sinkhole is different," he said. Related: Tragic Sinkhole In Tampa Sheds Light On Florida's Geological ... WLRN Crews clear site at fatal Florida sinkhole; lot likely to go unused Columbus Dispatch Work Continues, Future Uncertain for Sinkhole Site ABC News In Florida, sinkholes are not unusual kypost.com Florida is the sinkhole king, but Alabama is not far behind al.com (blog) Neighborhood on edge as another sinkhole opens in Seffner MyFox Tampa Bay What causes sinkholes ? The Guardian The science of sinkholes: How and where do they happen? Yahoo! News Canada (blog)
130304-b Gov. Scott appoints 2 to Water Management District
NaplesNews.com - staff
March 4, 2013 Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced the appointments of Thomas E. “Tommy” Bronson and Bryan K. Beswick to the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Bronson, 76, of Brooksville, is the retired CEO of Meridian Aggregates. He is a former member fo the Pithlachascotee River BAsin Board and the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council.
Beswick, 45, of Arcadia, is the grove manager for Blue Goose Growers LLC and a sales associate with Blue Goose Realty. He previously served on the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Peace River Basin Board.
Both men were appointed to terms beginning Monday and ending March 1, 2016.
Dead fish during a red
tide event on
Fort Myers beach
130304-c Red tide no stranger to Southwest Florida shores
March 4, 2013
Here’s a scary newspaper account of red tide in Lee County:
“Fish were seen dying by the multiplied thousands here.”
Red tide has been killing fish in Southwest Florida since September, but in case anybody thinks red tide is a recent phenomenon, the report of the multiplied thousands comes from the Nov. 6, 1916, Fort Myers Press.
Despite its persistence, the current bloom of red tide that is lingering off our coast has been very patchy and has not resulted in massive fish kills — although some dead fish have shown up on Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and parts of Collier County in recent weeks as well as nearshore waters. Beachgoers have reported minor respiratory irritation from the bloom, but tourism officials have said local beaches have not been awash with problems.
Red tide is a natural event caused by a population explosion, or bloom, of the single-cell alga Karenia brevis, which produces a powerful neurotoxin.
In normal concentrations, less than 1,000 cells per liter of water, Karenia is not a problem, but in higher concentrations, the increase in toxin renders filter-feeding shellfish poisonous, causes respiratory irritation in humans and kills marine life, including fish, birds, sea turtles and marine mammals.
Water samples taken last week show very low Karenia concentrations (1,000 to 10,000 cells per liter), low concentrations (10,000 to 100,000 cells per liter) and medium concentrations (100,000 to 1 million cells per liter) at several locations in Lee County.
One sampling site, Narrows Key in north Pine Island Sound, had high concentrations (more than 1 million cells per liter).
One sampling site in Collier County, Barefoot Beach, had low concentrations, and one site, Halloway Island, had medium concentrations.
Red tide moves with winds and currents, and people often expect high winds to blow red tide out of an area.
Southwest Florida has experienced several high-wind cold fronts as well as high winds from Hurricane Sandy since September, but red tide remains.
“When you get a batch of red tide, wind pushes the surface water around, and any red tide in that water moves with it,” said Gary Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Phytoplankton Ecology Program. “But some of the red tide is down in the water column, and when the surface water moves, water comes up from below to replace it and brings the critters with it.”
130304-d Utilities unite to try to stop climate change from shrinking water supply
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
March 4, 2013
It's now a common nightmare for Florida's water utilities: An endless drought takes hold, the weather turns persistently hotter and rising sea levels poison underground wells with salt. So just as the warmer weather boosts demand for water, the supply of water shrinks.
The name of that bad dream is climate change, a phenomenon already beginning to play out and gain momentum, according to urgent warnings from many of the nation's leading climate-and-environment scientists.
But how might climate change play out at a local level? Will the amount of fresh water in the Floridan Aquifer or the Kissimmee and St. Johns rivers shrink to critically low levels ? And which coastal cities' wells are most likely to become fouled by seawater?
Spurred by that lack of location-specific knowledge, a half-dozen Florida water utilities, along with state water managers and some university scientists, have formed a grass-roots alliance to do what otherwise isn't being done: Figure out what climate change will do in different parts of Florida and devise ways to ensure enough water for the state's counties and cities in the years and decades to come.
"It's a very big concern of ours," said Rob Teegarden, vice president of Orlando Utilities Commission's water division. "The world and the nation have no plan for serious climate-policy initiatives. People have their desires, but they aren't there yet, and we're trying to seriously figure it out."
Because water resources are already stressed by pollution or overuse, utilities across the U.S. have been paying particular attention to repeated warnings about dire changes to the climate in the offing.
Most recently, the 60-person National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, which reports to Congress, released the draft of a major report that spelled out the situation in stark terms. Among its conclusions:
•The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.
•Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, among them the effects of increasingly extreme weather events.
•The U.S. is already being harmed by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea-level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours and extreme heat.
A chapter of the report devoted to the Southeastern U.S. notes that the "region is exceptionally vulnerable to sea-level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability."
Meeting in Orlando last week, the 2-year-old Florida Water and Climate Alliance made clear that its members are taking those overarching warnings into account. However, the practical problem with such warnings is that they apply to a state or a region of the country and so are far too broad to be of much use for things such as planning where to build a water-treatment plant or deciding what type of plant to build.
"We're bringing it down to the local level," said Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute, a partner in the utilities' alliance, "because you can sit in these meetings and hear things like, 'Over the Southeast, we expect temperatures to increase,' and you think, 'What does that really mean ?'"
At the core of the alliance's work is nitty-gritty stuff, such as using computer programs to turn global climate predictions into city-size predictions. That's being done by meshing global models with long-term local temperature and rainfall data — and by using newer types of climate analysis, including work at Florida State University, that specifically focuses on smaller geographic areas.
The alliance is modeled after the Water Utility Climate Alliance, a primarily Western U.S. group based in Seattle that was organized in 2008. Alison Adams, a senior manager at Tampa Bay Water, a wholesale water utility and operator of the nation's largest desalination plant, said her regional utility was invited to join that alliance in 2010 and is one of only two Eastern utilities in the group.
"Its focus has been on establishing strategies for adapting to climate change, which is getting about as much attention from the federal government as the calls for preventing climate change," Adams said. "We don't see anything across the country at the federal level of a consistent strategy or initiative to look at climate-change adaptation."
Members of the Florida Water and Climate Alliance, which meets quarterly, are concerned that a lack of action at the federal level may play out at the local level, too, making it difficult to build support for research and, eventually, practical solutions.
"You really do have to have some larger political game plan because — like with sea-level rise down in the southeast of Florida — they see it happening and they see flooding, but some of the things they might need to do down there, there's no political will to do it," Adams said. "There's only so much a utility can do if there's no political will to do the big things."
130304-e Vote in Today's Buzz
Orlando Sentinel – by Editorial Board
March 4, 2013
Today's Buzz: 2013 Legislature: Pick the priority.
The annual 60-day legislative session begins Tuesday. What should lawmakers focus on? Should they take up Gov. Rick Scott on his proposal to raise spending on public schools and universities? Should they take steps to protect the environment - an area that critics say has been neglected? Should they heed Scott’s call to expand Medicaid, an option under Obamacare? Or should they cut spending instead, and find more ways to reduce the tax burden on individuals and businesses ? Should they fix the voting problems that left voters in line for hours on Election Day, and delayed the presidential election results in Florida ?
Talk about it and select the issue you would cast your vote for in the poll – read up ahead, the issues are here below for you. Out of the listed, let’s see which one(s) you feel strongly about: ● Improve education. Gov. Scott has proposed $1.2 billion more for schools and almost $400 million more for higher education. That's a good place to start.
● Protect the environment. Florida's rivers and springs are in big trouble, the Everglades restoration is way behind, and more sensitive land needs to be protected.
● Expand Medicaid. Lawmakers have a chance to provide health care to a million Floridians with the feds picking up the tab for three years. Even Scott knows this is too good a deal to pass up.
● Cut spending and taxes. Just because Congress can't do it doesn't mean Florida lawmakers can't. They can start by forgetting about a bigger Medicaid program.
● Fix voting problems. Florida was a national joke for its hours-long voting lines and days-delayed election results. Voting is fundamental in a democracy. Lawmakers need to get it right.
● None of the above.
Florida State Capitol
130303-a 2013 Florida Legislative Session is a matter of trust: Ethics, elections reform critical as legislators have huge agenda
TCPalm - Editorial
March 3, 2013
Legislators can be successful by focusing in 10 areas. Environment: Fast-track approval and funding for projects impacting the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. approve Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to provide $60 million for Everglades restoration and $75 million for conservation land projects spearheaded by the Florida Forever Coalition. Increase funding for the Department of Environmental Protection so it can protect our state’s natural resources. Allow local governments to retain their authority to establish fertilizer ordinances to protect waterways from nutrient pollution. Elections: Reform elections laws with more early voting days and provide more flexibility in selecting early voting sites by county elections supervisors. Set cap on constitutional amendments proposed by Legislature and limit word count of ballot language. Establish voting record database exchanges with other states. Strip write-in provision, which unjustly closes party primaries, from election laws. Health care: Implement the federal Affordable Care Act via Medicaid expansion or other suitable provision. Support expansion of community health centers and urge coordination of programs and services with county health departments. Campaign finance reform: Eliminate committees of continuous existence — groups that enable politicians to raise unlimited amounts of cash that is often difficult to track. Increase disclosure requirements for electioneering communications organizations and political committees. Drastically reduce or eliminate the amount of money candidates can give to their own party when settling their campaign accounts after an election. Ethics reform: Impose a two-year ban on former legislators lobbying the governor and members of the state’s executive branch. Ensure that conflicts of interests in the Legislature are divulged before votes are taken. Make financial disclosure forms of public officials available online. Give the Florida Commission on Ethics greater authority to initiate investigations and collect unpaid fines by imposing property liens on delinquent payers. Restrict legislators, and state and local officials from taking jobs with state colleges and other public agencies while they are in office. Economic development reform: Reorganize or eliminate Enterprise Florida and adopt alternative public-private-sector oversight of business recruitment efforts. Demand greater transparency in economic development incentives, including timely disclosure, and demand and collect penalties for failure to achieve goals. Require return on investment analyses. Mental health: Sandy Hook and other mass shootings have highlighted the importance of mental health treatment. Funding for community-based walk-in clinics and other treatment facilities is essential. By spending money on the front end, legislators can help ensure that the mentally ill do not continue to flood county jails and state prisons, where treatment can be even more expensive. Education: Increase educational requirements for teachers in the state’s voluntary prekindergarten program and improve testing timetables to analyze student progress. Afford school districts more flexibility in how they use funds targeted to education. Open government: Adopt legislation proposed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, giving the public the right to speak at public meetings in timely and reasonable fashion. Provide enforcement mechanism for ethics commission and require mediation in public challenges to potential governmental violation of Sunshine Laws. Use technology to reduce the cost and time in disseminating public records. Improve transparency in the issuing of government contracts to allow taxpayers to readily ascertain how and where funds are being spent. Public safety: Pass legislation banning texting while driving. Florida is one of six states without a statewide ban on motorist texting. Give local governments the authority to ban outdoor smoking in parks and on beaches. Related: Time for Legislature to invest in Florida MiamiHerald.com
Chairman of Collier
130303-b Gene Vacarro views on Scott
March 3, 2013
Gene Vacarro, Chairman, Collier County Democrats Q: How do you rate the governor for leadership? A: The governor has excelled as the inherent leader of Florida’s tea party ... at the expense of all other Floridians. Q: What are his two greatest successes? A: 1. Getting elected despite leading Hospital Corp. of America during a time in which it pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges and paid $1.7 billion in fines; he was forced to resign from HCA. 2. His somewhat successful initial challenges against Obamacare, even after the Supreme Court upheld the law, and even in light of the fact that Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured people in America; almost 4 million Floridians do not have health insurance. Q: What are his two greatest failures or disappointments? A: 1. Failure to acknowledge environmental threats to Florida’s drinking water supply and decimation of environmental oversight agencies, including cutting over $100 million from the South Florida Water Management District’s budget. 2. In a state where the economy is driven by tourism, opposition to the high-speed rail and cuts in mosquito control are threats to our economy and cost Floridians jobs. Q: What should be his priorities for the next two years? A: Find ways to adequately fund public education. As a native Floridian, I am embarrassed by our national rankings. Our schools and teachers have been underfunded, due in part to our cowering to the wealthy retired. Is there anything more important for the future of our state, our nation, our planet, than a new generation of highly educated thinkers? Raise my taxes; I want to contribute to our successful future. Q: Is there any other comment on his first two years that you care to make ? A: Our state is suffering. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our confidence is waning. Speaking only for myself, I am willing to help carry the burden. I am willing to pay my fair share (and some of yours) to see our government perform as promised, to deliver those tenets we expect — the safety, health and welfare of our citizens, delivered with fairness, compassion and equality.
130303-c Rep. Pilon draws from his expertise to exert influence
Herald-Tribune - by Zac Anderson
March 3, 2013
Amid the policymaking jumble of Florida's two-month legislative session, state Rep. Ray Pilon sticks to what he knows.
The Sarasota Republican has experience in law enforcement and water policy. His bills for the 2013 session reflect that background.
Pilon admits his bills "are not something you're going to be reading a lot about." They mostly involve lower-profile bureaucratic issues rather than sweeping policy changes.
Pilon's legislative profile entering his third year in the Florida House is that of a team player. He does not hold any leadership positions or chair any committees, but is drawing on his expertise to try to exert influence in a few key areas.
Public safety is a top priority for the former sheriff's deputy, whose district includes most of Sarasota County north of State Road 681 and east of Interstate 75. It includes Casey Key and Siesta Key but not coastal areas to the north.
Pilon's most significant piece of legislation seeks to crack down on texting while driving.
State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, has successfully steered the texting legislation through the Senate in recent years only to see House leaders reject it as a violation of personal liberties.
Pilon said this year will be different because new House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, does not oppose the legislation and has pledged to give it a fair hearing.
"Being an old law enforcement officer, I know driving is a privilege, not a right," Pilon said. "We're talking about saving lives here."
Pilon also worked for the Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority. That water policy experience puts the lawmaker in the middle of what has been a contentious issue in Tallahassee.
Wading into water policy issues can be treacherous, a fact Pilon knows well. One of his proposed bills for the 2013 session already has been withdrawn in the face of opposition from county leaders, including officials in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Pilon proposed shrinking the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board from 13 to nine members.
The board is influential because it controls water permits â€” which are critical for new economic development but can also have far-reaching environmental impacts â€” and awards money for water projects in a 16-county region centered around Tampa Bay.
Every other water district in Florida has a nine-member board. Pilon believes that makes them less "parochial" and more inclined to cooperate for the greater good.
But the Tampa Bay region's water wars have been especially fierce and the board's make up reflects a delicate political compromise. Local officials throughout the region worry that shrinking the water district board will dilute their influence.
The bill was an unusual misstep for an elected leader who began his political career as a county commissioner and is generally viewed as sensitive to the concerns of local officials.
"I think Ray does a good job," said Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson. "He's always willing to meet with us and talk about the issues."
But Patterson joined with the other water authority board members to oppose Pilon's legislation. She found the lawmaker's lack of communication on the issue unusual.
"I do think it's odd that he hasn't called us but he will," Patterson said.
Pilon called the legislation "a bit of a misfire" and admitted he should have done more to reach out to local officials, something he plans to do before filing the bill again next year.
130303-d South Florida Water Management District credibility problem nearing flood stage
Palm Beach Post – Editorial by Rhonda Swan, Staff Writer
March 3, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District’s chief of staff appears qualified for his new $135,000 a year position but the district should have vetted other applicants before handing a board member the job.
The district either learned nothing from its most recent fiasco — giving another former board member a lucrative contract to install billboards on public land — or doesn’t care about perception.
Since the district canceled the billboard program after the public outcry that followed The Post’s coverage, it would seem that perception is a concern. So you would think that district officials would understand that hiring board member Daniel DeLisi five days after he resigned — without even interviewing him — does not look good.
But they don’t get it.
“Like most other public agencies and private businesses,” district spokesman Randy Smith wrote in an email, “the executive director or CEO has the authority and discretion to select their own management team by either appointment or the recruitment process.”
Most public agencies and private businesses, though, would interview their management team before hiring them, particularly if there are more than 50 other applicants for the posted position. Mr. DeLisi resigned from the board on Feb. 21, applied for the job on Feb. 22 — the last day the posting was open — and got the job on Feb. 26.
How would district believe anything but that the fix was in?
Mr. DeLisi, who has a masters degree in city planning from MIT, said he is “uniquely qualified” for the job but wasn’t sure he’d get it. He nervously awaited word over the long weekend after resigning his seat on the governing board. “It was very stressful,” he said. “I gave up something that I absolutely love.”
Mr. DeLisi said he’s also given up his partnership in a Fort Myers consulting firm that specializes in land use and civil engineering. He will split his time between district headquarters in West Palm Beach and Lee County, where he lives. The district is responsible for flood control, water supply and restoration throughout the 16 counties south of Orlando, including Lee, and has satellite offices in Fort Myers and Naples. “A lot of what the district does,” Mr. DeLisi said, “is on the west coast.”
Appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, Mr. DeLisi was the board representative from the west coast. He told the Business Observer in August of that year that he wanted to be on the board because he was upset at how the district wasted money and how staff treated the public. The district lost nearly 400 employees in 2011 through layoffs and buyouts to comply with a new law backed by Gov. Scott that required the agency to cut its property tax collections by 30 percent.
“I was one of those people,” he said, “who wanted to disband the agency.” That is no doubt why Gov. Scott appointed him.
Mr. DeLisi quickly softened. A year ago, he told the Chamber of Southwest Florida: “When I first decided to run for a South Florida Water Management District board seat people said to me, ‘Are you crazy? That group is way too political,’ but I have found it to be not like that at all.”
The 53 others who applied for his job would say the district is exactly like that.
- See more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-south-florida-water-management-district-/nWfSP/#sthash.A41kzwS3.dpuf
130303-e Two-pronged project
Ocala.com - Editorial
March 3, 2013
Officials for the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks are going to be back in Ocala this week to hear more of the community’s ideas about the “development of the land management plan” for Silver Springs.
It will be the third such meeting in as many months. At the two previous meetings, residents overwhelmingly urged the state to take the Silver Springs property back and turn it into a state park. DRP officials heard that plea and responded.
Yet, we are worried that what DRP officials have not heard as clearly is the community’s equally passionate desire for an environmental restoration of Silver Springs. Maybe because it is part of a large bureaucracy, the Department of Environmental Regulation, DRP sees the responsibility of environmental issues belonging to other divisions within the agency, because it has not focused heavily on the environmental restoration of Silver Springs.
That said, it should be a definitive and spelled-out part of any Silver Springs development plan. Because without a clean and environmentally restored springs, the park will be for naught.
Ironically, DEP already has environmental initiatives under way to restore Silver Springs. It launched its first springs nitrate-reduction program at Silver Springs last year, vowing to reduce the flow of the algae-causing nitrates by 79 percent. As a means of accomplishing it, DEP recently launched its Basin Management Action Plan that will guide the community, from homeowners to agriculture to government, on how to go about reducing nitrate pollution however we can.
But DRP and DEP’s Division of Water Resources Management seem to be working separately rather than together. And it is important for them to work together, not only from a logistical and efficiency standpoint, but from a community standpoint. The people of Ocala/Marion County do not just want a new state park, they want Silver Springs saved from further degradation and potential death. The condition of the water and the springs ecosystem is every bit as bad as the condition of the park’s infrastructure, and both need to be attended with equal vigor and, importantly, financial support.
And that is where DRP must become a partner in the environmental cleanup. As part of Palace Entertainment’s buyout of its lease, which runs through 2029, it agreed to pay the state, specifically DRP, $4 million. That money, according to the agreement, will cover removal of the animals, demolition of dilapidated buildings, disposal of animal pens and other infrastructure that no longer is needed or worth keeping.
Unfortunately, the agreement does not call for any of that money to go for environmental cleanup. In fact, the word “environment” appears nowhere in the agreement. It should.
At least some of the $4 million should be set aside to ensure DEP’s water-quality experts can attempt something more than a slow cleanup of this iconic natural resource. Seize the moment, and the massive infusion of the Palace money, and ensure a substantial amount of the $4 million goes to making Silver Springs’ restoration a living experiment in best practices for the restoration of all of Florida’s hundreds of declining springs.
This should be the message to DRP officials at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Vanguard High School. Silver Springs is more than a park project. It is an environmental cleanup project of statewide significance, too.
Sinkholes are found all over the world. In the U.S., sinkholes are especially common in Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Florida, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Experts say that thousands of sinkholes form in Florida each year, the Associated Press reported. In addition to sitting on highly porous limestone, the state has additional factors that can lead to the formation of sinkholes, including extreme weather and aquifer pumping. "There's hardly a place in Florida that's immune to sinkholes," Sandy Nettles, the owner of a geology consulting company in the Tampa area, told the Associated Press.
In an effort to prevent injuries, deaths, and property losses caused by sinkholes, scientists have tested various methods of detecting the underground cavities that can lead to sinkholes. These include radar, seismography, and electrical resistivity testing, according to the institute's website.
You don't have to be a scientist to be able to recognize certain signs that a sinkhole is about to open up. A brochure issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District lists several sinkhole warning signs, including slumping trees or fence posts; the formation of small ponds in areas where water has not collected before; wilting of small, circular areas of vegetation; and structural cracks in walls.
But despite efforts to spot sinkholes before they occur, there are still plenty of unpleasant -- and occasionally tragic -- surprises. Said Settles, "There's no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur."
130302-a Daniel DeLisi scandal ? SFWMD has more 'Splainin to do”
SunshineStateNews - by: Nancy Smith
March 2, 2013
Having emerged from the shadows of a major 2011 hiring scandal and subequent agency shakeup, the South Florida Water Management District has thrown itself right back into the soup with another high-level hiring faux pas.
The board hired as its $135,000-a-year chief of staff one of its own former members, Daniel DeLisi, five days after DeLisi resigned. He was hired over 53 others who applied for his job. As one SFWMD oberserver told Sunshine State News, even if DeLisi is qualified for the job, "This smells yukky."
District spokesman Randy Smith told the Palm Beach Post, “Like most other public agencies and private businesses, the executive director or CEO has the authority and discretion to select their own management team by either appointment or the recruitment process.”
SFWMD Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker was not available Saturday for comment.
In 2011, then-executive director Carol Wehle resigned in a swirl of scandal involving employment of her boyfriend, Bob Howard, to serve as one of the district's watchdogs.
130302-b Reviving stalled Everglades reservoir raises homes and cost questions
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
March 2, 2013
A stalled Everglades restoration reservoir gets a $72 million reboot under a proposal that could be good for the environment, yet costly for taxpayers.
South Florida taxpayers already sunk nearly $280 million into starting construction on a city-sized reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County that was left unfinished in 2008 as Everglades restoration plans changed.
Instead of finishing the 62 billion gallon reservoir once considered key to restoration, the latest revamped plan calls for building a smaller structure that would hold less water but would also help clean pollution from water that flows to the Everglades.
Supporters — from environmental groups to Big Sugar — say going with a smaller structure can deliver bigger environmental benefits, thanks to the pollution filtering. Also, it's expected to end up costing taxpayers less than completing the massive reservoir put on pause five years ago.
However, when construction is complete there would be less capacity to store stormwater to boost South Florida water supplies, which has been a key selling point for investing in restoration. Another tradeoff for getting to this point was more delays for an Everglades restoration project that was supposed to be finished by 2010.
Now still abandoned A-1 reservoir - it will be used differently
"Had they completed the reservoir, we wouldn't have had water restrictions these past few years," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of sugar producer Florida Crystals.
While environmental groups support the new scaled-down reservoir, they have called for Big Sugar and other agriculture to pick up more of the tab for restoration efforts.
Agriculture causes most of the pollution problems in the Everglades and should pick up more of the cleanup tab, according to Albert Slap of the environmental group Friends of the Everglades.
"This is just a complete rip-off of the taxpayers," Slap said about the public cost of Everglades restoration. "It's a tax on the people."
Also, the Miccosukee Tribe has raised concerns that the new plan for the long-delayed reservoir could take too long. The Tribe, which in 2011 lost a legal challenge to try to force the state to complete the original reservoir, has since called for Florida to accelerate plans for the new version.
"The Everglades is our homeland and for many years the Tribe has maintained that clean water, as the lifeblood of the Everglades, is essential to maintaining the unique character of the ecosystem," Miccosukee Chairman Colley Billie wrote to state officials last year.
The reservoir site covers about 16,000 acres along U.S. 27 in the vast Everglades Agricultural Area — former Everglades land south of Lake Okeechobee that was drained to make way for farming.
The old plan called for building 30-foot-tall embankments capable of holding a huge pool of water up to 12-1/2 feet deep.
State contractors spent nearly two years scraping away muck and blasting through limestone to lay the groundwork for the reservoir. They completed a 13-1/2-mile-long canal to capture water expected to seep through the earthen structure and cleared a 22-mile-long swath of land that was to become the base of the reservoir embankments.
But the work stopped in 2008 as the reservoir project was readying to move into the more expensive phase of building the embankments and other infrastructure envisioned to corral the water.
The stoppage came as then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the South Florida Water Management District pursued a blockbuster land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. that led to reconfiguring Everglades restoration plans.
Now Gov. Rick Scott is pushing for a $1.5 billion plan to address Everglades water pollution and settle federal litigation over meeting water quality standards.
A featured part of that plan calls for converting the unfinished reservoir into a "flow equalization basin" — basically a smaller reservoir that could hold water for nearby stormwater treatment areas intended to filter polluting phosphorus from stormwater before it flows to the Everglades.
The smaller reservoir would be built with up to 10-foot-tall levees holding water about 4 feet deep. Having a shallower reservoir enables growing cattails and other vegetation within the structure than can add to the pollution-filtering efforts.
District officials say the money spent so far on the unfinished reservoir wasn't wasted because that infrastructure will be part of the new structure.
Also, instead of the potentially $400 million cost once projected to finish the original reservoir, the new project costs about $72 million on top of the nearly $280 million that was already spent, according to the district.
Design plans are still in the works, along with the permitting needed from the Army Corps of Engineers.
A new construction contract could go before the district board for approval this fall. The district projects that construction would be complete in 2016.
The reservoir delay resulted in a better plan, Everglades Foundation scientist Tom Van Lent said.
"This is exactly what they need to do," Van Lent said about the new plan for the reservoir. "We do need more water quality treatment. … The money spent was a good investment."
Audubon of Florida supports the new reservoir plan and the governor's new Everglades plan, but also wants the state to impose tougher pollution clean-up requirements on Big Sugar, Audubon's Charles Lee said. The water management district "has aligned with the sugar industry" and opposed requiring agriculture to do more to clean up the polluting phosphorus that washes off farmland, Lee said.
The Everglades Foundation last year released a study estimating that sugar cane growers and other agricultural producers are responsible for 76 percent of the polluting phosphorus that flows into the Everglades, but pay just 24 percent of the cleanup costs.
Big Sugar disputes those estimates. Cantens, of Florida Crystals, called it "a joke" to suggest that agriculture doesn't pay enough for Everglades Restoration.
Growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have paid more than $200 million in special taxes toward restoration efforts and are meeting phosphorus reduction goals by changing farming practices.
"We are paying our fair share and then some," Cantens said.
130302-c Should we humans feel guilty for overpopulating this planet?
OpEdNews.com - by Frosty Wooldridge
March 2, 2013
Recently, one of my ardent readers said, "Humans should not feel guilty about living on Earth." He defended humanity's overpopulation running roughshod over the planet and the oceans. He defended that humans own the right to reproduce themselves forever without end into eternity. He argued that we can add another 20, 30, and 40 billion people to the planet without consequences.
He felt that our causing the extinction of over 100 species daily cannot be our concern. He lacks any moral compunction or sense of responsibility toward our fellow life-forms. He denied that human-carbon footprint creates climate destabilization. He advocates for unlimited population growth. In other words: he lacks the intellectual horsepower to understand his own dilemma. Another way to put it: dumb as a box of doorknobs.
A hundred years ago, Alfred Whitehead in his "Adventures of Ideas" made a statement that spelled out a logical path for the advancement of the human race: "The foundation of all understanding... is that no static maintenance of perfection is - possible. This axiom is rooted in the nature of life. Advance - or decay are the only choices offered humanity. The pure - conservative is fighting against the essence of the universe."
Whitehead said that we must change our thinking to fit new realities. We must take Galileo's new understandings that the Earth no longer enjoys the universe revolving around it, but in fact, our planet remains a speck in the black void of the universe. This planet remains finite with a finite carrying capacity. Humans, to be sure, need to get a clue that they are not God's gift to the world. In fact, Shim Shimmel, the renowned artist, said, "With creatures like human beings, even the stars aren't safe."
With more intelligent Americans surveyed recently, they were asked the question: Do Americans think stabilizing population will help protect the environment? Fifty-four percent believe stabilization will. My friend Steve Kurtz said, "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."
With my six continents of bicycle travel, I unequivocally understand and have seen firsthand that human overpopulation accelerates as the single greatest and most dangerous issue facing humanity and all life on this planet in the 21stcentury.
In just the past few months scientists have found in America: " 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 over-pumping.
" 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.
According to the Department of Interior, because of human encroachment, we lose 2,500 plants and animals to extinction in North America every decade. That number will accelerate as we race toward an added 138 million by 2050 and 625 million by the end of the century. "Upwards of two hundred species... mostly of the large, slow-breeding variety... are becoming extinct here every day because more and more of the earth's carrying capacity is systematically being converted into human carrying capacity. These species are being burnt out, starved out, and squeezed out of existence... thanks to technologies that most people, I'm afraid, think of as technologies of peace. I hope it will not be too long before the technologies that support our population explosion begin to be perceived as no less hazardous to the future of life on this planet than the endless production of radioactive wastes." Dan Quinn
130301-a Bill filed to OK next phase of Everglades restoration
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
March 1, 2013
South Florida Congressmen Alcee Hastings and Mario Diaz-Balart are prodding Congress to approve the next wave of Everglades restoration work.
The projects include construction of a big water-storage system in western Palm Beach County and canal work to create a more natural flow through Broward County and into the Everglades.
Rather than wait for Congress to re-authorize the long-stalled Water Resources Development Act, Hastings and Diaz-Balart introduced a separate authorization bill for the Everglades projects.
Hastings, a Democrat from Miramar, and Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami, are hoping Congress will be quicker to pass a separate bill for the Everglades, which has drawn support from members of both parties and the Obama administration.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced a similar bill in the last session.
The Everglades for the Next Generation Act would clear a path for annual funding of projects ready for construction. The sponsors say it also would give the Army Corps of Engineers flexibility to avoid congressional bottlenecks in the future.
“Congressional inaction has been a roadblock for far too long despite bi-partisan support for restoration,” Hastings said.
Diaz-Balart added: “By authorizing the next suite of projects, we are helping strengthen Florida’s ecosystem and economy.”
Bill to limit holdings: Government land does good
TheLedger.com - Editorial
March 1, 2013
Anyone who has lived in Florida for any amount of time knows the state's environment and economy go hand in hand, and it's as clear as a sunsplashed freshwater spring.
Yet over the years, our policymakers have tried time and again to make the two mutually exclusive, invariably putting economics ahead of a clean, healthy environment.
A bill introduced into the Florida Legislature by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, SB 584, with an identical House version sponsored by freshman Rep. Charlie Stone, R-Ocala, is the latest such attempt.
Hays says he introduced the bill because he was "astounded" to learn that more than one-fourth of Florida's land is owned by the federal, state or local governments. He is calling for future purchases of conservation lands to be offset with "an equal amount of public property not being held in conservation returned or sold at fair market value to the private sector."
Hays' bill would apply not only to state conservation-land purchases, but to county and city acquisitions as well.
What Hays is astounded by is that 9.5 million acres of Florida's total 34.2 million acres are owned by the taxpayers.
Of course, 1.5 million acres of that is the Everglades National Park and another 1.2 million acres is found in Florida's three national forests. More than 800,000 acres of Florida and some 100 miles of its shoreline make up the more than 160 state parks, and the state's two national seashores consume another 192,000 acres.
So even before accounting for courthouses and city halls, schools and colleges, jailhouses and libraries, not to mention highways and local roads, 40 percent of the so-called astounding amount of land taxpayers own in Florida are in landmark tracts. They protect our water supply, provide recreational space for untold billions of dollars worth of tourism, and serve as buffers to runaway development along our coastlines and interior wildlands.
As for the state dictating what local governments can and can't buy, Florida is a home rule state and the Legislature has too often in recent years meddled in dictating what cities and counties can do.
Hays is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, which decides state environmental spending. So what he says and wants regarding conservation lands matters mightily.
The senator should reconsider the strict limitations his bill would put on state and local governments. SB 584 is a harsh-and-overreaching solution in search of a problem. (TAGS: pollution, algae, water quality)
130301-c Expedition aims to save wild Florida
March 1, 2013
TAMPA (FOX 13) - The journey is as daunting as it sounds. Can humans freely roam north from Florida's southern everglades to the border of Georgia unimpeded?
Before rampant development started, Florida's natural wildlife roamed everywhere. Not anymore.
Nature and wildlife photographer Carlton Ward led a four-person expedition in 2012 on a trek through tough but awe-inspiring terrain for 100 days. The journey covered 1,000 miles.
"One of the most challenging things I have ever done. It was very physically intense. We had to paddle, and peddle, and hike every single day," Ward explained as he set up a photo exhibit of the expedition at the Tampa Bay History Museum.
They hiked and biked on land, canoed and kayaked on water, waded in swamps, and camped in the wild inhabited by gators, panthers, bears, and bobcats.
Yet nothing threatened them more than civilization.
"The most dangerous thing while we were out there was crossing highways.That was the scariest part of the expedition," said Ward, who is an 8th generation Floridian.
What they were up against also impacts natural wildlife to the point of near extinction, such as the Florida panther.
The intent of the expedition is to raise awareness and create a call to action to preserve land and build highway underpasses so wildlife can freely roam from one end of Florida to another.
"We were in Volusia County, and we were scampering across the top of Interstate 4, kind of between spring break traffic, and they don't have any functioning underpasses," Ward said.
This type of free-range roaming is called a wildlife corridor. Only a few areas in the state make accommodations for safe animal passage. One is near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
"Right beneath Interstate 75, there is a wildlife underpass," which Ward described as easy passage for his expedition. "And in doing so we could see the tracks of panthers and bears and bobcats and coyotes moving back and forth in the mud."
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: The Photographs of Carlton Ward Jr. is on display at the Tampa Bay History Center through May 5.
Ward's team also produced a documentary about its journey. There is a free public screening at the center this Sunday, March 3 at 6:30pm before its broadcast premiere later this spring on WUSF and then other public stations around Florida.
130301-d In bill crush, lawmakers get "snookered"
Herald-Tribune - by Lloyd Dunkelberger,
March 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- As Florida lawmakers begin their annual 60-day session on Tuesday, it might be worth noting that some are still trying to figure out what happened in the 2012 session.
In the last two months, these revelations emerged from last year’s effort:
— Canadian visitors learned that they would be in violation of state law if they drove and did not have an international driving permit.
The law took effect on Jan. 1 and Florida officials immediately said they would not enforce it because of the confusion over the provision that passed last spring. Lawmakers have vowed to correct the issue this year.
— The Palm Beach Post reported that a measure was inserted in an environmental bill that allowed the South Florida Water Management District to install electronic billboards on public land. The district backed off the plan after a public outcry.
Outside of Tallahassee, some may wonder how these things happen.
One is the nature and pace of the Florida Legislature. Lawmakers only meet for 60 days a year and consider upwards of 2,000 bills, memorials and resolutions — although only about 300 bills pass each year.
The process is back-end loaded, meaning the majority of bills — particularly the most significant measures — often don’t reach the House and Senate floors in their final form until the last few weeks of the session.
Although only a handful of measures pass both chambers, some bills can become mammoth in size and contain a host of provisions. For instance, the highway safety bill that included the Canadian driver’s license provision was a 105-page bill with dozens of changes.
In that context, it’s easy to understand how some provisions slip by the most diligent of lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters and other observers of the annual law-making process.
Sometimes there are unintended consequences. That seemed to be the case with driver’s license controversy. The provision came from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and was included in its annual bill. It was not the work of some nefarious lobbyist or organization.
Highway Safety officials are now looking for a legislative fix for the Canadians — who are the largest group of foreign visitors to Florida each year.
Legislative fixes are common. They’re called “glitch bills” — which are a way to correct the imperfections that are part of the process.
Then there are the measures with intended consequences — such seems to be the case with the electronic billboard provision. The Palm Beach Post reported the measure could have benefited a former member of the district board who also had ties to former House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. The Post reported the provision, inserted during a conference committee negotiating process, had come from the speaker’s office.
When the conference bill reached the House and Senate floor, the provision was not discussed. And lawmakers either knowingly or unknowingly passed the measure.
In the parlance of the Legislature, those out of the know were “snookered.” And it happens more often than some like to admit.
One of the most famous “snookerings” in Florida legislative history occurred in 1994. Gov. Lawton Chiles got together with a small band of state senators who then quietly slipped a provision into what appeared to be a routine Medicaid bill that stripped the tobacco industry of the legal defenses it had been using to ward off lawsuits.
The provision became law. But lawmakers were outraged and passed a new bill reversing the law. Chiles vetoed the bill and then had one of the biggest political fights of his long and legendary career to sustain the veto.
Chiles prevailed with the help of state senators such as Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican from Spring Hill who later went on to Congress. In an emotional floor speech, Brown-Waite said she was going to oppose the tobacco industry and support the governor even though she agreed that the original provision had been surreptitiously inserted into a bill.
She said it wasn’t the first time — nor would it be the last — that it had happened. “Let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen, we’re snookered regularly,” she said.
WINNER OF THE WEEK: Spring training. Gov. Rick Scott highlighted the importance of the annual ritual of spring training in Florida this week as he spent a “work day” at the Detroit Tigers’ facility in Lakeland. At the same time, Scott announced he would push for $5 million in the upcoming legislative session for a permanent fund to provide an incentive for the 15 MLB teams to stay in Florida by offering state support for improvement projects.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders could not reach any agreement on avoiding the sequestration process that could lead to sweeping cuts in federal spending in Florida. If the cuts hold up, Gov. Rick Scott has predicted it will be particularly hard on Florida’s defense industry, with the potential for up to 40,000 lost jobs.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I just said I don’t have any plans to do anything like that. I think it’s funny that I’m being asked it,” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said when reporters asked him if he was thinking about running for governor in 2014. Related: Paul Flemming: Expect the unexpected during legislative session Florida Today
130301-e New study reveals how sensitive US East Coast regions may be to ocean acidification
March 1, 2013 Zhaohui Wang, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and his colleagues sampled the waters off the US East Coast about the R/V Ron Brown. Starting in the waters off Galveston, Texas, they worked their way around the Louisiana and west Florida coasts, past the Florida Straight, and up the eastern seaboard, collecting samples along nine different transects that ran from the coast to deep ocean off the shelf break, up to 480km (300 miles) offshore. (Credit: Z. Aleck Wang).
A continental-scale chemical survey in the waters of the eastern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico is helping researchers determine how distinct bodies of water will resist changes in acidity. The study, which measures varying levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other forms of carbon in the ocean, was conducted by scientists from 11 institutions across the U.S. and was published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.