130430-a Florida's taking a risky path, making environment vulnerable
Orlando Sentinel - By Lisa Rinaman, head of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, a Jacksonville-based environmental group.
April 30, 2013
On one point we can all agree — everyone wants a robust and stable economy that affords opportunities for jobs and economic prosperity.
However, we won't achieve that objective by killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Florida's natural resources are a linchpin of our economy, attracting millions of tourists each year and creating thousands of jobs. These priceless assets not only sustain our economy but are also critical to the quality of life and health of our citizens.
For the past four decades, legislators from both sides of the aisle have recognized this fact by working together to appropriate funding and create programs to better manage growth, to protect water resources and to conserve our state's rich natural heritage.
Despite these bipartisan efforts, those protections did not go far enough, as witnessed by our current water-quality and supply problems and the significant loss of critical wetlands and habitat to rapid growth and development during that time.
Instead of improving upon the work of the past several decades and working to strengthen environmental protections to restore our polluted waterways and protect our economy, Gov. Rick Scott and many of today's legislators continue to pursue policy changes that are only making this dire situation much worse.
Efforts in Tallahassee seem intent upon rolling back critical regulatory safeguards, expediting and undermining the permitting process, eliminating conservation programs, liquidating lands and gutting state agencies that protect our health and our environment, and provide sensible guidelines for smarter growth. Unfortunately, important policies and programs that have been established to protect our natural resources have become scapegoats for our economic problems.
These policy changes have been hyped as necessary efforts to stimulate our economy. In reality, these changes are counter to the economic interests of our state and its citizens and do nothing to address the root causes of our economic woes.
For instance, we all know that overbuilding played a major role in the recent economic collapse. Instead of trying to manage future growth more sustainably, efforts are inexplicably underway to expedite the permitting process.
The permitting process certainly didn't hold us back before and making it easier to get longer permits with less scrutiny and oversight will only expedite the ongoing decline in water quality and supply and the overall health of our environment and our economy.
In addition, environmental regulations often provide economic and health benefits that far outweigh the cost of compliance and are not the job-killing red tape that detractors would have us falsely believe.
There are also significant economic costs of pollution and of doing nothing. Algal blooms, red-tide events and pollution hurt businesses, cost jobs, impact human health, reduce property values and our tax base, and diminish recreational opportunities and our quality of life. Ignoring the consequences and costs of pollution is irresponsible and a disservice to today's citizens of Florida and to future generations.
The bottom line is that the actions of our governor and the Legislature are dramatically changing the course of water policy and growth management in Florida, putting us on a path toward less protection for our already imperiled waterways and aquifers.
Dismantling and eliminating environmental safeguards and failing to address costly pollution problems that threaten human health and hurt local communities is a radical proposition that will have devastating long-term consequences for our state's natural resources, economy and its citizens. Our economic well-being and our quality of life are inextricably linked to how effectively we protect our environment.
We simply cannot afford to sacrifice our state's most valuable assets for the politics of the moment and the fortunes of a few. Now is the time for us all to take a stand for our environment and make our voices heard to ensure its protection for generations of Floridians to come. Lisa Rinaman is head of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, a Jacksonville-based environmental group.
130430-b Judge sounds against the Everglades pollution by farmers
April 30, 2013
There has been some success in removing polluting phosphorus nutrient from waters that are destined for the Everglades. However, the STA wetlands built and operated so far to cleanse the water are overloaded - mainly by agricultural run-off. Some farm operations are conspicuously neglectful in doing their share. Their water permits should be revoked contends Audubon Florida in a recent court case. In the preliminary order, just issued by the Administrative Law Judge, he basically agrees in a brief and logical statement: STATE OF FLORIDA DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
At the final hearing, the Administrative Law Judge directed the parties to prepare memoranda of law and to present oral argument on the issue of whether the permits which are the subject of this proceeding could be in violation of section 373.4592(4)(f)4., Florida Statutes (2012), because the permits allow discharges that cause or contribute to a violation of the phosphorus water quality standard in the Everglades Protection Area (“EPA”). Official recognition was taken of several judicial and administrative orders submitted by the parties in support of their arguments. Other relevant orders were admitted into the record as exhibits without objection.
The issue, although easily stated, is a complex one because of the 2003 amendments to chapter 373, the federal judgments regarding related NPDES permitting, and the consent order associated with the 2012 EFA permit. Respondents’ principal argument -- the permittees cannot be deemed to be contributing to a violation of the phosphorus standard in the EPA because the discharges from the STAs into the EPA are “lawful and permitted” – is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the 2012 EFA permit was issued concurrently with a consent order because the phosphorus standard in the EPA is not being achieved and “corrective actions are necessary.” More straightforward than the proposition “the permittees’ discharges are legal because the STA discharges are legal,” is the proposition “the STA discharges are only legal with consent orders, so the permittees’ discharges would only be legal with consent orders.”
The Department of Environmental Protection determined that the 2003 amendments to the Everglades Protection Act were not a “fix” for the STA discharge and, therefore, the 2012 EFA permit could not be issued without an accompanying consent order. The same logic strongly suggests that the 2003 amendments are not a fix for individual farm permits. The statutory scheme that has been established calls for individual farm permits, not just an all-encompassing EFA permit. Therefore, the 2012 EFA permit and consent order are not a fix for the individual farm permits either. Accordingly, it is ORDERED
1. The motions of Respondents, which have been treated as motions to strike this issue from Petitioner’s petition for hearing, are DENIED.
2. Counsel for the District shall take the lead in conferring with all parties and setting a time for a status conference by telephone with the Administrative Law Judge for April 30, 2013. The purpose of the conference will be to determine whether this issue may be resolved by additional legal argument, what other issues remain to be litigated, whether an abatement of the proceedings would be helpful, or the most reasonable schedule for reconvening the hearing.
DONE AND ORDERED this 29th day of April, 2013, in Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida - BRAM D. E. CANTER, Administrative Law Judge - Division of Administrative Hearings
Order (Case 12-2811 ):
FL Audubon Society (Petitioner) vs. Sugar Cane Growers, U.S. Sugar Corp., Sugar-Farms Co-Op, and South Florida Water Management District, (Respondents).
130430-c Senate floats $10 million for restoration of springs
Sunshine State News - by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
April 30, 2013
Ten million dollars has been floated toward the state's threatened freshwater springs with legislators having finished work on a compromise budget bill now expected to get a vote this week.
A day after they were left out of a $58 million package for water projects around the state, the Senate directed trust fund money for the springs.
The money is far short of the $122 million plan that water districts have drafted to restore a number of endangered springs, which face threats from groundwater pumping and pollution. But the total tops the $6.5 million that Gov. Rick Scott proposed.
As part of the budget talks, the House and Senate each outlined $29 million worth of projects on Saturday. Despite the House having initiated discussion for the springs and a number of senators backing the proposal, the springs were not included in initial lists of water projects that would be paid for.
But at the urging of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, money for the springs was drawn from the Florida Forever Trust Fund as supplemental funding lists were released Sunday night.
"President Gaetz wanted to make a strong commitment for protecting and enhancing our springs, particularly as it relates to the Silver Springs area," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman headed the budget talks for the Senate.
The budget also sets aside another $3 million from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund for the Suwannee River Water Management District for springs restoration and protection projects.
Money for the springs was among a long list of last-minute changes in which projects that had been omitted from the spending plan suddenly were in the funded column, while a number of other projects got a further bump in dollars.
IMG Academy in Bradenton, a student-athlete training center, landed $2.3 million Sunday after having been cut in favor of the money going to the Sarasota-Bradenton World Aquatic Center in the economic development and transportation portion of the budget.
The rowing center, meanwhile, saw its funding bumped from $2.5 million to $5 million with the final round of allocations. The center had requested $5 million to help land the 2017 World Rowing Championship.
The water project lists did include money for the emergency restoration of Apalachicola Bay, but $3 million has been set aside in the budget for the Panhandle waterway from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund.
The individual water projects also do not include the $70 million that has been directed in the budget for Everglades restoration.
Water projects negotiators for the House and Senate agreed to support: Southeast Coral Gables, wastewater collection system, $589,468
Cutler Bay, stormwater, pollutant elimination project, $400,000
Doral, canal bank stabilization, $1 million
Fort Lauderdale, Seven Isles seawall improvements, $100,000
Homestead, race track inline booster pumps, $195,000
Homestead, well motor installation, $12,000
Key Largo, wastewater treatment construction, $1 million
Lake Park, Lake Shore drainage improvements, $200,000
Lauderdale Lakes, flood mitigation, $500,000
Marathon, wastewater treatment, $1 million
Miami Gardens, NW 170 Street stormwater drainage, $200,000
Miami Gardens, NW 195/204 Street stormwater drainage, $150,000
Miami Gardens, Vista Verde stormwater drainage, $250,000
Miami Gardens, neighborhood stormwater swale re-garding, $10,000
Miami Lakes, West Lake drainage improvements, $300,000
North Miami, Biscayne Bay Canal West drainage basin upgrades, $150,000
Opa-Locka, sewer lift rehabilitation, $390,000
Opa-Locka, Burlington Canal dredging and restoration, $700,000
Palm Beach County, Lake Worth Lagoon sea grass restoration, $125,000
Palm Beach County, Lake Worth Lagoon, Monastery Artificial Reef MacArthur State Park, $150,000
Palm Beach County, Lake Worth Lagoon, North Palm Beach living shoreline, $100,000
Palm Beach County, Loxahatchee River Preservation Initiative, $1.3 million
Palmetto Bay, Sub-Basin 10 drainage improvements, $250,000
Pembroke Park, stormwater retrofit, $200,000
Riviera Beach, West 18th-22nd Street stormwater laterals, $500,000
Riviera Beach, West 6th Street stormwater improvements, $500,000
South Miami, Dorn Avenue drainage, $120,000
Sunrise, Twin Lakes drainage improvements, $250,000
Surfside, 88th Street pump station, seawall repairs, $75,000
Miami-Dade County, SW 157th Avenue Canal, $1.1 million
West Miami, stormwater improvements, $250,000 Southwest Bonita Springs, Oak Creek restoration, exotic plant removal, $250,000
Charlotte County, regional reclaimed water expansion, $500,000
DeSoto County, Lettuce Lake/Oak Haven Mobile Home Park utility water supply improvement,
DeSoto County, Lake Suzy Utility wastewater treatment facility, $350,000
Hendry County, Airglades Airport and Industrial Park wastewater force main, $3 million
Fort Myers, Cape Coral, reclaimed water distribution pipeline, $900,000
Glades County, water infrastructure improvements, $1 million
Glades County, wastewater improvements, $350,000
Moore Haven, stormwater conveyance and improvements, $150,000
Port LaBelle, water system, $470,000 East Coast Deltona, wastewater treatment facility, $500,000
Indian River County, Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Indian River Lagoon
Observatory, $2 million
Martin County, Danforth Creek stormwater retrofit and wetland treatment, $3 million
Okeechobee, stormwater retrofit, $250,000
Okeechobee, Pine Ridge Park utility improvements, $300,000
Ormond Beach, $125,000
Port Orange, Cambridge Canal improvements, $500,000 First Coast St. Johns County, St. Johns River restoration and economic impact study, $7 million North Central Belleview, sanitary sewer extension, $1.15 million
Bushnell, Sumter County, water main extension, $1,234,032
Gainesville, Tumblin Creek stormwater project, $625,000
Lake County, Umatilla sewer system, $1,225,000
Marion County, wastewater treatment, $300,000 Tampa-St. Pete Crystal River, Kings Bay cleanup, $100,000
Dade City, hydrant and valve replacement, $520,000
Dade City, Orange Valley well, $550,000
Hardee County, regional wastewater service improvements, $500,000
Lakeland, Skyview water and wastewater modifications, $3.75 million
Manatee County, wastewater clarifier retrofit, $1 million
Pasco County, Laccoochee/ Trilby water system improvements, $500,000
Polk County, Frostproof, new generators for main water plant well, $150,000
Polk County, Frostproof, water storage tanks at main water plant, $200,000
Sarasota County, Phillippi Creek septic system replacement program, $438,000
Tampa, Westshore waterway improvements, $150,000
Tampa, Met West Ditch stormwater project, $125,000
Winter Haven, South Lake Conine wetland treatment, $619,000
Zephyrhills, Zephyrhills-Dade City interconnect, $1.925 million Orlando Orange County, Oakland wastewater system, $300,000
Big Bend and Panhandle
Apalachicola: wet weather storage pond, $957,000
Blountstown, water main replacement, State Road 20, $472,000
Chipley, drinking water system improvements, $400,000
Dixie, Lafayette, Taylor counties, Big Bend Water Authority sewer system improvements, Steinhatchee River, $75,000
Gretna, potable water supply upgrades, $150,000
Monticello, water distribution extension, $500,000
Noma, Holmes County, system wide water line replacement, $300,000
Tallahassee, Briarwood neighborhood septic tank abatement, $300,000
Walton County, coastal dune lakes environmental assessment, $500,000
Walton County, Mossy Head wastewater treatment facility, $3 million
Walton County, U.S. 98 water line extension, $1 million.
130429-a Are Florida politicians responding to rising sea levels ?
WLRN - by Marva Hinton
April 29, 2013
Throughout the legislative session, we've been bringing questions you asked during the WLRN-Miami Herald Town Hall to legislators in Tallahassee.
Today's question concerns an environmental issue that's threatening coastal communities. Barry Waterman of Pompano Beach asked about sea level rise:
"Lessons from Hurricane Sandy revealed that municipalities that erected sea wall barriers avoided catastrophic damage," he said. "Has the legislature begun considering similar or any measures to mitigate catastrophic destruction to coastal communities from coming sea level rise?"
The session is almost over, and so far, no legislation has been proposed related to the issue.
But state Senator Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth in Palm Beach County says sea level rise is something lawmakers should deal with rather than bicker about.
"We need to move away from that because really at this point it doesn't necessarily matter what's causing sea level rise," he said. "We have to deal with the reality that it's happening."
The Palm Beach County Democrat says lawmakers from South Florida met earlier in the session to discuss the issue and have asked county leaders to come up with a plan to mitigate it.
"Those kinds of decisions are best made at the local level and whatever we can do to then support that plan, I hope that we do, but if we're going to fund it, it's gotta happen this summer," said Clemens. A Local Leader Responds Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs says leaders from Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties have been working together for years on this problem but could use more help from the state.
"The planning efforts of the entire state need to come up to par with what the southern part of the state has been doing on its own," said Jacobs. "Think how much farther we could go if we had the full might of the state behind our efforts down here."
Jacobs says the state has stepped up and identified areas where Florida is vulnerable to sea level rise, but funding has been cut for programs such as beach restoration on both the state and federal level. Are Sea Walls the Answer? Both Clemens and Jacobs says that's not a good solution for South Florida which sits on porous limestone.
"These issues are not going to be solved by simply raising a sea wall," said Jacobs. "The water is coming up underneath. It's coming up through cracks. It will continue to do that. We're not Louisiana. We can't go build a wall and hope to hold the sea back."
130429-b Assault on environment unabated
Tampa Bay Times
April 29, 2013
Growth management has been gutted, and the water management districts have been neutered. Developers have free rein, and water quality rules have been weakened. The state spends a fraction of what it once did to preserve sensitive lands, and the Department of Environmental Protection makes up new rules when private interests can't make enough money under existing rules. Yet the Florida Legislature still finds more ways to do more damage to the environment.
A bill passed by the House and awaiting Senate action in the last week of the session would make it easier to pollute waterways, destroy flood protection areas, squander the drinking water supply and extend even more leverage to developers over when and where they build. It would hurt Florida's economy as much as its natural resources, and if the Senate votes for this mess Gov. Rick Scott should veto it.
The sponsor of HB 999, Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, describes the legislation as "tweaks and fixes" that would make Florida more business-friendly. But the provisions are toxic. They would prevent local governments from regulating the destruction of wetlands by small, independent drainage districts that oversee more than 1 million acres across the state. They would give legal cover to a no-bid, 30-year sweetheart deal that Scott and the Cabinet gave to two farming operations to continue polluting the Everglades. The bill also would fast-track permitting for natural gas pipelines, and big water users would have every incentive to continue pumping groundwater even after new technologies offer a more sustainable water source. So much for the House's truth in packaging.
Making it easier to destroy wetlands increases the risks of coastal and inland flooding, puts new pressures on the fisheries and other commercial habitats and hurts the aquifer's ability to recharge. Barring local officials from asking developers more than three times for information before processing a permit will lead to even more unchecked growth. Republican Rep. Jake Raburn of Lithia also did his Tampa-area hometown a special disservice by passing an amendment that bars any new local fertilizer bans until 2016. Local governments such as Pinellas County, the city of Tampa and others in Florida have acted on their own to clean nitrogen from their waterways because the Legislature would not. Now the House would stop the clock for three years while a stacked committee conducts a phony study.
The economy is recovering, and there is no evidence that developers are hindered by environmental protections that already are so much weaker than they were just several years ago. This bill doesn't promote the recovery, because the fallout would make Florida less appealing to visitors and more expensive for residents and businesses alike. It is senseless to clear the way for more pollution at the very time Florida is putting new clean-water standards in place. And the Legislature shouldn't dictate to local communities about what environmental priorities they set for themselves. There is no need for a fertilizer study or a moratorium on fertilizer restrictions. What happened to the Republican mantra about local control?
This legislation doesn't make minor fixes to environmental rules. It continues the full-scale assault on the environment, and the Senate should kill this bill before Tallahassee kills off what's left of Florida's natural resources.
130429-c Bill threatens Florida water supply
Tampa Bay Times – Letter by Michael Liberton, Webster, FL
April 29, 2013 Senate Bill 1684 - Proposal threatens water supply
The Florida Senate is considering Senate Bill 1684, which in my opinion would result in a number of detrimental effects to the environment of our great state. The primary concern I have relates to the effect it would have on our clean water supply — namely, the prohibition on local governments enacting fertilizer ordinances and the prohibition on water management districts from requiring water withdrawals where other sources are available.
The problems that increased fertilizer (nitrogen) content is having on our rivers and springs — resulting in the growth of algae blooms — have been well documented by scientists and environmentalists alike. As for water districts, this bill ties the hands of those most qualified to strike a balance among various claims for water and make sure that this resource remains available for all, not just the few.
This bill appears to be the worst environmental attack I have seen in many years. Please read the bill and let your senator and representative know that you care about continuing to maintain a clean water supply.
130429-d Despite late start, roseate spoonbill nest counts up
KeysNet.com – by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
This winter saw a good, though not outstanding, nesting season for roseate spoonbills in Florida Bay, according to the spoonbill research team at Audubon of Florida's Tavernier Science Center.
"What were looking for is to see if [the fledglings] make it to 21 days. If so, then the bay is doing well, there is enough food and fish to support them," said Adam Chasey, who conducts Audubon's spoonbill monitoring. He added that while the analysis is not yet complete, it appeared that the survival rate among spoonbill fledglings was strong this winter.
The beloved pink, red and white bird nests during the dry winter months. And because it is especially dependant upon the normal summer-wet/winter-dry seasonal cycle of the Everglades, the spoonbill is considered a key indicator species of the health of Florida Bay.
Spoonbills and other wading birds rely on the wet summer season to fill up the marshes so that prey fish have plenty of space in which to breed. When a good wet season is followed by a typical winter dry-down, it forces those fish to gather into smaller confines as water levels drop, creating a smorgasbord for spoonbills while they have nesting chicks to feed.
This year the Audubon team counted approximately 200 nests in Florida Bay, Chasey said, up slightly from last year's count of 179.
Also last year, the team discovered a new spoonbill nesting area in Madeira, slightly north of the central bay. The nest count there in 2012 was 164. During a visit to the colony last week, Audubon scientists saw a similar nesting pattern, Chasey said.
Back within the bay, researchers got unexpected good news this winter when they found 10 nests on Eagle Key in the northeast bay. Spoonbills have not historically nested there or at other nearby keys because the islands are home to raccoons, which prey on eggs and chicks. As such, said Chasey, the Audubon team hasn't typically monitored those islands and didn't have time to get to them all this year after the Eagle Key discovery - leaving open the possibility that there were more nests than this year's count indicates.
"There's a bunch of other Keys that we will be checking next year," Chasey said.
This year's Florida Bay nest count of 200, plus the estimated 100-plus nests just north of the bay, is likely to further allay concerns that developed two years ago, when Audubon counted just 69 nests in Florida Bay. Last year's belated discovery of the Madeira colony, which is now believed to have existed at least as far back as 2010, helped change the equation.
Still, this year's spoonbill nest count is well below what Florida Bay experienced just seven years ago. Audubon researchers counted 547 nests in the bay in 2006. The number slid steadily between then and 2011.
One anomaly this year, Chasey said, is that the spoonbills began nesting late - in early January on average instead of their more typical late November start. Last year's rainier than normal wet season could have been a factor. One cue spoonbills use to begin nesting is low water levels. But throughout the 16 counties serviced by the South Florida Water Management District, rainfall was 5.6 inches above normal from May through October.
This winter also marked the first wet season since the South Florida Water Management District began operating a $26 million pump, canal and water retention system that allows for more freshwater to flow into Florida Bay. Reducing the bay's salt level is expected to help revitalize its ecosystem.
Chasey, though, said it is too early for the new pump and retention system to have had a direct impact on spoonbill nesting populations.
130429-e FCC Legislative Update April 22-26
FCC – by Ryan Smart
(April 29, 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. Their websites can be accessed by clicking on the organization's name on our home page. HB 999 (Rep. Patronis) / SB 1684 (Sen. Altman) These terrible bills, opposed by the FCC, seek to weaken or eliminate over 20 environmental regulations affecting water management, air quality, environmental resource permitting, development permitting, and more.
HB 999 passed in the House on April 25th by a 92-20 vote. A last minute amendment by Representative Patronis to remove wetlands exemptions for Chapter 298 districts failed and the final bill includes the wetland exemptions, threatening over 1 million acres of land and water; a moratorium on local fertilizer ordinances; and the ratification of 30-year no-bid leases on over 13,900 acres of public land to polluters in the Everglades Agricultural Area, among other terrible changes to environmental regulations across our state.
A Committee Substitute of SB 1684, which includes all of the bad language from the House Bill except the moratorium on local fertilizer ordinances, is now on the Senate floor awaiting a second reading. Contact your Senator and ask them to vote no on SB 1684!
The 298 Districts wetland exemption has also been added onto HB 7127, a transportation bill, which passed the House on April 25th and is now in messages.
Environmental Appropriations – Friday evening, April 26th, Senate and House leaders came to a compromise on most environmental appropriations for 2013. Florida Forever will receive $70 million in funding, $50 million coming from the sale of existing state lands, $10 million from general revenue, and $10 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The two chambers also agreed to spend $70 million on Everglades clean up and restoration from the Everglades Trust Fund, $58 million on water projects, $26.7 million on beach restoration projects, and $11 million to the Rural and Family Lands Program. A new line item in the House budget, $13 million for springs restoration, received no funding in the agreement. HB 33 (Rep. Smith) / SB 466 (Sen. Altman) – Allows individuals and corporations to receive state owned land in exchange for placing permanent 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, likely resulting in the loss of public access to lands for hunting and other uses that benefit the public. This bill is opposed by the United Water Fowlers of Florida, Audubon Florida, Sierra Club, and other conservation groups.
*Both bills have been temporarily postponed in their committees, and are hopefully dead for this session.* HB 901 (Rep. Stone) / SB 584 (Sen. Hays) – 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. This bill is opposed by the FCC. See the previous FCC ACTION ALERT.
*The Florida Current reported Sen. Hays temporarily postponed SB 584, admitting that it “isn’t going to go anywhere” and is likely dead for the 2013 legislative session.* Great job to everyone who called or wrote to oppose SB 584! SB 948 (Sen. Grimsley) / HB 1063 (Rep. Hutson) - Places the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services in a more prominent position in the water management district 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.
Several productive stakeholder meetings over the past month have changed the outlook on this bill. Senator Grimsley worked with all stakeholders to craft a fair compromise. The amended bill includes conservation measures in water supply projections, maintains a focus on alternative water supply, and recognizes the unique nature of different regions of our state.
SB 948 passed unanimously on April 26th. It appears the House will consider SB 948 when received in messages. HB 7065 (Rep. Caldwell) / SB 768 (Sen. Simpson) – Finds that the implementation of BMPs effectively reduces nutrients from entering the Everglades Protection Area. It extends the $25 per acre agriculture privilege tax until 2026 and then implements a phased draw down to $10 per acre from 2036 and thereafter. Instructs that tax proceeds will be used for design, construction, and implementation of the Long Term plan. States that payment of the agricultural privilege tax and implementation of BMPs fulfills the obligation of land owners and users under the Florida “polluter pays” constitutional amendment. Authorizes appropriations of $20 million from the Water Management Land Trust Fund and $12 million in general revenue for the Restoration Strategies Regional Water Quality plan through 2023-2024.
The amended HB 7065 passed the House 114-0. The Senate has taken up the House version of the bill, which is awaiting a third reading. HB 109 (Rep. Young) / SB 364 (Sen. Hays) – 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 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.
SB 364 passed unanimously. The House has taken up SB 364 in messages. HB 7 (Rep. Porter)/ SB 244 (Sen. Dean) – 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.
SB 244 passed unanimously in the Senate. HB 7 has been added to the Calendar in the House. HB 183 (Rep. Raulerson) / SB 934 (Sen. Lee) – Grants 20 year general permits for stormwater discharge in redevelopment and infill areas. A new committee substitute to HB 183 removes language that would have restricted stormwater regulations and presumed stormwater discharges did not affect water quality. New version requires stormwater discharges show a net improvement of the quality of discharged water from pre-existing conditions and requires best management practices.
SB 934 passed in the full Senate unanimously. HB 183 has been on the House second reading calendar for more than three weeks. HB 4007 (Rep. Nelson) / SB 326 (Hays) - Repeals prohibition on DEP acquiring land for the cross-Florida canal - and the rest of the statute that deals with rights of refusal for counties, land owners, renters, etc., whose land had been acquired for the canal. Recognizes the need for a new road in Marion County that would cross greenway lands.
SB 326 pass the Senate unanimously. HB 4007 is on the House second reading calendar. HB7113 (Rep. Caldwell) / SB 1806 (Committee Bill) – Allows for phased total maximum daily loads (TMDL) if additional data is necessary to increase precision and accuracy. Exempts TMDL rules from legislative ratification. Would aid in the adoption and implementation of TMDL water quality standards.
SB 1806 passed in the Senate unanimously. HB 7113 is one the second reading calendar in the House. HB 7115 (Rep. Raburn) / SB 1808(Committee Bill) – Provides for legislative ratification of agreement between DEP and EPA for nutrient standards.
SB1808 passed the Senate 33-5 with Senators Clemens, Abruzzo, Negron, and Soto objecting. HB 7115 is on the second reading calendar in the House.
130429-f Florida's final budget grows to $74.5 billion
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
April 29, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida lawmakers' budget handiwork hit the desks just after 1 p.m. Monday, starting the 72-hour "cooling off" period before the Legislature can take a final vote on the $74.5 billion spending plan that includes $480 million in merit pay for teachers and more money for schools, universities, Everglades restoration and state employees.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told reporters Monday the budget was a "great win" for Gov. Rick Scott, who has demanded lawmakers provide an across-the-board, $2,500 pay raise for all teachers. Lawmakers chose instead of to provide $2,500 raises for teachers deemed to be "effective" and $3,500 for "highly effective" -- but not until the middle of 2014.
The budget "was a great win for the governor ... but most importantly a great win for the teachers and students," Weatherford said.
The budget puts roughly $1 billion in new money into public education system, as well as nearly $100 million for charter-school construction projects, and a raft of college and university construction dollars.
It provides $70 million in Everglades restoration funding, and gives Scott $45 million in economic incentives -- although he requested $278 million.
The budget also includes a 3 percent tuition increase for colleges and universities, a $9 million increase to Bright Futures and $13.8 million increase to the Florida Resident Access Grant, and includes $70 million in spending authority for Florida Forever, although only $20 million of that is cash.
The spending plan is bigger than versions the House and Senate passed earlier in the 60-day session as well as the proposal Scott pitched back in February. But it remains silent on another of Scott's priorities, a $141 million cut in sales tax on manufacturers' equipment purchases. Weatherford said the issue wasn't dead, and "we know it's important to him."
"We have to make sure we can afford it, and it's something we are considering," Weatherford said. 'We want him on Friday to be just as happy with session as we hope we will be."
That statement was a potential reference to the campaign-finance and ethics bills the Legislature already sent to Scott. He has until Wednesday to sign or veto them, and has expressed doubts about the campaign-finance bill, which raises contribution limits from $500 per person to $3,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for legislative ones.
130429-g Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to tour Loxahatchee
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
April 29, 2013 Sally Jewell is not wasting time before visiting the Evergaldes.
In another sign of the Obama administration’s on-going focus on the ‘Glades, the newly installed interior secretary plans to tour the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park on Wednesday.
She will get briefed along the way on restoration, water flow, water quality, endangered species and invasive species.
Her predecessor, Ken Salazar, was a frequent visitor, and the administration made Everglades restoration one of its highest priorities, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars for project work. Jewell’s visit signals that support will continue.
Jewell also plans to meet with stakeholders and employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
Her airboat tours will take her to Loxahatchee, near Boynton Beach, and Everglades National Park west of Miami.
130429-h Rare legislative accord has led to session wins in Tallahassee
Bradenton Herald – by Mary Ellen Klas
April 29, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Senate President Don Gaetz often introduces House Speaker Will Weatherford, as the “taller, smarter, better-looking version of the Weatherford-Gaetz” duo. Weatherford, who at 33 is young enough to be Gaetz’s son, calls the 65-year-old “a wonderful partner and, more important, a friend.”
The state’s two most powerful legislators are adversaries in theory, but they have acted more like partners in practice as they set a conciliatory tone for the legislative session that ends this week.
Their unusual camaraderie has led to early passage of three of their four priorities and the resolution of issues that for years had been mired in special interest turf battles.
“After Monday, we will have gone through most of the major pieces of legislation that members filed,” said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, Senate Rules Committee chairman, who, a decade ago, served as House speaker.
In the last three weeks, legislators agreed on allowing physicians to package drugs, optometrists to prescribe medications, high schools to offer varied graduation standards and the sugar industry to continue taxing itself for Everglades cleanup. Each had been bitterly fought for years and all but the education bill was fueled by campaign contributions from dueling sides.
“We sensed a strong desire by leadership to get this resolved,” said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who represented U.S. Sugar, the ophthalmologists in the prescription war with optometrists, and physicians fighting business groups over the price of repackaged drugs for injured workers. “We won some. We lost some.”
In the last two weeks, legislators also have sent to the governor campaign finance and ethics reforms, hailed their education plan as landmark legislation, and advanced a bill to fix Florida’s early voting troubles — all priorities that Weatherford and Gaetz announced in January. Earlier in the session, they quickly passed a measure to outlaw electronic gaming machines after a federal and state strike force threatened to embarrass them for taking millions from the Internet cafe industry.
“Of all the years I’ve been up here, this is as harmonious a session as I’ve seen,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a 10-year senate veteran who ushered the ethics and elections bills through the Senate.
Now, only a plan to shift the risk for the state pension fund from the state to workers — a Weatherford priority — and the question of whether or not to accept federal money to expand health insurance coverage for the poor are major bills where resolution appears dubious.
Latvala and Thrasher credit Gaetz, and the arrival of 15 new senators, for the legislative progress. “We are much more organized,” Thrasher said.
Gaetz credits Weatherford: “He allows us to enter into a spirited debate without it getting personal…There’s no bitter aftertaste.”
A cordial couple, Gaetz and Weatherford always praise each other at public events.
“There’s a lot of things we can control in this process, but the one thing you can’t control is who your dance partner is,” Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told a meeting of House and Senate budget chairmen this month. “The Senate president of the State of Florida has been a person of great integrity.”
They are attuned to each other’s leadership styles not just because of their buoyant personalities, but also because of timing. They each drew the leadership straw in 2010 when the Legislature embarked on the once-a-decade redrawing of the state’s legislative and congressional district lines, and they each became the redistricting chairman.
For months, they traveled the state reconfiguring district lines, and developed a bond. In the end, they lost a total of five Republican seats, but preserved the GOP majority — and their clout.
Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, who was elected to the Senate last fall after eight years in the House, attributes Gaetz’s success to pragmatic politics. “He’s not into symbolism over substance,” he said.
For example, while both Weatherford and Gaetz have refused to move any gun-related legislation, they made one exception: a bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Watson, a Miami Democrat, that would make it more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain firearms. The bill has the blessing of the National Rifle Association.
Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, the House’s deputy minority leader, said that Weatherford has worked with Democrats on “issues where there are no deep philosophical or politically ideological divides.” But on issues like health care coverage, he said, Weatherford has been ideologically rigid and “uncompromising.”
On some issues, Gaetz and Weatherford’s differences seemed choreographed to produce a middle ground. On ethics and campaign finance bills, for example, each chamber started far enough apart to allow the other to compromise on a resolution that got them to the middle.
The House suggested raising campaign contribution limits to unlimited amounts, while the Senate proposed no change to the $500 limit. The end result: both agreed to eliminate political slush funds, known as "Committees of Continuous Existence," or CCEs, which have been used by legislators to finance unlimited expenses for meals, travel and entertainment. The House agreed to cap campaign contributions at $3,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for everyone else.
“The question now is how to bring all this in for a landing with the governor,” Latvala said.
Even the biggest disagreement this session — whether or not to accept federal money to expand health insurance coverage for the poor — also appears to be bring the presiding officers to a place they both can accept: doing nothing.
“I’d rather do it right than do it fast,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said last week.
Weatherford, whose chamber holds a 76-44 Republican majority, has steadfastly resisted any plan that would expand health care by drawing down federal Medicaid money. Meanwhile the Senate, with its 26-14 GOP majority, has taken a more moderate approach to health care expansion and is promoting a plan to accept all of the federal funds. Only Gaetz has hinted that he is open to compromise, but it is uncertain whether he could get the votes for a plan that would reject federal funds.
Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who was the only Republican to break ranks with Weatherford and vote for the Senate health care plan last week, predicts: “By the end of the week, nothing will have happened.”
With no plan to accept federal money, legislative leaders will buy time, he said. But Fasano, re-elected to the House last fall after eight years in the Senate, believes there is danger in making public policy through choreography and conciliation.
“Everybody in the House is expected to follow the script,” Fasano said, noting that those who don’t could lose their bills, their budget projects and their clout. “Perception is everything but, I’ve learned over the years, what is best for the public is not just a script, it’s independence.”
Weatherford sees it another way. “We’re getting along really, really well,” he said Friday. “If you look at the level of productivity out of these two chambers, the relationship between our two chambers, it’s the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I want to keep that going.”
130429-i SRWMD declares April 2013 as Springs Protection Awareness Month
April 29, 2013
Live Oak — The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) Governing Board has joined with the Florida Legislature by recognizing April 2013 as Springs Protection Awareness Month.
With more than 300 documented springs, the District has one of the highest concentrations of freshwater springs in the United States. Of the state’s 33 first magnitude springs (ones flowing at least 100 cubic feet per second, or 64 million gallons a day), 18 are in the District.
Springs occur when water pressure causes a natural flow of groundwater to the earth’s surface. Some springs are fed by shallow groundwater seepage out of the soil, others are fed by deep aquifer water discharged under artesian pressure. These differences influence the hydrology and water chemistry of springs.
Springs attract visitors from all over the world that come to north Florida to swim, dive, float, play, and relax in these unique wonders of nature.
The District’s Heartland Springs Initiative is a multifaceted approach to springs protection. These efforts include:
· Monitoring of water resources, including springs, in order to gage the health of water resources throughout the District.
· Implementing stormwater, water quality restoration, and reuse projects in priority springshed basins to reduce groundwater, protect or improve water quality, and offset existing groundwater withdrawals.
· Partnering with landowners, citizens, and local, state, and federal agencies to assist farmers and homeowners in implementing best management practices to conserve water and protect water quality.
· Acquiring conservation lands to protect water quality, water supply, natural systems, and recharge areas within springsheds.
· Establishing minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies, including springs, to ensure that resources maintain a minimum flow to remain healthy.
· Providing regulatory programs to ensure that development activities are protective of spring health.
“The health of Florida’s springs is essential to our economy, tourism, and the environment,” said District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. “Through our Heartland Springs Initiative, the District will continue to place an emphasis on springs protection and restoration to preserve these unique resources for today and future generations.”
130429-j Water district keeps its distance as other fight over wetlands tied to river it is guarding
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
April 29, 2013
Low-lying Wedgefield's fight to be exempted from Orange County's wetlands rules is taking place in the Florida Legislature this spring with scant information about the potential environmental consequences of the legislation.
That's because the state agency best able to inform lawmakers has not weighed in on what giving the east Orange community a freer hand to dredge and fill wetlands could mean to the nearby — and vulnerable — Econlockhatchee River, an Outstanding Florida Water.
The St. Johns River Water Management District has been gagged, environmentalists say, by Gov. Rick Scott's quest in Tallahassee to centralize and control the regulations that protect Florida's wetlands and water.
"In past years, the district would have stepped in and told legislators not to rewrite wetlands laws to favor one developer," said Eric Draper, president of Audubon of Florida. "Now the agency is virtually absent on key water-policy debates."
Neither the St. Johns water district nor the Florida Department of Environmental Protection intend to take a position or provide information to lawmakers about what's at stake with pending legislation that would exempt Wedgefield and its Ranger Drainage District from Orange County wetlands rules, representatives of both agencies say.
"The district has not provided or been asked to provide comments," district spokesman Hank Largin said. According to DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller: "This is a local-government issue."
The drainage district's general manager, Cecil Davis, said his operation will still be sufficiently regulated without Orange County's oversight, which he described as too costly for Wedgefield's homeowners.
An opponent of the Ranger legislation, Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, said lobbyists from both sides of the issue have visited her office — but neither DEP nor the water district have offered guidance on the bill's implications for the Econ, an imperiled river system whose protection has required an enormous effort from the two agencies.
"I would think they would have a world of information," Stewart said.
The 18-county St. Johns River Water Management District has been the principal guardian of the Econ, which has been heavily damaged by growth moving outward from Orlando. That responsibility has led it to purchase large tracts of riverfront property, including the 9,500-acre Hal Scott Regional Preserve — which the Ranger Drainage District's canals cross to empty into the Econ.
In 1981, the water district issued a permit that, antiquated by current standards, still allows the Ranger Drainage District to destroy wetlands to divert runoff from Wedgefield into the Econ River.
That "Management and Storage of Surface Waters" permit — unlike the agency's more modern and rigorous "Environmental Resource Program" permits — has no expiration date. It also does relatively little in the way of requiring the drainage district to avoid or minimize harming the wetlands and, by today's standards, contains minimal requirements for compensating for damaged wetlands.
Working through Tallahassee-based lobbyists, the Ranger Drainage District was able to get a provision exempting it from Orange County's rules added to a package of environmental legislation (HB 999) sponsored by state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City.
Last week, Patronis tried to remove the Ranger provision, acknowledging it had become controversial, but he was blocked from doing so in a vote on the House floor. Similar legislation in the Senate (SB 1684) is sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, who says he also has misgivings about the drainage-district measure.
Patronis said he is "open" to amending his bill so that the district can be exempted from Orange County rules only if it goes back to the water district for a new Environmental Resource Program permit. He also said he is open to having the provision brought back next year.
"By that time we could understand it, learn more about it, get all of the unintended consequences on the table," Patronis said.
130428-a $50 million trail would go from St. Pete to Titusville
TBO.com – in St. Petersburg Tribune - by josh Boatwright
April 28, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG - The Pinellas Trail could become the first leg in a 275-mile bike and walking path stretching from St. Petersburg to Titusville.
State lawmakers recently approved $50 million for the Coast to Coast Connector, which will link more than 200 miles of existing bike paths.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's goal is to bridge seven gaps among more than a dozen regional trails that snake across Central Florida. Collectively, the gaps cover 72 miles.
Once completed, the trail would be longest continuous bike path in Florida and among the biggest in the nation.
Money for the project would come from the state's transportation trust fund, with the aim of increasing recreational options, tourism and economic development.
“If you have a large trail that doesn't have bits and pieces missing from it, it really becomes an attraction,” said Patrick Gillespie, a DEP spokesman.
“Then you've got people staying in those communities, spending money in those communities, and that's where you get your economic impact.”
Critics will question whether building a biking and walking trail is the type of transportation project the state should be funding, or if a $50 million investment in economic development would have a bigger impacted if spent on something else.
The trail's advocates say biking trails bring proven health benefits to residents, spur business in cities along their routes and can become destinations for a growing number of active tourists.
Its value in Florida's $74 billion budget will ultimately be assessed by Gov. Rick Scott, who did not recommend the project in his proposed budget and could still veto it.
The $50 million set aside to build the trail would be rolled out over five years in $10 million increments.
Most of the money would go toward acquiring parcels of land needed to link various pieces of the trail.
The Connector is a top priority in the DEP's Florida Greenways and Trails System plan, which ultimately seeks to build a network of walking and biking trails across the state.
It would link the Pinellas Trail to Starkey Trail in Pasco County and the Good Neighbor Trail in Hernando County before heading eastward, where it will eventually connect with the popular West Orange Trail near Orlando and then the Atlantic coast.
The potential benefit of connecting more communities with a trail system can be seen in Dunedin, supporters say.
Business occupancy in the small downtown area grew from 30 percent in the 1980s to nearly 100 percent since the Pinellas Trail cut through its Main Street in 1991, according to the city's economic development office.
While it's impossible to say how much the trail contributed to downtown Dunedin's renaissance, the city's economic development director says it's been a prime catalyst.
“Where the trail hits downtown is ground zero,” said Robert Ironsmith.
“It's helped build what downtown is today.”
Cyclists ride in from out of town and pop into local bars and restaurants. Some even stay overnight.
Demand has grown for homes near the trail and the lively downtown among people who consider access to it a major part of their quality of life.
Property values for homes adjacent to the trail were growing at a faster clip than similar properties further away, according to a 2001 study conducted by the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“Quality of life is very important and that [bike trail] is something that's very important to a lot of people,” said Joe Farrell, director of public affairs for the Pinellas County Realtor Organization.
State officials hope the Coast to Coast Connector can achieve comparable success on a grander scale.
Long bicycle routes are a major tourist draw in states such as Colorado, Minnesota and particularly Iowa, which draws more than 10,000 people each year for a weeklong bicycle trek across the state.
The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa not only generates spending during the event; recreational bicycling generates an estimated $364 million in economic impact each year, according to a study last year by the University of Northern Iowa's sustainable tourism and environment program.
“Bicycle touring is one the most popular outdoor recreation activities in the country,” said Bill Nesper of the League of American Bicyclists.
At 275 miles, Florida's Coast to Coast Connector would stand out among the nation's longest bicycling trails, such as the 225-mile Katy Trail State Park in Missouri or the Great Allegheny Passage, a popular 152-mile route between Pittsburgh, Pa., and Cumberland, Md.
The trail could still face roadblocks, as Florida's transportation funds are tied to the federal transit bill, which will expire while the Connector is still being built over the next five years.
“We'll have to have this entire debate again before this is completed. There have been transit bills saying you can't spend any money on trails,” said Ken Bryan, director of the Florida chapter of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.
Debates over whether transit dollars should pay for bike trails instead of highway resurfacing are likely to continue, but states such as Florida have gradually been moving toward a wider view of the impact these nontraditional projects can have, said Jason Bittner, director of the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research.
“We spend transportation dollars to encourage tourism, to facilitate the flow of goods and people, and all of these investments play roles in a much larger package,” he said.
R-Panama City, FL
130428-b Panhandle lawmaker works to limit environmental rules
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
April 28, 2013
Every year during the Legislative session in Tallahassee, state Rep. Jimmy Patronis does two things:
He organizes a day for everyone to wear seersucker suits. And he pushes a bill to change Florida's environmental regulations, like the one Thursday that passed the House, blocking local governments from protecting thousands of acres of wetlands.
Patronis, R-Panama City, is the man who gives environmental activists nightmares -- a charming and savvy lawmaker convinced that Florida would be better off if government would get out of the way and let businesses boost the economy.
"I can't say enough good things about him," said Frank Matthews, who lobbies on behalf of developers, phosphate miners, boat manufacturers, sugar growers, power companies and a garbage company. "He couldn't be more accommodating. That's the appealing thing to me."
Noting that Patronis comes from a family that since 1957 has owned one of Panama City's most popular seafood restaurants, the Capt. Anderson, Matthews explained, "When you run a restaurant, the customer is always right, and that is the attitude he brings. ... That's everybody's dream sponsor."
Patronis, a 41-year-old father of two, says he's trying to be useful by filling a niche.
"I didn't come up here to take naps," Patronis said. "I'm never going to be speaker of the House. But I'm a damn good shuttle diplomat." When he's able to make something happen with his bills, "that's where I get a little bit of a rush," he said.
Patronis, who is married to a real estate agent, grew up in a family that owns a spring supplying water to a bottling company. He enjoys fishing and hunting. When the restaurateur was first elected in 2006, environmental advocates regarded him as friendly, said Eric Draper of Audubon Florida.
But in 2009 he filed a bill that would result in state wetlands permits being automatically approved as long as the application had been filled out by a licensed professional. He said he did it to shake up regulators, and compared it to defrosting a refrigerator and tossing out the food -- something he said should be done frequently with the Department of Environmental Protection.
"Sometimes you need to unplug these state buildings and clean them out and start over," he said.
That bill didn't pass, but he has filed one a year ever since, and some of those have become law, to the dismay of environmental advocates.
"He's a smart guy," Draper said. "But he has the habit of a lot of legislators of depending on lobbyists to do a lot of the work on bills for them."
Patronis always starts off with a bill containing all sorts of things that the environmental groups strongly dislike. Most of them are suggested or even drafted by Matthews and other industry lobbyists. Then Patronis holds a series of "stakeholder meetings" to talk about the bill's contents and tweak or amend it.
As many as 75 people will show up for the meetings, with environmental lobbyists trying to chip away at the parts they don't want and industry lobbyists trying to add more into it, Patronis said. He contended the meetings are key to the process because otherwise environmental activists and industry lobbyists wouldn't talk to each other.
"I'm trying to force two children to play well together," he explained.
Patronis' permitting bills are always packed. In 2011, for instance, Patronis' one bill aimed to make it easier to build roads through wetlands and open new phosphate mines and harder for regulators to yank a permit from someone who did things wrong.
Before this year's session began, environmental advocates begged him for a break. But Patronis said he wanted to push through one little bill that would help out marina owners -- and "as soon as the bill popped out, people came to me and asked, 'Put this in, put that in,' " and it morphed into something larger. HB 999 not only strips local government protection from thousands of acres of wetlands, it also: prevents local governments from banning fertilizer sales until 2016; blocks environmental groups from suing to overturn controversial Everglades leases that Florida Gov. Scott and the Cabinet approved with sugar companies; accelerates the permitting for natural gas pipelines that originate in other states; and forbids water management districts from cutting back groundwater pumping by any entity that builds a desalination plant to increase its potential water supply, among about 20 other topics.
Despite a rare lobbying appearance by former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Patronis' bill won approval in the House 98-20, with some Democrats joining the Republicans to vote yes. It now has gone to the Senate, where a companion bill by Sen. Thad Altman, SB 1684, is also awaiting action.
While statewide environmental advocates bemoan his handiwork, Patronis said he's never heard a word of disapproval from any of his 159,000 constituents. Meanwhile he repeatedly rakes in campaign contributions from all the industries that benefit from his legislation.
Patronis hits his term limit in the House next year, so he has filed papers to seek the seat of Senate President Don Gaetz, who is also reaching his term limit in 2016. He may face Gaetz' own son, Matt, also a House member, in the Republican primary. As of mid-April he had already raised more than $90,000.
But he rejects any accusations that he has built his political career on helping polluters.
"My dad and my uncle have taught me to be a good steward for the land," he said. "The bills I have filed have not done anything to lessen environmental protection, but they have made the regulatory process more predictable."
130428-c Project will add million gallons per day to Palm Coast's water supply
DaytonaBeachNewsJ. - by Tony Holt, Staff Writer
April 28, 2013
PALM COAST -- City workers will halt the daily routine of dumping up to 1.2 gallons of mineral-heavy water into the Royal Palms Waterway.
State regulators said the practice of discharging that water into Royal Palms violates the federal Clean Water Act.
The city will comply by constructing a $9.5 million structure that will add lime softening to the water and allow the city to include those extra gallons in its drinking water supply.
The process is called zero-liquid discharge, or ZLD, and it will be added to Water Treatment Plant No. 2 off Citation Boulevard.
"We thought we were in compliance, but then they changed the ballgame," said Mayor Jon Netts of the latest environmental measures regarding water discharge. "That's not uncommon. Rules change and opinions change ... We didn't see it coming, but now it's happened and we have to comply."
The Palm Coast City Council is expected to get the ball rolling on the project during the next two weeks. Discussions are scheduled for Tuesday's workshop and council members are then expected to vote May 7 on authorizing the spending of $100,000 for preliminary administrative costs, said Richard Adams, Palm Coast's public works director.
Money will be available for the entire project once the upcoming revenue bonds are issued, he said. The construction must be completed by the state-imposed deadline of mid-September 2014.
The new construction will alter officials' five-year, $55-million capital improvement plan for the city's water and wastewater system. The council voted in February to increase monthly utility bills to cover the costs of the project.
The original plan included a full-scale expansion of the Citation plant. Adams said converting the water treatment plant to ZLD would postpone the need to drill more wells by adding over 1 million gallons to the daily water supply. That, in turn, could save the city money, he said.
"The (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) said we had to find an alternative for disposal," Adams said of the extra 1.2 gallons of water the plant dumps each day. "Our engineers did a study and they determined ZLD was the most viable alternative."
The plant, which has been in operation for more than 20 years, produces up to 6.3 million gallons of finished drinking water per day. It uses low-pressure reverse osmosis technology.
That process removes hard minerals from the water. Those minerals are mixed in the 1.2 million gallons of concentrate, said Adams.
The city obtained a permit from the state to dump that concentrate into the nearby Royal Palms Waterway, a fresh body of water southwest of Belle Terre and Royal Palms parkways.
Now the state is telling the city it has 17 months to stop dumping the concentrate into the waterway. The city will use the newly installed lime-treatment system to extract the hard minerals from that 1.2 million gallons of water, filter that water and add it to the residential "drinking water stream," said Adams.
Calcium deposits and other minerals extracted from that water make up a lime sludge, which would be mixed with shell and sand and could be used for road base, he said.
Wharton Smith, a contractor out of Orlando, was awarded the bid to upgrade the plant and add the ZLD lime-softening capability.
Palm Coast has 45 wells across town and they remove water from the surficial and Floridan aquifers -- the main water supplies for Palm Coast residents.
The water flows to one of the city's three treatment plants where the water is purified.
130428-d Two different conversations
Ocala.com - Editorial
April 28, 2013
There are two distinct conversations going on about Florida's freshwater springs.
One conversation is being held in communities — places like Ocala and Apopka and Lake City — and is focused on the urgent need to stop the degradation of our springs that are equal parts environmental and economic assets. There is an urgency to that conversation.
The other conversation is taking place in Tallahassee, sort of, where lawmakers are indifferent to the escalating number of officially “impaired” springs and their value to the communities surrounding them. There is no urgency to this conversation. To the contrary, lawmakers are finding reasons to postpone it.
That was made crystal clear this week when the chairman of the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Rep. Matt Caldwell, told the Tampa Bay Times the Legislature would not pass any bills this year focused on spring restoration or protection. Instead, Caldwell said he “thought it was best” to await the completion of a series of minimum-and-flow studies, aimed at determining at what level springs and rivers would experience “significant harm.” The thing is, those studies have been mandated since 1972 and remain unfinished, while most of Florida's 700 springs are already deemed harmed, many significantly.
The community conversations, like the one we are having in Ocala about Silver Springs, are about saving remarkably beautiful and beloved natural treasures for generations to come. They are about recognizing that these uniquely wonderful windows to the aquifer can be economic engines, providing jobs and new eco-friendly development at a time when every place in Florida needs it. They are about addressing the polluted water and receding spring flows that signal our aquifer also is polluted and receding.
We wonder where our own representatives in Tallahassee, Reps. Dennis Baxley and Charlie Stone, are in the conversation there. We understand they can't take a high-profile role in every issue, because not every issue is relevant to Ocala/Marion County. But the springs are not only relevant to our community, we are ground zero in the conversation. We are home to the world's most famous springs, Silver Springs. Because of that, our community has the potential to turn restoration and repair of the granddaddy of all springs into an eco-tourism boom. We can be a model for all springs communities. That Silver Springs is located in the heart of 350,000 people, along a major interstate, with plenty of tourist accommodations and amenities, makes it a golden opportunity.
Yet, our representatives are missing in action, and their colleagues in Tallahassee inexplicably demur and delay.
If they are unsure how to go about saving Florida's springs, we can refer them to dozens of state-sponsored studies that are gathering dust. If they are unsure who can implement the springs restoration and protection recommendations in those studies, we suggest they ask our local governments and those in other springs communities around Florida. They are full of ideas and political will, but short on support and money. Jim Stevenson, who is known as Florida's Mr. Springs, recently lamented the Legislature's disinterest in our springs, saying, “We don't protect what we don't value.” Obviously, Florida's communities value their springs, and you can hear it in the urgency of their ongoing conversations. If only we could get our representatives in Tallahassee to value them, too.
130428-e Wakulla Springs suffers pollution
FSUnews.com – by Amit Rubin, Staff Writer
April 28, 2013
Overuse and abuse of grounds by visitors sparks movement Jim Stevenson, a former Florida State Park chief biologist, named Wakulla Springs, an outdoor destination 14 miles south of Tallahassee, as one of the most special places in Florida. The springs were used for recreational activities 40 years ago, as they are during the present day. The springs are suffering, though.
“Regrettably, these remarkable natural values are soon to be lost through human activities up-gradient in the spring basin,” Stevenson said on palmettoexpeditions.com, a Florida-based outdoor expedition website.
Wakulla Springs is visited by a large amount of people per year, who leave an imprint on the park. Overuse and abuse of the grounds by an influx of visitors have contributed to the park’s pollution. According to Palmetto Expeditions, “Up to 200,000 park visitors generate $22 million per year for the local economy.”
Aside from being a source of income for the state of Florida, the springs have been a haven for exploration and discovery for tourists. The hot spot possesses a vast amount of history.
In 1875, African Americans would build boats with glass bottoms and charge a quarter for a ride across the springs, allowing tourists to view the underwater creatures. The U.S. Army even conducted infantry and frogmen training during World War II at the site. The springs were used for filming movies such as the Tarzan series.
Wildlife also thrives in and around Wakulla Springs. Manatees increased the location’s population. By 2011, there were over 30 manatees inhabiting the springs. It was dubbed as a National Natural Landmark in 1977 and according to Palmetto Expeditions, it’s the “longest and deepest underwater cave system in the world.”
Wakulla Springs has 32 underwater caves.
“Wakulla Springs is a state park that has contributed abundantly to the beauty of northern Florida,” FSU student Sandra Timm said. “It would be a shame to see the place where I would go visit every summer disappear.
Many students at Florida State have experienced the beauty of the glass bottom boat tours and freezing water at the spring and should contribute to saving Wakulla. The Springs not only provide a home to many animals such as the manatees and alligators, but also to plants and nature that is unfortunately destroyed by men.”
In 1992, authorities realized that glass bottomed boats used for tours were no longer viable to use due to decreased visibility in the water. Protection groups were formed and put into place.
As stated on Palmetto Expeditions, “Although we believe education is the most important spring protection strategy, regulations and legal action are occasionally necessary to change human behavior.”
But since then, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has cut the protection services, and other plans implemented to protect the Springs. In return, the Wakulla Springs Alliance has been working to spread awareness and continues to do all it can to protect the spring.
“I’ve personally never been to Wakulla, but I know my friends have and they say [it’s an] amazing and fun place to go during the weekend,” FSU student Pamela Colareta said. “People have formed a love for the springs and if they were gone there wouldn’t be anywhere for [people] to really go, relax and get away from the stresses of college.”
130427- A trail of 85 years: Celebration honors anniversary of Tamiami Trail opening
Naples Daily News - by Kelly Farrell
April 27, 2013
EVERGLADES CITY —Hundreds of people took a trip down memory lane Saturday to Everglades City’s 85th anniversary celebration of the completion of Tamiami Trail.
The event mirrored the grand opening of the road in 1928, which was attended by thousands of people, as finally there was a dry route across the Everglades connecting two major Florida cities, Miami and Tampa.
Tamiami Trail made way for increased commerce, tourism and industry. James Billie, chairman of the Seminole Tribe, said the Seminole Indians were affected by the road as much as anyone else in Florida.
“We finally had a dry place to put our tiki huts, which you’ll see along the Trail to this day,” Billie said. Annette Peikert, 48, of Miami, was astounded to learn what a feat it was to construct the approximately 76 miles of road.
“It’s nice to hear the history and how important it was. It’s still a really nice drive when you have the time to stop along the way. Shark Valley is one of my favorites. I counted 117 alligators one time,” Peikert said.
The Everglades City fairy, dressed in an all-white winged gown riding a red ATV in the parade, was Martha Hutcheson, assistant manager at the Museum of the Everglades, which hosted the event.
“It’s a historic day for sure,” said Hutcheson, popping Smarties candies, dressed like the original Everglades Fairy who took part in the first day opening parade for the road with Barron Collier 85 years earlier.
“The project was stalled for years until Barron Collier sunk much of his personal fortune into it,” said Ron Jamro, director of Collier County Museums.
It was paralleled with the construction of the Panama Canal because of the seemingly insurmountable challenges that had to be overcome to complete it.
Also celebrated Saturday was Collier County’s 90th anniversary on May 8, and the 60th anniversary of Everglades City, the original county seat.
“The Museum of the Everglades is housed in the old laundry, which was run by the Echols (family),” Hutcheson said.
There were two generations of Echolses at the event connecting to family roots
Among them was Mary Echols, 72, and her brother-in law of Naples, Ron Echols, 75. Ron is the son of Ralph Echols, the operator of the Everglades City laundry business during the Great Depression. Laundry was brought in by boat from Collier’s hotels on Cabbage Key, Useppa Island and other areas.
“We have lots of pictures from the day and we gave them to the museum,” said Mary Echols, now of Bonita Springs. James Echols, 47, of Miami, said it was his first time visiting the museum where his family’s business operated for years. It wasn’t his first time to Everglades City, though.
“I love to come here to hang with my folks, eat at the Seafood Depot and I always come for the Seafood Festival,” James Echols said.
He remembered many trips to visit his grandfather, Ralph Echols, in Everglades City as a child.
The Echolses weren’t the only ones connecting to their personal history while getting refreshers on local and Florida history.
South Carolina resident Joseph Parrott said his grandfather and mother, with a last name of Hamilton, lived in the area for generations. He pondered if there was any relation to Everglades City Mayor Sammy Hamilton.
“I came down to see my friend (Dennis Marlin) who still has a place in the ‘Glades,” said Parrott, sitting in the shade outside Everglades City Hall, where dozens of local dignitaries took turns sharing bits of history and reminiscing about local milestones.
The parade in the small fishing village had traditional participants, such as a fire truck from Ochopee and Everglades, antique cars and a Clydesdale horse-drawn buggy. It also had uniquely Everglades City-goers — such as a swamp buggy with a boar’s head mounted on the front bumper wearing a straw hat.
The day’s events began with a pancake breakfast fly-in at the Airpark.
“We just flew in for the party,” said pilot Paul Berg, 52, of Fort Pierce.
It was his father, Leonard Berg, 79, who asked for the private flight.
“I have some good friends here in Everglades City I come in to fish with. I’ve been catching snook out on the Tamiami Trail canals since 1947,” Leonard Berg said.
A children’s circus performed, just as it had at the road’s original opening day on April 26, 1928. There was pulled-pork barbecue, corn on the cob, a fish fry, funnel cake and Loco’s Produce farmer’s market.
While many people drove or flew to the event, others just walked from their nearby homes.
“We came to see it all — the cars, the horses and the candy, that’s probably his favorite part,” said Everglades City resident Lyle Demere, 35, motioning to his son Waylan, 5.
130426-a Budget fun: Scott's staff not talking to Legislature
St. Augustine Record – by Matt Dixon, Tallahassee Bureau
April 26, 2013
As Gov. Rick Scott made clear Thursday he was keeping an eye on earmarks in the budget, word began to circulate his office told agency budget staff to stop communicating with the Legislature until his priorities are addressed.
“Yes, we have heard those rumors,” said Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz.
She was asked specifically about a directive coming from Scott’s office telling his legislative affairs staff and agency staff to not communicate with the Legislature. A House spokesman declined to comment when asked the same question.
Betta would not elaborate.
"I don't want to comment on a rumor," she said.
During a marathon floor session, the Senate did choose not to vote on bills crafted by Scott agencies.
One (SB 1458) is the omnibus bill for the Department of Highway Transportation and Motor Vehicles. A second (HB 7065) is a compromise bill supported by the Department of Environmental Protection that would, in part, keep in place a $25-per-acre tax on sugar farms through 2024 while spending $32 million annually for Everglades Restoration.
Scott publicly thanked the bill’s sponsors when it passed the House last month.
“I applaud the work of Senator Wilton Simpson and Representatives Matt Caldwell and Steve Crisafulli for their legislation that moves Everglades restoration forward by funding, and codifying in law, a plan that will ensure the state meets the water quality standards it has set for the Everglades,” he said in a statement.
Betta said not taking up the bills - a move called “temporarily postponing” them - had nothing to do with budget negotiations.
Scott’s communications director, Melissa Sellers, would not directly address the question.
“Everyone is working hard to get the Governor's two priorities done,” she said in an email.
Scott’s two biggest priorities are the removal of the sales tax on manufacturer’s equipment purchases and a $2,500 across-the-board pay hike for class room teachers.
He has pushed those measures almost exclusively in interviews and public appearances.
Scott told reporters earlier in the day that he had his eye on member projects tucked in the Legislature’s proposed budget, which can signal a veto threat.
“There are a lot of projects in there,” he said. “I’m going to do what I did the past two years, go through them closely.”
Scott will be in Washington on Friday, one week before the scheduled end of the legislative session. The only events on his public schedule are interviews with Politico, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, The National Journal, and CBS.
130426-b Deadline for conservation easement funding is approaching
SEagnet.com – by Julie
April 26, 2013
GAINESVILLE, FL, April 26, 2013 — USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida is calling for applications from landowners interested in restoring or enhancing wetlands and/or grasslands on their private lands; especially in the 17 county Everglades priority area.
Roney Gutierrez, NRCS Acting State Conservationist announced today that applications for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) are being accepted at all NRCS offices. In addition, there will be special funding available through the Everglades Initiative (EI). NRCS employees can supply more information and help landowners decide which program would work best for them.
Although the application process for 2008 Farm Bill conservation programs is continuous, the cutoff date for consideration for Federal Fiscal Year 2013 funds in these programs in Florida is May 28, 2013. Applications received after that date will be considered for future funding periods.
• The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary easement program designed to provide a financial incentive to private landowners to encourage the protection and restoration of historically wetlands that have been drained. Most applications are for the permanent easement option, where NRCS pays a per-acre easement fee, plus 100 percent of the cost to restore the agricultural lands back to natural wetland ecosystems.
• The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a voluntary conservation easement program that emphasizes support for working grazing operations, enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity, and protection of grassland under threat of conversion to other uses. Participants voluntarily limit future development and cropping uses of the land while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices and operations related to the production of forage and seeding. A grazing management plan is required for participants.
• The Everglades Initiative (EI) covers 17 counties: Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Highlands, Glades, Lee, Martin, Osceola, Orange, Indian River and St. Lucie. NRCS works with landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, control invasive plant species, benefit wildlife and fish habitat and support rural economies in the Florida Everglades region.
By 1984, over half of all the wetlands in the U.S. had been drained or filled for development or agriculture. Today, natural wetlands are still being lost, but at a much slower rate than in the past. In an increasingly urban state like Florida, wetlands and grasslands are dwindling and habitat for wildlife is being lost. Stewardship by private landowners is vital to the health of our Nation’s environment. NRCS is encouraging landowners, farmers and ranchers to visit their local NRCS office now to receive more information and apply for these programs before May 28, 2013.
130426-c Soils cannot lock away black carbon
Scientific American - byTim Radford and The Daily Climate
April 26, 2013
Charcoal and other forms of black carbon do not, as previously thought, stay where they are buried
LONDON – Climate scientists may have to rethink some of their old assumptions about carbon. US and European researchers have just established that black carbon, soot and biochar – the burnt remains from countless forest fires – doesn't stay in the soil indefinitely.
Around 27 million tons of the stuff gets dissolved in water and washed down the rivers into the oceans each year.
Black carbon or biochar has been hailed as one possible way of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, by taking carbon out of circulation. But this study, according to a report in the journal Science, "closes a major gap in the global charcoal budget and provides critical information in the context of geo-engineering."
Forest, bush, scrub and peat fires produce somewhere between 40 and 250 million tons of black carbon every year. Had this burning been complete, this would have ended up as carbon dioxide, back in the atmosphere.
'A significant amount of black carbon'
So researchers have counted the biochar locked in the soil – where it enhances fertility – as carbon out of circulation for millions of years. But analysis of water from the world's 10 largest rivers – the Amazon, the Yangtse, the Congo and so on – told a different story.
"Each sample included a significant amount of black carbon," said Anssi Vähätalo, of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. "On average, the amount of black carbon was 10 percent of the amount of dissolved organic carbon.
"The results prove that the proportion of water-soluble carbon may be as much as 40 percent of black carbon created annually."
The sampled rivers carry one third of the water running to the oceans, from a catchment area that embraces 28 percent of the planet's land area.
Stubbornly on the increase
The research is yet another step in the long and tricky international effort to understand just how the world works: How life's raw materials are consumed, exploited and recycled, and why greenhouse gas emissions are stubbornly on the increase.
Fossil fuel burning puts back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide – and the warmth – locked away in the Carboniferous period and buried for 300 million years.
Log fires simply restore carbon dioxide to the atmosphere that was locked up a few decades earlier, in the growing tree: Log fires in that sense are carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, since a lot of the carbon lingers and is buried as ash, soot or charcoal.
Some environmentalists have argued that greater use of biochar could slow and perhaps ultimately reduce global warming by taking carbon out of circulation. The accounting may not be so simple.
"Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant. They thought, once it is incorporated in the soils, it would stay there," said Rudolf Jaffé from Florida University.
"When charcoal forms it is typically deposited in the soil. From a chemical perspective, no one really thought it dissolves, but it does," he added.
"It doesn't accumulate, like we had for a long time believed."
130426-d Special interests vs. public interests
Ocala.com - Editorial
April 25, 2013
Pandering to special interests is routine in the 21st century Florida Legislature, something we Floridians have come to expect and, too often, accept. But even by the Legislature's own standards the House's approval of House Bill 999 on Thursday by a 98-20 vote signals a major sellout of the public interests to special interests. HB 999, which 1000 Friends of Florida has dubbed “the most problematic environmental bill of the session,” now heads to the Senate where a companion measure, SB 1064, is awaiting for that chamber's vote, possibly as early as today. We urge Marion County's senators, Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, to vote against this affront to the environment, home rule and anyone who cares about preserving Florida as we know it.
That the House voted for HB 999 so overwhelmingly shows its members' disconnect with everyday Floridians. The lengthy bill and its Senate companion are dubbed by their sponsors “environmental regulation” measures when, in fact, they are aimed at massive environmental deregulation. Everything from wetlands and marinas to water permits and pollution testing to fertilizer ordinances and local development permitting are covered, and in every case the bills seek to weaken regulations to the detriment of our communities and state.
“Line by line, and dollar for dollar, these bills were written for those who wish to exploit our environment for personal gain,” wrote the respected Florida Conservation Coalition, founded and chaired by former governor and senator Bob Graham.
This legislation would all but eliminate wetlands permitting as we know it. Moreover, it would severely limit how the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation can test for polluted water and would ratify 30-year, no-bid leases to big sugar companies bordering the Everglades. When it comes to water permitting, it would prohibit water management districts from altering consumptive use permits for groundwater, even if new alternative sources of water were available.
If you believe the best government is that which is closest to the people, this bill is an insult. Among other things, it would pre-empt local authority on fertilizer ordinances. But possibly the most inexplicable piece of this bad bill is a section that would limit local governments from seeking additional information from a developer requesting a development permit to three inquiries, no matter the scope or size of the development. Florida and its residents have watched our state decline environmentally over the past couple of decades, despite efforts to regulate the actions and disruption of our lands and waters. This bill would deregulate far too much of our environment for nothing more than the convenience and economics of big business looking to grow its bottom line at the state's expense.
These bills are bad for Florida's environment, and that makes them bad for all of us. Anyone who cares about this state should oppose this legislation, and we urged Sens. Dean, Hays and Hukill to vote against SB 1064. We urge them to do what's best for Florida and not pander to special interests, but instead embrace the public interest.
130426-e Study: source of organic matter affects Bay water quality
ERL - by David Malmquist
Apr 26, 2013
Persistence of "urban" organics downstream favors dead-zone formation.
Each time it rains, runoff carries an earthy tea steeped from leaf litter, crop residue, soil, and other organic materials into the storm drains and streams that feed Chesapeake Bay.
A new study led by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reveals that land use in the watersheds from which this "dissolved organic matter" originates has important implications for Bay water quality, with the organic carbon in runoff from urbanized or heavily farmed landscapes more likely to persist as it is carried downstream, thus contributing energy to fuel low-oxygen "dead zones" in coastal waters.
The study appears in this month's issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, and was highlighted by the journal's publisher, the American Geophysical Union, as an "AGU Research Spotlight" in their print and online channels.
The study was authored by VIMS post-doctoral researcher Dr. Yuehan Lu (now at the University of Alabama), VIMS Professor Elizabeth Canuel, Professor Jim Bauer of Ohio State University, Associate Professor Youhei Yamashita of Hokkaido ?University in Japan, Professor Randy Chambers of the College of William & Mary, and Professor Rudolf Jaffé of Florida International University.
Low-oxygen dead zones are a growing problem in Chesapeake Bay and coastal ecosystems worldwide. While most management practices focus on reducing inputs of nitrogen and other nutrients known to fuel dead zones, Canuel says "organic matter from the watershed may also contribute. One goal of our study was to examine the quality of organic matter derived from streams and its potential to contribute to dead-zone formation."
Sunlight & bacteria
As streams and rivers carry dissolved organic matter downstream, bacteria or sunlight can modify it into compounds and forms that are more difficult for organisms to use. While the team's research showed no significant difference in bacterial degradation of organic matter from cleared or forested watersheds, Canuel says it did show that "organic carbon in runoff from watersheds affected by ?human activity is less ?susceptible to solar degradation than that from forested watersheds."
"Urban organics" thus remain at higher ?levels longer, says Canuel, "delivering more organic material to the river mouth and increasing the likelihood that low-oxygen conditions will develop in downstream locations such as estuaries and the coastal ocean."
The research team conducted their study using samples taken from seven small streams that flow into the James and York rivers, major tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. Three of these streams drain forested watersheds, with 87 to 100% tree cover, while the other four drain watersheds largely converted by human activity into pasture, cropland, or pavement and buildings.
The authors aren't yet sure why the? organic carbon from the more developed watersheds is less vulnerable to breakdown by sunlight in rivers and streams, but suggest that it might be because it has already been exposed to appreciable sunlight in the less shady urban and agricultural environment.
Says Canuel, "Urban organics may persist downstream because their more photoreactive compounds have already been degraded due to greater light exposure in urban areas, farm fields, and pastures, leaving only the more photo-resistant, refractory compounds to wash into the coastal zone."
The team's findings provide one possible mechanism for an observed increase in the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the surface waters of North America and Europe during the last few decades, and have implications for management of water quality in coastal zones worldwide.
"Our results show that future studies should assess not only the quantity of dissolved organic carbon entering our rivers and streams, but also its source," says Canuel. "Understanding how organic matter from developed and undeveloped watersheds behaves in the aquatic environment will contribute to the development of more effective watershed management practices and hopefully more successful efforts to reduce the number, extent, and duration of low-oxygen dead zones."
130425-a Judge gets documents in landfill dispute
Tampa Tribune - by Laura Kinsler, Staff
April 25, 2013
DADE CITY - Attorneys for both sides in the Angelo’s landfill dispute have filed their recommendations to Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter on the Department of Environmental Protection’s denial of a landfill permit.
Canter has said he would take about two months to review both documents and issue his opinion on whether the Florida DEP was correct to deny the landfill permit.
Angelo’s Aggregate’s effort to build a residential waste landfill on the edge of the Green Swamp has galvanized opponents ranging from the cities of Zephyrhills and Tampa to Nestle Waters North America, parent company of Zephyrhills Spring Water.
Nestle’s attorney, Doug Manson, wrote that if the landfill failed, a “slug of leachate” would contaminate the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people and cause irreparable damage to the bottled water giant.
A sinkhole would cause “catastrophic failure at the landfill with a discharge of leachate into the springshed of Crystal Springs and then flow into the Hillsborough River,” he wrote. “Once it reached the river, it would reach the city’s water treatment plant within three to four days.” Jake Varn, who represents Angelo’s, countered that most of the opponents don’t have the legal standing to object to the permit.
“They failed to show a real and immediate threat of injury from the proposed landfill,” he wrote. “Even if leachate reaches the Florida Aquifer, the groundwater flow is toward the west and none of these parties will be impacted.”
130425-b Legislators prepare for potential of 'fracking'
St. Augustine Record – by Mary Ellen Klas and Curtis Morgan
April 25, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — No one knows if Florida is going to be the next frontier for the new generation of oil and gas drilling known as fracking, but state legislators say — just in case — it’s time to write rules to require disclosure of the controversial technology.
The Florida House on Wednesday is expected to pass a bill that will require companies to disclose what chemicals they use when they explore for oil and gas using the controversial extraction process.
Fracking uses hydraulic fracturing technology to inject water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations. Oil and gas is released through the fissures and is captured by wells, built at the sites. Environmentalists warn that the chemical makeup of the fluid that is pumped into the ground could contaminate groundwater and release harmful pollutants, such as methane, into the air.“
The Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act,” sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodriques, R-Estero, would require the state Division of Resource Management to set up an online chemical registry for owners and operators of wells, service companies, and suppliers that use hydraulic fracturing.
The bill also requires the information to be posted on the website, FracFocus.org, an online clearinghouse run by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.
Rodriques said the bill, HB 743, is neither pro-fracking or anti-fracking. “It’s a transparency bill,” he said. A similar measure is moving in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
Hydrologists have identified only two potential areas in Florida — Southwest Florida’s Lower Sunniland field and the Jay field in the Panhandle — where the state’s geology could support fracking, said Rodriques. But if Florida is the next industry hot spot, “no one has applied for a permit” and the Department of Environmental Protection “does not have any active inquiries,” he said.
Rodriques said he believes that speculation continues among investors who believe Florida’s ancient oil fields may have fracking potential, particularly in Southwest Florida, where a handful of oil wells have operated for decades largely unknown to the public. In Houston on Wednesday, for example, the second annual conference on “Emerging Shale Plays USA,” will feature a presentation on whether or not Florida has the right mix of rock properties to support hydraulic fracturing at the Lower Sunniland site in Hendry, Collier and Lee counties.
“Do we want to be reactive — and wait until hydraulic fracturing is already occurring — or do we want to be proactive and get these disclosure laws on the books before hydraulic fracturing begins ?” said Rodriques, who represents northwest Florida. “I decided to be proactive and that’s why I filed the bill.”
Environmentalists initially opposed the measure, arguing it was a ploy to open the state to a process they claim could be disruptive to Florida’s fragile aquifers and high water table. But amendments adopted by the House have appeased them, said Mary Jane Yon, lobbyist for Audubon of Florida.
The change requires that companies disclose not only chemicals used in the fracturing process but disclose the chemical concentration by mass and the chemicals used for each well. Chemicals make up about .5 percent of the fracking compounds, with 95 percent of it water and 4.5 percent sand, Rodriques said.
Yon said another related bill, HB 745, is more troubling because it would exempt from public records any “trade secrets” companies can claim about proprietary chemicals.
“We are fully behind the spirit of sharing information with the public, but we worry if you are allowed to call everything a trade secret we have nothing left to share,” Yon said.
Oil and gas industry representatives support the disclosure requirements.
“Companies are recognizing they have to work with the public in order to reassure them that what they’re doing is not dangerous,” Rodriques said.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, 11 states require at least partial disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process and the federal government has recently drafted rules governing disclosure on federal land. The industry has also made peace with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary new standards for fracking in the Northeast, one of the most active regions for fracking activity.
In Florida, questions persist about whether the energy industry would even consider using the controversial extraction technique in the state. Though major companies are eager to push offshore exploration, the state’s known deposits haven’t historically produced enough oil or gas to make it a big draw for land-based exploration, let alone the water-gulping and expensive option of hydraulic fracturing.
“Basically, oil companies have a lengthy list of choices outside of Florida,” said Christopher Brown, a civil engineering professor at the University of North Florida, who gave a presentation on the pros and cons of fracking in January for a water resources conference in Fort Myers.
About 70 percent of the oil and gas produced in the state comes from the Jay field area in the northwestern Panhandle, said Brown, and that’s the only place in the state known to have the dense underground sandstone and shale formations where fracking has been mostly commonly used to free up trapped oil and natural gases.
In Southwest Florida, oil drilling has been going on since 1943, when the first well was sunk into a formation called the Sunniland Trend, which sits some 11,000 feet below the porous limestone aquifer that feeds the Everglades and supplies much of South Florida its drinking water.
Today, a handful of wells operate in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County, producing a small but steady volume of thick oil of about 1,200 to 2,800 barrels a day. Oil giant Exxon has owned one well in the Raccoon Point area, which has produced some 20 million barrels since 1978.
Brown said he considered the possibility of fracking in Southwest Florida “unlikely” but cautioned “I wouldn’t consider it impossible.”
Rising oil prices, for instance, could make it more economically feasible for companies to pursue small or uncertain deposits with more intensive techniques.
Over the last decade, Collier Resources Co, which owns much of the oil and mineral rights in the Big Cypress, has periodically floated proposals to expand seismic testing in the area and potential drilling. David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, said rising energy prices had generated some new industry interest in Florida but mostly from smaller independent companies seeking to explore in the northwestern section of the state.
130424-a A threat to local fertilizer ordinances
Gainesville.com – by Cris Costello, Coordinator of Sierra Club Florida’s Slime Crimes Campaign.
April 24, 2013
For seven legislative sessions in a row, the pest control and fertilizer industries have tried to eliminate Florida’s more than 50 local ordinances that put strict controls on lawn fertilizer pollution.
In the past six years those industries failed because legislators on both sides of the aisle understand that urban fertilizer regulation is the only cheap and immediately effective way to staunch the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous into our state’s most at-risk water bodies. Taxpayers and local governments made it clear that when it comes to protecting their waterfront economic engines from toxic brown and red tides and green slime, it’s crazy for the legislature to tie their hands.
But they are at it again this year and ground zero isn’t Tallahassee but rather Brevard County where the Indian River Lagoon has now become the poster child for the death and destruction that results from inadequate water quality protection.
You’d think that everyone affected by the loss of fisheries, the dead manatees and shorebirds, and the stain on the Indian River Lagoon’s reputation as a fishing and vacation destination would praise local efforts to control pollution; especially when those efforts are aimed at cost-free prevention rather than expensive taxpayer-funded clean-up projects.
You’d think, but you’d be wrong. It is from around the Indian River Lagoon that we have seen a renewed effort by the pest and fertilizer industries to kill any sort of regulation statewide. And it is the Indian River Lagoon’s own Rep. Steve Crisafulli who started this year’s attempt at preemption of local ordinances. In March, Crisafulli called “stakeholders” together to comment on a piece of draft legislation written by industry lobbyists. This stakeholder group, heavy with industry representatives and lacking even one independent water quality expert, has come up with an amendment that is sure to be added to some bill on the House or Senate floor this week.
This “Florida Fertilizer Regulatory Review Council” amendment creates a “council” packed with pro-fertilizer members intent on implementing a one-size-fits-all model for the entire state, preempts duly elected local governments, and prevents the consideration of the costs (to taxpayers) of inappropriate use of lawn fertilizer.
There is a reason why the industry wants a one-size-fits-all model – it knows that any single statewide rule will represent the “floor” with regard to the protection of water quality rather than the “ceiling.” Local governments will be left only the weakest pollution controls with no way to make them stronger. And even though a one-size-fits-all approach is absolutely contrary to the watershed-by-watershed approach that is promoted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), that agency has not condemned the amendment’s obvious trajectory. Who wins ? Professional applicators who want the right to apply fertilizer and charge their customers for it, even if it ends up washing down the storm-drain and into everyone’s favorite waterbody. Who loses ? Everyone else: taxpayers; waterfront resorts, restaurants, charter boat captains; fishing and kayaking guides; recreational and commercial fishermen; the real estate industry; and especially homeowners whose property values and quality of life depend on the health of the water resource.
Is one industry so powerful that it can make our elected representatives and the FDEP forget about everyone else? So powerful that it can make them ignore the fact that right this minute the Indian River Lagoon and the algae-choked springs in Central and North Florida are on their deathbeds? Can it make them forget that toxic tides along Southwest Florida are chasing tourists away during high season?
We are in trouble and it is time to act fast. Call your local senators and representatives and urge them to vote “no” on any amendment that would stop the local regulation of urban fertilizers.
Lawn fertilizer’s impact on water quality varies from locality to locality. Urbanized areas with lots of impermeable surfaces speed runoff to local water bodies because water runs downhill. If fertilizer pollution is allowed to get into that runoff, impaired water quality can be the only result.
Florida’s urban communities need to be able to adopt strong ordinances to prevent fertilizer pollution because they’re on the hook for the clean up if it gets into their water.
Don’t let your legislators forget that.
About the program
The Indian River Lagoon Program began in April 1991, with funding from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. The Indian River Lagoon Advisory Board is made up
of representatives from the St. Johns River and South Florida water management
districts, the five counties along the lagoon -- Brevard, Volusia, Indian River, St.
Lucie and Martin -- and representatives of state, federal and regional governments.
Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Advisory Board recommends how the program spends federal Clean Water Act and the state lagoon specialty license plate monies.
The plan they approved Wednesday includes $397,600 toward a three-year study of looking into what's been killing pelicans, manatees and dolphins in the lagoon.
Other projects include:
• $131,350 to Brevard Zoo for community outreach and monitoring of oyster reefs in Mosquito Lagoon. The project's goal is to monitor the success of an oyster reef restoration technique used on about 1 acre of intertidal oysters damaged by wakes from boats.
• $97,200 to continue replanting mangroves on public shorelines along the lagoon and
educate the public about the benefits of healthy mangroves.
• $76,000 to collect data about how much fertilizer nutrients run off into the
lagoon. The information could then be used for local governments considering banning
fertilizer applications during rainy season (June 1 to Sept. 30).
• $32,323 to the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce to continue its ongoing inventory of organisms in the lagoon.
• $20,000 to the Canaveral Port Authority for a survey of invasive lionfish at Canaveral Inlet to help devise a plan for reducing the lionfish population.
• $20,000 to the city of Palm Bay to install inlet inserts to capture sediment and floatables from runoff within the watersheds of Florin Avenue and Port Malabar Boulevard.
The plan still awaits approval of the St. John's River Water Management District's governing board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those approvals are expected by June or July.
Pollution from sugar-
130424-c Dangerous bills help Big Sugar pollute, quash government transparency
Miami Herald – Editorial
April 24, 2013
With less than two weeks left to wrap up the session, the Florida Legislature is moving some controversial and destructive bills forward at warp speed while allowing others of paramount importance — expanding Medicaid to 1 million more Floridians, for instance — to languish and go nowhere.
• Government transparency. House Bill 249 and Senate Bill 1260 would create a public-record exemption for any email address of any registered voter who communicates with any state, county or municipal agency. Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, says he simply is trying to protect Florida voters from “getting spammed” by political groups. Other supporters say it would attack voting fraud — though there’s no evidence that fraud even exists.
This dangerous legislation seeks to hide exchanges between public officials and lobbyists and other special interests seeking favors. Gov. Rick Scott, who championed transparency when he was elected and started the “Project Sunburst” initiative that makes communication with the public a, well, public matter by disclosing email exchanges, should veto this legislation. Take out that veto pen!
One amendment to SB 1024 would make it a crime if anyone receives confidential information about state unemployment claims. Huh ? That’s nonsensical.
Then there’s the much-ballyhooed ethics reform legislation, SB 2, which would actually create a new loophole for public officials to hide their financial information and avoid disclosing ethically suspect connections.
All the talk of “transparency” in the budget process by Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford has been lots of noise surrounded by smoke. Nothing has changed.
• Big Sugar vs. Everglades. Bob Graham, Florida’s former governor and senator, was in Tallahassee this week lobbying against two bills that would give sugar companies big breaks for polluting Florida’s fabled River of Grass. The bills, HB 999 and SB 1684, would make it easier to wipe out wetlands needed to clean rainwater before it flows underground to the aquifer. The legislation would also limit the authority of water districts to control pumping by private interests. As Mr. Graham points out, the bills “don’t advance any interest of the public, just special interests.”
Indeed, the legislation would even prevent the Florida Wildlife Federation from going to court to overturn a decision by Gov. Scott and the Cabinet to give 30-year leases for 31,000 acres of Everglades land to two sugar companies. No public redress ? Since when is Florida a dictatorship ?
After spending millions of dollars over decades to clean up the pollution from sugar farms and from development, this legislation would give a free pass to the polluters. It also would speed up natural gas permits for pipelines (that would help Florida Power & Light) and limit cities from getting more information (no more than three attempts allowed) before approving a development permit.
Gov. Scott, who hammered out an agreement with the federal government to continue the Everglades clean up, should make clear that these bills are unacceptable. Veto required.
• Farm Share program. One budget item that warrants the governor’s nod would restore $1.1 million for Farm Share, a Miami-Dade County nonprofit that collects food from farms and wholesalers for homeless shelters and pantries to feed the needy statewide.
Farm Share is no special-interest turkey. It’s a well-run program that merits support. Related: Florida Senate approves water pollution bill for environmental ... The Republic
130424-d Fla. environmental regulators delay consideration of controversial water-pollution limits
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
April 24, 2013
Environmentalists declared at least a temporary victory after persuading the state Environmental Regulation Commission to put off the adoption of limits for more than 30 water pollutants.
The state Department of Environmental Regulation had proposed adding 34 toxic chemicals to an existing list of 36 pollutants with the potential to show up in rivers and lakes and endanger human health. Exposure to the chemicals is primarily through the eating of fish caught in such waters.
Environmental advocates from across the state urged the commission Tuesday to require more-stringent limits for the toxic and cancer-causing agents, which can be found in pesticides, petroleum, plastics and industrial compounds.
"Sometimes, miracles happen," said Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network, who credited several activists with having swayed the commission, including Orlando business consulant Dick Batchelor.
Batchelor, a member of the Environmental Regulation Commission in the 1990s, had written a letter for the editorial pages of several Florida newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel.
"The state has the audacity to propose changes that would weaken current protection of our water from toxic chemicals, including: benzene, chlordane, PCBs, chloroform, carbon-tetrachloride, bromoform, tetrachloroethene," Batchelor's letter stated.
"Many other toxins would be regulated in Florida for the first time, but at levels that are significantly less stringent than recommended by the federal" Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
DEP officials insisted the new pollution limits would be more stringent than those set by the EPA.
"While the proposed criteria are protective of the public health and our waterways, we understand the complexity of the proposed rules and the Commission's decision to continue the hearing," the agency said in a prepared statement.
Commission members asked that the matter be brought back for consideration by this fall.
130424-e Florida waterfront condos literally create their own weather
KomoNews.com - by Scott Sistek
April 24, 2013
How would you like to live in a place that not only has a stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico, but creates its own weather?
Check out this photo of individual fog wisps climbing over a line of tall waterfront condos, taken Sunday afternoon by JR Hott of Panhandle Helicopter in Panama City, Florida.
What you are seeing is what happens when moist, warm air blows in off the Gulf of Mexico. And as the condo buildings force the air to climb, the slight cooling from the change in altitude is just enough to bring the air to its saturation point, creating a personal fog bank.
For Hott, whose helicopter pad is right on the water there (near the pier shown in the photo), the fog can affect his aerial tour business.
"Usually when this stuff comes in and it goes over my helicopter, we don't fly into it," Hott said.
Hott says the phenomenon happens a couple of times a year around Panama City. "And it happens extremely fast. It starts with wisps at the top of the buildings, and with 2-3 minutes, we're covered up."
But on Feb. 5, 2012, his pilot returned from a flight and noted the stripes of fog were beginning to form down the beach but hadn't reached their helipad yet. Hott got an idea to grab a camera and take off to snap a photo before the fog enveloped the rest of the beach.
"This time it was progressing west to east, we jumped into helicopter and took off," Hott said. In the 4-5 minutes it took to leave, "buildings closer to us started to get wave clouds... Within a few minutes after we landed, it covered up the helipad."
But those few precious moments in the air allowed him to snap photos that fast became an internet sensation.
"Put this on Facebook to share and, oh my God, we've got thousands of shares and thousands of likes," Hott said. "Both photos have been shared thousands of times. It has truly gone viral."
He says it's as much a story for him about how the photos have spread around the world as how the clouds formed in the first place.
"It's amazing to me how this thing has gone nuts," he said.
Similar meteorology to some of Northwest's best cloud shows
The mechanics behind what what create those individual fog banks are pretty similar to how the Northwest gets some of its best cloud shows when lenticular clouds form over Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood.
In our case, the mountain is the condo building, forcing cool, moist air up just enough to where it cools and condenses into a cloud that hugs the summit.
And Hott would know a thing or two about Mt. Rainier and its unique cloud formations -- he used to live in Poulsbo.
130424-f Marshall Foundation appoints interim director
Sun Sentinel – by Jan Engoren
April 24, 2013
After the unexpected sudden death last month of its executive director, Josette Kaufman, the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades has appointed Dottie Carson as interim executive director.
Carson has a background with leadership, team building and motivational skills as well as a commitment to the environment.
In addition to her role as owner/operator of The Carson Group, a marketing and business development firm, Carson was a member of the Marshall Foundation's advisory council from 2001 to 2009.
"While Nancy and I and everyone associated with the Marshall Foundation are heartbroken over the tragic and unexpected loss of our valiant and beloved Josette, we are confident that Dottie Carson brings the professional skills and experience to successfully lead the organization going forward," said John Marshall, who also is spokesman for the Florida Environmental Institute.
The Marshall Foundation champions the restoration and preservation of the greater Everglades ecosystem through science-based education and outreach programs.
Founded in 1998, the nonprofit organization has awarded more than $450,000 in scholarships and internships, planted nearly 100,000 native Florida trees in wetland areas and involved more than 5,000 volunteers in hands-on restoration projects.
"I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve the Marshalls and the board of directors during this sensitive, transitional period. I remain amazed by the strength and immediacy of the board's response upon hearing of Josette's passing. Their excellent stewardship of our donors' trust was trumped only by their personal support of John and Nancy in their loss," Carson said.
On Sunday, the Lake Worth restaurant, La Bonne Bouche Bistro, will have an Earth Day brunch and donate all proceeds to the Marshall Foundation's new Josette's Kids campaign to bring environmental education to local schoolchildren.
"Special thanks go to restaurant owners Eric and Sara Regnier for this generous gesture honoring Josette Kaufman, the Marshall Foundation's recently departed and dearly missed executive director," said president Nancy Marshall.
130424-g National parks threatened by climate change
The Active Times - by: Jessica Khorsandi
April 24, 2013
Imagine Joshua Tree National Park without the Joshua trees; Glacier National Park without the glaciers; or the Everglades without ... the Everglades.
Sound far fetched? It isn't.
Climate change is reshaping our planet, and while we don't yet know everything it will have in store for us in the coming century, we do know that sea levels are rising, the planet is heating up and fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce in much of the world.
This is bad news for our national parks. In the words of National Park Service director Jon Jarvis, "I believe climate change is fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced."
In honor of Earth Day, we picked 11 parks that may be irreparably altered by climate change if nothing is done to stop its advance. The list is drawn from a joint 2009 report by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Sadly, these predictions haven’t changed in the last four years.
130424-i Senate approves water pollution bill
April 24, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Senate has passed a bill authorizing the state's Department of Environmental Protection to start enforcing rules to reduce water pollution.
The bill (SB 1808) passed 34-4 on Wednesday.
State and federal environmental authorities agreed last month on "numeric nutrient criteria" - how much fertilizer and other pollutants should be allowed in Florida waters.
The idea is to let Florida eventually enforce water pollution rules without the federal government's intervention. Environmental groups have complained the rules aren't strict enough.
Fertilizer and animal manure from farms and ranches run into waterways and carry nitrogen and phosphorus. Those act as nutrients to algae. The algae have a feeding frenzy and that results in the blooms that cause red tides and other outbreaks.
A companion bill is in the House.
130423-a Another bad year for Florida’s fragile environment
Miami Herald – by Paula Dockery
April 23, 2013
It’s always been a lonely fight as a Republican in the Florida Legislature when it comes to environmental policy. Only a few Republicans see the value in preserving our natural resources and ensuring a clean and adequate water supply.
It’s hard to fathom, as our economy is dependent on these resources for our top three economic drivers: tourism, agriculture and development.
In survey after survey of potential businesses looking to relocate, the decision makers indicate that quality of life in the courting state is one of the major considerations. Most manufacturing endeavors require considerable water resources, including electric generation. Families looking to relocate expect clean water to flow when they turn on the spigots.
In Florida, former Republican Govs. Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush and then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist each promoted good environmental policy while in office.
Yet this year a plethora of potentially damaging bills are being introduced in the Florida Legislature. One such bill, SB 584 by state Sen. Alan Hays, sought to limit the amount of land purchased by the state for conservation and preservation. Florida Current reporter Bruce Ritchie quoted Hays as comparing the state conservation land-buying program to the TV show Hoarders.
While 28 percent of Florida’s land is owned by federal, state and local agencies, it is important to note that those holdings include military bases, highways, prison sites, school and university campuses, airports and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in addition to state and national parks and forests. The Everglades is a considerable portion of the federal environmental lands.
Thankfully, due in part to tough questioning by state Sen. Jack Latvala, the bill’s sponsor indicated the bill is dead for this year, but promises it will return.
Next up is HB 999 by state Rep. Jimmy Patronis. Sparked by a local dispute between a county and a storm water district, the bill deals with a range of environmental permitting issues and would allow some water control districts to be exempt from state wetlands permitting.
While presenting the bill in a House committee, the sponsor called it a “Christmas tree” that had “everything but the kitchen sink in it.” Opponents claim the bill offers no additional environmental benefit but instead costs the districts and local government time and money, paid for by the taxpayers. The House bill passed its final committee unanimously. The Senate bill still has a few more stops.
A recurring bill that I have helped defeat on numerous occasions is back for another strong-armed attempt to circumvent the concept of local rule by city and county governments. This will be the seventh attempt to preempt local bans on fertilizing lawns during rainy seasons, a ban intended to protect our waterways from pollution. This provision has also been tacked onto HB 999 to help ensure its passage.
It seems foolish to allow pollution of our vital resources. This will be very costly to clean up — not to mention the resulting invasive plant proliferation that taxpayers will have to fund to eradicate. This seems to fly in the face of fiscal responsibility, which is a cornerstone of conservative ideology.
The concept of local government decisions being closer to the people and addressing local needs over a statewide, one-size fits all statute was once a principle embraced by my fellow Republicans.
What’s dangerous about these and other bills is the legislators’ mindset that anything we can do short-term to aid development and address concerns raised by the special interests (ever-present during the legislative session) should supersede any potential long-term damage to our natural resources and quality of life.
It’s unclear whether it’s a purposeful indifference to, or a lack of knowledge of, environmental protections. What is clear is that average citizens need to be heard on these issues before irreparable harm is done to our beautiful state and all that makes Florida attractive to its residents, tourists, farmers and job creators.
Paula Dockery was term-limited as a Republican state senator from Lakeland after 16 years in the Florida Legislature.
130423-b Audubon fights water district, Big Sugar, on Everglades pollution
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH — Dozens of lawyers armed with over 125 boxes of files, maps, charts and transcripts descended on a makeshift hearing room at the Supervisor of Elections office for the start of case brought by Audubon Florida against Big Sugar and the South Florida Water Management District, over farm pollution in the Everglades.
Audubon contends that the district should not renew permits to sugar growers in the Everglades agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee without requiring the growers to use more best management practices – called BMPs – to reduce pollution that Audubon says runs off the farms and into the Everglades.
Audubon contends that the district should not renew permits to sugar growers in the Everglades agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee without requiring the growers to use more best management practices – called BMPs – to reduce pollution that Audubon says runs off the farms and into the Everglades. Kirk Burns, an attorney for the district said the growers had consistently met legal requirements to reduce phosphorus and that there is no reason to refuse to renew the permits. Also, there is no proof or research proving that additional BMPs would further reduce pollution limits, he said.
An attorney for the sugar industry said, by filing the administrative complaint, Audubon was trying to put the district’s BMP program on trial. Audubon’s case is built on a “snapshot” of farm conditions from “a one-day visit to 2 percent of the farms,” the attorney said.
Audubon attorney Michael Tanner countered, saying the 1994 Everglades Forever Act gave the district the power to impose BMPs but that power is not discretionary when additional BMPs would reduce pollution. BMPs are farming methods that promote optimum plant growth and minimize adverse environmental effects.
The industry rallied an army of attorneys and support personnel, who moved into the hearing room on Monday with over 100 boxes of support material. The entire Audubon team occupied one table.
“I think the industry is over-defending this,” said Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida. “This won’t affect permits on adjacent lands. These are the six dirtiest farms.”
At stake for the industry is the fate of three permits for six farms that allow sugar to be grown on 235,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The permits regulate BMPs to be used on the land. Examples include cleaning canals, controlling aquatic weeds, levelling fields and preventing fertilizer spills.
Administrative Judge Bram D.E. Canter halted the hearing after the attorneys delivered their opening statements, citing the lack of audio in the room – making it difficult for the public to hear. Although speakers hung on the walls above the attorneys, there were no microphones.
“A hearing with this many people, we have to have mikes,” Canter said.
Moving the hearing to the auditorium at the district headquarters – less than a mile away – was not well-received by attorneys for Audubon.
“I hate to be the fly in the ointment,” said Audubon attorney Thomas Bishop. “It is a matter of neutral ground.”
But Audubon relented and the metal roof in the in the hearing room rattled as the wind blew. There was also the matter of raising and lowering a garage door to access the hearing room.
The hearing, expected to last 2 weeks, will resume Wednesday at the South Florida Water Management District.
130423-c Crunch time on land preservation in Tallahassee
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
April 23, 2013 at 1:32
Florida’s conservation community has been sending messages this week to gain support for including Everglades restoration and conservation land funding in the state budget being considered by the Florida Legislature.
At this point the Senate and the House are divided on the issue. House conferees include Rep. Ben Albritton from the Polk delegation. Senate conferees include Sen. Kelli Stargel and Sen. Darren Soto from the Polk delegation.
Conservation leaders are urging citizens to contact their legislators in the final days of this year’s session to voice their support for spending money for land protection and restoration.
130423-d Environmental groups enlist Bob Graham to help stop bills
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
April 23, 2013
A pair of bills now steamrolling through the Florida House and Senate have drawn such strong objections from environmental groups that former Sen. Bob Graham flew to Tallahassee this week to lobby against them.
The two bills — HB 999 sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis and SB 1684 by Sen. Thad Altman — are packed with provisions relating to sugar company leases in the Everglades, making it easier to wipe out wetlands and limiting the power of water districts to control pumping.
Why bring in Graham? Because "there's a whole big army of 40 or 50 lobbyists working on the other side," explained Estus Whitfield of the Florida Conservation Coalition. By comparison "the environmental voice has been a little chirp in the distance."
Graham said he got involved because the two bills "don't advance any interest of the public, just special interests."
Patronis, R-Panama City, and Altman, R-Melbourne, did not respond to requests for comment. But Patronis told the Panama City News Herald that the bills contain "tweaks and fixes to the process that just makes it easier and simpler to do business." Those tweaks include:
*Blocking the Florida Wildlife Federation from suing to overturn a controversial decision by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet to grant 30-year leases to 31,000 acres of the state's Everglades property to two major sugar companies.
*Preventing water management districts from cutting back groundwater pumping by any entity that builds a desalination plant to increase its potential water supply. "I don't think we should be tying the hands of the water management districts to better promote conservation of water," Graham said.
*Speeding up the permitting for natural gas pipelines that originate in other states, such as the new 700-mile one from Alabama that's being planned by Florida Power & Light.
*Forbidding cities from asking an applicant more than three times for additional information before approving development permits.
*Preventing local governments from regulating the destruction of wetlands by drainage districts, small independent agencies that were first created in 1913.
That item is specifically aimed at quelling a dispute in the Orlando area, according to Patronis. But Whitfield said there are so many drainage districts across the state that they control more than 100,000 acres, which puts a wide swath of the state's remaining wetlands in jeopardy.
Also, an amendment added to the House version Tuesday would prevent local governments from enacting their own pollution-fighting rules against summertime sales of fertilizer until at least 2016. Local governments such as Pinellas County that have already imposed such bans would be allowed to continue enforcing their rules.
Patronis has repeatedly filed similar bills aimed at making state regulations more favorable to business. Environmental groups had asked him not file another such bill this year, Patronis told his local paper, but he ignored them because "I didn't come up to take naps in the afternoon; I like to work hard."
Patronis' version of the bill has already reached the House floor and could be voted on this week. Altman's passed its final committee stop Tuesday.
130423-e Lawmaker files amendment to fortify sugar leases, quash Audubon effort for Everglades
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton
April 23, 2013
Four days after an environmental group filed a legal challenge to no-bid leases that allow Florida Crystals to farm on state land in the Everglades for another 30 years, a lawmaker called by the company filed a measure to quash the complaint.
The Florida Wildlife Federation filed an administrative complaint April 11, challenging leases on nearly 2,300 acres of land in southwestern Palm Beach County. The federation contends the renewed leases, approved by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, sitting as the State Board of Trustees, would allow fertilizer pollution from sugar cane fields to flow into the Everglades for decades.
But on April 15, Rep. Matt Caldwell, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, filed an amendment to a sweeping environmental regulation bill (HB 999) that would guarantee the validity of the leases, and, in Audubon’s view prevent any challenge to them. The bill specifies the Florida Crystals leases and those of one other agricultural company, A. Duda & Sons, Inc., of Oviedo. Duda could not be reached for comment.
Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said he could not recall whether he had spoken with anyone at Florida Crystals after the federation filed its complaint. He said he routinely has conversations with environmentalists and growers, including Florida Crystals, about Everglades restoration. Florida Crystals did not ask him to file the amendment, he said.
“There is nothing untoward about this at all,” he said, adding that the trustees approved the leases at a public hearing and an earlier legal challenge by the Federation was dismissed. The complaint filed April 11 “is likely to be dismissed as well,” he said. More litigation is “counterproductive.” Gaston Cantens, a former state representative who is vice president and a top lobbyist for Florida Crystals, said he did speak with Caldwell about filing the amendment after the Federation filed its complaint. Florida Crystals wants Everglades restoration to move forward and more litigation will only stymie restoration projects, Cantens said.
“Just when we’re ready to make progress someone comes out of the bushes and files another piece of litigation,” Cantens said. “I know you won’t print this but these people make money by filing lawsuits.”
The amendment is “designed to take us out of the game,” Manley Fuller, president of the Federation, said.
“The industry is calling on friends in government to take care of their issue and get them what they want by changing the law rather than going to court,” Fuller said. “This is just a classic example of the political muscle of the industry.”
The bill is moving quickly through the Legislature, as this year’s session draws toward a close. It could come up for debate in the House as early as Wednesday. The Senate Appropriations Committee took up the Senate version of the bill (SB 1684) Tuesday.
The battle over the leases has split environmental groups, who’ve been frustrated by the slow pace of efforts to cleanse the Everglades of agricultural pollution.
When the leases were first made public, environmentalists presented a united front. Speaking before the Trustees in January, Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, said the leased lands are major sources of phosphorus pollution and urged the governor and Cabinet to require more stringent pollution controls.
Today, the Federation is on its own. Both Audubon Florida and the Everglades Foundation now support the leases, although not enthusiastically.
“I know I’m crossing my close friends,” Draper said. “At some point it gets frustrating for groups working to get things done for water quality and then to see that thrown off…. At some point you have to say, ‘wait a minute.’” Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said his group is “laser-focused” on implementing a water quality standard by 2025 — a requirement of the governor’s restoration plan. To do that, the district needs Florida Crystal’s land to begin projects that will clean water headed for the Everglades.
“There’s a broader issue here,” Eikenberg said. “We can’t lose site of what so many in the environmental community have been seeking for so many decades.”
At the trustees’ hearing in January, state officials, including Melissa Meeker, the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, said the leases were crucial to closing a deal with Florida Crystals. The district, which is in charge of restoring the Everglades, needs land owned by Florida Crystals for a restoration project.
However, the company has refused to sell and swap its land unless they are given the 30-year-lease renewals on state land they have been farming for nearly 20 years. If the deal falls through, the district would likely miss a September deadline in the governor’s restoration plan, which would jeopardize funding for the project.
According to the Federation complaint, nothing in the Everglades Forever Act, the 1994 legislation that outlined Everglades restoration and authorized the leases, mentioned renewing or extending the leases. In fact, both leases contain a “no option for renewal” clause, according to the complaint. Typical agricultural leases are are for six years and are put out for bid.
“The Trustees violated the law and administrative rules because they failed to consider the direct, indirect and cumulative effect of the 30-year leases on the adjacent conservation and recreation lands owned by the Trustees,” according to the complaint. The Federation is especially concerned about the impact the leases will have on the Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas, state land in southwestern Palm Beach County adjacent to the leased land. The Holey Land and Rotenberger areas are widely used for hiking, bird-watching, hunting, fishing, photography and camping.
“The industry has tremendous political influence in West Palm Beach, Tallahassee, Washington and internationally,” Fuller said. “If (lawmakers) pass this and we lose, we’ll use all our legal tools to defend the Holey Land and Rotenberger.”
130423-f Water quality changes would have adverse effect for Florida
Sun Sentinel - by Dick Batchelor
April 23, 2013
How well does the state maintain its waters? We're aware of too much pollution; not enough oversight; lots of finger-pointing and too-few hands that are willing to do the heavy lifting, politically speaking. But we don't often consider the potentially lethal consequences of politically expedient decisions.
Now, Rick Scott's environmental agency (DEP) is proposing more pollution-friendly changes to our water-quality standards. These would adversely affect drinking water sources, the fish that we consume and, the lakes and rivers in which we swim.
As a former member of Florida's environmental rule-making body, the Environmental Regulation Comission, I know the existing standards were not arrived at easily or casually. They were debated for many months when all affected parties were invited to contribute their ideas and concerns. The new changes would be significant because many are less stringent than the bare minimum recommended by EPA and existing standards in Alabama.
The proposal to weaken the rule that governs against human-health-based toxins would not adequately protect Floridians' health. Most at risk would be children, pregnant women, and those who enjoy eating a significant amount of local fish and seafood.
Every three years, the state must review the quality of all Florida waters. (This is a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act.) It is alarming that these proposed changes ignore such toxins as dioxin, arsenic, and mercury, and they are contradictory to boot. After all, Florida has been concerned about the amount of mercury in our fish for some time.
Carcinogenic toxins – an allowable, safe level thereof in water for drinking, shell-fishing, fishing/swimming – would mostly increase. Florida's existing formula for toxic criteria, also followed by most states, is based on the same one used by the EPA, which uses a national average for fish consumption. Floridians eat far more fish than the national average, studies find. Even with that knowledge, the state has the audacity to propose changes that would weaken current protection of our water from toxic chemicals, including: benzene, chlordane, PCBs, chloroform, carbon-tetrachloride, bromoform, tetrachloroethene , chlordane, and dieldrin.
Many other toxics would be regulated in Florida for the first time but at levels that are significantly less stringent than recommended by the federal EPA. Those are scary chemicals. Why would citizens tolerate the state's audacity to even propose such changes?
In the same sweeping revisions, Florida proposes to shift the number of water samples taken to detect pollutants. Annual averaging samples would be used for many of these toxins – making it easier to mask problems.
Then consider tourism, a core strength of Florida's economy. The state and businesses that spend big bucks to lure vacationers here. These visitors would be exposed, too, but we'd never know the effects of such exposure. Should we tell them in our ads that Florida waters and fish may be hazardous to their health?
More cancer-causing chemicals in our waters will not build a stronger economy. It will not improve our tarnished image. It will not provide a safe and healthy environment for our children. Allowing more carcinogens to be dumped in our rivers and bays essentially amounts to an involuntary cancer-lottery for anyone who eats local fish and seafood and for all of our wildlife.
I share the state's goal of maintaining a business-friendly environment. But per the comment about compromising tourism and visitors, doesn't a business-friendly environment square with public health and healthy wildlife, rivers and estuaries? A recent University of Florida survey revealed that 93% of respondents rated clean drinking water as their top concern.
I share that concern. In fact, I am alarmed. To object to the Scott administration's plans, contact the governor's office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850/488-7146. In addition, contact the six ERC members to let them know your thoughts on this matter. They will vote on these changes today. Their votes will be crucial if it weakens a benchmark of water quality. They can be reached at Kay.Buchanan@dep.state.fl.us Dick Batchelor, the president of a business-development consulting firm in Orlando, is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, and Environment Regulation Commission Chair, 1991-97.
130423-g Wedgefield seeks exemption from county wetlands rules, threatening Econ River
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
April 23, 2013
To the growing alarm of environmentalists, Florida lawmakers are trying to strip Orange County of its ability to protect wetlands in Wedgefield, a suburban community set among soggy pine and cypress forests along the Econlockhatchee River.
Arguing that it is sufficiently regulated by other agencies, the community's drainage district has been able to insert language into bills now before the Legislature to do away with Orange County's authority over wetlands within Wedgefield.
Several environmental groups are opposed because of potential harm to the river. "This bill is a wrecking ball for the Econlockhatchee River," said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida. "Hire the right lobbying firm, promise the right campaign contributions, and you can destroy any river."
The Econ, a designated Outstanding Florida Water, flows north for 36 miles from Osceola County across east Orange County and into Seminole County, where it joins the St. Johns River.
A tributary of the Econ — the Little Econlockhatchee River — has already been heavily damaged by decades of growth spreading outward from Orlando. The remainder of the Econ system has been the focus of costly protection efforts undertaken by local and state agencies; the St. Johns River Water Management District alone has spent nearly $60 million to buy and protect nearly 16,000 acres buffering the Econ.
Unlike the better-known Wekiva River to the north of Orlando, the Econlockhatchee doesn't draw large numbers of canoeists and kayakers, but it is still revered for its serpentine bends, high banks, extensive sandbars and canopied scenery.
Wedgefield, less than 20 miles east of Orlando, has been developing ever so slowly since the 1970s, when it was known as Rocket City and marketed to those working in the U.S. space program. Fewer than half of the community's 5,600 home lots have been purchased.
"I'm just trying to keep these taxpayers from having to pay double, paying more and more and more," said Cecil Davis, general manager of the Ranger Drainage District, a homeowner-funded agency created in 1970 to channel Wedgefield's water runoff into the Econ.
The drainage district's authority to manage runoff from the 15-square-mile community stems largely from a permit issued by the St. Johns water district in 1981, when wetlands protection was less comprehensive than it is today. The permit, which does not have a specific expiration date, authorizes construction of levees, berms, canals, ditches, lakes and dams, and requires measures such as erosion prevention.
"We didn't have wetlands protections that we need now back in 1981," said state Rep. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat who is attempting to derail the drainage district's proposed exemption.
"Times have changed, and we need these Orange County regulations because Wedgefield is sitting on the edge of an Outstanding Water," she said. "They are directly able to affect the Econ." Alan Marshall, spokesman for Orange County's environmental-protection division, said the county has tried to convince lawmakers that no other agency duplicates the county's wetlands protections in Wedgefield.
The matter should concern many Central Floridians, Marshall said, because the wetlands threatened by the proposed exemption filter waters that eventually flow into the St. Johns River.
"We look at whether impacts to wetlands can be avoided or minimized to preserve as much of that wetlands function as possible," Marshall said.
The exemption for Ranger Drainage District is contained in two bills (HB 999 and SB 1684) now in advanced stages of review.
Stewart said she has asked Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, to remove the exemption from his bill. But Patronis told the Sentinel the provision had been solidly supported in committee.
"Bills in the Legislature that have environmental problems don't get votes," Patronis said. "I've worked very hard to give all parties a seat at the table."
Meanwhile, environmental groups hope to persuade the sponsor of the other bill, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, to remove the exemption. "I'm aware of some of the concerns," Altman said, referring to issues raised about the health of wetlands and the river. "I share some of those concerns."
130422-a Despite petition, Legislature to do nothing to help springs this year
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
April 22, 2013
Although thousands of Florida voters signed a petition demanding action, the Legislature will not pass any bills aimed at restoring and protecting the state's iconic springs this year, according to the chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.
The reason, according to Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, is that state regulators are already setting what are called "minimum flows and levels" for the major springs, an effort he said should take another year and a half and help legislators figure out what further assistance might be needed.
"I thought it was best to let them move forward with that," Caldwell said, explaining Department of Environmental Protection officials "came and told me … they'd like to be able to finish that."
But setting minimum flows and levels, or MFLs for short, does little to help springs, according to Jim Stevenson, who headed the Florida Springs Task Force under former Gov. Jeb Bush.
One reason why: The MFL standard is based on avoiding what the law calls "significant harm," as opposed to avoiding any harm at all.
"The MFLs will not protect spring flow," Stevenson said. "If the Legislature really wanted to help the springs, they would take that word 'significant' out."
Florida's springs are suffering. Many are thick with toxic algae blooms fed by increasing nitrate pollution. Compounding the problem is a decline in their flow that in some cases resulted in them sputtering out completely. And geologists have found a disturbing increase in saltiness in a few freshwater springs, which could signal future problems with the state's drinking supply.
The springs initiative begun under Bush led to the state's purchase and preservation of thousands of acres that could have been developed or otherwise contributed to the pollution of the aquifer. But the Bush group's recommendations for new laws were ignored by the Legislature — except for one involving septic tank inspections, which was passed and then repealed before it took effect.
Something similar happened with the MFL law. The Legislature decreed more than 30 years ago that state regulators should set minimum flows and levels for major waterways across Florida. The idea was to figure out how much more those rivers, springs and lakes can be drained for water supply purposes before causing "significant" environmental problems.
But the five water management districts and the DEP have been slow to carry out that law. So far, MFLs have been set for 22 of the state's 1,000 springs, with another 26 scheduled to be finished this year, according to DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie. Another 23 are slated for 2014.
Wakulla Springs, the largest in the state, has never had an MFL set by the Northwest Florida Water Management District. The district had been scheduled to set one in 2012 but failed, and earlier this year the agency requested permission to put off setting the limits for another 11 years.
When the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, proposed levels for the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers in 2011, it made residents along those rivers skeptical about the whole minimum-flow program. Ron Miller, vice president of the Homosassa River Alliance, labeled it "a statewide project to create a map of water sources available for development" that will "lead to the destruction of our already impacted springs, rivers and lakes."
And Marty Kelly, who was in charge of the river flow project for Swiftmud, conceded that the law on setting minimum flows doesn't provide for any guard against gradual damage from increased pumping: "You're either significantly harmed or you're not."
Don't expect the Legislature to take the word "significant" out, said Caldwell, a real estate appraiser.
Setting a minimum flow that prevented any harm would mean "you'd have to remove any development adjacent to the springs," Caldwell said. "We have to take the straws out of the ground. That might require putting on a statewide development moratorium to protect the springs — but I think that's politically infeasible."
Still, Caldwell said, "If we don't do something, we're going to keep drawing it down until there's nothing left of it altogether."
Bills were filed in the House and Senate this year calling for the water districts to draw up plans for saving the springs and issue orders to make those plans happen. Neither bill ever got out of committee.
White Springs Mayor Helen Miller, who has spearheaded efforts by a coalition of North Florida government officials to get the state to better protect springs, said she was disappointed in the failure to act, especially since 15,000 people signed petitions calling for greater state protection for the springs.
"The will of the people should count for something," Miller said. The failure to act shows that "on the state level we have a dearth of leadership on water issues."
130422-b Face lift for Conservancy of Southwest Florida
WFTX-TV – Fox4now.com - by Warren Wright
April 22, 2013
NAPLES, Fla. - A $20 million face lift is bring new life to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. Four In Your Corner's Warren Wright takes us to the grand re-opening that offers a hands on environmental learning experience for kids and adults.
"Its really cool!", 9-year-old Morgan Connel likes the new museum and believes she's learned a lot. "There are animals that are endangered and there aren't many left."
The whole mission of the Conservancy is to protect the water, land and wildlife of the region with its nature walks, wildlife hospital, research facility and nature boat rides. The new campus is able to better educate the public on why everyone should care.
Barbara Wilson with the Conservancy said, "The environment is so tied especially to Florida's economy because its so tourist driven and one of the missions we do is about protecting the water here and so If the water is polluted and dirty you're not going to have the tourists come here."
One of the Conservancy programs is getting middle school students engaged in learning about clean water, taking them out on field trips and getting them to do the testing.
Student Jonathan Scipel said, "They're fun, its hands on and you get to be with other kids."
That hands on approach is critical in getting more people to understand just how critical it is to keep nature in balance.
130422-c House favors land programs, Senate favors water projects in budget standoff
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
April 22, 2013
House and Senate budget negotiators remained apart on budget issues including conservation payments to rural landowners, the Florida Forever land-buying program and water projects.
The two sides agreed to meet again Tuesday at 8 a.m.
The House was favoring more spending on land programs while the Senate favored spending on local water projects. The House proposes $42.7 million while the Senate proposes $71.8 million for water projects.
"At the end of the day I'm hoping we can be somewhere in the middle," said Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula and chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.
Asked whether the major issues will get bumped to the House and Senate appropriations chairs, Albritton said, "We still have a lot of time before 8 o'clock in the morning. I hope we'll be able to get some things resolved before then."
The House proposes spending $75 million on the Florida Forever land-buying program and the Senate proposes $60 million. Both include $50 million from the sale of existing state land.
The two sides also remain apart on the Rural and Family Lands conservation easements, a program at the Florida Forest Service. The House approved $25 million, while the Senate, which originally approved $1 million, is now offering to spend $10 million.
"At this point it seems neither side is willing to move," said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. "We've moved on the rural lands (conservation easements) towards them. They haven't come toward us any at all. It's more likely going to be a leadership issue (to resolve)."
One issue that is emerging as a difference among the two sides is proviso language that would govern spending on the petroleum contamination site cleanups.
The budgets would hold back varying amounts and require reports on the cleanup program.
The department had supported program changes in SB 1416 but the bill appears dead. Some language from the bill appeared as new language Monday proposed for SB 1502 implementing bill.
Among the major areas where they remain apart:
* Beach restoration projects: House $20.2 million: Senate $33.6 million (Not including carryover from 2012-13)
* Florida Agricultural promotion campaign: House $4.0 million; Senate $0
* Everglades restoration: House $44 million; Senate $70 million
* Water management districts land acquisition: House $29.3 million; Senate $23.8 million
* Hybrid wetlands treatment projects: House $5.5 million; Senate $1 million
* Wildlife Foundation of Florida: House $1 million; Senate $0.
Related Current: Policy Note: Health Care Budget (04/23/13) Florida's BP lawsuit (04/23/13) Policy Note: Oil and Gas Production (04/23/13) Policy Note: Environment Budget (04/23/13) Policy Note: Economic Development Budget (04/23/13)
130422-d Local environmentalists laud Earth Day's message
April 22, 2013
The first Earth Day dawned at a time when “green” was slang for cash and recycling and the Environmental Protection Agency were new additions to the nation’s vocabulary.
Environmentally speaking, there’s been a lot of water — some clean and some very polluted — under the proverbial bridge since the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970. It was the month the Beatles broke up. Nixon was president and some men still wore Nehru jackets. And of course, there was Vietnam. People flashed peace signs, installed awful green shag carpet in their living rooms and grooved to The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.”
But they also worried about the bad air they were breathing and the industrial sludge fouling their beaches. The time was ripe for a environmental movement to blossom. And every year since that first observance, Earth Day has served to focus the public’s attention on the threats confronting a fragile planet.
Today, climate change, the BP oil spill, sustainability, pesticide-free veggies and renewable energy are mainstream topics. So is fracking, the controversial method of injecting a devil’s brew of chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas, as well as dwindling wildlife, the worry over genetically-modified food and hopes for Everglades restoration.
We can thank Earth Day and four decades of activism, public awareness and government regulations for the discussion.
But like anything older than 40, you may wonder if Earth Day is still hip. Is it still relevant?
Has the in-your-face message of Earth Day’s founders to get active to save the planet lost its edge with annual events that stress Mother Nature’s plight, but also feature face-painting for the kids, commercial opportunities for “green” businesses, and microphones for government officials and corporations?
Turns out, according to activists in the Pensacola area, Earth Day and its original mission of education and activism is sorely needed because all is not well on the environmental front.
“I think Earth Day is as relevant as ever, considering the fact that the dirty fuel industries are slowly chipping away at the air we breathe, water we drink and the food we eat,” said activist Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Hands Across the Sand, Hands Across the Land. “The most important thing we can do as humans is lessen our dependence on dirty fuels and embrace clean energy, and that’s the only thing that will save Earth.”
Rauschkolb, 51, said he remembers when Earth Day began, and said the buzz words at the time were “pollution” and “ecology.” Now he says he has seen so much change and is hopeful for a future where alternative energy sources can overtake fossil fuels as a means to power the world. Enid Sisskin, an environmental health and public health educator at the University of West Florida, says if anything, Earth Day dispels the false impression that laws such as the Clean Air Act and agencies like the EPA have environmental concerns under control.
“The problem is that polluters and corporations are spending a lot of money to confuse and hide the facts. The climate is changing, and not in a good way, and we’re eating large amounts of antibiotics in our food ... fracking is potentially very dangerous and barely regulated, overconsumption is using up resources unsustainably. And because of the disinformation campaign, people don’t ‘believe in science’ anymore,” said Sisskin, who also is producer of the popular “EcoMinute” segment broadcast on WUWF. Sava Varazo, director of the Pensacola-based environmental group Emerald Coastkeeper, credits Earth Day with increasing the number of environmental nonprofits, both in Pensacola and across the country. He added that when he went to school in the 1960s, these issues were rarely talked about or taught.
“That didn’t used to happen when I came up. I didn’t have anybody talking to me (about environmental issues) when I was growing up,” he says.
Getting the public interested in the environment must remain Earth Day’s thrust, said Christian Wagley, the owner of Sustainable Town Concepts, a green construction consulting firm.
“The main component is education, and there is always a need for more education to better understand the issues surrounding our natural environment, ” he says. Matthew Schwartz, chairman of UWF’s Environmental Studies department, said Earth Day fosters public awareness of “the economic, psychological and philosophical value that the natural environment provides.”
“By providing a forum for our community to highlight those values while also noting risks to them, Earth Day remains an important focal point of the environmental community; however, it also allows the broader (non-environmental) community at large to stop and recognize how the natural world affects our daily life,” Schwartz says.
Activists live Earth Day every day, but they have no issue with the public getting focused on environmental issues with annual events such as those occurring in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach today through Monday.
“What a lot of us who work to protect the environment think about daily, most people don’t think about hardly at all,” Sisskin says. “The Earth Day festivals are a way to bring the issue to mind at least once a year. Also at these festivals, there is information about local and national environmental issues, demonstrations and vendors of green products, and most importantly activities for children who will be the consumers and decision-makers of the future.”
130422-e Pinellas beginning to assess risks of sea-level rise
TBO.com - Tampa Tribune – by Chrostopher O’Donnell
April 22, 2013
CLEARWATER - Despite warnings from scientists, rising sea levels still seem little more than a distant, imperceptible threat, a phenomenon whose change is measured in centimeters over decades.
Nowhere is that reflected more than in peninsular Florida, where cities and counties continue to approve hundreds of luxury homes, hotels and condos on exposed barrier islands and slowly receding coastlines.
In the past two years, though, widespread flooding from Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Sandy has prompted a growing realization among planners that government agencies can no longer ignore rising sea levels, which scientists warn will result in destruction of habitat, loss of farmland, increased salt-water intrusion and more severe and frequent flooding.
In Hillsborough County, officials from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council are working with researchers from the University of Florida and hoping to prove that investing in preventive planning will save millions of dollars in flood mitigation in years to come. In South Florida, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties have formed a compact to collaborate on planning and responses to rising seas and extreme weather.
Pinellas County officials recently began a study to identify what parts of the county are most vulnerable to sea-level rise.
“From there, we’ll begin to see what Pinellas County government can do to address the vulnerabilities that affect the service we deliver and the infrastructure of the county,” said Larry Arrington, the county’s director of strategic planning and initiatives.
Counties and cities are still a long way from adopting politically difficult policies such as restricting development in coastal areas. In fact, the North Carolina General Assembly last year passed a bill prohibiting state planners from considering rising sea levels in coastal planning.
Nevertheless, the recently released report from the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee warned that state and local governments in coastal areas need to start preparing for the effects of climate change, particularly rising sea levels.
“You can see they are encouraging all levels of government to begin studying the issues better as they impact on a local basis,” said Arrington.
Sea level rise is not new. Worldwide, the mean sea level has risen by about 3.5 inches since the 1950s, said Don Chambers, an associate professor in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and an expert on the physics of sea-level rise.
Scientists are predicting that the melting of glaciers and of ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica from global warming will accelerate that process, said Chambers.
Estimates of how much the sea will rise vary, but even conservative projections point to mean sea level rising by about 3 feet by the end of the century, Chambers said.
That may sound far off, but the effects will likely be felt much sooner.
Higher tides will accelerate erosion of beaches and the deterioration of sea walls, raps and groins. Salt water will penetrate deeper into groundwater, making freshwater springs undrinkable and causing more backflows of sewage systems.
Flooding from storm surges and high-tide events will become more frequent, too.
“It’s not going to be an isolated event,” Chambers said. “It will be every single year.”
Sea-level rise would seem to be a global problem and beyond the resources of local governments to solve.
However, researchers at the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction and Planning are working on strategies that coastal communities can adopt to limit damage and ensure essential services continue to operate.
The study upon which Pinellas officials have embarked is a necessary first step to identify the schools; roads; hospitals; infrastructure, such as sewers and water plants, and emergency-service providers that are most vulnerable, said Zhong-Ren Peng, a University of Florida professor of urban and regional planning.
After that, the decisions get difficult.
As the threat of flooding becomes more apparent, coastal communities will have to make decisions about which areas of the coastline will need to be protected, he said.
Coastal communities may have to designate coastal land as not suitable for development, despite the wishes of land owners.
Cities and counties could even be forced to buy back properties in vulnerable areas, Peng said. That could be cheaper than continuing to provide utilities and services in flood-prone areas.
Peng is one year into a project centered on the Tampa Bay region, examining the economic impact of sea level rise. He also hopes to produce a model to help government agencies calculate whether investment in infrastructure such as sea walls and the loss of revenue from limiting coastline development will save money in the long run.
“In the end, it [local government] has the authority to do coastal planning and zoning,” he said. “[The] federal government will not micromanage it on that level.”
Making the changes necessary to protect communities from sea-level rise likely will be a hard sell.
Counties and cities would lose out on potential property tax revenues in the short-term if they limit development. Developers and businesses that benefit from tourism are likely to fight zoning changes that block coastline development, a concern that was reflected at a recent Pinellas County Commission meeting.
“We want to still make sure that we create jobs and we have economic development,” said Commissioner Karen Seel. “If you’re putting the word out there that the sky is falling down and we’re going to sink into the ocean, it has an impact on our tourists and it has an impact on our economy.”
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a few larger cities have already begun taking steps to protect services from severe weather events, said Kathryn Frank, an assistant professor in the department of urban and regional planning at the University of Florida.
That includes New York, which is paying for subway improvements to prevent a repeat of the flooding from Sandy that ground many subway lines to a halt.
So far, though, most coastal communities have yet to spend significantly on mitigating sea-level rise, Frank said.
That may only change when repeated flooding and other damage makes coastal development no longer viable.
“We have been doing things that increase our vulnerability for a financial gain,” she said. “At some point it will be very difficult to afford it the costs will become more apparent.”
a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and Environment Regulation Commission Chair,
130421-a Pollution-friendly water changes are wrong
News-Press.com – Guest Opinion by Dick Batchelor
April 21, 2013
How well does the state maintain its waters? We’re aware of too much pollution; not enough oversight; lots of finger-pointing and too-few hands that are willing to do the heavy lifting, politically speaking. But we don’t often consider the potentially lethal consequences of politically expedient decisions.
Now, Rick Scott’s environmental agency (DEP) is proposing more pollution-friendly changes to our water-quality standards. These would adversely affect drinking water sources, the fish that we consume and, the lakes and rivers in which we swim.
As a former member of Florida’s environmental rule-making body, the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission, I know the existing standards were not arrived at easily or casually. They were debated for many months when all affected parties were invited to contribute their ideas and concerns — and believe me, they did contribute. The new changes would be significant because many are less stringent than the bare minimum recommended by EPA and existing standards in Alabama.
The proposal to weaken the rule that governs against human-health-based toxins would not adequately protect Floridians’ health. Most at risk would be children, pregnant women, and those who enjoy eating a significant amount of local fish and seafood.
Every three years, the state must review the quality of all Florida waters. (This is a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act.) It is alarming that these proposed changes ignore such toxins as dioxin, arsenic, and mercury, and they are contradictory to boot. After all, Florida has been concerned about the amount of mercury in our fish for some time.
Carcinogenic toxins — an allowable, safe level thereof in water for drinking, shell-fishing, fishing/swimming — would mostly increase. Florida’s existing formula for toxic criteria, also followed by most states, is based on the same one used by the EPA, which uses a national average for fish consumption.
Naturally, Floridians eat far more fish than the national average, studies find. Even with that knowledge, the state has the audacity to propose changes that would weaken current protection of our water from toxic chemicals, including: benzene, chlordane, PCBs, chloroform, carbon-tetrachloride, bromoform, tetrachloroethene , chlordane and dieldrin.
Many other toxics would be regulated in Florida for the first time but at levels that are significantly less stringent than recommended by the federal EPA. Those are scary chemicals. Why would citizens — and I am concerned not only about my health but also the health of family and friends — tolerate the state’s audacity to even propose such changes?
In the same sweeping revisions, Florida proposes to shift the number of water samples taken to detect pollutants. Annual “averaging” samples would be used for many of these toxins —making it easier to mask problems. I’m suspicious, aren’t you? Does the state intend to make it easier to mask problems?
Then consider tourism, a core strength of Florida’s economy. The state and businesses (think of beachside resorts, hotels, car-rental companies — the list is endless) that spend big bucks to lure vacationers here. These visitors would be exposed, too, but we’d never know the effects of such exposure. Should we tell them in our ads that Florida waters and fish may be hazardous to their health?
More cancer-causing chemicals in our waters will not build a stronger economy. It will not improve our tarnished image. It will not provide a safe and healthy environment for our children. Allowing more carcinogens to be dumped in our rivers and bays essentially amounts to an involuntary cancer-lottery for anyone who eats local fish and seafood and for all of our wildlife.
I share the state’s goal of maintaining a business-friendly environment. Yes, indeed! But per the comment about compromising tourism and visitors, doesn’t a business-friendly environment square with public health and healthy wildlife, rivers and estuaries? A recent University of Florida survey revealed that 93 percent of respondents rated clean drinking water as their top concern.
The six Florida Environmental Commission members will vote on these changes April 23. Their votes will be crucial if it weakens a benchmark of water quality.
To object to the Scott administration’s plans, contact the governor's office at email@example.com or 850-488-7146 Dick Batchelor is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and Environment Regulation Commission Chair, 1991-97.
The C.W. Bill Young
Regional Reservoir is
offline for renovations.
The reservoir can hold
15.5 billion gallons and
supplies the region with
water during dry times
130421-b Tampa Bay Water asks public to reduce water use
TBNweekly.com – by Suzette Porter
April 21, 2013
CLEARWATER - Tampa Bay Water officials are asking the public to reduce water use as much as possible.
The agency, which provides wholesale drinking water to Tampa, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, as well as Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, announced April 17 that it is in a Phase 4 water status, under the agencies modified Water Shortage Mitigation Plan. Alison Adams, spokesperson for TBW, said the Phase 4 designation is part of a system to monitor of supply and demand.
“It has to do with supply availability, water supply readiness,” she explained “With the reservoir out of service, and as dry as it is now, we have no surface water, which is why we have a level 4 water supply shortage.”
Phase 4 is the highest alert, signifying a critical shortage due to the lack of surface water.
Water levels in the Alafia River and Tampa Bypass Canal remain well below permit threshold limits, meaning there is no river water available for the regional surface water system. Officials estimate that system will be offline until the rainy season begins, typically in June.
Drinking water supplies are currently sufficient to meet the needs of customers. However, everyone, who receives drinking water from TBW, needs to conserve as much as possible.
TBW wants the public to be aware and to curtail unnecessary use of water, especially outdoors, Adams said.
“If it’s raining outside, for heaven’s sake, go out and turn off your system (sprinklers),” she said.
She advised residents to make sure sprinklers are watering lawns and landscapes, not sidewalks or streets.
“We want people to have a high degree of awareness that Florida’s spring is different than other eastern states,” she said. “This is not the time to plant or to get a lot of new stuff, which needs water.”
Adams encourages residents to follow the modified Phase III water restrictions issued in February by Southwest Florida Water Management District. These restrictions limit lawn and landscape watering to one day a week, according to street address. No watering is allowed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
TBW is not responsible for setting restrictions or enforcement activities, Adams said. Southwest Florida Water Management District sets the level of restrictions based on regional needs. Local government is responsible for enforcement per Swiftmud requirements.
Adams reminded residents that watering violations would result in fines. Pinellas County Utilities Customers are fined $193, even for first-time violations, per Swiftmud rules.
In addition, under current water restrictions, fountains can operate only four hours a day. Vehicle washing is limited to once a week on the designated watering day. Restaurants can only serve water upon request.
October to March was the 11th driest in the past 119 years for the state’s Division 4, which includes Pinellas County and Tampa Bay, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The six-month period was the driest October through March since 2009 with the division receiving, on average, rainfall of less than 9.5 inches.
According to the drought severity index issued April 13 by the Climate Prediction Center, much of the state, including Tampa Bay, is experiencing severe drought conditions. Long-time indicators don’t show relief coming anytime soon.
Meanwhile, TBW will continue to use its Seawater Desalination Plant that is producing 20 million gallons of drinking water daily. Adams said the agency also had stepped up pumping from groundwater supplies, but remained within regulated levels. The reservoir is currently undergoing renovations and is offline.
Regional water supply demands averaged about 230 million gallons per day in March, with 87.4 percent coming from groundwater and 12 percent from the desalination plant. On average, TBW pumps 86 million gallons of water per day from its consolidated wellfield. Its permit allows 90 mgd. Water Conservation Month TBW officials also remind the public that April is Water Conservation Month, which coincides with what is typically one of the driest months of the year.
On top of observing watering restrictions, the public is urged to add other water conservation practices, such as using a hose nozzle to prevent water waste and skipping watering days during or after a rain.
TBW has a new online tool to help the residents stay aware of their designated watering day. Visit www.tampabaywater.org/watersmarter and enter a zip code to be directed to the rules for a specific area. The site also has do-it-yourself tips to help lower water use.
“Water use in our area spikes during the spring dry season,” said David Bracciano, demand management coordinator for Tampa Bay Water. “In fact, up to 50 percent of all water used ends up on lawns.”
According to Pinellas County Utilities, most of the year, Florida lawns need only about one inch of water per week. Overwatering can damage a lawn by promoting shallow root systems and an increase in dollarweed, chinch bugs or excessive thatch.
Pinellas County Extension advocates irrigating lawns as needed instead of on a schedule. A lawn needs water when the leaf blades start to fold in half lengthwise, when the grass begins to look bluish or when footprints remain visible long after they were made. When about 50 percent of the lawn shows signing of needing water is the time to irrigate, unless rain if forecast within the next 24 hours.
In addition, Floridians are encouraged to use plants that don’t require as much water. Extension offers a number of programs on Florida-friendly landscaping. For more information, visit pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu/FFL/index.shtml.
For a list of water conservation tips, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/green/water.html.
130421-c Water is on Florida's mind this Earth Day
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
April 21, 2013
Monday is Earth Day — and three years to the day since the flame-engulfed Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP blowout killed 11 rig workers, released more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf and gave added meaning to the annual environmental holiday.
But as scientists continue to examine the Gulf for damage from the 2010 oil spill, Florida has refocused its concern on other waters in trouble, including Central Florida's ailing Indian River Lagoon, the Panhandle's shriveling Apalachicola River, South Florida's polluted Lake Okeechobee and algae-infested springs across the state's northern half.
The spew of BP crude into the Gulf went on for 87 days, but there's no end in sight to the degradation of many springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries in Florida.
"In both cases, you had these things in common," said former Florida Gov. Bob Graham. "The Gulf of Mexico belongs to the people of America. The springs and streams in Florida belong to the people of Florida. Second, you were dealing with a very aggressive industry that wanted to use those two public assets — and a very compliant regulator who was not enforcing the standards aggressively. The result of those two things is that the property that belongs to you and me and all Floridians and all Americans got very badly trashed."
Earth Day and the BP spill may remain linked for a long time. Just last week, student activists at the University of Central Florida celebrated the international holiday by protesting the nation's largest offshore oil spill.
"It's really bad we are relying on offshore drilling," said sophomore Steven Carrion as senior Olga Tomasello slipped into a chemical suit and displayed a toy shark smudged with black paint. "We are holding a mock oil spill," she said.
Which is the worst disaster for Florida, the oil spill or the decline of state waters?
Florida's waters are probably the bigger challenge, said U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park.
"It's not an easy one to solve," he said. "We are encouraging more people to come and we are building more houses. We've got runoff from roads, containing oil and gas from cars. We are anal about fertilizing our lawns, about pest control, and all the chemicals and prescription medications that get flushed down toilets."
Mica, a proponent of drilling for energy on land and offshore, and Graham, a co-chairman of the presidential commission that investigated the BP spill and founder of the Florida Conservation Coalition, were among current and former government officials asked by the Orlando Sentinel to compare lessons learned from the Gulf spill and Florida's sick waters. John Hankinson, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator and, until his recent retirement, executive director of the EPA Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, said the Gulf hadn't gotten much respect before the BP spill stained the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
"It's been this workhorse water body, which also happens to be very beautiful," Hankinson said. "Hopefully, this is going to result in people having a little more appreciation that all of the insults to the Gulf matter."
130420-a Anti-environment bills: Florida's road to ruin
April 20, 2013
Far-reaching legislation that would relax or eliminate a long list of critical environmental regulations is winding its way rapidly through both chambers of the Florida Legislature and, worryingly, is stirring little debate among lawmakers, let alone resistance.
The two bills, Senate Bill 1684 and House Bill 999, which are similar, are well along in the legislative process. HB 999 cleared the last of its committees — State Affairs — with a unanimous vote Tuesday. SB1684 makes its final committee stop next Tuesday — Appropriations.
This progress though the House and Senate is remarkable not only because of the depth of the rollbacks in environmental regulation they propose but because of the breadth of the environmental landscape they cover.
Among the regulatory protections these bills would remove or greatly relax are:
Wetland permitting - Water permitting - Marina development - Development permitting - Air pollution permitting - Water-management-board authority -
Water sampling and testing.
In all, each bill is more than 40 pages long and would seriously weaken environmental laws — something that has become an annual ritual during this the pro-business, anti-regulation, people-and-state-ambivalent era in Tallahassee.
LONG, DESTRUCTIVE AGENDA
Consider some of the specifics:
On water, these bills would dictate how water management boards rule on cases of competing water permits.
They also would prohibit cities and counties from passing any local ordinances or laws regulating water wells — which are countless in Polk, a county whose size is that of a small state.
Laws that now require water permit holders to reduce their groundwater allotment if an alternative supply becomes available would no longer apply, allowing the user to pump both the aquifer and the alternative supply permit.
As for development, the bills inexplicably would limit the number of times counties or cities could "request additional information" from the permit-seeker to three.
That's right, they could only go back to the developer three times seeking additional information about the project, no matter how big or complex it is.
Uncooperative or devious developers would have a field day running out the clock.
The proposals also would remove man-made lakes, ponds or drainage areas in "upland" areas from any sort of regulation, while all but eviscerating regulations for disrupting wetland areas.
ATTACK ON FLORIDA'S ENVIRONMENT
What is particularly concerning about these bills, besides the fact they represent a conscious and continuous dismantling of Florida's environmental-protection legacy, is that there are so many different areas covered in these oversized, overstuffed bills.
Why is marina permitting included along with development permitting and water management board guidelines?
There are virtually dozens and dozens of distinct and different regulations crammed into these bills.
"Every year, a compendium of every lobbyist's dream amendments, all strung together as if they were one real piece of legislation, comes barreling into Tallahassee as an ‘environmental train' bill," the Florida Conservation Commission wrote its members about SB 1084 and HB 999. "Pressure builds for passage as each lobbyist gets their special little amendment onboard the train ... and it gathers steam."
The fear with bills like this, Florida Audubon's Eric Draper says, is that they are like "cluster bombs."
"This has a bunch of things that will harm the environment," Draper said. "Lots and lots of impacts — not a big bomb, but lots of little bombs, like a cluster bomb going off."
Legislators in Polk County — where portions of real, original Florida can still be seen and enjoyed, and understood as a model from which developed Florida should stray as little as possible — should do everything possible to diffuse these reckless pieces of special-interest legislation.
Florida's environment is too fragile and too important to our economy and our lifestyle to play fast and loose with it.
More than four out of
five Americans want to
prepare now for rising
seas and stronger
storms from climate
change, a new national
survey says. But most
are unwilling to keep
spending money to
restore and protect
The poll by Stanford
University released on
March 28 found that
only one in three people
favored the government
spending millions to
construct big sea walls,
replenish beaches or
pay people to leave the
130420-b Coastal cities ponder how to prepare for rising sea levels
April 2013 17:24
WASHINGTON—Americans in coastal areas, particularly on the East and Gulf coasts, will confront challenging questions in the coming years as they determine how to protect millions of people in the face of rising sea levels and more intense storms.
Should cities rebuild the boardwalks in New Jersey shore towns? Should the government discourage people from rebuilding in areas now more vulnerable to flooding? How much would it cost to protect water and sewer systems and subways and electrical substations from being inundated in the next storm?
Leaders from coastal communities along the East Coast gathered in New York City on Wednesday to talk about the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, as well as how they’ll address future sea level rising. The conference was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit, non-partisan science advocacy group.
“What we really got a glimpse at was our collective future,” said Joe Vietri, who heads coastal and storm risk management for the US Army Corps of Engineers and is heading up a comprehensive study of Sandy.
Rising sea levels caused primarily by global warming could worsen the effects of storms, such as Sandy, particularly when it comes to storm surge. Since 1992, satellites have observed a 2.25-inch rise in global sea levels.
Just before Sandy, sea-surface temperatures were about 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 30-year average for the time of year. Scientists who studied the storm determined that about 1 degree was likely a direct result of global warming.
With every degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, the atmosphere can hold 4 percent more moisture. As a result, Sandy was able to pull in more moisture, fueling a stronger storm and magnifying the amount of rainfall by as much as 5 percent to 10 percent compared with conditions more than 40 years ago.
Coupled with higher overall sea levels, the intense storm meant more water surging onshore and penetrating farther inland. The storm’s effects prompted officials in Wilmington, North Carolina, to look at its vulnerabilities if seas rise up to one meter by the end of the century.
“People are listening, people are ready to take some actions,” said Phil Prete, a senior environmental planner for the city.
The officials spent less time discussing the cause of rapid sea-level rise: how to slow the carbon emissions that are heating up the Earth and warming the oceans.
Many public officials in coastal communities, instead, are focusing on what they say are the consequences of global warming.
They have no choice, said Kristin Jacobs, mayor of Broward County, Florida, where extreme tides during Hurricane Sandy washed out portions of Fort Lauderdale’s iconic beachfront highway.
“Almost all of us are living in very low-lying areas,” she said. “There are many lessons in South Florida already learned from multiple hurricanes. We have learned from those hurricanes, we have learned to plan for the future, and we’ve learned that this is our new normal.”
The causes are also a settled question in Hoboken, New Jersey, where an estimated 500 million gallons of Hudson River water inundated the town and stayed for nearly 10 days, said Stephen Marks, Hoboken’s assistant business administrator. He called on the federal government and states to take a leadership role in addressing climate change, particularly in communities that are vulnerable to its effects.
“The debate about climate change is essentially over,” Marks said. “Hurricane Sandy settled that for, I would say, a majority of the residents in our city.”
But coastal populations are particularly vulnerable, and growing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month issued a report showing that already crowded US coastal areas will see population grow from 123 million people in 2010 to nearly 134 million people by 2020. That puts millions more people at risk from storms such as Sandy.
People may be aware of the consequences of climate change, but it hasn’t seemed to have stopped anyone from moving to the beach—or hurt property values, said Vietri, of the Army Corps of Engineers. He noted that communities suffered far less damage if there were sand dunes or other protective measures, such as substantial setbacks for homes.
“You still have communities rebuilding almost exactly where they were prior to the storm coming,” Vietri said. “You continue to have a situation where we have a tremendous population density living in high-hazard areas.”
130420-c County rejects proposed 700-foot channel dredge
KeysNet.com - by Kevin Wadlow
April 20, 2013
A controversial proposal to dredge a boating channel through a Florida Keys seagrass flat sank like a stone Thursday.
"This is plowing up the ocean bottom. There's no nicer way to put it," Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said in rejecting a plan forwarded for a 700-foot channel into private Walker's Island near Duck Key.
County commissioners unanimously agreed that a re-dredging plan laboriously crafted over several years by Little Conch Key Development Corp. does not mesh with current environmental protections and awareness. Opponents of the dredging contend approval would have set a precedent to allow dredging anywhere in the Keys.
"Conservation, preservation and restoration" has been the goal for decades, Commissioner Danny Kolhage said. "Approval of this sends a message that we're reversing what we've been doing for the last 30 years."
Developer Thomas Cirrito and land-use consultant Sandra Walters said mitigation measures and new protections would safeguard the surrounding 26-acre flat, while allowing owners of eight oceanfront units access to bring larger boats to the dock.
The channel has silted in over the decades, creating spots less than a foot deep. Seagrass has taken root. The applicants contend the project would be "re-dredging," not new dredging.
Channel "marking and signage leading to existing docks is hugely effective," Walters said. "This is better public policy than the status quo."
Marine contractors John Coffin and Rudy Krause supported the project, saying that restoring the channel would cause minimal damage to the marine ecosystem and prevent new groundings on the flat.
But environmental and Upper Keys homeowners groups weighed in against the concept of allowing dredging of channels created a half-century ago.
The proposal to create a special comprehensive land-use amendment would "allow deeper-draft boats than [the channel] ever accommodated," said Nova Southeastern University law professor Richard Grosso, who brought a contingent of legal interns to speak at the hearing at the Marathon Government Center.
Dredging in the Keys during the 1950s "seemed to make sense then but it's viewed as barbaric now," said Grosso, who used to be a county planner and helped write Monroe's land-use plan.
Fishing-guides associations submitted letters against destroying habitat needed for sportfish species.
"Fishing is our most important asset. People don't come here to play golf," environmental activist Charlie Causey said. "Absolutely every chance we get to protect seagrass and water quality, we should do it."
"They bought the property knowing the seagrass flat is there and knowing the channel is not there," said Dottie Moses of Key Largo. "Now they want to bring in their 34-foot boats."
Commissioners agreed. "If you have a channel and allow it to reach the point this has reached, you don't have a channel any more," David Rice said. "You have a seagrass meadow." Heather Carruthers suggested the property owners buy flats skiffs or kayaks. "You still have access," she said. "Just a different kind of access."
Murphy suggested they keep their larger boats at marinas.
130420-d Estimation of capture zones and drawdown at the Northwest and West Well Fields, Miami-Dade County, Florida, using an unconstrained Monte Carlo analysis: recent (2004) and proposed conditions
US Geological Survey - the USA Government news release (in WaterWorld.com)
April 201, 2013
Travel-time capture zones and drawdown for two production well fields, used for drinking-water supply in Miami-Dade County, southeastern Florida, were delineated by the U.S Geological Survey using an unconstrained Monte Carlo analysis. The well fields, designed to supply a combined total of approximately 250 million gallons of water per day, pump from the highly transmissive Biscayne aquifer in the urban corridor between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. A transient groundwater flow model was developed and calibrated to field data to ensure an acceptable match between simulated and observed values for aquifer heads and net exchange of water between the aquifer and canals. Steady-state conditions were imposed on the transient model and a post-processing backward particle-tracking approach was implemented.
Multiple stochastic realizations of horizontal hydraulic conductivity, conductance of canals, and effective porosity were simulated for steady-state conditions representative of dry, average and wet hydrologic conditions to calculate travel-time capture zones of potential source areas of the well fields. Quarry lakes, formed as a product of rock-mining activities, whose effects have previously not been considered in estimation of capture zones, were represented using high hydraulic-conductivity, high-porosity cells, with the bulk hydraulic conductivity of each cell calculated based on estimates of aquifer hydraulic conductivity, lake depths and aquifer thicknesses. A post-processing adjustment, based on calculated residence times using lake outflows and known lake volumes, was utilized to adjust particle endpoints to account for an estimate of residence-time-based mixing of lakes. Drawdown contours of 0.1 and 0.25 foot were delineated for the dry, average, and wet hydrologic conditions as well. In addition, 95-percent confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for the capture zones and drawdown contours to delineate a zone of uncertainty about the median estimates. Results of the Monte Carlo simulations indicate particle travel distances at the Northwest Well Field (NWWF) and West Well Field (WWF) are greatest to the west, towards the Everglades. The man-made quarry lakes substantially affect particle travel distances. In general near the NWWF, the capture zones in areas with lakes were smaller in areal extent than capture zones in areas without lakes. It is possible that contamination could reach the well fields quickly, within 10 days in some cases, if it were introduced into lakes nearest to supply wells, with one of the lakes being only approximately 650 feet from the nearest supply well. In addition to estimating drawdown and travel-time capture zones of 10, 30, 100, and 210 days for the NWWF and the WWF under more recent conditions, two proposed scenarios were evaluated with Monte Carlo simulations: the potential hydrologic effects of proposed Everglades groundwater seepage mitigation and quarry-lake expansion. The seepage mitigation scenario included the addition of two proposed anthropogenic features to the model: (1) an impermeable horizontal flow barrier east of the L-31N canal along the western model boundary between the Everglades and the urban areas of Miami-Dade County, and (2) a recharge canal along the Dade-Broward Levee near the NWWF. Capture zones and drawdown for the WWF were substantially affected by the addition of the barrier, which eliminates flow from the western boundary into the active model domain, shifting the predominant capture zone source area from the west more to the north and south. The 95-percent CI for the 210-day capture zone moved slightly in the NWWF as a result of the recharge canal. The lake-expansion scenario incorporated a proposed increase in the number and surface area of lakes by an additional 25 square miles. This scenario represents a 150-percent increase from the 2004 lake surface area near both well fields, but with the majority of increase proposed near the NWWF. The lake-expansion scenario substantially decreased the extent of the 210-day capture zone of the NWWF, which is limited to the lakes nearest the well field under proposed conditions.
For more information please visit: http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/
Dr. Dennis Odero
of the University of
Research & Education
Center in Belle Glade
examines a common
lambsquarters weed in
a field of sweet corn
where herbicide has not
been applied. Odero
works to figure out the
best time to apply
chemicals in order to
combat weeds among
Palm Beach Post)
130420-e Scientists at Belle Glade center work to combat pests, diseases and weeds
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
April 20, 2013
BELLE GLADE — South Florida homeowners are familiar with weeds, insects and diseases that can ruin a once-beautiful lawn.
Imagine trying to solve those types of problems when they are spread throughout 400,000 acres of sugar cane and vegetables in Palm Beach County. Here, it’s not just about appearance, but about livelihoods in the county’s agricultural industry, with a $2.7 billion annual economic impact.
The scientists at the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade have been coming to the rescue of farmers and their crops throughout South Florida for decades.
Established in 1921 as the Everglades Experiment Station, the center is one of UF’s oldest centers. Armed with doctorate degrees in a variety of disciplines from agronomy to entomology, the 13 faculty members along with 54 staff members work to help keep agriculture profitable and sustainable. Its budget is $4.1 million a year.
Rob Gilbert, a sugar cane expert at the center since 2000 who was named director a year ago, said agriculture in the Glades was not productive until around 1928. That’s when R.V. Allison, the first head of the research center, found that the rich organic soil had plenty of nitrogen but lacked micronutrients such as boron, zinc, copper and manganese.
“Before the researchers figured out what the soil lacked, farmers could not grow vegetables or sugar cane,” Gilbert said.
The mucklands are the result of the Everglades “River of Grass” being drained decades ago, leaving the soil that was once underwater exposed. The muck began oxidizing and is being eaten by microbes every day. The disappearance of the soil, known as subsidence, is not caused by farming, but is the result of the soil drying out.
Allison recognized what was occurring, and compared the soil to “the cake which we cannot eat and keep at the same time.”
The researchers have helped farmers develop “best management practices,” which have helped slow the rate of soil subsidence to a half inch a year. Years ago, it was disappearing at the rate of one inch a year.
“The wetter the soil, the less the oxidation rate,” Gilbert said.
In 1924, a 9-foot concrete post was driven through the muck at the center’s grounds until it hit the underlying limestone. The top of the post was level with the soil surface.
Today, the post is still there, but six feet of it is above ground. Just three feet of muck is left. On the area’s farmland, there are spots where only a few inches of muck remain and others where it’s as deep as three feet.
“In the 1970s, they said there would be no more farming by 2000,” Gilbert said.
So far that has not happened, although more work is being done to develop cane varieties that will grow on sandlands.
Palm Beach County accounts for about 75 percent of Florida’s sugar cane acreage, with the rest in Hendry and Martin counties.
Researchers continue to work to fight sugar cane pests and diseases. Finding a solution to fungal diseases known as orange sugar cane rust and brown sugar cane rust is a top priority, Gilbert said.
Brown rust has been around since the late 1970s, and in 2007 orange rust was detected for the first time in the western hemisphere east of Belle Glade. The rust diseases damage cane leaves and impact how much sucrose the cane produces.
Scientists at the UF center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Field Station in Canal Point and the Florida Sugar Cane League in Clewiston are working together to develop new sugar cane varieties that are resistant to the rust diseases.
Agronomist Hardev Sandu’s research at the center focuses on sugar cane. Historically, one new variety — or cultivar — has been released each year, but over the last few years, five or six new ones have debuted each year. It can take 10 years or more to develop a new variety.
“Most of the previous cultivars are susceptible to diseases now, especially to rust. The perfect sugar cane should resist rust, contain lots of sucrose and produce huge amounts of cane,” Sandu said.
Weeds such as Bermuda grass can also invade sugar cane fields and ruin the crop.
Richard Raid, a plant pathologist at the center for 27 years, said research over the last few years has made it possible for sugar cane growers to be permitted to use certain fungicides that reduce losses from rust.
This season’s warm temperatures are conductive to the spread of orange rust, and about 60 percent of the fields are planted with susceptible varieties, Raid said.
“Bermuda grass is taking over the sugar cane fields,” said Calvin Odero, a weed science researcher at the center. “Right now, there are no chemicals that can selectively kill it. The only way to get rid of it is to take out the cane crop, spray the field with Roundup and leave it fallow for six months.
“Weeds will complete with your crop for light, for water and nutrients. If you don’t control the weeds in sugar cane, you won’t have a crop, especially on these organic soils,” Odero said.
Huangjun Lu, another of the center’s scientists, spends most of his time on lettuce breeding. He is trying to find a solution to bacterial leaf spot.
“This disease is very damaging. The leaves dry up like paper. They have black spots. There is no treatment,” Lu said. “In 2010 bacterial leaf spot cost million in losses. We are trying to figure out the genetics and looking for a resistant cultivar.”
Lu is also working to develop improved varieties of St. Augustine grass. Floratam, a type of St. Augustine that was initially resistant to chinch bugs, lost that resistance years ago.
“We are trying to get a better St. Augustine. It should be slow growing so it doesn’t have to be mowed as often. A darker green would be nice, and it needs to be disease resistant and resistant to chinch bugs,” Lu said.
_______________________________________________________________ University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade.
Sits on approximately 800 acres, with 420 planted in sugar cane and 45 in vegetables.
Was authorized by the Florida Legislature in 1921, but construction did not begin until two years later.
In 1928 researchers there discovered that micronutrients such as copper needed to be added to the muck soils.
By 1940 crops such as snap beans, cabbage, cleery, lettuce, onions and lima beans were being developed and bred specifically for the Everglades region.
The late Emil Wolf, a celery and sweet corn breeder at the center, was instrumental in the introduction of “super sweet” corn.
Work on turfgrass began in 1946 and continues today with breeding and selection of improved St. Augustine varieties.
130419-a Agency reps visit soil, water conservation projects in Jackson County
JCfloridan.com – Staff Report
April 19, 2013 6:00 pm
With farmers always looking to make the most of their resources, the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Jackson County Extension Service teamed up this Friday to offer agencies a tour of two water and soil efficient programs which assist them in that endeavor and operate in part with state funding assistance. Two farmers and 23 representatives from those two agencies and the Natural Resource Conservation Service made up the tour group.
Their first stop was at the Larry Ford farm off Willis Road north of Marianna. Ford has a center pivot irrigation system, and shared information with his visitors about the retrofitted units have helped save costs and get the most out his watering system. Retrofitting changed the way the water is delivered, so that it is dispersed at a lower volume with more event coverage via drop nozzles to provide more uniform application of the water.
Mark Miles was a featured speaker at the Ford visit. He is a team leader of the Mobile Irrigation Lab-a service of the Northwest Florida Water Management District , the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. He was there to demonstrate how the service helps growers manage their pivot system efficiencies. Farmer Jeff Pittman also visited with the tour group to share information on how the irrigation retrofit has benefited his operation.
Then, the tour group went to the North Florida Research and Education Center near Greenwood to see a long-term sod-based crop rotation project that researchers put in place there for long-term study in 2002. Drs. David Wright and Jim Marios discussed the farm-scale project, which covers 160 acres and involves the rotation of Bahia grass, cotton peanuts, and documents its success.
“It went really well,” said Jackson County Extension Director Doug Mayo, who coordinated the tour. “It gave some of the people in these agencies an opportunity to better understand these projects that they’re helping fund, and to see how the contributions are making a difference.”
130419-b Live web cam set up in Everglades
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
April 19, 2013
You can experience the Everglades -- without the mosquitoes -- via a live web cam set up at Everglades Holiday Park. EarthCam, which has set up web
cams at Times Square, the Milwaukee Zoo and other points of interest, set one up at the park's airboat dock.
But don't expect nonstop action. A recent video stream revealed parked airboats, acres of sawgrass and an occasional passing duck. But maybe the activity picks up on weekends.
Here's where to see it: http://www.earthcam.com/usa/florida/fortlauderdale/everglades .
130419-c Pro-business bills worry environmentalists
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
April 19, 2013
As the final weeks of the 2013 state legislative session wind down in Tallahassee, local and statewide environmental advocates find little to cheer and still much to worry over.
They're encouraged by a few successes they've had so far, but they say other troubling issues remain, from a lack of money for buying conservation land to policy changes they say ease regulations for new businesses but lessen long-term environmental protections.
Advocates for some of the new legislation argue the changes are needed to reduce redundancy and over-regulation and make it easier to do business in Florida.
With a little more than two weeks remaining, the situation in Tallahassee is sort of like "halftime at a football game," said Clay Henderson, a New Smyrna Beach attorney active in statewide environmental issues for 30 years. "The good news is we're still in the game and there's money on the table."
But Henderson and David Hartgrove with the Halifax River Audubon chapter in Daytona Beach said anything can happen.
"I don't think anything is safe until the gavel comes down officially ending the session," Hartgrove said. "A lot can happen in the last 48 hours."
One of the biggest battles may be the final resolution of a pair of companion bills in the House and Senate, House Bill 999 and Senate Bill 1684.
Pro-business groups, such as the Florida Chamber and others, are actively supporting the bills.
While progress on the Senate bill was slow last week, the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican, was moving quickly.
Both bills tackle roughly 20 topics, including extending payment deadlines for some permit fees, preventing local governments from charging fees on groundwater wells, limiting the number of times agencies can ask permit applicants for more information, and streamlining environmental permitting.
Florida Chamber officials said the bills tackle a number of key regulatory reforms that will help make Florida more competitive by "streamlining the environmental regulatory process and eliminating costly redundancies."
One manufacturing association in Florida said the House bill has "something for everyone." Boating and marina groups have lobbied for the House bill, which they hope will reduce the rising costs of leasing state submerged lands under docks and piers.
Patronis, who has heard criticisms his bill is too expansive, said he was trying to tackle a number of small fixes that the business community said needed to be fixed, and to him it made sense to put them all in one bill. A single-subject bill can be a "poor use of a bill slot," he said. "Everybody has something little they want to fix, not worth spending a whole bill slot on."
However, Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, has described the bill as a "cluster bomb," invoking lots of little damages to environmental policies, "expanding the rights of permit holders in a way that disenfranchises ordinary citizens."
Draper prefers the Senate bill, where Audubon and others have been able to achieve a few changes.
Leaders of the Florida Conservation Coalition say both bills are filled with special favors for special interests and will strike a "major blow" against sound water resource management.
"You would be astounded at the breadth of industries covered by these bills," said Coalition member Vicki Tschinkel, a former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. "That is a lot of pressure to get the steam up for this train and that's why they are so dangerous."
The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties also have expressed concerns about the impacts the bills could have on local government authority and have been working to amend the bills.
Patronis said opponents of the bill have greatly exaggerated the potential negative impacts. However, he added, he hopes to be able to address some of the environmentalists' concerns this week.
Meanwhile, advocates are encouraged the Florida Forever program for buying environmentally sensitive land could get more money than it has in years, and Draper said it appears the state will commit significant money for Everglades restoration programs. But just how much money remains to be determined.
The House and Senate budgets include $50 million for Florida Forever from the sale of "surplus" state-owned lands. The House budget also includes $25 million in general revenue for Florida Forever, while the Senate budget contains $10 million from the state's land acquisition trust fund.
Former Gov. Bob Graham, who helps head the Florida Conservation Coalition, which has actively lobbied state legislators on water policy and other issues and encouraged average citizens to do the same, said he's "encouraged that some of the most damaging bills have either been modified, withdrawn or abandoned."
Among the bills that appear to be stopped is one that would let private landowners who own land bordering state land take ownership of part of the state's land in exchange for giving up conservation easements on an equal amount of their own land.
Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Alan Hayes, a Lake County Republican, would have limited state and local governments from buying conservation land, requiring them to sell one acre for every new acre acquired.
The project, which spanned from 1923 until 1928, cost a mind-boggling $8 million, which breaks down to about $25,000 per mile. Adjusted for inflation, that $8 million would have been equivalent to nearly $109 million in today’s economy.
While the building of the Tamiami Trail was big in terms of numbers, its impact was far more impressive than pure tonnage of dynamite consumed or man-hours spent. The Tamiami Trail quite literally paved the way for Southwest Florida to be the booming mini-metropolis it is today.
But the Tamiami Trail wasn’t always a sure thing. While today we hop on and off U.S. 41 with ease, there was a time when the future of the road looked uncertain. In fact, how the road came to be is actually a pretty interesting story. And with April 26, 2013, marking the 85th anniversary of the opening of the Tamiami Trail, we thought this was a perfect time to take a drive down memory lane.
The story starts in the early years of the 20th century. Personal automobiles were becoming more prevalent, and as Museum of the Everglades manager David England says, “If you had the money for a car you had the money for a vacation.” Northern visitors wanted to come to Florida, but the roads were few and far between.
In fact, most visitors arrived by boat. At the time, going by land from Fort Myers to Everglades City (which was just called Everglade) would take almost a week. The trip from Naples to Miami was a much longer adventure, since drivers had to drive north to Tampa, cross over to Daytona and then drive south to Miami.
“The state said, ‘Look, we need to build infrastructure,’” says England, adding, “And the state offered to put up half the money for the east-west portion if Dade County would provide the other half.”
But many taxpayers in other parts of the state cried foul, suggesting that it would be a huge waste of money, if the road were even possible.
“No one really even knew what was out there,” says England.
But Dade County land developer Captain James Franklin Jaudin wanted to find out. On April 4, 1923, Jaudin led a group of mostly city slickers brazenly calling themselves the “Tamiami Trailblazers” into the swamp.
“It took them a lot longer than they’d thought. They even had to send up a plane to spot them and drop supplies,” says England.
Russell Kay, the former author of the syndicated column “Too Late to Classify,” wrote about his experience as a Tamiami Trailblazer in his memoir by the same name. According to his report, he says that almost immediately upon entering the swamp, several vehicles broke down. At least one may — to this day — still be buried in the murky waters.
Twenty-three days after departing, the bedraggled crew emerged from the swamp. Clearly, the trail was going to be more difficult to build than had been imagined.
Nonetheless, construction on the east-west portion of the trail began. Because Jaudin was financing much of it, he had mandated that the trail run through Monroe County, where he owned vast parcels of property. But almost from the day they broke ground there were problems. The limestone was deeper than imagined and the project soon ran out of money. Leaders looked to business tycoon Barron Gift Collier for help.
“There was more and more pressure on Barron Collier to get involved, but he kept telling them, ‘There’s no way to recoup my cost here,’” says England. The shrewd businessman he was, Collier made a deal. He would help finance the road if Lee County would relinquish the land that he owned for the formation of a new county. In addition, the road had to go through this new county. In October 1923, work on the trail began in earnest.
“Collier always picked really good people for the job,” says Ron Jamro, director of the Collier County Museum. “From his personal chef to David Graham Copeland, who he hired as the head engineer, he always hired the best people.”
Seemingly overnight, 2,000 workers flooded into the town of Everglade, totally transforming it. Crews worked 12-hour shifts and Collier turned the work into a competition, offering up prizes for the teams that worked the fastest. From Everglade, the road made its way north, then east and west. The crews gobbled up any bit of landscape that dared stand in their way.
“Amazingly, we didn’t lose a single person during the construction of the trail, and it was by far the most dangerous part,” boasts England.
Of course, it wasn’t the only part. While the east-west portion of the trail was definitely the biggest engineering feat, Lee County’s sections had its own problems.
“There was a war between the Board of Trade, which favored the Dixie Route — which went through Fort Meade with crossings at Fort Thompson, now present day LaBelle — and those who favored a coastal route,” says Jim Powers of the Southwest Florida History Museum. “Those who favored the coastal route actually left the Board of Trade and formed the Chamber of Commerce,” he adds.
Had the route gone the inland route, the growth of towns like Bonita Springs and Estero certainly would have been stunted.
But 85 years later, Bonita, Estero, Naples and virtually all of Southwest Florida are thriving. Undoubtedly, much of the thanks is due to the accessibility that came with the completion of the Tamiami Trail.
Interestingly, however, the Tamiami Trail is still making headlines. In fact, while the Trail was such an integral part of our history, it may need to be modified in order to remain part of our future.
What Barron Collier and David Copeland didn’t understand at the time was that they were essentially damming (and ultimately damning) the Everglades. Dr. Tom Van Lent, a senior scientist with the Everglades Foundation, says that, “It was a project of profound and unintended consequences.”
In March, a ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of the first one-mile-long bridge section of the Trail. Eventually, several bridge sections will allow water to once again flow from Lake Okeechobee out to the Florida Bay.
With this new initiative underway, the future of the Everglades — and Southwest Florida — looks as bright as the past. Which actually makes sense. Because as anyone who has driven on the east-west portion of the Tamiami Trail knows, the view from your rearview mirror is just as lovely as that from your windshield.
If we want to
Everglades, one of the
world’s unique environmental
ecosystems, we must
educate young people
about the importance
of this spectacular
130418-b Everglades Foundation and Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center announce new education initiative
April 18, 2013
Today the Everglades Foundation announced an exciting partnership with Florida Atlantic University and Pine Jog Environmental Education Center to develop a new Everglades Restoration curriculum for Florida’s K-12 teachers and students.
Today the Everglades Foundation announced an exciting partnership with Florida Atlantic University and Pine Jog Environmental Education Center to develop a new Everglades Restoration curriculum for Florida’s K-12 teachers and students.
“Education is a vital part of the mission of the Everglades Foundation,” said Eric Eikenberg, Foundation CEO. “If we want to protect America’s Everglades, one of the world’s most unique environmental ecosystems, we must educate young people about the importance of this spectacular natural wonder.”
“In addition, as a science based organization, we want to have a curriculum that encourages high school students to consider the possibility of careers involving ongoing research that is critical for protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.”
“This is an important partnership with the Everglades Foundation,” said Ray Coleman, Director, Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, Florida Atlantic University. “The Foundation is highly regarded for its education outreach and as a leader in Everglades research. We look forward to working with educators in private and public schools to develop an outstanding K-12 curriculum that will enhance our students' understanding of the environmental beauty and importance of America’s Everglades.”
In cooperation with the Everglades Foundation, FAU/Pine Jog will work with a panel of education experts to develop a new Everglades Restoration student curriculum and twelve grade specific teacher guides that meet the Florida Sunshine State and Next Generation Sunshine State standards.
Pine Jog will lead a committee of 26 educators from both public and private schools to evaluate the curriculum and recommend practices that provide the best teaching opportunities. The committee will be comprised of two educators from each grade level – kindergarten to 12th grade.
Lessons will be designed that allow for field experiences for students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. High school level lessons will include emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
Teacher training will take place this summer and a pilot program will begin at each grade level at the start of the 2013/2014 school year.
For more information contact:
Brian E. Crowley, ImMEDIAcy Public Relations
130418-c It’s time to revisit subsidies Big Sugar receives from federal government
MCTA (Martin County Taxpayers Association)
April 18, 2013
TCPalm.com – Stuart News - April 13, 2013-- The Jones-Costigan Amendment, also known as the Sugar Act of 1934 was passed in an effort to salvage an ailing sugar industry after the great depression. President Roosevelt wanted to accomplish six objectives; 1) Insure fair returns to sugar beet and sugar cane producers 2) Insure that laborers in the sugar industry shared in the benefits
3) Stabilize sugar prices by limiting production 4) Limit sugar production in the Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands 5) Stop the decline of Cuban Sugar exports to the US. 6) Enable the Secretary of Agriculture to mediate disputes between growers, processors and laborers. Like many programs after the depression, this program met with short term success. However, there were many critics. One major criticism was the typical American consumer would pay 50% more for sugar than the average consumer in the world market. The other major criticism was the Act had established a government-created cartel that goes well beyond the controls imposed in any other sector of American private enterprise.
Today the sugar program has become what many feared, a government run cartel that guarantees sugar growers certain prices and protects those prices with import barriers and domestic production controls. In our domestic market, the Agriculture Department decides the total production quantities of both beet sugar as well as cane sugar. According the Governmental Accountability Office, 42% of the sugar program benefits go to just 1% of the sugar growers.
Most sugar cane production is in Florida and Louisiana. Most of the policy makers in these states usually block sugar reform. The powerful lobbing efforts of the Sugar Industry have paid off. Unfortunately there are many consequences of the program that were unpredictable at the time the act was passed. One major consequence is the destruction of the environment around Lake Okeechobee. Most of the precious land has been converted into sugar cane production as a result of the sugar protection. Consequently, there is damaging runoff of chemical fertilizers and destruction of natural habitat. In addition to that, sugar uses water from the lake for irrigation and basically controls the water table in and around the sugar cane.
Currently, the US Department of Agriculture is considering purchasing 400,000 tons of sugar from the sugar industry. This action is an attempt to stave off a wave of defaults by sugar processors that borrowed $862 million under the government price-support program. This action is being considered to overcome a price decrease in the market that was caused by overproduction. What will the government do with 400,000 tons of sugar? Sell it to ethanol producers for a percentage of what they have invested in the loans. Once again the taxpayer picks up the shortfall. It is not bad enough that we have to pay more for the sugar in the first place, now we pay for potential default on their loans.... What a business!
It is unconscionable that our state and federal government has not done something about this travesty. However, it is even more unconscionable that this industry continues to be a major source of pollution in and around the Lake at a time when we the taxpayers are investing millions in an attempt to clean up the lake and the outfall. The action of the sugar growers directly affects the health of our rivers.
Please take the time to let your U.S. Congressional representatives and Florida Legislators know that it is time to stop listening to the big sugar lobby. Ask them to stop taking money from them, stop supporting them and begin to look at ways for big sugar to pay for the environmental cleanup they caused that is being placed on the backs of the taxpayers.
130418-d Support Florida's Water, Land and Legacy Campaign
North Fort Myers Neighbor - To the Editor by Carl Veaux, Local Audubon President, Cape Coral, FL
April 18, 2013
Florida's water, land, beaches, shore, parks and wildlife and even Everglades restoration will be funded by this initiative. The Audubon Club of SW Florida and other organizations are gathering signatures which will be put on the 2014 ballot. State funds such as Florida Forever which is a fund to buy environmentally sensitive lands has been raided by the State Legislature and Governor. They have slashed funding for conservation programs by 97.5 percent since 2009.We simply can not turn our back on the Everglades, neglect water quality in our rivers, lakes, springs and the oceans and buy wildlife lands .
Ballot Title: Water and Land Conservation-Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and restoration lands. Ballot summary: Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites; by dedication 33 percent of net revenues from existing excise tax on documents for 20 years. This excise tax has historically been used to fund Florida Forever which, again, is the state program to buy environmentally sensitive lands. It will not raise your taxes one bit. since it is already being collected .It will ensure that we get one half a billion dollars over the next 20 years to preserve Florida's beautiful lands and water .
We need 680,000 signatures to get this on the 2014 ballot. So far, the volunteers state wide have collected more than 68,000. We have until November to collect the rest. Please help me to get more. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would greatly appreciate it if area Churches , Kiwanis Clubs , Rotary, Elks Clubs and other Civic organizations etc, members would sign this petition I will come out to one of your meetings .
If you would like to volunteer let me know, too. Call Laura, at 850-629-4649, she can help your club endorse this Amendment or other questions you may have .
With this many signatures we have passed a big milestone in that the Florida State Supreme Court will now review our petition, hopefully within 60 days, and endorse it to go on the ballot. This is just a law formality and should be approved easily in my opinion.
The people on the Board and other supporters are quite impressive. Sen. Graham, Board Chairman, Will Abberger ,of Lands for Public Trust; Eric Draper, Florida Audubon ; Manly Fuller, Florida Wildlife Federation; and Frank Jacalone , Florida Sierra Club. The Thousand Friends of Florida are endorsing it.. Many local clubs throughout the state have signed on , too.
Since this will be a Constitutional Amendment, these funds will be safe from being taken away from us by Florida Government. Georgia and Alabama have similar programs in place. Who knows, maybe we will get a chance to buy Southwest Florida's DRGR for the millions of gallons of water we need to support another one and new residents in our area. Please sign a petition and sign up to be a supporting and endorsing member.
130417-a Charles Pattison: Florida must plan for growth
April 17, 2013
Citing a 2013 Moody's report, House Speaker Will Weatherford recently noted that Florida is poised to once again grow at the rate of 1,000 new residents each day. Given the history of growth and development issues in our state, that is either good or bad news, depending on your perspective.
The last time Florida experienced that kind of growth, the governor and Legislature felt compelled to adopt the comprehensive 1985 Growth Management Act. This act was designed to deal with the many, many challenges new growth presented to our roads, schools, drinking water supplies, stormwater drainage, coastlines and natural areas. And even with this program in place, Florida still did not keep up with all the impacts new growth caused.
As we well know, the 2011 Legislature undid much of the 1985 law. First and foremost, it abolished the state's land planning agency, the Department of Community Affairs, along with most of its administrative rules. As a result, “concurrency” programs to help fund transportation and schools became optional, state oversight of growth and development was minimized in favor of local government, and it made it more difficult for citizens to challenge inappropriate plan amendments. At the same time, drastic budget cuts to the nation's biggest land protection program did not help either. All of this happened supposedly in the name of job creation and economic growth.
Now that we are emerging from the economic downturn, what is the 2013 Legislature doing? For starters, it continues to loosen related environmental controls, interfere with local government home rule authority and tout the need to further streamline regulations in order to promote more economic development. How does this work to protect the quality of life that has attracted our existing 19 million residents? Who ultimately pays the bill?
1000 Friends of Florida is concerned that continuing down this path is a recipe for future unintended consequences that will cost us all, economically as well as environmentally. Weak growth management controls, especially at a time when the next “boom” is at our doorstep, is a dangerous policy for which taxpayers will ultimately pay. This next wave of growth can be accommodated if strong growth and environmental controls are maintained and funded, along with payment of reasonable developer impact costs and effective local and state land acquisition programs.
Please let your legislators know that Florida must plan for growth if we are to protect our quality of life, natural resources and pocketbooks. Charles G. Pattison is President of 1000 Friends of Florida, which serves as the state's growth management watchdog.
Big Sugar is pleased ?
130417-b Compromise reached on Everglades restoration bill
Highlands Today – by John Buchanan
April 17, 2013
After spirited debate between farmers, policymakers and environmental groups, a compromise has been reached on a federally mandated Everglades restoration program agreed to with the Obama administration by Gov. Rick Scott last year.
The Florida House has passed a bill that is expected to soon be approved by the Senate and sent to Scott for signing.
The bill establishes the appropriation framework and provides funding for ecosystem restoration project construction intended to bring the phosphorus content to water entering the Everglades from local sugar farms to 10 parts per billion. Those levels were at about 70 when the original program was created 20 years ago as a result of lawsuits by environmental groups.
The new bill also calls for sugar farmers to continue the best management practices administered by the South Florida Water Management District and extends the $25 an acre agriculture privilege tax, created in 1996 by an amendment to the Florida Constitution, until 2035.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, led the initiative that led to the successful passage of the new legislation.
Both the Everglades Foundation and Audubon Florida, as well as other environmental groups, wanted the special tax on sugar farmers increased. But as a result of last-minute negotiations last month, a compromise was reached that led to the new bill.
“And while it didn't include everything that each side wanted, it is something both sides can live with,” Caldwell said. “The Everglades Foundation and Audubon Florida both still think the tax is too low, but they are no longer opponents of the bill as an entire package, because ultimately it will fund the final phase of Everglades restoration. And rather than have bogged down in fights over slices of the pie, we all agreed to focus on the whole pie and get the job done. That's really what this was all about. We're in a good place today and I'm happy where we ended up.”
The underlying issue dates back to the state's founding, Caldwell noted.
“Florida joined the union in March of 1845,” he said. “And in November 1845, one of the first things we ever did as a legislature was send a letter to Congress asking for the authority to drain and develop the Everglades. And that happened long before the first farmers came to the Everglades. And that's the way people need to understand the issue today. And we are all responsible now for undoing the damage that was done before as a result of state policy.”
The House bill, which passed unanimously, is now expected to pass the Senate and go to Scott for signing. It includes a $32 million annual appropriation to complete the terms of the $880 million, 13-year settlement reached with federal government last year.
In practice, Caldwell said, it means that Florida will have accomplished in about 20 yeas an Everglades restoration project that was originally expected to take 50 or 60 years,
“It is actually historic in terms of what we have achieved since 1994,” Caldwell said. “And now we're in the final phase of it.”
The compromise settlement drew praise from a consortium of Florida sugar industry interests that included U.S. Sugar Corporation, Florida Crystals Corporation and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, agreed that on balance, the terms of the new legislation were fair and reasonable.
However, he questioned whether the phosphorus content of water entering the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee, by way of local sugar farms, has actually been reduced to an average of 13 parts per billion.
“The phosphorus levels are not consistently down to 13 percent,” Draper said. “So I would not declare victory on that yet.”
But, he said, Audubon Florida does agree that the restoration plan currently in place will probably meet the 10 parts per billion standard by 2025.
In the meantime, Draper said, Audubon Florida and its environmental allies still want more accomplished in terms of reducing the use of phosphorus on farms and the amount of phosphorus leaving sugar cane fields.
“We still think that more can be accomplished with the best management practices,” he said.
The path to accomplishing that goal, without changing any current laws or regulations, he said, is improving the way the Water Management District approaches best management practices.
“We believe they can do a better job in their farming practices in reducing the nutrients that are coming off their land,” Draper said.
Therefore, he said, Audubon Florida is involved in ongoing discussions with South Florida Water Management District about how that can be accomplished.
“It's the job of the regulating agency,” Draper said, “to stay on top of this and to make sure that the farmers are doing the best job possible.”
130417-c Efforts to restore Southwest Florida’s once-fecund clam and oyster beds show promise
Florida Weekly – by Roger Williams
April 17, 2013
Whether we call them scientists, breeders or farmers, there’s one thing Aswani Volety, Curt Hemmel, and Tony and Tammie Heeb have in common: Each is a sex promoter.
For them and probably for the rest of us, the more bivalve sex, the better. This isn’t sex exhibited in tawdry theaters or X-rated websites, either. Nor is it sex that relies on some exotic contraption you can only buy from the questionable tenants of run-down strip malls (The Triple-X BiValve, featured here nightly).
On the contrary, it’s the libidinous liquid joy of sex, ideally practiced in Florida saltwater of about 10 to 28 parts per thousand by creatures for whom “using protection” means hiding in the calcium-carbonate armor of two symmetrical valves, or halves, or shells if you prefer, then firing off
Sometimes within hours, vast hordes of inseminated eggs then hatch as larvae, anchoring themselves to something on or near the bottom to become “seed” — seed clams, seed oysters or sea scallops, to name three.
That’s good for everything, from bottom to top: from microalgae, sea grass and mangroves, to shrimp, crabs, pinfish and game fish, to the lucrative game of tourism that seeds the Sunshine State’s sun-and-saltwater economy.
Unfortunately, the bivalve sex required to help maintain that chain of goodness has been happening naturally with a lot less frequency in recent years. The decline likely springs from a sea change in habitats — wildly varying salinity levels (zero to something in the 40s) and silt-and-fill-varnished sea bottoms too smooth and featureless these days for bivalves to get a grip.
Never mind all the others reasons for their decline; suffice to say that it has a lot to do with bipedal land creatures. From the standpoint of shellfish and perhaps marine biologists, meanwhile, the place is going all to hell.
“We have perhaps 1 to 5 percent of the numbers of oysters found up and down the southwest coast a century ago, and even 50 years ago they were a navigation hazard at the mouth of every creek or river here,” says Professor Volety, chair of Marine and Ecological Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Ditto for clams and probably scallops.
But there is cause for hope.
A glance at the vitality of bivalves in the coastal waters from Tampa Bay to the Ten Thousand Islands, whether natural or introduced by farmers or scientists, suggests that recent efforts show great promise. The hatchery
Especially the efforts of farmers.
“It’s promising because previously the percent of animals a hatchery would keep alive during the culture period would be low. There was a lot of money put into to producing just a few animals 15 years ago,” explains Curt Hemmel, whose Bay Shellfish Co. on Terra Ceia in Manatee County is the largest clam hatchery in the southeastern United States.
“That really doesn’t mean very much,” he notes modestly. What might mean a lot more is this: he started 16 years ago, at the beginning of the seedling (not fledgling) bivalve commercial farming business, as it currently exists, and now, his is the last of the original hatcheries.
That suggests how tough a business it can be.
He doesn’t do it like the Greeks or Romans did — they, too, practiced the art of oyster or clam farming.
“Now, we’ve learned how to create the (nutritious, organic) micro-algaes they need, and our hatchery could produce a billion seeds. We don’t, we’re nowhere near that large, but we could. The technology is more efficient, and that’s reduced the price of seed clams to farmers. It’s half what it was 10 to 15 years ago.”
It works roughly like this: The hatchery creates the seed when it’s microscopic, raises it to roughly the size of a pinhead or a small watermelon seed, then sells it to farmers, who lease 2-acre plots of shallow, state-owned sea bottom where they can lay down their clams or oysters and work hard (for 18 months to two years) to protect their crop.
They use nets that keep off the wide range of predators (every kind of ray, crabs, octopi and the like), they dive regularly (if you can’t scuba dive, don’t become a clam farmer), they provide copious amounts of the right foods, and then they get their reward: They can finally harvest the meaty sex addicts known as shellfish, thus creating both a more robust ocean, and a more robust economy.
That, at least, is the idea.
Last year, for example, Mr. Hemmel produced 300 million clam seeds for sale to farmers throughout the state, and 2.5 million oyster seeds, he says. (It’s been said that if you order a fresh Florida clam in any restaurant, it probably started with Mr. Hemmel.)
Which sounds like a lot. But he’ll sell you a million for about $3,000, which sounds like a little.
All of which, in numbers alone, makes the old expression, “breed like rabbits,” pretty much empty of meaning. To more fully suggest the prolific or the copious, seafood lovers might say instead, “breed like bivalves.” Down on the farm
Even for veteran clam farmers, however, this is not something to be taken lightly.
“This is farming, and you’re at the mercy of the elements, just like you are if you grow wheat or corn or something else,” explains Tammie Heeb, who with her husband Tony, and their adult children, and the spouses and children of their adult children, operates Cutthroat Clams, a family farming operation based in St. James City on Pine Island.
As farmers, the Heebs buy the seed from Mr. Hemmel and other hatchery owners then raise their product in offshore sites to sell to restaurants and seafood shops up and down the coast. Or to pedal in special coolers at farmers markets in such locations as Bonita Springs or Cape Coral. (If clams are kept at exactly 43 degrees in such coolers — not more, not less — they can live for a week, says Mr. Hemmel, who learned that fact by trial and error).
Of course, it’s a little more complicated than just that.
“There’s red tide,” she says. “We’ve been on hold for seven months, because of it.”
And in 2004 there was Hurricane Charley. She remembers it not with bitterness, but with something akin — weary resignation, perhaps.
“Charley blew away every single clam farmer from Pine Island to Port Charlotte.
We had to get a new house. It wrecked our boat. We lost all our crops. It took us two years to get back to where we had crops again,” she recalls.
“If you’re saddled with debt when you go into this business, or if you think you can just lay your seed out there and come back a year later to harvest them, you aren’t going to make it as a farmer,” she says.
Put it this way: “Clam farming looks good on paper. But when you get into it, you need manpower and staying power,” she warns. At Cutthroat Clams, they have it, apparently.
Marrying business and science
The clamming industry alone, with its commercial production aims, is now less than 20 years old, a creature spawned in part by Florida’s 1994 net ban that sunk so many commercial fishermen.
Some of them, like Tony Heeb, took advantage of state programs to re-educate, spent a year preparing, and finally became licensed clam farmers.
By 2001, the Florida clam industry produced $32 million annually, and by 2008 it could produce an encouraging $54 million, state records show.
Then along came the recession, which shucked the industry like a fresh oyster, once again.
But once again it’s coming back
Which is a very good thing in the minds of Professor Aswani Volety and his colleagues, the marine biologists at FGCU, aka “Dunk City.”
The real Dunk City, as it turns out, is more than a mere basketball shot (such as the ones that secured the new tag for FGCU when the Eagles went to the sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball finals last month).
Instead, it’s an oyster reef laid down by Professor Volety in the thigh-towaist deep waters off of FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Field Station in Estero Bay.
Here, in just one of a number of locations he’s established, some 70 volunteers climbed off a flotilla of small boats one day about three years ago and forcefully dunked about 600 bags of empty shells — shells that happen to form a fabulous surface for larvae to secure themselves.
Their hope: that the good-sex union of floating eggs and sperm deposited together over nearby sea grass beds would cling to the shells and make the old world new, again.
And that’s happening. These oysters, which can live for decades, are thriving, proving it can be done. (Their lifespan pales in comparison to that of some clams, one of which, found in Icelandic waters a few years ago, had passed the 400-year mark, according to scientists from Bangor University in Wales.)
That’s promising not only for the economy, but for the health of Florida waters. What they do
For one thing, a single oyster can filter more than 60 gallons of seawater in a 24-hour period.
“They’re filtering out contaminants, and these days that means contaminants ranging from heavy metals to pesticides,” says Professor Volety.
That’s a single oyster. On the Dunk City oyster reef, there are probably about 300 living oysters per square meter, he estimates, all attached to the lifeless shells in those 600 bags — about an acre’s worth.
“That’s a good number, but it’s not a great number,” he explains. “Once, you might have had 800 to 1,500 oysters a square meter.” Each of them filtering — in effect, cleaning — more than 60 gallons of water each day and night.
To have a serious effect on the water of Estero Bay, however, the professor might have to lay in about 20 acres, he says — the lack of grants and other money, and the very difficult permitting process required by the state, have made that impossible for him to do, so far.
But cleaning is not all oysters do.
Oysters (it’s true of clams and scallops, too) then produce tremendous quantities of nourishing fecal matter, which in turn spawn a fecund growth of sea grasses that provide the habitat for crabs, shrimp and small fish eaten by larger fish, which therefore thrive, allowing humans to harvest them. The humans quickly begin to employ the word “paradise” to the region, which attracts countless more humans who spend money, confirming that paradise exists.
“Do you like to catch redfish or snook or grouper?” asks Professor Volety, who might have made a good lawyer in another life. “Then you should be interested in the health of oysters and clams and scallops.”
In addition, farming bivalves is probably the cleanest form of fish farming on the planet, says Mr. Hemmel.
“Bivalves are phenomenal as a product to be cultured — they’re one of the most eco-friendly marine products, globally,” he explains.
They require no pesticides, herbicides or other toxic fertilizers. Their food can be entirely organic. And they provide tremendous nutritional value not only for the salt sea but the salty humans who eat them.
One of the most telling examples of their value for marine environments presented itself inadvertently to Mr. Hemmel a couple of years ago, when he bought a mangrove farm next to his property from a woman getting out of the business.
The farm produced mangroves for developers required to mitigate after they created homes in formerly pristine places.
That’s not why Mr. Hemmel bought it, he says. He bought it because bivalves can get a grip on red mangrove roots, which, along with seawalls, provide some of the last suitable surfaces for them to cling naturally in Florida waters.
“The woman I bought it from used commercial fertilizers for her mangroves, and they seemed to grow fine, like plants do when you put fertilizer on them,” he recalls.
“But when we put some of these plants in our effluent water — the fecal matter from the bivalves (which had been eating copious quantities of the microalgae he produces) — they grew nearly six times faster.”
Six times faster. That might be enough to make the old world, the old gulf, the old bays and estuaries, new again.
Especially with a little help from the sex promoters. ¦
130417-d Lawmakers ease rules on sewage outflow that will save South Florida $1.6 billion
Miami Herald – by Kathleen McGrory
April 17, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House voted Wednesday to ease the rules on discharging treated sewage into the ocean — a measure that could save Miami-Dade and Broward counties as much as $867 million and $620 million, respectively, and Hollywood as much as $174 million.
The move comes five years after the Florida Legislature began phasing out the use of ocean outfalls.
Lawmakers now want to let municipalities discharge as much as 5 percent of their annual treated sewage flow into the ocean, but only during “peak flow events” like when flooding is likely following a hurricane.
Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the bill’s sponsor, described the proposed changes as “tweaks” to existing law that would save local governments hundreds of millions of dollars “without hurting the environment.”
“It’s important to follow the law and keep the environment safe,” said Diaz, a Hialeah Republican. “This gives [municipalities] some flexibility in meeting those requirements.”
The House voted unanimously to support the proposal. The Senate cast a 40-0 vote in support of the bill last week.
Still, some environmentalists are holding out hope that Gov. Rick Scott will have a different opinion.
“All this is going to do is allow Miami-Dade County to shuck and jive around what it has to do, which is develop a climate-ready critical infrastructure system,” said Albert Slap, a Key Biscayne attorney who represents the Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, a clean-water advocacy group. “This is short-term political expediency at the expense of real leadership.”
Only three local governments in Florida use ocean outflows: Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and Hollywood. Collectively, they pump about 71 billion gallons of treated sewage into the ocean each year.
That will have to stop in 2025, when the flushing of treated sewage into the ocean will be prohibited.
Representatives for the municipalities say meeting that deadline will cost millions of dollars. Some of the cost, they concede, will be likely passed on to ratepayers. A 2008 analysis from the University of Florida estimated that households using an average of 7,500 gallons a month will have to pay an extra $19.80 per month if the outflow pipes are shut down completely.
Diaz has said that Miami-Dade, Broward and Hollywood have come a long way toward reducing the amount of wastewater that is discharged through the outfalls, and that the municipalities should have some flexibility.
His bill would also provide the municipalities with more ways to meet the requirement to reuse 60 percent of the wastewater.
Slap, the environmental attorney, called the proposal “short sighted.” He said Miami-Dade should focus on cleaning its wastewater and returning it to the Biscayne Aquifer — a move that would fight off salt water intrusion.
“That is expensive to do and it will require the communities to raise the water and sewer rates over the next 10 years,” Slap said. “But it will ensure that we can continue to inhabit South Florida for a long time.”
Diaz hopes Miami-Dade, Broward and Hollywood will use their savings generated by the bill to address those larger questions.
“Hopefully, they can take the money and invest it in the infrastructure that is needed,” Diaz said. “That makes more sense than spending the money to arbitrarily comply with a law.”
130417-e Obama budget offers mixed bag for Everglades projects
KeysNews.com – by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
April 17, 2013
SOUTH FLORIDA -- The 2014 budget recommendation put forward by the Obama Administration last week carried mixed news for the Everglades.
The plus side for Everglades advocates is that the proposal includes $30 million to begin work on 5.5 miles of additional bridging on the Tamiami Trail. The estimated $320 million project will extend the 1-mile Tamiami bridge that was set to open Tuesday, allowing for increased freshwater flow from the north into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
The Tamiami bridge is the lone new capital project the Obama Administration included in its 2014 National Park Service budget. The request drew praise from the South Florida office of the National Parks Conservation Association.
"We are thrilled by the Obama Administration's recognition of advancing America's Everglades," John Adornato, the office's director, said in a prepared statement.
But the news for Everglades' watchers was more dour when the overall funding picture is considered.
The Obama Administration has requested a total of $192.5 million for the Everglades this year, or $38 million less than the 2013 request. The main hit would come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget for Everglades restoration projects. That funding, affecting projects ranging from western Miami-Dade County to Kissimmee, is $88 million, down from the $142.5 million that was funded in 2012.
A major reason that funding is set to diminish, said Audubon of Florida Policy analyst Julie Hill-Gabriel, is that many projects that are ready to go still need to be authorized by Congress. However, Congress has not passed the bill that traditionally authorizes water projects, known as WRDA, since 2007.
"I think this is the real on-the-ground impact of not having a WRDA," Hill-Gabriel said. "We just don't have enough to work on any more because Congress has it on their desk and they just haven't signed on it."
130417-f Purse strings could make bay changes challenging
KeysNews.com – by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
April 17, 2013
KEY LARGO -- The Everglades National Park proposal to close off a third of Florida Bay to combustible motors continued to draw strong opposition at a meeting here last week. But budgetary shortfalls could prove to be a bigger hindrance to any Park Service efforts to transform management of Florida Bay.
"It's going to be challenging with us for our budget to even stand up an education program," Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball told the crowd of approximately 115 at the Murray E. Nelson Government Cultural Center on April 10.
According to Park Service estimates, the cost of managing Everglades National Park under the preferred General Management Plan alternative put forward in late February would be $22 million annually, up $5 million from the budget that was in effect until the 5.1 percent federal sequester began last month.
The plan, which proposes a broad swath of changes throughout the 1.5 million-acre park, not just in Florida Bay, would also require an increase from 214 staffers to 249, including three extra rangers in Florida Bay.
The sequester is expected to last beyond the end of the September federal fiscal year. And Kimball said Everglades officials have been told to expect another 2 percent cut in the 2014 budget. Combined, those cuts would take the park's budget below $16 million.
Start-up expenses are another issue in the Preferred Alternative. They would amount to an estimated $36 million for the construction of facilities, such as a new visitor center in Everglades City and improvements at the park's Key Largo science center. Another $4 million would be needed for educational outreach, including starting a Florida Bay boater's permit system and additional markers in the bay.
In an interview after last week's meeting, Kimball said that despite the budgetary woes, he doesn't view the continuing general management plan process as an academic exercise. The plan, 10 years in the works, is expected to guide Everglades National Park governance for at least two decades. It is slated to be finalized next year.
"The way I look at it, it makes sense to do a blueprint for a long-term plan," Kimball said.
But he added that everything, from better enforcement to better channel marking to developing the Florida Bay boaters' education program, costs money.
The education program would likely be the park service's first step. Establishing whichever pole/troll zones remain in the plan after it is finalized would come later.
"It's kind of unknown, but I would think that it's going to be a number of years to implement," Kimball said.
The proposed management plan has been roundly panned in the Upper Keys since its release in February. Park Service officials say the proposal to close 131,000 acres of the bay to combustible motors is designed to protect flats and seagrass beds from boat groundings and propeller scars. The pole/troll areas were identified because they are two-feet deep or less.
But local business leaders and fishing guides have united against the proposal, saying it would impact livelihoods and harm the local economy.
At the Nelson Center last week, nearly all of the 22 public speakers were opposed to the proposal. But they may have been at least partially appeased at the meeting's end, when Kimball signaled that a proposal to turn Long Sound, in northeast Florida Bay, into a paddle-only zone is already on the way out.
"I just can't see making that a paddle zone when there's no access," he said, referencing the lack of a boat ramp along the 18-Mile Stretch.
The manager also said the Park Service should do a scientific review of whether trolling motors are more or less harmful to the flats than combustible motors at idle speeds.
Numerous guides and guide organizations have urged the park to consider pole/troll/idle speed zones instead of just pole/troll zones.
130416-a 2 million Floridians threatened by sea level rise, but new study says it can be slowed
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
April 16, 2013
If sea level rise continues unabated, sections of South Florida -- and Miami in particular -- will be under water in a matter of decades. But a new study suggests that swift reductions in "short-lived climate pollutants" and carbon dioxide levels could help to slow the rise.
The study, "Mitigation of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Slows Sea-Level Rise," was published this month in Nature Climate Change. It concludes that reducing emissions of four "short-lived climate pollutants" (SLCP) could slow a current "warming trend by 50 percent." Slowing the trend would in turn slow the ice sheet melt and reduce the rate of sea level rise, it says.
The four SLCPs under consideration are methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon. Cutting carbon dioxide levels remains a high priority, but report analysis
by Climate Change indicates "SLCP mitigation acts faster than carbon dioxide mitigation."
Timeliness matters, too: "Delaying SLCP mitigation until 2040 will decrease the impact of carbon dioxide and SLCP mitigation on sea level rise by a third, and will make it difficult if not impossible to keep warming under two degrees Celsius by end of century," Climate Change reports.
Using the findings from this new report, coastal topography charts, and various global sea level rise scenarios, Climate Change created a list of coastal states that would benefit from SLCP and carbon dioxide mitigation. No huge surprise: Florida tops the list.
According to their calculations, more than 1.7 million Florida residents would benefit from SLCP-only mitigation while more than half a million would benefit from carbon dioxide-only mitigation. A combined effort to tackle both groups of emissions would benefit more than 2 million people.
As Climate Change says "Florida has by far the greatest population at risk from sea level rise, and thus derives most of the benefit of any action to slow it." Business Spectator reports that in Florida 2.1 million people are "projected to live below sea level" by 2100 "if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced."
These findings echo the sentiments of Florida conservationalists like the Sierra Club's Jonathan Ullman, who calls sea level rise "one of the most horrific manifestations" of climate change.
"We as a community have the most to lose so we should be the spokesmen for the world," Ullman said of sea level rise and its projected impact on coastal cities and the Everglades. "Miami will be cut down in its prime if we don't take action."
Read the full Climate Change article here. View maps that show how sea level rise could impact Miami-Dade County, here. RELATED:Miami Among "Most At Risk" For Sea Level Rise, Federal Climate Change Report Says RELATED:Watch South Beach Disappear Under Sea Level Rise In Hypnotic New GIFs
Florida’s Department of
broke the rules aimed at
preserving the state’s
wetlands to benefit a
130416-b Breaking rules, hurting environment
Tampa bay Times - Editorial
April 15, 2013
Regulators who break the rules cannot be trusted with enforcing them. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection broke the rules protecting the state's wetlands to benefit a well-connected landowner, then punished the one employee who challenged her bosses on it and tried to do her job. Gov. Rick Scott should remove DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. and at least one of his deputy secretaries, because Floridians can no longer trust the agency to protect the environment and fairly enforce the rules.
A state administrative law judge was unequivocal last week in backing the decision by the state's top wetlands expert. Connie Bersok opposed the Highlands Ranch application to receive 688 wetland mitigation credits — only to be suspended from her job and moved off the case before her bosses embraced the company's pitch for how to interpret state rules so it could receive more mitigation credits. Bersok calculated that the Highlands Ranch property, a 1,575-acre pine plantation in Clay County, contained just 280 credits and noted the company had failed to submit any explanation of how it might improve the land to qualify for additional credits.
The difference in rules enforcement meant millions for Highlands Ranch, whose owners have included the influential Carlyle group, a private equity firm that once counted former President George H.W. Bush among its team. A single credit can sell for as much as $100,000 under the state's growth-friendly scheme that is supposed to ensure the aquifer and its drinking water supply remain protected. But as earlier Times reporting has shown, the effectiveness of wetland mitigation remains dubious.
First, the company tried but failed to get the 2011 Legislature to further undermine the state's mitigation effort. Then it hired a lobbyist and appealed directly to DEP's top leadership, who were shockingly complicit. They accepted from a Highlands Ranch attorney the first draft of the eventual changes to how mitigation credits would be calculated. The Florida Wildlife Federation eventually brought the case to the state's administrative court. Judge E. Gary Early's found no one at DEP who could explain the methodology the department used to eventually grant Highlands Ranch 425 credits. He noted that Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn and others drafted the new plan out of public view in violation of the state's rulemaking process as established under Florida's Administrative Procedure Act — designed to ensure that state executives carry out the Legislature's intent in implementing laws.
Under the same law, it technically falls to the DEP secretary to enter the administrative judge's final order. The order should be implemented and the wetlands should be protected. Bersok, who has been reinstated, should be honored. Vinyard and Littlejohn should clean out their desks. The integrity of Scott's environmental agency is at stake, because regulators who discipline staff trying to enforce the rules, and then rewrite those rules with the help of the special interests who will benefit, cannot be trusted.
130416-c Environmentalists praise proposal to track algae-caused sickness
WFSU - by Thomas Andrew Gustafson
April 16, 2013
When nutrient levels – nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen – are too high in Florida’s waterways, toxic algae blooms erupt damaging the ecosystem. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a bill moving through the legislature that would put the State in charge of the problem. But environmentalists worry the bill won’t help as much as it should. So a new amendment to the bill is piquing their interest.
“The amendment these legislators are sponsoring gives DEP’s rules a chance. But if those rules don’t work and children and adults get sick, if pets, livestock and wildlife die as a result of exposure to fresh or salt water with an algae bloom, it’s obvious we need something more. And that’s what this amendment provides.”
That’s David Cullen with Sierra Club Florida. The legislators he’s talking about are Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilienda (D-Tallahassee). Currently the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set rules in Florida to maintain water quality. That happened in 2009 when the EPA determined Florida’s water quality criteria didn’t meet the Clean Water Act. So the bill at hand revises the state’s rules, and with the EPA’s blessing, gives the power over water quality back to the state’s environmental agency. The sponsors of the amendment say their add-on gives assurance of a job well done.
“If you look at the pictures over there you see rashes, you see algae blooms, warnings to swimmers.”
That’s Rep. Rehwinkel-Vasilienda. And though the DEP says its water quality standards are the most stringent in the nation, Rehwinkel-Vasilienda says a safeguard never hurts.
“If we don’t have this insurance policy, these requirements that this amendment will do, we will have more of these incidents. We will have more rashes, we will have more fish kills.”
The insurance policy comes in the shape of report filings. The DEP must write-up any incident of a person diagnosed with an illness after exposure to toxic algae or when livestock, pets and wildlife die as a result of exposure. The originally filed amendment Tuesday morning would have clicked a trigger at a total of one hundred reports over the next year resetting Florida’s water rules to the federal standards. It is now going through the editing process to remove that last part. Attorney for EarthJustice David Guest says they’ll use the reports to show the state’s rules are insufficient and take, what EarthJustice sees, as the appropriate actions up to and including lawsuits.
130416-d Environmentalists worry about certain bills in Legislature this year
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
April 16, 2013
Moves to block local-government bans on summertime fertilizing and prohibit septic-tank inspections are among provisions feared by environmentalists monitoring this year's session of the Florida Legislature.
"My general impression of this legislative session is that there has never been such blatant servitude to moneyed interests," said Sonny Vergara, a former director of two state water-management districts and now author of the Internet blog SWFWMDmatters.
Local bans on fertilizing lawns during rainy seasons, known as "strong" ordinances, have become popular as a way to protect waterways from pollution that feeds algae blooms, including the fertilizer washed off lawns by rainstorms. As an alternative, cities and counties can adopt the state's "model" ordinance that does not ban fertilizing during the rainy season.
"There are several new studies out there that address the issues related to many of the fertilizer ordinances," said Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia. "We are looking at creating a council that will study those things and, in the meantime, have a moratorium on ordinances other than the model ordinance." Cris Costello, a Sierra Club organizer, said the fertilizer-and-lawn industries have turned their attacks on strong ordinances into annual events.
"For the seventh year in a row they are trying to do this," said Costello, who thinks taxpayers are the victim of when fertilizers are used in the rainy season. "There isn't a local government around that can afford to spend millions and millions of dollars to clean up their waters." Leesa Souto, executive director of the Marine Resources Council, which seeks restoration of the algae-plagued Indian River Lagoon along Florida's east coast, said it's disturbing that lawmakers are taking a "hard line" against local efforts to protect water bodies. "We're looking at fisheries collapsing in the Indian River Lagoon," Souto said.
Separate legislation (SB 1252 and HB 1245) would prohibit the state Department of Health from inspecting the septic systems of homes that are getting additions — if the additions don't include a bedroom.
Bill sponsor Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, said home expansions that don't include added bedrooms won't increase a home's sewage output. But Roxanne Groover, executive director of the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association, said such additions are still likely to increase water use.
"If I build a den with a new 72-inch television, chances are I'm going to invite more folks over," she said.
Last year, state health inspectors examined 19,000 pre-existing septic systems and found that 17 percent needed to be replaced. Lee Constantine, a Seminole County commissioner active in water issues, said the bill shows a continued relaxation of oversight of the millions of septic systems in the state. While a state senator in 2010, he helped pass a law that required regular inspections of septic tanks. Under pressure from business interests and homeowners, lawmakers eventually repealed the requirement.
"I don't know why anybody should be afraid of an inspection, other than they think their septic tank has failed," Constantine said.
Environmentalists are concerned about what they described as a "cluster bomb" bill (HB 999) that would weaken a variety of water protections. Tacked onto the bill this week was the proposed moratorium on local bans on fertilizing lawns during the rainy season.
"I've been involved in state government since 1974 and I have never seen so much arrogance and rudeness from lobbyists," said Victoria Tschinkel, a former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Regulation and a member of the 1000 Friends of Florida executive committee. "They are getting greedier."
130416-e MCM begins work on Site 1 Impoundment completion contract
Wall Street Journal
April 16, 2013
MIAMI, April 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Miami based General Contractor, MCM, has begun work on the Site 1 Impoundment Completion Contract awarded to them in January by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This civil works project, valued at
approximately $48 Million, has a projected completion date of January 2015, lasting 22 months. The scope of work to be completed by MCM consists of almost 3 miles of earthwork modifications to an existing levee, construction of a 6-acre wildlife wetland area along with clearing and grubbing, excavation, fill activities, erosion control measures, and other miscellaneous operations.
(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130208/FL56898LOGO )
It is located in southwest Palm Beach County and is a component to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a program that seeks to capture, store and redirect fresh water that would otherwise flow unutilized into the ocean to those areas that need it the most. The program's objective is to maintain an adequate amount and distribution of water resources in the south and central Florida regions. CERP includes the Everglades and it extends across 16 counties. About MCM
MCM is a family owned Construction Company specialized in General Building and Heavy Civil Construction with over 30 years of expertise. MCM is the 7(th) largest Hispanic Owned contractor in the United States as ranked by Hispanic Business Magazine -- 2012 and it employs over 700 personnel worldwide with a staff of roughly 250 employees in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. MCM is ISO 9001 Certified and is also a member of the United States Green Building Council. MCM has offices in Florida, Texas and Panama and this year it celebrates 30 years Building Excellence.
130416-f My Word: DEP water rules essential to health
Orlando Sentinel - by Drew Bartlett, Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
April 16, 2013
The state of Florida is a diverse ecosystem that supports an abundance of wildlife in both fresh and salt waters.
Floridians, and the scientists at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, understand the importance of protecting the health our aquatic habitats, for their recreational value and to assure that the seafood we enjoy is safe to eat. That's why the department is proposing to update Florida's water-quality standards.
I am responding to Dick Batchelor's guest column, "Changes to water-quality guide would risk Floridians' health," in the April 7 Sentinel.
The rules that define Florida's human-health criteria for surface waters are more than 20 years old — virtually ancient when compared with how quickly the world moves today.
But after a decade of data collection, risk analysis, scientific peer review and public debate, the DEP is moving forward with additional and refined surface water-quality criteria. Historically, the DEP has regulated only 36 pollutants related to human health. The DEP is proposing to add 34 contaminants to the list and update criteria for 33 of the original 36 contaminants.
The proposals consider a range of environmental variables and account for the most at-risk populations and those whose diets comprise primarily Florida seafood.
The DEP has consulted continuously with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in developing human-health criteria, but we have applied more-stringent safeguards when calculating our final numbers. The result: In a comparison with EPA's standard approach, the DEP's proposed criteria are more stringent in every case.
Because the health of our water bodies is vital, the DEP assembled the best and brightest to critique our standards. As a result, our scientific methodology has been endorsed by Florida's state toxicologist from the Department of Health and other scientists who are experts in toxicology and risk assessment.
These updates to our human-health criteria would protect all Floridians, including kids, expectant mothers and self-sufficient fishermen. The DEP will continue to collect data and incorporate emerging science so our standards keep pace in the future.
My colleagues and I eat local seafood, just as you do. It is essential that we have confidence that what we eat is safe. Fishing and harvesting will thrive if our rivers, lakes and coastal waters have strong standards to protect them — and Florida's economy and culture will thrive along with them. Drew Bartlett is director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
130416-g Permitting bill approved at final committee stop despite continued environmental opposition
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
April 16, 2013
A fertilizer amendment to an environmental permitting bill was withdrawn Tuesday but another amendment to ratify Everglades leases was approved.
HB 999 covers a wide variety of environmental permitting issues and has support from business and industry groups. Environmental groups are opposing the bill.
The bill limits the number of requests by a local governments for additional information on some permit applications, it provides for expedited permitting and a summary hearing process for interstate natural gas pipelines, and it provides for reduced lease fees for docks over state-owned submerged lands.
On Tuesday, the House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill after adding language ratifying farming leases on state lands in the Everglades approved by Cabinet in January. The bill also passed the committee unanimously on its last committee stop.
The Florida Wildlife Federation last week filed an amended petition asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to grant a legal hearing on the purchase. The group contends the Cabinet didn't get the best deal they could for the public when it approved the leases for A. Duda and Sons and Florida Crystals Corp.
"I think they don't want this to go to the hearing, and I think they are trying to solve this before going to hearing," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
The amendment filed by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, was approved without discussion or public comment.
An amendment that would establish a three-year ban on new local fertilizer ordinances beyond the state model ordinance was withdrawn.
Business groups and landscaping professional have been asking the Legislature to prevent the adoption of new local fertilizer ordinances, warning they create a patchwork of regulations. Environmental groups say cities and counties may need stricter regulations to protect waterways.
The amendment by Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, would establish the Florida Fertilizer Regulatory Review Council to perform a comprehensive review of existing scientific data relating to environmental fate of nutrients in urban settings.
The ban also would prevent enforcement of ordinances adopted after March 4 unless they are the model ordinance.
Raburn said he withdrew the amendment because the prohibition on ordinances adopted since March 4 did not have an end date. He said the Florida Stormwater Association, which supports the bill, raised the issue.
"We wanted to get it right before we present it," Raburn said.
The bill passed unanimously with support from groups including the Florida Ports Council, the Marine Industries Association of Florida, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida League of Cities and the National Solid Waste Management Association.
Groups opposing the bill include 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida and Sierra Club Florida.
Mary Jean Yon, representing Audubon Florida, told the House State Affairs Committee that Audubon still opposes the bill "for a small number of reasons," noting that the bill had improved.
"Representative Patronis has proven in the past that he's very skilled at being able to get some of these issues back to where they can be worked out without necessarily being in statute," Yon said. Related Research: Jan. 23, 2013 "Scott, Cabinet OK no-bid farming leases to get Everglades land," Associated Press
FL House Speaker
130416-h Speaker says state's population poised to boom
Florida Current – by Bill Cotterell
April 16, 2013
House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday that Florida is about to snap out of its long growth slump and plunge into a new population boom.
He also said some new House members are skittish about having so much money to spend, since they campaigned last year by preaching the fiscal austerity brought on by the state's revenue shortages of the past six years. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he and other House elders had to assure the newcomers that a $4 billion increase in state spending in the budgets now pending House-Senate negotiation is a sign of economic growth, not an outbreak of liberal spending.
"You know what our biggest challenge was this year?" Weatherford said at a luncheon of Pasco County officials visiting their legislative delegation. "Our biggest challenge was, our members thought we were spending too much money -- because in their context, over half of our body has been here less than three years. Most of them have been here two years, a lot of them have only been here four months."
The House approved its version of the $74 billion spending plan on Friday. The Senate OK'd its own earlier, and the two record spending bills are headed for joint negotiations in the final 2 1/2 weeks of the 2013 session.
"They're coming in and they all ran on less government, cut taxes -- we all did -- but they haven't lived through the last six years," Weatherford said of the first and second-term members. "We're trying to provide some context for them about, 'Hey, look, yes, it's the biggest budget we've ever had but there's these things called federal funds that come down; there's Medicaid, which has grown by about $10 billion over the last 12 years -- a lot of things we don't control that make our budget number go up."
The powerful speaker added that, "I was caught off guard because I never would have expected that our membership would be worried about the budget being too big, because we'd been cutting so much. But it was a legitimate concern."
County commissioners and top executives from his home county were concerned about roads, environmental permitting and several other growth-related matters on "Pasco County Day" at the Capitol. Weatherford told them during a working luncheon that he recently saw an economic forecast from the Moody investment service, predicting that Florida's stalled population growth is on the upswing as the recession eases.
"One thing that we're seeing, Moody's came out -- I think it was a few weeks ago -- and their projections for Florida, statewide for 2013, is 1,000 people moving in per day, which puts us back to where we were really. The high water mark I think was 1,250," Weatherford said. "I would do speeches two or three years ago and I would tell people the days of 1,000 people moving to Florida, a day, are over and we're probably not going to see them again for a generation.
"We've all been feeling sorry for ourselves and hunkering down as if this long slowdown of growth was going to be stagnant for like 10 or 15 years. I think it's over and we're going to see this massive influx of population over the next two or three years. It's going to be great."
130416-i Tamiami Trail bridge opens for traffic
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
April 16, 2013
A new one-mile bridge across the Everglades officially opened to traffic Tuesday (April 16, 2013) on Tamiami Trail.
The elevated bridge, just a few miles west of Krome Avenue, will for the first time give motorists on the historic road a scenic view of the River of Grass. But more important, the $81 million structure will improve water flows to the most parched section of Everglades National Park.
The bridge, under construction for four years, opened at 10:20 a.m. to the first cars and trucks. Periodic delays and closures will continue, however, for at least several months as crews repave more miles of the old road and remove the old road bed, which will allow higher water levels in the adjacent L-29 canal and more water flow southward to the park. The Obama administration and environmentalists are pushing for an additional 5.5 miles of bridging on the road.
130415-a Activists protest lax new Florida water standards
April 15, 2013
Monday’s environmental message was a simple yes-no statement: “EPA YES; FDEP NO.”
Environmentalists gathered in 10 Florida cities to protest state Senate and House bills that would replace the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality rules with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s standards, which, they say, will promote further pollution of state waters.
In Fort Myers, environmentalists delivered a letter of protest to the office of state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers — protests were also held in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Gainesville.
“This is a wake-up call for the people of Florida,” former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah said. “This legislation is a job killer. No chief executive officer wants to relocate to Florida if our waters are not clean.
“Clean water also supports the state’s $65 billion tourism industry. Why would people visit Florida if they can’t enjoy these waters?”
For decades, nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, have been major threats to Florida’s water bodies: Nutrients are a natural part of the environment, but excess nutrients cause massive algal blooms, which can smother seagrasses and deplete the water of oxygen.
Excess nutrients can also fuel existing red tide blooms, which can render filter-feeding shellfish toxic to humans, cause respiratory irritation in humans and kill fish and other marine life — so far this year, 67 dead manatees have been positively identified as red tide victims, while another 189 are listed as red tide suspects.
In 2010, the EPA adopted numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries; these criteria define specific concentrations of nutrients that would be allowed to flow into a water body.
In response to EPA’s criteria, DEP developed its own nutrient standards for the state’s rivers, streams, lakes and most estuaries, including the Charlotte Harbor system, and in November 2012, EPA approved those standards. Senate Bill 1808 and House Bill 7115 direct DEP to develop numeric criteria for water bodies not covered by the standards approved by EPA.
The problem, environmentalists say, is that DEP’s criteria don’t include rivers and streams south of the Caloosahatchee Basin, defined as the Caloosahatchee River and everything that flows into it.
“The state standards are inadequate,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “They won’t prevent algal blooms or fish kills. The EPA covered all waters in Florida. DEP doesn’t. South of the Caloosahatchee, only estuaries are covered.” Drew Bartlett, director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, said that DEP criteria cover the Caloosahatchee Basin and that technically there are no rivers and streams south of the basin: All flowing waters south of the Caloosahatchee, such as Hendry Creek and Estero River, are tidal and, therefore, covered as part of estuary criteria.
The only water bodies in South Florida not yet covered, Bartlett said, are canals.
“Neither DEP nor EPA could derive valid criteria for canals, based on existing data,” Bartlett said. “So we launched a biological and chemical study of South Florida canals. We’re looking at algal data, fish data, flow data. It’s an intense three-year study: There are a lot of canals in South Florida.”
Despite what environmentalists say, Bartlett insisted that DEP’s criteria will far from inadequate.
“Our criteria use the same numbers as EPA attempted to set before,” he said.
“We’ve added biological measures and an adverse-trend test: If a water body meets the numbers, but the biology says its not healthy, then it’s still impaired. If it meets the numbers but is trending adversely, it’s impaired.
“We will have nutrient criteria in the state of Florida, and our criteria will be a lot more comprehensive than EPA’s.” Related: Activists protest lax new Florida water standards The News-Press Protesters oppose compromise over new Florida water-quality standards Orlando Sentinel Protesters say feds, not state, should set water pollution standards Palm Beach Post My Word: DEP water rules essential to health Orlando Sentinel Protest at Dean's office over water pollution standards Ocala Protesters call for stricter pollution laws WZVN-TV
130415-b America's most efficient city is ... Miami ?
GreaterWashington.org - by Chris Dickersin-Prokopp
April 15, 2013
DC may be tops when it comes to green roofs, but the region stands out less on a more impactful environmental indicator: how efficiently our infrastructure is laid out.
The purpose of infrastructure is to connect people, goods, information, and services. When people live close together, less infrastructure is needed to make these connections.
Consider one type of infrastructure, perhaps the most representative from an urban planning perspective: roads.
Roads cost money to build and maintain. Movement along those roads creates pollution and costs the users time. All else equal, it is more efficient to build, use, and maintain fewer roads per person.
Which of the 12 statistical areas in the United States with more than 5 million inhabitants has the greatest number of people per mile of arterial roads ? That honor goes to the Miami Metropolitan Area, perhaps not by choice but rather by geographic necessity, tightly bound by ocean to the east and the Everglades to the west.
Miles of primary road
People per road mile
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area
In contrast, the Atlanta Combined Statistical Area (CSA), the most sprawling of the 12 regions, has roughly the same population as Miami, but its roads total a distance nearly 3 times as long. Wouldn't it be great if we could spend all the money that goes to maintaining those unnecessary miles of road on something more productive?
The DC-Baltimore-Northern Virginia CSA ranks right in the middle, at number six, just behind Los Angeles, a fact that local environmentalists probably won't find especially comforting. At least we have both Houston and Dallas beat.
Miami is the only one of the largest metro areas not to have multiple Metropolitan Statistical Areas making up one larger CSA. Does that account for the change? No; even if you look at the individual Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas that make up those 11 CSAs, Miami's still has the most people per road mile.
The gap between the Miami metro area and the second place, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA, is closer, and without Ventura County and the Inland Empire, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA metro area jumps to #3, but otherwise little changes in the calculation.
130415-c Environmental 'cluster bombs'
April 15, 2013
Broad legislation would have sweeping impacts on state protections
Far-reaching legislation that would relax or eliminate a long list of critical environmental regulations is winding its way through both chambers of the Florida Legislature and, amazingly, is stirring virtually no debate among lawmakers, let alone resistance.
The two bills, Senate Bill 1684 and House Bill 999, are making their way through the committee process and are remarkable not only because of the depth of the rollbacks in environmental regulation they propose but because of the breadth of the environmental landscape they cover.
Among the protections these bills would remove or relax are wetlands permitting, water permitting, marina development, development permitting, air pollution permitting, water management board authority, and water sampling and testings.
Each bill is more than 40 pages long and would seriously weaken environmental laws -- an annual ritual in Tallahassee.
On water, these bills would dictate how water management boards rule on cases of competing water permits. They also would prohibit cities and counties from passing local laws regulating water wells. Laws that require water permit holders to reduce their groundwater allotment if an alternative supply becomes available would no longer apply, allowing the user to pump both the aquifer and the alternative supply permit.
The bills inexplicably would limit the number of times counties or cities could "request additional information" from the permit-seeker to three. The proposals also would remove man-made lakes, ponds or drainage areas in "upland" areas from any sort of regulation, while all but eviscerating regulations for disrupting wetland areas.
What is particularly troubling is that so many different areas of regulation are covered in these oversized, overstuffed bills.
"Every year, a compendium of every lobbyist's dream amendments, all strung together as if they were one real piece of legislation, comes barreling into Tallahassee as an 'environmental train' bill," the Florida Conservation Commission wrote its members about SB 1684 and HB 999.
"Pressure builds for passage as each lobbyist gets their special little amendment on board the train ... and it gathers steam."
The fear with bills like this, Florida Audubon's Eric Draper told the Ocala Star-Banner, is that they are like "cluster bombs."
"This has a bunch of things that will harm the environment," Draper said. "Lots and lots of impacts -- not a big bomb, but lots of little bombs, like a cluster bomb going off."
We urge our legislators to help diffuse this reckless piece of special-interest legislation. Florida's environment is too fragile and too important to our economy and our lifestyle to play fast and loose with it. This editorial initially ran in the Ocala Star-Banner, a fellow member of the Halifax Media Group.
130415-d Environmentalists demand the state stop 'slime crime'
Florida Times-Union - by Dan Scanlan
April 15, 2013
Wearing buttons that proclaimed “Stop Slime Crime,” Jacksonville environmental leaders added their voices Monday to statewide protests demanding changes in state bills they say would leave Florida’s waters without protection against toxic algae outbreaks.
Standing next to the St. Johns River, where blankets of green slime caused by nutrient pollution led to fish kills in recent summers, St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club members asked lawmakers to agree to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s more stringent fertilizer runoff limits instead of the state’s lower mandates.
Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said algae is “ugly, it is smelly and a health issue” that kills fish and makes humans sick, so the state has to change the laws to stop its causes.
“The state does not currently have the regulatory stake or the resources to fight this green algae problem,” Rinaman said. “We need to have more protective standards, so that is why we are opposed to the bills.”
Nine other communities also at risk from algae blooms fueled by fertilizer runoff held simultaneous events in St. Petersburg, Gainesville, Sarasota, Merritt Island, West Palm Beach, Palm City, Ocala, Fort Myers and Orlando. It wasn’t just environmentalists who protested. Ray Hetchka, who has operated Kayak Amelia for 17 years, said tourism suffers when algae blooms coat the river and its estuaries.
“When there’s respiratory problems and skin infections that you would see from compromised water quality, I can’t put people on the water,” Hetchka said. “... We have been dealing with this issue for dozens of years now and it is a matter of finally getting the gumption to do something about it.”
Algae blooms are caused by an overload of fertilizers draining off lawns, farms and golf courses into waterways during rains. Nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizers feed the growth of algae that kill sea grass, deplete oxygen and cause fish kills. Overflow from failing septic tanks also fuels algae growth. House Bill 7115 and Senate Bill 1808, under review in Tallahassee, would allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to implement provisions to control nutrient load in state waters. It would also establish nutrient criteria, but only for certain estuaries and waters.
Environmentalists say the legislation would call for more studies and not more stringent action to reduce nutrient pollution and allow more pollution before requiring cleanup. So environmentalists want numeric limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution.
“They have many loopholes that the polluters can utilize to not pay their fair share, and they are based on multiple, multiple studies,” Rinaman said. “We know we have a problem. We have to keep the nutrients out.”
Rinaman said the Riverkeeper has lobbied the St. Johns River Caucus’ 80 lawmakers asking them to oppose the bills and make the polluters pay for nutrients in all state waterways. Related: Environmentalists rally against fertilizer bill at Rep. Crisafulli's office Florida Today
13-415-e Fraternities collaborate to save Florida springs
USForacle.com - by Alex Rosenthal, News Editor
April 15, 2013 00:04
Bringing together the combined efforts of nine USF fraternities, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) coordinated a campaign that played on competition between Greek organizations and culminated Sunday afternoon in a series of performances for IFC’s first collaborative philanthropy initiative.
Sunday’s event, “SHOW-UP!,” in the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater featured fraternity members competing in skits that included time-traveling rock stars, $1,500 in donations and environmental education to promote support for the approximately 1,000 natural springs from the Florida aquifer, the largest source of freshwater in the state.
The campaign raised a total of $1,500 with the most, $450, coming from Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE). Van Hoda, director of philanthropy for IFC, said the original thought behind the initiative came from a desire of IFC’s to take part in a cause that students could “immediately see” results in and that was “more personal” to those who live in Florida.
“We wanted to take part in a philanthropy that would reverberate with everyone in the community… and that needed help,” Hoda said. “We didn’t want to just Google and donate to a generic organization that probably receives millions every year across the country.” Bob Knight, founder of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, opened the event after a brief video played, illustrating the threats facing Florida’s aquatic ecosystem such as pollution, over-pumping and resulting poisonous algae blooms.
The combined amount raised by the fraternities, Knight said, is the biggest donation the Florida Springs Institute has ever received.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Knight said. “I was really pleased to see local groups getting involved with a local issue. This is a statewide issue, and USF is leading part of the initiative… It’s very impressive.”
While Hoda said he has plans to extend to “SHOW-UP!” to other college campuses in the state, Knight said he similarly hopes other chapters of the Greek organizations that participated at USF will participate in schools around the state.
Knight said despite providing 90 percent of the state’s fresh drinking water and hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s tourist-based economy, the springs have been further burdened by a decline in support from the state.
“Our state government decided it is not able to continue funding,” Knight said. “Its not a big enough priority (to legislators).”
However, Knight said the Greek community at USF has taken the biggest stance on the issue.
Hoda said IFC’s campaign for Florida’s springs has included months of preparation, with events such as selling Tampa Bay Rays tickets to a game last week to members of the Greek community and donating 20 percent of sales, collecting donations and selling T-shirts and wristbands to support the springs. Anthony Nunnally, a senior majoring in criminology and president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, said the environment was a uniting factor for the fraternities.
“It’s something we can all come together and support as a one group,” Nunnally said.
Kappa Sigma started the performances with a skit of several college students cramming for a final exam in an environmental science course. The next group to perform on stage was Chi Phi, whose fraternity members did a skit about two aspiring rock stars who travel back in time to study Florida history, during which the characters met historical figures like Juan Ponce de Leon. Alex Watts, fundraising chair for Chi Phi, said he came up with the idea after watching the movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and thought it would be fun to use the characters in the “SHOW-UP!” skit to connect with characters like Ponce de Leon, who first discovered Florida’s natural springs hundreds of years ago.
“It would be cool to try something like that, and incorporate Florida’s history and information about the springs into it,” Watts said.
Chi Phi’s vice-president, Jose Suarez, said saving Florida’s natural springs is an important cause to his fraternity, which makes a weeklong trip Ginnie Springs each spring semester.
“It was an important cause for us to get involved in together,” he said. “We wanted to bring a lot of awareness to the springs.”
Alpha Sigma Phi concluded the performances with a fraternity member who gave a monologue about the life of a rock, whose struggles informed the audience about the flow of water.
PIKE’s president Scott Sandoval said his fraternity worked to collect donations for what they considered a “necessary” part of life in Florida.
“(The springs are) an integral part of our history and our future,” Sandoval said.
At the event, audience members were encouraged to sign a petition sponsored by the Florida Springs Institute. Debra Segal, a volunteer from the Florida Springs Institute, said the petition would propose an amendment dedicating “funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”
“The current administration has taken funding from protecting the aquifers to contribute to other state projects,” Segal said. “Our goal is get at least 640,000 signatures by the end of the year so it could be on the 2014 ballot.”
Segal said the Florida Springs Institute had already collected almost 110,000 signatures for the petition.
Segal, who was a judge for the skit competition, said the event was fun and she “enjoyed the creative skits” by the fraternities.
130415-f Iraqi Engineer wins award in California for Garden of Eden
NBCBayArea.com - by Joe Rosato Jr.
April 15, 2013 Azzam Alwash could hear the sounds of the reeds rustling in a light breeze. He could smell the soupy water – gazing over the sides of a wooden boat as it parted the dense vegetation. He remembered the marshlands of his youth in Southern Iraq as a paradise, referred to by many as the Biblical Garden of Eden.
Marshland in Iraq known as the Garden of Eden
But as those memories found Alwash, he was living another life as a successful engineer in Los Angeles.
And the marshes of his youth were gone too; dammed and choked-off by former Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein, in a hostile campaign to punish the people known as the "Marsh Arabs."
“When I heard about its destruction in 1997,” Alwash said, “the engineer in me could not believe that’s possible.”
On Monday, the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize honored Alwash and five others in San Francisco for their grassroots work around the globe. Alwash was recognized for his work restoring the marshes.
The Mesopotamia marshlands once fanned across more than 12,000 miles of Southern Iraq with tiny inter-connected lakes and mudflats. They dwelled at the intersection of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, blanketing an area twice the size of Florida’s Everglades.
When Hussein was finally thumped from power in 2003, Alwash searched his soul, faced his family and stared down the one conclusion that seemed to make sense to him: He would return to Iraq and try and undo the great undoing of the marshes.
“It was one of the hardest decisions to let go of that,” he said of his life in Southern California, “and go to the uncertainty of going to Iraq and working on passion.”
Alwash founded the environmental group Nature Iraq, and set about trying to undo 35 years of war and sanctions. Even before he arrived in Iraq, the Arabs native to the marshes had already begun to tear down some of the levees erected by Hussein and others.
“They didn’t restore the marshes because they’re tree-huggers or kayakers or nature lovers,” Alwash said. “They restored the marshes because it’s a way of life it’s dignity.”
As the group peeled back the layers of development, the healing river waters began to flow like a healing salve across the cracked earth. The restoration workers unleashed the waters, but the waters did the heavy lifting. Tiny reeds began to burst from the mud, eventually transforming once again into dense forests. Life had begun to flow back.
“When the reeds come back, the water buffalo comes back, the fish come back,” Alwash said. “Everything comes back.”
Alwash will never claim to be the prime mover of the marsh restoration. He said he was merely the man with ideas, skills, and the emotional connection to the marshes to push things along. A trim man of silver hair, he bursts with fits of laughter as speaks. But his voice falls to a hushed reverence as he rummages for recollections of the marshlands.
“I have very fond memories of these marshes as a young man,” Alwash said just above a whisper. “In a single boat with my dad, in these meandering canals with reeds extending as far as the eye can see.”
Alwash said the Goldman award, considered to be the environmental equivalent of a Nobel Prize, was an exciting honor, reflecting an entire community’s dogged work. He said he would accept it on behalf of the Marsh Arabs who are once again living among the wetlands.
But to Alwash, who has relinquished some of his duties with the nature group he started, the work of repairing his native Iraq is in many ways like the marsh reeds themselves -- beginning to burst open with the promise of forests ahead.
130415-h Proposed amendment would ban new local fertilizer ordinances for three years
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
April 15, 2013
A proposed bill amendment would ban local governments from enacting new fertilizer ordinances other than a state model ordinance while a panel is appointed to study the issue.
Lawn care firms and their allied business groups have been at odds with cities, counties and environmental groups over fertilizer legislation for the past four years.
Supporters of legislation warn there will be a patchwork of local regulations unless the state steps in to require adherence to the model state ordinance.
Some local governments and environmental groups say stronger action sometimes is needed by cities and counties to protect local waterways.
The proposed amendment by Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, would enact a three-year ban on new fertilizer ordinances beginning on July 1, unless they are the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's state model fertilizer ordinance. Ordinances adopted between March 4 and July 1 will not be enforced unless they are the DEP model ordinance.
Raburn said Monday he doesn't expect a fight over the legislation this year.
"We have been talking really closely with cities and counties and the (Florida) Stormwater Association," Raburn said. "I think they are all on board with the language we are proposing as an amendment."
The proposed language was filed Monday as an amendment to HB 999, a wide-ranging environmental permitting bill that goes before the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
The amendment would appear to block implementation of the city of Rockledge's fertilizer ordinance. The city in Brevard County adopted the ordinance March 20 amid concerns about manatee deaths in Indian River Lagoon possibly from ingesting algae.
The ordinance prohibits fertilizer applications when heavy rain is likely and establishes a restricted-use period from June 1 to Sept. 30. That ordinance was adopted despite opposition from the Florida Pest Management Association.
While Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has pointed to the Rockledge ordinance as a need for legislation, Raburn said the Rockledge action isn't driving the need for legislation.
"I think we both know there is a wide-ranging variety of regulations and ordinances as they pertain to non-agriculture fertilizer use," he said.
Ryan Matthews, representing the Florida League of Cities, said Crisafulli has taken a proactive approach on the issue rather than filing legislation that one or both sides in the issue will oppose.
"We will be supporting the language with the good-faith understanding that significant investment of time and resources will go into the study of nutrients and their effect on water quality," Matthews said in an email.
Cragin Mosteller, representing the Florida Association of Counties, said that although the group doesn't support the ban on new ordinances, it does look forward to working with the task force to address water quality issues facing communities. Related Research: * April 15, 2013 Amendment 714095 by Rep. Raburn to H 0999 (Environmental Regulation)
* Florida Conservation Coalition Press Release: Action Alert - Stop SB 1684 - Its Up To You
A Land Remembered is a best-selling novel
written by Patrick D.
Smith, and published in
1984 by Pineapple
Press. It is historical
fiction set in pioneer
Florida. The story
covers over a century
of Florida history from
1858 to 1968.
130415-i Recalling Florida's beauty as it's ruined
Tampa Bay Times – by Dan DeWitt
April 15, 2013
“A Land Remembered” is one of those great books that might not seem all that great at first; you just keep turning the pages.
In case you haven't heard of it, and I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't until a few days ago, it's by a Mississippi transplant named Patrick D. Smith and it's about a fictional family named the MacIveys. More specifically, it's about this family's life in Florida over the course of more than a century.
Which means it's about wide-open natural prairies and stands of giant cypress trees — about the Everglades, feral cattle, wolves and monster alligators, and about a time when horseback riders in the swamp flushed sky-darkening numbers of ibis and herons.
And, though I'm just coming to this part of the book, it's about how it all got messed up.
Or at least started to get that way, because the span covered by the book ends in 1968, when the characters couldn't know what messed up really was.
As plenty of people have pointed out, including the Tampa Bay Times' Jeff Klinkenberg — whose 2012 story about the ailing, aging author I stumbled upon last week, prompting me to find a copy of the book — Smith wasn't a great prose stylist. You root for the characters, but sometimes they're a little too earnest, sometimes not all that believable.
It's the land that carries the story, that gives the book its somewhat mysterious appeal. That's my theory, anyway.
People can't believe that this beat-up, built-up state used to be so pretty. They can't get over that it was once so full of life that a shotgun, a fishing pole or even a bullwhip was a guarantee against starvation.
That's why the book has sold more than 200,000 copies since it was published in 1984, why it's the perennial winner of a favorite-book poll conducted by Florida Monthly magazine, why, according to his website, Smith has been nominated for Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for literature.
The message ?
People like nature, even people who'd rather sit with a book than hike. And they see it as a tragedy when it's ruined.
Okay, so this is not exactly a revelation.
But the way I reacted to the book, and the way people who love it really love it, tells me our leaders might need to be reminded how strong this feeling is — especially now that lawmakers are at work in Tallahassee.
The House of Representatives has budgeted more money than in recent years to buy natural land, but it's a little alarming that so much of the money might come from unloading existing land. So far, the Senate has been a lot less generous.
There's a big effort to water down permitting for a long list of industries and a bill to set new standards for controlling levels of polluting nutrients in some bodies of water, which sounds like a good thing until you realize it means the feds won't be doing it — and that these standards aren't nearly as tight as many environmentalists would like.
I thought about this on a short trip last week to a part of North Carolina that does a good job attracting tourists without ruining the scenery that draws them in.
In fact, all I hear from Floridians is how pretty it is there. So was Florida, I thought as I read Smith's book. And it could be still if we don't keep messing it up
The CIA helped Disney
World acquire a unique
legal status which
makes it exempt from
government, a new
Timothy Allman's book
claims to reveal that
Disney World's creators
worked with the CIA to
circumvent local law.
Disney set up phantom
cities with local
company could control
130415-j Revealed: How the CIA helped Disney conquer Florida and buy super-cheap land that is 'above the law'
DailyMail,co.uk – by Damien Gayle
April 15, 2013
● Disney World's special legal arrangements help it avoid tax and regulation, new book claims.
● The laws which underpin the two phantom cities it sits on require office holders to own property there.
● That defies provisions in the U.S. and Florida constitutions against such laws.
Disney conspired with the CIA to buy up cheap land in Florida for Disney World and orchestrate a unique legal situation that makes the theme park above the law, a new book claims.
The company took advice from former CIA agents and lawyers to engineer statutory grounds which still allow Disney World avoid taxation and environmental regulation, it is alleged.
The special legal situation underpinning the site is not only unconstitutional, it is claimed, but allows the company to avoid any inconvenient decisions democratically taken at the local level.
In 2005 the then chief of Florida's Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection summed up the impunity with which Disney World operates when he admitted: 'We don't have the authority to close the park down or close the rides.'
The allegations have been made in a new book, Finding Florida: The True History Of The Sunshine State, by investigative journalist Timothy Allman, extracts from which have been published by the Daily Beast.
Best known for his work on the CIA's 'secret war' in Laos and interviews with world figures as foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair, Allman has now turned his attention closer to home with this exposé of Florida's murky past.
In Finding Florida he claims that Walt Disney conspired with William 'Wild Bill' Donovan - the so-called 'Father of the CIA' - to establish a state-within-a-state where he could 'control the overall development' of Disney World.
Donovan, founding partner of New York law firm Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine, whose attorneys included future CIA director William Casey, provided lawyers to help Disney distract attention from its plans, says Allman.
These attorneys, it is claimed, provided fake identities for Disney agents, set up a secret communications centre and organised a disinformation campaign to make sure sellers had no idea who was buying their property.
In this way, Disney was from the mid-Sixties able to snap up 40 square miles of land in the Sunshine State for a knockdown price of less than $200 an acre.
Disney and his advisers then sought a way to 'limit the voting power of the private residents' of the area, to control the impact that local democracy might have on the company's plans.
They employed a scheme devised by senior CIA operative Paul Helliwell to establish two phantom cities populated by hand-picked Disney loyalists around which Disney World would be based.
The cities were based around Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, two artificial reservoirs Disney engineers created by obstructing the area's natural water flow.
The company could then 'use these fake governments to control land use and make sure the public monies the theme park generated stayed in Disney's private hands,' Allman writes.
Teams of Disney lawyers working out of Donovan's New York law firm drafted the legislation to establish the two pseudo-cities, which was passed by the Florida legislature in 1967.
However, in violation of both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, the carefully drafted laws specified that any elected office holder must own property within the cities.
The law, which states that each candidate for office 'must be the owner, either directly or as a trustee, of real property situated in the City', ensured any local politician would be intimately linked with Disney.
On the day of the magic kingdom's inauguration, Walt Disney, speaking from beyond the grave in a recorded presentation, boasted of creating a new kind of America.
'Of course he was right about creating a new kind of America,' Allman writes. 'By turning the State of Florida and its statutes into their enablers, Disney and his successors pioneered a business model based on public subsidy of private profit coupled with corporate immunity from the laws, regulations, and taxes imposed on actual people that now increasingly characterises the economy of the United States.' "Finding Florida: The True History Of The Sunshine State", by T.D. Allman, is out now, published by Atlantic Monthly Press.
130415-k Water resources bill necessary but flawed
April 15, 2013
For the first time since 2007, the Senate will vote on a Water Resources Development Act renewal, which has significant bipartisan support. It would be the vehicle through which Congress could appropriate billions of dollars for projects to be designed and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The bill is needed. There is a substantial backlog of water-related infrastructure projects, some of which include significant environmental improvements. Several projects, for example, would help to restore the health of the Everglades and Gulf Coast wetlands.
But the bill is flawed regarding the environment, overall, because it would diminish environmental safeguards in existing federal law. It would weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. That law provides communities to be affected by Corps projects with the opportunity to object and propose alternatives.
A U.S. magistrate judge in California recently ruled, for example, that the Bureau of Land Management violated the law by not taking a "hard look" at the potential impact of fracking on surrounding communities, when it awarded gas and oil leases on federal land.
Under the bill, the window for public commentary would be limited and developers would have greater leeway for the types of environmental remediation they could use to gain federal approval for projects.
The Senate should ensure that any bill authorizing major water-related development projects maintains high levels of environmental protection.
130414-a Crisis mode — still
Ocala.com - Editorial
April 14, 2013
The St. Johns River Water Management District just finished its latest scientific assessment of Silver Springs and the Silver River — a “minimum flows and levels” study aimed at determining just how low the springs/river level could go before experiencing significant environmental harm. It is an important and useful measure of the springs’ and river’s health, and its results could play a key role in the water district’s Adena Springs Ranch water permit decision.
The problem is, MFLs were mandated by the Legislature 41 years ago. While it’s good that SJRWMD has calculated Silver Springs’ MFL, the springs/river already are experiencing significant environmental harm. Nitrate overload is causing algae blooms. The spring flow is two-thirds its historical levels. The fish population is down more than 90 percent. The clarity of the water can no longer be described as “crystal.” Invasive plants are overtaking the shorelines.
In short, at their worst, the findings of the Silver Springs MFL study, which is being peer reviewed, could hardly make things much worse.
“There’s a lot of ecological stress in the (springs/river) system right now,” Hal Wilkening, SJRWMD director of water resources, told us. “There’s some significant ecological damage.”
Sadly, the Silver Springs MFL study is just part of a crisis mode strategy in play to try to save an iconic natural resource. Of course, that is how Florida deals with most of its water problems — in crisis mode.
The evidence is in the alphabet soup that is rallying to save Silver Springs.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, that is, DEP, is conducting a TMDL (total maximum daily load) initiative to reduce nitrates in the springs/river by 79 percent. Meanwhile, DEP also is undertaking a BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) to not only achieve the TMDL, but to also increase conservation efforts and “best practices” among homeowners, commercial water users and farmers.
While DEP and SJRWMD are busy trying to slow the degradation of Silver Springs, Marion County is busy — and has been — spending millions retrofitting its stormwater and wastewater systems to reduce the pollution it has contributed.
There is a lesson in all this energy, expertise and expenditure of money to reverse what could have been stopped, or at least minimized, years ago. Of course, doing so would have meant possibly slowing a building boom that blew to bits and nearly destroyed our local economy. All state and local officials had to do was look at Lake Apopka or the Lower St. Johns River or Tampa Bay, all water bodies that were nearly killed by overdevelopment and pollution. No one did a thing, officially, to save these water bodies until they were in crisis mode, and it has taken decades to restore them, and the job is far from done.
Now, we are in crisis mode over Silver Springs.
Lest anyone needs reminding, what comes out of Silver Springs is the same water that eventually comes out of your water faucet, straight from the aquifer.
Everyone now is feverishly working to save, clean and restore Silver Springs — because it is in crisis.
We wonder, will Florida ever learn that there is a better way than crisis mode when it comes to our water ?
former FDEP wetlands
130414-b Lobbying around those pesky regulations
Miami Herald - by Fred Grimm
April 14, 2013
On a thirsty tract up in Clay County, some savvy businessmen pulled off a nearly magical act of hydraulic engineering. They converted hundreds of acres of dry piney woods into an extremely profitable wetlands mitigation bank. And they did it without water.
How did the folks behind the not-so-wet Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank do it? They hired an influential lobbyist. They leaned on the Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District to get rid of pesky regulators who saw the purported wetlands as mostly a mirage.
When state regulations governing mitigation banks didn’t jibe with its business plan, Highlands Ranch’s corporate counsel simply dropped by DEP headquarters and rewrote the rules.
Highlands Ranch demonstrated, in brazen fashion, that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was much more keen on boosting well-connected businesses than enforcing those nuisance laws protecting what’s left of Florida wetlands.
His political appointees at DEP happily abided the unwet wetlands bank. Things seemed to be going swimmingly — perhaps the wrong word — until Thursday, when a state administration judge threw water on the scam.
Mitigation banks were conceived as a market-driven solution to the destruction of wetlands. Mitigation bankers buy up former swampland, restore it to wetlands. Regulators from DEP or local water districts then employ the state formula for awarding mitigation bank credits. Developers who plan to drain wetlands elsewhere buy those credits from the banks, making it, at least in theory, an even swap — an acre of restored wetlands for every acre lost to development.
In 2008, a group of investors paid $15 million for an 1,575-acre pine plantation southwest of Jacksonville and claimed they were recreating wetlands worth 688 credits. (A single credit has a market value of about $100,000). Except that regulators from St. Johns River Water Management District figured the actual value was only 193 credits. Highlands Ranch appealed the finding and lost. And then tried to convince the state Legislature to loosen the damn rules that require water on wetlands. That didn’t work either.
So, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the company hired a lobbyist who was tight with Scott’s very corporate friendly DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. That’s how you get things done in Florida.
Pretty soon, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn (who just happens to be the son of another powerful Tallahassee lobbyist) reconfigured the formula DEP had used to score credits. He admitted that the new rules were actually written by the corporate counsel for Highlands Ranch.
With new and friendly regs in place, Highlands Ranch did an end-run around the St. Johns River Water District and submitted a new application directly with DEP, this time asking for 426 credits. Scientist steps in
It was a nearly perfect scam. Except the DEP’s top wetlands expert wouldn’t play along. Career scientist Connie Bersok decided the mostly dry wetlands were only worth 177 credits. Littlejohn ordered her to come up with a number close to what Highlands Ranch wanted. Last May, she responded in a memo: “I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance.”
Two days later, Bersok was suspended. Just a coincidence, DEP insisted. Except the DEP Inspector General examined the charges against Bersok and found them groundless: “There was no documentation or testimony to substantiate any violations by Bersok.” She was reinstated after four weeks off the job, but DEP kept her off the Highlands Ranch case.
Meanwhile, two regulators at the St. Johns River Water District who just happened to have undercut Highlands Ranch’s case for all those undeserved credits were forced to resign. Another coincidence, I suppose.
With Bersok off the case, DEP awarded Highlands Ranch 424 credits — good for an extra $25 million over her original calculation.
Except the Florida Defenders of Wildlife challenged the permit. Administrative Judge E. Gray Early, who held a hearing last fall, issued his findings Thursday. Judge Early noted the peculiar and unprecedented actions that DEP had taken to accommodate Highlands Ranch, including the decision to hijack the case from the water district and to rewrite the regulations using only the input of the Highlands Ranch counsel, “offering no opportunity for other views, either in favor of or in opposition.”
He noted that the DEP officials, during the hearing last fall, had been “unable to identify who in the Department calculated the [mitigation bank] credits” which just happened to add up to just two credits short of what Highlands Ranch had demanded.
The regulator DEP had removed from the case had a much better memory. “Ms. Bersok‘s opinions were based on competent and substantial evidence, including the complete application and sufficient knowledge of the conditions of the property,” the judge said.
He said that even under the rewritten and very permissive regs designed by Highlands Ranch’s own lawyer, DEP should have capped the credits at 280. Judge Early stopped this desiccated wetlands scam, thanks to the testimony of a brave state regulator who stood up to her political appointee bosses.
A lousy deal was derailed, but the Highlands Ranch case demonstrates, with dismal clarity, the Scott administration’s enthusiasm for protecting Florida’s environment.
130414-c Pruitt was puppet of Big Sugar even before he was on its payroll
TCPalm – Letter by Tom Tomlinson, Palm City, FL
April 14, 2013
No surprise to me that Ken Pruitt is a lobbyist for Big Sugar.
Back in the 1990s, then state Rep. Pruitt and other legislators plotted with sugar barons to inflate restoration costs for the Everglades. Pruitt pushed House Bill 107, written by a developer who was refused permission to build along an environmentally sensitive river in Volusia County.
Pruitt, who won a specially created “Worst Legislator of the Year” award from environmental groups in 1992 and 1993, said he wasn’t interested in hearing from opponents.
Not only was Rep. Pruitt a puppet for Big Sugar and the developers, he fought for the tobacco industry. He voted to prevent the state from suing the tobacco industry.
Only Gov. Lawton Chiles’ veto allowed the state to proceed and eventually win the lawsuit.
Letter by David Dale, Fort Pierce, FL
Pruitt disgraced, discredited by divided loyalties
Letter: Pruitt disgraced, discredited by divided loyalties
At one time I thought Ken Pruitt might be the exception, a politician who thought “public service” was just that, a service to the public. Now it appears that he was conning all of us.
It is outrageous that while purportedly “serving” as St. Lucie County’s tax assessor he is actually acting as a shill for one of the worst polluters of the Everglades.
If he has any honor left he should resign as tax assessor and his name should be removed from any public building or road named for him.
130414-d There's a way for the DEP to win applause
Jacksonville.com - by Ron Littlepage
Let me clean up a bit of a mess I left in a column last week.
It was in 1972 that the Legislature passed the Florida Water Resources Act that set up the state’s water management districts.
Among other requirements, the act mandated that the districts establish minimum flows for Florida’s rivers — the amount of flow needed to keep rivers healthy.
That was a major step in the right direction for protecting Florida’s waterways, but what has been frustrating is the length of time it has taken for the districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — under all governors, I might add — to follow through.
It was in 1992 — 20 years after the act was passed — that the St. Johns River Water Management District set the first minimum flow level for a river, the Wekiva.
And, according to the DEP, minimum flows have been set for just 25 of the state’s rivers in the past four decades.
The districts’ priority lists for establishing minimum flows for 41 other rivers stretch to 2028, with most set to be done by 2016 and 2020.
Meanwhile, many of our rivers are suffering from reduced flow that can exacerbate problems caused by excessive nutrients.
Gov. Rick Scott and his DEP secretary, Herschel Vinyard, have taken a lot of criticism from environmentalists, but in the two years Vinyard has been at DEP, minimum flows have been set for four rivers — Cow Pen Slough, the Lower Myakka, the Chassahowitzka and the Homosassa.
And it was under Vinyard that the executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which had done zero work to establish minimum flows, was replaced, and the new boss was given marching orders, as Vinyard puts it, to “follow the law.”
That brings us to Silver Springs and the Silver River.
There has been much hand wringing, and rightfully so, over the condition of the springs, which have seen a dramatic drop in flow and an overload of nutrients that have left the Silver River an algae-covered mess.
It’s difficult to comprehend that 40 years after the Florida Water Resources Act was enacted, minimum flows have yet to be set for the iconic springs and river that for so long symbolized the best of the state’s natural resources.
Vinyard happily pointed out in an interview last week that is about to change under his watch.
According to the St. Johns River Water Management District, minimum flows for Silver Springs and Silver River are being peer reviewed now, a process that should be completed by June.
Once that is done, a plan for recovery will have to be developed.
That could include such things as water conservation, water reuse and limits on withdrawals from the aquifer.
We’ve already waited too long to get this done. We know Silver Springs and Silver River are sick; some say they are dying.
During the interview, Vinyard expressed frustration that DEP doesn’t get the credit it should for the good things it is doing.
One thing that would earn the department huzzahs would be to stop additional permits for water withdrawals from the aquifer, such as the one being sought by Adena Springs Ranch in that springshed, until we know what the recovery plan will entail.
130413- Now endangered, Florida's Silver Springs once lured tourists
NPR.org – by Greg Allen
April 13, 2013
Before Disney World, Silver Springs in Central Florida was for decades one of the state's most popular tourist destinations.
Even if you've never visited Silver Springs, you might have seen it — if you're old enough. The 1960s television show Sea Hunt was filmed here, as were countless movies including Tarzan and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The crystal clear water of Silver Springs made it invaluable to Hollywood. Guy Marwick, the founder of the Silver River Museum, says it drew over a million visitors a year.
"It was not an amusement park in the sense of Coney Island and the rides that one might associate with it," Marwick says. "It was kind of the natural Florida, and I think that's what people are hoping to see it go back to now."
Repairing The Springs
Later this year, Florida's park service will take over Silver Springs and begin working to restore it to a more natural state. That is a huge task, however, and over the past two decades, Silver Springs — and most springs in Florida — have fallen on hard times.
Drought, development and excessive groundwater pumping have cut the amount of water flowing here in half. From the walkway that overlooks the head spring, the water is still blue and crystal clear, with fish, turtles and alligators clearly visible.
But director of the Florida Springs Institute Robert Knight says look closer and you'll see the problem: pollution from agriculture and residential development has helped coat the spring with algae.
"This spring [it] was white on the bottom," Knight says. "It was a sandy bottom and shells; it was just glistening ... Now, it's green on the bottom because it's covered with algae. It's just not glowing at you the way it used to."
When the park service takes over operations at Silver Springs, the rides and the reptile farm, with its two albino alligators, will be gone. But the signature attraction of the springs — its famous glass-bottom boats — will remain.
Glass-bottom boat captain Oscar Collins has seen big changes at Silver Springs over his 44 years spent working there. On a recent day, just a few dozen people are in the park, a big contrast with Silver Springs' heyday in the 1960s.
"We were doing four and five thousand people in the middle of the day, and on weekends, six and seven," Collins says. "We are losing people here."
The boats glide over the spring vents that deliver millions of gallons of water from Florida's aquifer into the Silver River. Like all springs in Florida, it's much less water than was produced just 10 years ago.
Fish are no longer abundant, but there are some like the long-nosed gar. Most of the aquatic plants are covered by algae. Nitrates in the spring water, much of it from fertilizer spread on farms and lawns, promotes the growth of algae and, Knight says, eventually kills the plants.
"It would be tragic to lose all this vegetation in Silver Springs," he says. "But our other springs, we've already lost all the plants."
A dozen years ago, alarm over the decline of Florida's springs drew the attention of political leaders in Tallahassee. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush launched an initiative to save the 1,000-plus springs throughout the state. That program was defunded last year by Florida's current governor, Rick Scott.
But for Silver Springs at least, the state takeover is good news. To improve the water quality of the springs, Florida regulators have set targets for reducing the amount of nitrates. Hitting those targets, though, will mean addressing the sources of pollution, putting thousands of septic tanks on public sewer systems, and aggressively reducing the amount of fertilizer used by homeowners and farmers. Drew Bartlett of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection acknowledges it's a massive undertaking that could take decades.
"Well, it certainly is a challenge," Bartlett says, "and my response has essentially [been] that's not an excuse not to get started."
Springs advocates are especially concerned about a potential new source of pollution just a few miles from Silver Springs. Water management officials are considering plans for a huge cattle ranch that would withdraw millions of gallons a day from the aquifer that feeds the springs.
The 15,000 to 20,000 head of cattle would produce as much as a million pounds of manure a day.
"What we're getting is very intensive farms using a lot of water with very big wells and using a lot of fertilizer to maximize their profits," Knight says. "That's what's hurting our springs."
In some ways, Florida's endangered springs are a symptom of a larger problem. With development and wells sunk for everything from golf courses to bottled water plants, Florida's aquifer is being depleted.
In some areas, the aquifer — which most Floridians rely on for drinking water — has dropped by 60 feet. Some coastal communities are now getting saltwater in their wells, which costs millions to treat.
The most visible consequence of excessive pumping from the aquifer may be Florida's epidemic of sinkholes, including a massive one near Tampa recently that claimed a man's life.
130412-a Clam farm sues county, water district over lagoon restoration
Dayton Beach News Journal - by Andrew Gant & Dinah Voyles Pulver
April 12, 2013
A shellfish farm in Southeast Volusia is suing Volusia County and the St. Johns River Water Management District over a restoration project in Mosquito Lagoon that the company says has killed off millions of clams.
Cedar Creek Shellfish Farms is asking a circuit judge to halt the restoration, develop a plan to protect the lagoon's water quality and award money damages for millions of lost clams — 90 percent of the roughly 7 million clams the farm plants each year.
The attorney who filed the suit said the project hasn't conformed with its state permit — which requires protective barriers and other measures to prevent pollution.
"We're not asking for anything over and above" the requirements of that permit, argued Jay Howanitz of the Jacksonville firm Spohrer & Dodd. "It's there and it's there for a reason: to protect people."
The lawsuit contends "improper discharge of contaminants" from the project destroyed "millions of shellfish and profitable shellfish-harvesting submerged land," violating Cedar Creek's property rights.
The county and the water management district said Friday they were unaware of the lawsuit. Volusia spokesman Dave Byron said the county didn't have any comment on it.
District spokeswoman Teresa Monson confirmed, though, that the district has responded to several recent public record requests from the law firm. And she said the state has reviewed the project and found it complies with its permit.
Mosquito Lagoon is a popular fishing and birdwatching destination on the Indian River in Southeast Volusia, much of it surrounded by Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The district, along with the East Volusia Mosquito Control district, have collaborated for years to reverse damages they say occurred in the 1960s — when at least 1,200 acres of the lagoon's wetlands and marshes were ditched, drained and filled to try to control swarms of mosquitoes.
During restoration projects, track hoe machines are used to fill in the man-made ditches by leveling the spoil that had been stacked up in the wetlands when the ditches were originally dug, which allows a more natural water flow to return to the restored areas.
Similar restorations also have taken place in the coastal basin around the mouth of the Tomoka River.
But while the agencies tout the ecological benefits of restoration, the clam farmers say the excavators and backhoes used to level the ditches have also stirred up sediment, sent "high bacteria loads" over the clams, reduced oxygen in the water and increased levels of nitrate, phosphate and sulfite.
The lawsuit argues that before the restoration, only 10 to 20 percent of Cedar Creek's clams died. The company contends that rate is now 90 percent or higher.
Cedar Creek, in business in the lagoon since 1996, leases the underwater land for its clams from the state.
Monson said the state Department of Environmental Protection inspected the restoration project after a water-quality complaint in January. She said the DEP found no issues with turbidity — a measure of particles in the water — and that the district was in compliance with its state permit to restore the wetlands.
"This has been the only turbidity complaint received in 10-plus years of the project and over 500 acres of restoration," Monson wrote in an email.
Howanitz said others have voiced concerns with the restoration for two years.
A number of state and local agencies have supported, permitted or paid for some of the work, including the National Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists with the agencies say repairing the damaged ecosystems improves fish production, maintains wildlife diversity and abundance, and protects private and public property during storms by buffering wind and wave energy.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday, asks for a jury trial to determine damages. Howanitz didn't have an estimate.
130412-b Cluster bombs
April 12, 2013
Far-reaching legislation that would relax or eliminate a long list of critical environmental regulations is winding its way through both chambers of the Florida Legislature and, amazingly, is stirring virtually no debate among lawmakers, let alone resistance.
The two bills, Senate Bill 1684 and House Bill 999, are making their way through the committee process and are remarkable not only because of the depth of the rollbacks in environmental regulation they propose, but because of the breadth of the environmental landscape they cover.
Among the protections these bills would remove or relax are wetlands permitting, water permitting, marina development, development permitting, air pollution permitting, water management board authority, and water sampling and testings. Each bill is more than 40 pages long and would seriously weaken environmental laws — an annual ritual in Tallahassee.
On water, these bills would dictate how water management boards rule on cases of competing water permits. They also would prohibit cities and counties from passing any local laws regulating water wells. Laws that now require water permit holders to reduce their groundwater allotment if an alternative supply becomes available would no longer apply, allowing the user to pump both the aquifer and the alternative supply permit.
The bills inexplicably would limit the number of times counties or cities could “request additional information” from the permit-seeker to three. The proposals also would remove man-made lakes, ponds or drainage areas in “upland” areas from any sort of regulation, while all but eviscerating regulations for disrupting wetland areas.
What is particularly bothersome about these bills, besides the fact they represent a conscious and continuous dismantling of Florida's environmental protection legacy, is that there are so many different areas covered in these oversized, overstuffed bills.
“Every year, a compendium of every lobbyist's dream amendments, all strung together as if they were one real piece of legislation, comes barreling into Tallahassee as an ‘environmental train' bill,” the Florida Conservation Commission wrote its members about SB 1684 and HB 999. “Pressure builds for passage as each lobbyist gets their special little amendment onboard the train ... and it gathers steam.”
The fear with bills like this, Florida Audubon's Eric Draper told the Ocala Star-Banner, is that they are like “cluster bombs.”
“This has a bunch of things that will harm the environment,” Draper said. “Lots and lots of impacts — not a big bomb, but lots of little bombs, like a cluster bomb going off.”
We urge our legislators to help diffuse this reckless piece of special-interest legislation. Florida's environment is too fragile and too important to our economy and our lifestyle to play fast and loose with it.
Mouse-over and/or CLICK to enlarge:
Polluters - pay !
130412-c Everglades restoration costs may outpace South Florida property taxes
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 12, 201
Beyond the nearly $1 billion looming cost of upcoming Everglades restoration construction projects, South Florida taxpayers face growing long-term expenses to keep new reservoirs, water treatment areas and levees working.
The South Florida Water Management District already spends more than $140 million a year on the operations and maintenance costs of pumps, canals, levees and other infrastructure relied on to guard against flooding and to boost water supplies.
Those costs could rise by $15 million a year within the next 10 years in order to keep pace with new water management structures planned to help the Everglades, according to district projections.
The problem is that projected property tax revenues are lagging beyond expected increase in expenses through 2022. That leaves district officials looking for ways to cut back costs — even before construction begins ono those upcoming projects.
Also, chipping away at a backlog of repairs of aging flood-control and water-supply structures already costs the district about $50 million a year.
"We don't have a lot of cushion," district Executive Director Melissa Meeker said. "We are very tight. … This is something that causes us concerns."
Making the financial situation more difficult are the lingering effects of steep, state-imposed budget cuts that in 2011 cut more than $100 million from the district's budget. That resulted in about 134 district layoffs.
Environmental groups opposed those budget cuts and have since called for the state to boost the funding for the agency that leads Everglades restoration.
"It costs money to pump water. It costs money to [buy] gas," said Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida. "The district has yet to recover."
The district projects that it will need about 30 positions to be dedicated to the operations and maintenance of new reservoirs and water storage areas expected to come on line during the next nine years.
Other costs range from the diesel fuel to run water pumps to paying crews to mow canal banks. So far, district leaders have taken a no-new-taxes-approach to their future financial crunch.
Re-assigning existing jobs to avoid adding positions and hunting for alternative revenue sources are among the ways the district is angling to covering the growing expense.
"We know that these are costs that are coming," said Doug Bergstrom, who handles the district's budget.
The South Florida Water Management District, based in West Palm Beach, has about 1,600 employees and a $600 million budget fueled in part by South Florida property taxes.
The district is implementing Gov. Rick Scott's $880 million plan aimed at cleaning up pollution from stormwater that washes off farmland and urban areas and into the Everglades. That plan is also intended to end a legal standoff with the federal government over the state's failure to meet water quality standards.
Environmental groups have called for sugar producers and other agriculture to pay more for the clean up of polluting phosphorus that washes off farmland and into the Everglades.
The sugar industry counters that special taxes on growers south of Lake Okeechobee have already generated more than $200 million since the 1990s to help pay for Everglades restoration.
former FDEP wetlands
130412-d Judge upholds suspended wetlands expert, blasts DEP for permitting controversial project
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
April 12, 2013
A judge has ruled that the state Department of Environmental Protection was wrong to ignore its top wetlands expert and issue a permit for a controversial project that she had warned her bosses would damage the environment.
The ruling shows that "good science is being protected," said Tom Reese, the St. Petersburg attorney for the Florida Wildlife Federation, which had challenged the permit.
The permit the DEP issued would have resulted in the loss of 300 acres of wetlands, considered vital to soaking up floodwaters and recharging the underground aquifer, he said.
The 83-page ruling concerns a permit the DEP issued for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County, a project so controversial that it has been blamed for the layoffs of some state regulators and the suspension of the DEP's top wetlands expert, Connie Bersok.
Highlands Ranch's plans call for turning a North Florida pine plantation into a business that attempts to make up for wetlands that are wiped out by new roads and development. At stake: millions of dollars in wetland "credits" that can be sold to government and developers.
The problem, according to a memo last year from Bersok, was that the owners wanted the DEP to give them lots of wetland credits for land that isn't wet.
After being told by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to ignore the rules she had followed on other permits, Bersok wrote, "I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance."
Bersok was suspended pending an investigation. DEP documents show that her bosses were worried she was telling reporters and environmental activists about what was wrong with the Highlands Ranch permit. She testified under oath that she hadn't told anyone.
Although Bersok was eventually reinstated, she was taken off the Highlands Ranch permit review, and DEP officials approved the permit exactly the way the project's developer wanted. When the environmental group challenged the permit, Bersok testified to what was wrong with it. The judge ruled that she offered "the most credible and reliable application of reasonable scientific judgment."
"Connie is a good scientist," Reese said. "She would not succumb to political pressure."
The judge also blasted Littlejohn and the DEP for creating a new approach to issuing such permits that was "developed by the department and Highlands Ranch, without opportunity for public participation or input."
Highlands Ranch is a wetlands mitigation bank. It's supposed to work like this: A would-be banker buys pasture or forest that used to be a swamp and restores the wetlands. Regulators calculate how many wetland "credits" the banker has earned. The banker can sell those credits to customers who need to make up for filling in a swamp, usually for development.
The Highlands Ranch bank was created in 2008 when a politically influential private equity firm named the Carlyle Group formed a joint venture with a Jacksonville company, Hassan & Lear Acquisitions. They spent $15 million buying a 1,575-acre pine plantation next to Jennings State Forest.
Although records show Highlands Ranch planned to do little to restore wetlands on the plantation, its owners sought 688 credits from the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The district approved only 193 credits, a difference worth millions in a market where credits have sold for up to $100,000 each. Highlands Ranch filed a legal challenge, but lost. It attempted to get the Legislature to change the rules, but that failed too.
So Highlands Ranch hired a lobbyist from Jacksonville named Ward Blakely who had previously worked with DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. Then Littlejohn, an engineering consultant who had recently been hired by the DEP, issued a memo ordering a change in the way credits were calculated. The first draft, Littlejohn said, was written for him by the attorney for Highlands Ranch.
The company then applied for a new permit from DEP that would supersede the one from the water district and would be worth 425 credits, much of it for land that isn't marsh, bog or swamp.
But Bersok — who helped write the standards the state uses to calculate credits — kept raising questions and objections. She calculated Highlands Ranch was due only 177 credits. Blakely complained to Littlejohn that her questions seemed "punitive."
Littlejohn told Bersok to take a new approach, one suggested by Highland Ranch's environmental consultant. Bersok went along with Littlejohn's order, but continued raising objections to giving hundreds of credits for land that's dry, and without what she called "a reasonable assurance" that any of its restoration plans would work.
The permit the DEP issued last August gave Highlands Ranch the 425 credits that its owners had sought all along. It also waived the requirement that they show they are financially capable of building what they promised. Littlejohn hailed it as a "pilot project" that would revolutionize the way the agency handles future permits.
Both of those decisions were wrong, according to Judge E. Gray Early of the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Although the DEP can conduct pilot projects, Early wrote, the company should not have been allowed to duck its financial responsibilities and the project should get no more than 280 credits, period.
DEP officials did not respond to a request for comment.
former FL senator
130412-e Ken Pruitt: Big Money and, now, Big Sugar
Palm Beach Post - by Sally Swartz
April 12, 2013
Residents, environmentalists and newspaper writers all say they’re disappointed and shocked that former state Sen. Ken Pruitt, now St. Lucie County’s property appraiser, is taking money to lobby for Florida Crystals, a.k.a. Big Sugar.
But should they be ? From the beginning of his career, Mr. Pruitt always has been about politics and money. During his legislative career, he brought astonishing amounts of state cash to Treasure Coast business, education and conservation projects.
The Port St. Lucie Republican earned his green credentials on the Treasure Coast by getting state money to finance clean-up projects for the St. Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee. He brought home millions more for the Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce and a nature center at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
He won huge amounts of state money to advance Everglades restoration, to expand Indian River State College, to attract the biotech industry to the Treasure Coast, to start a marine sciences program run by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and Florida Atlantic University.
Besides spreading joy with all that money, Mr. Pruitt’s very public private life made Martin and St. Lucie county residents feel they know him personally. We sympathized with his wife Aileen’s long battle with breast cancer. We watched him mourn the 2007 death of his son, 29-year-old Ken Pruitt Jr., who died of an apparent accidental overdose. We saw him tear up when IRSC named a building for him.
Mr. Pruitt wasn’t always a champion of the environment. In 1994, when he was a state representative, the Florida League of Conservation Voters chose him for the third time as worst legislator of the year for his pro-growth, anti-environment record. And, adding his property appraiser’s job to his lobbying business isn’t the first time he’s held public and private jobs. When his well-drilling business failed in 1994, he sold real estate along with his legislative duties.
He’s a politician. In 1998, releases of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River made fish sicken and die and birds and tourists disappear. More than 30,000 residents signed petitions demanding action to save the river. Mr. Pruitt got the message: If his constituents care about the environment, so should he.
No one who watched him sweep into an auditorium filled with 400 angry residents shouting at a stage full of water management bureaucrats can forget his commanding presence. And he delivered on his promises.
Over the next several years, the man enviros loved to hate turned into a champion for Florida waters. He was the top alligator-spotter on boat trips to check river conditions. He wouldn’t toss a biodegradable apple core over the side because he considered it litter. In 2005, when Lake O was so full that underwater grasses were dying, he made a passionate plea to water managers. “Lower this lake,” he said, “now.”
The last budget Mr. Pruitt supervised as state Senate president in 2008 included $40 million for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, $54 million for Lake Okeechobee cleanup and restoration, and $100 million for the Everglades.
Mr. Pruitt became a lobbyist shortly after he left the state legislature in 2009. His firm, the P5 Group LLC, had two Florida Crystals contracts worth about $10,000-$19,000 each in 2012, according to stories in the Stuart News. The firm has 15 other clients, including the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, Broward and Palm Beach sheriff’s offices, the Florida Association of Public Charter Schools, Jupiter Medical Center and New Horizons of the Treasure Coast Inc.
He earned about $347,000 as a lobbyist in 2011 (with Weiss, Handler, Angelos & Cornwell of Boca Raton, which featured Mr. Pruitt prominently on its website for a time.) He earns about $125,000 as property appraiser.
So, is it right for Mr. Pruitt to take money for lobbying when he also holds an elected job as property appraiser? It could create conflicts of interest. But it’s not against the law.
Is it right for him to take money from the sugar industry, one of the biggest polluters of Florida waters? It might give a less hardened politician insomnia, but that’s not against the law either.
Mr. Pruitt, charming and likable as he is, always has been about politics and money. For those who hoped he would continue to champion Florida waters, learning that he’s taking money from the sugar industry is disappointing.
But shocking? Not a bit.
Sally Swartz is a former member of The Post Editorial Board.
130412-f Manatees dying in Florida's algae-choked waterways
EarthJustice.com – by David Guest
April 12, 2013
Toxic algae, caused by runoff, found in mammals' stomachs
Florida tourism promoters are always looking to get stories in the newspaper to lure northern tourists – and their vacation cash -- down here. But a recent story in the New York Times wasn’t what they had in mind.
“Florida Algae Bloom Leads to Record Manatee Deaths,” read the national headline on April 6, in the middle of prime winter tourist season.
Endangered manatees have been dying by the hundreds on both the east and west coasts. The tally is at 340 and rising. No one has pinpointed the precise cause, but the likeliest is toxic algae, the kind that’s fueled by sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution.
At last count, more than 240 manatees turned up dead on the west woast, where red tide outbreaks are also causing fish kills and making tourists wheeze and cough.
On the east coast, people have collected more than 100 dead manatees so far in the Indian River lagoon, just north of West Palm Beach, as well as more than 250 dead pelicans. Tests show the sea cows have digestive tracts full of algae.
The manatees in the Indian River seem to be eating algae because a huge 2011 algae outbreak killed most of the sea grasses, which is their normal source of food. Again, the sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff fuels the algae outbreaks – and some of the algae are toxic. The Indian River lagoon gets nasty agricultural waste from the interior sugar, vegetable and cattle operations around South Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. State water managers send that swill out toward the sea, and it has been fouling the coastal Indian River for years.
So, what’s the state of Florida doing about this environmental crisis? Trying to wiggle out of its duty to protect wildlife and public health, that’s what.
Polluter lobbyists are now pushing a measure in the Florida legislature that would enshrine the state’s weak rules on nutrient pollution. The EPA is – incredibly -- going along with Florida’s wacky Tea Party administration on this one, at a time when Gov. Rick Scott is firing experienced Florida Department of Environmental Protection staffers and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.
We don’t think this approach passes muster under the Clean Water Act. So while manatees die and the unflattering Florida headlines proliferate, we’re in court. We believe that Florida’s weak rules – a bunch of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo which ensures that a waterway will already be polluted before pollution limits kick in – will ultimately not pass legal muster under our 2009 Clean Water Act settlement with the EPA. Our clients in the case are the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the St. John’s Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
One thing is for sure – the public is behind us. In response to a call for action by Earthjustice and Florida environmental groups, more than 40,000 of you wrote the White House in 2012, and 18,000 of you wrote the EPA so far this year, urging the Obama Administration to impose effective federal standards for Florida waters. Thank you for going the extra mile, and we’ll keep you posted.
130411-a Agriculture industry stepping up to the green plate
TCPalm – by Jennifer Trefelner
April 11, 2013
FORT PIERCE —Agriculture may appear to be lacking in modern sustainability practices, but many farmers and ranchers are implementing procedures to protect their environments. Environmental protection services are implemented on ranches, farms and dairies across Florida.
These services are meant to create a sustainable environment, both locally and worldwide. Examples of these services include reservoirs and the chemical treatment of water before it is released to larger bodies of water. In South Florida, environmental protection services are implemented on lands with water connections to Lake Okeechobee. These services are correlated with water conservation efforts. Becky Raulerson, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida, teaches students studying agricultural communications the importance of water conservation and environmental protection services.
“Farmers and production in Florida are proving their concern for the environment by increasing the number of environmental protection services that they offer,” Raulerson said.
Raulerson believes the benefits of environmental protection services outweigh the negatives, and the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee has experimented with the most successes.
“Lake Okeechobee is on its way to becoming extremely successful in implementing these services,” Raulerson said.
Okeechobee ranchers and dairy farmers with land connections to Lake Okeechobee are implementing environmental protection services to store, conserve and treat water. Garrett Rucks, 20, and his family own Milking R., Inc., a dairy located in Okeechobee. The dairy practices water conservation by storing and treating runoff water through the use of environmental protection services.
“All of the water is gathered in a reservoir located on the dairy, and this water runoff is treated before it is released to the lake,” Rucks said.
Before the dairy’s water runoff is released to the lake, it is chemically treated after being collected in the reservoir. This chemical water treatment is done so polluted water will not contaminate Lake Okeechobee and other bodies of water. Reservoirs are created to hold excess water in Florida, but many of them fail to hold even a drop of water. The South Florida Water Management District is now approaching landowners and ranchers for assistance.
The Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program pays chosen ranchers to store water on their ranches and properties. Wes Carlton, a fourth-generation Florida cattle rancher, has placed his name in the hat to be chosen to store water on his ranch. The amount of people chosen depends on the amount of money budgeted. According to Carlton, if the landowner is not pleased with the results after 10 years have passed, the landowner can return the land to its original form.
“The uniqueness of managing and controlling water storage and quality in South Florida should be mandated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, not the Feds,” Carlton said. “Every state can take care of their own by the people who know how to do it, not the federal government.”
Water conservation is vital to Florida agriculture. Those involved in the field of agriculture are implementing environmental protection services to conserve water throughout the state. Ranchers and dairy farmers, such as Carlton and Rucks, are the face of the new age of water conservation in agriculture.
130411-b Florida's water capacity: Waste of time and supply
April 11, 2013
State environmental officials predict that by 2030, Florida will be consuming nearly 8 billion gallons of water a day. That is about 1.6 billion gallons a day more than we use now. They also say traditional sources of water supply, that is, Florida's aquifers, are inadequate to meet that projected demand.
Those officials from the Department of Environmental Protection are not alone in their assessment or concerns. Besides the expected environmental groups and watchdogs, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida all have the ensuring of a sufficient future water supply on their long-term agendas.
You wouldn't know it, though, to look at the 2013 Florida Legislature. Sure, there are a handful of bills being floated under the guise of increasing the water supply, but they fall short of serving the public interest and instead help special interests like utilities and big agriculture.
PERMITS FOR 30 YEARS
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, for instance, is designed to encourage utilities to develop alternative sources of water. But it would allow consumptive-use permits to run 30 years instead of the current 20 years, under the presumption that they could more easily obtain financing with the longer permit.
However, consider how much has Florida's water landscape changed since 1983. Totally.
130411-c Fracking in South Florida - An uncertain future
IslandSandPaper.com – by Kerri Hendry Weeg
April 11, 2013
Fracking. To many here in southwest Florida, the word sounds like something out of a Star Trek episode. But the true meaning is much more controversial, as many in other parts of the country have discovered and what we here - living so far in blissful ignorance - are likely about to find out.
Fracking is technically called ‘hydraulic fracturing’ and involves extracting previously unavailable reserves of oil and natural gas (methane) by injecting the surrounding rock with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure. The controversial process, which has been done successfully - and quite lucratively - in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, New York, Wyoming, Colorado, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Montana, Texas and elsewhere, was previously believed to be impossible in south Florida due to geological reasons.
But not anymore. A recent leasing of over 100,000 acres in Lee and Collier Counties by an oil investor prompted one local congressman to 'get ahead of the curve' by quickly introducing legislation to try and regulate it.
"I had always thought that fracking was not possible in south Florida because we didn't have the substrata to support it, until I saw an
article last year in the Oil and Gas Journal saying it does,” said Representative Ray Rodrigues, a recently elected Republican from
Estero who also represents the beach. "Then I saw where someone was leasing land in Lee and Collier and realized this could happen here.”
That article was written on March 2, 2012 by Brandt Temple - president and founder of Sunrise Exploration & Production of New Orleans. Temple previously worked the Gulf of Mexico in 1996-2003 before becoming Appalachian basin exploration vice-president for Whitmar Exploration, where he directed and developed 350,000 acres on 10 prospects in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. His current company, Sunrise, has put together eight-year leases for 135,000 acres in Lee, Collier and Hendry counties.
"Oil and gas producers are in the infant stages of a new liquids-rich play in the South Florida basin that could revive the oil industry in rural-agricultural parts of South Florida," Temple wrote in that March story.
The controversy with fracking lies partly with the process itself – which uses approximately 1.8 million gallons of water per job - but mostly with what that water is mixed with. Fracking for oil and gas embedded in shale rock basins across the country involves the injection of a 99.5-percent cocktail of water and fine grained sand into a well that drops under the groundwater table to between 6,000-10,000 feet. That water and sand includes a 0.5% mix of chemicals – most of which are listed as "proprietary information” and a "trade secret" under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. When the mixture reaches the end of the well, the high pressure causes the nearby shale rock to crack - thus releasing gas and oil back up into the well.
Critics say that some of the chemicals used in the mixture are nasty things like lead, radium, mercury, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde, which leak into drinking water for nearby cities and towns. Reports of methane gas coming from water faucets and radiation in drinking wells have had environmentalists and public health groups across the country up in arms trying to regulate and/or ban the practice and force the companies to publicly disclose what is in the chemical mixture. Proponents of the practice say these reports are inaccurate and are being overblown by environmentalists to the detriment of states' economies. The problem is that disclosure requirements vary from state to state, with the majority of states where fracking is practiced having no requirements at all.
This is what prompted Rodrigues to introduce House Bill 743, legislation he claims contains the most stringent disclosure laws in the country should fracking become part of our state lexicon - something he believes is imminent though Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials and several potential investors have been skating the issue in recent newspaper articles.
"Fracking is a very real possibility for Southwest Florida,” he said. "There are no rules regarding permitting for this in this state. Fracking without any disclosure whatsoever is allowed under state law right now, and my bill would change that.”
The bill, which has a twin version in the Senate sponsored by Senator Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, requires any companies fracking here to give full disclosure to the DEP of all the chemicals used in their process. The DEP would then determine what was covered by the federal act protecting trade secrets and what will be released to the public.
"The trade secret exemption is part of federal law - there's nothing that states can do to make companies give full disclosure - but at least with my bill the DEP decides what to disclose and not the companies themselves,” he said.
Fracking may be unheard of here, but oil drilling isn't. In South Florida, drilling has been going on in a tract of land called the "Upper Sunniland Trend” for decades. This tract is 150 miles long and 20 miles wide - stretching from Fort Myers to Miami and crosses into the Big Cypress Preserve at the western end of the Everglades.
In a "frack memo,” reported in the News-Press last fall, DEP Oil and Gas Administrator Ed Garrett wrote that fracking would be too deep to affect potable groundwater because Florida's aquifers are no more than 2,000 feet deep and all of Florida’s oil production comes from 12,000 to 17,000 feet deep.
"But they're drilling though the aquifers in order to get down there,” pointed out Keith Laakkonen, Environmental Science Coordinator for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. "Florida in a whole doesn't have good geology for drilling or fracking. I believe that the Sunniland Trend is the only area below I-10 where something like this is possible.”
Laakkonen told us that his biggest concerns aren't only with what's being put into the fracking water, but what would happen to the wastewater associated with the process and the possibility of methane gas leaks.
"Methane is the most powerful greenhouse gas there is,” he said. "It's 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and in the early days of this process there weren't a lot of safety mechanisms - resulting in quite a bit of methane being released into the atmosphere.”
But, like any new business resulting in high profits, the situation has improved quite a bit, Keith says, and there is another way to look at it.
"The United States is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” he said. "It does go a long way towards making us energy independent, and, since it burns much cleaner, many people are calling it a 'bridge fuel' that would buy us time until we could come to rely completely on things like solar, wind and biofuels.”
The problem, Laakkonen says, is getting it from the ground to the processing plant.
"If they can really prove that it can be done safely – no leaks, no contamination of groundwater or surfacewater – it might not be a bad thing,” he said.
"But it's still a fossil fuel.”
Meanwhile, Rodrigues' bill, which initially had support from both environmental groups and the Florida Petroleum Council, has drawn fire in recent weeks for either not demanding full disclosure or a ban on the practice entirely.
"You cannot force full disclosure – it will be challenged in court and thrown out,” he told us, "Florida has some of the strongest Sunshine Laws in the country, we will know most of what's being put into the ground. That's much better than knowing nothing.”
Rodrigues added that he does plan to add an amendment to the bill that requires the disclosure of the concentration of chemicals. The bill will go to a vote in the House sometime next week.
New DOI Secretary Sally JEWELL
130411-d Jewell will handle $11.9 billion interior budget in 2014
April 11, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC, April 11, 2013 (ENS) – President Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget, “starts getting the Department of the Interior out of a ditch,” said outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday, just after the budget was released. “It’s a thoughtful budget and we’re proud of it.”
Whatever Congress appropriates for the Interior Department will be in the hands of Secretary Salazar’s replacement, Sally Jewell, chief executive of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., who won easy Senate confirmation Wednesday.
Environmental groups expressed satisfaction with Jewell’s confirmation, and President Obama said in a statement that Jewell’s extensive business experience, including her work in the energy sector as a petroleum engineer, and her longtime commitment to conservation makes her the right person for the job.
“She brings an important mix of strong management skills, appreciation for our nation’s tradition of protecting our public lands and heritage, and a keen understanding of what it means to be good stewards of our natural resources,” Obama said.
Jewell will oversee more than 500 million acres of national parks and other public lands, as well as more than one billion acres offshore. She will prepare for the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016.
Obama’s $1.058 trillion FY2014 budget request for the fiscal year that begins October 1 would cancel the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and raise about $1 trillion in new tax revenue over 10 years.
The President’s 2014 budget request of $11.9 billion for the Department of the Interior maintains critical funding for the department’s core missions. It makes investments to sustain economic recovery and generate jobs, including funding for recreation and conservation programs, enhanced science to inform decision making, domestic energy development and the advancement of Indian Tribes and Alaska Native communities.
Interior programs generate more revenue for the American people than the department’s annual appropriation.
In 2014, Interior will collect an estimated $14.1 billion in royalties, rents, bonuses and fees from various sources, including energy and mineral development and recreational use of public lands.
These receipts are shared among state, local and federal governments and also fund natural resource development and conservation programs.
“The President’s budget sustains support for Interior’s core missions, underscoring the pivotal role that this Department plays as a driver of economic activity, especially for rural areas,” Salazar said. “We protect the public lands, water and wildlife that power local economies, drive tourism and define us as a people, while ensuring the responsible development of energy and mineral resources that strengthen our nation’s security.”
Interior’s programs and activities contributed an estimated $385 billion to the Nation’s economy in 2011 and supported an estimated 2.4 million jobs.
Energy and mineral development on Interior-managed lands and offshore areas generated more than $275 billion of this economic activity and supported 1.5 million jobs.
Recreation and tourism on Interior lands contributed $48.7 billion and supported nearly 403,000 jobs. Water supply, forage and timber activities, primarily on public lands in the West, contributed nearly $41 billion.
The 2014 budget for Interior would eliminate or reduce lower priority and underachieving programs, defer project start-ups, shift costs to others who have the ability to pay a fairer share of administrative expenses, restructure operations and capture administrative and efficiency savings.
The budget proposal includes more than $600 million in programmatic reductions to offset support for operational requirements. The proposal also sustains three years of targeted administrative cost reductions that will achieve $217 million in savings from travel, contract services and supplies and equipment by the end of 2013.
For the first time, the 2014 Interior budget includes a proposal to authorize permanent mandatory funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs, with full funding at $900 million annually beginning in 2015.
The request for 2014 includes $400 million in discretionary funds, supplemented by an additional $200 million in mandatory funds. Land and Water Conservation Fund programs are funded from oil and gas development revenue and used to conserve lands and support outdoor recreation within the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service.
The total 2014 request for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is $255 million above the 2012 enacted level, including an additional $184 million for Interior programs.
In 2012, more than $42 million in grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund enabled partners in 338 communities to establish or expand parks, build or refurbish recreational facilities and undertake other projects to enhance outdoor recreation, the National Park Service said today in its annual report on the program.
The grants helped leverage an additional $48 million in contributions by the partners, according to the 2012 Land and Water Conservation Fund Report.
“For nearly 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a vital role in providing outdoor recreational opportunities for the public,” said Salazar. “These grants, which include no taxpayer funds and are matched by partners, connect people to the great outdoors while stimulating local economies and supporting jobs in nearby communities.”
In the 2014 budget, the Obama Administration proposes targeted funding for an Interior-USDA Collaborative Landscape component that aligns both agencies’ land acquisition efforts to support “community-driven conservation goals in key landscapes” – the Crown of the Continent in the intermountain west, the southwest desert, longleaf pine lands in the southeast, and National Trails.
The 2014 budget requests $963.1 million for research and development in all Interior Department agencies, a $143.6 million or 18 percent increase over FY2012.
Program increases will support the application of science to address critical challenges in energy and mineral production, ecosystem management, invasive species, oil spill restoration, climate adaptation, and Earth observations, such as satellite and airborne land imaging and water and wildlife monitoring.
The U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, budget request is $1.2 billion, an increase of $98.8 million above the 2012 enacted level. Funding would support the development of domestic energy, protect critical water resources, respond to natural disasters and advance climate change adaptation strategies.
Included is $14.5 million for WaterSMART, which leverages expertise within USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation to address complex national water challenges and develop a sustainable water strategy.
The 2014 budget requests an increase of $16.6 million for priority ecosystem science, including research on controlling and managing invasive species, such as Asian carp in the Great Lakes, and the Burmese python in the Everglades.
This also includes support for ecosystem restoration in the California Bay Delta, Chesapeake Bay, Columbia River, Everglades, Great Lakes, Klamath River, Puget Sound, and Upper Mississippi River, as well as understanding and accounting for ecosystem services in decision making.
The budget proposes $2.5 million to improve rapid disaster response, which will enable USGS to provide more timely and effective science to minimize hazard risks to populations and infrastructure from hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods and other natural catastrophes.
The budget request includes $71.7 million for climate science programs. Funding will enable the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and eight Interior Climate Science Centers to improve understanding of climate impacts on specific regional areas.
Funding will also be used to improve methodologies and models needed to complete the national biological carbon sequestration assessment, and support land management applications on Interior’s wildlife refuges and national parks, and on tribal lands.
To better understand and address potential adverse environmental, health and safety impacts of oil and gas development with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the USGS proposed budget would provide $18.6 million, an increase of $13.0 million, for research collaboration with the Energy Department and the U.S. EPA.
An increase of $4 million would support alternative energy development through the exploration of geothermal resources on federal lands as well as research on the impacts of wind energy to wildlife.
Renewable energy is a growing component of the administration’s energy strategy, and the 2014 budget includes $29.1 million for onshore renewable energy programs administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $34.4 for offshore renewable development managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Another $36.4 million in four other Interior agencies will be used for their renewable energy programs.
Since 2009, Interior has approved 37 onshore renewable energy projects on or affecting public lands, including 20 utility-scale solar facilities, eight wind farms and nine geothermal plants, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids.
These projects could provide more than 11,500 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to run about 3.8 million homes, and support an estimated 13,500 construction and operations jobs.
Offshore, Interior has created the nation’s first regulatory system for permitting renewable energy on the Outer Continental Shelf, issued two non-competitive commercial wind leases off the Atlantic coast and is preparing the first competitive lease sales for wind energy areas off Virginia and Rhode Island.
These auctions are expected to offer 278,000 acres for development, with associated projects producing enough energy to power up to 1.4 million homes.
The 2014 budget request for the Interior Department’s Wildland Fire Management program is $776.9 million.
The net program increase of $194.2 million includes an increase of $205.1 million split between Suppression Operations and the FLAME Fund to fully fund the 10-year average, and $3 million for the Burned Area Rehabilitation program.
These program increases are partly offset by a cut of $88.9 million in the Hazardous Fuels Reduction program. This net reduction includes an increase of $2 million to conduct a research study on the effectiveness of hazardous fuels treatments.
The Department of the Interior’s 2014 budget request is online at: www.doi.gov/budget. ENS Related Reports: REI Chief Nominated Secretary of the Interior Climate Gets 20 Percent of Seven-Year European Budget Obama’s 2014 Budget Sets New Energy Goals California Budget Cuts Could Close 70 State Parks Northeast States to Lower CO2 Emissions Cap 45 Percent EPA Curbs Air Pollution From Power Plants in Eastern States Federal Budget Deal Strips Protection from Water, Wild… Obama’s 2013 Budget Cuts National Weather Service… California’s 1st Ultra-Clean Car: 2014 Honda Accord… Obama Administration Proposes ‘Tough Choices’…
130411-e Judge indicates he may rule against delay of federal water quality rules
Florida Current - by Bruce Ritchie
April 11, 2013
A federal judge in Tallahassee said Thursday he's inclined to reject a federal request to delay implementing water quality standards while Florida is working to propose its own, and he may have to decide whether a 2009 legal agreement was violated.
With bills moving through the Legislature that would endorse a plan for the state to set water quality standards, the telephone hearing in a lawsuit showed that the issue remains unsettled in the federal court where it originated.
Environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 to force it to set more specific limits on nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida waterways. The two sides reached an agreement in federal court in 2009 that required the EPA would set limits for Florida waters.
But that agreement led to a backlash from industries and utilities that said proposed new federal standards would be difficult and expensive to meet.
In March, the federal EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agreed on a plan for the state to propose new limits that would replace the federal water quality standards for lakes, springs and flowing downstream waters. HB 7115 and SB 1808 direct DEP to establish water quality standards, called numeric nutrient criteria for waterways, not already approved in November by the federal EPA.
The bill also would repeal eventually a provision in water rules that prevents the state from implementing water quality criteria until the EPA has halted rule-making and rescinded federal water quality standards.
The EPA in January asked U. S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to stay until Nov. 15 the federal water quality rules for springs, lakes and downstream flowing waters.
Noting legislation has quickly passed House and Senate committees, Carol Forthman, an attorney representing the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told Hinkle, "We expect it to pretty quickly to go through. It has support of (House and Senate) leadership and the governor."
Groups supporting the EPA motion for a stay include Mosaic fertilizer company, the Florida Pulp and Paper Association, the Florida Water Environment Association-Utility Council.
But David Guest, an attorney with the Earthjustice law firm representing environmental groups, said EPA documents show that large numbers of water bodies are excluded under state rules that have been adopted but not implemented.
And Guest said the state approach allows for additional studies of waterways before any pollution limits are set.
"As we study, Rome burns," Guest said. "That is the whole essence of the case, the essence of the (2009) court decree."
And the legislation, he said, still contains the "poison pill concept" that requires EPA to withdraw rules and cease rule-making before state rules can be implemented.
As he concluded the call, Hinkle said, "There is a good chance I'm going to deny the stay with respect to the lakes and springs. I've got a little bit more to go to confirm that.
"There is a good bit of additional action contemplated down the road. It sounds like there may be disagreements on what the consent decree requires and whether the state rules comply with it." Related Research: * April 5, 2013 EPA Notice to the Court
* Jan. 14, 2013 Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to EPA Motion for Approval to Stay (Inland Waters)
* Jan. 4, 2013 EPA motion for stay approval
* Dec. 14, 2012 EPA proposed stay
130411-f Lost in Florida
TampaBayCurrent.com – by Mitch Traphagen
April 11, 2013
We left the comfort of our well-lit hotel in Florida City and drove more than 20 miles into Everglades National Park in pitch darkness, then turned and drove another mile down a road that dead-ended into the wilderness. We shut off the car and lights and were suddenly transported back in time, 500 or perhaps even 15,000, years. The pre-dawn darkness settled in upon Michelle and me, and into our primal minds and imagination.
There was no traffic, there were no other tourists ambling about. Only the occasional unidentified creature moving about accompanied us — heard, but unseen. Although a metropolitan area of more than five million people lay just to the east, we were completely and utterly alone in the Everglades in the inky, moonless darkness. We could feel but could not adequately express the enormity of this place; we could feel the peace and, perhaps, a hint of fear of the unseen that surrounded us. Standing in the darkness, alone in our thoughts, more than anything else, we could feel the magic that exists in the Florida Everglades.
For most people, the Everglades are something to drive through on the way to Miami. From I-75, also known as Alligator Alley, the vista is mostly featureless, an empty land of saw grass marsh pocked with distant stands of cypress, palm and other trees. From the freeway, there is a forbidding character to it. How many people would be brave enough, even in broad daylight, to wade out into the river of grass even a half mile from the manmade comfort of the concrete road that bisects the Everglades? Surely, snakes, alligators and other terrors are merely lying in wait for that hapless tourist.
While dangers certainly exist in the Everglades, they are no more so than in any other of the world’s remaining wild places. Unlike some of our own human brethren, alligators and snakes wouldn’t kill you out of malice, they’d prefer to avoid you as much as we prefer to avoid them, or at least their jaws. The danger that may be found for the careless is easily offset by the peace and tranquility that is found in a unique place in the world. Yet those traveling on I-75 miss the magic that lies just to the south. The first step to see that beauty and uniqueness is to exit off the freeway and take the two-lane U.S. Highway 41, also known as the Tamiami Trail, that snakes through the very heart of the wilderness.
The Miami Metropolitan Area is 110 miles long but averages only 20 miles wide. In some parts, it is only five miles wide. The massive city ends abruptly on the west side and the Everglades begin, with equal abruptness. In some places, it is possible to drive a single block to leave what we’ve come to know as civilization for a world known best to our far distant ancestors. The rapid change is stunning as suddenly you are thrust into an entirely different world.
Vultures fly in large packs, tempting fate as the occasional car hurtles towards them while they stand hunched over an unidentifiable carcass on the two-lane road. Just feet off the road, large alligators bask in the sun, oblivious, or perhaps uncaring, to the occasional human gawker. Birds, beautiful, unique and stately, are omnipresent. Along the highway are signs announcing the presence of an occasional “Indian Village,” mysterious and somehow attractive to some ancient part of the human brain, places where thatched huts may be seen behind closed metal and wooden gates. For how crowded and chaotic the coastal areas of Florida often seem, it is amazing at just how much isolation is possible in the Everglades. This is a place to disappear, for a day or possibly even a lifetime.
Driving along the Tamiami Trail is an intimate experience, with the Everglades growing right up to the road’s edge. The Skunk Ape Research Center and America’s smallest operating post office also line the narrow, sun-baked road. Before I-75 opened, it was once a tourist road, with alligator wrestlers and land sharks hoping to separate winter visitors from their money. There is still a handful of places offering airboat rides and other tourist attractions, but what was once perhaps a carnival atmosphere is no more; it has given way as the thru traffic migrated to the expansive concrete of the freeway to the north. Steadily, quietly, the Everglades have seemingly effortlessly reclaimed anything and everything that may have been lost in those earlier days.
That said there is still steady traffic on the Tamiami Trail, heavy with tourists, many stopping at the Ochopee Post Office, the smallest operating post office in America. It has been in service for more than six decades and it is a working office, primarily serving the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian population, but with much of the mail volume generated by tourists seeking a now-famous postmark from the smallest office in the nation. The postmistress takes time to talk to anyone who cares to strike up a conversation, but she also values the quiet and solitude offered by her post. Currently there is road construction going on out front and she worries more about possible unfortunate meetings of big trucks and small, wayward children piling out of minivans with out-of-state plates than she worries about alligators wandering into her office, an office the size of a small bathroom or a closet.
“I’ll see you on your next trip through,” she called out as we stepped away from the split front door that serves as a counter, giving way to the tourists holding postcards to be mailed to relatives up north or around the world. Indeed, she will.
Approximately halfway between Naples and Miami, photographer Clyde Butcher, widely regarded as Florida’s Ansel Adams, has a studio tucked into the wilderness just off the Tamiami Trail. A visit to his studio provides a calm journey of respite through his photography, stunning enough to soften the most jaded heart. Florida, as captured through Butcher’s eyes and lens, is indeed paradise. A stop at the studio also offers an excellent chance to see an alligator or two (but remember, attempting to feed an alligator is illegal and is also, quite obviously, hazardous).
The Everglades, which begin with the waters from the Kissimmee River near Orlando is a shadow of its former self, but what remains is the world’s most unique wilderness; there is nothing else like it on the planet. While efforts are being made to restore the Everglades, it is impossible to know what a decade or a century may bring. The thirst for water for growing cities and for farming is insatiable and regardless of intentions acted upon or merely spoken, the future of this wild place will likely remain uncertain. While it is powerful enough to act as a retaining wall to the nation’s eighth largest metropolitan area, it is incredibly fragile despite its enormity. It is a land filled with the unintended consequences of past and current actions.
Waiting for the sunrise, our intention was to experience this place as few do and to capture the dawn of a new day in photographs. We arrived early enough to let the feeling of the place soak in, the eeriness of the complete darkness in the wilds of the Everglades soon gave way to a feeling of tranquility, perhaps a hint of something that was merely taken for granted by our forebears of many centuries past. Florida recently celebrated the 500-year-anniversary of its “discovery” with events in St. Augustine. Evidence of human presence in the Everglades stretches back 15 millennia, making the relatively recent discovery of Florida significant, but somewhat less impactful. This is an ancient land, alternating between foreboding, unforgiving and enchanting — sometimes in the same breath. In the Everglades, time can stand still.
Yet before long, the sunrise I had waited for with cameras at the ready began to lighten the eastern sky, revealing a thick layer of morning clouds that would prevent the stunning imagery I had envisioned from being collected in photographs. Our time in the Everglades wasn’t wasted in the least, but it was, perhaps, lost. Being lost in time in today’s frantic world of technology is a rare pleasure and a privilege. My smart phone was useless, with the words, “No Service” in place of the bars that normally keep me shackled to the world on a 24/7 basis. For those hours in the beauty and tranquility, I was lost to the natural world, immersed in something I could barely fathom, but could feel softening my very soul.
The sun continued to rise behind the clouds and night brightened into day, but we were in no hurry to leave. Just twenty-some miles away, civilization raced on, frantically, maddeningly with traffic, crime and impatience. We were in no hurry to return to that world. We were alone in this wild place, save for beautiful and now seen creatures that paid little mind to our presence. Finally, we climbed back into the car, drove ten feet and stopped again. The Everglades gave us an opportunity too rare to leave quickly. In some ancient parts of our minds, we knew: we were at home.
130411-g MSU pushes RISER plan for efficient crop irrigation
Mississippi Agri News - by Rebekah Ray
April 11, 2013
MSU Delta Research and Extension Center: Mississippi State University experts are working with producers to implement programs that help reduce irrigation costs and maintain or improve yields in a variety of crops, including soybeans like these. (Photo by MSU Delta Research and Extension Center/File Photo)
STONEVILLE – Mississippi State University experts have a new program to help Delta producers irrigate row crops more efficiently and economically.
MSU Extension Service irrigation specialist Jason Krutz is leading a multi-faceted approach to water conservation, dubbed Row-crop Irrigation Science and Extension Research, or RISER. The researchers are working with producers to help reduce irrigation water use while maintaining or improving crop yields and profitability.
“The RISER plan developed by MSU can help producers better manage irrigation and increase production and profitability,” Krutz said.
Growers participating in RISER allow MSU researchers to handle irrigation decisions on a particular field for the entire growing season. At the end of the year, the grower can compare irrigation costs and harvest yields on the RISER fields with those on other fields on the farm.
“We’ll talk to the producers all year, telling them when we’re going to irrigate and what we’re doing,” Krutz said. “We hope at the end of the year when they see how much they saved on irrigation and what their yields were like, they’ll follow these practices on their other fields and tell their neighbors they need to do what MSU is recommending.”
MSU researchers will schedule irrigations for fields in the RISER program using scientific irrigation scheduling tools, including the Mississippi Irrigation Scheduling Tool, or MIST; atmometers; and soil moisture sensors.
Research has proven the effectiveness of these scheduling tools in Nebraska and Florida, and MSU researchers will collect data this year to validate these numbers in Mississippi.
“Use of a scientific irrigation scheduling tool can reduce irrigation usage by 30 or 40 percent,” Krutz said.
The final step in the RISER management program involves using the computerized program Pipe Hole and Universal Crown Evaluation Tool, or PHAUCET, to calculate the proper hole size and distribution for polypipe to furrow irrigate row crops efficiently.
Tom Eubank, agronomic crops specialist with MSU’s Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at the Delta Research and Extension Center, has evaluated PHAUCET over the last three years. This project is funded by a grant from the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board.
“Our research has shown that PHAUCET reduces water, fuel and irrigation usage by 20 percent versus conventional irrigation sets in regular-shaped fields,” Eubank said.
In irregular-shaped fields, PHAUCET could reduce water use as much as 50 percent.
Through the RISER program, MSU scientists will work with corn, cotton, soybean and rice Extension specialists using existing on-farm management systems, such as the Smart Program for soybeans and the Corn Verification Program, to promote good irrigation management practices.
“If soybean producers could eliminate one irrigation during the growing season, it could decrease the overdraft of the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer by approximately 300,000 acre feet a year,” Krutz said. “That is the equivalent of 300,000 side-by-side football fields covered in one foot of water.”
This aquifer has served as an irrigation source for the Mississippi Delta for decades. Experts have estimated that it is decreasing by 300,000 acre feet a year.
“Using 25 percent less aquifer water for irrigation would slow this depletion,” Krutz said.
Krutz said even producers not participating in RISER can take steps to reduce water consumption. A key step in fine-tuning irrigation strategies to conserve this critical natural is to keep irrigation records for fields. The written records should include the timing and amounts of water used. Krutz offers large, laminated ledger sheets provided by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board to aid this process.
“Increased management and awareness are key steps in irrigation management. This initial step is crucial to better management because less than 1 percent of the area’s producers keep irrigation records,” Krutz said.
130411-h Obama budget targets global warming, environmental risks
April 11, 2013
He made the issue a key point in his second inaugural address, and now the budget put forth by President Barack Obama seems to back up his commitment to addressing the threats posed by climate change.
While the proposed budget the Environmental Protection Agency would receive $8.2 billion, a decrease of $296 million, or 3.5 percent, below the 2012 enacted level. The administration could increases support to states and tribes by $47 million for implementation of delegated authorities, including those for air quality management and water pollution control programs. The proposal includes funding efforts to restore significant ecosystems such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, California Bay-Delta, Everglades, and the Gulf Coast, by helping to promote their ecological sustainability and resilience. Administration officials have sought to find cost-saving measures by reducing funding for Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds by a combined $472 million, while focusing assistance on small and underserved communities and the use of green infrastructure.
According to the budget, White House officials also envision a cap-and-trade measure in place by 2012 (an unlikely scenario considering Republican opposition to the plan). The proposed cap would limit U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with an 83 percent cut by 2050. The President’s budget also includes proposals of $372 million for fundamental science research that is directly relevant to future clean energy technologies such as solar power generation and energy efficiency. Working in coordination with other federal agencies, this clean energy research is a key component of an integrated approach to increasing U.S. energy independence, enhancing environmental stewardship, reducing energy and carbon intensity, and generating sustainable economic growth, according to the budget.
“The President has set a goal to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and EPA has taken steps to help make significant progress toward this goal,” reads an outline of the planned budget.
Among the most ambitious efforts put forth by the White House includes a continuation of a national program of fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks alone will save consumers an average of $8,000 in fuel costs, cut oil use by approximately 12 billion barrels and prevent six billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold through model year 2025.”
While the proposed budget seems to have found support from top Democrats, Republicans took aim at one project in particular: a satellite designed to track climate change that was originally pushed by former Vice President Al Gore. The proposed project, which was first put forth in 1998 and later scrapped under President George W. Bush, has already drawn criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who say it represents an attempt to score political points.
That said, it remains unclear whether House Republicans will attempt to include any of the proposed funding requests. Speaking earlier this week, top Republicans refused to endorse any plans put forth by the White House, including an attempt to forge a compromise on tax increases and cost-cutting for entitlement programs.
130411-i State lands amendment doesn’t hold water
Hernando Today – by Peter Schorsch
April 11, 2013
- Florida's Water and Land Legacy Campaign announced Thursday that it has collected enough signatures of Florida voters to qualify for Supreme Court review in the hopes of getting its proposed constitutional amendment onto the 2014 ballot.
The measure would require 33 percent of documentary stamp revenues -- amounting to at least $10 billion -- to be used exclusively for land acquisition, with the goals of Everglades restoration, protecting drinking water sources, and increased spending on public lands over the next 20 years.
Is a constitutional amendment necessary for these goals ?
About one-third of Florida acreage is under state ownership or in public use. The question becomes, how much is enough? And, to what end?
Florida is the first two-time Gold Medal winner of the nation's award for best state park system, with 160 parks spanning 700,000 acres and 100 miles of beach. And although some lament decreased spending toward state land purchases, considering the fiscal climate of the past many years it seems these programs have done considerably better than many others.
Bonds floated to pay for Preservation 2000, Save Our Rivers, and Florida Forever are finally being paid off. It is arguable that the state can't afford to properly manage the public land it owns now – much less if it continues to add acres that become permanently eliminated from local tax rolls.
The recent payoff of about a quarter of a billion dollars is as much an opportunity to reduce the revolving debt taxpayers shoulder each year as it is an opportunity, according to proponents of this measure, to borrow more money on the state credit card.
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection was recently assigned A ratings from Fitch for Everglades Restoration, Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever revenue bonds, which are all secured by a portion (63.31 percent) of state-collected documentary stamp taxes, the very tax that this amendment would further tap.
How does an additional $10 billion compare to what has been spent already on Everglades and land buying up until now ? According to DEP, about $7.2 billion has been spent to date on land acquisition and conservation easement purchases, with more than $1 billion allocated through the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund for land acquisition between 2000 and 2011.
Out of curiosity, we calculated what things would look like today if this amendment were already constitutionally mandated. What we found was that -- if anything -- funds toward land acquisition could go down under such a mandate.
Based on the 2011 Florida Tax Handbook in fiscal year 2011-12, more than 33 percent of doc stamp collections were spent on land acquisition and related debt service; and in fiscal year 2010-11, nearly 40 percent of doc stamp collections served this purpose. Even in 2009-10, when doc stamp collections were down by a staggering 43 percent from the previous fiscal year, land acquisition consumed a hefty 36 percent of these collections.
Compare this to doc stamp funds allocated to the Transportation Trust Fund: These allocations dropped from 28 percent of doc stamp collections in 2007-08 to 8 percent the following year.
If land acquisition and conservation efforts are already receiving funds at the desired level, even in terrible fiscal climates, why wage a constitutional amendment campaign to maintain it?
Is it problematic to bond ratings to constitutionally mandate funding levels for land acquisition from the same pot of money that is currently used to secure existing bonds?
And, regardless of where one stands on public land acquisition as a goal, doesn't a constitutional mandate for a certain threshold of funding defy the logic and purpose of having a legislature revise the state budget each and every year, where lawmakers – and their constituents – weigh available funds against ever-changing priorities?
We assume there are more questions we don't know to ask; but for those in the know, keep a close eye on this one. The last major land purchase – the largest in Florida's history – was one not to be repeated.
April 11, 20113
WMFE - Florida environmental advocates are celebrating some eco-friendly bills this legislative session- including a bill that taxes sugar growers who farm in the Everglades. Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper told 90.7's Amy Green lawmakers are waking up to the fact that Floridians care about the environment as much as economic development. Draper started the conversation by explaining why the Everglades bill generated such interest.
Jennifer JURADO, PhD
130411-k White House honors Florida scientist Jennifer Jurado for work on climate change
McClatchy Newspapers - by Erika Bolstad, McClatchy Newspapers
April 11, 2013
WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday honored a Broward County, Fla., scientist who helped launch a multi-county initiative to address sea level rise and other consequences of climate change in South Florida. Jennifer Jurado, who heads the Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division, was among 12 people the White House identified as "Champions of Change" for preparing their communities for the consequences of climate change.
Jurado helped create the four-county Regional Climate Change Compact, which has worked to prepare Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties for rising seas, extreme weather and other problems associated with a changing climate. Jurado, 38, of Hollywood, Fla., has a doctorate from the University of Miami and is a marine biologist by training. Nancy Sutley, who heads the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the honorees were among those doing "smart, innovative work to protect the health, safety and prosperity of their communities in the face of climate change."
"As we take action to reduce carbon pollution and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, we must also take action to prepare for the impacts of climate change we are already seeing, including more frequent and severe extreme weather," Sutley said.
Jurado said she was lucky to work in a county in which climate and its impact were considered a priority. Budget constraints and political resistance have slowed planning in some coastal communities. In North Carolina, for example, the Republican-led legislature passed a law prohibiting the state from considering projected sea-level rise in its coastal management strategy.
"The perspective of our community has been one of that there’s a responsibility to investigate the practicality of our circumstance and then to share that information," she said. "The economic risks and exposures are quite great.”
Many coastal communities have begun such planning, most notably New York City, which saw the consequences of rising sea levels when superstorm Sandy hit last year. In Broward County, the comprehensive planning documents now include references to the possibility of a 9- to 24-inch sea level rise by 2060.
Officials also have changed land-use maps to show the areas that would be vulnerable to coastal flooding under a 2-foot increase in sea level. Any land-use decisions in those areas will have to take sea level rise into account. They’ve also begun planning for the consequences of saltwater intrusion into fresh water supplies and the effect that sea level rise will have on the state’s intricate drainage and canal systems.
"The fact that sea level rise is upon us and something that we have to plan for is very prominent in our comprehensive planning documents," Jurado said.
Jurado said she hoped that Broward and the other counties in the partnership would be a model for other coastal communities in Florida and around the country. She and others from South Florida plan to continue pressing Congress for more action on climate change. That includes considering the need for the infrastructure to protect coastal communities.
130410-a Environmentalists cheer proposed amendment to restore land-buy funding
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
April 10, 2013
Ballot question to get review
A land conservation amendment that would put $500 million toward Everglades restoration and other environmental projects will be reviewed by a state Supreme Court justice, likely in the next 60 days, to see if it meets requirements.
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment has been in the works since last year, and, if voted on and approved, will restore funding to programs such as Florida Forever, the latest rendition of taxpayer-funded land-buying programs. Florida Forever had an annual budget of $300 million for nearly 20 years and secured more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion since 2001.
“This issue is monumental for the environment because it takes care of all aspects, from water to land to beaches and parks, and even restoring the Everglades,” said local Audubon Club of Southwest Florida member Carl Veaux. “It’s all aspects of the environment, not just buying sensitive lands.”
The amendment is being pushed by nonprofits such as The Trust for Public Land, Audubon of Florida and the Florida Wildlife Federation. According to the amendment, funding would come from document excise taxes, taking one-third of those funds, which were historically used to purchase and preserve environmentally sensitive land. Preston Robertson, vice president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said Florida is stable enough financially that funds can again be spent on conservation and land preservation.
“We’re back growing again economically and back growing again on the population end,” Robertson said. “We feel that in order to keep our quality of life and water and open space we need more dollars for conservation.”
Land acquisition has been funded nearly every year since 1963, through 11 administrations with various political affiliations. Those glory days came to a screeching halt four years ago as Florida’s general tax revenue had suffered years of decline from the housing bust and economic recession. Land prices fell to previously unimaginable lows.
From 2009 through 2012, a period that would have generated $1.2 billion under past regimes, the state government under Charlie Crist and Rick Scott set aside about $20 million combined for Florida Forever. Crist pushed for the full $300 million in funding in 2009, but the House overruled, suggesting instead that offshore oil drilling tax revenue fund land acquisitions — an idea that wasn’t well-received by many Democrats and environmental groups.
Scott has proposed nearly $75 million for state land purchases in the 2013-14 budget. Only $25 million of the funding is guaranteed. The remaining $50 million would need to come from the sale of state-owned lands, a process that some doubt could actually happen in a fiscal year.
More than 680,000 signatures are required for the amendment to make the 2014 Florida ballot, according to Gov. Scott’s office. Veaux said the group has collected about 150,000.
“Over the next 20 years we’ll be able to collect half a billion dollars,” Veaux said of the amendment. “And it won’t raise taxes.”
130410-b Flood prevention discussed at Alliance meeting
Sun Sentinel – by Mort Mazor, special correspondent
April 10, 2013
An engineer with the Lake Worth Drainage District addressed members of the Alliance of Delray at the group's monthly meeting April 3, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a flood-protected landscape. Patrick Martin, a district engineer with 31 years of experience, said the job of protecting against floods is a "three-tiered shared responsibility between each community, the Lake Worth Drainage District and the South Florida Water Management District."
Martin said the LWDD is responsible for more than 200 square miles of densely populated land. The area extends from Okeechobee Boulevard south to the Broward County border. It is home to about 700,000 residents.
"This land was originally swamp and marsh land. The terrain is low and flat with gentle grade north to south and west to east and subject to intense seasonal periods of rain and drought," Martin said.
The LWDD was established in 1915 by the Florida Legislature for the purpose of settlement. In the beginning, 80 percent of the district was controlled and designed by two development companies: Palm Beach Farms Co. and Model Land Co., which was part of Flagler Development. Canals were used to drain the land, and additional water control structures were built to hold and release water as needed.
Martin said LWDD monitors storm events and coordinates with other agencies such as the South Florida Water Management District and Palm Beach County Emergency Management. When needed, they open LWDD water control structures to lower canal elevations approximately 48 hours in advance of a storm's arrival.
Once canal levels are lowered, the LWDD may allow communities to open their control structures to lower the internal lake systems. "But all community structures must be closed and locked at all times," Martin said. "This is especially important during the storm event to prevent the possible back flow of canal water into the lake.
"We have recovery crews who make assessments and repairs as needed and by continual maintenance of canals, rights-of-way and water control structures to allow for the free flow of water and unencumbered access."
It is the responsibility of the communities to keep control structures, catch basins and inlets free of debris, such as trash, leaves and coconuts. Martin recommended that communities establish teams of residents to keep their drainage systems free of obstructions. He said LWDD officials are available to address community boards, property managers and residents about the importance of proper maintenance.
Martin showed photos of what a community street should look like after 5 to 6 inches of rain falls in a 24-hour period. He said the crowns of the road should remain dry and passable under those conditions. If 7 to 9 inches of rainfall is received in a 72-hour period, swales, roads, lawns and driveways will be flooded. Finished floors of homes should remain dry. If 15 to 23 inches of rain were to fall in a 72-hour period, many homes and businesses might experience finished floor flooding. Delray Beach resident Harriet Drapkin said it was "interesting to learn facts regarding how the drainage system works. It is good to know someone is monitoring the flooding. I was a victim of flooding on Linton Boulevard and it was a very upsetting and expensive situation. I'd like to see some improvement in the drainages of problem areas."
130410-c Florida legislative update: Environmental contamination update
Examiner.com - by Sonia Lavina
April 10, 2013
The Florida Current gave a legislative update on Tuesday, April 9 on some of the top waste and contamination environmental issues facing the state.
Even today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Florida has more sites contaminated with petroleum than any other state. In Florida, there are over 15,450 contaminated sites, including over 2,800 in the Tampa Bay region with a potential cost of $2 billion to the state. Governor Rick Scott requested $135 million for the cleanup program of the petroleum contaminated sites in fiscal year 2013-14, an increase of $10 million above current fiscal year spending. Funding for the program comes from a wholesale tax on oil. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) said it is working to clean up petroleum contaminated sites more effectively and has requested bill SB1416. This bill would allow the FDEP to seek competitive bidding among contractors for site cleanups.
A committee substitute for SB 1416 dealing with petroleum contamination sites passed the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation and has two more committee stops. Senators Simpson and Latvala warned that they wanted to learn more before the next committee stop about how the bill will affect the petroleum cleanup process.
In other contamination related news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying coal ash since the 2010 spill in Tennessee that dumped the waste into a tributary of the Tennessee River. According to the FDEP, coal ash, a waste product from power plants, contains the toxic metals mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
Patrick Gillespie, Press Secretary for the FDEP noted that hazardous waste landfills are prohibited in Florida under state law. The department estimates that trucking coal ash out of Florida would cost $2.5 billion per year, according to a Senate committee staff report.
Under bill SB 682/HB 659, the prohibition would not apply to coal ash disposal sites. Someone who wished to dispose of the ash still would be required to get a hazardous waste facility permit. The bills also define beneficial uses of the coal ash in products such as asphalt and concrete.
Bill SB682/HB659 cleared its final committee stop, the Senate Committee on Rules, despite continued environmental opposition. Environmental groups want FDEP to decide whether uses of coal ash in products and paving should be allowed on a case basis. Bill supporters said companies should be able to plan for its safe use.
The bills have support from electric utilities and industry groups. However, Audubon Florida, Sierra Club Florida and Clean Water Action have raised concerns about the designated allowable uses.
130410-d Obama seeks Everglades money to extend bridge, curb invaders
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
April 10, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration asked Congress on Wednesday to pay for a longer bridge on Tamiami Trail and for research to control Burmese pythons and other invasive species — all part of $192.5 million of proposed spending on the Everglades.
Florida environmentalists were pleased with the bridge proposal, intrigued by the snake-research money but a little disappointed that the administration did not seek more from Congress for restoration projects.
President Barack Obama's Everglades proposals for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, reflect tight budgets but mostly the fact that Congress has not approved a bill to authorize water projects across the country since 2007. Everglades projects in that bill include a water-storage system in western Palm Beach County and canal work to allow fresh water to flow through Broward County into the Everglades.
"It's kind of a wake-up call," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida's director of Everglades policy. "We are on our way to completing the projects that are authorized. We need the next set of projects to be authorized to move forward."
The president requested $97 million for the Everglades in his Army Corps of Engineers budget and an additional $95.5 million in the Interior Department budget.
The Army Corps' portion would help complete long-standing projects, such as restoring the Indian River Lagoon, building a reservoir near the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, putting natural bends back in the Kissimmee River and restoring Picayune Strand in Collier County.
The Interior portion includes park maintenance and $1 million to study ways to detect and eradicate invasive species, including Burmese pythons and other huge snakes that thrive in the 'Glades with no natural predators.
The Interior budget also includes a $30 million down payment for what will be 5.5 miles of bridging on Tamiami Trail, extending a 1-mile bridge just completed. The $320 million project to raise the roadbed will allow water to flow under the highway and nourish the Everglades.
Obama's total Everglades proposal of $192 million is $40 million less than last year's request and about $80 million less than in previous years. Interior officials said it nonetheless shows a strong commitment to preserving the unique River of Grass, its delicate ecosystem and endangered species.
South Florida members are pitching restoration as a way to create jobs.
"Reductions in vital funding for Everglades restoration not only threaten efforts to preserve Florida's ecosystem, but will also affect a variety of industries, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, trade and tourism," said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, co-chairman of the congressional Everglades Caucus.
130410-e Officials debate Everglades restoration bill
Apr 10, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - It was sold as a victory for the Everglades, but one local official says tax payers are getting ripped off.
"It's a hoax, it's a tremendous assault and an affront on taxpayers," said former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah.
Judah is referencing an amendment to the Everglades Forever Act, which unanimously passed the state House last month and is in committee in the state Senate.
Judah says sugar companies aren't paying enough to solve the environmental problems they create.
"All we get in return are algae blooms, fish kills, red tide and destruction of our coastal back bays and estuaries," Judah said.
House Bill 7065 is sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell from Lehigh Acres. Caldwell says the bill is something everyone can agree to.
And a lot of people do agree with it. Governor Scott supports it. Sugar companies support it, and in a unique twist, even some environmental groups are behind it.
Sugar companies are taxed $25 an acre for the roughly 440,000 acres they use to harvest sugar cane in the Everglades. That generates about $11 million-a-year for Everglades restoration.
"It's a small price to pay that's exacted from the sugar industry to allow them to continue to pollute these precious resources," Judah said.
Judah argues the taxes should be raised, but that proposal was shut down in the legislature.
Judah, the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Everglades have all come out against the legislation, saying it doesn't do enough for restoration.
Meanwhile, the Everglades Foundation and Audubon Florida, two other environmental groups, both support the bill since it extends the current tax for 14 years. Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said the legislation is a "big victory on the environmental side." Robert Coker, the Senior V.P. of U.S. Sugar said the legislation "demonstrates the art of compromise between all parties."
130410-f Perspective: Florida lawmakers must save natural springs
April 10, 2013
(This editorial appeared in the Sun Sentinel on Apr. 8, 2013)
It’s hard to figure what goes on in the heads — and hearts — of Florida’s lawmakers.
For months, state newspapers have published alarming reports on the rapidly deteriorating health of Florida’s incomparable natural springs. Many are dying because of pollution and excessive groundwater pumping. Once crystal clear, they’re now clouded with algae and weeds.
In recent months, thousands of Floridians have flocked to rallies to save the springs and signed petitions urging lawmakers to take action. Former Gov. Bob Graham has been leading the charge.
Yet halfway through the 2013 legislative session, proposals in the Senate and House to launch a serious rescue mission for springs are drowning in committee.
Lawmakers just can’t be bothered with protecting these signature Florida attractions. Members have more important things to do, like protect state courts from the phantom threat of Shariah law.
Bills from Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. Linda Stewart, two Orlando Democrats, call for each of the state’s five water management districts to identify ailing springs in their regions, develop five-year restoration plans, then file quarterly progress reports with the governor and legislative leaders. This is the kind of constructive approach you’d hope for from lawmakers when confronted with such an urgent problem.
Yet neither bill has been given a hearing in committee. Soto told the Tampa Bay Times that most lawmakers fear the cost of “a real aggressive spring rehabilitation program.”
So how much might such a program cost? Earlier this year, the water districts outlined a $122 million plan to begin restoring springs. Senate President Don Gaetz was among lawmakers who balked at the price, calling it “a heck of a big number.” In fact, it would amount to less than 0.2 percent of the Senate’s proposed $74.3 billion budget for next year.
The water districts’ number only looks big when compared to the measly $6.5 million that Gov. Rick Scott has proposed next year for springs restoration. Funding at this level is the equivalent of showing up at a five-alarm fire with a squirt gun.
It’s mystifying and maddening that lawmakers and Scott won’t do more to save Florida’s springs. They are among the state’s most valuable assets. They are critical sources of fresh water. They sustain unique and fragile ecosystems.
And for all those lawmakers who couldn’t care less about the environment, how about the economy? The tens of thousands of visitors that springs still attract pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s tourism economy and support thousands of jobs.
Time is running out for this year’s legislative session — and for Florida’s springs. Lawmakers need to seize the opportunity to restore these natural treasures. Or bear the disgrace of having done nothing.
130410-g President’s 2014 USGS budget proposal strengthens science
April 10, 2013
President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.167 billion, an increase of $98.8 million above the 2012 enacted level, reflecting the Administration's commitment to scientific research and development as the foundation for innovation, socio-economic well-being, environmental sustainability, and sound decisionmaking. This includes science to support the safe and responsible development of domestic energy, protect critical water resources and ecosystems, respond to natural disasters, and advance our understanding and resilience to the effects of climate change.
The proposed 2014 USGS budget priorities include studying energy resources and environmental issues; advancing water monitoring and availability research; supporting the nationwide streamgage network; improving the capacity to quickly and effectively respond to natural hazards; providing information needed to protect priority ecosystems; and enhancing climate change research that is user-focused to address specific needs of natural resource managers across the landscape.
"The USGS prides itself in providing relevant and reliable Earth science, and our range of specialized expertise makes us a leader in supporting the President's focus on research and development," said acting USGS Director Suzette Kimball. "Starting with science is the foundation for making decisions that ensure the safety of our Nation and a robust and resilient economy. The proposed budget supports programs that are unique to the USGS, ultimately enhancing understanding of our land, its resources, and potential hazards that face us."
Proposed USGS key increases are summarized below. For more detailed information on the President's proposed 2014 budget, visit the USGS Budget, Planning, and Integration website. New Energy Frontier
To ensure a robust and secure energy future for the Nation, President Obama emphasizes an "all-of-the-above" strategy, and the USGS has an important contribution in each component of that strategy. Proposed funding increases totaling $4.0 million will support the exploration of geothermal resources on Federal lands as well as research to support mitigation of the impacts of wind energy on wildlife. A total of $18.6 million, an increase of $13.0 million, will support interagency science collaboration between the USGS, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to understand and minimize potential adverse environmental, health, and safety impacts of shale gas development through hydraulic fracturing. Water
As competition for water resources grows, so does the need for better information about water quality and quantity. Funding in the 2014 proposed budget includes an increase of $7.2 million to fund more than 400 streamgages that would enhance the ability to monitor high priority sites sensitive to drought, flooding, and potential climate change effects. The budget also includes $22.5 million for WaterSMART, an initiative focused on a sustainable water strategy to address the Nation's water challenges. WaterSMART includes the combined efforts of the USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation. Natural Disasters
In the past year, the USGS responded to hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, wildfires ravaging the West, worldwide earthquakes, historical floods, and many other natural disasters. The budget proposes $2.5 million to improve rapid disaster response, allowing the USGS to better provide timely and effective science to minimize hazard risks to populations and infrastructure. Funding support includes improvements in early warning and scenario products for earthquakes, eruptions of volcanic ash, landslides and debris flows. In addition, an increase of $1.2 million is proposed to expand seismic networks along the Central and Eastern United States and improve the suite of USGS products that provide "situational awareness" for responders to gauge earthquake impacts and plan response activities. Ecosystem Priorities
USGS scientists conduct research and monitoring to understand how ecosystems are structured and function, helping improve sustainable stewardship of the Nation's natural resources. The 2014 budget request includes increases totaling $16.6 million for priority ecosystem science. This includes research to control and manage invasive species, such as Asian carp in the Great Lakes and the Burmese python in the Everglades. The proposed budget includes strong support for ecosystem restoration in the California Bay Delta, Chesapeake Bay, Columbia River, Everglades, Great Lakes, Klamath River, Puget Sound, and Upper Mississippi River as well as efforts to better understand and account for ecosystem services in decisionmaking. Climate Change Science
The FY 2014 budget request includes a total of $67.8 million for the Science for Adapting to a Changing Climate initiative that advances understanding and enhances resilience in the face of changing conditions. Funding increases for the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the eight DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs) will provide applied science and tools to support adaptive and resilient management of natural resources on public and tribal lands, help facilitate coordination of climate change research across Federal agencies, and improve understanding of nationwide challenges such as sea-level rise and drought. Increases in the Climate Research and Development Program will improve understanding of current and future impacts change and needs specific to regional areas. Funding for the Biological Sequestration program in 2014 will advance methodologies and models needed to complete the national biological carbon sequestration assessment and provide science and tools for land and natural resource management. Land Imaging Satellites
With Landsat 8 successfully launched in February, the USGS is preparing for the handover of operational responsibility from NASA and will continue to operate Landsat ground systems for receiving, processing, and disseminating the valuable imagery. The USGS will also be working with NASA to analyze user requirements and develop a successor mission to Landsat 8, with timing and configuration designed to minimize the risk of a gap in the unparalleled 41-year historical record of this data. Funding to begin work on the successor mission is provided in the 2014 budget for NASA, which will be responsible for the operation, building, and launching of Landsat-class land imaging satellites going forward, in partnership with the USGS. Critical Minerals and Rare Earth Elements
Many existing and emerging technologies that are important to our economy and national security are generating unprecedented demand for critical minerals. Ensuring an adequate supply of critical minerals depends on learning how they form and where they are most likely to be found in the Earth's crust. An increase of $1.0 million is proposed specifically for USGS research on rare earth elements, which are a type of critical mineral. An additional $1.1 million is proposed to expand research on other high priority minerals critical to American manufacturing. Additional Science Priorities
The 2014 budget would expand USGS youth programs and partnerships with a proposed increase for the development of a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, an element of the Youth Stewardship and America's Great Outdoors Initiatives. The budget request would support studies that address environmental impacts of uranium mining as well as emerging contaminants and pathogens. The USGS component of the Big Earth Data Initiative will support standardizing and optimizing the management of data from Earth observations systems, such as water and wildlife monitoring networks, operated by the Department of the Interior to support decisionmaking, scientific discovery, and technological innovation. Increased funding will be provided to begin implementation of the 3D Elevation program, responding to a growing need for high-quality topographic data and a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features to meet needs such as quantification of flood risk and coastal vulnerability to storms. Budget Reductions
The proposed USGS budget for 2014 includes reductions based on careful and difficult consideration for balancing national Earth science and technology priorities and needs. Proposed reductions include mineral resources research, the Water Resource Research Institutes, the National Civil Application Program, North American Data Buy, and internal administrative costs.
130410-h Senate unanimously approves $74.3B spending plan
Tampa Bay Times/Herald – by Kathleen McGrory, Tallahassee Bureau
April 10, 2013
In an unexpected move Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved its proposed $74.3 billion budget.
"It's tribute to the bipartisanship that we've seen in the Senate during the budget process," Senate President Don Gaetz said.
The spending plan includes a $1.2 billion increase to public-school funding, $70 million for Everglades restoration and 3 percent across-the-board pay raises for state employees who haven't seen their salaries increased in six years.
"I think that this budget takes care of the basics," Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron said. "Things that we haven't been able to take care of and respond to in the past, given the challenges in the economy, we're now taking those on. We're making sure that our foundation is strong and that we're not deferring issues that need to be addressed."
The Senate added an amendment dealing with advanced nuclear cost recovery. The amendment calls on the Public Service Commission to complete a comprehensive review "of the continuing prudency, cost effectiveness and need of any proposed nuclear power plant" for which cost recovery was authorized and if the "currently anticipated inservice date for the plant has been extended more than six years beyond its original proposed inservice date and if the most recent estimate of the plant's total cost has increased by more than 50 percent of the original cost estimate for the plant."
Sound specific ? Calling the amendment a "rifle shot," Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater said he wrote the amendment so it only applies to Progress Energy's beleaguered Levy County plant and not Florida Power and Light. Latvala said in a quick interview that he introduced the amendment to the budget bill because his legislation (SB 1472) on nuclear cost recovery isn't moving. It was added to the budget on a voice vote.
After the final vote on the budget, Gaetz praised Negron's leadership.
"Joe Negron proved that he can do what Washington can't," the Senate president said.
Gaetz said he believes the Senate is in a strong position to negotiate with the more divided House of Representatives.
"I do think that Chair Negron and his [subcommittee] chairs have strong hands in going into conference with the House of Representatives," he said. "They know that the entire Senate is behind them, and they also know the areas where they hope the Senate can make some process in conference."
The Senate’s unanimous vote stands in stark contrast to what is happening in the House. Because the lower chamber, through the leadership of Speaker Will Weatherford, has only begun to reveal details of an alternative to Medicaid expansion, House Democrats decided Tuesday they won’t support the budget when its up for a floor vote on Friday.
But because the Senate has proposed two actual alternatives to the Affordable Care Act’s proposed Medicaid expansion, Democrats gladly signed on to the Senate’s $74.3 billion plan.
Democrats like both spending plans. For the first time in six years, state employees would get across-the-board pay hikes of 3 percent, while the House would offer $1,400 a year. The House and Senate plans would provide $1 billion more in education spending, with the Senate providing a $372 increase per student while the House is providing a raise of $395. In response to Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a $2,500 pay raise for every teacher, the Senate is including the total amount that would cost -- $480 million -- but stipulates that the money be tied to student performance. The House included more money -- $676 million for the raises -- but encourages districts spend half that money on teacher performance.
130409- Keeping Florida's water flowing
Tampa Bay Times – a column by Adam H. Putnam, FL Commissioner of Agriculture
April 9, 2013
Florida's future depends on access to a reliable supply of fresh water. While we're surrounded by seas and receive abundant rainfall, in some regions during certain times of the year, we are using water faster than Mother Nature can provide it. As our population continues to grow — this year we will surpass New York as the third most populated state in the nation — pressure on our fragile water supplies will increase.
Florida's environment, economy and quality of life all depend on water. If we want to continue to attract businesses and draw tourists while protecting our environment, we must ensure we have the water supply to meet our needs, not just today, but for our future.
Fortunately, there are solutions. We've already taken several steps to protect our available water supply and reduce our water use, where possible, through thoughtful conservation measures. As a result of efforts led by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help agricultural producers implement best practices and use new technologies, Florida agriculture is using less water now than at any time in the past while, at the same time, increasing productivity and efficiency.
The latest irrigation technologies dramatically reduce water use and, when combined with new computerized tools, make it possible for producers to control their irrigation systems over the Internet or with a smartphone. The agriculture department also deploys mobile irrigation labs to advise farmers on how to improve their irrigation system efficiency and irrigation scheduling. Across the state, more than 9 million acres of farm, ranch and nursery lands are taking advantage of the programs the department offers to protect and conserve water resources.
Florida's farmers should be applauded for their efforts. Because of their hard work and investment, they've been able to save nearly 11 billion gallons of water each year. Local communities and public water supply utilities have also implemented successful conservation programs and water reuse projects that are making a difference.
But conservation and reuse alone will not be enough.
The next step must be to explore sources of water that won't deplete. We must find ways to grow our water supply from sources that are resistant to drought and shortage. Simply put, our water supply options must become more diverse.
Droughtproof water supplies, like seawater desalination, should be more aggressively pursued and included in water planning as future sources of Florida's water supply. The collection and storage of water for groundwater recharge and as an alternative source of water should continue to be encouraged with incentives to attract private landowner participation.
I am urging policymakers, water utilities, local officials, agricultural producers, business leaders and all Floridians to be proactive and innovative as they consider new water sources and technologies.
A sustainable vision for Florida's future will require a more comprehensive, long-term water policy and a mechanism to fund it. It will champion the combination of water conservation and innovative alternative water sources. It will ensure all Floridians that water will not become the crisis that today's leaders failed to prevent.
130408-a Be responsible, rational instead of delusional
Florida Today – Letter by Robert Schoales, Melbourne, FL
April 8, 2013
I have a great admiration for Norris Burkes and enjoy his weekly spirituality column immensely.
We all have things to learn from his compassion, understanding and patience. In his latest piece, I would have been with the frustrated nurse. More than $2 million had been spent on keeping a literally rotting patient alive in a hospital because his family had a religious belief that he was going to rise again.
Delusional thinking is nothing new with our species; in fact, it might be exclusive to us. The worse things get, the more some people are in denial. I am for positive thinking, but it has to be joined to a firm grasp of reality.
For society to waste millions of dollars keeping bodies technically alive is a waste of precious resources. We are in denial about global warming, peaking oil production, fresh-water availability, living on borrowed credit and just how many people this relatively little planet can support. It is not infinite.
If we don’t start acting like responsible rational adults and stop wasting precious resources, those who come after us are in for a very difficult time.
130408-b How to avoid a water crisis
April 8, 2013
Florida should look to our region for lessons
If Polk County is at the epicenter of a drought across Central Florida, as a state legislator recently said, then that area should look to our four-county region -- Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte -- for constructive lessons in long-term planning for water.
State Rep. Ben Albritton recently told The (Lakeland) Ledger that Central Florida and the entire state must soon pursue strategies for meeting long-term demands for water. Albritton -- a Republican from Wauchula whose district includes southern Polk County -- has co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, to promote water-supply planning.
"I know it is hard to talk about what will be a crisis in 10 or 15 years, but if we don't start now to develop a complete water policy for the entire state, it will be too late,"Albritton told Bill Rufty of The Ledger. "What has happened with water in the state is that there hasn't been a sense of urgency. I think in the backs of their minds, people get it." Regional model
Developing a water policy for the entire state would be difficult; in fact, in light of vast differences in resources and needs across Florida, a one-size-fits-all approach could be counterproductive.
Yet the Sarasota-Manatee-DeSoto-Charlotte region could serve as a model for collaboration and diversification of water resources across the state. In particular, areas that have both surface waters (rivers, creeks and such) and groundwater (wells) should examine the strategies implemented by the four-county Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority.
The authority embarked upon an aggressive, progressive and environmentally sustainable expansion project in the early 1990s. The authority first purchased a small, rundown water-treatment plant on the Peace River in DeSoto County. The plant was then expanded dramatically to increase the volume of water it treats.
The authority obtained permits to increase withdrawals from the Peace River -- during the rainy season. By "scalping" excess water when the Peace flows heavily, the authority methodically diverted billions of gallons to a reservoir, which it constructed, and new or expanded storage wells. At the same time, transmission pipes were built, linking local utilities to both regional and local treatment plants -- providing emergency connections and enabling the authority's staff to rotate supplies as needed.
There is more work for the authority and its members in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties to do. The journey from start to finish was long and arduous; many times, it seemed the multi-county projects were doomed due to politics or the need for substantial financial support. Time and money
As Rep. Albritton's comments suggested, the planning to avoid a crisis takes years to develop and implement.
If not for planning by the Peace River/Manasota authority, the southern part of our region would be in a crisis -- now. Charlotte County and the city of North Port have historically relied heavily on the Peace River for potable water.
But the flow of the lower Peace River was recently reduced to a trickle due to drought. As a result, no withdrawals have been made from the river (in our region) since Jan. 28. And, prior to the cessation of withdrawals, flows from the Peace River were only enough to meet half of Charlotte's demand.
Thanks to construction of the plant, reservoir, wells and pipelines, however, a crisis has been averted in Charlotte and North Port. Enough water is in storage -- 8 billion gallons -- that Sarasota County has relied heavily on the Peace River facilities, letting local managers significantly reduce demands on stressed underground supplies.
It is vital for state legislators to recognize that few cities or counties can afford to undertake water-storage projects on their own. The Southwest Florida Water Management District contributed substantially to the Peace River initiative.
In recent years, however, the Legislature has significantly reduced the ability of all five of the state's water districts to raise tax revenues. That trend must be reversed in order to stimulate investment in new water supplies.
No approach offers a panacea, and any strategies on the supply side must be accompanied by conservation. But the Peace River/Manasota authority has demonstrated to Florida that, with good planning and financial support from water-management districts and the state, a crisis can be avoided.
130408-c Permitting bills moving despite environmental opposition
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie,
April 8, 2013
A pair of bills that critics say would restrict the ability of water districts to reduce pumping during droughts are moving through the House and Senate. SB 1684 and HB 999 provide a wide variety of industry fixes on permitting issues, supporters say. The bills, though, face opposition from environmental groups who say a break is needed after permitting bills the past two years.
One provision the groups are focusing on would prohibit water management districts from reducing pumping permits for utilities that have desalination plants or other drought-resistant water sources.
"We need to be clear what our water allocations are," Martha Musgrove, representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture. "We don't get that clarity every time the districts run into a problem and somebody runs to the Legislature and says, 'Let's do away with that system and let's do this system.' "
The bill also provides for expedited permitting of natural gas pipelines and for summary hearings if challenged. The bill also defines "mean annual flood line" and exempts farm ponds and ditches from some permitting requirements.
The committee voted 4-2 to pass SB 1684 despite opposition from Sierra Club Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida and the Florida Wildlife Federation.
Bill supporters included the Florida Groundwater Association, Association of Florida Community Developers, the North American Solid Waste Management Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Marine Industries Association of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Several opponents said the bill should be conformed with SB 948. That bill, which would put state agriculture officials on par with utilities in water supply planning, won environmental support through amendments. Jerry Paul, a lobbyist with Capitol Energy Florida, said a compromise had been reached in language dealing with water but an amendment had not been filed yet. He represents Poseiden Resources, a water project planning firm that recently won a contract to build a desalination plant in San Diego County.
An aide to Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne and bill sponsor, said the senator would continue working with opponents to improve the bill. SB 1684 has two more committee stops.
In the House, Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, made similar promises Monday as his HB 999 passed the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee passed the bill with a 34-page strike-all amendment with one against.
Patronis described the legislation as an attempt to make feuding siblings, in this case permitting agencies and applicants, talk out their differences.
"When you put it in law and present it, you make them talk to each other," Patronis said. "That's what this bill does."
130408-d Policy Note: Agriculture Budget
April 8, 2013
The House and Senate appear to be heeding a call from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the citrus industry to combat citrus greening disease.
The tree disease, spread by an insect, has resulted in a loss or abandonment of 25 million trees. Meanwhile, citrus acreage has been reduced from 600,000 acres to 450,000 acres since 1997 because of the disease, pests and other pressures, according to Florida Citrus Mutual.
The House has recommended $8 million in its proposed fiscal year 2013-14 budget for citrus greening research while the Senate has recommended $7 million.
Other budget highlights for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services include $25 million to pay farmers for agreements to maintain their land in agriculture rather than develop. The Senate proposed budget instead provides $1 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.
The Senate proposes $3.8 million for African land snail eradication while the House proposes spending $3.6 million.
The Senate proposes spending $4 million on equipment to fight wildfires while the House proposes spending $3.3 million.
Both the House and Senate would spend $3 million on development of agricultural "best management practices" in the northern Everglades, north of Lake Okeechobee.
The House proposes to spend $1.3 million on agricultural best management practices elsewhere in the state to meet new water quality rules while the Senate proposes $500,000.
130408-e Springs bills appear dead but bills ratifying DEP approach on water quality are moving fast
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
April 8, 2013
Legislation that would require five year plans for restoring Florida's springs is likely dead this session after an amendment was withdrawn last week, the Senate bill sponsor said.
Florida has about 900 springs and many have reduced flows because of drought and water pumping, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Some springs also have become choked with weeds and algae because of increased nitrogen in groundwater from a variety of sources including fertilizer and wastewater. HB 789 and SB 978 would require each water management district by Oct. 1 to identify springs that have declining water quality or reduced flows or are listed by the DEP as "impaired." The districts would be required to set five-year restoration plans by July 1, 2014 and provide quarterly reports on restoration efforts.
Neither bill has been heard by a committee. On April 4, Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmmee, proposed amending his SB 978 onto SB 244, which encourages cooperation between the water management districts and DEP in setting minimum flows for springs. But he withdrew the amendment because he was concerned it could kill SB 244.
"I think we could do better," Soto said. "But we are moving in the right direction." SB 244 passed the Senate on a 44-0 vote on April 4. The House version of the bill, HB 7, has been placed on the House calendar for second reading. Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando and sponsor of the House version of the "Springs Revival Act" (HB 789) could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, other legislation that tracks and state and federal water quality strategy has been moving rapidly since being introduced. HB 7115 directs DEP to establish water quality standards called numeric nutrient criteria for waterways not approved in November by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The bill follows an agreement in March between the federal EPA and DEP basically approving the state's approach in setting water quality criteria.
The bill also grants DEP authority to use an implementation plan that was being challenged by environmental groups including Sierra Club Florida.
And it eventually repeals an "all or nothing" provision in water rules that had prevented the state now from implementing water quality criteria.
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen said the state's approach will allow most waterways to become choked with algae before they are considered impaired. He said the plan violates a 2009 court agreement between environmental groups and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
"Delay may be a good legal strategy, but it's not good for getting sewage, manure and fertilizer out of our waters," Cullen told the House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee last week.
The Sierra Club is supporting HB 7113 which would exempt pollution reduction plans called "total maximum daily loads" from ratification by the Legislature. HB 7157 would ratify DEP pollution limits for mercury in water bodies. Drew Bartlett, director of DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, said there is a lot of action going on with springs as the department is using its existing authority. And the department is working with EPA to get numeric nutrient criteria in place.
"Not everyone is thrilled," Bartlett said. "It's going to be costly, numeric nutrient criteria are costly. We are going to get them on the books and protect our waterways." Related Research: "Strategies for the Protection and Restoration of Florida's Springs" 2000 report by DEP's Florida Springs Task Force
130408-f Toxic algae threatens Florida’s endangered manatees
New York Times - by Shannon Doyne
April 8, 2013
In “Florida Algae Bloom Leads to Record Manatee Deaths,” (see below here) Michael Wines writes about the threat to this endangered Florida species.
HOW many manatee live in Florida ?
HOW many have recently died due to the algae bloom ?
HOW many died last year ?
WHERE in Florida has had the most algae bloom this year ?
WHAT do experts believe may have caused this year’s bloom to be so dangerous ?
WHEN did most of it dissipate ?
WHEN are manatee predicted to stop dying as a result of the algae bloom ?
WHO is Martine DeWit ?
WHY is the mild winter we just had partially to blame for the algae ?
Florida algae bloom leads to record manatee deaths
New York Times - by Michael Wines
April 6, 2013
Florida’s endangered manatees, already reeling from an unexplained string of deaths in the state’s east coast rivers, have died in record numbers from a toxic red algae bloom that appears each year off the state’s west coast, state officials and wildlife experts say.
The tide has killed 241 of Florida’s roughly 5,000 manatees, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and the toll appears certain to rise.
The number of deaths from the tide far exceeds the previous annual record of 151. Most occurred along the lower west coast of Florida near Fort Myers, where an algae bloom that began last fall was especially severe and long-lasting.
“Southwest Florida is an area where a lot of manatees are during the winter months,” Kevin Baxter, a spokesman for the research institute, said Friday. “It’s a warm-water area. The bloom has persisted there for quite a while.”
Although the algae had largely dissipated by mid-March, he said, the manatee deaths are likely to continue for a few months because remnants of the toxin still cling to sea grasses. Manatees can eat 100 pounds of sea grass daily, said Pat Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club in Maitland, Fla.
The state’s annual red tide affects a wide range of aquatic animals and can cause problems in people. The algae contain a nerve poison known as brevetoxin that is not only found underwater but that is also blown through the air when waves break open the algae’s outer casing.
Manatees, birds, dolphins and other animals can be killed by consuming the poison, either by accidentally eating the algae or by ingesting small organisms clinging to sea grass that have soaked up the poison while filtering seawater.
Residents and tourists regularly have respiratory problems after inhaling brevetoxins while strolling on beaches near red tides. People can also become ill after eating oysters and clams that have absorbed the toxin.
Experts are uncertain why this year’s algae bloom was so lengthy and toxic. Phosphorus runoff from fertilized farms and lawns may have contributed, because algae thrive on a phosphorus diet. The Caloosahatchee River, which runs through rural Florida farmland, empties into the ocean at Fort Myers.
But Mr. Rose and Dr. Martine DeWit, a veterinarian with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, say a major cause may be an unfortunate coincidence of weather and timing.
Dr. DeWit said a mild, fairly windless winter helped the algae persist far longer than ordinary blooms, which generally die off late in the year. That meant large blooms remained offshore when the manatees, driven by a search for warmer waters, began moving to the Fort Myers area.
Manatees are attracted there every year by a warm-water discharge from a local power plant, Dr. DeWit said.
“We’ve seen in the past that when algae blooms coincide with manatee movement, it results in catastrophic mortality,” she said.
The red-tide deaths come amid what is shaping up as a disastrous year for the manatee, whose numbers have slowly been growing in recent years. So far this year, at least 463 have died from a range of causes, more deaths than had been recorded in any previous comparable period.
At least 80 more manatees have been killed this year in the Indian River in east-central Florida, where a huge phytoplankton bloom in 2011 killed most of the sea grasses. The manatees there appeared outwardly healthy, but autopsies indicated that they had severe intestinal distress and that their stomachs were generally filled with a different strand of algae that they were apparently eating in the absence of the grass they normally eat.
What is killing those animals is not yet known, but Dr. DeWit said it appeared to be related to the algae and could — like the west coast’s red tide — be tied to a poison.
ASR - pumping water undeground for storage
130407- Legislators consider using underground reservoirs to counteract water shortages
The Texas Tribune - by Kate Galbraith
April 7, 2013
AUSTIN — Texas summers are so hot that in many West Texas reservoirs, more water evaporates than gets used by people. In 2011, more water evaporated out of Lakes Travis and Buchanan in Central Texas than was used by their largest city customer, Austin.
So what about storing water underground — in manmade reservoirs ?
More Texas communities are exploring the idea, which has found traction in states like Florida and California, and Texas lawmakers have introduced legislation to help it along. The basic concept of the technology — which is awkwardly named Aquifer Storage and Recovery, or ASR — is to inject water into an aquifer for storage, hundreds of feet down, and pump it back up when it is needed. Proponents say that the technology reduces evaporation, is cheaper and faster to build than surface reservoirs, and avoids some of the issues associated with flooding land.
“You don’t flood a bunch of bottomland hardwoods, or take thousands and thousands of acres of cropland out of service,” said James Dwyer, an Austin-based engineer with CH2M Hill, an engineering company.
There are three such reservoirs in Texas — one in El Paso, one in Kerrville and a third in San Antonio. The $250 million San Antonio project, completed years ago, held about 91,000 acre-feet of water as of last October, which equates to about 8 percent of the total volume of Lake Travis near Austin. In the San Antonio project, Edwards Aquifer water that is already cleaned and chlorinated is injected 400 to 600 feet underground into the Carrizo Aquifer. When it comes back up, additional chloride and some fluoride are added before it is distributed to customers.
“I think this will be the future of water storage — it has to be,” said state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, who said he had recently visited the nation’s largest ASR project in Las Vegas, which opened in 1987 and has stored more than 320,000 acre-feet of water. “We can’t just continue to lose 50 percent of our product to evaporation, and our climate’s not getting any better.”
Larson has filed House Bill 3013, which makes clear that ASR projects are eligible for water-plan funding, such as the Legislature is separately considering. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee but has not yet been heard in the committee.
HB 3013 also instructs the Texas Water Development Board to create guidelines for groundwater districts that would oversee ASR projects in their area. Larson said the “right of capture” enshrined in Texas law means that landowners own the water that comes up from under their land. A better regulatory framework is necessary, Larson said, to “make sure that the water [the ASR project has] stored is not taken by someone else. That’s the biggest apprehension, to be candid with you.”
Dwyer, the CH2M engineer, said that aquifer storage projects can cost just 10 percent as much as reservoirs, and the permitting process is far faster. One potential issue, he said, is minerals like arsenic getting into the underground water. This has been an issue in places like Florida, he said, but not in any of the three existing Texas ASR projects.
Jim Lester, president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable technologies, said that Texas would want to avoid putting ASR projects in uranium-mining areas, but the technology can avoid the concerns about eminent domain that can cripple surface-reservoir projects. Also, “you don’t have to worry about dam safety,” he said.
Texas water experts say that other communities interested in the technology include Corpus Christi, New Braunfels and the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority. To move forward, ASR projects need a permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Senate Bill 1429, by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would reduce study costs for a Corpus Christi groundwater district if it decides to go forward with an underground reservoir storage project. The bill is being discussed in the Natural Resources Committee. Sanjeev Kalaswad, a program specialist with the Innovative Water Technologies program, an arm of the Texas Water Development Board that focuses on "nontraditional" water supplies, said that sandy aquifers and limestone can sometimes be good places to store water. (The Carrizo near San Antonio, where the San Antonio Water System stores water underground, is an example of a sandy aquifer.) “Clay is not good, that’s for sure, because it does not hold water,” he said.
Dwyer, the engineer, said that as Texas turns to reusing more nonpotable water, some of that could be stored in reservoirs. El Paso already does this, pumping cleaned-up sewage water into an aquifer for further, natural cleansing before it is pumped back up. Water utilities in Texas and elsewhere have not turned more to the technology, he said, because the utilities are by nature “risk-averse” and prone to looking warily at little-used technologies.
Florida has had dozen of projects, and “it’s been a learning process,” said Bob Verrastro, lead geologist with the South Florida Water Management District. Water utilities there like the technology because it rains hardest in the summer, when the snowbirds have left the state and demand for water is low. Some projects injected water into aquifers that were too saline, and others had trouble pumping out as much as they put in, he said.
So in South Florida, roughly half the utilities discontinued the projects. But for “utilities where ASR has been successful — they love them,” Verrastro said.
130406- Feed your soil, not just your plants
Miami Herald – by Alison Walker, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
April 6, 2013
Building healthy soil is one of the most important things you can do for your garden, especially if you are growing an edible garden. Here in Florida, we are particularly challenged with rocky, sandy soil that is low in nutrients and organic matter. Adding organic matter to your soil will provide a wealth of benefits that will be reaped for years to come.
Think of your soil as a living organism that supports the plants growing in it. Soil is far from dead or inert; it is full of a multitude of microorganisms. While some soil organisms may be harmful, many are very beneficial, creating complex food webs and providing critical ecosystem services. For example, decomposers help break down organic matter to make nutrients more available; mycorrhizal fungi provide associated roots a higher absorptive capacity and ability to extract water and minerals from the soil. Other soil organisms attack pathogenic fungi and bacteria, contributing to a healthy balance in the soil that allows for optimal plant growth.
However, these beneficial organisms need a healthy, thriving soil full of organic matter to support them, and it is up to us to help create that.
The best way to add organic matter to your soil is by using compost. You can purchase bags of compost from a garden supply store or you may find another source, such as a local organic chicken farm. Some cities, including Miami, provide free compost from recycled Christmas trees or yard waste to residents at municipal facilities.
It is also a great learning experience to have your own compost bin at home. You can build one from pallets or chicken wire, or you can purchase a compost bin from a garden supply company.
Many organic materials can be added to your compost bin, but stay away from any type of meat products, as this will attract pests to your pile.
The key to a healthy compost pile is a proper balance of green/wet materials and brown/dry materials. If your pile is too wet with fresh green kitchen scraps, it may become anaerobic and begin to smell. If your compost pile has only brown dry garden waste such as leaves and sticks, it will take longer to decompose into ready-to-use soil. Finished compost looks like moist, dark, rich soil that has a mostly even texture without any big chunks.
Not only does compost add organic matter and beneficial microorganisms to your soil, but it has many other benefits. Compost helps maintain moisture levels and the water-holding capacity of your soil, it improves soil structure and reduces soil compaction while increasing soil aeration, and it helps buffer pH and temperature changes in your soil.
Fertilizers, on the other hand, can reduce soil structure, affect soil pH over time, and increase the soil’s salinity. And, of course, composting helps reduce waste in our landfills whereas fertilizers can contribute to that waste and pollution.
Always remember that healthy soil full of organic matter is much more sustainable than a fertilizer applied to your plants periodically, so grow your garden with the idea that you should feed your soil, not just your plants. Alison Walker is youth education manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
130405-a How WLRN will celebrate 'Everglades Day' throughout April
April 5, 2013
On Sunday, April 7th, Florida will celebrate its first official “Everglades Day.” Established by the Florida Legislature, Everglades Day honors South Florida’s unique wetland ecosystem, the wild inhabitants who live there and all the passionate Floridians working to conserve this magical place.
As a tribute, WLRN will run a month-long TV and radio series entitled, "Guardians of the Everglades" which will profile people from a variety of different backgrounds but who are bound by a common desire to save our state's national treasure for future generations.
These Guardians include an energetic conservationist working with roseate spoonbills in Florida Bay, a worldly environmentalist with a passion for parks, a dedicated water expert focused on Everglades restoration projects and an airboat guide with a unique take on what makes the Everglades special.
130405-b New citrus BMPs come with new grower requirements
TheGrower.com - by Vicky Boyd
April 5, 2013
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services formally adopted the Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices for Florida Citrus manual Jan. 9.
The action brought the industry into compliance with state water quality standards and related water resource protection program goals, according to a news release.
With the all-industry BMPs also come a few changes.
Growers who were enrolled under one of the previous flatwoods citrus GMP manuals do not have to re-enroll under the new manual unless they re-established a grove or performed major grove renovation.
Even if they haven't changed their operations, those growers will must continue to implement the applicable BMPs on the checklist. They also must follow the guidelines application to their operation contained in "Nutrition of Florida Citrus Trees, Second Edition, UF-IFAS Publication CL253 (January 2008).
But growers enrolled in the Ridge Nitrate BMP program are required to re-enroll in the new manual within two years of manual adoption or by Jan. 8, 2015.
Because the new citrus BMPs are more detailed than the former Ridge BMP, growers should contact the FDACS to schedule an appointment so a representative can come out and help them identify the appropriate practices for their operation.
130405-c Water and land amendment backers await legal review
SoutheastAgNet.com - by Gary
April 5, 2013
From NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA (Tallahassee) – The coalition seeking to put funding for Florida Everglades’ preservation and other state water projects into the state Constitution have gathered enough signatures to have their proposal reviewed by Florida’s Supreme Court. Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign announced Thursday that it has collected 116,573 signatures of Florida voters, topping the threshold needed for the review in hopes of getting it on the 2014 ballot. The proposed amendment is seeking to guarantee the spending of $10 billion on water projects over the next 20 years. “We hope the court will rule as soon as possible and we’re hopeful that will be as soon as this summer,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair, and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. “In the meantime, we’re going to keep on collecting as many signatures as we can with our volunteers across the state.” The Water and Land Conservation amendment would dedicate one-third of the existing documentary stamp tax, which is paid when real estate is transferred, to restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and restore spending on the state’s land-buying program. The environmental coalition was created last summer with leaders expressing frustration that funding has decreased for the state’s marquee land-buying program, Florida Forever, as well as concern over spending amounts for other environmental needs. Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget for the coming year suggests $32 million for a water quality plan for the Everglades, along with $28 million for additional storm water expansion and reservoir construction projects around Lake Okeechobee. The Everglades benchmark has been supported by both the House (HB 7065) and the Senate (SB 768). Related: Conservation Amendment Reaches Florida Supreme Court WJCT NEWS Conservation amendment gains signatures for ballot review Daytona Beach News-Journal Conservation Amendment Reaches Florida Supreme Court WUSF News Constitutional amendment to fund conservation lands clears threshold Orlando Sentinel
130404-a Constitutional amendment to fund conservation lands clears threshold Orlando Sentinel
April, 4 2013
A coalition of environment groups seeking permanent funding of conservation and recreational land purchases announced it has generated enough signatures to get its proposed constitutional amendment reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.
Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign said it has collected 116, 573 signatures across Florida — nearly double the 68,314 required — to certify the amendment for review. To get it on the 2014 ballot, the group would need a total of 683,149 signatures.
The proposed amendment would set aside one-third of the existing state documentary stamp tax, which is paid when real estate is sold, for the next 20 years to raise more than $10 billion. The group said the money would be spent to “restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and revive the state’s historic commitment to protecting natural lands and wildlife through the Florida Forever Program.”
“This campaign to protect Florida’s environmental legacy is gaining public support across the state and we are well on our way to getting this important measure on the ballot,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. Other groups involved include the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Audubon Florida and Florida Wildlife Federation.
The Florida Legislature is set to resume funding of Florida Forever this year after budgetary constraints forced its zeroing-out in the past several years.
University of Alberta
Schindler holds a
130404-b Ecologist calls for ELA to test fish deformities
Winnipeg Free Press - by Bruce Cheadle
April 4, 2013
Problems similar at oilsands, Exxon Valdez
OTTAWA -- There appear to be "remarkable similarities" between fish deformities found downstream from Alberta's oilsands and those observed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and after Florida's Deepwater Horizon disaster, says a renowned ecologist.
David Schindler of the University of Alberta has written an open letter to two federal cabinet ministers pointing out the recent research findings from scientists as far afield as the Gulf of Mexico.
"Given the parallels in the cases from various locations, it seems likely that some chemical or suite of chemicals in crude oil is causing the malformations," Schindler wrote.
He's proposing that Canada take the lead in researching the issue by isolating the various chemical compounds and introducing them to fish stocks in a controlled setting.
And Schindler says the federal Experimental Lakes Area -- which has been shut down by Ottawa for a savings of about $2 million annually -- is the ideal natural laboratory for the work.
In a letter Wednesday to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and Environment Minister Peter Kent -- copied to a number of U.S. scientists and some news media -- Schindler praised the monitoring work of government scientists in the Athabaska River.
But he said such monitoring can't possibly determine which chemicals may be affecting aquatic life due to the "complex chemical soup" found downstream from industrial oilsands development.
What's required, the scientist said, "would be whole ecosystem experiments where small amounts of selected chemicals are applied to whole lakes, and the effects determined on several key species in the food chain."
It's tailor-made for the federal Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, a remote region of 58 pristine lakes that have been used since 1968 for groundbreaking freshwater studies on everything from nutrient-loading and mercury exposure to acid rain.
The Harper government announced last year it was closing the world-renowned facility as a cost-saving measure -- although insiders say the operating cost of the facility is only $600,000 annually, of which a third comes back in user fees.
Fully funded independent researchers have been refused access to the site to continue their continuing research this summer, although Ottawa is in negotiations with the province of Ontario and other parties to transfer management.
Linking the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area -- a popular cause among Canada's scientific research community and environmentalists -- with oilsands pollution is a potentially toxic political mix for the government.
Activists have already claimed that climate-change research at the ELA is the real reason the Conservatives closed the facility.
A spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Ashfield did not directly address Schindler's proposal when reached for comment, but said in an email that "the government continues to actively work towards establishing a new operator for the ELA site so that research there can continue."
Erin Filliter added that "freshwater science continues to be conducted across Canada at multiple facilities which more than adequately meets the needs of government research."
Similarly, Rob Taylor at Environment Canada said by email that "Minister Kent is very engaged in the environmental monitoring of the oilsands region."
"The Canada-Alberta joint scientific monitoring program has been put in place to study any impact on air quality, water quality and biodiversity," said Taylor.
Studies on the environmental impact of oilsands development have been accelerating in recent years. -- The Canadian Press
130404-c Policy Note: Environment Budget
Florida Current – by Sarah Iarussi
April 4, 2013 BACKGROUND:
Florida's conservation land-buying program is a top legislative priority each year for environmental groups. But they have faced opposition from some skeptical legislators who suggest the state already owns too much land.
Gov. Rick Scott has requested $25 million for the Florida Forever land-buying program along with $50 million from the sale of state lands not needed for conservation. Whether the state can identify and sell that much land is a question mark.
The governor also requested $60 million for Everglades spending, including $32 million for the first year of implementing a cleanup program approved by federal agencies in 2012.
Florida also taxes petroleum imports to pay for the cleanup of more than 25,000 contamination sites, most of them from past leaking underground storage tanks. The governor requested $135 million for the program, a $10 million increase over the 2012-13 budget.
Beach restoration projects are important to coastal communities to protect private property, maintain beach tourism and protect wildlife habitat. The governor requested $25 million for beach restoration. Federal and local dollars are used to match the state funding.
Drinking water and wastewater loan and grant programs also are important to communities across the state, especially in economically distressed rural areas.
The governor in the past two years has vetoed spending for community water projects around the state. Florida TaxWatch has identified such projects as budget "turkeys" for not going through a proper review and selection process. CURRENT SITUATION:
UPDATE April 4, 2013: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government has recommended 60 projects totaling $48.2 million. The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee has recommended $24 million for water projects and is reviewing requests totaling $286 million.
UPDATE April 3, 2013: On land-buying, the proposed budgets from the House and Senate budget subcommittees both would provide $50 million from the sale of existing state lands to the Florida Forever program. The House proposal would add $25 million in general revenue while the Senate would propose $10 million, and the Senate funding is designated only for the purchase of conservation land to buffer military bases.
For Everglades spending, the House is recommending $32 million for water quality projects under a plan approved by federal agencies in 2012. That Senate proposal includes $70 million for Everglades water quality projects and restoration, which is $10 million more than Scott requested.
For petroleum tank cleanups, the House subcommittee is proposing $126 million while the Senate proposal matches the governor's request of $135 million.
For beach restoration, the House proposal is $30.9 million while the Senate proposal is $46.3 million. Both top the governor's request.
Both the House and Senate subcommittee proposals match the governor's request of $12.5 million in general revenue for drinking water and wastewater revolving loan programs in addition to $203.2 million in federal funds. Another $2 million would be added to $23.3 million in federal grants for small county sewage treatment plants. The House also has proposed $24 million in grants and aid for various water projects.
130404-d Restoring the Everglades
Sun Sentinel – Letter by Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation
April 4, 2013
We applaud Gov. Rick Scott for his commitment to protecting and restoring America's Everglades. The depth of his support was clearly stated in his recent column for the Sun Sentinel.
We are especially pleased with Gov. Scott's promise to seek increased funding for Everglades restoration projects, and his determination to push for the completion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
Gov. Scott has been more than willing to bring together the various stakeholders — often with sharply differing views — to reach agreements that continue the progress of protecting and restoring America's Everglades.
There is still much to do to complete the vision of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. We can get it done with the continued leadership of Gov. Scott, the federal government, the South Florida Water Management District and the environmental and agricultural communities.
Our economy, environment and the drinking water of more than 7 million Floridians depend on the outcome. Restoring and protecting America's Everglades has never been more important. Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation
130404-e Study: Global warming will bring more intense downpours
Sun Sentinel – by Ken Kaye
April 4, 2013
South Florida, no stranger to heavy rains, could see even more torrential downpours, the result of global warming.
Indeed, much of the Northern Hemisphere will be subject to more extreme rain events because of increasing levels of greenhouse gases, according to a study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published in Geophysical Research Letters.
"We have high confidence that the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense, as it is virtually certain that the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events," said Kenneth Kunkel, a senior research professor and lead author of the paper.
South Florida averages about 60 inches of rain per year, with about 70 percent of that produced during the rainy season, mid-May through mid-October.
According to the study, a 20 to 30 percent increase in rainstorm events is possible “over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gases continue to rise at a high emissions rate.”
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the North Carolina State University's Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-North Carolina and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., among other agencies.
Researchers used climate models to focus on how greenhouse gas increases could affect rainfall and winds. Their findings could impact how engineers will design dams, culverts, detention ponds and other water control structures in the future.
Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Center and study co-author, said the next challenge is to identify risks and find ways to avoid potential disasters associated with heavy rains.
“Findings of this study, and others like it, could lead to new information for engineers and developers that will save lives and major infrastructure investments," he said.
On Thursday, April 4, leaders of Florida's Water and Land Legacy Campaign will announce a major campaign milestone towards getting the Water and Land Conservation amendment on the ballot. The call will begin at 1:30 pm and feature statements from campaign leaders on what this event means for land and water conservation in Florida.
The call-in number is (800) 791-2345; the dial-in code is 50903.
The Water and Land Conservation amendment dedicates funding for water and land conservation, management and restoration by amending the state constitution. The amendment sets aside one-third of Florida's existing documentary stamp tax revenues (paid when real estate is sold) and guarantees that these funds can be used only for conservation purposes, such as acquiring conservation and recreation lands, managing existing lands, protecting lands that are critical for water supply and restoring degraded natural systems.
The funds dedicated by the measure will accomplish the following with no increase in taxes:
· Restore, manage and acquire lands necessary to protect Florida's drinking water sources and protect the water quality in our rivers, lakes and streams;
· Protect our beaches and shores;
· Protect and restore the Everglades and other degraded natural systems and waterways;
· Manage fish and wildlife habitat, protect forests and wetlands, and restore conservation lands that are an important part of Florida's natural heritage, economy and quality of life;
· Provide funding to manage existing state andlocal natural areas, parks and trails for water supply, habitat and recreation.
Florida's Water and Land Legacy is a coalition of the state's leading conservation organizations including The Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and many others. Together with concerned citizens, they have united to launch a major constitutional amendment campaign for the November
Water and Land Conservation - Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands SUMMARY:
Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.. FULL TEXT:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA THAT:
Article X, Section 28, Florida Constitution, is created to read:
SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.-- a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents. b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:
1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e). c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.
130403-a Mining can degrade water quality
Tampa Bay Times
April 3, 2013
Proposed mine deal digs at divided lines.
There is a direct connection between the article about lime rock mining in northwest Pasco County and the article about the pollution of Florida's springs.
Those springs for which Florida is so famous, and virtually all of our drinking water, comes from the aquifer that permeates the lime rock formation under most of West-Central Florida.
I am not an environmentalist, but my life depends on an adequate supply of drinking water. We have already overbuilt and overpopulated this area relative to the available water supply. And, now, another company wants to blast the lime rock that provides and protects our source of that water.
The Cross Florida Barge Canal damaged the aquifer and degraded the water coming up into Crystal River and other springs. The pressure of overpopulation, pumping too much water from the aquifer, agricultural runoff, etc., have further increased the pollution.
There is an entire mountain of lime rock near Carlsbad, New Mexico, and it does not overlay an aquifer. Outlaw Ridge Inc. can dig and blast to its heart's content out there and get all the lime rock it could possibly use without endangering the lives of several hundred thousand residents by polluting their water supply.
I hope our county commissioners have the guts to continue to deny any blasting and mining in our aquifer. Alfred J. D'Amario, Hudson
130403-b Why Everglades restoration really needs to be about adapting to climate change
WLRN - by Tricia Woolfenden
April 3, 2013
When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was approved in 2000, it was a historic move to "restore, protect and preserve" water resources in central and south Florida. The 30-year framework was designed with the ultimate goal of restoring historic water-flows to a "dying ecosystem." Project leaders and scientists are now focused on incorporating climate change adaptation into the plans and acknowledging that the Everglades will likely never look the way it once did.
"We were looking back, now we need to look forward," said Eric Bush who is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the partners in CERP and other Everglades restoration efforts.
Bush said when CERP was created, it didn't take climate change into account. Sea level rise and fluctuations in precipitation and temperature will alter Florida's landscape, making it necessary to morph Everglades restoration plans into an "adaptation plan" for climate change.
"I don't think the public really understands the implications of climate change (on South Florida)," Bush said. He said while authorities don't yet know how serious the effects will be, adaptation needs to begin "now, or it will be too late," given the many years it takes to put any significant plan into place.
Bush's sentiments were echoed -- to one degree or another -- by numerous speakers at last week's meeting of the Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress (CISRERP) in Miami. The committee is part of the National Academies, a nonprofit organization that provides government and public institutions with independent analysis and recommendations on public policy.
The CISRERP is composed of professors, scholars, and professionals in a variety of fields and from around the country. The Congressionally-mandated committee is charged with reviewing and evaluating the progress of CERP. They meet four times annually to receive briefings from experts on CERP projects and other relevant scientific and engineering concerns.
The most recent meeting included a focus on climate change, as well as invasive species and the relatively new Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Two days of speaker sessions were preceded by a day-long field trip to visit relevant CERP sites around South Florida, including Biscayne National Park, the Everglades National Park, and the new Tamiami Trail bridge.
Speaking to committee members on climate change's predicted impacts on coastal ecosystems, David Rudnick (science coordinator with the National Park Services' South Florida Natural Resources Center), said "it will be a different Everglades landscape" in the face of climate change.
Among the climate change factors that could re-shape the Everglades are: a 10 percent decrease or increase in annual rainfall, hotter and longer summers, fewer but stronger tropical storms and a projected sea level rise of 1.5 feet by 2060. "Scenario uncertainty," "model uncertainty" and climate variables have hampered scientists' and authorities' abilities to more accurately predict climate change impacts in South Florida. (Read the South Florida Water Management District's report "Climate Change and Water Management In South Florida" for more details on current projections.)
Even as scientists work to provide more definitive answers to climate change questions, scientists like Rudnick are calling for "adaptive management frameworks." He said while the Everglades landscape and seascape will be shaped by oceanic energy, restoration and ecological responses to sea level rise will help to modify the impacts.
As Everglades restoration continues, projects and goals likely will shift and adjust to accommodate new understandings (and real-world evidence) of climate change. Shannon Estenoz with the Department of Interior, spoke of the uncertainty of climate change's full impact and said there is a need to "move forward with restoration -- if anything, move faster." Estenoz said while climate change will shape the ecology, it also is important to consider its impacts across the board, including on agriculture, development, and human water consumption and use.
"It's not going to happen overnight," Estenoz said, calling for a need to put "a nose to the grindstone" in Everglades restoration and to "push the limits of what science can tell us."
The CISRERP will spend the coming months analyzing the latest studies and project updates and meet later this year to continue work on its upcoming report on Everglades restoration.
130402-a Agricultural water bill wins support from former environmental opponents
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
April 2, 2013
The bill that was shaping up to be the most controversial fight over water in the legislative session now has support from environmental groups that were opposing it. SB 948 by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, would place the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on par with utilities in water supply planning. The bill is a priority of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Agriculture department officials said the bill would help ensure water is available to support agricultural jobs and to ensure that estimates of water use are standard across water district lines. Environmental groups, though, said they were concerned the bill would place a priority on agricultural water use at the expense of springs, wetlands and streams during droughts.
But a series of amendments offered by Grimsley on Monday in the Senate Committee on Agriculture won support from opponents. The bill passed with support from The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club Florida, Audubon Florida and the Florida Wildlife Federation.
"We had some concerns about the bill," said Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy and strategies for The Nature Conservancy's state chapter. "Some comfort language that tightened up the bill was worked out." Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said environmental groups "remarkably" now are supporting an expansion of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services into water planning, an issue where he sees a historic alliance among the agricultural water users and environmentalists.
"The sponsor, Denise Grimsley, took a controversial subject and brought people together to resolve the other issues and demonstrated what is often missing in these environmental debates: a willingness to really sit down and give people a chance to talk through things," Draper said.
A series of amendments offered by Grimsley ensured that water conservation be factored into projections of agricultural water use and water projects on private lands. The amendments also ensured that water supply projects on private lands meet the state "public interest" test for water use and don't harm existing users.
The bill passed with support from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Adam Basford, director of state legislative affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, said the bill wasn't a power grab by agriculture and the amendments made that "explicitly clear."
"Agricultural water use is important to our state," he said. "Having the Department of Agriculture (and Consumer Services) being able to provide accurate data, we think it's a no-brainer."
Elements of the bill are in SB 1684, which is being heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation. That's the Senate companion of a wide-ranging environmental permitting bill, HB 999, that has faced environmental opposition in the House.
Portions of SB 948 also are contained in HB 1063, which passed its first committee stop in the House last week and has two more to go.
130402-b Everglades bill: 'One of heaviest lifts this Session' passes Senate Committee
Sunshine State News
April 2, 2013
The Everglades Improvement and Management bill passed its sponsor's committee Tuesday. SB 768, sponsored by freshman Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, puts into statute a deal struck by Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration about how to move forward with the last phase of restoration. Simpson said it is a result of the two sides "putting politics aside" and that it has been celebrated by environmentalists, agriculture and policymakers.
The bill outlines funding sources and timelines for construction of the final suite of projects for Everglades restoration. Sources include a state appropriation and a tax increase on Everglades Agricultural Area farmers through the Agricultural Privilege Tax they pay. Farmers will also be required to continue their Best Management Practices, which have reduced phosphorus in the water by 55 percent.
Representatives of the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida and Associated Industries of Florida declared their support of the bill at the meeting.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, congratulated Simpson for pushing through "one of the heaviest lifts this session," especially in his first year in the Legislature.
The measure quickly passed the Community Affairs Committee.
The companion bill, HB 7065, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, unanimously passed
130402-c Florida House advances DEP-EPA deal
SouthEastAgNet.com - by Randall
April 2, 2013
From The News Service of Florida:
The House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee on Monday started the process for the Legislature to accept a deal with the federal government that gives Florida more say over the state’s river, lake and estuary standards.
The measure (HB 7115) is intended to have the state Department of Environmental Protection set new standards by the end of the 2014. The DEP reached a deal March 15 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that expanded the state’s authority to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in most of the state’s coastal streams, estuaries and rivers, including the Intracoastal Waterway.
“In Florida we know our water is different than in other parts of the country and the EPA has recognized that,” said Rep. Jake Rayburn, R-Lithia, the sponsor of the bill.
The proposal is to next appear before the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee before reaching the House floor is opposed by the Sierra Club Florida, which contends the deal will result in a lowered level of quality for Florida’s waters.
The Senate version (SB 1808) has one committee appearance planned, Community Affairs, but no hearing date has been set.
130402-e Red tide bloom subsides, experts say
Herald-Tribune – by Jessie Van Berkel
April 2, 2013
After a brutal seven-month bout of red tide, the smelly, irritating algae bloom that kills manatees and wards of tourists may have finally subsided, researchers say.
Most of Florida's southwest coast got a clean bill of health after the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collected Gulf samples last week. Only a very low concentration of the red tide organism hung on near Pine Island Sound in Lee County.
"Our fingers are crossed," Mote Marine Laboratory senior scientist Barb Kirkpatrick said.
Mote researchers were out on a boat Tuesday, taking readings of the tiny plants' cell counts. Kirkpatrick said they would have more definitive predictions today.
Red tide emerges through a "perfect storm" of biology, chemistry and oceanography, she said. The blooms originate about 40 miles offshore and currents push it toward shore, where its toxins can be hazardous to beachgoers and pets.
But what causes the centuries-old phenomenon to stick around for so long remains uncertain, said Robert Weisberg, a University of South Florida professor of physical oceanography.
"We can never really understand how that bloom is going to evolve and eventually go away, so we need a lot more observations," Weisberg said.
This was the first big outbreak in Southwest Florida since 2007, when another bloom lasted about six months — and a year before that a bloom stuck around for a whopping 13 months, keeping tourists away from beaches and killing fish.
In comparison, this bloom wasn't too bad, said Virginia Haley, president of Sarasota County's tourism agency. Fish kills were limited in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
130402-f Region's water use holds steady even as population balloons
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear,
April 2, 2013
Central Florida's need for water from the Floridan Aquifer was virtually unchanged from 1995 to 2010, even as the region's population grew dramatically, state authorities say.
By the end of that 15-year period, the average amount of water pumped each day from the state's crucial aquifer remained almost even with its mid-'90s mark, at nearly 728 million gallons a day.
That's still a lot of water to pump out of the ground, enough to shrivel many of the region's interconnected springs and wetlands. But water watchers say at least the amount didn't increase — even as the population jumped from 1.9 million to 3 million people — in large part because of conservation measures.
Now the region's population is expected to grow to 4.1 million people by 2035, and officials are cautioning that the easy conservation measures — such as lawn-watering restrictions and water-stingy shower heads and toilets — are about to max out. Keeping future demand for water in check as Central Florida again adds more than a million people will become increasingly difficult, they said.
"Not only has the easy conservation stuff been done, but a lot of the medium and hard stuff has been done as well," said Tom Bartol, water-supply bureau chief for the St. Johns River Water Management District. "The price of pursuing water conservation will start to get competitive with alternative water supplies."
Central Florida is already thought to be putting great stress on the Floridan Aquifer, so utilities are likely to target lakes, rivers and even the ocean for significantly more-expensive supplies of water.
The finding that the region's water use has held steady for 15 years, released late last week at a meeting of the Central Florida Water Initiative, wasn't a complete surprise to authorities. Many utilities have been reporting that their daily pumping from the aquifer is the same as or less than their pumping before the Great Recession.
Still, the new water data revealed that not just individual utilities but a huge section of the state was able to hold the line on water demand — a feat that would have seemed unlikely or impossible a decade ago, during the supercharged run of home construction and commercial development.
The Central Florida Water Initiative is an ongoing project in which water utilities, their private consultants and state water managers have joined forces to figure out how much more water, if any, can safely be pumped out of the Floridan Aquifer.
While an essential component of Florida's natural environment, aquifer water is also coveted by utilities because it's clean and relatively cheap compared with the water available in rivers or the ocean.
The initiative is focused on the part of Central Florida that is most worried about its water supply, an area where the environment is thought to be especially vulnerable to aquifer pumping.
Bartol attributed the region's success in holding the line on demand to three general categories of conservation:
•Stricter plumbing standards that have forced toilet manufacturers, for example, to reduce water usage from a once-common 7 gallons per flush to just 1.6 gallons a flush.
•Lawn-irrigation restrictions that have been progressively tightened from nearly 15 years ago, when use of lawn sprinklers was prohibited during the hottest part of the day, to now, when watering of grass is cut to one day a week during the winter.
•Tiered rates charged by utilities, so that households using just enough water for cooking, bathing and cleaning pay the lowest per-gallon rates, while households using a great deal more water for lawns and such often pay rates many times higher.
Another established conservation measure is the reuse of treated sewage for irrigating lawns and other uses — more than 80 million gallons daily that might otherwise have been pumped from the Floridan Aquifer.
"In the old days it went into the rivers, and now we are using it for irrigation," Bartol said of the treated sewage.
Even though water-conservation measures are ingrained in Central Florida, some utilities aren't letting up.
As part of Water Conservation Month — April is the peak of the region's dry season — Orange County Utilities is offering to exchange customers' shower heads for water-conserving models. The utility is also offering public workshops on water-conservation practices for lawns and landscapes. Details for both are at occonservewater.net.
Jacqueline Torbert, manager of Orange County Utilities' water department, said more than a thousand shower heads and kitchen-faucet aerators have been exchanged during the past three years.
"Using water just because you can is not the right thing to do long-term," Torbert said. "For us, it's about creating a water ethic, that this resource is important and we want to prolong it as long as we possibly can."
130402-g Water is flowing at Clam Pass
April 2, 2013
Naples, Fla,.- Water is once again flowing through Clam Pass.
Crews worked for weeks, to remove the inlet filled with sand, but shortly after it opened the sand piled back in.
With tensions running high, Clam Pass is open and the water is moving, but the recent dredging project completed to clear out the pass didn't exactly work.
After two weeks, the inlet filled back up with sand.
Engineers say mother nature is to blame.
"We're working with nature, it's not like designing a fixed structure, we are working with things that change over time and there is always risk with weather," said Mohamed Dabees, Vice President for Humiston & Moore Engineers.
The pass filled in with 4,000 cubic yards of sand, which is equal to filling up about 200 dump trucks with sand.
Usually the sandbar keeps sand from coming in, but the one at Clam Pass has collasped.
"It's like playing football with no shoulder pads, without that offshore sandbar, little inlets like this are susceptible to wave activity," said Neil Dorrill, Contract Administrator for Pelican Bay Services.
The pass is being dredged to flush the area for the mangroves.
We've learned dredging is an important part to keeping this pass functioning to the best that it can function.
"I think maintanence dredging will always be needed for this small little system; It's one of the smallest ones on the entire west coast of florida," said Dorrill.
The dredging project was expected to last for two years.
"Unfortunately, we get late season cold fronts and we get some of the highest winds equal to Tropical Storm Debbie like last year, and little inlet cannot sustain the flushing action needed for high winds and 30 mile per hour winds," Dorrill explained. Related Articles: Dump truck hits cable & phone lines near Palm Beach Blvd. Small brush fire burns on Santa Barbara Blvd. in S. Naples Crews continue to battle 20,000-acre fire in Big Cypress Tourist season ending or extending ?
130401-a DEP's Numeric Nutrient Criteria Water Rules Pass House Committee
Sunshine State News
April 1, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection got another step closer Monday to being allowed to implement the state’s own science-based rules for numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) in Florida’s waterways. HB 7115 was voted favorably by the House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, which means Florida is on track to be the first state in the nation to implement statewide nutrient standards for its waterways.
The bill stems from a decade of work by DEP to develop NNCs for Florida. In 2003, DEP created a technical advisory committee to begin analyzing biological conditions in Florida’s waters.
But, the committee’s work was cut short when environmentalists sued in federal court over the process, and EPA took over the rule making. State leaders spent years fighting against EPA’s standards.
Rep. Jake Raburn, the bill’s sponsor, said EPA used a broad-spectrum system to assign nutrient limits. That’s the wrong approach. Florida is ahead of the federal agency, because state scientists understand that not all water bodies are the same, and therefore they develop site-specific criteria.
Raburn said his bill will save Florida hundreds of millions of dollars by using “sound science” to develop the water standards.
EPA accepted DEP’s rules in November. The bill grants DEP the authority to implement its standards for streams, springs, lakes, and estuaries as outlined in its "Implementation of Florida's Numeric Nutrient Standards" document.
“A ‘no’ vote means we don’t care about science and what’s best for Florida,” Raburn told committee members.
Florida already has more nutrient rules on its waterways than any other state in the nation. In fact, 22 states have no rules on any water bodies.
130401-b Legislature looks into Florida's water standards
WCTV – by Garin Flowers
April 1, 2013
Many topics at the capital spur debate and restrictions on Florida's water standards is now one of them.
A state house subcommittee met Monday to discuss an issue that affects everyone, how to protect the state's water from dangerous substances.
"What we're trying to do is set rules, expand our tool box to gain control of nutrient issues in our state," said Drew Bartlett with the Department of Environmental Protection.
Bartlett supports a bill from Representative Jake Raburn.
It would allow the DEP to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in most of the state's water systems.
"It comes from septic tanks, fertilizer, waste water, those kind of things can get into our water way if not controlled properly," Bartlett said.
Not everyone is on board will the bill. David Cullen representing Sierra Club Florida flat out said it would not improve Florida's water.
"The damage has to occur and be visible before anything happens, what we want to see happen are protective standards where we set a limit," Cullen said.
The committee did have plenty of questions but pushed the bill through this phase.
"Sierra Club believes that it's important that we have clear cut, easily enforceable, easily understood limits that protect Florida's water," Cullen said.
130401-c Wasting time and water
April 1, 2013
Florida needs to focus on conserving a dwindling resource.
State environmental officials predict that by 2030, Florida will be consuming nearly 8 billion gallons of water a day. That is about 1.6 billion gallons a day more than we currently use. They also say traditional sources of water supply, that is, Florida's aquifers, are inadequate to meet that projected demand.
Those officials from the Department of Environmental Protection are not alone in their assessment or concerns. Besides the expected environmental groups and watchdogs, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida all have the ensuring of a sufficient future water supply on their long-term agendas.
You wouldn't know it, though, to look at the 2013 Florida Legislature. Sure, there are a handful of bills being floated under the guise of increasing the water supply, but they fall short of serving the public interest and instead help special interests like utilities and big agriculture. 30-year permits ?
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, for instance, is designed to encourage utilities to develop alternative sources of water. But it would allow consumptive-use permits to run 30 years instead of the current 20 years, under the presumption that they could more easily obtain financing with the longer permit.
We must ask, however, how much has Florida's water landscape changed since 1983 -- 30 years ago ? Totally.
Instead of looking for ways to pump more and more water from more and more sources, we are confounded that no one in Tallahassee, from the DEP or the Legislature, has embraced the common-sense notion that the best way to ensure our water supply future is to conserve what we already have and use it more judiciously. Virtually everyone engaged in Florida's water conversation concedes that extending our groundwater supply is far more economical than having to develop alternative sources of water.
Renowned Florida water writer Cynthia Barnett, who says our state needs to create "a water ethic," summed up the problem during a speech in Tallahassee a few weeks ago.
"Our entire system of water planning in Florida," Barnett said, " is based on a false assumption -- and really on the 20th century model -- that we must have more and more water to grow and prosper." Shifting the problem
Barnett is right, and our policymakers and politicians know it. Yet, they continue to sidestep the real solution to meeting our future water supply needs and continue to waste water, time and taxpayer money looking for ways to build new, costly water projects that merely shift the problem and increase the cost of water.
The average Floridians use a little more than 150 gallons of water a day. Communities around our state, prominently Pinellas County and Sarasota, have reduced their water usage to two-thirds that or less. It can be done.
Instead of looking for ways to extend water permits and create new public debt, our lawmakers and water policy makers need to create serious conservation programs and develop incentives that will bring about behavioral changes in how Floridians use and, just as important, conserve water.
It's time to quit wasting time and to quit wasting water. Is anyone in Tallahassee listening ?