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Celebrate National Trails Day in #Florida on June 1
BrowardNet
May 31, 2013
June 1 is the day to get outside and celebrate National Trails Day® with outdoor enthusiasts across the nation.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has lots of places where people can do this, from forest trails to rivers for paddling to sites for birding and wildlife watching.
Folks can visit hundreds of forested trails on the FWC’s wildlife management areas (WMA), including the Florida National Scenic Trail, which passes through several WMAs.
The FWC manages the WMA system to sustain the widest possible range of native wildlife in their natural habitats. These lands are more rugged than parks, with fewer developed amenities, but rich in wildlife viewing and picturesque scenes.
To find out more about these natural areas, go to MyFWC.com/Viewing and select “Wildlife Management Areas” then “Explore by Location.”
If paddling is your pleasure, the FWC can guide you in that direction too. Florida is blessed with an abundance of waterways and paddling opportunities for everyone, regardless of experience. A quiet, observant paddler can enjoy excellent wildlife viewing from an on-the-water perspective. For links to some of these opportunities, go to MyFWC.com/Viewing and select “Paddling Trails.” Don’t forget to refresh your memory about safe boating tips at MyFWC.com/Boating.
For those who prefer studying wildlife – with binoculars and/or a camera – the FWC has a program for that, known as the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. At its core is a network of 514 sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent birdwatching, wildlife viewing or educational opportunities. This 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail is designed to conserve and enhance Florida’s wildlife habitats by promoting birding and wildlife viewing activities, conservation education and economic opportunity.
Go to FloridaBirdingTrail.com for details about where you can find these locations marked with special signs.
Then get out there and enjoy. This is the American Hiking Society’s 21st National Trails Day®. Attendees will be hiking, pedaling, horseback riding and paddling through some of America’s most beautiful areas as part of the celebration. National Trails Day® is devoted to appreciating America’s trails and the hard-working individuals who build and maintain them. To find an event near you, you can also go to the American Hiking Society’s website: AmericanHiking.org.

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Environmentalists missing from state's water-management boards
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
May 31, 2013
For the first time in nearly three decades, none of the Florida's water-management agencies — which are supposed to safeguard the state's wetlands, rivers and aquifers — has a board member who is an environmentalist.
Environmental activists are troubled because the boards are dominated by representatives of agribusiness, real estate and development industries.
"It is indeed a concern that there are no environmental representatives on any of the boards, when other interest groups are adequately and sometimes abundantly represented," said Rae Ann Wessel, policy director at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. "Because Florida's economy depends on its unique environment."
Gov. Rick Scott recently chose not to reappoint for a second term on the governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District a University of Florida water-law expert known for his environmental advocacy.
It was the latest move by the governor to make the state's water-management agencies smaller, weaker and, now, less environmentally minded; none of the five water districts' combined 49 board seats is filled by someone readily identifiable as an active environmentalist.
Asked if he was concerned that the St. Johns district no longer had an environmentalist on its board, Hans Tanzler, the agency's executive director, said in an email that board members have a variety of backgrounds.
"I personally want all of them to have an understanding of the relevant facts and law, be in the 'solution business,' and be sensitive to our diverse constituent groups."
South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith said that "all nine board members share a strong interest in environmental issues." Asked if they would describe themselves as environmentalists, he responded: "I am not going to label any of the governing board members."
Florida's previous Republican governors, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, appointed board members who had ties to environmental groups, continuing a tradition that had included board service by Nathaniel Reed, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior and longtime member of several environmental groups, and by Pat Harden, a founder and former president of the Friends of the Wekiva River.
State law requires that districts have members with "significant experience" in areas that include but aren't limited to "agriculture, the development industry, local government, government-owned or privately owned water utilities, law, civil engineering, environmental science, hydrology, accounting, or financial businesses."
Many board members with environmentalist credentials have specialized in one of those fields, including Richard Hamann of the University of Florida's Center for Governmental Responsibility, who is widely respected for his expertise in state water law.
First appointed by Crist in 2009, Hamann had been seeking reappointment this year to another four-year term on the St. Johns board. A past president of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, Hamann said he has avoided polarizing stances and sought to voice perspectives that otherwise wouldn't be heard.
"One should expect that every board member gives protection of our water resources the highest priority, but having someone with an environmental background can help remind the others of that responsibility," Hamann said.
Hamann said he remains a supporter of the districts because of their science and restoration work but added that Scott and state lawmakers have critically weakened the agencies by cutting their budgets and their authority, rendering them less independent and more "under the thumb" of the powers that be in Tallahassee.
In replacing Hamann, Scott appointed Douglas Burnett, a retired Florida National Guard adjutant general. In his application for a gubernatorial appointment, Burnett cited the Guard's conservation work on military bases involving gopher tortoises and red-cockaded woodpeckers, though he misspelled the name of the endangered bird.
Several environmental activists who once served on water-management boards said their service not only allowed them to better inform other board members and focus attention on certain problems, it also gave them a better appreciation of the challenges faced when protecting natural resources.
Sue Colson, for example, joined the Suwannee River Water Management District in the 1980s as a fierce advocate of clean water to sustain the oysters that grow along the Big Bend section of Florida's Gulf Coast.
At the time, she feared she was regarded as "wacky" by the other board members, who primarily represented agricultural interests and weren't used to working with someone who was a little "angry" and willing to go "toe-to-toe" to protect the environment.
"What I found was that the best ideas came from unlike thoughts," Colson said. "We figured out how to resolve matters and fix them."

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wind turbine

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Tavares may try to get power from wind turbine
Orlando Sentinel - by Ludmilla Lelis
May 31, 2013
The most promising source of renewable energy in Florida has long been the sun, but Tavares officials say the Lake County city might be able to generate power with wind.
They want to try powering the city's wastewater-treatment plant with a wind turbine, which would make Tavares the first city in Florida to invest in wind energy.
Although wind power hasn't been considered a viable energy source in Florida, Tavares utilities director Brad Hayes said he's willing to try unconventional ways to save residents money on their utilities bills. The city has spent about $29,000 on an experiment to assess whether a wind turbine would be cost-effective.
"Other wastewater-treatment plants in the country already have wind power at their disposal," Hayes said. "Why not here ? Why not take a look at this?"
The advantage Tavares has its location amid the Harris Chain of Lakes. Experts say there's greater wind turbulence near lakes and the sea. That may be enough for Tavares, which bills itself as "America's Seaplane City," to make a wind project worthwhile.
Florida has no large-scale wind farm because utilities haven't been convinced there's enough wind to make an investment in turbines. Several companies in the wind business are based in Florida or manufacture turbines in the state, but there are only a few, privately owned wind turbines.
"Florida doesn't have as great a wind resource as Kansas or west Texas," said Mark Powell, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Still, there are signs of growing interest in wind energy in Florida. Florida Power & Light had proposed installing six wind turbines on a barrier island in St. Lucie County. The project would have generated enough electricity for 3,500 customers, but the project is on hold and the company is focusing instead on solar energy, FPL spokeswoman Sara Gatewood said.
Wind Capital Group has proposed a large wind farm in Palm Beach County near Lake Okeechobee. The Sugarland Wind farm, a few miles from the northern reaches of the Everglades, could produce enough electricity to power 60,000 homes.
Environmental manager Geoff West said the company needs state and federal permits for the project, which would involve the installation of more than 100 turbines on former sugar-cane fields.
Wind power is becoming more feasible in Florida because turbines are improving, with longer blades situated on taller towers. That helps to generate more electricity at lower wind speeds, he said.
Tavares appears to be the only Florida city taking a serious look at wind energy, both West and Powell said.
With a population of nearly 14,000, Tavares has enjoyed a downtown renaissance since emphasizing seaplanes. Residents and visitors enjoy watching seaplanes on Lake Dora as they make picturesque landings and takeoffs.
Likewise, Hayes thinks his wind-energy idea will take flight. The utilities director was interested in finding ways to cut costs at the city's wastewater-treatment plant off Woodlea Road. He knew that several plants in the Northeast use turbines for its electricity and wondered if such a turbine here could reduce the plant's annual $180,000 electricity bill.
"I thought we might have enough wind because every day, I look at the flags flying outside my office and they always fly out straight," Hayes said.
Further research showed the potential site near the wastewater plant has some advantages, he said. It sits between lakes Harris and Dora and that proximity to the water adds to the wind turbulence. One statewide wind study found that much of Lake County has as high an annual average wind speed as areas near the Atlantic coast.
In addition, the potential site sits at a higher elevation than the immediate surrounding area — about 100 feet above sea level — and the turbine would be exposed to more winds.
An engineering group has erected a 328-foot tower with instruments to measure wind speeds at various heights. By the end of the year, the consultant should have a year's worth of data to show whether there is enough wind — and savings — to justify a turbine, which could cost $3.5 million.
"The potential to save our residents money is there," Hayes said. "It's innovative, it's good for the environment and if it lower utility bills, it's a win-win situation."

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money

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Everglades Restoration: Water and money flow into the River of Grass
WLRN.org - by Tricia Woolfenden
May 30, 2013
May has been an eventful -- and most would likely say hopeful -- month for the beleaguered Everglades. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law new legislation that will provide hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to fund Everglades restoration and cleanup.
House Bill 7065 provides $32 million per year in state funds for the next 10 years to pay for restoring water quality in the Everglades, according to a story from Sunshine State News. The bill is part of an $880 million long-term restoration plan that also includes a $70 million infusion in this session alone. 
The new law also includes an extension of a tax on sugar cane farms -- a significant source of pollution in the Everglades -- located south of Lake Okeechobee. The "agricultural privilege tax in the Everglades Agricultural Area" places a $25-per-acre annual tax on farms through November 2026. The tax rate will then decrease in $5-per-acre increments every few years through 2036.
Scott was quoted as saying he was "proud to work with state, local and federal officials...to ensure we're doing what it takes to protect and properly manage our nation's most delicate natural treasure."
An Associated Press story makes note of what some constituents -- and environmentalists in particular -- may perceive as a new direction from a governor who has previously voiced opposition to "government regulation and spending." The story quotes Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper as saying, "This is not what I would have expected from this governor, but to his credit, he stepped up."
Heading into Session 2013, Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) had predicted that with Florida's economy on the mend, environmental issues -- particularly those surrounding the Everglades -- would get more focus in Tallahassee. At the February pre-session WLRN/Miami Herald Town Hall, Latvala said "(environmental programs) went by the wayside, but I think they'll be back." 
Cash isn't the only thing to start flowing into the 'glades this spring. Crews this month finally broke the roadbed under the new one-mile Tamiami Trail bridge, allowing the water-restoration project to fulfill its duty for the first time since its completion in March.
The bridging is part of a larger effort "to restore fresh water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay," according to Jonathan Ullman, the South Florida/Everglades senior organizer for the Sierra Club. The final goal is to complete six and a half miles of bridging over Shark River Slough, allowing unencumbered water flow from Lake Okeechobee down to Florida Bay. Read more about the project here.

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Florida braces for another active hurricane season
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
May 30 2013
Florida enters the 2013 hurricane season on Saturday riding a seven-year quiet streak.
But quiet, as last season showed, is a relative term when it comes to the tropics, which are expected to produce a higher-than-average number of named storms over the next six months. Last year, South Florida and the rest of the state once again dodged a direct hit from a hurricane but didn’t exactly escape unscathed. Ask anyone in Sopchoppy.
Tropical Storm Debby popped up in the Gulf of Mexico on a Sunday morning in June persuading computer models it was heading west toward Texas, with the small Florida Panhandle town nowhere near the forecast cone. By that same evening, forecasters had it heading in the opposite direction toward the Florida coast.
Debby’s winds faded but some 30 inches of rain pushed rivers over their banks and even had sinkholes — in the words of Wakulla County emergency services director Scott Nelson — “puking backwards” as aquifers spilled over like springs. Flooding blocked roads and bridges, cutting off a town of some 12,000 people for several days and inundating hundreds of homes across rural North Florida.
Unlike Superstorm Sandy, Debby won’t go down in record books. But a minor storm still had a serious impact, killing 10 people in three states and causing $250 million in damage. In hurricane season, Nelson said, there is no room for complacency: “We have to be prepared regardless of what the error cone shows.”
It was a message that Miami-Dade political leaders and emergency managers, joined by Gov. Rick Scott, stressed on Thursday during a news conference to mark the start of the season, which runs from June 1 to Dec. 1
Mayor Carlos Gimenez urged residents to heed evacuation orders and assemble enough food, water and supplies to last at least 72 hours.
“All of us hope this will prove to be a quiet storm season but just hoping things will go well really isn’t a plan,’’ he said.
There were 19 named storms last year and experts are predicting another busy season in 2013, continuing what has been an active cycle over last decade.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, which issues the government’s annual pre-season forecasts, warns there could be from 13 to 20 named storms this year compared to the average of 12. Seven to 11 could become hurricanes, with up to six becoming major hurricanes with wind speeds topping 111 mph.
While there is no predicting where storms will go before they form, last year underlined that old adage that there is no such thing as a minor tropical storm.
In late May, before the season officially opened, Topical Storm Beryl swamped the Jacksonville area with 10 inches of rain, triggering flooding and widespread power outages. Debby soon followed.
Then there were surprisingly damaging brushes in South Florida from the fringes of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy – but from water, not wind. The spiraling outer bands of Isaac, far off in the Gulf of Mexico, flooded communities in western Palm Beach County. Sandy, rolling over the Bahamas, chewed out a chunk of beachside A1A in Fort Lauderdale.
The gusty center of a storm isn’t always the center of action, said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County. Hurricanes can also spin off twisters and produce flooding from deluges or storm surge.
Most of us think of tropical storms and hurricanes as big wind machines and they are but they’re more than that,” Knabb said. “We can’t focus solely on that and forget about the water hazards.
“It was infamous Sandy that drove home the frightening risks of surge, pushing the ocean across New Jersey beach towns, into the streets and subways of Manhattan and up rivers along much of the Northeast coast. Surge was responsible for most of the 72 deaths and $70-plus billion in damages, Knabb said.
In the wake of the devastating storm, forecasters and emergency managers will be stepping up the focus on the deadliest of hurricane threats, urging residents in risk area to come up with an evacuation plan and pack up if the call comes.
The one thing we see pretty consistently in all of the storms is the tendency of people to underestimate the damage potential of storm surge” said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management and former director of Florida’s Emergency Management Division.
Earlier this month, Miami-Dade County unveiled new evacuation maps developed with more accurate surveys and more sophisticated computer models that revealed vast new swaths potentially at risk from storm surge, putting nearly three-quarters of the population in potential hurricane zones. The NHC is also working on new, easier-to-understand surge projection maps that forecasters hope to roll out by 2015.
Still, even in Florida, the most storm-prone state in the nation, emergency managers and forecasters worry about the short memory of the public. It’s been seven seasons since the last hurricane struck the state — Wilma, which tore a gash across the state from Naples to Melbourne in October 2005. But it was the last in a string of eight that shredded the state in 2004 and 2005.
Knabb stressed that there is no way for scientists or forecasters to say if Florida is due or when the quiet streak will end. Except, it will end sometime, he said.
”We know that hurricanes, and major hurricanes, will come back to Florida”, he said.
It’s not a matter of if but when.  We have been fortunate but preparing like we will be hit is the right thing to do.

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Gov. Scott approves controversial bill opposed by environmental groups
Tampa Bay Times - Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
May 30, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott has signed HB 999, a bill so detested by a host of environmental groups that they brought in former Sen. Bob Graham to try in vain to stop it.
Scott's action Thursday disappointed environmental advocates, but did not surprise them, said Estus Whitfield of the Florida Conservation Coalition. He predicted it might hurt Scott at the ballot box in 2014.
"I don't think it's any feather in his cap," said Whitfield, who worked as an aide to four governors. "I think the general public is getting tired of seeing the environment sold down the river."
The bill that Scott signed into law contains more than a dozen provisions, including:
• Blocking the Florida Wildlife Federation from suing to overturn a controversial decision by 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.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who regularly files anti-regulation bills strongly supported by various industry groups.
"I can't say enough good things about him," Frank Matthews, who lobbies on behalf of developers, phosphate miners, boat manufacturers, sugar growers, power companies and a garbage company, said in an interview last month. "He couldn't be more accommodating. That's the appealing thing to me."
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 previously told the Panama City News Herald that the bill merely "tweaks and fixes to the process that just makes it easier and simpler to do business."
Environmental groups asked Graham, a former governor and senator, for help trying to halt Patronis' bill because "there's a whole big army of 40 or 50 lobbyists working on the other side," Whitfield of the Florida Conservation Coalition said last month. By comparison "the environmental voice has been a little chirp in the distance."
But the bill won approval in the House 98-20, with some Democrats joining the Republicans to vote yes, then passed the Senate 39-1.

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"Big Sugar"

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When Sugar was sued, it turned to Legislature for relief
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
May 30, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — When environmentalists filed a lawsuit earlier this year to force Florida's powerful sugar industry to cut a better deal with the state for Everglades restoration, Sugar took its fight to safer confines: the Florida Legislature.
Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed into law an environmental-regulation bill that does everything from easing permit requirements for boat shows and marina expansions to expediting natural-gas-pipeline construction and placing new restrictions on cities and counties that environmentalists say will make it harder for them to slow down bad development.
And it contains language — added at the end of the 60-day legislative session — that blocks a lawsuit filed in February by the Florida Wildlife Federation against sugar grower Florida Crystals.
"That happens in politics, especially if you're dealing with the sugar industry," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "The sugar industry has a lot of money and is extremely powerful. They won this round."
The legal challenge was over a January vote by Scott and the Florida Cabinet giving Florida Crystals and development and agricultural giant A. Duda & Sons 30-year leases on 14,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area in exchange for other lands needed for restoration projects.
Fuller and other environmental groups had contended the leases were far sweeter than previous six-year leases extended to sugar growers in the 'Glades and would make it harder to impose tougher anti-pollution requirements on the sugar industry in the future. The agricultural areas in question account for much of the nutrient pollution, primarily phosphorus, pouring into the River of Grass.
The sides had been in settlement talks that broke down before lawmakers opted in late April to add the language "ratifying" the leases to HB 999.
"It is a disturbing trend that citizens' access to the court is being eliminated when it's inconvenient because it interferes with the wishes of the powerful," said David Cullen, a lobbyist with the Sierra Club, which had asked Scott to veto the bill.
"Now we won't be able to ask them to clean up their act for another 30 years."
Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email that the bill "continues to protect Florida's environment while working toward Governor Scott's goal of making Florida the number one state for business by reducing burdensome regulations."
But it's also a classic example of Tallahassee influence-peddling and sausage-making.
Florida's sugar companies — including Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp. — are political bluebloods in the Capitol, regularly funneling millions of dollars into state campaigns.
Florida Crystals alone was the fourth-biggest spender on lobbyists during the 60-day session, paying about $295,000 to 25 lobbyists, including former Senate President Ken Pruitt.
It's also a member of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, which pays environmental-regulation superlobbyist Frank Matthews, with the firm Hopping Green & Sams.
According to emails the Orlando Sentinel obtained through a records request, HB 999 began as a four-page "glitch" bill to clean up mistakes in prior legislation.
But at the urging of Matthews, the legislation — pushed by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City — quickly became a "train," in the parlance of Tallahassee, for a hodgepodge of other regulatory changes.
"I wanted to run by the senator the possibility of expanding the bill … and grow it into an 'environmental' glitch bill addressing boat show and mooring field approvals, water quality testing/sampling, artificial waters and ditch exemptions, agricultural water supply inputs ... etc.," Matthews wrote to an aide to Altman in January.
Although he wrote most of the bill, Matthews said Thursday that the addition of the sugar-industry language was not his handiwork.
"The Legislature was interested in ratifying the land leases that was part of the land swap that make the restoration monies work," Matthews said.
"It was kind of just unfinished business. I'm afraid [HB 999] was just a convenient vehicle."
Altman said he thought the sugar language wound up in the bill because the company's lobbyists didn't want to add it to a separate Everglades cleanup bill (HB 7065) to avoid losing environmental support for it. That bill, signed by Scott earlier this week, funds part of an $880 million cleanup plan by extending a $25-an-acre tax on sugar cane and other agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee to pay for cleaning polluted storm water running off the farmlands.
"This [lawsuit] language had a little bit of controversy, and I think they didn't want to do anything to upset the apple cart," Altman said.

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Scott

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$880 million plan for Everglades restoration, cleaner water in Florida approved
BrowardNet
May 29, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH – Today, Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 7065, which provides $32 million, annually, in state funding for the Governor’s $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan. The $32 million is an historic step forward in restoring America’s Everglades by improving water quality and water flow. The Governor signed the bill as part of a ceremony at the Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach.
Governor Scott said, “I was proud to work with state, local and federal officials to create the $880 million Everglades Restoration Plan, which will ensure we’re doing what it takes to protect and properly manage our nation’s most delicate natural treasure. In this session alone, we’ll invest $70 million for supporting the Everglades – and by signing HB 7065, we’ll provide $32 million in recurring dollars for the Everglades, which is a huge win for Florida’s environment.”
Senator Wilton Simpson said, “I was proud to work with Governor Scott to provide $32 million in annual funding to support Florida’s Everglades. These dollars will help protect, restore and create a more sustainable ecosystem for this natural treasure.”
Representative Matt Caldwell said, “Governor Scott did a great job in working with all stakeholders to create the $880 million Everglades restoration plan – and our job is now to fund it. By providing $32 million annually for the Everglades, we’re doing our part in supporting this world-renowned ecosystem, which provides limitless benefits to our state and nation.”
The goal of the Governor’s $880 million Everglades Restoration plan is to improve water quality and water flow throughout the Everglades. Improvements to the health of the Everglades ecosystem are important for fish and animal habitat as well as the health of the South Florida economy.
The plan is funded, in part, by a $32 million annual appropriation and is a partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Water Management District, stakeholders in the Everglades Agricultural Area and all of South Florida to address water quality in the Everglades. The Water Management District has already achieved several milestones ahead of schedule.
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:
6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are man-made managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades
110,000 acre-feet of water storage capabilities in flow equalization basins, or reservoirs that work with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to regulate flows and optimize treatment efficiency
Other components of the plan include engineering projects in existing treatment areas and the modification of conveyance features necessary to move the water through the South Florida Water Management District’s massive flood control and water delivery features
The Governor’s plan was presented to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Fall of 2011. After coordination with EPA, the final plan was included in permits and orders issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in September of 2012.
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. said, “Governor Scott’s leadership has resulted in a major step toward improving and protecting one of our nation’s greatest natural resources. Protecting the health of the Everglades is essential to getting the water right, in terms of quality and quantity.”
South Florida Water Management District Chair Dan O’Keefe said, “Everglades restoration is critically important for South Florida, and the District thanks Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their ongoing support in restoring this national treasure.”
Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation said, “We strongly support Governor Scott’s Water Quality Plan and recognize the priority he has placed on protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.”
Robert Coker, Senior Vice President, U.S. Sugar Corp. said, “The farmers within the Everglades Agriculture Area believe strongly in Everglades restoration and we appreciate Governor Scott’s leadership in developing a financially feasible plan to move forward.”
Pepe Fanjul, Jr., Executive Vice President, Florida Crystals Corp. said, “This bill represents the great partnership between agriculture, environmentalists and our state’s leadership in coming together to build upon the success we’ve had and to finally solve the important issue of Everglades restoration.”
Eric Draper, Executive Director, Audubon Florida said, “We commend the Governor’s leadership on the Everglades Water Quality Plan and getting the legislature to ratify the plan through House Bill 7065 endorses a good standard for Everglades water quality, provides the basis for funding the plan and will, in a short period of time, produce cleaner water going into the Everglades.”

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Florida's ocean and coastal ecosystems: Take action, our future begins today
TCPalm – by (Kelly Beard),  Mark Perry, Executive Director, FL Oceanographic Society
May 29, 2013
STUART —Our ocean and coastal ecosystems are of the utmost importance. The ocean provides 95 percent of the living space here on Earth and 98 percent of the water on our planet. It's our life support system. It feeds billions around the world, drives our climate, absorbs carbon dioxide and produces 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Every breath we take and every drop we drink depends on a healthy ocean. Every life on the Earth depends on the ocean and now, the ocean's life depends on us.
More than 80 percent of people live within 60 miles of the coast and 85 percent of all the pollution in the ocean comes from land-based activities. We are causing global changes to our atmosphere and the ocean. Since 1970, ocean temperatures have increased by one degree, causing bleaching of coral reefs. The ocean absorbs roughly 80 percent of the climate heating, increasing the volume by thermal expansion, causing a rise in sea level. From 1963 to 2003, sea level rose three inches with projections of 5-20 inches by 2050 and 23-60 inches by 2100.
Human-generated CO2 emissions are currently 66 million tons per day and our oceans only absorb 22 million tons daily. Carbon dioxide is saturating the ocean waters forming carbonic acid, a process called ocean acidification. The historical pH of the ocean was 8.16 and is now 8.05, that's a 25 percent increase in acidity. This dissolves the shells of plankton, corals, oysters, clams, shrimp, crabs and lobster.
We must take action for the future of Florida's ocean and coastal environments. Here are eight things we must do now:
1. Florida must stop all discharges of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River Estuary and Caloosahatchee River Estuary. These discharges have caused lesions on fish, killed oyster reefs and sea grass habitat, cause diseases on sea turtles and bottlenose dolphin and bring harmful algal blooms causing the health department to post warnings for “No Human Contact!”
2. Florida and the U.S. must restore America's Everglades to natural flows from Kissimmee to Florida Bay. Currently 1.7 billion gallons per day of freshwater that used to flow south to the Everglades now goes to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, polluting our coastal estuaries and ocean reef ecosystems while wasting this valuable freshwater resource and starving the Everglades.
3. Florida and the U.S. must establish and implement strong numeric nutrient water quality standards and criteria essential to preventing pollution and protecting the health of Florida's waters. An enforceable nitrogen and phosphorus standard should be included to protect downstream coastal estuaries and Florida's ocean ecosystems and must be enforced at the source of the pollution.
4. Florida must require any wastewater or RO residual water currently injected underground in Class I injection wells (UIC) to be treated to advanced nutrient-stripping levels. The state should require water re-use instead of allowing more Class I injection of water or “water disposal.” The injection water near the coast is coming up in 60-90 feet of water offshore and causing harmful algal blooms on coral reef ecosystems.
5. Clean energy technologies must be required to prohibit venting mercury, toxins, and other gasses into the air, which pollute Florida's surface waters and groundwater. Sulfur stimulates methylmercury production, which is toxic and accumulates in fish and bio-food chain to become more toxic. Sulfur inputs by fertilizers, fungicides and soil additives must stop.
6. A comprehensive program to treat, regulate, and eliminate wastes from ships that use Florida's ports must be developed and implemented. The U.S. and Florida must require ballast water treatment as a condition of port entry to prevent biological and chemical pollution of Florida's waters.
7. Florida must require the utilities to discontinue the six ocean outfalls discharging 394 million gallons per day of secondary treated wastewater into the Atlantic Ocean south of Delray Beach, polluting Florida's nearshore reefs and coastal habitats. This pollution is carried by Gulf Stream currents north along the southeast Florida coral reef track.
8. Florida and the U.S. must not allow offshore oil drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico or off of Florida's East Coast region. The “undiscovered technically recoverable” oil and gas in these two regions totals 4.1 billion barrels or 1/10th of the western and central Gulf reserves and only amounts to a one-year supply of the U.S. oil import. The risk is too high for Florida's coastal tourist industry, which annually contributes more than $56 billion and 900,000 jobs to the economy.
World Ocean Day, established in 1992 at the United Nations Earth Summit, is celebrated worldwide on June 8. World Ocean Network and Florida Oceanographic Society believe that our youth is our “next wave for change.” On World Ocean Day, and every day, we must all work together to increase awareness and inspire stewardship of our living ocean.
You can make a difference! Visit http://www.FloridaOcean.org and click “Get Involved,” then “Contact Your Legislators” and demand that these eight changes be made for the future of Florida's ocean and coastal environments.

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Rick Scott signs Everglades restoration bill taxing Big Sugar
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
May 29, 2013
Big Sugar and environmental advocates alike Tuesday celebrated Gov. Rick Scott's signing of Everglades legislation aimed at getting more pollution-fighting help to Florida's famed River of Grass.
The governor came to the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center west of West Palm Beach Tuesday to sign the legislation that supporters say signals a renewed effort at overcoming years of delays and setbacks over Florida's failure to meet federal water quality standards in the Everglades.
The legislation helps pay for part of Scott's $880 million plan for Everglades water pollution cleanup by extending a $25-an-acre tax on sugar cane and other agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee. The tax goes toward cleaning up stormwater pollution that washes off farmland and into the Everglades.
The legislation also calls for the state to pay $32 million a year for the next 10 years for Everglades water quality improvements.
"This is a big day for Florida. This is a big day for the environment. It's a big day for the Everglades," Scott said. "This wasn't easy to get done."
Yet, state officials and environmental advocates have gathered before to celebrate past Everglades restoration plans that have yet to accomplish the long-sought goals of improving the quantity and the quality of stormwater that once flowed freely from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay -- before development and agriculture got in the way.
The new legislation is a good step, but more must be accomplished to save the Everglades, according to Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida.
That includes ensuring that the Florida Legislature for the next decade lives up to its commitment to deliver at least $32 million a year for the water quality plan, Draper said.
Sugar cane growers and other agriculture should also be required to do more to clean up phosphorus-laden stormwater that washes off their fields, he said.
"We are not done yet," Draper said.
Phosphorus, found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil, washes off agricultural land and urban areas and drains into the Everglades with damaging environmental effects.
In a move aimed at resolving two decades of federal litigation over Everglades water quality, Scott since 2011 has pushed for a revamped $880 million stormwater cleanup plan.
Scott's proposal calls for building nearly 7,000 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas to go along with more than 50,000 acres of manmade filter marshes already used to absorb phosphorus from stormwater headed to the Everglades.
In addition, reservoirs called "flow equalization basins" would be built nearby to hold water for the treatment areas.
To help pay for the $880 million plan, lawmakers this spring approved changes to the Everglades Forever Act that extend taxes on agriculture. The $25-per-acre tax on growers in the Everglades Agricultural Area would remain until 2026, 10 years beyond when the old version was due for a reduction.
Between 2027 and 2035, the tax declines from $20 to $15, and then in 2036 it holds at $10 per acre.
Revenue from the extended agricultural tax supplements the money from property taxpayers to fund the Everglades water quality plan.
Environmental groups succeeded in scrapping earlier sugar-backed versions of the legislation that they argued could have capped Big Sugar's Everglades cleanup requirements and lessened the opportunity to challenge water permits for polluting farms.
The health of the Everglades affects tourism and drinking water supplies, in addition to animal habitat, the governor said.
"Over many decades, water quality problems have plagued this treasure and it deserves greater attention from us," Scott said.
Big Sugar, environmental advocates and state lawmakers were among the more than two dozen supporters who gathered at Pine Jog Tuesday for the governor's bill signing.
"This is a tremendous victory for the Everglades, and for Florida," U.S. Sugar Corp. Senior Vice President Robert Coker said in a statement released after the bill signing. "Collaboration and restoration have triumphed over endless and expensive litigation."
While Audubon and the Everglades Foundation supported the compromise legislation, other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Everglades, contend it doesn't require agriculture to pay enough to clean up pollutants flowing off farmland.
The legislation "protects Big Sugar at the expense of the taxpayers," said Albert Slap, of Friends of the Everglades.
Related:
Everglades restoration law gets Scott's go-ahead       Orlando Sentinel
Florida texting ban, Everglades funding signed into law       The News-Press
Scott signs Everglades restoration bill at FAU ceremony      BizPac Review
Scott signs Everglades restoration package in West Palm Beach       Palm Beach Post
Rick Scott Signs Everglades Restoration Funding into Law Sunshine State News (blog)
Scott Celebrates USD 880 Million Plan for Everglades Restoration ...         Dredging Today
Gov. Scott signs Everglades restoration bill to help improve water ...           TCPalm
Everglades Improvement Law Provides Funds, Raises Questions    WFSU
$880M Everglades Restoration Bill Continues Tax On Farmers        Law360
$880 Million Plan for Everglades Restoration, Cleaner Water In ...  Broward Net Online
Gov. Scott signs bill to pump money annually into Everglades ...     Naples Daily News

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Wekiva diving

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What we think: State officials fiddling while the Wekiva dies
Orlando Sentinel
May 29, 2013
State environmental officials have apparently come up with a new public relations strategy for dealing with the degradation of Central Florida's Wekiva River: downplay it, or deny it.
On a recent visit to the once pristine, now algae-fouled river — led by the St. Johns River Water Management District — Sentinel environmental reporter Kevin Spear asked officials if they were alarmed by the condition of the waterway that runs between Orange, Seminole and Lake counties.
Remarkably, some simply told him they were "aware" of the algae in the river, while others wouldn't even respond to his question.
Keep in mind that these are among the public stewards of the Wekiva, designated a Florida Outstanding Water and a National Wild and Scenic River. Their blase attitude in the face of its decline is inexcusable.
The head of the water district, Hans Tanzler, told Spear that his agency is "on the case," and seeking "cost-effective ways" to restore the Wekiva. In other words, the district is looking for cut-rate remedies as the river dies.
Three years ago the district's own study confirmed that nutrient pollution — nitrogen and phosphorous from septic tanks, fertilizer and other sources — was spurring the growth of algae in the Wekiva and the springs that feed it.
In February, a day before a rally to save the Wekiva drew 1,200 people, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued a draft "Basin Management Action Plan" aimed at reducing nutrient pollution in the river and nearby springs.
But funding is not assured for the plan, which includes a wish list of water-treatment projects, voluntary pollution reductions and further environmental studies. And the DEP says the plan could take 15 years to work, if all its financial and technical obstacles can be overcome.
Environmentalists have rightly criticized the plan for lacking the urgency that is critical to saving the Wekiva. They have warned that the springs that feed the river "will be only a memory within the next decade" unless more is done to save them.
Leaders in the Florida Legislature have been patting themselves on the back lately for including $10 million to protect and restore springs in the $74 billion state budget that lawmakers passed this month. But the money for springs represents less than 10 percent of the $122 million that the five water districts estimated would be needed for a comprehensive springs plan.
Two Orlando Democrats, Rep. Linda Stewart and Sen. Darren Soto, sponsored a bill this year to require the districts to develop five-year restoration plans for springs in their regions. Neither version even got a hearing before dying in committee.
If environmental treasures like Florida's springs and rivers are to be saved, Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers will need to embrace actions like those called for in the Stewart-Soto bill.
They'll need to direct officials in the DEP and districts to do much more to clean up the state's waterways, and make sure they have the dollars to do it.

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Governor Scott celebrates $880 million plan for Everglades restoration, cleaner water in Florida
DEPnews.com – by P. Gillespie
May 28, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH – Today, Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB 7065, which provides $32 million, annually, in state funding for the Governor’s $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan. The $32 million is an historic step forward in restoring America’s Everglades by improving water quality and water flow. The Governor signed the bill as part of a ceremony at the Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach.
Governor Scott said, “I was proud to work with state, local and federal officials to create the $880 million Everglades Restoration Plan, which will ensure we’re doing what it takes to protect and properly manage our nation’s most delicate natural treasure. In this session alone, we’ll invest $70 million for supporting the Everglades – and by signing HB 7065, we’ll provide $32 million in recurring dollars for the Everglades, which is a huge win for Florida’s environment.”
Senator Wilton Simpson said, “I was proud to work with Governor Scott to provide $32 million in annual funding to support Florida’s Everglades. These dollars will help protect,  restore and create a more sustainable ecosystem for this natural treasure.”
Representative Matt Caldwell said, “Governor Scott did a great job in working with all stakeholders to create the $880 million Everglades restoration plan – and our job is now to fund it. By providing $32 million annually for the Everglades, we’re doing our part in supporting this world-renowned ecosystem, which provides limitless benefits to our state and nation.”
The goal of the Governor’s $880 million Everglades Restoration plan is to improve water quality and water flow throughout the Everglades. Improvements to the health of the Everglades ecosystem are important for fish and animal habitat as well as the health of the South Florida economy.
The plan is funded, in part, by a $32 million annual appropriation and is a partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Water Management District, stakeholders in the Everglades Agricultural Area and all of South Florida to address water quality in the Everglades. The Water Management District has already achieved several milestones ahead of schedule.
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:
- 6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are man-made managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.
- 110,000 acre-feet of water storage capabilities in flow equalization basins, or reservoirs that work with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to regulate flows and optimize treatment efficiency.
- Other components of the plan include engineering projects in existing treatment areas and the modification of conveyance features necessary to move the water through the South Florida Water Management District’s massive flood control and water delivery features.
The Governor’s plan was presented to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Fall of 2011. After coordination with EPA, the final plan was included in permits and orders issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in September of 2012.
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. said, “Governor Scott’s leadership has resulted in a major step toward improving and protecting one of our nation’s greatest natural resources. Protecting the health of the Everglades is essential to getting the water right, in terms of quality and quantity.”
South Florida Water Management District Chair Dan O’Keefe said, “Everglades restoration is critically important for South Florida, and the District thanks Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their ongoing support in restoring this national treasure.”
Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation said, “We strongly support Governor Scott’s Water Quality Plan and recognize the priority he has placed on protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.”
Robert Coker, Senior Vice President, U.S. Sugar Corp. said, “The farmers within the Everglades Agriculture Area believe strongly in Everglades restoration and we appreciate Governor Scott’s leadership in developing a financially feasible plan to move forward.”
Pepe Fanjul, Jr., Executive Vice President, Florida Crystals Corp. said, “This bill represents the great partnership between agriculture, environmentalists and our state’s leadership in coming together to build upon the success we’ve had and to finally solve the important issue of Everglades restoration.”
Eric Draper, Executive Director, Audubon Florida said, “We commend the Governor’s leadership on the Everglades Water Quality Plan and getting the legislature to ratify the plan through House Bill 7065 endorses a good standard for Everglades water quality, provides the basis for funding the plan and will, in a short period of time, produce cleaner water going into the Everglades.”

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Scott

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Scott signs bill paying for Everglades restoration
CBS-Miami
May 28, 2013
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – A tax on farmers in the northern Everglades will continue to pay for the long-term costs of the restoration of the River of Grass under a bill signed into law by Governor Rick Scott Tuesday.
Sugar farmers and environmental groups praised the bill that maintains the existing tax until the mid 2030’s. However, the tax rate will begin to decline in the mid-2020’s.
The money will be used for water quality restoration projects that are part of an $880 million plan that was negotiated between Scott and the federal government.
The law also calls for spending $32 million a year for the next 10 years in an effort to reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters the Everglades.
Palm Beach Post:
WEST PALM BEACH — Amid a room full of politicians, farmers, environmentalists and agency officials, Gov. Rick Scott signed into a law a bill that will provide $880 million for Everglades restoration over the next 10 years.
Scott said the legislation was good for Florida and the Everglades and a major step in ending more than 2 decades of litigation between environmentalists and state agencies over restoration efforts.
“This wasn’t easy to get done,” Scott said. “We listened to what environmentalists said and we came to an agreement.”
Scott spoke at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, near the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the Everglades cleanup project.
The money will pay for stormwater treatment areas, which use plants to filter pollution from water headed to the Everglades, huge water storage basins that will assure consistent water flow into the stormwater treatment area and other water control structures.
Related:
Scott signs bill to pay for Everglades restoration       MiamiHerald.com
 Gov. Scott signs bill to pump money annually into Everglades ...    Naples Daily News
Scott Signs Bill Paying For Everglades Restoration  WBFS
Scott to sign texting, Everglades bills today  Jacksonville Daily Record

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A conference charting the way for Greater Miami
Miami Herald - by Philis Oeters and Alberto Dosal
May 27, 2013
This week, the Greater Miami Chamber will hold its 45th Annual Goals Conference. Chamber leaders began the process of bringing members together to brainstorm solutions and set goals to improve our community in 1968, when Miami was at an economic crossroads.
In the years that followed, the work of the Greater Miami Chamber and its service to the community expanded significantly.
  Miami
Today, it is one of the largest metropolitan chambers in the United States, organized to create economic progress for the entire region. Its agenda is focused on economic and business issues ranging from regional business development, international business development, leadership programs and governmental affairs through 26 committees and a robust program of work developed by the membership.
Over the years, the Chamber’s Goals Conference has created a wide variety of significant community issues and organizations. The vision for the performing arts center, the first drug-free workplace program for the small business in the United States, the establishment of a full-time county economic development organization (the Beacon Council), a county-wide tourism agency (the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau), a worker’s relocation center which processed more than 19,000 laid off employees, a major league baseball and a national basketball franchise for South Florida — all began at a Chamber Goals Conference.
This year’s Goals Conference will seek solutions to transportation concerns, explore public policy initiatives and advance issues to grow more jobs more quickly in our community. The conference puts the mission of planning its work in the hands of its members; volunteers with passion and commitment to make our community stronger.
Following directives from last year’s conference, the chamber was on the road a lot, both building business opportunities for our members and advancing the most important issues. We took members to Hong Kong, Singapore, Brazil, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Next month the chamber travels to Mexico.
We also were present in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. We recently concluded a visit to the nation’s capital to remain engaged with the administration and Congress. And we continue to work with and commend our South Florida legislative and congressional delegations and our two U.S. senators for their continuous support and leadership on issues of importance to this community.
One of the chamber’s priorities is immigration. We have worked to promote policies that address the issue with intelligence and compassion and have advocated for realistic solutions. It is clear that our immigration system must be reformed to better serve America’s national security interests as well as its economic needs. The chamber believes strongly that Congress must take the opportunity during this session to enact a forward-looking solution.
Infrastructure issues are clearly a priority. From the almost $2 billion needed in water and sewer investments to improvements in transportation and a focus on restoration of facilities, such as the Miami Marine Stadium. Congress is considering a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and has not passed legislation on water since 2007. The WRDA bill provided for Everglades Restoration and federally authorized PortMiami for dredging. These are both key economic engines for our community.
Bridging the community and help building a better community is the role of the chamber. Its members, which in addition to those in Miami-Dade include businesses in Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, all desire the same thing — a strong business community, more opportunity to succeed and solutions to the issues that impede our path to the future.
And, it all begins at the Greater Miami Chamber Goals Conference. Since 1907, the chamber has been the rallying point for business in our community. Funded solely by its members and sponsors, it remains the independent voice of business. And, with the help of dedicated, community-minded people, that voice will remain strong.
Phillis Oeters is chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and Alberto Dosal is chair-elect.
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Oil rig

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Drilling company sets community meeting to discuss Estates project
Naples Daily News - by Kelly Farrell
May 27, 2013
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES —Golden Gate Estates residents are uniting to dig deeper into the details about oil and gas drilling plans in their Collier County neighborhood.
About 50 residents first became concerned when alerted to the need for evacuation plans through letters received in April from Total Safety Inc., a Mobile, Ala., company that handles safety and contingency plans for the drilling company.
The letters sought household information that Total Safety Inc. would use to create emergency evacuation plans on behalf of Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas-based oil and gas exploration company, in case of an explosion or other disaster at a proposed gas and oil well drilling site.
Barron Collier Co. owns the site for the wells on 24th Avenue Southeast near Desoto Boulevard. The Hughes company is seeking Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits to explore the site.
“I’ve lived here most of my adult life and in my professional experience, we haven’t had any problems with oil exploration near us, but I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” Collier County Commissioner Tim Nance said.
A public meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 30, with representatives from Barron Collier Co., Collier Enterprises, Dan A. Hughes Co., DEP, Collier County staff and fire officials to share and gather information about the project.
“There are a lot of citizen concerns about this. That’s why I’m coordinating this meeting,” Nance said.
The wells are near the western border of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, about five miles north of Interstate 75 and 15 miles east of Collier Boulevard in the rural estates.
The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association is also hosting a public meeting June 19 to further discuss the project.
Despite the scheduled meetings, which come after Nance held an informal meeting May 9 with residents who live near the proposed drilling site, several residents said they believe it’s too little, too late.
“There has not been any communication from Dan A. Hughes regarding these wells, nor has anyone addressed our concerns,” said Jaime Duran, a Golden Gate Estates resident.
Representatives from the drilling company couldn’t be reached for comment.
Several residents have written to DEP asking that the public comment period be extended for the two initial DEP permits requested by Dan A. Hughes Co.
DEP received an application for a service well to be used for any disposal of brine produced along with oil and gas from the exploratory well, DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. About a week later, an application for the oil and gas exploratory well drilling permit was requested, she said.
Several concerned residents and representatives from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida thought the public comment period for considering both permits was ending soon. However, that isn’t the case, Miller wrote in an email to the Daily News.
The public is encouraged to continue sharing comments and concerns about the project as well as participate in the informational meetings, Miller said.
The company submitted a waiver to the 30-day application review process, thereby allowing this preliminary review to be extended until as late as July 1, Miller said.
“All comments from the general public received prior to the department (DEP) taking final agency action on the application will be considered,” Miller wrote.
Once DEP approves or denies the application, any person with substantial interests affected by that decision may petition DEP within 21 days of the approval or denial, she said.
“We encourage residents to become informed. The Dan A. Hughes Co. has indicated its plans to meet with residents, and we encourage residents to take advantage of this opportunity,” Miller said.
The proposed exploratory well will be completed in the lower Sunniland Formation, which is a limestone formation that has produced oil in Collier County since 1943, according to a statement sent by the Hughes Co. to residents in late April.
The site will be tested for oil and gas resources. For this to become a production well, the company would have to go through an additional permitting process, Miller said.
Based on pre-application discussions between DEP and the company, fracking hasn’t been contemplated as part of this project, Miller said.
Fracking is hydraulic fracturing, a process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. It takes millions of gallons of water, nearly 600 chemicals and toxins, as well as dozens of trucks to complete a fracturing job.
Due to the level of public and environmental concerns with the project, the Conservancy is working with several groups and residents to submit comments for DEP to consider before approving any permits, said Jennifer Hecker, the Conservancy’s director of natural resource policy.
The Conservancy owns conservation land in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project.

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Helsabeck

Hannah HELSABECK


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One Percent for The Planet
Sun Sentinel - by Doreen Hemlock
May 27, 2013
Businesses give 1 percent of sales to environmental nonprofits
It's a growing business network around the world: Companies that commit to give 1 percent of their sales each year to environmental groups as members of the One Percent for The Planet alliance.
More than 1,200 businesses in 48 countries now are One Percent members. They've donated more than $100 million so far through the network founded in 2002 by environmentalists and outdoor outfitters Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies.
Donations to environmental groups reached about $25 million worldwide last year, including giving by more than a dozen firms based in Florida, according to the nonprofit alliance often called "1%."
Entrepreneur Scott Seddon, a chef living in Palm Beach Gardens, joined more than four years ago with his firm, Rincon Heat Sauce Co., a hot-sauce maker with roots in surfing-haven Rincon in Puerto Rico.
An avid surfer, Seddon donates 1 percent of his company sales yearly to Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit that protects oceans, waves and beaches.
The label on his hot-sauce specifies that donations go to Surfrider through One Percent, a message that has wooed buyers at surf shops who are familiar with Surfrider and its programs.
"It's helped my sales a lot" to be part of One Percent, said the 41-year-old Seddon. "It's given me added exposure and easier access to some markets that I might not have entered into."
Hannah Helsabeck gives 1 percent of sales from her Plantation-based company, Essential Safe Products, to a fellow South Florida nonprofit: Reef Relief, which protects and improves coral reefs.
"I thought it would be nice to support our local environment, and reefs are getting ruined," she said of why she chose the Key West-based group for her support..
Helsabeck could donate directly to Reef Relief, but she said she gladly pays $200 dues each year to One Percent to help promote the alliance and "encourage more people to join and donate."
She also figures affiliation with the network — included on her website and other marketing materials — helps boost the credibility of her startup as community-minded and eco-friendly, likely helping sales.
The recent college grad started her online business in 2011 after seeing her mother struggle to find non-toxic kitchen products. Her mom did extensive research online, but could find no single website that pre-selected healthy and safe products and made them available for purchase.
Helsabeck decided to launch that site herself and offer a broader range of goods for the home. While seeking out suppliers, she noticed that Klean Canteen, a maker of stainless-steel water bottles, was a member of One Percent for The Planet. She clicked on a link to learn more and soon joined, too.
"This is a great way for us to give back," said Helsabeck
One Percent said it uses dues partly to check that members donate 1 percent of sales and that groups receiving the donations are legitimate. It acts in that sense like a third-party certifier.
Dues also are used to promote membership and increase environmental awareness among businesses.
Arborist Brian Fischer, who co-owns King Tree Service of South Florida and Tree Saver, both in Royal Palm Beach, promotes his One Percent membership at trade shows and encourages other firms to join.
His family businesses signed up in 2006 and have donated to such Florida nonprofits as Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory and Lake Worth's Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades.
An outdoorsman and fan of Patagonia clothes, Fischer said he discovered One Percent by reading about Patagonia founder Chouinard and his environmental outreach. The South Floridian draws inspiration to donate from Chouinard's own words: "There is no business to be done on a dead planet."
dhemlock@sunsentinel.com or 305-810-5009
One Percent for the Planet
What: A network of businesses that commit to give 1 percent of sales to environmental organizations; http://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org.
Who: More than 1,200 companies in 48 countries, including at least 18 firms in Florida.
History: Started in 2002 by entrepreneurs and outdoor outfitters Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies. Registered as a nonprofit.
Some South Florida members: Rincon Heat Sauce Co., Essential Safe Products, King Tree Service of South Florida, Tree Saver.

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SOTE
Report -
Look and download

130527-c
State of the Everglades Report now available
Audubon Press Release
May 27, 2013
Download your copy of our comprehensive biannual report on the River of Grass.
Audubon's Spring Report on the State of the Everglades is now available for download!
Audubon continues to define Everglades success as bringing back the birds and wildlife that were so naturally abundant in the River of Grass. These species serve as an indicator for all of the other benefits to the natural environment, aquifer recharge, and economic prosperity that restoration can also produce.
The recent operationalizing of the Tamiami Trail bridge and the C-111 Spreader Canal project bring us closer to mimicking the natural water flow patterns that have been altered by human infrastructure.
Our researchers at Audubon's Everglades Science Center in Tavernier are monitoring the prevalence of preyfish and tracking Roseate Spoonbill populations in Florida Bay. Their data over the coming months and years will be used to inform water managers and restoration partners where, when, and in what quantities these species are found. This will let us know whether restoration is working and what more needs to be done.
Stay informed about important conservation issues like this in the latest edition of Audubon's State of the Everglades Report.
Heading to the beach this weekend? Download this report to your iPad, Kindle, or other e-reader and learn about Florida's wildlife while you relax in the sun. And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog to get the latest Everglades news, information, and ways to help throughout the year.
It's no secret that Audubon's conservation success is thanks entirely to our dedicated grassroots advocates and citizen scientists. Next Friday, keep a look out in your inbox for a special email with more information on how you can help take Audubon's important conservation work to the next level by joining our new Boots on the Ground campaign. Don't miss this special, limited-time only event - your participation is needed!
Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend from the Audubon Florida Everglades Conservation Team!
P.S. Check out page 3 to learn about the latest progress on the critical Tamiami Trail bridge project!

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Smoak

Prof. J.M. SMOAK

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USF Everglades scientist headed to China
TBO.com – by Jerome R. Stockfisch
May 27, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG A project evaluating how a rising sea level could impact mangrove forests in the Florida Everglades could soon help China deal with its own environmental issues.
Joseph M. “Donny” Smoak, a professor of environmental science at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, has been invited to speak at a prestigious conference on climate change at Shenyang Agricultural University. He will also give a presentation at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Smoak left for China on Saturday.
“I’m extremely excited about the trip,” he said. “I’ve worked at quite a few places around the world, but never in China. I don’t know if I’d ever plan a trip there on my own, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
In January, Smoak received a $169,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the Everglades research. He and a research assistant have been taking core samples of soil in the mangroves of the southern Everglades, and studying the rate of mass accumulation, organic carbon accumulation and accretion.
The project will try to determine whether as sea level rises, the mangroves will provide enough peat deposits to “keep up” with the water level. If deposits don’t keep up, the water becomes too deep to sustain mangroves, and they either retreat inland over time or drown out.
“These mangrove systems basically support all of the ecology around them,” Smoak said. “At some phase of the life cycle of a fish, it either lives or has a food source that lives in mangroves.”
Mangrove health has become an issue around the world, and Smoak has studied them in Brazil, among other places. He is also studying wetlands’ role in climate change.
And like the Everglades, China has seen what Smoak calls “great manipulation” of lake systems and diverted rivers. “There are great ecological side effects to doing that,” he said.
In addition to his scientific presentations, Smoak and a handful of other U.S. scientists will tour some of the lake systems around Nanjing. And he’ll do a little sightseeing.
“I’ve tacked on a little time for myself,” Smoak said. “I plan to see a few of the sites there. It’s not every day you go to China.”

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Ponce de Leon

Juan Ponce de Leon


130526-a
East Coast has shifted since 1513
Tallahassee.com – by Sam Turner, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum
May 26, 2013
MAY 26, 1513 — The small fleet of Juan Ponce de León lay at anchor on the west coast of Florida. Its passage there from Cabo de Corrientes on the east coast had been one marked by continuous discoveries.
Departing the vicinity of Cabo de Corrientes the fleet had sailed south and arrived at an island they named Santa Marta, which according to Antonio de Herrera, the only known author to have written an account of Juan Ponce de León’s 1513 voyage using primary source documents, lay at 27° north latitude. The island was approximately one league (3.21 nautical miles) long and proved to have potable water so the fleet remained there to take on fresh water supplies. Friday, May 13, the fleet got under way once again and continued along the coast following a bank of shoals and islands until arriving at an anchorage for an island they called Pola that Herrera wrote was located at 26° 30’ north latitude. Between the shoals and islands of this part of the coast lay a good deal of water in the manner of a bay.
So what did the east coast of Florida look like in 1513 ? We know from map studies of the St. Augustine area that over the course of centuries the St. Augustine Inlet moved to the south as did the inlet at Matanzas. Indeed, in very recent times, another inlet opened up during a storm just to the south of Matanzas Inlet. The east coast of Florida was a dynamic environment and changed with every storm. The eastern coastline of the Florida peninsula has undergone a tremendous change since the early 16th century. This natural change was drastically accelerated by the process of urbanization and development that saw vast stretches of the coast altered by building, dredging, bulk heading, and filling. This is another area where we begin to run into trouble when we try and re-construct Ponce de León’s voyage. The coastal landscape of Florida, and particularly that of South Florida, has been altered and stabilized beyond recognition from its natural and ever changing self.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 15, the fleet coasted 10 leagues along a string of coastal islands until reaching two white islands. All these islands were given the name of Los Mártires, or The Martyrs, since they looked like suffering men from a distance, and the name stuck for a long time because of the great number of Spanish mariners who would later be cast away and perish on these islands. Today these are known as the Florida Keys. The text makes it clear that these islands were seen at a distance which one would expect from prudent mariners exploring unknown and reef filled waters. A single fix for this chain is given by Herrera as being 26° 15’ north latitude.
So where exactly did Los Mártires begin ? Today the northern most of the Florida Keys are considered to be Key Largo and Elliot Key. But was this the case in 1513 ? It is conceivable that their conception of the Keys included the ever changing coastal islands that ran for some distance up the south Florida coast beyond what is today Miami.
The fleet kept its distance from Los Mártires as they followed the archipelago to the south and west. Where they executed their turn to the north is unknown but if following the Florida Keys at a distance it likely occurred after clearing the Marquesas. They sailed sometimes to the north and sometimes to the northeast until May 23, when they came upon the west coast of Florida. The following day they coasted to the south not realizing or considering that La Florida might be part of a greater mainland. They traveled that day until they came upon some offshore islands with a pass between that permitted passage between the islands onto an opening in the coast that would permit them safe anchorage for taking on wood and water. It was these activities that occupied them 500 years ago today.

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130526-b
Failure to act on Rodman due to politics of inertia
Ocala.com - by Ron Cunningham, Special to the Star-Banner
May 26, 2013
 “My words was straight, but my intentions was as crooked as the Ocklawaha River.”
— from “The Yearling,” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
What moves more slowly than the water in the Rodman Reservoir?
The politics of inertia.
At least once in a while, the St. Johns River Water Manipulation District will crack open the Kirkpatrick Dam in an attempt to stir things up a bit and retard the slow eutrophication of the reservoir.
But the politics of inertia budges not an inch.
Listen, it’s been nearly half a century since they bottled up the Ocklawaha, once Florida’s loveliest and most ecologically unique river, in order to gouge out the Cross Florida Barge Canal.
Work on the barge canal was halted during the Nixon Administration, for goodness sakes. And ever since, the Rodman has been a public works project without a public works purpose.
And yet it exists still. A taxpayer-supported playground for stump fishermen.
Why?
The politics of inertia.
As far as politicians and bureaucrats are concerned, it’s easier to leave the Rodman alone than stir up a lot of fuss over the river’s restoration.
Every governor from Reubin Askew to Charlie Crist (where are you, Rick Scott?) has advocated removal of the dam. But our Department of Environmental Posturing does nothing to free the Ocklawaha.
Virtually every relevant state and federal environmental regulatory agency has, at one point or another, been on record favoring restoration.
A July 1997 DEP report states that “re-establishing the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River ... will provide both environmental benefits and expanded recreational opportunities on reclaimed public lands.”
Part of the reservoir itself illegally occupies federal land. And there is no question its existence has disrupted the migratory patterns of endangered manatee and numerous fish species.
But rather than order the state to evacuate forthwith, the U.S. Forest Service has been engaged in a lengthy and bizarre game of “Let’s find the loopholes” with the DEP to maintain the status quo.
What is especially maddening is that making this river whole again would easily be the quickest and least expensive “fix” of nearly all of Florida’s well-documented environmental woes.
Saving the Everglades is the work of generations at a cost of billions. Reversing the decline of Florida’s springs and halting the over-pumping of the aquifer will require a public investment and a commitment to conservation that few Floridians seem willing to contemplate.
But restoring the Ocklawaha? Just breach the dam, throw in a few million for replanting and let nature take its course.
What will be lost ? A popular bass fishing hole. But the Ocklawaha was a fisherman’s paradise long before the Rodman came along. It will be so again.
Popular support for the Rodman is neither as broad nor as deep as the reservoir itself. The dam would have been removed years ago but for the stubborn resistance of a handful of Florida congressmen and state legislators, most of whom are long dead.
It is, simply, the politics of inertia that continues to squander taxpayer dollars on what Audubon Magazine last year aptly described as “the only dam in the nation without even an alleged purpose.”
Why alienate even a handful of loyal Rodman anglers when it’s easier to maintain the status quo?
The Florida Defenders of the Environment and the Florida Wildlife Federation have given notice of their intention to sue the feds for their failure to protect the manatee and other endangered species that are threatened by the continued existence of the dam.
It is a shame that residents must go to court to force our environmental regulators to do their jobs. But 45 years of inertia well demonstrates government’s intentions in this regard to be as “crooked as the Ocklawaha River.”
Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Gainesville Sun.

130526-c







Patronis

Jimmy PATRONIS,
Panama City (R) state
representative

130526-c
Patronis: Scott will sign bill on well permitting
News Herald – by Matthew Beaton
May 26, 2013
PANAMA CITY — State Rep. Jimmy Patronis’ environmental permitting bill still awaits the governor’s signature, but the Panama City Republican is confident it will come, despite ongoing opposition to the legislation.
Gov. Rick Scott must act on the bill (HB 999) by June 4. When contacted about the legislation Friday, his press office responded: “We are reviewing it.”
While Scott reviews it, his email inbox continues to back up. He’s received more than 350 emails about the bill, many of them pressuring him to veto it, claiming it would harm the environment. Others, including well drillers and those in the marina industry, are supporting it, saying it will help their businesses.
The bill, which passed the Legislature on the session’s final day, would tackle a host of permitting issues, though Patronis said it primarily would make “minor changes” based on “common sense.”
The legislation would, however, make the state’s water management districts the “be-all, end-all” on well-drilling permits, Patronis said. County and other local governments would no longer be involved in issuing such permits.
It also would give marinas an option to pay sales tax based on their revenue rather than the regular flat-rate lease fees they normally pay, Patronis said.
“If a marina is doing well, then you know what let it pay more taxes, but if it’s doing poorly and it’s struggling, then let the revenue that the marina generates reflect that in the taxes also,” he said.
The bill received its strongest opposition during the session from the Florida Conservation Coalition, whose chairman, former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, helped strip out numerous environment provisions. But, he’s still concerned about leases to sugar companies in the Everglades.
“Perhaps the worst provision remaining in the final bill annihilates the legal rights of a citizen or group to challenge the controversial 30-year, no-bid leases granted by the governor and Cabinet to two sugar companies in the Everglades Agricultural Area,” Graham wrote in a May 13 op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
“For those who support consistent and meaningful environmental policy in this state, HB 999 is still a bad bill.”
Graham also said it was the “worst bill” of the session, but his group rectified most of its major problems with it. His editorial and other opinion pieces in newspapers around the state have helped fuel an email campaign against the legislation.
Patronis, however, thought Graham’s motivation wasn’t entirely genuine.
“I think part of it is he’s got a daughter who’s decided to run for Congress,” Patronis said, “and I really feel like he’s trying to just strengthen his name ID and bully pulpit to hopefully try to allow another generation of Grahams to enter into public office.”
Gwen Graham is running as a Democrat in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City.
Patronis added: “I think some of his efforts are noble, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. (But) I think some of it may (be based on) ulterior motives.”
Contacted Saturday, Graham denied that, saying his opposition to the bill is “totally unrelated” to his daughter’s bid for Congress. In fact, he said he was on record as opposed to the bill before Gwen Graham’s candidacy. He said he considers Patronis a friend, but “we disagree on” HB 999.
Patronis also ripped Graham’s environmental record while he served as governor. He said Graham’s administration brought dramatic negative changes to Florida’s environmental law.
“He has had a change of heart now. Maybe he feels some concerns (about) the policies that he had supported when he was governor,” Patronis said, noting now Graham may believe some of the policies were “too aggressive.”
He added: “It seems like he’s been inconsistent on everyone’s environmental stances.”
But Graham said his pro-environment record goes back many years, to when he was a member of the state House of Representatives in the 1960s.
Patronis doesn’t think the former senator’s opposition will derail the bill. He expressed near certainty it would be signed. He said the water management districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the governor’s office have given him no indication that Scott has any problems with it.
Graham agreed with Patronis on that, predicting Scott will sign the bill.
The bill also passed through Legislature by wide margins: 39-1 in the Senate and 106-10 in the House.

130526-d







130526-d
Pristine Florida ? Not Really
TheLedger.com – by Tom Palmer
May 26, 2013
Many people have pet peeves about misused words.
One that has bothered me for some time is the overuse of the word “pristine” to describe sections of the natural landscape.
But as the French philosopher Voltaire noted, it’s important to define our terms at the beginning of the discussion.
Merriam-Webster defines pristine as “Belonging to the earliest period or state: original; not spoiled, corrupted, or polluted (as by civilization): pure; fresh and clean as or as if new.”
I recently read an article that referred to a park as “pristine,” even though I know it contains parking lots, bike paths, a sewer plant, a restaurant and other buildings. It also is overrun with exotic plants ranging from cogon grass to Brazilian pepper.
It’s a great park, but hardly pristine.
The reality is that there are few, if any, places in this state anymore that can be described accurately as pristine.
Florida’s springs ? Fouled by septic tank pollution and their flow diminished by agriculture, industrial or development water withdrawals.
Everglades National Park ? Its water flow is at the mercy of water managers who seem more loyal to sugar farmers and urban development interests, and, thanks to the pet trade, it’s overrun with pythons.
The Lake Wales Ridge ? Mostly gobbled up by development and citrus groves, and the rest in many cases became an archipelago of rural garbage dumps.
Circle B Bar Reserve ? Drained and cleared of much of its original native vegetation and infested with exotic plants.
The Peace River ? Overpumped aquifer has turned the hydrology upside down; springs stopped flowing decades ago.
So how should people describe parts of Florida whose attributes they find worth praising ?
One approach I use is to spend enough time in a place to accurately describe its natural features, its wildlife, its context in the wider landscape, its sounds, its colors.
That kind of immersion can provide a more evocative account and certainly a less superficial one.
If you can find people who know this piece of land or water, talk to them, get their impressions, and let their voices tell part of the story.
In many places you’ll visit, it’s best described as a story of restoration and habitat management.
That sometimes can become an epic tale, a tale of tons of debris removed, hundreds or thousands of acres of exotic plants removed, wetlands restored, forests and meadows replanted.
There are plenty of natural areas in Florida that deserve celebration. They are scenic, contain interesting and attractive flora and fauna and are important parts of regional ecosystems, but they probably aren’t pristine.
They would benefit from more accurate and less fanciful descriptions.

130525-a







Indian River Lagoon

Indian River Lagoon - is a grouping of three
lagoons: Mosquito
Lagoon
, Banana River,
and the Indian River,
on the Atlantic Coast of
Florida. It was originally
named Rio de Ais after
the Ais Indian tribe,
who lived along the
east coast of Florida.
130525-a
Is a new inlet the answer for Indian River Lagoon ?
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
May 25, 2013
Deeper dredging, some say, could help flush pollutants
With brown tide back in the Indian River Lagoon, many are once again pushing a century-old idea: a new inlet to let in more ocean water and flush out pollutants and algae blooms.
Long-time residents describe seasonal spillovers of ocean water into the lagoon in years past, especially in North Brevard. That’s where some say a new inlet could go.
But the cost, along with permitting hurdles and the threat of beach erosion from a new inlet, make its prospects slim, officials warn. Conservationists say diluting the problem with ocean water is not the solution, anyway, and that the focus should be on keeping the algae-feeding nitrogen and phosphorus that comes from fertilizers, septic tanks, pets and other sources out of the lagoon in the first place.
With algae blooming and wildlife dying, last month the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program’s advisory board decided to study the concept of a recreational inlet to improve water quality. They requested a technical advisory committee bring information back to the next advisory board meeting in October.
Inlets once poked open during hurricanes and migrated along the lagoon’s barrier islands. Today, only six inlets link lagoon and ocean along the 156-mile estuary. Those have been either man-made or stabilized by man. Port Canaveral, Sebastian Inlet, Fort Pierce Inlet and St. Lucie Inlet were man-made. Ponce Inlet and Jupiter Inlet are natural inlets, fixed in place by jetties.
Douglas Bournique
, a lagoon advisory board member and member of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board, wants a small, shallow recreational inlet.
“I think it’s time we got united on this idea,” Bournique told advisory board members, when they met in Vero Beach last month. “I think the time has come where we need to study an inlet at the right location,” said Bournique, who also is executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League.
At the same meeting, advisory board member John Windsor, an environmental scientist at Florida Tech, challenged the idea that the lagoon was once pristine prior to so many people moving here.
Windsor says the idea of a new inlet has been explored many times before.
The notion has been debated since Brevard’s earliest permanent settlements took shape in the 1800s.
  IRL
Windsor cites letters from Brevard pioneer William Gleason to county commissioners in 1886 in which Gleason suggested a new ocean inlet on the Banana River, south of Cape Canaveral, according to a summer 2003 newsletter by the Brevard County Historical Commission. Gleason wrote the letters after 30-plus inch rains had resulted in bland-tasting oysters and widespread fish kills.
Gleason estimated the new inlet would only cost about $300, according to the newsletter.
Several years ago, the Canaveral Port Authority tried leaving the locks at the port open longer than usual, but that resulted in silt blocking the Barge Canal and required expensive dredging to fix.
Efforts at an inlet near Sebastian date back to 1872. Six attempts to open Sebastian Inlet, from 1901 to 1915, all ended in sand shoaling back in shortly after excavation. In the late 1940s, the military blasted open the inlet with dynamite. Today, new inlets require expensive environmental studies and dredging. Ultimately, a special taxing district was set up to fund Sebastian Inlet’s maintenance.
“I think it would be a nightmare to try and permit a new inlet,” said Martin Smithson, director of Sebastian Inlet District.
But if a storm created one, Smithson says there should be a plan to build a bridge over the opening. “Maybe try to stabilize it and use it rather than fill it back in,” he said.
A more practical solution might be to deepen Sebastian Inlet, he said.
Port Canaveral was dredged open in the 1950s. While the port has been a boon to the local economy, it causes erosion onmore than 10 miles of beaches to the south that require expensive sand restoration projects every several years.
“We know in Brevard, perhaps more than any other county, how much impact an inlet can make,” said Kevin Bodge, a coastal engineer with Olsen Associates, Inc., Jacksonville, the firm that designs the county’s beach renourishments. “It is an enormous uphill battle.”
A cheaper, less intrusive option might be culverts and other structures through the barrier islands that could control the flow from ocean to lagoon and vice-versa, coastal engineers say. Officials have discussed a box culvert near Cruise Terminal 5 at the port’s north end, but the idea never has gained traction.
Culverts could go along other various spots on the lagoon’s barrier islands.
“You can drill those horizontally under the land, so you’re not affecting any land,” Bodge said.
Nature might one day provide Brevard a new inlet. In October, that happened in Fire Island, N.Y., when Hurricane Sandy tore open a new inlet on the barrier island off the southern shores of Long Island. The opening quickly grew to about 900 feet wide, allowing more ocean water into Great South Bay, another waterbody that brown tide has plagued since the mid-1980s. Debate continues there on whether to leave the inlet open.
Windsor warned that a new inlet here could create a whole new set of unintended consequences for the lagoon.
“These simple-sounding solutions always result in us having to go back later and try to fix something that somebody tried to fix with an engineering solution,” Windsor said.
Grant Gilmore, a Vero Beach scientist who has studied the lagoon’s fish populations for more than four decades, supports a new inlet. But he says the opening would have to be comparable to Fort Pierce Inlet — almost 1,000 feet across — to make a significant difference. By comparison, Sebastian Inlet is about 600 feet wide at the jetties.
“A small recreational inlet won’t cut it; it doesn’t do anything,” Gilmore said.
“Fort Pierce Inlet’s keeping the lagoon alive right now,” he said, adding that some fishing guides are going there from the Sebastian Inlet area to find fish.
Some officials warn a new inlet would create a more oceanic, uniform ecosystem, possibly at the expense of wildlife diversity.
But Gilmore says it would increase biodiversity. “I think there should be another inlet, quite frankly, the way things are going,” he said.
130525-b





python

130525-b
Man who killed longest python gets its snakeskin
The Associated Press
May 25, 2013
PALMETTO BAY, Fla. -- The South Florida man who caught and killed (VIDEO) the longest Burmese python ever found in Florida gets to keep the snakeskin.
Jason Leon of Palmetto Bay saw a few feet of the snake sticking out of some bushes alongside a rural Miami-Dade County road on May 11. When Leon pulled the snake out into the open, it turned out to be 18 feet 8 inches long.
Leon killed the 128-pound snake with a knife when it began to wrap around his legs. He reported his find to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Wildlife officials have returned a roughly 18-foot-long snakeskin to Leon. The snake's skeleton is being preserved by University of Florida researchers.
Leon tells WSVN-TV ( http://bit.ly/151kjhM) that he plans to have the snakeskin preserved so that he can mount it on a wall. He says he's awed by its colors.
"Look at the pattern on that snake," he said. "I see God's creation, I guess, an artist."
Leon used to own pythons as pets. He says he wishes he could have kept the one he pulled out of the bushes, but keeping its hide is the next best thing.
"It's a beautiful snake," Leon said. "I know they're an invasive species, but I don't know, I wanted to bring it back."
Researchers believe pythons are decimating populations of native mammals in the Everglades. Florida now prohibits owning or selling pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans importation and interstate sale of the species.
The previous record for the longest python caught in the wild in Florida was a 17-foot-7-inch, 164 1/2-pound python caught in August in Everglades National Park.

130524-







Rumberger

In memory of the late
E. Thomas RUMBERGER

130524-
UF law school unveils environmental fellowship
Gainesville Sun - by Jeff Schweers, Staff writer
May 24, 2013
A new scholarship program at the UF Levin College of Law has been created to support law school graduates who want a career championing the environment and helping draft public policy to protect the Everglades.
The E. Thomas Rumberger Everglades Foundation Fellowship Programs is named after Tom Rumberger, founder of Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell law firm and the lead counsel for the Everglades Foundation since 1989. The goal was to create something that honored his love of the law, UF and the environment, said Jon Mills, UF’s law school dean emeritus and director of the Center for Government Responsibility at the law school.
“The idea is to get a person every year who has that sense of concern for public service and for the Everglades and environmental issues,” said Mills, a longtime friend of Rumberger’s who worked on several landmark environmental cases together.
Rumberger died in 2011.
The Rumberger fellowship is the most recent program at the College of Law designed to support law students who want to pursue a career in public service, Dean Bob Jerry said.
For the first time, the law school granted two UF law students $5,000 each from the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Foundation, Jerry said. Justice Stevens retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.
Law student Joshua Izaak will work with the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., as a voter protection legal intern, and Kaylee Chabarek will work with the U.S. Army JAG Corps in Fort Hood, Texas.
Two other students will receive $5,000 each as part of a newly created fellowship named after Bill McBride, a UF College of Law alumnus and politician who died unexpectedly in December, Dean Jerry said. McBride was managing partner at Holland & Knight in Tampa and ran against Jeb Bush for governor in 2002.
Marissa Fallica will spend the summer with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in Atlanta, while Patrick Todd works at the Department of Justice Environmental Tort Litigation Branch in Washington. D.C.
“We are really pleased to be able to figure out programs and provide those programs to students interested in these careers to begin pursuing them during their law school summers,” Jerry said.
Each of the fellowships allows law students to travel from Gainesville to bigger metropolitan areas to do public interest work and cover living expenses, said Debbie Amirin, communications director at the law school. Students may be assigned to a federal agency in Washington, D.C., or Atlanta, or the Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee, she said.
The Rumberger fellowship was created by Mills with the partners at Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell of Orlando and the Everglades Foundation. It surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $300,000, receiving $309,000 in cash and pledges, Amirin said. The foundation has already received about three-quarters of that amount, she said.
Mills said students who receive a Rumberger fellowship will work in concert with the Center for Governmental Responsibility and the Everglades Foundation. He envisions the student working on public policy issues with environmental agencies in Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.
“We would intend for them to actually do practical work,” Mills said.
A Republican, Rumberger was general counsel for the late former Gov. Claude Kirk and represented the Republican Party in the 1992 redrawing of state political districts.
Rumberger and Mills worked together to prevent the release of autopsy photos of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, subsequently changing state law on autopsy records.
Mills and Rumberger also worked on landmark Florida Supreme Court cases dealing with the Everglades. “Everything the Everglades Foundation did, he was the keystone,” Mills said.
Jacey Kaps, a partner at Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell’s Miami office, said the firm was happy to be involved in creating the foundation.
“We are happy to enshrine his legal legacy in the halls of the university college of law,” Kaps said.

130523-







Flooding

130523-
Ready ‘Freddy’: Water managers prepare for hurricane season in SouthFlorida
BrowardNet
May 23, 2013
West Palm Beach, FL — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) conducted its annual “Hurricane Freddy” exercise this week as part of the agency’s emergency operations readiness for hurricane season.
“This year’s Hurricane Freddy exercise had the added training value of a real, multi-day rainfall event occurring simultaneously,” said Susan Sylvester, SFWMD Chief of the Water Control Operations Bureau. “Managing more than 11 inches of actual rain while conducting the agency-wide hurricane exercise provided both real-world and virtual practice, further improving our readiness for storm season.”
Throughout the day, trained District staff practiced emergency management and flood control procedures in response to Hurricane Freddy, a simulated Category 4 storm that made landfall on the lower west coast and came across the Kissimmee and Orlando areas as a Category 2 hurricane. The virtual scenario included persistent, heavy rainfall and flooding across portions of the District’s 16-county region, challenging water managers to address a variety of hurricane-related incidents and demands on the flood control system.
The exercise began at 8 a.m. with full activation of the SFWMD Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and a situation briefing. Response teams at District field stations and service centers also participated.
As District staff responded to Freddy in the virtual world, on-duty SFWMD water managers operated the regional flood control system following a District-wide average of 0.975 inches of rain across 16 counties over three days, through early Tuesday afternoon. The heaviest rainfall from the multi-day rainfall event was concentrated on Florida’s east coast.
This included radar-based estimates of maximum rainfall during that time of:
8.43 inches on Coral Gables
7.44 inches in coastal Palm Beach County
5.95 inches in coastal Broward County
6.81 inches in Everglades National Park
7.48 in western Collier County
Throughout South Florida, flood control is a shared responsibility between the District, county and city governments, local drainage districts and residents. More information about the regional flood control system and what residents can do to help prepare for storms is available in the District’s Know the Flow brochure. For more information on the District’s emergency operations, please visit the Emergency Management website.

130522-a







Polluted canal

130522-a
Protect imperiled waterways
Florida Today - Guest column by Lisa Rinaman (St. Johns Riverkeeper) and Jimmy Orth (executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper)
May 22, 2013
State leaders' actions making dire situation worse
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.
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.
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 legislators continue to pursue policy changes that are making this dire situation much worse.
As witnessed during the recent legislative session, efforts in Tallahassee are intent upon rolling back critical regulatory safeguards, expediting the permitting process, liquidating conservation lands, making it easier to destroy wetlands, and handing out longer water consumption permits without requiring more conservation.
Unfortunately, important policies and programs that have been established to protect our natural resources have become scapegoats for our economic problems.
In reality, these policy 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.
In addition, environmental regulations often provide economic and health benefits that far outweigh the cost of compliance. 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 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 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. Citizens shouldn’t have to fight to protect our environment from our elected representatives, their appointees, and those often working with them to exploit our natural resources for personal gain. Instead, we should be proactively working together to restore our imperiled waterways, conserve our water resources, wetlands and public lands; and preserve our rich natural heritage for generations to come.
130522-b








130522-b
Video reveals man's struggle with 19-foot burmese python in Florida [VIDEO]
NatureWorldNews.com
May 22, 2013
Jason Leon, the man who captured and killed the largest Burmese python ever found in Florida, has spoken out to media about what happened when he spotted the python, revealing the details of a 10-minute struggle that ended with the beheading of the nearly 19-foot-long snake.
Leon was traveling with two friends on an all-terrain vehicle during the night of May 11 when from the road they spotted the head of the 18-foot, 8-inch reptile in the undergrowth. Leon, who had owned snakes in the past, attempted to capture the snake, but it soon became clear that the snake was much bigger than he thought. As he wrestled with the 128-pound snake, it began to wrap itself around Leon's leg while one friend recorded video of the incident and another stood at the ready with a large knife.
 
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"It's a beautiful snake," Leon said in the video, "I don't want to kill this thing."
But as he struggled with the giant python, which coiled around his leg and arm, it became clear that the snake would win the fight.
"He's [expletive] getting loose, he's going to try and [expletive] strangle me," Leon said in the video.
In an interview uploaded to YouTube by BreakingNewsToday, Leon said that his friends Veronica Larios and Blake Jordan helped him get free from the snake's grip and decapitate the creature.
"For about 10 minutes he was wrapping around my legs, around my arms," Leon said in the video interview. "We finally pulled him apart, stretched him out and took a knife and cut his head off."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) congratulated Leon for killing the snake, which is considered an unwanted invasive species in Florida.
Leon found the snake in a rural area southeast of Miami. The FWC sponsors an annual Python Challenge in the Everglades region that awards cash prizes to professional and amateur hunters for killing Burmese pythons.
Leon said a police lieutenant told him his attempt to capture the snake was not a smart idea because the snake was so big. "He told me I should have had at least four or five other males, like individuals, with me because of the strength of the snake."
The snake's corpse was donated to the University of Florida's Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center for a necropsy.
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Meeker

Melissa MEEKER

resigned as head
of the SFWMD


Meeker's resignation
Meeker's
resignation
message
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Water district head leaving to take environmental consulting job
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 22, 2013
Melissa Meeker is stepping down as head of the South Florida Water Management District to take a private sector job with a Stuart-based environmental consulting firm.
  CSA
Meeker resigned Monday after two years leading the agency that is charged with guarding against flooding, protecting drinking water supplies and leading Everglades restoration.
Meeker via email Wednesday said she is taking a job as vice president at CSA Ocean Sciences, an environmental consulting firm with domestic and international clients, ranging from oil companies to South Florida utilities and counties.
Meeker said the firm does not do business with the South Florida Water Management District and doesn't plan to "in the foreseeable future."
Meeker said she was not asked to step aside at the district, but that the job opportunity with CSA Ocean Sciences was too tempting not to take.
"I was not looking for a job. I love working at the district and strongly believe in its mission and staff," Meeker said.
Meeker, who leaves on the eve of hurricane season, in a letter to the district board chairman said she "treasured the opportunity" to lead the district "during a very challenging period."
June 7 is scheduled to be her last day at the district.
The district's nine-member governing board, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, now must select a replacement for Meeker. The board at its June 13 meeting is expected to name an interim executive director.
Meeker was named executive director in May 2011 following the resignation of previous executive director Carol Wehle.
Meeker helped guide the district through a difficult period that included a $100 million state-imposed budget cut that led to 134 layoffs.
She also helped craft a new $880 million Everglades restoration plan aimed at resolving a lingering legal fight over Florida's failure to meet water quality standards.
“Melissa Meeker has ably advanced Governor Scott’s agenda with the water quality plan and reducing the District’s budget. She held one of the toughest jobs in Florida and deserves our gratitude,” Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said
Scott in a statement released Tuesday said Meeker has been "a tremendous asset" to the district and that she was "instrumental" in helping create the new Everglades water quality plan.
Meeker was one of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s appointees to the South Florida Water Management District governing board, serving from 2007-09.
Meeker took the position of district executive director less than two months after she was appointed to a new post in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, helping oversee all of Florida's water management districts.
She is a former environmental consultant who has worked for the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the South Florida Water Management District.
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Wetland cleanup project escapes veto
Highlands Today – by Pallavi Agarwal
May 22, 2013
GLADES COUNTY - Jeff Allen calls himself a private citizen who loves to fish on Lake Okeechobee, but he's also the chairman of a broad-based group that's trying to improve the lake and add recreational opportunities.
When Charlie Crist was governor, the state signed an agreement with the Lake Okeechobee Habitat Alliance Inc. to lease and manage more than 2,700 acres of land located at Curry Island, where Fisheating Creek joins Lake Okeechobee.
The group's volunteer cadre helped clean up Curry Island of old tires and dumped construction materials and set up wood duck boxes, but to reduce the high nutrient level of creek water before it reaches the lake, they needed a treatment system to suck out the phosphorus and nitrogen.
A $2 million hybrid wetland treatment system, which will use aquatic plants in a filtration marsh to do the job, was in danger of being potentially nixed when it ended up last week on a 2013-2014 state budget "turkey" watch list by Florida TaxWatch as part of 107 projects the group wanted Gov. Rick Scott to consider vetoing.
Scott decided to keep it, along with $12,000 the state allocated to help renovate a building donated to the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County, the second county project to end up on the tax watch list.
Allen said he's pleased the project was spared and maintained that the environmental impact of improving Lake Okeechobee is far-reaching: The lake and its wetlands are at the center of a much larger watershed, the Greater Everglades, which stretches from the Kissimmee River through the Everglades and finally into Florida Bay.
"This is a small piece of puzzle in the larger one - the Everglades restoration," he said.
Allen said he doesn't know when the project will start. The engineering firm, Federico & Lamb, has done similar projects, he said.
The project site will be located at the downstream end of the 297,000-acre Fisheating Creek drainage basin on approximately 50 acres in the upland portions of Curry Island.
An inflow pump will supply up to 30 cubic feet per second of untreated water from Fisheating Creek into the treatment system, where the aquatic plants will be present.
Treated return water from the wetland would be routed to the lake through dispersed overland flow through the
Curry Island marsh, which is part of the 2700-acre land leased.
Allen said he doesn't know when the project will start. "There is still a permitting process that it will have to go through," he said.

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What spending counts as conservation spending ? Analysts wrestle with proposed constitutional amendment
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
May 22, 2013
A proposed constitutional amendment directing state revenue towards conservation land acquisition, management and restoration would not necessarily require more spending on those activities, state analysts say.
Supporters, including a variety of environmental groups, have said the amendment would provide $5 billion for water and land conservation over the next 10 years, or $500 million a year. But the state analysts say the amount depends on decisions that will be made by the Legislature if the amendment passes.
Florida's Water and Land Legacy on April 3 announced it had collected 68,314 signatures, enough to trigger an analysis by the Financial Impact Estimating Conference this week and an eventual review by the Florida Supreme Court. The group hopes to put the amendment on the ballot in 2014.
The proposed constitutional language would require that 33 percent of an excise tax on documents be directed for 20 years towards the acquisition and "improvement" of land and water areas including agricultural lands near the Everglades, outdoors recreation lands, beaches, parks, trails, urban open space and historic, archaeological or geologic sites.
Funding also is provided for land management, the "restoration of natural systems" and the enhancement of public access. Some analysts questioned whether many current spending programs would count toward the requirements of the amendment.
"That's so broad," Noah Valenstein, policy coordinator in the environmental policy unit of the governor's Office of Policy and Budget, told the analysts on the Financial Impact Estimating Conference.
He suggested that cleaning up petroleum contamination sites also could be considered environmental restoration. And he questioned whether restoration of natural systems had to occur only on public lands.
"I'm struggling with that myself," said Jose Diez-Arguelles, staff director for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Taxation Committee. He later said the amendment language was "confusing" and he agreed with Valenstein that it differed from the ballot description.
The revenue provided under the amendment would start at $648 million in fiscal year 2015-16 and would increase to $1.2 billion a year by the end of the 20-year period, according to a description. A letter along with the financial impact statements will be signed Thursday and sent to the Attorney General's Office.
The Legislature's appropriations staff also developed a spreadsheet that showing more than $500 million will be spent in fiscal year 2013-14 on land acquisition and management, restoration and water protection -- including beach re-nourishment, wastewater facilities and the Legislature's designated water projects. The spending peaked at $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2006-07 before dropping to $286 million three years later.
Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demoographic Research, said the amendment has very broad terms for what is covered.
"Ultimately the Legislature will have to enact new laws if the amendment passes," Baker told The Florida Current. "How they define what the scope of those terms are will define what is allowable."
Will Abberger, campaign chair for Florida's Water and Land Legacy and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land, said the purpose of the amendment is to provide stability for conservation funding.
The state land acquisition program received at least $300 million a year from 1990 to 2008 when it was cut sharply amid declining revenues along with Everglades restoration funding, which usually received $100 million a year. He said his group will make restoring those programs a priority.
"That's a big part of what we're doing here is trying to make funding for something as important as water and land conservation immune from shifts in political winds in Tallahassee," Abberger said.
Related Research:
* Full text of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment
* May 21, 2013 FY 2013-14 and prior conservation spending
* May 21, 2013 Draft 500-word financial information statement
* May 21, 2013 Estimated revenue collections from 33 percent of excise tax on documents

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Clearwater to build 2nd reverse osmosis water plant
83degreesMedia.com – by Megan Hendricks
May 21, 2013
The City of Clearwater's sustainability initiatives continue as they break ground on the second reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant.
The plant, located on U.S. Highway 19 N., will use state-of-the-art technology to treat up to 6.25 million gallons of brackish (or slightly salty) water, turning it into clean drinking water for city residents.
Reverse osmosis, also known as hyperfiltration, is a water purification process that is used by major bottled water companies. It reduces the salts, minerals, ions and other impurities, leaving high quality drinking water. The brackish water would not be drinkable without the RO process and doesn’t have alternative uses.
The $34 million project is being funded cooperatively by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and has created new jobs for contractors, electrical engineers, plumbers and construction workers.
The plant is part of the city's integrative water management strategy, which includes five tactical areas: in-home water conversation including the use of reclaimed water; preservation of drinking water resources; protecting the coastal environment by decreasing discharge to local bodies of water; producing more locally; and cost management.
"Everything we do in public utilities is to try to be sustainable as possible, and to responsibly use the water resources we have," says Nan Bennett, assistant director of public utilities for the City of Clearwater.
In an innovative move, the city is taking the concentrate, a salty by-product produced by its existing RO plant and treating it again in the second plant, allowing less water to be withdrawn from the ground supply. Another project currently in the pilot phase involves ground water replenishment, or taking leftover reclaimed water, treating it through the RO process and injecting it back into the aquifer. This creates a complete water cycle, naturally balancing the water supply.
Construction will begin in June, with estimated completion in December 2014.
Source: Nan Bennett, Tracy Mercer, City of Clearwater

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Meeker

Melissa MEEKER

resigned as head
of the SFWMD

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Head of 16-county water district, Melissa Meeker, resigns without explanation
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 21, 2013
Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, resigned on Tuesday without explanation or a departure date.
In a single-page email sent Tuesday afternoon to Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr., Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Rachel Cone, Director of Strategic Planning in the governor’s office and to district staff, Meeker said she wanted to fend off rumors about her leaving the district by announcing “firsthand” that she had given her notice of resignation to Daniel O’Keefe, the new chairman of the district’s governing board.
The district, headquartered in West Palm Beach, oversees water supply, flood control and restoration in the 16 counties between Orlando and Key West. In her two years as executive director, Meeker slashed the district’s $1 billion budget and more than 300 employees.
Her email, with the subject line “Moving Forward,” gave no reason for her departure or when she would leave office. District spokesman Randy Smith referred all questions to Gov. Rick Scott’s office, which released a statement attributed to Scott.
“Melissa Meeker has been a tremendous asset to the South Florida Water Management District and our state. Her leadership of the district, knowledge of the delicate South Florida ecosystem and excellent working relationships with local and federal partners were instrumental in helping us achieve a water quality plan that works for the Everglades. Thanks to her stewardship during the last two years, we are headed in the right direction for Everglades restoration and I wish her the very best in her next endeavor.”
Vinyard also released a statement complimenting Meeker on her tenure.
“Melissa’s intellect and leadership played a key role in Governor Scott’s historic progress in Everglades restoration. Her focus on the district’s mission of flood control, water quality, water quantity and natural resource protection was unsurpassed.”
As for when Meeker would leave, Jackie Schutz, the Governor’s press secretary replied: “That’s a question for the district.” According to Schutz, the Governing Board will evaluate candidates and select the next executive director. Neither O’Keefe or Meeker returned a call for comment.
Despite rumors that Meeker had been looking for another job, her resignation came as a surprise to many.
“She has been an important factor at the district for implementing the governor’s plan to trim the size of the district and his water quality plan,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “That’s one of the most difficult jobs in government. I don’t know how anyone could last a year in it.”
Meeker came to the district in June 2011, after her predecessor, Carol Wehle, suddenly resigned amid news reports that her boyfriend, an engineer, had been hired by the district’s inspector general for a $120,000 job as the district’s “engineering auditor.” An independent investigation cleared Wehle of any wrongdoing.
Meeker, hand-picked by Scott, was tasked with paring down the district. She re-tooled its management structure and cut benefits and salaries.
Her budget sliced in half and morale low, she also was buffeted by complaints of cronyism for the district’s no-bid land leasing policy and chummy relationships between top staff and owners of the businesses regulated by the district. Meeker also faced criticism for the district’s decision to award a former government board member and her former business partner, Harkley Thornton, a contract to erect billboards on water management district land. Amid a public uproar, the project was cancelled.
Last week, The Palm Beach Post reported that the district board approved offering the county $26 million for the Mecca Farms site, a vacant, 1,900-acre property near The Acreage, without being told about an appraisal that valued the land at between $14.8 million and $22.5 million. The board also was not told of a state policy that urges water management districts not to pay more than 90 percent of an appraised value for land. That deal, approved by the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, awaits a final decision by the district.
Despite the criticism, Meeker wrote that she was glad “it was me who was here during this very challenging period for the agency.
“Although it certainly wasn’t easy, I am proud of the way staff rallied in the face of adversity, focused on solutions and refused to yield to cynicism,” she wrote. “Wherever I go, I will always carry the lesson of your professionalism and dedication.”

Christine Stapleton covers environmental issues for the Palm Beach Post. On Monday, she wrote about the South Florida Water Management District staff’s failure to tell its board about an appraisal for the Mecca Farms property that was millions of dollars lower than the district was about to spend for the site.
South Florida Water Management District in the news
Jan. 20: Billboards: Water district, thanks to last-minute stealth legislation, is getting into the billboard business and gives ex-board member opportunity to build ad platforms on public land.
Jan. 24: No-bid leases: Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet bless two land deals by the water district that award no-bid, 30-year agricultural leases in the Everglades to major farming companies despite complaints from environmentalists and a water district official that the public was neither aware of nor consulted on the deals. The district came under fire last year for its long-standing policy of renewing agricultural leases without putting them out for competitive bid.
Feb. 6: Billboards scrapped: Amid a flood of criticism, the water district has reversed plans to allow billboards on its land and to award a contract for them to ex-board member Harkley Thornton, a former business partner of the district’s top official, Melissa Meeker.
Feb. 27: No-interview hiring: Water district governing board member Dan DeLisi has resigned and accepted a position as the district’s chief of staff. DeLisi, 39, sent his resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday. On Friday, DeLisi said he submitted his application for the chief of staff position. Although he did not interview for the position, on Tuesday DeLisi was offered the job over 53 other applicants.
March 21: Meeker cleared: An internal investigation requested by Melissa Meeker, executive director of the water district, concludes that neither she nor her staff did any wrong in awarding a billboard contract to her former business partner.
May 20: Mecca deal: When the water district governing board voted this month to offer Palm Beach County $26 million for a former citrus grove, the same value determined by an appraiser hired by the county, the district’s board was not told of another county appraisal that had valued the property between $14.8 and $22.5 million.
Related:
South Florida water district chief quits          The News-Press
South Fla. Water Management District chief resigns             San Francisco Chronicle
South Florida water district chief quits          Lehigh Acres News Star
Water District Executive Director Meeker resigns     Palm Beach Post
Water district head leaving to take environmental consulting job      Sun Sentinel (blog)
Water district exec cites plans for international focus as reason for sudden ...          Palm Beach Post
Conduct transparent search for next person to lead the South Florida ...      Palm Beach Post (Editorial)
Here is the content of Meeker's letter:
Subject: Moving forward
As you may be hearing rumors about my leaving the District, I wanted to get a message to you firsthand that I have given my notice of resignation to Chairman O'Keefe. After two years at the District, I can honestly say that I am glad that it was me who was here during this very challenging period for the agency. Although it certainly wasn't easy, I am proud of the way staff rallied in the face of adversity, focused on solutions and refused to yield to cynicism. Wherever I go, I will always carry the lesson of your professionalism and dedication.
The past two years have brought both formidable challenges and innovative solutions - from returning the agency to its core mission to fast-tracking numerous water quality and capital improvement projects to turning dirt on several essential projects. You have heard me say before - and I stick by it - that it doesn't matter what group you work in at the District, you play a critical role in the mission of this agency. In addition, the District has an awesome Governing Board - made up of unique and inspiring leaders - who will continue to guide this agency forward.
I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together and confident that the Leadership Team, with your never-ending support, will continue to effectively serve this region, its citizens and its priceless resources. I would like to extend to you my deepest thanks for the support and kindness that you have shown me. I know change is difficult, yet you have been respectful and helpful through it all. I'm sure you will show the next executive director the same consideration.
As ever, thank you for all that you do.
Melissa

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AUDIO

130521-c

South Florida Water Management District Chairman
and Orlando International Fringe Festival
WMFE - by: Brendan Byrne
May 21, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District is the largest in Florida, managing water needs for 7 million people. 90.7's Matthew Peddie speaks with the newly elected chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, Dan O'Keefe, about the challenges he faces and the plan for Everglades restoration. Also, 90.7's Nicole Creston talks to Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival producer Mike Marinaccio.

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Meeker

Melissa MEEKER

resigned as head
of the SFWMD

130521-d
Water district leader submits resignation letter
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 21, 2013
The head of the South Florida Water Management District resigned Monday, leaving after just two years and creating another leadership shakeup for the far-reaching agency charged with guarding against flooding and leading Everglades restoration.
Melissa Meeker, in a letter to the district board's chairman, said she was stepping aside as executive director after accepting a "new opportunity" that will allow her to focus on "international issues."
Meeker via email said she is taking a private sector job as a vice president at CSA Ocean Sciences, an environmental consulting firm based in Stuart. The company has domestic and international clients, ranging from oil companies to South Florida utilities and counties. Meeker said the firm does not do business with the South Florida Water Management District and doesn't plan to "in the foreseeable future."
Meeker was named the district's executive director in May 2011 following the resignation of previous executive director Carol Wehle.
Meeker helped guide the district through a difficult period that included a $100 million state-imposed budget cut that led to 134 layoffs.
She also helped craft a new $880 million Everglades restoration plan aimed at resolving a lingering legal fight over Florida's failure to meet water quality standards.
Meeker said she was not asked to step aside, but that the job opportunity with CSA Ocean Sciences was too tempting not to take.
"I was not looking for a job. I love working at the district and strongly believe in its mission and staff," Meeker said.
Meeker, who leaves on the eve of hurricane season, in her letter said she "treasured the opportunity" to lead the district "during a very challenging period."
June 7 is scheduled to be her last day at the district.
"I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together and confident that the leadership team of this agency, along with its dedicated staff, will continue to effectively serve this region, its citizens and its priceless resources," Meeker, who was paid about $165,000 per year, said in her letter.
The district's nine-member governing board, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, now must select a replacement for Meeker. The board at its June 13 meeting is expected to name an interim executive director.
Scott in a statement released Tuesday said Meeker has been "a tremendous asset" to the district and that she was "instrumental" in helping create the new Everglades water quality plan.
"Thanks to her stewardship during the last two years, we are headed in the right direction for Everglades restoration and I wish her the very best in her next endeavor," Scott said.
Meeker ran the largest of the state's five water management districts. She took the post less than two months after she was appointed to a new post in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, helping oversee all of Florida's water management districts.
Meeker was one of former Gov. Charlie Crist's appointees to the South Florida Water Management District governing board, serving from 2007-09.
She is a former environmental consultant who has worked for the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the South Florida Water Management District.
“Melissa Meeker has ably advanced Governor Scott’s agenda with the water quality plan and reducing the District’s budget. She held one of the toughest jobs in Florida and deserves our gratitude,” Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said.

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Everglades restoration gets boost
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
May 20, 2013
Some environmentalists hail Gov. Scott's efforts.
Wild lands got a booster shot Monday after Gov. Rick Scott’s agreed to set aside $70 million for Everglades restoration and another $70 million for Florida Forever, the nation’s flagship conservation program.
Some environmental groups hailed Scott for addressing the Everglades restoration while others chided him for tying most of the Florida Forever money to the sale of existing state-owned lands. Scott vetoed some environmental wishes, such as a $2 million request from Lee County for a nutrient control program and a $900,000 request from Cape Coral and Fort Myers for a water reclamation project.
“We’re thrilled that the legislature, during session, realized that protecting the Everglades is important,” said Eric Eikenberg, president of the Everglades Foundation. “As the state economy improves, $70 million, in my view, is the floor. As we encourage Congress (on the federal level) to appropriate money to the Everglades we have to do the same thing.”
Unlike the Everglades restoration money, most of the Florida Forever money is far from guaranteed. About $50 million of the $70 million will have to come from the sale of other state lands, according to Scott’s office. Some groups are questioning if that scenario is even possible in a year, that the state could select a piece to sell, advertise that land, sell it and then identify a needed property and start negotiations on it.
“We were most concerned about the $50 million,” said Charles Pattison, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, a land conservation and growth management non-profit group based in Tallahassee. “That only happens if you sell other conservation lands. We’re not aware of a list of conservation lands that are up for sale..”
Eric Draper with Audubon of Florida said, overall, he was very pleased with Scott’s budget.
“This budget moves the environment in the right direction, after the last few years where there hasn’t been as much spending,” Draper said. “This is a significant increase.”
Florida Forever has been the premiere conservation program in the U.S. over the past 5 decades.
From 2009 through 2012, a period that would have generated $1.2 billion under past regimes, administrations under Charlie Crist and Rick Scott set aside about $20 million combined for Florida Forever. Crist pushed for the full $300 million in funding in 2009, but the House overruled, suggesting instead that offshore oil drilling tax revenue fund land acquisitions — an idea that wasn’t well-received by many Democrats and environmental groups.
Land acquisition has been funded nearly every year since 1963, through 11 administrations with various political affiliations. Florida Forever, the latest rendition of taxpayer-funded land-buying programs, had an annual budget of $300 million for nearly 20 years, securing more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion since 2001. Those glory days came to a screeching halt four years ago as Florida’s general tax revenue had suffered years of decline from the housing bust and consequent economic recession. Land prices fell to previously unimaginable lows.
Those lows are creeping upward, again, and Pattison said Florida Forever funding should grow as well.
“I think what we’re seeing is the legislature doesn’t put the same priority on buying conservation land as the public does,” Pattison said. “Right now, Florida is coming out of the restoration. You have to conserve land at a rate that you’re growing. We believe you could accommodate more growth, more development, more people and still protect the natural resources. It is a quality of life issue.”
The budget also includes nearly $80 million for the protection of Florida springs, local water projects and beach and dune restoration work.
To bridge the Florida Forever funding gap, several environmental groups are pushing a 2014 voter referendum that would set aside upward of $500 million for Everglades restoration projects and Florida Forever. 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. It is up for review by a Supreme Court justice, who is expected to deliver a decision in June. From there nearly 680,000 signatures will be needed to get the amendment on the 2014 ballot.

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Gov. Scott vetoes hundreds of millions from state budget
MiamiHerald.com
May 20, 2013
TALLAHASSEE:
Gov. Rick Scott signed a record-sized $74.1 billion budget Monday, but not before trimming off hundreds of millions of dollars in local projects and proposed tuition increases.
Scott vetoed nearly $368 million in spending from the budget legislators presented him two weeks ago, using his line-item authority to strike $50 million for a coast-to-coast bike trail, $46 million in college and university tuition hikes and more than 150 other projects.
Scott’s extensive veto list is more than twice as large as his list last year, and his largest since his first year in office when he slashed $615 million.
Even with the vetoes, the 2013-14 budget is still the largest on record, and includes $480 million for teacher pay raises, $8.5 billion for transportation projects, $151.8 million for Everglades restoration, $278 million for ports and $45.5 million for business incentives.
“This is our first year that we have a budget surplus in six years,” Scott said Monday during a press conference at the state’s Division of Emergency Management office.
“That’s why I put so much effort this year into the budget, to make sure we had tax cuts.”Scott said crafting the budget, and deciding what to veto, largely hinged on two things: jobs and education. He stood by his decision to veto a host of local projects, saying they did not meet his formula for effective state spending.
”My filter was this: One, is it going to help our families get more jobs?” he said. “Two, will it help improve our education system in our state ? And three, will it help make government more efficient.”
The budget goes into effect July 1.
Scott struck down funding for a wide range of projects - from $400,000 to improve the drinking water in Cross City, to $300,000 for the Clay County Courthouse, to $200,000 for a Lake Wales dental clinic. Some projects backed by top Republicans, including leaders in the House and Senate, also got the axe.
”While we did not agree on every line item, he signed 95 percent of our budget, which is a resounding endorsement of the House and Senate work product,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. Weatherford had championed a 3 percent increase in college tuition, but Scott used his veto pen to strike it out of the budget.
Monday marked the first time Scott took a low-key approach to unveiling his budget message. In previous years, Scott delivered budget remarks during public appearances: a rally for supporters in The Villages in 2011, and at a high performing St. Johns County school in 2012.
This year he answered the media’s questions in Tallahassee with only members of his staff in attendance. Scott also released a detailed 58-page document that outlined the reasoning behind every veto.
Scott removed many projects from the budget that he determined did not fulfill a core role of government, didn’t have statewide impact, provided public support for private entities or weren’t properly vetted during the budget process.</p><p>He vetoed more than $25 million in local water projects, millions in spending for education programs and school construction, museums, reentry programs and other social services.
Many lawmakers hoping to include so-called “turkeys” in the budget during the first year of a surplus in years were disappointed as their hometown projects were axed by Scott.
Details:
Budget items the governor vetoed in South Florida:
EDUCATION:  University of Miami - Launchpad - $500,000 (says they do not provide a core education mission for state government).
Hialeah Junior Fire Academy, $20,000
Sandra DeLucca Development Center in Miami, $150,000
Barry University - Juvenile Justice Programs $300,000
Barry University - School of Podiatry - $300,000
Barry University - School of Social Work $150,000
South Florida Evaluation & Treatment Center $770,096
Aid to Local Governments -- Lotus House shelter – women’s employment and education program, $75,000
/MENTAL HEALTH:  South Florida State Hospital $1,043,089
South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center $770,096
Mt. Sinai Community Center Brain Bank $183,000
CRIMINAL JUSTICE:  Dade Correctional Institute -- $100,000 for compound machine
ELDERLY:  Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) - Broward County $353,867 (general fund) $502,333 (trust fund) $856,200 (total)
Southwest Social Services, Badia Senior Center $1 million
ENVIRONMENT/WATER:  Coral Gables - Wastewater Collection System $589,468
Cutler Bay - Stormwater/Pollutant Elimination Project $400,000
Florida City - Krome Avenue Water Line Replacement $110,000
Fort Lauderdale - Seven Isles Seawall Improvement/Elevation $100,000
Hallandale Beach - SW/SE Drainage Project $500,000
Homestead - Race Track Inline Booster Pumps, SCADA, Valve Installation $195,000
Homestead - Installation of Well Motors Softstarts $12,000
Lauderdale Lakes - Flood Mitigation $500,000
Miami Gardens - NW 170 Street Stormwater Drainage Project $200,000
Miami Gardens - NW 195/204 Street Stormwater Drainage Project $150,000
Miami Gardens - Vista Verde Stormwater Drainage Project $250,000
Miami Gardens - Neighborhood Stormwater Swale Re-grading Project $10,000
North Miami - Biscayne Canal West Drainage Basin System Upgrade $150,000
Palmetto Bay - Sub-Basin 10 Drainage Improvements $250,000
South Miami - Dorn Avenue Drainage $120,000
Surfside - 88th Street Pump Station - Seawall repairs $75,000
Unincorporated Miami-Dade County - SW 157 Avenue Canal $1,100,000
West Miami - Stormwater Improvements $250,000
South Miami - Dorn Avenue Drainage $120,000
Surfside - 88th Street Pump Station - Seawall repairs, $75,000
Unincorporated Miami-Dade County - SW 157 Avenue Canal $1,100,000
West Miami - Stormwater Improvements $250,000
TRANSPORTATION:   Transportation Hub Facility at State Road 7 and Oakland Park Boulevard - $500,000
City of Hialeah - Road Maintenance Vehicles $407,681
City of Hialeah - Fuel Station Improvements $234,000
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:  Economic Development Council of South Miami Dade - Business Training
Program & Life Skills Training Program $50,000
DEVELOPMENT:  Village of Biscayne Park - Village Hall Renovation $500,000
MUSEUMS:  Coral Gables Museum $200,000
Miami Science Museum $100,000
Holocaust Documentation and Education Center $500,000 (Hollywood)

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130520-c
With the environment, it's wiser to take it easy
Florida Today – by Keith Winsten
May 20, 2013
I believe that the culture of Brevard County is uniquely shaped by our major water and land forms – the St. Johns River, the Indian River Lagoon, the Atlantic Ocean and the peninsula of land jutting into it that brought the space program here.
Because of that culture, people talk to me about the environment and our native wildlife, regardless of the setting. And not just about fishing or hunting or surfing.
I was at a reunion for Space Coast Honor Flight (which is a terrific organization that flies World War II and Korean War vets to Washington to see their memorials) on Sunday, when I found myself in a passionate conversation about scrub jays.
One of the Honor Flight volunteers is a longtime birder and photographer. He was happy to see a group of scrub jays near the Senior Center in Wickham Park. But then wistfully told me about scrub jay families he knew from past years.
There was a group on Merritt Island that not only lost their home to development, but when the big box store went in, it effectively cut them off from their neighboring scrub jays to the south.
Scrub jays are weak fliers, so now the offspring from this isolated group can never find a mate and start a family of their own. Even more heartbreaking was the story he told of the last group of scrub jays he knew from the South Beaches.
This group was distinguished by the fact that either the alpha male or female (you can’t tell them apart with scrub jays) had a crossed bill. He had photographed this group many times. But one day he showed up to find that the scrub they called home had just been bulldozed for a new housing development.
The group of four birds, lead by crossbill, were flying from brush pile to brush totally confused and stressed.
Humans have evolved to respond to immediate threats and incidents like the ones described above. It tugs on our emotions to see a wild family we know lose their home to development or their lives to an automobile.
Unfortunately, we aren’t programmed to react so swiftly to slow insidious threats like climate change or pollution. And those issues are catching up with us now in places like the Indian River Lagoon.
When I first moved here in 2004, the Lagoon was on the rebound, eel-grass beds were expanding and longtime residents of Brevard County were hopeful that the lagoon would return to its former saline glory with great runs of shrimp and fish. Unfortunately, a variety of conditions, some know and some unknown, have reversed this positive trend.
The question is what are we going to do about it ? There are always two schools of thought on saving the world.
First is there is there is the school of thought driven by the short-term economic side – we need to be very cautious, cross every “t” and dot every “I” because any new actions might hurt somebody’s economic wellbeing.
Then there is the drop everything and get into action mode — regardless of what we don’t know and who we might hurt. I favor an approach in the middle, use the best available science, but when in doubt, always take the course that will favor the natural environment. Why?
Because once you do enough damage to a natural system, it can never recover with all of its complexity. A species gone extinct will never return. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. On the other hand, you can always decide later to build another gas station or asphalt another parking lot or lay down another lawn.
William Beebe, a famous naturalist, explorer and zoo professional said it best
“The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer, but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.”

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130519-a
Adena questions
Ocala.com – Editorial
May 19, 2013
Questions continue to emerge about the environmental viability of Adena Springs Ranch, as evidenced by a new round of formal queries about the project sent Friday by the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The district's latest list of questions, officially known as a Request for Additional Information, or RAI, came 30 days — as required by law — after Adena officials submitted 40 pages of responses to the district's first RAI issued in January. The first RAI questions and Adena's answers were themselves illuminating, and suggest St. Johns officials have legitimate concerns about Adena's impact on the area's water table and wells, nitrate and phosphorous pollution of both the aquifer and surface water bodies and, of course, Silver Springs.
What the Adena responses prove is, in permit applications of this size and magnitude, the devil is in the details.
For instance, Adena officials, who originally sought a permit for 27 million gallons a day and then summarily reduced it to 13 mgd (famously compared to the amount the entire city of Ocala consumes), ballyhooed their latest rollback to 5 mgd after deciding to spread their cattle operation over several counties.
Well, in its January RAI, St. Johns calculates that if Adena ran all 58 of its 12-inch wells simultaneously at maximum output for a 24-hour period, it would actually pump 64.5 mgd. That's right, 64.5 million gallons per day. In Adena's response, it points out that it would never have its entire irrigation system running at the same time, and that its “rated maximum daily allocation is now 24.8165 mgd.”
The explanation, of course, is that the 5 mgd is merely a projected daily average. Ranch officials go on in their RAI responses to say, worst-case scenario, they would only use 14.4 mgd on average over the course of a month and there is “reasonable assurance that Adena's proposed consumptive water use will not cause an adverse impact” on adjacent properties or the environment.
Water managers also questioned an Adena claim that its forage crops could absorb “100 percent of all phosphorus” as well as nitrates from the cattle manure and fertilizers, a particular concern since Daisy Creek, which runs through the ranch property, is a tributary of the Ocklawaha River — both waterways are designated Outstanding Florida Waters. Adena officials responded that they will seek a state “environmental resource permit,” which will require a more detailed plan and system for managing the cattle waste than merely spreading it around their pastures.
As they have in the past, the Adena RAI responses are sprinkled with hints of frustration that St. Johns is holding Adena to a different, stricter standard than previous consumptive use permit seekers. We understand their angst, but also understand this is a unique water permit hereabouts and potentially could damage a unique and irreplaceable natural wonder in Silver Springs.
Adena Springs will have 120 days to respond to the latest RAI. We applaud St. Johns for asking the hard questions, although there is little doubt that in the end Adena will be granted a permit.
But under what conditions and environmental protections that permit is issued matters. It matters to the water table, to the environmental health of area lakes, streams and rivers and, of course, to Silver Springs.

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130519-b
Dismantling environmental safeguards harms Florida’s economy
Ocala.com - by Lisa Rinaman (the St. Johns Riverkeeper) and Jimmy Orth (executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization).
May 19, 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 also are critical to the quality of life and health of our residents.
For the last 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 last 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.
As witnessed during the recent legislative session, efforts in Tallahassee are intent upon rolling back critical regulatory safeguards, expediting the permitting process, liquidating conservation lands, making it easier to destroy wetlands and handing out longer water consumption permits without requiring more conservation.
At the same time, Scott and his administration continue to dismantle or weaken the agencies tasked with protecting our health and our environment and providing 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 residents and do nothing to address the root causes of our economic woes.
In addition, environmental regulations often provide economic and health benefits that far outweigh the cost of compliance. There also are 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 residents 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 towards 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 residents. 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. Residents shouldn’t have to fight to protect our environment from our elected representatives, their appointees and those often working with them to exploit our natural resources for personal gain. Instead, we should be proactively working together to restore our imperiled waterways; conserve our water resources, wetlands and public lands, and preserve our rich natural heritage for generations to come.
Lisa Rinaman is the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Jimmy Orth is executive director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization.

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130519-c
Floridians press for Everglades and port money
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
May 19, 2013
WASHINGTON – The next big phase of Everglades restoration will plug canals, build levees and create giant storage areas to guide fresh clean water through western Broward and Palm Beach counties and into the core of the famed River of Grass.
The next big phase of Port Everglades expansion will deepen its channels to allow gigantic cargo ships to sail in from a widened Panama Canal.
Both are expected to generate thousands of jobs and bolster the local economy. Both depend on millions of federal dollars. And both took a giant stride toward reality last week when the U.S. Senate, after years of prodding from Florida environmentalists and port officials, approved a sweeping water bill that would authorize spending on these and other projects across the nation.
The Florida projects still face hurdles. But Senate passage of the long-awaited Water Resources Development Act, which had not been renewed since 2007, was a milestone that helps clear a path for a burst of construction and commerce. It still requires approval of the House of Representatives.
Port Everglades officials, who have been struggling for 16 years to get approval for an Army Corps of Engineers project to deepen the port's waterways, hope to clear the remaining hurdles by the end of this year.
"We think it's absolutely essential to sustain our economy here in Broward County," said port spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy. "Ships are getting larger, and we have to be able to accommodate that growth."
These plans gained momentum when the U.S. Senate passed the water authorization bill 84-to-13. Florida's senators were divided.
Democrat Bill Nelson, who escorted Washington leaders on tours of the Everglades to promote the bill, voted "yes." Republican Marco Rubio, who quietly took his own tour of the 'Glades earlier this month without notice or fanfare, voted "no."
Rubio spokeswoman Brooke Sammon said he objected because the bill does not address "the economic havoc that decreased water flows have created for the Apalachicola Bay's once-vibrant oyster industry." Florida is locked in a battle with Georgia and Alabama about how much water those states draw from rivers that join in North Florida to feed the Apalachicola.
The bill authorizes spending on projects that are approved by the Army Corps of Engineers by the end of 2013. Four Everglades projects already have been cleared by the Army Corps:
Water-preserve areas in western Broward County to store water during dry seasons and release it during dry periods.
A reservoir to store and filter water that now flows from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee estuary along Florida's west coast.
A spreader canal to control flows through the southeast Everglades.
Pump stations and spreader swales to redistribute freshwater runoff and nurture coastal wetlands adjoining Biscayne Bay.
Everglades promoters are pushing hard to add another, far more important item to the list this year: the Central Everglades Planning Project, which would tie together several other projects and guide water through South Florida into the heart of the 'Glades.
"This is the core part of the ecosystem," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, who lobbied for the project in Washington and Tallahassee. "You are taking water from Lake Okeechobee south into the agricultural area and down into the central Everglades. It will be stored there. It will be cleaned. It will be moved under the Tamiami Trail bridge, into Everglades National Park and out to Florida Bay."
Port Everglades officials have lobbied for years for federal dredging money to deepen the port's waterways from 42 feet to 50 feet. That's considered essential to accommodate the mammoth cargo ships that will come through a widened Panama Canal, beginning in 2015.
A long-delayed economic assessment has snagged these plans. South Florida members of Congress are pressuring the Corps to clear the project by the end of the year.

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130519-d
Why it's important to protect our springs
StPetePatch.com – by Chris Taylor
May 19,2013
In its latest blog on Patch, the Southwest Florida Water Management District explains what it's doing to protect the natural springs it calls "essential" to our environment and economy.
Florida's natural springs are "essential to the environment, economy, citizens and visitors of the state," according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
That's why the agency invested more than $2.2 million in springs protection and restoration last year and has approved $3.9 million more for the coming fiscal year, SFWMD spokesperson Susanna Martinez Tarokh explains in her latest blog on Patch.
"There are more than 150 documented springs throughout the 16-county District, with five first magnitude spring groups that collectively discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day," Martinez Tarokh writes.
Have you ever visited any of these springs ? Do you agree with SFWMD's mission to protect them ?

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130518-a
A wetlands solution ?
Dalles Chronicle - by Kathy Ursprung
May 18, 2013
In the saga of local building projects like Walmart and the regional jail’s Dakine building, the U.S. Clean Water Act’s wetlands rules have been seen as the “ogre” that has held development at bay, in some cases for years, but a new committee is working on a way to resolve wetlands issues before specific construction is even contemplated.
The newly formed Technical Advisory Committee is in the beginning stages of work to develop what is called a Regional General Permit. The permit will be an agreement that defines high-priority wetland areas that demand protection, high-priority development areas vital to the community’s economic development, and measures to compensate for other wetlands that must be filled in.
“We are tasked with the goal of finding ways to eliminate barriers to development,” said Michael Held of the Port of The Dalles, who coordinates the committee.
LAND TARGETED for development of a Super Walmart remains empty after years of working through the wetlands process. The wetlands plan gained approval earlier this year and Walmart representatives are proceeding with the development process.
The committee came about under the direction of the North Central Regional Solutions Team, a process sanctioned by Oregon’s governor and designed to work at the local level to identify priorities, solve problems and seize opportunities to complete projects. The regional solutions team targeted industrial land development as a top priority, Held said.
With that priority in mind, the committee set about the task to find ways to reduce the time from application to construction, the cost of development, and the permitting process.
The Regional General Permit is designed to get a wetlands process in place and approved ahead of time so individual developers don’t have to wait what can be years to gain approval from state and federal authority. Such permits aren’t common as of yet, but they aren’t unknown, either.
Bay County, Florida, has such a permit in place for one large property owner.
“The St. Joe Company is sort of the 800-pound gorilla up here,” said Martin Jacobson, community development director for Bay County. “They’re the largest private property owner in Florida.”
The company had a large undeveloped piece of land in Bay County that they wanted to develop.
“It had quite a few wetlands on the property that had to be filled, so the St. Joe Company approached the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and got a Regional General Permit.”
Jacobson’s department doesn’t have much to do with the permits. They are administered by state Environmental Protection, but he does know the permit has speeded up the process from years to months.
“St. Joe’s ecstatic,” Jacobson said. “They’re really happy. They worked years to get this through.”
Local, state and federal authorities are hopeful the same kind of permit can help end regulatory delay to development here. Oregon already has one Regional General Permit process under way, a much larger project involving six cities, 20 sites and 40 or more property owners in Linn and Benton counties.
“We picked a tough one,” said Kirk Jarvie with the Oregon Division of State Lands. “If I had it to do all over again, I would have started with The Dalles.”
The industrial lands targeted for The Dalles’ General Regional Permit total about 400 acres and involve just a handful of owners.
Linn-Benton’s effort has been under way for several years now and is in the approval process. Jarvie is hopeful the process in The Dalles takes less time.
“The challenge we have is that, whether in The Dalles or the Linn-Benton region, we have a constrained industrial land supply and very, very limited options to create a new industrial land supply,” Jarvie said. “That’s particularly true in The Dalles. Not only co you have the state land use planning program that has a lot to say about that, you also have the national scenic area that heavily controls land uses. On top of that, you have topography or geology. There’s not a lot of flat land and most of it is down by the water. As a result, we know, or at least have good information that much of the industry land supply has some amount of wetlands.”
The Technical Advisory Committee has drawn together not only the port and the Division of State Lands, but quite a few other organizations including the City of The Dalles, Wasco County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others.
“After the Walmart application and the difficulty they’ve had getting approval for their development site, it became apparent to us that there’s substantially more wetlands out in our industrial lands area than we knew about or thought,” said Dick Gassman, director of the city Economic and Community Development Department.
Those wetlands haven’t yet been delineated, the first step in the Regional General Permit process.
“Because no one has done that, it’s difficult to know how much land we have for development,” Gassman said. “So we’ve been looking for ways to get more information and find out which development sites are developable and which ones may not be realistically developable, or are at least reduced in area.”
The cost for such a delineation is estimated at about $100,000 and Held has written an application for a federal grant to help pay for such a process.
“I think the concept is a good one,” Gassman said, “but there are a lot of challenges at each step and, of course, getting the money to do the study and acquire the property is another challenge.”
Wasco County Planning Director John Roberts is enthusiastic about the efforts.
“It’s almost like starting with the end in mind,” Roberts said. “My impressions are it’s the absolute right thing to do and I feel like it has great traction. My sense — and I’ve had limited involvement so far — is that the goals are very clearly defined. They’ve set concrete priorities and this is a good sort of intergovernmental approach to get results.”
Roberts said he had experience with similar efforts in his former job in Colorado. He added that the wetlands effort is critical to the urban growth boundary expansion discussion.
“This is all playing into where we should expand and where we should not expand,” he said.
The idea, Roberts said quoting Held, is to create “predictability.”
“From that, they can then develop more sound recruitment strategies for businesses,” Roberts said.
Several committee members are hopeful that a final Regional General Permit can be achieved within a year or two. Once completed, it can be valid for five years, with the prospect for another five-year renewal.
There’s a good likelihood that the plan will require development of new wetlands elsewhere in the watershed, which reaches from Cascade Locks to Celilo.
“More practically speaking, we really want to look for mitigation toward the east end of the watershed,” Jarvie said, “because The Dalles is more like the eastern end of the range.”
Held is excited about developing a process that could mean a quicker route through the regulatory obstacle course, although individual developers will always have the option of forging their own paths, if they feel it would be beneficial.
“This process we are going through today is much better than waiting five years when you want to develop a project,” Held said. “We know what the environment is today. It’s better to do it now than 10 years from now, when the requirements to mitigate may be so significant and costly that it may not make sense to develop.”
Held sees the Regional General Permit as having applications beyond wetlands, too.
“There’s a lot of potential to create and find other areas where the agencies and interests can come together to expedite the process,” Held said. Species and cultural resource protection are two such areas that came to his mind. “We’re trying to be the lead organization to bring the necessary people to the table, keep them there and find areas where we can work together.”

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130518-b
Oil industry eyes South Florida again
Miami Herald - by Curtis Morgan
May 18, 2013
The oil industry is primed for resurgence in South Florida.
Fueled by lofty oil prices, more efficient drilling techniques and the promise of untapped but also largely unproven reservoirs, at least a half-dozen companies plan to expand exploration across Southwest Florida.
They’ve quietly spent between $10 million and $20 million over the last few years, by the estimate of one industry executive, to buy mineral rights covering massive swaths of Collier, Lee and Hendry counties.
Now, drilling is picking up, with companies reviving long-abandoned fields and low-producing wells in and bordering the Big Cypress National Preserve, the historic heart of oil operations that go back 70 years.
 
Oil rig
Breitburn Co. oil rig at Raccoon Point, Big Cypress National Preserve

They also aim to poke prospecting “wild cat” wells into new areas like a tomato farm in Immokalee and the suburban outskirts of Naples.
It’s likely to amount to a drop in the barrel compared to black gold booms that the controversial practice of “fracking” has generated in once obscure sites in Texas, North Dakota and other states. But by the standards of South Florida’s modest and mostly under-the-radar oil industry, it shapes up as the biggest — and, for environmentalists, most concerning — spike in interest and investment in decades.
“The price of oil has encouraged people to come back and take another look at Florida,’’ said Tom Jones, executive vice president of Collier Resources Co., a major player as owner of gas and mineral rights for 800,000 acres across the region. “There was a lot of data on Florida. People are digging up that old data, re-analyzing it and looking at it from different angles.’’
Jones stressed that it could take several years of exploratory work to determine if new, deeper zones companies plan to probe prove profitable. But Murray Grigg, president of Houston-based Kerogen Exploration, which has acquired mineral rights to about 156,000 acres from other owners and hopes to drill at least four wells over the next two years, is optimistic.
“Anybody who is here obviously believes in it enough to invest their money,’’ he said. “The oil business isn’t a gamble. The oil business is a calculated risk. We’re all anticipating that there will some new commercially viable wells.’’
Though the industry has sent mixed signals, most experts also insist drillers won’t have to resort to fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing. It’s been employed in many states to unlock dense shale oil deposits with a pressurized injection of water, sand and chemicals. The technique, which has sporadically produced damaging side-effects like contaminated aquifers and small earthquakes, has never been tested in porous, brittle South Florida limestone.
Ed Garrett, administrator of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s oil and gas program, said no one currently drilling a well has inquired about fracking. He doesn’t believe the step, which adds considerable expense, is needed in carbonate rock that is typically porous.
“They’re naturally fracked,’’ he said.
For the moment, environmental groups are waiting to see where wells will go in, how big operations will become and how they may impact groundwater and a wilderness prowled by endangered Florida panthers, black bears, wild turkeys and other wildlife. While they’ve had little to quibble about with long-standing drilling operations, mostly hidden in the swampy Big Cypress preserve, past proposals to dramatically expand the industry in the western Everglades have met strong public and political resistance.
The last big company, Shell Oil, dropped out in the early 1990s after an intense backlash. A decade later, Collier Resources also backed off a proposal for a massive expansion of seismic testing and exploratory drilling in the Big Cypress.
This time, little-known small and mid-sized companies are doing the groundwork, pursuing drilling permits outside wilderness areas like the preserve and the adjacent Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
The Dan A. Hughes Company, which has partnered with Collier Resources, for instance, has drilled one well in an Immokalee tomato field and early this month applied for state permits for two wells a mile from southeastern Golden Gates Estates, a subdivision at the rural edge of Naples. Kerogen and other companies also are shopping for surface rights — also necessary to site a drilling rig and sink a well — in areas with few nearby residents such as rock quarries and ranches.
“Our idea was to develop areas that were not environmentally sensitive,’’ said Henry Kremers, chief operating officer for Hughes, which is based in Beeville, Texas. “We’re drilling in agricultural lands. Let’s find out if there is anything there before we go further.’’
Still, environmentalists worry about the ripple effects of industrial development — from the noise of small explosions and “thumper trucks” used in seismic exploration to the prospects of heavy traffic, messy spills and construction of unsightly wells, pumps and tank farms.
“We’re concerned,’’ said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, which owns Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a pristine 14,000-acre preserve near Hughes’ Immokalee well. “We’re going to pay careful attention to what Hughes and Collier Resources are doing.’’
Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the Florida Wildlands Associations, said the Golden Gates Estates well borders prime panther habitat and, at the least, would increase traffic, which has become one the biggest killers of rare cats. Six have been run down this year. Some area neighbors also have raised health, safety and traffic concerns.
“When you industrialize an area, there’s a loss of habitat, a degradation of habitat,’’ Schwartz said. “The panther and the western Everglades are already dying by a thousand cuts.’’
Oil drilling has a long history in Southwest Florida, starting with Humble Oil’s 1943 discovery of the Sunniland Trend, a 20-mile-wide formation about 11,000 feet down that runs across much of the lower peninsula, from Fort Myers through the Big Cypress and narrowing as it crosses the Everglades toward Miami. Over the next four decades, companies would drill hundreds of wells in 14 fields, pumping out a peak of some 17,000 barrels a day by the 1970s.
But plunging prices and the fact that the thick crude is expensive to pump and process whittled the industry down. By 2005, a handful of operators were producing about a tenth of peak volume from fewer than two dozen active wells.
But in the last few years, the industry has begun to rebound. DEP’s Garrett called it a “moderate uptick’’ that has corresponded with rising oil prices, currently hovering near $90 a barrel.
The state, which has issued 24 permits over the last three years, now counts 46 active wells in Southwest Florida, more than double the number a decade ago. Garrett expects another 10 or so drilling requests are likely in the pipeline.
BreitBurn Energy Partners, which acquired a lease on long-standing operations in the Big Cypress from Collier Resources in 2007, did some of the early work, sinking five new wells in 2010 and 2011.
The company used a directional drilling method that runs a shaft horizontally, greatly improving the chance of tapping pockets of oil and improving production, said Greg Brown, executive vice president of the BreitBurn, which is based in Los Angeles. It also reduces the footprint of a pad, allowing companies to explore a wide area through a single surface hole, drilling wells like spokes on a bike wheel.
Output at Raccoon Point, the region’s largest field, remains modest, last year averaging 1,385 barrels a day, but Brown said the company intends to continue exploring with no plans to frack.
“Some of our wells have been very prolific and some have not and that’s kind of the nature of the business,’’ Brown said. “It’s very high risk. There are a lot more places you can drill and not find oil than places where you can find it.’’
Newcomers are banking almost exclusively on deeper zones, starting with the lower Sunniland, about 500 feet deeper than most wells have been sunk. One well into the area has produced some 300,000 barrels over the last 40 years, Kerogen’s Grigg said, but it has otherwise been lightly explored. Still, he believes the geological science is strong, built on more advanced seismic surveys and positive results from similar underground formations in other states.
Geologists point to even deeper pockets as well, ancient long-buried reefs and swamps another 1,500 to 3,000 feet down with colorful names like Pumpkin Bay and Wood River, which could be the “source rock” of oil that has percolated upwards over millions of years.
What is happening in Florida reflects a recent surge in domestic exploration, largely driven by fracking. The technique, combined with horizontal drilling, has turned trickles from shale formations into gushers of oil, money and jobs. Two of the most famous fields — Bakken, North Dakota, and Eagle Ford, Texas — together currently pump more than 1 million barrels daily. In four months, those two fields alone exceed all 70 years of oil production from Southwest Florida.
The industry acknowledges scattered problems with fracking but defends it as a generally safe practice that helps reduce dependence on imported oil
“American energy from Florida creates jobs,’’ said Dave Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. “It’s a no brainer to the industry that we do it.”
Mike Cheeseman, a veteran industry geologist who owns Trend Exploration in Bonita Springs, also believes fracking is the key to making drilling pay in deeper zones that may not be as porous.
“The only thing we know is the oil is there,’’ said Cheeseman, who said he is working to acquire leases in the area. “The question is whether we can get it out in commercial quantities.”
For now, most operators say they intend to stick with horizontal drilling — in part because fracking adds considerable expense to wells.
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130518-c
Water district board agrees to $26M land buy before learning of $15M appraisal
Palm Beach Post - by Jennifer Sorentrue and Christine Stapleton, Staff Writers
May 18, 2013
When the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District voted this month to offer Palm Beach County $26 million for a former citrus grove, the same value determined by an appraiser hired by the county, the district’s board was not told of another county appraisal that had valued the property between $14.8 and $22.5 million.
The $26 million offer for the Mecca Farms site also is $5 million higher than the value determined by the district’s appraiser, so whatever appraisal is considered, the offer appears to counter a state policy recommending that water management districts not pay more than 90 percent of an appraised value for land.
County Administrator Bob Weisman said he believes the the $26 million appraisal is low and that the actual value is closer to the current assessed value in county property and tax records: $49 million. But he has recommended that the county commission accept the offer. A preliminary vote by the commission is scheduled Tuesday.
The value of the 1,900-acre site is a sensitive subject for the county, which paid $60 million for it in 2004 in hopes of luring the Scripps Research Institute to build a bio-tech research park and poured in $40 million more to clear and maintain the site. Instead, Scripps settled at the Florida Atlantic University campus in Jupiter, and land values plummeted.
Now, the county wants to unload the site, which costs $4 million a year in debt service and $250,000 for upkeep.
The district wants the land — located off Seminole Pratt Whitney Road between Beeline Highway and Northlake Boulevard — to store and move water needed to restore the Loxahatchee River.
Asked about concerns that taxpayers might be paying too much for the Mecca site for a second time, attorney Lisa Interlandi, executive director of the Everglades Law Center, said, “Even at $26 million I think it’s an excellent value for the water management district. … In some circumstances you have to look at the big picture and in this case there is no other alternative that will come anywhere near this in terms of price.”
Negotiations have been ongoing for 18 months. Three appraisals were done: one by the district and two by the county.
At the monthly meeting of the district’s board on May 9, Ernie Barnett, the district’s Everglades policy director and chief negotiator in the Mecca deal, gave a PowerPoint presentation that summarized two of the appraisals. He never mentioned the third.
The independent appraiser hired by the district, Steve Shaw, valued the property at $21 million, based on its current agricultural use and potential for a low-density residential development. The independent appraiser hired by the county, Bob Banting, arrived at $26 million, similarly based on the land being used for farming but with a potential for a higher-density, mixed-use development, including homes, offices, stores and schools.
But Barnett did not mention the first appraisal done by Phil Holden, another independent appraiser hired by the county. The county asked Holden to value the land “as-is” — farmland with the potential to build 1 home on every 10 acres. That number: $14.8 million.
The county also asked Holden to appraise the property based on the county paying to extend Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to the Beeline highway within five years and a zoning change that would allow 2.5 homes on every 10 acres. That number came in at $22.6 million — more in line with Shaw’s $21 million appraisal.
Asked last week why he didn’t tell the board about the appraisal from Holden, Barnett said it was “portrayed as preliminary data” and that he never actually received Holden’s appraisal. However, according to records obtained by The Palm Beach Post, Barnett was made aware of the values in Holden’s appraisal during a meeting with county staffers and all three appraisers on Nov. 7.
At that meeting the appraisers were asked to explain how they arrived at different values, Barnett said. The appraisers wrote their findings on a white board but the actual appraisals were not exchanged at the meeting. As of Wednesday, Barnett said he had still not seen Holden’s appraisal.
“This was an information-exchanging meeting,” Barnett said. “I had to jog my memory to even remember the meeting.”
Barnett said he believed that the county did not accept Holden’s appraisal and “when we asked to exchange appraisals we got Banting’s appraisal at $26 million,” Barnett said. Weisman said the lower appraisal was “thrown out by mutual agreement very early” because it was based on bad assumptions.
Among the assumptions, that a developer could obtain permits necessary to build roads to accommodate traffic generated by a residential development. A dirt road runs between the Mecca property and the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Area and past attempts to turn that road into a main artery — connecting Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and the Beeline Highway — have drawn sharp criticism and the threat of lawsuits from environmentalists.
Those concerns were noted in all the appraisals. “The primary limitation on the long term obtainable density on the site appears to be traffic,” Banting wrote. Shaw also noted traffic concerns: “The one drawback to growth has been congestion.”
The district’s land purchasing practices have drawn complaints of cronyism and criticized by its inspector general for years. As the agency responsible for restoring the Everglades, the district purchased $1 billion in land over the last two decades.
A Post investigation in 2012 revealed deals in which the district paid millions of dollars above the appraised value for one property owned by a close friend of a top administrator and another owned by the family of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was a congressman at the time.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection implemented guidelines in July recommending that the state’s five water management districts not pay more than 90 percent of the appraised value for land. Barnett did not inform the district board about the recommendation. The district’s offer is 100 percent of the county’s higher appraisal and 124 percent of the $21 million appraised value determined by its own independent appraiser.
At the May 7 board meeting, Daniel O’Keefe, the new chairman of the district board, voted against the $26 million offer, saying he wanted more information.
“We’re stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and we’re responsible for that,” O’Keefe said. “In my opinion, we can’t spend more than the appraised value for the property.”
But board member Glenn Waldman, a Broward County attorney, recommended making the $26 million offer: “I would go back to the county and say, we’ll accept your appraisal and not a penny more.”
The nine governing board members either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to request for interviews. After learning of the undisclosed appraisal, O’Keefe referred all questions to the district’s spokesman, Randy Smith. In responding to a written request for comment from Melissa Meeker, the district’s executive director, Smith replied that Barnett’s comments represent the district’s comments.
“To reiterate, Palm Beach County provided one appraisal to the district, which was the one Ernie referenced in his presentation to the governing board,” Smith wrote.
Eyes on the environment
Christine Stapleton covers environmental issues for The Palm Beach Post. Over the past year she wrote exclusives about efforts by South Florida water managers to have billboards erected on public lands, and about favorable land leases given to cattle ranchers with ties to water district officials.
Related:
Editorial: Palm Beach County should take offer of $26 million for Mecca Farms
Weisman: Palm Beach County should unload unused, $60 million Mecca site for $26 million
Deal gaining support for water storage, gun range on Palm Beach County’s idle Mecca Farms land
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Changes at South Florida Water Management District
Florida Current – Arrivals and Departures, May 17
May 17, 2013
Ernie Barnett has been named assistant executive director for Everglades and water resources for the South Florida Water Management District. Barnett will oversee the agency’s monitoring of water quality and Everglades restoration efforts.
Temperince Morgan replaces Barnett as the Director of the Office of Everglades Policy and Coordination Division. Barnett will continue to handle lobbying responsibilities in Tallahassee for the time being.

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Why it's important to protect our springs
NewPortRicheyPatch.com - by Jason Bartolone
May 17, 2013
In its latest blog on Patch, the Southwest Florida Water Management District explains what it's doing to protect the natural springs it calls "essential" to our environment and economy.
Florida's natural springs are "essential to the environment, economy, citizens and visitors of the state," according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
That's why the agency invested more than $2.2 million in springs protection and restoration last year and has approved $3.9 million more for the coming fiscal year, SFWMD spokesperson Susanna Martinez Tarokh explains in one of her latest blogs on Patch.
"There are more than 150 documented springs throughout the 16-county District, with five first magnitude spring groups that collectively discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day," Martinez Tarokh writes.
Have you ever visited any of these springs? Do you agree with SFWMD's mission to protect them?

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Silver Springs

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All eyes on Silver Springs
Ocala.com - by Dave Schlenker
May 16, 2013
I clearly remember walking to a fourth-grade classroom in St. Petersburg, telling a girl named Marie about my family's plans to move to a place called Ocala. "It doesn't even have a beach," I lamented.
"I think that's where Six Gun Territory is," she said. "And Silver Springs. I LOVE Silver Springs. Ever been there ?"
I had not. But shortly after we moved to Ocala, my family took a Sunday drive east on State Road 40. Shortly after we passed the park's entrance, my mother looked out the passenger window to see an emu running alongside our car on the road's shoulder.
No joke.
She didn't say anything, turned away and then looked again. Still there, seemingly racing our Datsun 510.
The emu, we safely assumed, was an escapee from Silver Springs. It was our welcome wagon, prompting us to visit the park soon thereafter. We went again and again, dragging every out-of-town visitor to "nature's theme park" because, by golly, we wanted to show off the best of our new city.
Sure, there wasn't a beach here, not with an emerald Gulf lapping the shore, but we had alligator shows, petting zoos, a monkey-laden Jungle Cruise and glass-bottom boats over a breathtaking, crystal-clear artesian spring. I mean, look at this place!
Even as transplants we felt a sense of ownership with Silver Springs. As Marion County residents, this was OUR gem. In those days, and the century before them, the park's celebrity status dwarfed the small municipalities around it.
People across the country and beyond knew about Silver Springs. They knew the lore — Lloyd Bridges, "Sea Hunt," Bill Cosby, Tarzan, "Creature from the Black Lagoon," alligators as thick as live oaks.
Point is, Silver Springs defines Marion County in many respects, and we, the residents, will protect it just as that tree-size gator protects its hatchlings.
Thus, the upcoming transition of Silver Springs from privately held attraction to publicly held park stands as one of the most important news stories this year. I do not envy the state and local officials trying to hammer out the details and directions.
This is our park, pals, and we've been through a lot. Don't screw this up!
So far, residents have flocked to workshops and, moreover, have been vocal about the future of their gem. They are concerned about water quality (which has declined), potential environmental threats, amenities and international reputation. It looks like Silver Springs may be an eco-tourism destination, with canoes and kayaks allowed over that glorious main spring. Can you imagine?
That vision makes me happy, really. Our park. Our sparkling jewel open to the world. See it. Savor it. Paddle it. Watch Willie Nelson there singing "Stardust" on a glorious day with the Silver River churning gracefully beyond the Florida's most picturesque oaks.
There is much to do, but the state — guided by your voices — seems to be on the right track. This park is more than just a beloved destination dripping with history. It is ours. Treat it well.

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Everglades restoration marks important milestone
CBS12.com
May 16, 2013
MIAMI (AP) -- There's finally a crack in the dam blocking the natural flow of water into Everglades National Park.
The Tamiami Trail that traverses South Florida's wetlands has kept water from flowing into the park for more than 80 years. On Wednesday, a backhoe broke through a 1-mile stretch of the old roadway that has been replaced with a bridge.
 
Free flow
A backhoe breaks through the roadbed of the old Tamiami Trail that blocked the River of Grass flowfor 85 year
s
The bridge opened in March. The Department of the Interior says getting $30 million to raise the next 2.6-mile section of the bridge is a top priority.
The bridge and the removal of the old highway are among Everglades restoration projects that languished through funding and legal challenges since Congress approved them in 2000. The park has long suffered from a lack of water due to various water-control structures and the highway.
Related:
Everglades Restoration Marks Important Milestone    The Ledger
Roadwork Begins to Revive River of Gras     The Ledger
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Insurance, gaming, Everglades interests tip the lobbying scales
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
May 16, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Insurance carriers, sugar growers pushing to lessen their pollution costs, telecommunications giant AT&T, and an Internet cafe software company dominated spending on lobbyists to influence the Florida Legislature over the first three months of 2013.
All told, more than 2,500 companies, groups, local governments and other clients spent approximately $34.4 million on legislative lobbying contracts from January through March, a period that covers the first-half of the 60-day lawmaking session.
That figure is an aggregation of reports due by midnight Thursday disclosing contract lobbyist compensation in $10,000 ranges, and is down slightly from the $36.8 million spent to lobby the Legislature over the same three months in 2012.
Clients spent another $24.5 million on executive-branch lobbying during the same period.
AT&T, which among other bills pushed for a texting-while-driving ban that passed the Legislature, spent the most to lobby lawmakers, at $340,000. That's a major drop-off from the $1.17 million the company spent in the first-quarter of 2012, which it was pushing phone de-regulation legislation.
FCCI, a workers' compensation insurer, spent the second-highest, with approximately $315,000 going to legislative lobbyists. Workers' comp insurers have been waging war with doctors and pain-pill dispensers like Automated Health Care Solutions (which paid Brian Ballard's firm another $127,000 this year) for three years over the right to let doctors keep dispensing medication to injured workers in their offices -- a practice businesses and insurers say has driven up the costs.
Another top corporate spender on lobbying was Tampa-based wind-only property insurer Weston Insurance Holdings Corp., which disclosed spending $261,000 to ply lawmakers. Its lobbyists also disclosed another $261,000 in payments for executive-branch lobbying, but it was unclear Thursday if the lobbyists had separated executive- and legislative-branch payments as the compensation law requires, or were reporting the same amount twice.
The company and its lobbyists, Jonathan Kilman and Austin Neal, did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment Thursday, but insurance issues were one of the hottest issues of the session. The Senate pushed a bill that would have prohibited Citizens Property Insurance Corp. from offering so-called "wind only" policies in many cases, although that provision was removed from a larger insurance bill intended to shrink the size of the state-run insurer.
Sen. David Simmons, the Altamonte Springs Republican who pushed the bill, said he'd never heard of the company and its lobbyists never approached him.
Weston lobbyists "never spoke to me on this subject. I don't even know what Weston is," Simmons said. “What could they have been doing for a half-million dollars?”
The next-biggest spender on legislative lobbying was U.S. Sugar Corp, which pushed an Everglades bill that would have originally eased their payments to clean up pollution. The company spent approximately $255,000 on lobbyists.
Rounding out the top five was Frontier Florida LLC, a software company that works for Internet cafes like those outlawed this session in the wake of the Allied Veterans of the World fraud investigation that shuttered dozens of so-called "sweepstakes" Internet cafes statewide. The company paid lobbyist David Ramba $219,000 during the first three months of the year to lobby lawmakers.
Ramba did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
UPDATE: Kilman called the Sentinel back Thursday afternoon to say the lobbying compensation reports filed by his firm, Foley and Lardner, contained an "administrative error" and the actual amount they were paid by Weston Insurance was "less than $20,000," instead of $261,000.

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Palm Beach County should take offer of $26 million for Mecca Farms
Palm Beach Post - Editorial by Andrew Marra, Staff Writer
May 16, 2013
For a while, Palm Beach County had a good thing going: an attractive offer to sell a vast, money-losing tract of fallow land to state water managers at a price that would offset most of the county’s losses on the property.
The new offer from the South Florida Water Management District is far less attractive in dollars and cents. But it is still a winning proposition for county residents, who with the sale would see the Mecca Farms tract converted into a water storage site to help the Loxahatchee River, part of which is a federally protected “wild and scenic” river.
County commissioners will be asked Tuesday to give county officials permission to move forward with the deal, which would let the public unload the 1,900-acre property for $26 million. That would be a fraction of the $100 million that it has cost the county to acquire, fix up and maintain the land, which it purchased in 2004 with the idea of building the Scripps Research Institute on the site. But the land is a continuous drain; the county pays $250,000 a year to maintain it. And there is no reason to think that the county will get a better offer under acceptable conditions.
In fact, by offering $26 million the water management district is exceeding state guidelines for such land purchases. As The Post’s Christine Stapleton reported, environmental regulators recommend that water management districts pay 10 percent less than a property’s appraised value — in this case, $21 million, according to a district appraisal — when buying it for water storage. District officials are offering 24 percent more.
That’s not close to the $55 million in cash and land swaps the district originally offered when a tentative deal was announced in August. But that deal turned out to be based on gross misjudgments about the land’s true market value. The county property appraiser’s office had estimated its worth at $50 million, but independent appraisals commissioned by the district and the county now estimate its market value at less than half that.
In fact, the water management district still would be overpaying at $26 million. What matters less than the final price, though, is how this idle, money-draining property is best used: not as fallow land but as a way to preserve an environmental treasure.

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Restoring the Everglades
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
May 16, 2013
After too long a time, Florida's River of Grass is reclaiming its name.
Workers on Wednesday cracked the roadbed of what for 85 years had been Tamiami Trail, the two-lane highway that dammed the natural water flow into Everglades National Park. The work is part of a project that ultimately will turn 6 miles of road into an elevated bridge, allowing fresh water to flow southerly again from Lake Okeechobee toward Florida Bay.
Environmentalists wanted more elevated highways along the road, but the existing plan will be a major help without breaking the bank. The White House put $30 million into the budget next year to start work on raising the longest segment, a 2.6-mile stretch. As the benefits of this significant return of water flow become clear, it should be easier to press for elevating more of the highway.
Restoring the Everglades has been a political exercise with its own ebb and flows. But bridging part of the trail is a true success story, and it opens a new chapter for an ecosystem that has long been a source of Florida's beauty and growth.

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SWFWMD

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Swiftmud to set minimum levels for Rogers, Raleigh lakes
TBO.com – The Tampa Tribune – by George Wilkens, Staff
May 16, 2013
ODESSA - A Southwest Florida Water Management District workshop is scheduled this month to receive public comment on recommended levels for two northwest Hillsborough County lakes: Rogers and Raleigh.
The Florida Legislature requires the agency, commonly called Swiftmud, to set “minimum flows and levels” for priority waters, which includes Lakes Rogers and Raleigh.
A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals significantly will harm water resources and/or the environment, according to the district. Recommended levels are guidelines for the district’s permitting programs and for development of water projects.
To control lake levels in northwest Hillsborough lakes, the district in 1998 launched two temporary augmentation projects to divert a portion of high flows from Rocky Creek at Pretty Lake, said a district spokeswoman. That earliest diversion was to Horse, Raleigh and Rogers lakes. A second project, in 2002-03, again added water to Horse, Raleigh and Rogers, and also included lakes Juanita, Rainbow, Little Moon, Eva and Church.
In the first month of the second program, 95 million gallons was pumped from Lake Pretty into Lake Raleigh, raising the latter’s level by more than 6 feet. Lake Rogers surged a couple of feet, and Horse Lake rose 4 feet.
At the 6:30 p.m. May 29 workshop in the Walker Middle School cafeteria, 8282 N. Mobley Road in Odessa, Swiftmud staff will review the technical basis for the proposed levels. The two-hour workshop allows residents and local government representatives to address proposed levels of the two lakes.
A summary of the workshop will be made available to the district governing board, which is expected to consider the matter June 25.
Written comments prior to then can be sent to Keith Kolasa, 2379 Broad St., Brooksville, FL 34604; or by email: Keith.Kolasa@watermatters.org.

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Bay closures opposed by Islamorada
KeysNews.com - by Robert Silk, Free Press Staff
May 15, 2013
ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council last week weighed in against an Everglades National Park proposal to close nearly a third of Florida Bay to combustible motors, beating the National Park Service's May 12 deadline to formally comment on the plan.
"From a charter boat standpoint, it was devastating what they were really proposing," Councilman Dave Purdo, himself still an occasional backcountry fishing guide, said before the May 9 vote.
The Park Service has been on the defensive in the Upper Keys since releasing the proposal in late February as the latest step in the now 10-year-old process of developing a General Management Plan to guide park governance for the next two decades or more.
It would establish a network of pole/troll zones designed to protect flats and seagrass beds from boat groundings and propeller scars. The pole/troll areas were identified because they are 2 feet deep or less.
  FL Bay
But guides and business organizations throughout the Upper Keys have chafed that the no-combustible-motor zones would be devastating to the local flats fishing industry and, therefore, to the Upper Keys economy at large.
The council's resolution, which passed unanimously, incorporated the public comments that the Islamorada-based Florida Key Fishing Guides Association had already submitted to the Park Service.
Among other things, the guides association called for more channels through the flats to be left open to motorists than the park service has suggested -- a move that would speed navigation to and from key fishing grounds. The association, and now the village, also suggested the creation of pole/troll/idle speed zones instead of just pole/troll zones for the areas where new restrictions are proposed.
With the public comment period now over, the General Management Plan will once again be reviewed by administrators at Everglades National Park and at the Park Service's regional planning office in Atlanta. The final plan is slated for release next year.
Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball has already said the Park Service should do a scientific review of whether trolling motors are more or less harmful to the flats than combustible motors used at idle speeds.
During an April 10 meeting at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center in Key Largo, Kimball also signaled that a controversial proposal to turn Long Sound, in northeast Florida Bay, into a paddle-only zone is already on the way out.
Budgetary shortfalls are also likely to slow any efforts to transform bay management.
Everglades officials estimate that the cost of managing the 1.5-million-acre park under the plan they proposed in February would be $22 million annually, up $5 million from the budget that was in effect until the 5.1 percent federal sequester began in March.
The plan proposes a broad swath of changes throughout the park, not just in Florida Bay.
Start-up expenses are another issue. 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 permit system and putting additional markers in the bay.
In other action last week, the council gave final approval to an ordinance that would require lenders to register foreclosure properties with the village as well as pay a $200 annual fee. Melbourne-based Federal Property Registration Corp. will administer the program and take half of the registration fees as its payment.
Also on May 9, the council voted unanimously to settle a lawsuit between the village and Gary and Jeanne Zaret. The deal recognized the Zarets' south Plantation Key property as a live-aboard marina.
Finally, the council voted unanimously to again award 15,561 square feet of development rights to developer Net Five-FDA for a proposed mile marker 81 Winn-Dixie.
Net Five representative Eric Halter assured council members there would be no repeat of what happened in February, when the company had to give up its building allocations under financial duress.
The financing, Halter, said is now in place.
"We fully intend to develop the project," he said
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Meeker

Melissa MEEKER
Executive Director
SFWMD

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Glades Commish wants SFWMD head fired
Okeechobee News - by Eric Kopp
May 15, 2013
“She (Melissa Meeker) and the truth are absolute strangers to one another,” said Commissioner Paul Beck.
MOORE HAVEN—Like the famous line from the 1976 movie “Network,” Paul Beck is mad as hell and he’s not going to take it any more.
The Glades County commissioner let it be known Tuesday, May 14, that he wants Melissa Meeker, the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), unemployed.
Mr. Beck brought up Mrs. Meeker during the commissioners’ comment section of the May 14 meeting of the Glades County Board of County Commissioners. Because it was brought up as a comment, Mr. Beck said no formal action will be taken at this time.
He explained that he wanted to get his feelings on the record, and he wanted to put the SFWMD head on notice.
“I was making a statement, but I asked the governor (Rick Scott) to terminate her employment because she has manufactured information on different occasions,” said Mr. Beck in an interview after the morning meeting. “She and the truth are absolute strangers to one another.”
In response to an e-mail asking for comment, a SFWMD media relations spokesman stated: “Your request for comments are directly related to ongoing litigation. The District respectfully declines further comment on this matter.”
This started with a Jan. 31 meeting in Moore Haven between he and Mrs. Meeker and some other water management officials. Because he had concerns, Mr. Beck said he asked July Braddock to take notes of the meeting. Ms. Braddock, he explained, works for the Glades County Clerk of Courts and is a reporter for the commissioners.
During that meeting Mrs. Meeker apparently told the commissioner about the district’s efforts to clean up Lake Okeechobee by reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake. Then, at some point, Mr. Beck brought up the current lawsuit by which the district is trying to take property belonging to Bonnie Luna Byars and other members of her family along the Kissimmee River through eminent domain.
The lawsuit indicates the district wants to take 303.70 acres belonging to Montoya Ranch Inc., Mrs. Byars, BLB Holdings, Inc., and Patrick Henry Luna. That trial, being heard by Judge Elizabeth Metzger, started in January and has yet to be completed.
But, recalled Mr. Beck, Mrs. Meeker said the district doesn’t take people to court to take their property and that this suit was being brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The commissioner, doubting the veracity of her statement, then told her that he had read about the lawsuit in the Okeechobee News.
At that point, said the commissioner, she told him “... you can’t believe everything you read in a newspaper anyway.”
It should be brought out that this lawsuit, which is case number 2012CA251, lists the South Florida Water Management District as the petitioner and the aforementioned members of the Luna family as the defendants.
A records check also indicated that Mrs. Meeker was subpoenaed to testify, along with several other current and former water management employees. However, Mrs. Meeker has yet to be called to the stand.
Then, about three weeks ago, Mr. Beck said he ran into Mrs. Meeker at another meeting and confronted her about telling him “a half truth” in regard to her statement about the Byars trial. She then apparently responded by reminding him that there was a story about the trial in the newspaper so why “... would I tell you something like that?”
Mr. Beck said Tuesday the state government and SFWMD was trying to improve the water manager’s image the last few years “... and the best way I can figure to do this is to terminate her employment.”
He went on to say that none of his fellow commissioners said anything when he made his statement, but that didn’t surprise him.
“We don’t get into each others comments,” he pointed out. “I was just making a statement. But, if it would bring about a change it would be good.”
Basically, he continued, he was putting this information out for public awareness and to serve notice that he and his fellow commissioners aren’t going to be bullied or lied to any more.
“This is the one thing that there’s a record of and I can point to,” he said of the Jan. 31 meeting.
Mr. Beck then said if Gov. Scott would like to talk to him about his complaint that would be fine.
“I will be happy to take her (Ms. Braddock) and go to visit the governor,” he said.
And even though no official action was taken, Mr. Beck was quick to point out that if he or the county are lied to again he will not hesitate to take more formal action.

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FL panther

Florida panther

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Lawsuit filed to protect Big Cypress and Florida panthers from off-road vehicles
CBD Press Release
May 15, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla.— In an effort to reduce damaging off-road vehicle use in Big Cypress National Preserve, conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the National Park Service for failing to protect Florida panthers and other imperiled species. The suit asserts that the Park Service violated the Endangered Species Act as well as the preserve's own Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan by designating hundreds of miles of new trails for off-road vehicle use across two units of the preserve.
“Big Cypress is prime habitat for the Florida panther, and protection of big open spaces where animals like panthers can roam undisturbed is the primary purpose of the preserve,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “As Floridians, we have an obligation to keep places like this protected for our wildlife.”
The 720,000 acre Big Cypress National Preserve, located just north of the Everglades National Park, was established by Congress as the first national preserve in our nation's history to protect the natural, scenic, hydrologic, floral, faunal and recreational values of the watershed, including panthers. To that end, Congress stressed that public use would come second to maintaining this fragile and unique natural landscape.
In July 2012, a federal judge ruled that the Park Service’s major expansion of ORV trails in the preserve’s Bear Island Unit violated environmental laws and the Park Service’s management plan for ORVs in the preserve, and set aside the unauthorized increase in trails. This litigation would secure similar protections for endangered and threatened species such as the Florida panther and eastern indigo snake, as well as fragile wetlands and rare and endemic plants in the Corn Dance and Turner River units.
“Big Cypress is one of the most important sanctuaries for Florida panthers.” said Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club’s associate organizing representative. “The addition of hundreds of miles of trails for motorized recreational vehicles not only poses a threat to panthers, but also degrades the habitat of many plant and animal species.”
“NPS acknowledges that off-road vehicle use in the Big Cypress is a high-impact recreational activity which damages soils and plants, changes hydrology, leads to the spread of invasive plant species, fragments habitat, disturbs wildlife, and degrades the experience of the preserve for the many non-motorized visitors,” said Matthew Schwartz of the South Florida Wildlands Association. “The purpose of the preserve's Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan is to allow for continued motorized recreational use in the preserve — but only on a specified mileage of designated trails."
“With the opening of these trails in Big Cypress, the Park Service has failed to protect valuable and sensitive resources of the preserve from off-road vehicle damage, failed to appropriately involve the public in its management decisions, and failed to comply with the preserve’s management direction.” said Sarah Peters, a staff attorney with Wildlands CPR.
The Park Service issued the ORV plan in 2000 following years of advocacy by environmentalists for transition from dispersed use — which had created 23,000 miles of trails throughout the preserve — to a sustainable system of designated trails. The plan drastically reduced the extensive network of trails that had been created. But in defiance of that plan, the Park Service has now increased the miles of trails where ORVs may go in the Corn Dance and Turner River units by nearly 100 percent and 60 percent respectively.
The conservation groups are represented by the Washington, D.C. public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places.
South Florida Wildlands Association is a Florida nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of habitat and wilderness in the Greater Everglades.
Wildlands CPR is a national nonprofit that revives and protects wild places by promoting watershed restoration to improve fish and wildlife habitat, provide clean water and enhance community economies. We focus on reclaiming ecologically damaging, unneeded roads and on stopping off-road vehicle abuse of public lands.

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New leadership for South Florida Water Management District
WGCU.org - by Richard Chin Quee
May 15, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District, which overseas water resources stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys, has increased its representation from Southwest Florida. District leaders say the SFWMD fared well in the recently concluded state Legislative Session with $70 million allocated for Everglades restoration. From shovel ready restoration projects in Southwest Florida to preparing for the upcoming Atlantic storm season, we’ll take a closer look at challenges and opportunities facing the SFWMD with its new Chief of Staff Dan Delisi, new Governing Board member Mitch Hutchcraft and Intergovernmental Representative Philip Flood.

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Hendrickson

Mark HENDRICKSON

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'No' to budgeting through the Constitution
SunshineStateNews.com - by Nancy Smith
May 15, 2013
Want a blatant example of fuzzy math ? It's right here with ringing clarity in the outlandish proposed constitutional amendment known as Florida's Land and Legacy.
Some of the petition-signers who jumped on the Legacy bandwagon might want to jump off after they absorb an honest financial analysis of this misleading amendment. They've been duped.
Read on.
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment (that's its real name) would embed in the Florida Constitution for 20 years 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents.
But, hey, no sweat. Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, promises the people of Florida the amendment will dedicate only 1 percent of the state budget to buying conservation land, no programs will get cut as a result, no one will get hurt, it's all tax free. And, oh yes, all it does is replace the minimum $300 million a year the Florida Forever program provided from 1990 through 2008. What's not to like ?
As it happens, just about everything.
I asked the expert. As a matter of fact, so did Eric Draper. At different times we both approached Mark Hendrickson, president of the Hendrickson Company, asking about the amendment. Draper wanted his support, I wanted his analysis.
Hendrickson is only the state's top go-to guy on anything to do with doc stamps, on anything affordable housing, including finance and related legislative issues. Before he launched the Hendrickson Company, all he did is serve six governors as executive director of two different Florida housing finance agencies (HFAs). The man knows how state government works, he knows when Florida taxpayers are getting the shaft and best of all, he knows how to add.
Around the State
"Eric wanted my support and I couldn't give it," said Hendrickson. "I took one look at the numbers ... He told me he came up with these numbers on the back of an envelope."
Hendrickson explained in steps why this amendment might sound pretty, but it has crushing ramifications:
1. "Doc stamp collection goes up and down," he said, "depending on real estate activity. But Legacy locks in 33 percent of revenues for environmental programs. That's not 1 percent of the budget. It will vary every year."
2. "To get their 33 percent, they took what has been fairly level environmental spending and divided it by one of the lowest doc stamp collection years, then they say, 'Oh, look, 33 percent only gives us our usual spending.'"
3. "They're locking in significantly more money than their historic averages. It's money that in the revenue projections going forward was heading into general revenue. It's going to put a big hole in the general revenue budget."
4. "To put real numbers on that 33 percent in this current fiscal year, it's $425 million. Project out to 2015-2016, you're up to $550 million; in 2021, well over $700 million. They're acting like they're only getting their current fair share, but they're locking in significantly more than they ever had before."
5. "It's very clever the way they say they're just getting their share. They claim the debt service on their bonds comes from general revenue now. But between now and next year, the bond will be paid off and the debt service will drop massively. This year the budget has $430 million in it to pay environmental lands debt service, but next year it will drop to $173 million. The Legislature may think they're getting back $257 million, but they won't."
6. "In the end, what happens is, when there's a shortfall in general revenue, as there will be, legislators will be forced to look for money somewhere else. That's when they start deepening their raids on trust funds. They have no choice."
Embedding in the constitution payouts of vast percentages of revenue is no way to budget state priorities.
After 2001, the state lost a large chunk of its tourism income for months on end. In 2005, lawmakers plowed money into hurricane recovery. Disasters happen. Unforeseen circumstances arise. But the more things we treat like the Class Size Amendment -- and now, maybe, land acquisition -- the more it sews up taxpayer dollars and the fewer options it gives lawmakers to dig their way out of emergencies without assaulting other priorities.
How many more expenditures are we going to find to seal up in the constitution? What will the next one be ? Taxpayers need to mount an offensive of their own -- draft their own petition -- consider the legacy they're leaving from a perspective beyond the classrooms and the land and the next cause du jour.
No matter how much we appreciate the need for clean water and parks, if this petition turns into a ballot item that turns into a constitutional amendment, silly, silly us.

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River of Grass flows again into Everglades National Park
Tampa Bay Times - Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
May 15, 2013
Eighty-five years ago, work crews built a dam across the Everglades and called it the Tamiami Trail. The two-lane highway, completed in 1928, blocked most of the flow of the River of Grass just as it began trickling into what would become Everglades National Park.
On Wednesday, the dam broke.
 
Free flow
A backhoe breaks through the roadbed of the old Tamiami Trail that blocked the River of Grass flowfor 85 years
About 10 a.m., a worker driving a backhoe cracked apart the old roadbed, letting the shallow water flow into the park the way it did eight decades before.
"It's an important milestone in Everglades restoration," said Mary Plumb, a spokeswoman for the park.
But federal officials acknowledge that it's not enough.
For centuries the River of Grass flowed smoothly southward from Lake Okeechobee, sweeping across a 70-mile wide swath of saw grass marsh down toward Florida Bay.
Then, in the 1920s, work crews showed up with a dredge that scooped muck from the marsh and piled it up to become a roadbed. The ditch that resulted became a roadside canal to aid in keeping the highway dry.
Although state road crews eventually added 19 culverts under the Tamiami Trail, the flow through them could not match the original flow, park officials said. Before the road, the peak flow was 4,000 cubic feet of water per second meandering across a 10-mile wide stretch. The culverts allowed less than half that much, and it zoomed through them as if being sprayed out of a garden hose.
The loss of so much fresh water flow has wreaked havoc on the Everglades. Plants that depended on that steady fresh water flow died, and saltwater crept farther and farther north. Meanwhile, the population of wading birds decreased between 70 and 90 percent.
The solution: Raise the highway so the water could flow again. But raising a single mile of the 275-mile highway took 24 years, thanks to bureaucratic and congressional delays, and ultimately cost $95 million. That bridge opened in April.
Environmental groups lobbied for 11 miles of the highway to be turned into a bridge over the marsh, but federal officials said that was too extravagant. Instead, two years ago the Interior Department, which oversees national parks, unveiled plans for raising another 5.5 miles.
The plan called for using four different bridges, ranging in length from a third of a mile to 2.6 miles, to be built over four years at an estimated cost of $324 million to $350 million.
The White House has put $130 million into its proposed budget for 2013-2014 to get started on raising the longest segment, the 2.6-mile one. The Everglades Foundation and other environmental groups are hopeful that some of the fines from BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be applied to the project, said foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
"The park needs this water," Eikenberg said.
Related:
Everglades restoration marks important milestone     MiamiHerald.com
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Rubio votes against Senate water bill; Nelson votes for it
Tampa Bay Times – by Alex Leary
May 15, 2013
The Senate passed a wide-ranging water bill today that includes millions in funding for the Everglades and other Florida-related projects. But Florida's senators were at odds.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted no (an explanation is coming, his office said) despite offering several amendments, including one yesterday that jumped on the IRS scandal. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted yes and has touted Everglades funding.
The smooth passage of the Water Resources Development Act on a 83-14 vote was in sharp contrast to the last time Congress took up a WRDA bill in 2007, when President George W. Bush vetoed it and the Democratic-led Congress retaliated with the first veto override of the Bush presidency.
Unlike the 2007 bill, which was laden with hundreds of earmarks or special projects sought by individual lawmakers, this bill has no earmarks. But critics questioned approving any new water projects when the Army Corps of Engineers is already saddled with some $60 billion in projects it hasn't yet completed.
The newest version of WRDA met resistance from the Obama administration. While stopping short of a veto threat, the administration faulted the measure for speeding up environmental reviews, increasing federal obligations to projects and doing little to address the Army Corps' construction backlog. The bill, which now goes to the House, also was criticized by some environmental and fiscally conservative groups.
The legislation would sanction more than 20 new Corps projects, some aimed at making ports more accessible in line with 2015 completion of a widened Panama Canal. It would ensure that more money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, financed by user fees, actually goes to harbor improvements. It sets up a new program to promote levee safety and inland waterway projects, takes steps to expedite the environmental review process and sets up a commission to make recommendations on defunding old, uncompleted projects.

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Rinaman

Lisa RINAMAN
St. Johns Riverkeeper

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Weakened environmental rules undermine the state's economy
Daytona Beach News Journal – by Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper
May 15, 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 critical to the quality of life and health of our citizens.
For the last 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 last 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. As witnessed during the recent legislative session, efforts in Tallahassee are intent upon rolling back critical regulatory safeguards, expediting the permitting process, liquidating conservation lands, making it easier to destroy wetlands, and handing out longer water consumption permits without requiring more conservation.
At the same time, Scott and his administration continue to dismantle or weaken the agencies tasked with protecting our health and our environment and providing 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.
In addition, environmental regulations often provide economic and health benefits that far outweigh the cost of compliance. There are also significant economic costs of pollution and of doing nothing. Algae 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 towards 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 wellbeing 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. Citizens shouldn't have to fight to protect our environment from our elected representatives, their appointees, and those often working with them to exploit our natural resources for personal gain.
Instead, we should be proactively working together to restore our imperiled waterways; conserve our water resources, wetlands, and public lands; and preserve our rich natural heritage for generations to come.
Rinaman is the St. Johns Riverkeeper, heading an organization dedicated to advocacy on river-related issues including pollution prevention, restoration and state environmental policy affecting the St. Johns.

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Aid available for restoration of grasslands or wetlands of private lands
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
May 14, 2013
APPLICATION DEADLINE MAY 28TH
Urbanization is one reason for loss of grasslands, wetlands and everglades.
BARTOW | Landowners interested in seeking financial help to restore wetlands or grasslands on private lands have until May 28 to apply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The program covers 18 counties, including Polk, in the designated Everglades priority area.
NRCS employees can supply more information and help landowners decide which program would work best for them.
Applications received after May 28 will be considered for funding in future years.
The programs are:
The Wetlands Reserve Program, a voluntary easement program designed to provide a financial incentive to encourage the protection and restoration of former wetlands that have been drained.
The Grassland Reserve Program, 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. To qualify, participants must agree to 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.
The Everglades Initiative, which covers Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Highlands, Glades, Lee, Martin, Osceola, Orange, Polk, Indian River and St. Lucie counties, involves implementation of 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.
The push for wetlands restoration stems from the fact that by 1984 more than half of the wetlands in the United States had been drained or filled for development or agriculture and the loss continues, USDA officials say.
Meanwhile, Florida's urbanization also is causing loss of grasslands as well as wetlands, reducing wildlife habitat.
According to NRCS officials, stewardship by private landowners is vital to reverse this trend.
For more information, go to www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov or contact District Conservationist Edward Sheehan at 863-533-2051 or edward.sheehan@fl.usda.gov.
The Polk County NRCS office is located in Suite 2 at the Polk County Extension Office, 1700 U.S. 17 South, Bartow.

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Collier staff outlines up to $20 million of projects to clean
Naples Bay

Naples Daily News - by Eric Staats
May 14, 2013
Collier County staff has up to $20 million worth of proposals in mind to cut freshwater flows that now come into Naples Bay through a massive system of canals and weirs.
Collier County officials sought to assure Naples city leaders Monday that the county staff is on top of the job of restoring Naples Bay.
"We're pretty confident we will fix this," the county's environmental and stormwater planning manager Jerry Kurtz said after laying out a series of proposed projects to the Naples City Council.
The projects would divert millions of gallons of water from as far away as Golden Gate Estates to try to return the downstream estuary to its natural balance.
Too much freshwater chases away marine life and harms seagrasses, and the
 
Naples Bay Watershed
The current Naples Bay watershed is 120 sq.miles
layer of fresher water on top of the saltwater adds to the bay's low oxygen levels.
Often saying that freshwater is the bay's No. 1 pollutant, Naples City Council members have questioned whether the city and the county are doing enough to tackle the problem.
Councilwoman Teresa Heitmann, who asked for Monday's presentation, said afterward that she remains a skeptic.
"I didn't hear that coordinated effort even though they said it was there," she said. "I think they (county diversion projects) are great, but I don't know if that's all we can do."
Councilman Gary Price, who has said the city hasn't done enough to push county government to action, said he heard some "very positive comments" Monday.
"To the extent there's progress and timelines, I'm happy with what I've heard today," Price said.
Kurtz outlined what he estimated could be up to $20 million worth of proposals to cut freshwater flows that now come into Naples Bay through a massive system of canals and weirs. They would:
■ Build a new canal and pump station in the inland Collier area known as North Belle Meade to take water out of the Golden Gate canal and let it spread more naturally across the land north of Interstate 75.
■ Install up to 80 new culverts under roads in the easternmost part of Golden Gate Estates to mimic a flowway that would put water into wetlands rather than into drainage canals that send water to Naples Bay.
■ Take water out of the upper reaches of the Gordon River, north of Golden Gate Parkway, and send it through the filtering lakes system at Hole-in-the-Wall golf course.
■ Build a new canal north of Interstate 75 to link the Golden Gate canal with the canal that empties into Henderson Creek instead.
■ Replace culverts on 28th Avenue Southeast so water flows better through the Miller canal and doesn't back up and flow to Naples Bay.
The projects are at various levels of funding. Some could be started as early as 2014 and the county still is wrestling with land ownership questions. They could take a decade or more to complete, Kurtz said.
"These are big projects," he said. "They're pretty lofty."
They also need a public buy-in, Kurtz said, especially from Golden Gate Estates residents who might fear their flood protection is being sacrificed for Naples Bay.
"We have to tread softly and develop these projects slowly with a lot of public input," he said, adding that some challenges could be insurmountable. "You can't do any of those things quickly."
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Grosso

Richard GROSSO

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Richard Grosso: PSC doublespeak threatens local land use planning
Sun Sentinel - by Richard Grosso, Director of the Nova Southeastern University Law Clinic
May 14, 2013
Will Florida's precious coastal treasures — undeveloped coastal areas — be lost by an anti-solar stroke of the Florida Public Service Commission's pen?
It doesn't look good. Anyone who believes in more, not fewer, energy choices or local governments' right to protect their unique areas and lifestyle choices should watch the PSC today. Asserting the Commission's "exclusive jurisdiction" over Florida's electric grid, PSC staff urge a Commission vote favoring connecting one of the Keys' few remaining off-grid coastal islands, No Name Key, to the central power grid. But any such grid connection would violate Monroe County laws prohibiting new extensions of utility lines to federally-designated undeveloped coastal barriers. No Name Key is a federally designated unit of the Coastal Barrier Resource System established by Congress and President Reagan to save taxpayer dollars, protect public safety, buffer build up areas, and protect coastal fish and wildlife.
Monroe County adopted — and the state planning agency approved — local laws to support greener, off-grid, less dense development of the Keys' few remaining less-developed coastal barriers. Adopted after years of careful study, these local laws discourage dense development in the CBRS; facilitating hurricane evacuation, preserving endangered species and the opportunity to choose an off-grid green lifestyle, and lowering utility costs.
Relying on local laws prohibiting utility line expansion, people moved to No Name Key, building an off-grid solar community that demonstrates how we can live comfortably without fossil/nuclear energy. This pioneering solar community, with its post-hurricane electric/water self-sufficiency, should be encouraged throughout Florida, but is endangered by a PSC vote.
This vote could authorize central-power-grid connection not just to No Name Key, but to all grid-free parts of the the CBRS in Monroe County. Florida's job-producing solar industry, hurricane evacuation and land use planners, and clean energy or environmental proponents, should be horrified at the prospects for any such PSC override of state-approved locally-adopted growth management laws. Local governments statewide should be even more concerned since a PSC vote circumventing Monroe County's laws simultaneously threatens to limit local power to manage growth by restricting new extensions of density-inducing central utilities to less developed areas.
Nowadays progress is measured not by connecting undeveloped areas to a central power grid, but by how rapidly clean renewable energy meets our energy needs. We call upon Florida's PSC to cast a vote supporting — not overriding — Monroe County's leadership in this area.
Richard Grosso is director of the Nova Southeastern University Law Clinic and Manley Fuller. He is executive director of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

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Ries

Tom RIES, Biologist,
received the National
Wetlands Award for Conservation &
Restoration from the
Environmental Law
Institute.

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Tampa biologist gets national award for restoration work
Tampa Tribune - by Yvette C. Hammett, Tribune Staff
May 14, 2013
APOLLO BEACH - Pride, for biologist Tom Ries, comes in the form of meandering wetlands, native grasses and flowers and a flourishing nursery for Tampa Bay’s prized fish. All on private land.
He calls the projects P3s -- public-private partnerships -- restoration where it’s needed, not just where public land is available.
For years, Ries worked for various agencies whose mission was to restore or recreate wetlands. In 2003, he added another layer, creating a non-profit group to specifically target private landowners willing to partner on restoration projects and give up future development rights.
He was recognized for his work last week when he headed to Washington, D.C. to claim the coveted National Wetlands Award for Conservation & Restoration from the Environmental Law Institute.
Ries, executive vice president of Scheda Ecological Associates, was honored at the U.S. Botanic Garden on May 9.
He has been involved in more than 80 habitat restoration and stormwater retrofit projects, resulting in the restoration of more than 2,400 acres of wetlands over the past 25 years. These projects include some of the region’s most ambitious and successful restoration projects, several of which have won local, state and national awards.
The Newman Branch Creek project, located on Tampa Electric Company property just south of the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, was the first P3 Ries took on and it has been very successful, he said. His non-profit Ecosphere Restoration Institute for Public Private Partnerships, secured funding for the project, which reconnected old fish farm ponds to create a freshwater wetland and restore Newman Branch Creek to its former meandering route on its way to Tampa Bay.
TECO provided the land and agreed to a conservation easement and to maintain the restoration site.
“This project has become a model for future restoration projects, especially where available public land is scarce,” said Lindsay Cross, Environmental Science and Policy Manager at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
He’ll soon start his smallest, but arguably his most challenging project – restoring Ulele Spring, a hidden gem off Highland Avenue along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa that had been piped off, sending fresh spring water pouring in to Tampa Bay.
The project involves reconnecting the spring to the Hillsborough River so fish and manatees can access the crystal-clear freshwater flows bubbling up from below. The restoration also will provide 500 feet of “living shoreline” to improve wildlife habitat along the urban estuary. Renowned restaurateur Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group is slated to open Ulele Restaurant on site later this year in the historic Tampa Water Works building.
One of the keys to Ries’ success is his ability to bring public and private partners to the table to design and implement these projects.
“This approach has significant benefits for the future of Tampa Bay and the public that use the resource,” said Brandt Henningsen, chief environmental scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Henningsen worked with Ries at the district for a decade.
“The majority of Tom’s projects involve volunteers in some capacity so the public gains a deeper understanding and appreciation for habitat restoration through hands-on experience,” said Nicole Adimey, Tampa Bay Coastal Program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She nominated Ries for the national award.
The National Wetlands Awards program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration. A committee of wetland experts representing federal, state and local governments, academia, and nonprofit organizations selects the award recipients.

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Graham

Bob GRAHAM

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Bob Graham: Legislators gave away too much on environment
Sun Sentinel - by Bob Graham, former U.S. Senator and former Governor of Florida
May 13, 2013
The Florida Conservation Coalition was founded after the devastating legislative session of 2011 which rolled back 40 years of bi-partisan environmental stewardship.
Since the 1970's Florida's governors and legislators, Democrats and Republicans, have believed in the importance of protecting Florida's land and water, and understood the connection between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. As history shows, this period of stewardship produced some of the best economic years Florida has ever had while improving natural resource management and land conversation.
During the mid-1980's Florida was using a deep tool box, in collaboration with private sector and local government, to manage Florida's growth. At the same time, Florida was adding jobs at a rate of over 150,000 per year. For the first time in the state's history, Floridian's per capita income exceeded that of other Americans.
Since 2011 that legacy of stewardship has been replaced by the false mantra "environmental protection hurts the private sector." Now, pro-environmental legislation is dead on arrival, and virtually every anti-regulation bill considered is drafted by special interest industry lawyers and handed off to willing senators and representatives. Florida's conservation groups, not given an equal seat at the table when legislation is being crafted or considered, must fight back bad bills to hold on to what is left of our environmental legacy.
This year, we were faced with the best example yet of this system run amok. The worst bill of the session, House Bill 999 and Senate Bill 1684, was blithely described by House Sponsor Jimmy Patronis as "a Christmas Tree" for those private interests who approached him with their special requests. A 40-page bill, drafted by industry lobbyists, with more than two dozen sections weakening or eliminating environmental protections.
At one point, or another, these bills contained language that would prevent local governments from protecting their waters from fertilizers, which produce algae and kill off native plants and wildlife; restrict the ability of the state to protect wetlands; take Florida a step closer to the privatization of our water; and preempt local governments from protecting wetlands.
I, and other FCC leaders, worked on this legislation for weeks and went to the Capitol to speak up for those who believe in protecting Florida's environment, for the health, prosperity, and enjoyment of ourselves and our children. Thanks to the thousands of calls and emails from across the state, excellent coverage by Florida's newspapers, and the wisdom of some important senators, all of the provisions above were removed.
Unfortunately, even with all these improvements, there is nothing in the bill which serves the public interest. Perhaps the worst provision remaining in the final bill annihilates the legal rights of a citizen or group to challenge the controversial 30 year no-bid leases granted by the governor and Cabinet to two sugar companies in the Everglades Agricultural Area. For those who support consistent and meaningful environmental policy in this state HB 999 is still a bad bill.
There were some "victories" this session. Two bills proposed early in the session, Senate Bills 584 and 466, attacked public land conservation, our state's most effective tool for protecting ecosystems, natural resources, and wildlife. Each of these bills died in committee following public opposition.
Other limited victories include a $10 million down payment towards the over $100 million cost of repairing Wekiva, Silver, and scores of other imperiled Florida springs. Everglades restoration received a $70 million allocation. Funding for Florida Forever, although greater than recent years, is still dramatically below the $300,000,000 historically spent by the state on land conservation. And most of the Florida Forever funding is not likely to become available as it is dependent on the sale of other public lands.
We should all be proud of the great work done by Florida's conservation groups and concerned citizens this session, but Florida cannot take another special-interest serving legislative session. We must start promoting legislation that strengthens environmental protection, and fully funds land conservation and spring and river restoration.
Already, the response from the people of Florida and subsequent defeat of many of the most environmentally damaging special interest giveaways and legislation this year has sent a message our leaders in Tallahassee. Conservation groups are working well together on priority issues. Next year we must demand that legislators stop serving the whims of special interests, and focus on their responsibilities to our, and future, generations of Floridians.
Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator and former Governor of Florida. Ryan Smart, Vickie Tschinkela nd Estus Whitfield of the Florida Conservation Coalition contributed to this article.

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Could there soon be a city of West Kendall ?
South Florida Business Journal – by Ashley D. Torres
May 13, 2013
A Miami-Dade County advisory committee could soon study the possible creation of the city of West Kendall, according to the Miami-Dade Land Use & Development Committee agenda.
Commissioner Juan C. Zapata is the prime sponsor of the ordinance that would call for county staff to create a Municipal Advisory Committee for the area known as West Kendall. The boundaries for this area are generally described as Bird Road to the north, North Kendall Drive to the south, Florida's Turnpike to the east and Everglades National Park to the west.
The ordinance would call for staff to study if it is feasible to incorporate the area and if there is a desire for incorporation, in addition to creating a plan for the area's development as a municipality.
In a memorandum dated June 4, Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Edward Marquez said there are currently three active Municipal Advisory Committees and the approval of additional ones would require the creation of a new position at a cost of $96,000.
The ordinance is scheduled to go before members of the Miami-Dade Land Use & Development Committee on Thursday.
Miami-Dade currently has 35 municipalities, according to its website.

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Vinyard

Herschel T. VINYARD
Jr., FDEP Secretary.
The EPA said there was insufficient
information to determine
whether he was
disqualified and that the
two-year period for
review has expired.

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Federal EPA denies groups' petitions challenging 2 top Florida DEP officials
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
May 13, 2013
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed petitions from two environmental groups claiming two top Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials had conflicts of interest prohibited under federal law prior to being appointed.
The EPA said there was insufficient information to determine whether DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. was disqualified and that the two-year period for a review has expired. That petition was filed in February 2011 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Clean Water Network.
“It takes some nerve for EPA to hide behind its own lengthy non-enforcement for dismissing a clear violation as stale,” Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney, said in a news release Monday. “It is apparent that EPA pursued this violation with the vigor of a wet noodle.”
An EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta said individuals familiar with the case were not available. Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Patrick Gillespie said, "EPA looked into the complaints and, as we expected, dismissed them."
The federal Clean Water Act says a person cannot work with an agency that issues water pollution permits within two years of receiving a substantial portion of their income directly or indirectly from a permit holder or applicant, according to the EPA.
Vinyard was director of business operation for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, according to a press release issued in January 2011 by the governor's transition team. Vinyard "provided counsel to BAE Systems in their recent, successful efforts to remove its treated wastewater outfall from the St. Johns River," the news release said.
In April 2012, EPA Regional Counsel Mary J. Wilkes requested more information from DEP. There was no deadline given, though, and four months passed without a response.
On April 26, 2013, EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said the information provided by the groups and by DEP's August 2012 response were insufficient to determine whether Vinyard received 10 percent of his income from permit holders or applicants. Furthermore, the period for evaluating a conflict of interest ended in January two years after he was appointed DEP secretary, Fleming said.
Last September, Davina Maraccinni, an EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta, said the federal agency was reviewing DEP's response in August to the request for information.
"Applicable statutes and regulations do not drive any specific deadline for EPA to act, however, the agency remains committed to promptly resolving this matter in accordance with federal law," Maraccinni said.
Read more details on Environment & Natural Resources in our 2013 Session Summary report - including an executive summary, 'Policy Notes' and a list of passed legislation. Perfect for reporting to colleagues, stakeholders or clients the impact of the 2013 Session. LobbyTools subscribers log in to access these reports.
PEER and the Clean Water Network also filed a petition in August 2012 asking that the EPA investigate a potential conflict of interest for Jeff Littlejohn, who was named deputy secretary for regulatory programs in March 2011.
Likewise, Fleming denied that request in a separate April 26 letter, saying there was not sufficient information to warrant proceedings.
PEER said in an April 18 news release that EPA has stood by as DEP has "systematically gutted water pollution safeguards."
DEP spokesman Gillespie responded in an email, "In two years, DEP’s leadership has been instrumental in helping Florida develop the most comprehensive water quality criteria in the nation and moving forward with Everglades restoration rather than keeping Florida mired in litigation."
Related Research:
* Jan. 3, 2011 Press Release Naming Vinyard DEP Secretary
* Feb. 23, 2011 PEER petition
* May 2, 2011 DEP response to EPA
* May 20, 2011 PEER letter to EPA
* Aug. 25, 2011 DEP reponse to EPA
* Feb. 14, 2012 PEER press release
* April 27, 2012 EPA letter re Vinyard
* May 16, 2012 Additional Vinyard materials
* Aug. 29, 2012 DEP reponse to EPA
* Nov. 6, 2012 DEP re Littlejohn
* April 26, 2013 EPA Vinyard denial
* April 26, 2013 EPA re Littlejohn

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Spray irrigation

130513-d
John Hoblick: Florida's farms provide more than food
Gainesville Sun - by John Hoblick, President of the Florida Farm Bureau
May 13, 2013
Despite much public discussion about Florida's natural resources in recent years, an important fact is often overlooked. Farmers and ranchers are the first stewards of those resources.
The overwhelming majority of residents in our state have the privilege of pursuing other callings besides growing food because of the productivity and efficiency of contemporary agriculture. Ample food, fiber and renewable fuels are available to us because farm families in our state meet the challenge of making a living from the land every day.
Their enterprise also helps make resource conservation a reality. They have an immediate incentive: they can only succeed at their livelihoods by protecting the good health of the soil and water around them.
Proof of that incentive has appeared in their willingness to adopt state-of-the-art resource management strategies developed by experts at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, as well as at other universities and public agencies. The implementation of superior approaches to conservation has been verified by independent evaluation.
The results have been especially significant for water use. According to field tests by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services personnel, conservation measures employed by farm families save almost 11 billion gallons of freshwater each year.
The savings occur in all regions. In the Suwannee River basin, for example, innovative irrigation systems have dramatically slashed the agricultural use of groundwater. Officials at the Suwannee River Water Management District report that farm owners are saving more than one billion gallons annually because of these systems.
The adoption of improved management techniques has also involved water quality. This aspect of water management is a long-term commitment, despite the intense financial challenges agricultural operations face.
Precise testing of nutrient use by soils and plants has allowed farmers to apply only the minimum amount of fertilizer plants need to grow in both open fields and in protected structures. Dairy producers have established containment structures that recycle water and animal waste to grow corn and other forage crops on the farm, preventing releases of nutrients into surrounding environments.
Such innovations have yielded tangible results. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has determined that citrus growers in South Central Florida reduced nitrogen levels in groundwater by nearly 33 percent in three years with their advanced management efforts.
The South Florida Water Management District has reported that farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area slashed phosphorous levels by 71 percent in water flowing from their properties during the 2012 reporting year.
Farm operators conserve more than water. They maintain the greenspace and wildlife habitat we all wish to preserve. And they effectively control invasive, non-native species introduced through our seaports and air terminals.
Agriculture creates the foundation of national security. It is the source of a safe, nutritious domestic food supply that supports our very existence.
I ask you to join me in remembering that our farm families do more than grow crops and animals. Their outstanding accomplishments sustain our quality of life.

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130512-a
Everglades on the line
Miami Herald – Editorial
May 12, 2013
OUR OPINION: Senate needs to act on vital water legislation
Here’s a riddle: What’s vital to the future of Florida, involves numerous interest groups around the country and is coming up for a crucial vote in the U.S. Senate? Hint: It’s not the hot-button immigration reform bill that has the chattering class inside the Beltway all a-buzz.
It’s not sexy, it’s not politically partisan and you’re not likely to see angry talking heads screaming about it on TV — which is why you may not have heard of the debate over the Water Resources Development Act that began last week on the floor of the Senate.
But for all its lack of glitz, passage of the bill is crucial to the future of Florida and its ability to compete economically.
The long-awaited action on the bill would give the federal government authority to invest in all kinds of water projects around the country, from upgrading inland waterways to improving America’s harbors, ports and coastal areas.
Closer to home, it also allows funding for six projects in Florida and reauthorization of beach nourishment programs in coastal communities that have suffered significant damage from recent tropical storms, from Broward County on the Atlantic to Captiva on the Gulf of Mexico. As Florida Sen. Bill Nelson pointed out during floor debate, the last time Congress passed a similar measure was 2007. Gridlock on Capitol Hill and the controversy over earmarks have resulted in costly delays in the ensuing years, lending urgency to the current debate and the need for action.
For South Florida, the most crucial portion involves the Everglades. In 2000, Congress promised to begin repairing and restoring the River of Grass, along with the state, knowing that future legislation would be required to meet this commitment. Since then, the 2007 bill has made significant progress possible on projects like the Indian River Lagoon and Picayune Strand.
But a second era of projects has been left on the drawing board for years awaiting action by Congress. That includes four more restoration works in the Everglades that should have been well underway by now.
Without the federal government’s continued support for water improvement projects, Florida will be in trouble and Everglades restoration will be stalled. The Senate needs to move as quickly as possible to finish debating floor amendments and pass the bill, if nothing else to demonstrate to a skeptical public that it is still capable of decisive action on important legislation.

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Mining

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Phosphate mining damages environment, but also drives economy, study finds
Bradenton Herald – by Sara Kennedy
May 12, 2013
MANATEE -- A new study predicts considerable damage to Central Florida's environment if four proposed phosphate mining projects win approval, but contends that mitigation would more than make up for long-term adverse effects.
"Mitigation" refers to methods of offsetting impacts to natural resources.
About 9,800 acres of wetlands and close to 50 miles of streams would be damaged or destroyed if four proposed mining projects, including one in Manatee County, win approval, said John Fellows, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which commissioned the two-year study.
But Fellows said he expected that, as reviews of individual projects move forward, the number of acres impacted "will probably be reduced."
And there would be 6,340 more jobs because of the mines, and $29.1 billion in value added to the area's economy, Fellows said.
The study concluded that, over time, the cumulative economic impacts of not allowing mining would be substantial, Fellows said.
The Corps' Areawide Environmental Impact Statement reviewed four proposed mines and two expected to be developed across the 1.32 million-acre Central Florida Phosphate District.
Its purview included the 3,635-acre proposed Wingate East Mine, near Duette; and
the 24,509-acre Pine Level/Keys Tract, in southeastern Manatee County.
The study attempted to discern the cumulative effect of mining on the environment of Manatee and its neighboring phosphate-producing counties.
"The areawide (study) does not shy away from saying that mining is an impactive activity," Fellows noted in an interview Friday with the Herald. "A lot of the potential impacts associated are addressed through either the Corps' own permitting processes or other agencies' permitting processes.
"We'll work with the applicant to avoid and minimize impacted acreage," said Fellows. "The figures probably will come down."
As part of its continued review of the four applications, the Corps will look at how to offset impacts to wetlands and surface waters and streams, he emphasized.
Environmentalists criticized the report, saying it is too narrow in scope to adequately address complex environmental issues, said Glenn Compton, chairman of ManaSota-88 Inc., a local nonprofit environmental research group.
"Because of the limited scope of the AEIS, its usefulness in evaluating the social, economic and environmental impacts the phosphate industry is having in Florida is also limited," he said.
Some of the issues Compton would like addressed: Cumulative impacts on human health as related to increased radiation levels associated with phosphate mining and waste disposal, and data about the tremendous energy use of phosphate plants and resulting pressure for more power plants.
The Corps should also have reviewed water and air pollution, and threats to water supplies involving the underground aquifer, and what he called "the real possibility of dam breaks" contaminating waters downstream from phosphate facilities, Compton said.
Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County's natural resources director, declined comment Friday, saying he is still reading the 25-pound document. But he plans to provide a full report to the county commission at a later date.
"The study is intended to inform the public as to the potential impacts of phosphate mining and how such impacts may be mitigated, information which is useful to the Corps and the public during review of pending applications governed by provisions of the federal Clean Water Act…," said Dee Allen, mine permitting manager for Mosaic.
The company will be seeking a permit to develop the Wingate East Mine, with future plans to develop the Pine Level/Keys Tract as well, she said.
The study's overarching topics include effects on surface water reserves, groundwater reserves, water quality, ecological resources, and economics, she noted.
"While the study generally finds phosphate mining's impacts are minor, in a few areas it finds that greater impacts would occur without mitigation," Allen said.
The study accentuates the good job phosphate companies are doing with respect to modern reclamation practices and the ability to restore wetlands and habitats disturbed by mining, she said.
"Good mitigation is the basis for continued mining," Allen said, adding "It's about the excellence and importance of restoration."
"That's the basis of continuing to mine," she said.
In terms of conclusions, Allen said that while the study does reach conclusions about the impact of mining in general, it does not make any final permitting decisions.
"When it comes to the Corps approving what will ultimately be mined or not, there's still a lot of work to be done on individual applications," she said.
"We have as a company made huge advancements with regard to reclamation," said Jackie Barron, Mosaic's public affairs manager.
Mining companies are trying to recycle and reuse water as much as they can to cut down on ecological impacts, said Thomas L. Crisman, Ph.D., a freshwater ecologist at Tampa's University of South Florida.
And while mitigation can be an environmentally-effective strategy to counter the destruction that phosphate mining visits on the land, it is not a cure-all, he said.
"Collectively, we have 50 years of experience on reclamation," he said. "What you have to be careful of: Are you going to restore that land? No, you can't put it back exactly as it was. Are you going to reclaim that landscape? Yes, but it's not like an exact copy."
"My thing is: We're not restoring the landscape the way it was, we're reclaiming it to meet goals of conservation, water use and water storage," he added. "You give value back to the land."
Scientists have found it's possible to re-create a wetland, and within two years, it will look natural, he said. Within five years, it begins to actually function as a wetland as well, he said.
After that, animals come back "pretty darn fast," Crisman added.
The study's compilation was directed by the Corps, and authored by its staff members, and those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the consulting firm CH2M HILL, Fellows said. Although the multimillion-dollar study was paid for by Mosaic and CF Industries, Inc., the two phosphate companies seeking permits for mines, the Corps was the source of its conclusions.
A "review period" about the study's contents continues through June 3, he said.
To comment, contact John Fellows, USACE AEIS Project Manager; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; 10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120, Tampa 33610-8302; phone: 813-769-7067; fax: 813-769-7061, e-mail: teamaeis@phosphateaeis.org.

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130511-a
Everglades National Park officials ask public for input on new general management plan
Miami Herald - by Jonathan Simmons
May 11, 2013
Everglades National Park officials have encouraged the public to comment on the park’s draft general management plan before the public comment period closes Sunday night.
The draft plan includes proposals for increasing designated wilderness areas and managing visitor activities like boating, airboating and paddling.
It lays out goals for resource protection and facilities development and presents and evaluates four alternative proposals for future park management, including the NPS Preferred Alternative plan favored by the Park Service.
Major proposals in the version preferred by the Park Service include requiring boaters and paddlers to take an educational course and get a permit to use boats inside the park, setting aside 33 percent of Florida Bay waters in the park as pole-and-troll zones to protect seagrass beds, designating large areas south of Tamiami Trail as wilderness and limiting access by airboats and other motorized vehicles, and establishing a new Alternative Wilderness Waterway marked by GPS waypoints.
The Park Service has taken public comments on the draft plan since February and plans to complete the final version of the general management plan some time next year.
To view or comment on the draft general management plan, visit parkplanning.nps.gov/EVER and click the link on the left titled "open for comment."
The comment link will close at 1:59 a.m. Monday.

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Silver Springs

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Public gets update on Silver Springs' transition to state park
Gainesville.com - by Carlos E. Medina, Correspondent
May 11, 2013
OCALA -- A wide-ranging public forum meant to address some of the issues that face Silver Springs -- ranging from the impending turnover of the park to the state to how a proposed cattle ranch could impact water quality issues -- drew more than 150 people to the park on Saturday.
Held in the historic Cypress Room at the park, representatives from different state agencies explained and gave updates on issues surrounding the springs.
One of the more contentious issues addressed was a planned cattle ranch in the Fort McCoy area, which opponents argue would further damage the springs.
Mike Register of the St. John's River Water Management District said Adena Springs Ranch had responded to the state's latest request for more information. The response was received on April 18 and the state is bound to respond in 30 days.
"I am pretty confident we will be sending another request for additional information. There is still some more information we need in order to make a decision on this permit," Register said.
Adena Springs initially discussed pumping as much as 27 million gallons of water a day to irrigate some of the 30,000 acres of land the ranch would cover. The latest official request has dropped to 5.3 million gallons, an amount opponents say is still too much and would further lower water levels at the springs. Contamination from the waste produced by the cattle is also a concern.
The April response from Adena addressed St. Johns' request for more specifics on potential water withdrawal and how the farm would dispose of animal waste from about 17,000 head of cattle.
The specifics of the response were not discussed on Saturday.
Contamination of the aquifer from the surface is a particular concern in the area as Marion County sits at the heart of the major recharge area for the Floridan aquifer, which runs under most of Florida and up into South Carolina. It is the main source of drinking water for the state.
The aquifer is recharged mainly by rain, which percolates down from the surface more readily in a strip of land that winds down the state and includes all of Marion County.
"The groundwater in (this) area is highly susceptible to things people do on the surface of the land," said Harley Means of the Florida Geological Survey.
Means said the makeup of the land, with little clay or other less porous material, allows surface water to carry contamination more easily into the aquifer and eventually into the surrounding springs.
Silver Springs and the Silver River are fed by a string of 30 different springs with 69 vents.
The headwaters of Silver Springs have for about 150 years drawn tourists and eventually were turned into an attraction. The state bought the land in 1993, but allowed its operation to continue through a succession of private companies.
Earlier this year, Palace Entertainment reached a deal where it would be let out of the lease to operate Silver Springs. The state will take it over and make Silver Springs a state park.
Palace agreed to pay $4 million to the state to help pay for removal of certain attractions, like the Jeep Safari, children's play area and the petting zoo.
Lewis Scruggs, with the Florida Parks Service, said the plans for removal of those attractions are moving forward and should start soon, after the permitting process is complete.
"Yes. You have to get building permits to tear something down," Scruggs said.
Meanwhile, the overall plan for the park as an ecotourist destination, as well as a cultural and historical site, is also continuing. The state is currently sifting through decades of park archives to select items to include in the state's archives. An archaeological survey of the area is also planned.
"With more than a hundred years of activity, I suspect much of that has been destroyed by construction at one point or another," he said.
The headwaters of the springs were active with human activity for hundreds of years and were the site of a permanent native American settlement as early as the 1500s.
The ultimate goal for the park is to provide recreation for visitors. As such, there are plans to include a canoe and kayak launch from the headwaters of the springs. For decades, that area has been closed off to only the glass-bottom boats, which also will continue to operate.
One of the biggest changes is the price of admission. Instead of the $44.99 currently charged, the state plans to charge $8 per carload.

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FDEP

130510-
Legislature allocates $10 million for springs, but DEP doesn't know how to spend it
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
May 10, 2013
In the waning days of the legislative session, Florida lawmakers approved putting an extra $10 million in the $74.5 billion state budget for "the restoration, protection, and preservation of Florida's springs."
There's only one problem: The agency that's supposed to spend the money, the state Department of Environmental Protection, doesn't know what to do with it.
The legislative budget language doesn't mention any specific projects. It just says the money should enable DEP "to initiate direct actions that will reduce pollutants and promote the proper flow volume of underground and above ground springs that provides a balance between the agricultural industry and water quality."
The Legislature approved adding that money into the budget without any open debate in a committee or on the floor of one of the chambers. Instead, the money was added during a conference committee that was working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.
As a result, the DEP is awaiting further information from state lawmakers about what they want done with the $10 million, explained DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie.
"Since this item was added during conference, there will likely be additional information provided by the Legislature to the governor's office as part of the bill review," he said in an e-mail.
The news that DEP doesn't know how to spend the money left High Springs Mayor Sue Weller flabbergasted.
"I don't understand why they would say that," said Weller, part of a coalition of North Florida officials and activists who have been lobbying the state to do more to protect the springs. "You would think they would have already been developing plans by now."
Weller said her coalition, Florida Leaders Organized for Water, has a long list of suggestions —- although many of them depend less on money than on actual legislative action, such as declaring a moratorium on new pumping permits while the springs recover.
But lawmakers had no interest in passing any springs legislation this year. A pair of legislators filed bills calling for the five water management districts to create action plans for specific springs and then file regular progress reports with the Legislature, but those bills failed to make it out of committee.
Instead, legislative leaders credited Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, for persuading them to include $10 million for springs. Dean said he would be meeting with DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. to talk to him about how best to spend the money.
Dean said he wants the DEP "to take the science that's already been developed" and apply that to reviving the springs "that would recover the fastest." Although he acknowledged that some springs are what he called "dead," he expressed confidence in the state's ability to bring them back to life.
"I believe they will come back," he said. "We need to pull together on something this important."
Florida's springs are in trouble. Most have lost flow. Some have stopped flowing at all or reversed themselves. Many of them are suffering from rampant pollution that has spurred the growth of toxic algae. There are signs that saltwater is intruding.
An effort launched by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 to explore what was wrong with the springs and fix it was disbanded by Gov. Rick Scott. While the Bush springs initiative existed, it spent a total of $25 million.
Bush appointed a springs task force that produced a report full of recommendations. All were ignored by the Legislature, except for one: a bill that finally passed in 2010 requiring inspections of septic tanks to check for leaks. There are about 2.6 million septic tanks in the state, half of them more than 30 years old.
But when septic tank owners objected to the $150 inspection price, legislators repealed the law last year.
Prior to this year's legislative session, the DEP asked the state's five water management districts for a list of possible projects that would help the springs. The agencies sent back a list of projects that, if they were all approved, would cost $122 million -- just to start.
One of the key components: $10 million to replace septic tanks and small sewage plants near some of the state's key springs in hopes of reducing their leaking of pollution into the aquifer.
The list included a host of other ideas aimed at boosting both water quality and quantity in the springs. There were proposals for removing built-up sediment that's blocking spring vents to building canoe launching sites to installing new reclaimed water pipelines that will help cut back on groundwater pumping.
One proposal calls for spending $14.5 million on building a water treatment plant to take 4 million gallons a day out of the St. Johns River and use it for drinking water instead of pumping water out of the ground.
The 450-page budget, including the $10 million for springs, hit Gov. Rick Scott's desk Thursday. He has until May 24 to decide what to veto and what to approve. A spokeswoman for Scott said he is currently reviewing the springs funding but has made no decision about it yet.

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FL Supreme Court

130509-a
Florida Supreme Court declines to hear case involving sanctions against environmental groups
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
May 9, 2013
A case that a dissenting appeals court judge says could have a "chilling effect" on citizen participation in land-use disputes was dismissed Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court without a ruling on the merits of the case.
Martin County in 2007 reduced the minimum lot size required on 191,000 acres of designated agricultural land. 1000 Friends of Florida and the Martin County Conservation Alliance filed a legal challenge, contending the decision failed to establish meaningful and predictable standards for protecting environmentally sensitive lands.
An administrative law judge determined that the change won't create urban sprawl.
When the groups appealed, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that they lacked the legal standing because they were not affected since there was no increase in development. The majority of the three-judge panel then imposed sanctions and ordered the groups to pay legal fees incurred by the county, the state and intervenors Martin Island Way LLC and Island Way, LC.
In dissent, though, Judge William A. Van Nortwick Jr. said the erroneous standard used to impose sanctions "will create a precedent that will severely chill" those who seek appeals.
The environmental groups appealed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2011, after the 1st DCA filed a substitute ruling that even more strongly made the case for sanctions against the groups.
"This is precisely the type of litigation the Legislature meant to prevent when it amended" state law in 1999, the appeals court majority wrote.
The Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Florida Wildlife Federation filed Supreme Court briefs in support of the groups. The American Planning Association said the appeals court too broadly interpreted the law (Florida Statutes 57.105) allowing sanctions and that an appeal is the only recourse in a decision involving standing.
On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court said there was no legal issue for it to decide, which means it goes back to an administrative hearing officer to determine legal fees and sanctions, including fines.
Richard Grosso, an attorney representing 1000 Friends and the Martin County Conservation Alliance, said the outcome was disappointing but he understood the Supreme Court has many cases and limited jurisdiction.
"We continue to disagree strongly with the 1st District’s opinion," Grosso wrote in an email.
He continued, "We think it is critically important for the Legislature to remedy the huge limitation that the 1st District has placed on the ability of citizens to enforce the state’s planning law."
David A. Acton, senior assistant county attorney in Martin County, said the county commission there would be asked to provide direction on how to proceed.
William Hyde, a retired Tallahassee lawyer who had represented the developers, said the case was unusual so it shouldn't have a chilling effect on other citizen groups.
"There really wasn't much to fight over to begin with," Hyde said. "Once the (administrative) law judge made a determination there wasn't anything; the petitioners really should have let it go."
But David A. Theriaque, representing the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, said groups won't challenge decisions if they are advised it could cost them $100,000 or more in opposing legal fees plus fines.
"There are not many environmental or citizens groups willing to have that exposure for exercising their constiutional right to challenge" a land use decision, he said.
Related Research:
* May 9, 2013 Florida Supreme Court Opinion in Case No. SC11-2455 Martin County Conservation Alliance, et al. v. Martin County, et al.
* July 23, 2012 "Planning group files Florida Supreme Court brief warning against discouraging public participation" from The Florida Current
* Dec. 5, 2011 "Environmental groups appeal 1st DCA order requiring them to pay attorney's fees" from The Florida Current
* Nov. 9, 2011 "Growth-law panelists predict legislative tinkering in years ahead" from The Florida Current
* Nov. 7, 2011 "Court rejects appeal of environmental group ordered to pay developers' legal costs" from The Florida Current
* Dec. 16, 2010 "Attorneys defend court decision to sanction environmental groups" from The Florida Current
* Dec. 14, 2010 "Appeals court sanctions environmental groups in land-use case" from The Florida Current

130509-b







Dry Aral
Dysfunctional
ecosystem at the
drying up Aral Sea
in Central Asia


130509-b
Identifying ecosystems at risk – the new IUCN Red List
TheConversation.com – by David Keith, Professor, Univ. of New South Wales, Australia
May 9, 2013
We know quite a lot about which species around the world are most endangered. The Red List of threatened species, developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), identifies species that are most at risk of extinction.
But scientists have become increasingly concerned that the habitats of species and the ecological processes that influence the relationships between species are not adequately considered. Now IUCN has developed a similar risk assessment framework for ecosystems, such as Florida’s Everglades, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Scandinavia’s Boreal Forests. It lets the IUCN rank them as endangered, vulnerable or not threatened according to the risks that they face.
For the first time, we have a scientifically robust risk assessment framework, which works across the full range of terrestrial, freshwater, marine and subterranean ecosystems.
This new framework for a Red List of Ecosystems is now published in a scientific study in the Public Library of Science journal, PLoS ONE which illustrates how it would work around the world in a trial on 20 case studies.
Together, the Red Lists for species and ecosystems will provide a more comprehensive view of the status of the environment and its biodiversity than either can on its own.
The ecosystem Red List focuses on biodiversity, habitats for species, as well as their interactions and dependencies, including food webs. The species Red List focuses on individual species, some of which may go extinct even though the ecosystems in which they live continue to remain functional.
Assessing an ecosystem
This new Red List assesses each ecosystem against five criteria.
Two of the criteria relate to an ecosystem’s distribution – how rapidly it is declining and its current extent.
Another two of the criteria relate to functional characteristics of ecosystems. They measure how rapidly and how extensively the physical and biological components of an ecosystem are degrading, particularly the processes that sustain the ecosystem and its species.
The fifth criterion allows multiple threats to an ecosystem to be assessed, as well as potential synergies between them.
Among the 20 ecosystems assessed in the study, the remote mountain ecosystems of the Venezuelan Tepui are among those at least risk of collapse. These are showing little evidence of decline in distribution or function in the past or near future. At the other extreme is the Aral Sea of central Asia, which collapsed during the 1980s and 1990s.
Eight of the case studies come from Australia, and these exhibit varying levels of threat related to land clearing and its legacies, overexploitation of water resources, pollution and climate change.
The lessons from the Aral Sea assessment are sobering. Not only were a host of species lost forever as the sea became hypersaline and dried over much of its former extent, but the ecosystem collapse led to socio-economic disaster, including the closure of regional fisheries and shipping industries. Dust storms were generated from the dry sea bed and they continue to have major impacts on infant mortality and other indicators of human health.
How will this Red List help?
The Red List risk assessment methods are a vital part of the scientific infrastructure needed to support evidence-based environmental management. Other components of the infrastructure that need further development include a base of expertise for carrying out the risk assessments.
Most importantly, we need the essential long-term data needed to underpin reliable and scientifically credible assessments. Initiatives such as the Australian Government’s Long Term Ecological Research Network, which monitors changes in ecosystems and identifies the underlying causes of change, are a vital part of this infrastructure.
Within Australia, this new international standard for risk assessment also presents an opportunity to improve alignment among the various national and state processes currently in place for managing threatened ecosystems. It could strengthen the science and promote better co-ordination of conservation efforts across jurisdictions.
Over the coming decade, IUCN will carry out a global assessment of ecosystems, largely in collaboration with local experts and authorities.
As an early warning system, the Red List of Ecosystems will help governments, industries and communities avoid ecosystem collapse and the associated socio-economic impacts by informing better environmental decisions.
Red List assessments will better target the ecosystems most vulnerable to degradation and help determine which options for investment in environmental management will work best. Ultimately, better planning and management is needed to conserve our rich biodiversity and sustain ecosystem services that support our current standards of living.

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130509-c
Lake Okeechobee water draining starts again
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 9, 2013
Rising waters from recent rains prompted the Army Corps of Engineers this week to start dumping Lake Okeechobee water east into the St. Lucie Estuary and out to sea.
The new low-level discharges are aimed at stemming the rise in lake levels on the eve of the rainy season. More frequent lake releases west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary were also increased this week.
The idea is to make more room for a future influx of water while also easing the strain on the lake’s dike, considered one of the country’s most at risk of a breach.
But prolonged lake discharges can have damaging environmental effects on coastal estuaries. Also, if droughts emerge instead of storms, the discharges can end up wasting water that may be needed to boost South Florida water supplies.
The Army Corps wants to “minimize” the potential environmental impacts by starting now with lower level water releases, instead of the more damaging high-volume discharges, spokesman John Campbell said.
 “We want to position ourselves to ramp up releases,” Campbell said.
The Army Corps needs to “exercise a little bit of caution” and rely more on evaporation instead of draining, according to Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
“They are playing a delicate balance there,” Perry said.
Lake Okeechobee water levels on Thursday were 13.54 feet above sea level, which was just above normal and about 2 feet higher than this time last year.

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130509-d
Reckless measure
Gainesville.com – Editorial
May 10, 2013
The Florida Legislature has sent anti-environmental legislation to Gov. Rick Scott that would not only harm our woods and water, but also would have negative long-term economic impact on the state.
House Bill 999 and its Senate counterpart, SB 1684, are the latest assaults on Florida's environment by those who hold the most power and responsibility to protect it. First the Legislature gutted growth management, then it weakened our water management districts. Now it seeks to roll back protections on wetlands, allow for more pumping of our aquifer, make it harder for local governments to hold developers accountable, make it easier to pollute our waters and award 30-year, no-bid leases to Big Sugar for land critical to restoration of the Everglades.
The Florida Conservation Coalition, led by former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, reports these bills would "weaken or eliminate" 20 environmental regulations. In short, the bills — labeled "environmental regulation" measures — are in fact nothing more than a massive effort toward deregulation. This, at a time when half of Florida's waterways already are deemed polluted by state regulators.
It is inexplicable that our lawmakers would support such legislation. Florida is too dependent economically on its beautiful and often unique natural resources to attract visitors from around the world to endanger them in the name of, as HB 999 sponsor Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, put it, making Florida "more business-friendly." Florida already is among the most business-friendly of the 50 states, and further decimating its already fragile and increasingly polluted environment is not likely to make it more attractive to the kinds of businesses we want as corporate citizens.
Gov. Rick Scott should veto HB 999/SB 1684 because it is more than what Patronis laughably termed "tweaks and fixes." It is nothing less than the latest assault on any semblance of environmental protection and growth management for Florida. Consider one segment of the legislation that limits the number of inquiries cities and counties can make about a development permit application to three, no matter how big or intrusive the project.
By vetoing this reckless legislation, Gov. Scott has an opportunity to show that he is more concerned about everyday Floridians and the health of their communities than about pandering to big business. The governor has the opportunity to show he is beginning to understand the importance to Florida's economy of a vibrant and protected environment.
We urge our readers to let Gov. Scott know that Florida's environment matters to it citizens and to their future.
Email him at rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com or call 850-488-7146 and beseech him to veto HB 999/SB 1684.

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Water district slashes offer for Palm Beach County's Mecca Farms
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 9, 2013
The payback keeps shrinking for Palm Beach County's $100 million investment in Mecca Farms — the failed home for The Scripps Research Institute.
Plummeting property appraisals sunk a $55 million proposal for the county to sell the land last year to the South Florida Water Management District.
On Thursday, the district's board instead agreed to offer up to $26 million for Mecca Farms, which it would use to store and clean stormwater needed to replenish the Loxahatchee River.
That's how much an appraiser picked by the county determined Mecca Farms was worth. The district's appraiser estimated that the overgrown farmland west of Palm Beach Gardens was worth $21 million.
"We are stewards of the taxpayer dollars. … We can't spend more than appraised value on property," district Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe said.
The county last year sought $30 million in cash plus $25 million in land donations from the district for Mecca Farms.
After the appraisals came back lower than expected, the county has been angling to get a deal worth at least $30 million.
The county is also pursuing a side deal with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to turn 150 acres of Mecca Farms into a public shooting range, which the county contends won't interfere with the water district's plans for the rest of the property.
The County Commission on May 21 is scheduled to discuss the future of Mecca Farms, including the shooting range proposal and the potential deal with the district.
"We feel like this is a very good project (with) some mutual benefits," county Legislative Affairs Director Todd Bonlarron said after the district's board meeting.
Environmental groups that once fought to keep Scripps off Mecca Farms are backing the deal to sell the land to the water management district.
The water storage and treatment envisioned on Mecca Farms would become a key piece of an environmental restoration plan that reaches from the Loxahatchee River to the Everglades.
"We knew that site was so critical for restoration. … It's the most logical site," Lisa Interlandi of the Everglades Law Center told district board members Thursday. "We absolutely need it to move forward."
The county in 2004 paid $60 million for Mecca Farms, with visions of creating a job-producing, biotech industry hub anchored by Scripps on the old citrus groves north of Northlake Boulevard.
The county spent another $40 million for planning, permitting and initial construction for Scripps. The county also built a $51 million water pipeline to supply Mecca Farms and the development expected on surrounding farmland.
County officials once thought that selling Mecca Farms to developers would be their insurance policy for recovering taxpayers' investment if the Scripps deal fizzled.
But after environmental concerns in 2006 moved Scripps' research labs to Jupiter, the South Florida housing boom went bust and the county's pool of acceptable buyers all but evaporated.
That changed last year when a new $880 million Everglades restoration proposal sent the water district looking for more land to store and clean water.
The district had already spent $217 million to create a reservoir from rock mines west of Royal Palm Beach that was supposed to replenish the Loxahatchee River and also supplement community water supplies.
But that reservoir, finished in 2008, still doesn't have the pumps needed to get water to the river and now the new Everglades plan calls for sending its water south.
To create a new water source for the river, the district proposes acquiring Mecca Farms and building a water storage and treatment area that could cost between $60 and $133 million, depending on the size.
The district is also considering alternative sites, just in case the agency can't get Mecca Farms. The West Palm Beach's water catchment area and a proposed reservoir right next to the district's existing reservoir are two alternatives.

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FL Capitol

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Assaulting the environment
Ocala.com - Editorial
May 8, 2013
At a time when Marion and other counties in Florida are looking to tourism, especially ecotourism, to give their wounded economies a needed boost, the Florida Legislature has sent anti-environmental legislation to Gov. Rick Scott that would not only harm our woods and water, but also would have negative long-term economic impact on the state.
House Bill 999, with its Senate counterpart, SB 1684, are the latest assaults on Florida’s environment by those who hold the most power and responsibility to protect it. First the Legislature gutted growth management, then it weakened our water management districts. Now it seeks to roll back protections on wetlands, allow for more pumping of our aquifer, make it harder for local governments to hold developers accountable, make it easier to pollute our waters and award 30-year, no-bid leases to Big Sugar for land critical to restoration of the Everglades.
The Florida Conservation Coalition, which is led by former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, has tracked these bill and reports that they would “weaken or eliminate” 20 environmental regulations. In short, the bills — which are labeled “environmental regulation” measures — are in fact nothing more than a massive effort toward deregulation. This, at time when half of Florida’s waterways already are deemed polluted by state regulators.
It is inexplicable that our lawmakers would support such legislation. Florida is too dependent economically on its beautiful and often unique natural resources to attract visitors from around the world to endanger them in the name of, as HB 999 sponsor Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, put it, to make Florida “more business-friendly.” Florida already is among the most business-friendly of the 50 states, and further decimating its already fragile and increasingly polluted environment is not likely to make it more attractive to the kinds of businesses we want as corporate citizens.
Gov. Rick Scott should veto HB 999/SB 1684 because it is more than what Patronis laughably termed “tweaks and fixes.” It is nothing less than the latest assault on any semblance of environmental protection and growth management for Florida. Consider one segment of the legislation that limits the number of inquiries cities and counties can make about a development permit application to three, no matter how big or intrusive the project.
HB 999/SB 1684 is the latest example of the legislative leadership carrying water for big business in Florida. They sell out everyday Floridians without any consideration for who will clean up the inevitable environmental damage or at what cost. Shame on them.
By vetoing this reckless legislation, Gov. Scott has an opportunity to show that he is more concerned about everyday Floridians and the health of their communities than about pandering to big business. The governor has the opportunity to show he is beginning to understand the importance to Florida’s economy of a vibrant and protected environment.
We urge our readers to let Gov. Scott know that Florida’s environment matters to it citizens and to their future. Stop the assault on Florida’s environment. Email Gov. Scott today at rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com or call 850-488-7146 and beseech him to veto HB 999/SB 1684.

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Broward, Palm Beach counties endorse reservoir proposal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 8, 2013
Hoping to find a long-term boost for drinking water supplies, Broward and Palm Beach County leaders Tuesday endorsed a renewed effort to build a nearly $1 billion water-sharing reservoir.
The idea is to turn old rock mines west of Royal Palm Beach into a 24 billion-gallon reservoir that would capture stormwater now drained out to sea for flood control and use it to supplement drinking water supplies in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
While the initial price tag once threatened to sink the long-stalled deal, the new version calls for building the reservoir in stages to lessen the initial cost. That cost would be between $150 and $180 million for the first of three proposed phases, according to project backers.
The measures approved Tuesday don't yet commit the two counties to paying for the proposed reservoir, but do pledge support for pursuing the project.
"It sends a strong message that this reservoir is important to the future of Southeast Florida," Palm Beach County Water Utilities Director Bevin Beaudet said. "One way or another, this reservoir will be built."
But how to pay for the reservoir and how to divvy up and deliver the water remain significant hurdles to actually getting the reservoir built.
Also, a history of escalated costs and other controversies from previous South Florida reservoir proposals add to the obstacles.
This proposed reservoir would be built right next to an existing reservoir that already cost South Florida taxpayers $217 million and after five years of collecting water doesn't yet include the massive pumps needed to deliver it.
"I would like to see that particular project be successful first," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick, who cast the only vote against the reservoir proposal. "We are really here today because Broward County is nearly out of water."
The Broward County Commission unanimously voted to join the regional work group trying to form a reservoir development plan and financing for the project.
South Florida needs to protect its water supply by holding onto more of the water that ends up getting "lost to the tides" through drainage canals, according to Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs.
"This is a bi-county effort between Broward County and Palm Beach County," Jacobs said. "It's a Herculean task."
The Palm Beach Aggregates rock mining company, which owns the land, has offered to pay for building the first phase of the reservoir, capable of holding about 4.5 billion gallons. Construction would take about 2 1/2 years, according to the proposal.
Palm Beach Aggregates' construction costs would ultimately be paid by the South Florida utilities – with the costs passed on to water customers – that end up using water from the reservoir.
Sierra Club representative Drew Martin on Tuesday questioned the need for the reservoir, saying that South Florida should be requiring more water conservation instead of building another expensive reservoir.
"This is going to be a huge waste of taxpayers' money," Martin said.

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gravel mine

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Deal nears on massive reservoir construction
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
May 8, 2013
The board of the South Florida Water Management District will vote tomorrow on its role in a regional water supply system with a unique twist: A private company would pay to build the first-phase of a massive reservoir — an estimated $186.5 million — then give the reservoir to a not-for-profit company, whose members would pay the district to run the system.
Palm Beach Aggregates then would make its money by charging water utilities for storage space in the reservoir.
The five-page memorandum of understanding between Palm Beach Aggregates and the district spells out the responsibilities of the company and water district but leaves unanswered the role of the Lake Worth Drainage District, the agency that launched the campaign to build the C-51 reservoir and that owns many of the canals that are needed to move water to and from the proposed reservoir.
Under the agreement, Palm Beach Aggregates will pay for the costs of improving canals needed for the first phase of the three-phase project. Aggregates will then enter into agreements with individual drainage districts that own canals needed to move water.
“You’ve got a lot of different people trying to figure out how to work together in a way that is mutually beneficial to everyone,” said Ernie Cox, the project manager for Palm Beach Aggregates. “It’s continuing to evolve.”
Patrick Martin, the drainage district’s engineer, said the drainage district is “definitely on-board with the project.”As long as we are made whole and don’t lose our water rights.”
Palm Beach Aggregates would not sell water from the reservoir but would sell storage in the reservoir. The company would set the price and negotiate “capacity allocation agreements” with utilities that want water from the reservoir.
The memorandum is the latest development in years of meetings with utility directors in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Support was strong until utilities were told they needed to pay $25,000 each in good faith money to the drainage district. Most cities backed out, saying they could not justify spending money for water they would not need for years, possibly decades.
Mining for the first phase of the reservoir is complete but it will take at least two years to convert the rock pit into a reservoir, Cox said. When the first phase is done, it will supply up to 35 million gallons a day to the lower East Coast. The reservoir will sit beside the L-8 reservoir, also built by Aggregates, at the west end of Southern Boulevard.

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Debate opens on bill to pay for port channel project
Florida Today
March 8, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Senate began debating a long-awaited bill Tuesday that would authorize billions for water projects nationwide, including the next phase of Everglades restoration and widening of the Port Canaveral channel.
Environmental groups are leery of the bill’s attempts to speed review of ecologically sensitive projects. And some budget watchdog groups don’t like it because they say it would make significant new commitments of federal spending.
The bill, known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), sanctions — but does not guarantee — federal funding for a host of water-related projects, such as harbor dredging, levees, beach replenishment and environmental restoration.
It includes authority to spend federal money on some of the nation’s most prominent water programs, including nearly $905 million on four projects comprising the next phase of Everglades restoration, according to a list provided by the National Wildlife Federation.
“The Everglades is a treasure and we have to restore it,” California Democrat Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said on the Senate floor. “It needs our attention.”
The bill also promises money for other Florida priorities: $17.9 million in federal assistance for flood protection in Walton County on the Florida Panhandle, $27 million for dredging of Jacksonville Harbor and $28 million for widening the Port Canaveral channel.
The project to enlarge Port Canaveral’s 400-foot-wide channel by 100 feet and deepen it by two feet along its 3.5-mile length is expected to begin in July and be completed in the fall of 2014. Design work is under way.
Rather than wait for the federal money, the port is looking to finance the project now through state and local funds (some of it already spent) and seek reimbursement from Washington later, said John Walsh, interim CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority
More important than federal aid is congressional approval of the project, he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over all federal navigation projects. Without the authority under WRDA, the port would be responsible for maintenance of the channel at a dredging cost of about $2.5 million every other year, Walsh said.
Expanding the channel is crucial to accommodate the larger classes of cruise ship that visit the Space Coast and would allow more cargo traffic from oil tankers and bigger vessels carrying construction materials and other dry goods, Walsh said.
Increased shipping activity from a larger channel also is expected to increase economic activity in the region by some $200 million and create 1,500 short-term (mainly construction) jobs and 3,000 long-term jobs. Walsh said that means the project is too valuable to abandon.
“We’re going to widen that channel whatever way we can,” he said

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Environmental representatives lament budget for land-buying, question outcome of land sales
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
May 8, 2013
Some environmental group representatives on Wednesday cast doubt on whether the state could sell $50 million worth of land to buy more conservation land as provided in the 2013-14 state budget approved by the Legislature.
The $74.5 billion budget approved by the Legislature will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature, and his line-item veto pen. The budget includes the $50 million in land sales for new purchases plus $10 million in general revenue and $10 million in trust fund for land-buying. Scott had requested $75 million, including $25 million in general revenue and $50 million from land sales.
During a webinar on the 2013 legislative session hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida, past president and board member emeritus Lester Abberger said the Florida Forever land-buying program had been a "terrible casualty" of budget cuts in recent years when there were projected budget deficits.
"This year there is some funding for Florida Forever in the (proposed) budget," he said. "I think those of us presenting today would argue this is a pitifully inadequate level of funding. But we are pleased there is funding at all."
However, Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy and strategies for The Nature Conservancy's Florida chapter, later pointed out there was also $11 million in the budget for conservation payments to agricultural landowners.
That totals $81 million for land-buying and conservation easements, she said, plus an additional $50 million proposed for a bicycle trail across the state.
"That starts to add up to a fair chunk of money that could be well spent this year," she said.
Asked by a webinar listener about the sale of state lands, Bowman said she would be surprised if the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can sell $50 million worth of surplus land in the coming year.
"It takes a significant amount of time to review parcels that are identified as potentially surplus," she said. "The decision to surplus has to go before the governor and Cabinet. That takes months to schedule and get those decisions made by the governor and Cabinet."
She said Florida's five water management districts during the past year had gone through similar processes of looking for land to sell and had found some but not much.
Abberger said he agreed with Bowman. He said the failure to find significant amounts of land for sale may address the beliefs of some legislators, as shown by SB 584, that the state has too much land. SB 584, which died after being temporarily postponed in its first committee stop, would have required state agencies and local governments to sell land before they could buy land.
"Maybe we can begin to break through this perception the state owns too much land that is not useful or available to the public," Abberger said. "And we focus the Legislature on the need for general revenue funding or dedicated revenues" as proposed in a state constitutional amendment.

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Helicopter carrying biologists makes emergency landing in Everglades
Sun Sentinel
May 8, 2013
A helicopter carrying three biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was forced to make a hard landing in the Everglades on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
No one was reported injured in the emergency landing, said Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Terri Barbera.
The biologists were conducting a deer survey in the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area, located in the Everglades in southwestern Palm Beach County, said FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson.
After the landing in a marsh, those aboard were rescued by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, Segelson said. The helicopter is owned by a private company used by the FWC for flight services.
What caused the emergency hasn't been released. The incident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Related:
Helicopter carrying members of Florida Wildlife Conservation ...     New Times Broward-Palm Beach
Helicopter goes down in the Everglades        WFLX
FWC helicopter crashes in Everglades, PBSO reports           WPEC
3 biologists OK after helicopter makes emergency landing in ...       WPBF West Palm Beach

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Water release

Controversial water
releases are, so far,
necessary

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Locks open: Dirty runoff water flowing into St. Lucie River again
CBS12 News - by Jana Eschbach
CLICK HERE to see the information release from the Army Corps.
STUART, Fla. -- 160 million gallons of water comes pouring in. The Army Corps of Engineers opens the locks into the St. Lucie River, raising environmental concerns for fishermen, boaters, and residents.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has announced plans to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee as part of its effort to manage water levels for the upcoming wet season.
Today, when the locks open, dirty water containing runoff from recent rains, and soon, the Corps will add water from Lake Okeechobee--all flowing into the St. Lucie River. The Corps stated the releases should have little impact on the estuary.
"Of course they say that, but it does. Anyone who is on the river knows that right now. Everybody on the river sees it," Martin County resident and kayaker Jerry Coleman said.
Frustrated by years of pollution, Coleman came to the locks to see for himself.
"You could really see the difference. A lot of times tarpon come up in here and as you can see--there's nothing," Coleman pointed.
According to the Army Corps statement, runoff from recent rains in the St. Lucie Canal will continue to pass through the St. Lucie Lock near Stuart at a target maximum flow of 250 cubic feet per second.
As flows drop below this point, water from the lake will be released to make up the difference.
Today, the lake stage is 13.58 feet, which is less than the danger zone of 16 feet. Under current conditions, the Corps is authorized to release up to 3,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee and 1,170 cfs to the St. Lucie. The releases are currently being held below those levels to minimize impacts to the environment.
“South Florida has already received more than half of the precipitation expected for May in just the first week,” said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. “We are also looking at a forecast that calls for very wet conditions over the next three months. Given these circumstances, it is essential to begin increasing lake discharges to position ourselves for the wet season while minimizing environmental impacts.”
Out of these gates is the fear, that algae blooms and bacteria will flourish. In 2012, a brown plume coated the river, Intracoastal, and flushed out into the ocean. Since the fresh water released is packed with pollutants and can kill off sea life as well as hike bacteria levels.
"It's a travesty what they are doing to the St Lucie Estuary," Coleman said, frustrated. "An individual person-what can you do about it? I mean there's Riverkeepers and you support them and you support those trying to do something about it, but over the last 10 years I have been here I haven't seen anything done about it."
Parts of Everglades Restoration do address the pollution, but do not stop the releases. In 2011 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the initial phase of a $340-million Restoration Project for the Indian River Lagoon, part of several projects tied to the Everglades Restoration Plan. The Treasure Coast portion will take 5 more years to complete, and includes drainage canals and ponds to filter dirty water in western Martin County.
While The Corps is calling this a precautionary measure for the rainy season, no one has said when those gates will close back down. The Corps said it will closely monitor the releases and adjust flows as necessary to balance the competing needs and purposes of Lake Okeechobee.
Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-FL 18), who ran his congressional campaign on cleaning up the river, calls this early release of fresh water "concerning."
In a statement Murphy said, "I am very concerned about these releases from Lake Okeechobee and the damaging impact they have on the health of the St. Lucie River, and in turn, on the community and local economy. This announcement by the Army Corps reemphasizes the pressing need to move forward with Everglades restoration efforts, including the Indian River Lagoon project, with the overall goal of restoring the natural flow of water and improving water quality throughout the region. I have had numerous meetings with local environmental groups and with the Army Corps to ensure these projects move forward expeditiously. I will continue to closely monitor these efforts to fight delays and attempts to cut their funding so that we can stop these harmful discharges in order to protect our precious ecosystem."

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The right path for Florida's water future
Sun Sentinel - by Colleen Castille, former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
May 8, 2013
Every day, news outlets highlight Florida's water challenges: Rising sea level, drought, and concerns about water quality.
Today, Florida is over-pumping our groundwater aquifer — a finite water source — and consuming water at an unsustainable rate. This is rapidly decreasing our access to fresh water and causing a variety of unintended consequences. Sinkholes, caused by open pockets underground once filled with water, are imploding across the state, destroying homes, businesses and even taking lives.
More commonly in Southeast Florida, an area that lies at sea level, aquifer over-pumping causes seawater to taint ground water, increasing the energy and cost needed to make it suitable for drinking.
To top it off, our state's population is exploding. This year Florida will surpass New York as the third most populated state in the U.S. The resulting increase in water consumption should prompt us to explore other sources of fresh water to meet our expanding needs.
Thankfully, we have options. While sources of fresh water in Florida are becoming scarce, some municipalities are taking the bull by the horns and examining their local water consumption to determine the best course of action and diversify their water portfolio. These folks understand that the time to act is now — water shortages, while daunting, can be prevented.
Among the measures being considered are "drought proof" water sources, like seawater desalination. Drought proof water sources are not impacted by drought or dry conditions. These sources can supply water where we need it, when we need it.
Seawater desalination is the process of removing virtually all mineral and most biological elements from ocean water, making it suitable for drinking. Considering seawater desalination means Florida could rely on seawater as a fresh water source, one that is available during drought, expanding our access to fresh, affordable water. This would also relieve pressure on Florida's sensitive natural resources.
As former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, I understand the dynamic obstacles Florida faces with respect to our unique environment. Considering drought proof water sources is a worthy investment for Florida's future.
Today, we're too far down the road of water consumption to turn back, but we can move forward with a better plan. Coupled with water conservation education, tapping into the drought proof water source that surrounds us is an option we should consider to put Florida on the right path to protecting our most important asset for the future.
Colleen Castille is former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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Florida Forever Coalition disappointed in lean budget
Bradenton Times - by Staff
May 7, 2013
BRADENTON – In past years, Florida Forever, and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, received as much as $300 million per year with which it purchased millions of acres of sensitive land and conservation easements to ensure the protection of open spaces, animal habitats and water resources. But despite the Governor's request for $25 million in new revenues for the 2014 budget, the Florida legislature only provided $10 million in new general revenue. The group says that while they are grateful for any and all funding, they will be inadequately resourced to protect critical lands.
The Florida Forever Coalition had sought $100 million for the program this year. But while the budget shows $70 million, the group says that figure is distorted because $50 million of it would be available only from sale of other conservation lands.
"But no one knows what existing parks, forests and wildlife areas may be sold off for that purpose and most people are very skeptical of the plan," the group said in a statement to the press.
"The current Florida Forever priority list identifies almost 2 million acres in need of protection, and this does not include the land acquisition needs of water management districts or local governments," the statement continued. "With Florida’s economy recovering, we must again invest in protecting the most important places before they are lost to development. While even the small amount of funding provided this year is welcome, it is simply inadequate to save what we must to keep Florida ecologically and economically sustainable."

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Spring dive

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Florida's springs: Talking in opposite directions
TheLedger.com
May 7, 2013
There have been two distinct conversations going on about Florida's freshwater springs. One conversation is being held in communities — places such as Ocala and Apopka and Lake City — and is focused on the urgent need to stop the degradation of springs that are equal parts environmental and economic assets. There is an urgency to that conversation.
The other conversation was taking place in Tallahassee, sort of, where lawmakers were indifferent to the escalating number of officially impaired springs and their value to the communities surrounding them. There was no urgency to this conversation. To the contrary, lawmakers were finding reasons to postpone it.
That was made crystal clear at the end of April when the chairman of the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, 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.
FUTURE
The community conversations 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 ecofriendly 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.
If legislators are unsure how to go about saving Florida's springs, they can read any of dozens of state-sponsored studies that are gathering dust. If they are unsure who can implement the spring restoration and protection recommendations in those studies, they should ask the spring communities around Florida. Those communities 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 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 legislators in Tallahassee did more to value them too.

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Natural Florida on the rebound
Tampa Bay Times - by Janet Bowman, Director of legislative policy and strategies for the Nature Conservancy of Florida
May 7, 2013
As the dust settles from the 2013 legislative session, it is a good time to reflect on the Legislature's treatment of land and water resource protection in Florida. As a conservation advocate who has lobbied for environment and conservation issues for the last 10 years, I find some bright spots and a glimmer of hope that a dark period in Florida's history of environmental resource protection is coming to a close.
During the recession, the environment received a disproportionate hit both through budget cuts and revenue caps placed on the water management districts. For example, last year, the Florida Forever land acquisition fund received only $8.4 million compared to the historic funding level of $300 million per year. This year, the Legislature through the leadership of budget chairs Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, has provided $31 million in cash for land protection efforts: $20 million for the Florida Forever program, including $10 million for conservation acquisitions that buffer military bases, and $11 million to the Florida Forest Service to purchase conservation easements over agriculture land.
This represents three times the funding provided in 2012. The Everglades received a whopping $70 million in restoration funding, and $59.5 million was appropriated to local governments for water projects, for example, removing septic tanks and providing storm water treatment that will assist with water quality protection
Finally, the Legislature added $10 million in budget conference to address springs restoration and protection, a need that is particularly critical and funding that is long overdue. While not perfect, the budget represents a respectable start to making the environmental budget whole after four years of neglect.
For the last three years, the Legislature focused on repealing existing growth management and other environmental regulation with few "no" votes standing in the way. From my perspective, the 2013 Legislature displayed a more thoughtful consideration of environmental measures. Several harmful proposals died in committee, including: bills limiting the ability of the state and local government to buy conservation lands (SB 584, HB 901) and bills to require the Cabinet to consider the conveyance of state lands to private landowners in exchange for less desirable lands (HB 33, SB 466).
In the water resource protection arena, the advocacy efforts of former Sen. Bob Graham and many environmental groups, and the leadership of Sens. Thad Altman, R-Viera, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, led to the removal of harmful wetland regulation and fertilizer ordinance pre-emption language in HB 999 that would make it more difficult to protect important water resources.
And, remarkably, the Citizens Insurance Reform Bill (SB 1770) championed by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Reps. Doug Holder, R-Venice, and John Wood, R-Winter Haven, contains language that helps protect our sensitive coastal areas by eliminating eligibility for new construction located seaward of the coastal construction setback line.
The legislative process worked as it should to air the flaws of policy changes that are against the interests of the majority of Floridians who care deeply about the land and water resources of Florida, and legislators are more responsive to these voices.
While there is reason for hope, much remains to be done. Citizens should take a few minutes in the coming months to remind their legislators and Gov. Rick Scott why it is important to reinvest in Florida's environment.
Janet Bowman is director of legislative policy and strategies for the Nature Conservancy of Florida. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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The Everglades needs preservation
Sun Sentinel – Letter by Michael Maloney, Fort Lauderdale, FL
May 7, 2013
To say that we should applaud the State Legislature for its recent passage of HB 7605 regarding the Florida Everglades would be a vast understatement.
The bill, which focuses on the improvement of the area's water quality, is well worth the costly investment. One cannot argue that the Everglades — the state's most treasured natural environment — equally rivals the environmental importance of the likes of such national parks as Yellowstone and Yosemite. Indeed, the Everglades is a place wherein preservation is nearly priceless.

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Deal gaining support for water storage, gun range on Palm Beach County’s idle Mecca Farms land
Palm Beach Post - by John Lantigua, Staff Writer
May 6, 2013
A proposal to place a shooting range on part of the Palm Beach County-owned old Mecca Farms property appears to be gaining support even among environmental activists, as long as that deal means most of the land will be used for storm water storage.
The county is negotiating to sell the 1,919 acres, or most of it, to the South Florida Water Management District. Meanwhile, the staff of the Board of County Commissioners has recommended that 150 acres be donated to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for a public shooting park. The state would build, operate and maintain the range at its expense.
The commission is scheduled to consider that proposal May 21. County Administrator Robert Weisman said donating part of the land for the shooting range would not affect the deal with the water district.
“The district already knows about that,” he said. “That’s not a problem.”
Lisa Interlandi, executive director of the Everglades Law Center, said Friday she had softened an earlier stance against the proposal and can accept the inclusion of the shooting range. “I do think the land should be used for water storage but the most important thing is that the deal get done,” she said.
Patricia Curry, an Acreage/Loxahatchee area resident involved in trying to bring a water storage area to the property, agreed.
“People out here like the idea of a shooting range,” Curry said. “I’m for it, as long as it leaves enough for the water management district to put in an STA,” or storm water treatment area.
Interlandi said while she wouldn’t try to block a shooting range deal, she would have some questions about the effect of the range on water quality because of the introduction of lead and possibly other toxins.
Advocates of the water district purchase say it is important in part because water storage would help the area avoid flooding like it experienced in August, during Tropical Storm Isaac. Interlandi explained that a water storage area at Mecca would provide the conduit to move water from the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area to the Loxahatchee River, which would drain potential flood waters.
Another benefit is that the county will be freed of some of the debt it incurred when it purchased and improved the land.
In 2004, the county paid $60 million for the property, mostly a citrus grove, and spent about $40 million more preparing it in hopes that The Scripps Research Institute would locate a biotech research park there. Instead, Scripps chose to settle at the Florida Atlantic University Jupiter campus.
The county has been paying ever since for maintenance of the property and debt service. County Commissioner Jess Santamaria puts that cost at $7 million per year.
In August, the county commission approved the outline of a deal that would transfer the property to the water management district for $30 million plus swaps of county land for district land. Santamaria, who also backs the shooting range plan as long as it doesn’t interfere with water storage at the site, said last week that he doesn’t understand why the deal hasn’t been closed.
But in an exchange of emails Friday, Weisman told Curry that the water district was now offering $23 million in cash and he was holding out for $30 million. In a phone interview later, Weisman said the two sides were no longer discussing land swaps, only the size of the cash payment.
Gabe Margasak, a spokesman for the district, said the district’s governing board will hold a hearing Thursday at which the Mecca proposal will be discussed.
At the moment, the only public shooting site in the county is at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s range at 20-Mile Bend. That is open to the public for only 28 days per year and only for long guns, not handguns, said Audrey Wolf, county director of facilities development and operation. If the range is approved at Mecca, public shooting would move there and would allow not only handgun use but skeet and trap shooting, which are not allowed now at the other site, Wolf said.
She said the new facility at Mecca would be built to Olympic standards and would hopefully attract competitive shooting tournaments, which would spur the local economy.
The county commission at its May 21 meeting is also scheduled to discuss the possibility of converting county land at 20-Mile Bend into a park for recreational use of all-terrain vehicles. That facility would be supported by user fees. But Wolf said that will happen only if the public shooting facility is moved to the Mecca land.

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A lagoon in collapse ? Something is happening in the Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
May 5, 2013
Theories differ, but one thing is sure. Something is happening in the Indian River Lagoon
MELBOURNE — Something’s wrong with the Indian River Lagoon.
Manatees, dolphins and pelicans are dying at record rates. Blue crabs seem weak. Bloom after bloom of algae clouds the lagoon’s seagrass.
Scientists can’t say with any certainty what’s wrong, though all agree something has gone awry and may be irreversible.
Some point to global warming. Others blame pollution. Even manatees are among the speculation about what’s triggered the collapse.
Whatever the reasons, those who make their living on the lagoon — North America’s most biologically diverse estuary — witness daily signs of decline that make them worry: Is our lagoon in a death spiral?
“Right now, nobody has any clue what’s wrong,” said Mike Badarack, who runs flats-fishing charters in the lagoon. “Just everything’s dying.”
Seagrass sews the lagoon’s food web. It provides a nursery for fish and other young marine life to feed and hide, protecting them from predators as they grow. Each acre of grass supports 10,000 fish and fuels $5,000 to $10,000 in economic activity. The lagoon provides $3.7 billion in annual economic benefits for the five-county region surrounding the 156-mile-long estuary.
The grass is also an important food for other creatures, most notably, manatees. A 1,000-pound sea cow can eat up to 150 pounds of it a day.
But after rebounding to levels not seen since Word War II, seagrass has been retreating since 2009, all but disappearing in many areas.
Winter 2009–2010 was the coldest since records began being kept in 1937. It triggered massive changes in the lagoon, including widespread dieoff of the drift algae that typically absorbs nutrients from the water, nutrients that otherwise would feed phytoplankton, tiny organisms that cloud the water, depriving seagrass of sunlight.
In moderation, drift algae is good, providing food and cover for marine life and sponging up nutrients from the water. But too much can choke out seagrass.
In recent years, it has been entangled in a boom-and-bust cycle, leaving the lagoon with either too little of too much.
When the lagoon’s drift algae crashed under the extreme cold, it unleashed massive amounts of nutrients for phytoplankton to thrive on.
Cold snap
A second cold snap in December 2010 and drought that rendered the lagoon saltier than usual in early 2011 thwarted the recovery of drift algae and the tiny marine organisms that graze on phytoplankton.
As a result, by spring 2011 a phytoplankton “superbloom” exploded in Mosquito Lagoon and northern Indian River Lagoon. It was the largest, densest bloom of its kind on record and resulted in the loss of 31,600 acres of seagrass, almost 50 square miles.
Officials estimate the sport and commercial fishing industries lost up to $316 million as a result.
Fishermen had hoped the seagrass would recover last year. It didn’t. Now the wildlife that relies upon it keeps dying. Dazed pelicans collapse on docks. Their corpses float in lagoon tributaries such as Crane Creek. Badarack laments a lagoon “graveyard” that includes dead manatees and dolphins that get increasingly awkward to explain to his charter customers.
“Clammer” Bill Bowler pulls up crab traps covered in a thick silt-like, decaying brown algae, which differs from drift algae, and with fewer blue crabs than he’s seen since he began crabbing the lagoon 21 years ago.
“Long term, if things don’t change, I’ll be out of a job,” Bowler said.
Scientists can offer little comfort — and few answers — to such concerns. The St. Johns River Water Management District and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program will spend $3.7 million through 2016 to try to unravel the ecological mystery. Some biologists point to a “perfect storm” of extreme cold, drought and other climate factors that turbocharged algae growth. They warn of more similar climate extremes predicted by global warming. Others say the lagoon’s death march is rooted in our fertilizer excesses. Still others point to septic tanks, land-cover changes, maybe all the above. Long-sought solutions include stricter local fertilizer ordinances, sewer and stormwater upgrades, or even new ocean inlets.
But biologists warn of a tipping point where the estuary permanently shifts to a place where phytoplankton and drift algae out-compete the more fish-friendly seagrass, for good. So Badarack and others hope answers and solutions arrive before further ecological crash.
“People are showing up for nature tours to see wildlife and you’re showing them a graveyard,” Badarack said.
'Superbloom'
After the 2011 “superbloom,” things grew even worse for seagrass. In June 2012, a brown tide algae began blooming, turning the water a chocolate brown. It was the same species that caused several consecutive years of massive seagrass, clam and bay scallop die-offs in Long Island’s southern bays and similar, though less severe, ecological effects in Texas estuaries.
A few months later, an even more dangerous algae, Pyrodinium bahamense, turned up in the northern lagoon and Banana River, near the highest levels biologists had ever measured it here. The reddish algae, which has plagued the estuary during the past decade, creates a deadly poison called saxitoxin. It’s toxic to fish, shellfish and made 28 people sick in 2002 and 2003 after they ate pufferfish in the Titusville area, leading to a state ban on harvesting the fish.
Saxitoxin
But saxitoxin hasn’t turned up in samples from the most recent wildlife die-offs.
Brown tide has recently returned in the lagoon, biologists say, though not as bad.
Also of concern is that the tiny “grazers,” marine animals that eat phytoplankton, declined during the blooms, as did filter-feeding clams.
The lagoon escaped major fish kills. But marine life continues to struggle.
“This is probably the worst year since I’ve been crabbing,” Bowler said. “I’ve seen several dead manatees this year.”
Among the most alarming aspects of the recent die-offs, biologists say, is the sudden “toxic shock” manner in which the manatees drown. They otherwise appear plump and healthy, with bellies filled with the drift algae. Biologists salvage dead manatees in nets so full of the stringy stuff they can barely lift them.
“We believe it’s the result of a dietary shift,” Tom Reinert, an FWC research administrator, recently told the lagoon advisory board. “We found no evidence of known disease.”
There’s no known toxic drift algae in the lagoon but biologists suspect there might be, or some unknown toxic microalgae clinging to it.
“We’re not sure it’s a toxin. It has all the hallmarks of that,” Reinert said.
While the manatees die quickly, the dolphins show signs of a drawn-out syndrome.
“They were very thin, and there were signs of disease,” said Blair Mase, NOAA’s Southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator.
As many as half the dolphins studied in the lagoon in the past decade suffer from some form of chronic infectious disease, suggesting compromised immune systems.
Researchers find levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin — in the skin and blood of lagoon dolphins that are higher than in any other dolphins that have been studied.
They also find high incidence of tumors, heart problems, cancer, stomach ulcers, skin lesions, genital herpes and other emerging ailments previously thought rare in dolphins.
Dolphins captured near Merritt Island, especially, seem in poor health. And researchers point to water tainted by treated sewage and runoff as the possible cause.
In recent years, biologists also have found antibiotics in the lagoon are creating a breeding ground for “superbugs” resistant to penicillin and several other common antibiotics. Scientists have found such bacteria in the guts of one in every five lagoon dolphins tested, making them susceptible to disease and “reservoirs” for stronger bacteria more likely to make people sick.
Manatees to blame?
Only an estimated 600 to 700 dolphins live in the lagoon. Three times as many manatees may reside there. And some coastal residents wonder if the plentiful sea cow and its wastes have denuded lagoon seagrass beyond the point of no return.
Troy Rice, director of the Indian River Lagoon Program, doubts that theory.
“It’s not an incidence of sea cows overgrazing,” he said. “We think the seagrass loss is directly related to the nutrients.”
Those are predominately from fertilizers from yards and farms, biologists say. Other sources are air pollution, septic tanks, groundwater flowing up in the lagoon, and the long legacy of algae boom-bust cycles left behind as decaying matter. Nitrogen and phosphorus in the lagoon — as well as pathogens — also come from cats, dogs and other animals.
During the next three years, the lagoon program will shepherd a $3.7 million effort to identify causes and potential solutions to the lagoon’s recent ills.
One proposed idea is selective weeding of drift algae.
Opening up Canaveral Locks more often to increase flushing in the lagoon was tried several years ago. But that caused the Barge Canal to silt in, required expensive dredging and had minimal, localized benefits to water quality, Rice said.
New inlets
Another idea is to dredge a new inlet.
John Windsor, a professor with Florida Tech’s Department of Marine and Environmental Systems, said the idea has been around for decades.
But a new inlet would likely have consequences, scientists say, such as beach erosion and loss of biodiversity. “Is there any place along the barrier islands that we wouldn’t get public outrage?” Windsor said.
On Fire Island, NY, government officials are weighing whether to leave alone a channel torn open by Hurricane Sandy, so seawater can keep pouring in to flush out pollution in Great South Bay.
To flush out Indian River Lagoon, one idea is to drill a series of big culverts under the barrier island, to and from the lagoon, to exchange water when needed. “That would be very expensive to do that,” Rice said. “There would be a very high operating cost.
“You’re just diluting the pollution that is there,” Rice added. “I think the answer to pollution is reducing pollution.”
So does “Clammer” Bill Bowler, especially when it comes to fertilizer.
“You look at people’s nice green lawns. Yeah, they look fantastic. But you’re going to end up having a dead river,” the Cocoa Beach crabber said. “Your front yard may look great , but you’re going to ask yourself, ‘What’s that smell coming from the back yard ?’ ”

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FDEP

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Drew Bartlett: State stepping up surface water protection
Sun Sentinel - by Drew Bartlett, Director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration
May 5, 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 of our aquatic habitats, for their recreational value and to assure that the seafood we enjoy is safe to eat.
The current rules that define Florida's human health criteria for surface waters are now more than 20 years old — virtually ancient when compared to how quickly the world moves today. But after a decade of data collection, risk analysis and scientific peer review, the department is moving forward with additional and refined surface water quality criteria. Protecting Florida's marine resources, especially as a source of food, is one of our most important roles as an agency, and we are moving forward with the best science available today.
Historically, the department has regulated only 36 pollutants related to human health. The department is now proposing to almost double that number by adding 34 new contaminants to the list and updating criteria for 33 of the original 36 contaminants. These criteria cover pollutants in all types of waterbodies within the state and consider Florida's most at-risk populations. These new criteria were considered April 23 by the Environmental Regulation Commission, and the topic will be revisited in the fall.
The department has consulted continuously with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in developing human health criteria, but we have applied more strict safeguards when calculating our final numbers.
The end result: in a side-by-side comparison with EPA's standard approach, the department's proposed criteria are more stringent in every single case. The department assembled the most qualified experts to peer review our standards, and as a result, our scientific methodology has been endorsed by the state toxicologist from the Florida Department of Health and other scientists who are experts in toxicology and risk analysis.
These updates to our human health criteria would protect all Floridians including children, expectant mothers and self-sufficient fishermen. The department will continue to collect data and incorporate emerging science so our standards keep pace with modern scientific methods. My colleagues and I eat local seafood just like you and your family. Every Floridian deserves to know that our seafood is safe to eat. 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 the director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration and has been protecting water quality in the state of Florida since 2007.

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urbanization

Florida urbanization

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New growth is coming, but is Florida ready ?
Ocala.com - by Charles Pattison, President of 1000 Friends of Florida, the state’s growth management watchdog.
May 5, 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 residents 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 has the 2013 Legislature done? 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.
Let your legislators know that Florida must plan for growth if we are to protect our quality of life, natural resources and pocketbooks.

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FDEP

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State doubles number of pollutants evaluated in water pollution tests
Ocala.com - by Drew Bartlett, Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee.
May 5, 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 of our aquatic habitats, for their recreational value and to assure that the seafood we enjoy is safe to eat.
The current rules that define Florida’s human health criteria for surface waters are now more than 20 years old — virtually ancient when compared to 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. Protecting Florida’s marine resources, especially as a source of food, is one of our most important roles as an agency, and we are moving forward with the best science available today.
Historically, the DEP has regulated only 36 pollutants related to human health. The department is now proposing to almost double that number by adding 34 new contaminants to the list and updating criteria for 33 of the original 36 contaminants. These criteria cover pollutants in all types of water bodies within the state — rivers, lakes and coastal waters, both brackish and offshore — and consider Florida’s most at-risk populations, including young children and pregnant women.
These new criteria were considered April 23 by the Environmental Regulation Commission, and will be revisited in the fall. The commission also approved the DEP’s proposed dissolved oxygen criteria to protect aquatic life.
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 end result: In a side-by-side comparison with EPA’s standard approach, the DEP’s proposed criteria are more stringent in every single case.
Because the health of our water bodies is vital, the department assembled the best and brightest to peer review and 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 also 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 like you and your family. It is essential that all of us have confidence that what we eat is safe. Fishing and shellfish harvesting will thrive if our rivers, lakes and coastal waters have strong standards to protect them — and Florida’s economy and our water-dependent culture will thrive right along with them.

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Study: phosphate mine expansion will cause 'significant' wetlands damage
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
May 5, 2013
Creating three phosphate mines and expanding a fourth will destroy nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands and 50 miles of streams, causing a "significant impact," according to a study prepared to guide permitting by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But the two-year study —- prepared for the corps by a consultant paid by the phosphate industry — contends the miners would do such a good job of making up for the damage, through a process called mitigation, that the impact will not be all that noticeable.
"Without mitigation, a lot of the effects would be significant — on wetlands, on groundwater, on surface water," said corps senior project manager John Fellows, who works in the Tampa office. "No question about it, mining is an impactive industry."
The report is so vague about just what kind of mitigation would make up for such widespread destruction in
  CLICK to enlarge
Hillsborough, Hardee, Manatee, Polk and De Soto counties that Fellows called it "a hand-wave" at the subject. He said that was all the law required.
Both Mosaic and CF Industries, the two phosphate companies that want federal permits for about 42,000 acres of new and expanded mining, issued statements saying they welcomed the report.
"It recognizes that we currently reclaim every acre we mine," said Mosaic spokeswoman Martha Monfried.
But environmental experts who have studied prior attempts by the phosphate industry to replace wetlands destroyed by mining say it has generally done a less than stellar job.
"Much of the work they were doing was not replacing the functions and values that were supplied by the native landscape —- not just the wetlands, but the uplands and groundwater, too," said Kevin Erwin, a Fort Myers ecological consultant who has examined more than 100 of the industry's attempts at replacing marshes, bogs and swamps for court cases.
"Their track record has been dismally poor," agreed Brian Winchester, a Gainesville environmental consultant who reviewed 30 industry mitigation wetlands for court cases. He and Erwin both testified on behalf of environmental groups challenging state mining permits.
When Erwin checked wetlands created on old phosphate land, he found that instead of the patchwork of swamps, marshes and bogs of varying depths that had been there before, attracting a variety of wildlife, virtually everything built turned out to be deep marshes, with standing water 2 to 4 feet deep. Winchester said most bore little resemblance to natural wetlands.
Still, Fellows expressed confidence in the industry's ability to come up with mitigation to satisfy his permitting staff. In the past, he said, "There have been successes and there have been problems, but I think the problems have been addressed and moving forward we have the assurance that they will be successful."
The only two mitigation-related studies cited by the study were performed either by employees or contractors working for Mosaic or its predecessor, IMC-Agrico.
Environmental activists who had been calling for the corps to conduct a full-fledged study of the impact of phosphate mining —- past, present and future — expressed disappointment at both the limited nature of the report and its findings.
"They seem to have basically decided that there are no impacts," said Percy Angelo of the Sierra Club's phosphate committee.
Fellows said the goal of the study prepared by engineering firm CH2M Hill was only to "identify the impacts and identify whether they can be mitigated," leaving the details to be worked out once the corps staff draws up permits.
Although he said the corps relied heavily on CH2M Hill's experts in composing the report, he had no idea how much the study cost. Monfried said it cost "several million dollars," but said she could not be more specific.
The notice about the study was published in the Federal Register on Friday. The corps will take public comment for 30 days before finalizing it. The next step is preparing the four permits, Fellows said.
If the corps approves the permits, the companies say they will create 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by $29 million.
Most fertilizer in the United States comes from phosphate mined in Florida and shipped through the Port of Tampa. However, Florida's phosphate industry, which once boasted 100 companies working in an area known as Bone Valley, has shrunk to just three employing about 4,000 people. Its historic Polk County mines are nearing the end of their life, and the industry must develop new mines to the south to survive in Florida.
How it's done
For the four mines, the companies expect to dig up 823,000 tons of rock using a dragline with a bucket the size of a truck. It scoops up the top 30 feet of earth and dumps it to the side of the mine pit, and then the dragline scoops out the underlying section of earth, which contains phosphate rocks mixed with clay and sand. The bucket dumps this in a pit where high-pressure water guns create a slurry that can then be pumped to a plant up to 10 miles away.
A quarter of the mined land winds up covered with clay settling ponds. In five years a crust forms on top of the ponds, but the stuff under the crust remains about as hard as chocolate pudding. That means those areas are too unstable for use as anything but pasture or crops, and they block the flow of groundwater.
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Success at Wiggins Pass
NaplesNews.com - Guest essay by Joe Moreland, President, Estuary Conservation Association (ECA), Naples, FL
May 5, 2013
I am delighted to be writing about the outstanding conclusion of the effort to straighten the Wiggins Pass channel.
I am motivated to do so by the letter published April 26, by C. Louis Bassano. He reminded me that there are probably many other county residents who are unaware that the very things he recommended have already occurred.
About five years ago, the Collier County Office of Coastal Zone Management, headed by Gary McAlpin, began an effort to provide safe navigation for boats in Wiggins Pass, reduce the cost of channel maintenance and increase the flow of water throughout the Cocohatchee Estuary. They were assisted by the ECA, a nonprofit organization charged by the state with monitoring, preserving and enhancing of the Wiggins Pass estuary waters, the Pelican Isle Yacht Club and environmental groups such as the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
After much effort, representatives of these organizations plus the engineering firm of Coastal Planning & Engineering agreed on a new approach for Wiggins Pass that would straighten the channel rather than trying to maintain the existing “S” curve. This redesign required and obtained the approval of over 20 federal, state and local entities such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife.
The Collier County commissioners gave final approval for the $1.7 million project in February with the funding coming from the tourist tax. By mid-March, Oren Engineering of Tampa started work and was to be finished in early May.
With the straightening of the pass, it is anticipated by county staff, the Corps of Engineers and the project engineers that it will need dredging about every four years compared to the old “S” curve which needed dredging about every 18 months. The straight channel will allow for increased water flow which will keep sand from accumulating in the channel and improve water quality throughout the estuary.
Additionally, the delays that occurred in the past while dredging permits were being obtained have been eliminated. The County now has a 10 year permit which will allow any necessary dredging to be done when needed.
The success of this project reflects the best in coordination and cooperation between governmental entities, volunteer organizations and individual citizens who are all dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment.

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FL Capitol
Florida Legislature


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2013 session: Which bills passed, which bills failed
Tampa Bay Times
May 4, 2013
The 2013 session of Florida Legislation has drawn to the end. The summary of laws, passed or not, was reported in the following categories:
Business, Criminal, civil justice, Driving and roads, Environment, energy, Ethics, elections, General government, Guns, Health care, Insurance, Miscellaneous, PreK-12 education, Social services, Taxes. Only the following ( Environmental) category is reprinted here:
Environment, energy:
FRACKING (FAILED): Companies must disclose what chemicals they use when they explore for oil and gas using an extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (HB 743)
EVERGLADES (PASSED): Ratifies the settlement between the state and the federal government and the sugar industry to spend $32 million annually to help improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades. (SB 768/HB 7065)
ENERGY (PASSED): Implements a 2008 constitutional amendment that exempts renewable energy improvements made after Jan. 1, 2013; a similar measure has passed the House three previous years but never made it through the Senate. (SB 1064/HB 277)
WASTEWATER (SIGNED INTO LAW): Eases the restrictions on flushing treated waste water into the ocean during "peak flow events" like hurricanes. (SB 444)
WETLANDS (PASSED): Modifies a series of wetlands-related rules and ratifies the governor and Cabinet's approval of 30-year leases of public lands in the Everglades to sugar companies. (HB 999)
SPRINGS (FAILED): Requires water management district to identify certain springs for protection. (SB 978)
WATER SUPPLY (PASSED): Places the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on par with utilities in water supply planning as water use among utilities and urban areas surpasses agriculture. (SB 948)
NUCLEAR COSTS (PASSED): Imposes new hurdles on electric companies before they can collect fees for pre-construction costs of nuclear power plants. (SB 1472)
Related:
2013 Florida Legislature: At a glance: Bills that passed        Bradenton Herald
At a glance: Bills that passed in the Legislature         TBO.com

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SFWMD proposed
a gun range at the
location of Mecca
Farms



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Neighbors of Myakka gun range raise new wetlands concerns
Bradenton Herald - by Dee Graham
May 4, 2013
MYAKKA CITY -- Potential wetlands and water resource impact from a proposed tactical gun range in Myakka City are the latest concerns raised by neighbors objecting to the special hearing officer's intent to approve its special permit.
"A proper evaluation of the potential wetland and water resource impact from the proposed use would take into consideration that directly adjacent to the southern boundary of the property is Flatford Swamp, which is a headwater to the Myakka River, which has been designated a Florida Wild and Scenic River," a letter from attorney Kevin Hennessy reads.
The complaint comes from Hennessy on behalf of Rocking 7 Ranch and Farms, owned by Garret and Elizabeth Barnes. Joining them in the response were adjacent landowners and their employees or guests including Jim and Colton McLeod, Mathew Taylor, Jennifer and Michael Winterbottom and Tom Howze.
Wittmer gave notice of her intent to OK the permit
April 26. Parties opposed to the permit were given until 5 p.m. Friday to respond. Wittmer now has 10 days to either approve the permit, reopen the public hearing or deny the permit.
Neighbors of the gun range have also complained to the county Code Enforecement Board and won a civil injunction against the shooting operation citing safety concens.
At the initial special permit hearing April 8 before hearing officer Meg Wittner, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns the swampy property adjacent to the southern boundary of Chris Baden's land, was represented by Tara Poulton, government affairs program manager. She raised no objections at the public hearing.
"Our land division received written notification on March 28, 2013, from Myakka Valley Arms, LLC, about the hearing. Traditionally, the district would not have any opinion supporting or objecting to any special use permit requests for property adjacent to district land," Suzanna Martinez Tarokh, SWFMD public information officer, wrote in an e-mail to the Herald.
"Now what we're doing is hoping for clarification on some things," said Taylor, who wants the county to bring in testimony from experts on gun range design to consult on how it should be seeded and sodded, as well as how it should be built to address safety, sound impact and environmental consequences.
The Rocking 7 Ranch won a civil injunction against the range, advertised as the Rocky Creek Ranch Shooting Resort.
Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Janette Dunnigan ruled April 22 for the plantiffs, who claimed the range has been operating commercially without permits and that bullets from the Baden property routinely fall on their land, creating a safety hazard and noise issues, as well as the potential for property damage.
The suit claimed the firing ranges on the Baden land are "improperly constructed and dangerous," posing an "immediate, imminent and potentially deadly threat."
Dunnigan's decision requires Baden to refrain from commercial use of the range until all permits are granted and each phase of a comprehensive site plan is approved by the county.
Many of the gun range's neighbors have also complained to the county Code Enforcement Board, which is expected to rule on alleged violations at a hearing May 8. They include using a house and barn on the property to lodge students at the gun range, and using an RV as permanent lodging without a permit.
Baden and his co-owners of the property at 38820 Taylor Road had no comment in connection with the notice of intent, according to his attorney, Edward Vogler, in his written response to the county.
Neighbor Falkner Farms, represented by attorney Roy Cohn, also had no comment.

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Roseate spoonbill

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Roseate spoonbills send warning signs about the Florida Everglades
Audubon Magazine – by  Rene Ebersole
May-June 2013
Decades after they staged a major comeback from plume hunting, one of the world’s most bizarre and beautiful birds is struggling in South Florida. Does this spell trouble for the entire Everglades ecosystem ?
Imagine the job description: Twelve-hour days in the hot sun, drenching rain, biting mosquitoes, thigh-deep mud, and wading in waters patrolled by sharks and crocodiles. Not exactly a picture postcard for the Florida Keys. Yet plenty of young biologists have willingly signed up for such punishment.
“Check it out—there’s another spooner coming in,” says Mac Stone, 28, pointing to the two-foot-long pink arrow arching across a cerulean sky. Pastel and crimson, this long-legged wader was John James Audubon’s “rose-coloured curlew.” To some, it was the elusive “flame bird.” Early settlers confused it with the flamingo (tourists still do). Roger Tory Peterson pronounced it “one of the most breathtaking of the world’s weirdest birds.”
By any name, the roseate spoonbill winging overhead is at once beautiful and bizarre. It has red beady eyes, a bald green head, a sturdy white neck, and feathers that range from soft saffron to deep carmine. But its masterpiece is that beak—a “spoon” that does not scoop. It’s more like a paddle that swings to and fro with such broad strokes the bird looks drunk. Investigations into how the bill functions have filled books. One aerospace engineer and biologist went so far as to attach a spoonbill skull to a bicycle wheel to figure out how it works.
Spoonbills remain mysterious. Which is why I am accompanying Stone and a small team of Audubon Florida scientists for several days in the life of a biologist studying a puzzling spoonbill decline. Based in Tavernier, south of Key Largo, these researchers are taking part in what has been nearly a hundred years of Audubon’s scientific bird surveys and conservation efforts in southern Florida, where birdlife was nearly wiped out during the plume era. Now spoonbills are in trouble again.
While populations farther north in Florida along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere are stable, even growing in some places, spoonbill numbers are sinking here in the broad estuary sandwiched between the Everglades, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Keys. A likely culprit: poor water management in the Everglades, which has dramatically altered water depths and salinity levels in Florida Bay, creating a hard-knock life for a wading bird on a special diet. “I think the public says, ‘The Everglades are a national park, everything’s okay,’ ” says Stone. “But if you don’t protect the water—the life force—coming to it, you’ve got nothing. You can put up as many fences, signs, whatever. None of it matters if you don’t have the water.”
With Florida Bay and the greater Everglades contributing millions of dollars to the state’s economy through recreation, tourism, and commercial fishing, many say there’s a lot more at stake than a pocket of pretty pink birds. “Spoonbills have become the indicator for the overall health of the Everglades,” explains Stone. “They’re representative of the whole ecosystem. They require the fish, and the fish require the submerged aquatic vegetation, and the submerged aquatic vegetation requires the input of freshwater.”
Even as recent government reforms offer some promise for the birds and their ecosystem, the system is so far out of whack that some warn: “As goes the spoonbill, so goes the bay.”
“Biodiversity matters,” says Stone, anchoring off a tiny mangrove island called Sandy Key after a gripping hour-long boat ride navigating choppy waters and hidden channel markers in the early morning light. “You lose one link, and the dominoes start falling.”
Tugging on scuba booties, we dip our kayaks into the water, hand over camera gear and notepads, and paddle toward shore. Stone wears a torn field shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and khaki pants stained with bird poop. Squadrons of white ibis swoop past in fleeting currents of ivory feathers, crimson beaks, and flashing black wingtips. At the island’s edge we wedge our kayaks between mangrove buttresses and plunge into “the most evil smelling muck you can imagine,” as one early adventurer related—“like a mixture of sawdust and mud, heavily scented with sulfur.”
“The key is to go fast,” Stone tells me, half running, half falling—and all the while skillfully navigating the submerged prop roots that smack my shins and slow me down. Somewhere in the distance comes a low, rapid huh-huh-huh, huh, audible but out of view.
We high-step beneath the mangrove canopy, draped with clinging spider webs, finally arriving at a section where blue flags dangle, marking the location of several spoonbill nests perched above.
Each nest began as a single twig, presented by a courting male to a female and propped in a mangrove. Dressed in their very best matrimonial attire—rich pink with their upper tail feathers streaked in carmine—the pair mated. Roughly two weeks later she laid an egg—no bigger than a chicken’s—followed by up to two more in as many days. A clutch bigger than three would be rare, although Stone’s seen four on a few occasions, and one time a record five.
Once he even witnessed an egg hatching. “It was moving, and I saw this little bird poking through the shell with its blunt beak,” he says. “It’s so unfortunate they’re given a spoon to break through an egg. Even before they hatch, these birds have it tough. It’s the worst possible tool—a ‘sporkbill’ would have been way better.”
Almost tiptoeing, we step carefully to avoid disturbing the nestlings. “We just try to get in, get the data, and get out as fast as we can,” says Stone. Three blush-colored juveniles teeter awkwardly on a limb. Their wispy light-pink down and wavering arched wings tell us they are “branchlings,” about 21 days old and nearly ready to fledge. Stone rapidly sweeps the rest of the area, searching for others, and scribbling in his tiny yellow book. All told, we tally 23 nests on Sandy Key.
“This is one of the quintessential islands for Florida Bay,” he tells me back at the boat. “It has such great habitat. You find nesting herons, reddish egrets, and cormorants; sharks and sawfish; tons of pelicans. It’s just a beautiful spot. The fact that we can give a thumbs-up to Sandy and say it was successful is a great thing.”
But it’s not that great, he continues. “If you put those numbers in context, 23 isn’t all that good. This is a big island with lots of nesting habitat.”
No one is more aware of how things have changed on Sandy and the surrounding keys than Jerry Lorenz. It is the second day of my visit, and Lorenz and I have been foot-slogging through a mangrove labyrinth for more than an hour, looking for the boats we parked earlier. We’re now in a clearing on the far north end of Tern Key, where a flock of more than 50 white pelicans is herding fish. But no spoonbills. And no sign of our boats.
“This island just looks nothing like it did before,” Lorenz says. Once a keen young field guy like Stone, the bandana-wearing 49-year-old has trashed legions of quick-dry pants and T-shirts traipsing through such swampy island interiors. He was first hired in 1989 for a two-year graduate assistantship at the Tavernier Center. “I had hair back then,” he jokes. Today he runs the center and doubles as Audubon Florida’s state director of research, thus spending more time than ever behind a computer. Still, I have faith.
We slog on. Picking up the pace, Lorenz heads for shore and peeks through the trees out onto the bay. “Okay,” he says, “we just follow this shoreline and we’ll find our boats.”
Another half-hour goes by and we are still up to our thighs in mud and water. Then we see the blue strips marking a cluster of vacant spoonbill nests that we passed earlier on. Two more left turns and we find our kayaks. We’re tired but quick to paddle out of the muck.
The scene on Tern Key is bleak. We found not a single spoonbill nest. “This is just so sad,” Lorenz tells me. “There used to be almost 600 spoonbill nests here. It was deafening; the woof woof of their wing beats sounded like a stadium full of fans. Now it’s totally silent. It breaks my heart.”
The situation on the next key is no better. Nothing. Not a single nest. “Well,” says Lorenz, “no data is still data. We have to check because you don’t want to miss anything.”
The last time these keys fell so quiet was at the end of the millinery trade, in the late 1800s. Birds were dying by the millions to supply feathers for ladies’ hats and dresses. The feather-studded pelt of a heron or snowy egret sold for about 25 cents—making it more valuable than gold. But spoonbill plumes were the diamonds in southern Florida’s crown. By some accounts, a single spoonbill skin commanded up to five dollars.
As in the days of the California gold rush, hardened men—Civil War veterans, hunters, railroad builders—set out to pry a fortune from an unrelenting landscape. Tensions ran high. One Audubon warden trying to protect a bird rookery near Flamingo was shot dead and set adrift in his boat. “It was an era when everyone carried a gun, an ax, and a determination to wrest a living from the wilderness,” wrote spoonbill biologist Robert Porter Allen. By 1890 nearly all of Florida’s spoonbill colonies were destroyed.
Allen was dispatched in 1935, more than 20 years after millinery poaching was legally banned, by then Audubon president John Baker to study five newly discovered birds and figure out why spoonbills weren’t recovering like other wading species.
Among Allen’s findings was the answer to how spoonbills feed—by using what’s called “tactile location,” keeping their bills slightly open as they wave them back and forth through the water. When they hit a fish, the bill snaps shut. “They can collect a fish every three seconds,” says Lorenz. “They are fish vacuum cleaners.”
And their lives depend on that efficiency. “A spoonbill egg is about the size of a chicken egg, and so is the chick. In eight to ten weeks the chick reaches the size of an adult [weighing roughly three pounds and standing more than two feet tall]. To grow that rapidly, they need a huge amount of food.”
Once the spoonbills regained a toehold in Florida Bay, their numbers climbed steadily until 1979, when they peaked at roughly 1,260 nests. They then began a precipitous decline. Wetlands throughout the Keys were ditched and drained to create new housing developments offering residents both direct waterfront and road access, wiping out roughly 80 percent of the birds’ foraging grounds. “The Keys were covered in so much dust, it looked like a fog bank,” Lorenz recalls being told by an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scientist who was working in the area at the time.
The spoonbills responded to such unprecedented development by shifting to more northern nesting areas in Florida Bay. They might have hung on there, if not for the drastic changes in water management that followed, including upgrading the canal system to three times its former size and increasing the number of pump stations to support booming agriculture in southern Dade County.
Lorenz’s research helped reveal the extent to which the spoonbills’ needs were quickly becoming at odds with development and water management. For one, water depth plays an important role in spoonbill survival. When water levels drop very quickly, as they are supposed to do naturally in November and December, it signals to the spoonbills that it is time to start nesting. If all is well, 22 days after the birds lay their first egg the conditions will be ripe for foraging—fish will be concentrated in shallow waters, where spoonbill parents can quickly suck them up and return to the nest to feed their chicks.
If something happens to significantly affect water levels during that time, it can be catastrophic. Say, for instance, it is an unusually wet year when water managers need to mitigate flooding. The standard course has been to pump large amounts of water into the bay, which floods the grassy flats where spoonbills would be feeding.
“All the spoonbill chicks hatched that year will likely die,” says Lorenz. “Parents go out looking for food. If they don’t find it, they don’t come back. The chicks get cold and eventually become weak. They nest mostly over water. If the chicks fall out of the nest, they will be dead within the hour.”
He’s seen it happen. During the 2000–2001 nesting season, one island’s entire colony—130 nests holding nearly 400 chicks—went under when water levels rose rapidly. “There was a wrack line of hundreds of dead spoonbill chicks just lining the island,” Lorenz says. “I have some pretty gruesome pictures.” Most recent surveys count only about 350 spoonbill nests remaining in all of Florida Bay.
As Lorenz approaches another island, he stops mid-paddle. “If you were to sit here 20 years ago, you would see a steady stream of spoonbills coming and going. There was hardly ever a time when there wasn’t a spoonbill overhead.”
Lorenz hasn’t completely lost hope, however. Lately there have been some promising developments. In response to his research, the governing board of the water management district directed one of its engineers to communicate with Lorenz and his staff on a weekly basis during nesting season. “They would call anytime there is a proposed change in management,” he says, brightening. “They would say, ‘Hey, Jerry, how are the birds doing? What’s going to happen to those birds if we open the S18C gate?’ And I’d say, ‘Well you’d kill my birds.’ Then they’d ask, ‘What happens if we only open it partially?’ ‘Well, then, that would be okay.’ Those were the conversations we were starting to have, and as a result, we’ve had successful spoonbill nesting for five of the last six years [giving the population a boost, though the overall numbers remain drastically low]. These birds can be resilient.”
In the morning, the moon is still high when Michelle Robinson and I arrive at the dock off Monroe Drive and begin loading her boat. Robinson, a 31-year-old from Ohio, is the fish biologist charged with keeping tabs on the spoonbills’ pantry. She comes prepared for a cool, wet morning, with a black fleece, gray field pants, and her blonde hair pulled back through a yellow visor.
We forge our way through pounding waves and stinging salt spray for more than an hour until we reach Little Madeira Bay, where we board a small johnboat and begin an hour-long slalom up the Taylor River. Robinson ties a bandana around her mouth and nose to avoid eating spider webs as we zigzag through a long tunnel created by a tight mangrove canopy.
Two hours after leaving the dock by moonlight, we arrive at her study site, where she works well into the afternoon dropping large tentlike nets to survey the types and densities of tiny fish swimming these shallow waters. “Usually the mudflats would be dry by now and fish would be concentrated in the creek,” she tells me. “The spoonbills would be feeding in there.”
But the water is much higher than it should be, partly because of the recent wet weather. A spoonbill streams over, flying fairly low. “Probably looking for a place to eat,” she says, leaning way out of the boat with the ease of a sailor.
Over and over, Robinson methodically sets the nets and gondoliers the boat to the next one, eventually returning to collect the fish. She is halfway through her morning rounds when Peter Frezza arrives to pick me up for one last bay cruise, and a lesson on fish economics. That is, how much a fish, or a spoonbill for that matter, is worth to the state of Florida.
Frezza is Audubon Florida’s research manager for the Everglades region, and a weekend fishing guide. He recently did a formal survey of the local fishing community to see if they have perceived a change in bonefish populations. Are those populations going up or down? The consensus: Nearly all of the more than 70 fishermen surveyed reported that they had seen a drastic decline.
“Something major has happened in Florida Bay,” says Frezza, explaining that many shallow-water game fish, including bonefish and juvenile tarpon, need the same things as spoonbills: good water quality and lots of seafood. “If the food were there in the bay, fish should be there, too. But they’re not.”
The implications are huge, not only for the region’s recreational fishing and the Florida Bay ecosystem but for the whole state. Florida Bay supports an annual $22 million stone crab fishery, a $59 million shrimp industry, and a spiny lobster fishery worth $40 million. Add to that the value of recreational fishing in the Everglades—an additional $1.2 billion a year.
Still, flood control and agriculture take priority over a balanced ecosystem, says Frezza. “We’re last. At least that’s the way it seems. But the mindset is slowly starting to shift.”
In January a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the first phase of what’s called the C-111 spreader canal, which when it’s completed will redistribute the amount of freshwater the bay receives. If the rest of the C-111 project is operated as planned, raising water levels of certain structures should create a hydraulic ridge that will push water back toward Taylor Slough, the intended freshwater entry point to Florida Bay. Increasing freshwater flow through the slough will rehydrate parched wetlands and revitalize the populations of the small fish spoonbills eat.
Other recent developments include an initiative called the Central Everglades Planning Project, which bundles several restoration efforts instead of implementing them piecemeal. And last June Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed on an $880 million plan to filter larger quantities of phosphorous from water flowing through the Everglades.
“The science in Florida Bay is helping to inform the policy work,” Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper told me before I departed for the Keys. “C-111 is a direct example. We’ve used information from the spoonbill research to help government better operate how that canal works. Our major objective is getting the right amount of freshwater into the Everglades, at the right time. If we do that, we’ll have a greater number of spoonbills nesting in Florida Bay. If we don’t . . .”
Conservationists continue to lobby for additional bridging over the Tamiami Trail, the road that forms the northern border of the park, acting as a dam and blocking the natural water flow through the Glades. They also lobby for continued research funding that helps gauge how restoration work is performing. Just as the restoration projects are coming online, both state and federal funds for ecosystem monitoring have experienced major cutbacks.
“I hope to see real policy changes that will help restore the Everglades and Florida Bay,” Frezza tells me as we approach the last stop of the day, a tiny island called Jimmy Key, where he suspects we’ll find spoonbills near shore. We climb aboard a skiff and begin poling the island’s edge, beautifully buttressed and iridescent. Working our way through the shallows, we find more than a dozen downy spoonbill chicks cautiously peeking through the braided trees. With their fluffy feathers ruffling in a light breeze, they gaze out on the bay’s pale-blue waters, waiting for their parents to return with a crop full of fish.
The scene is peaceful and serene, as if all is fine in Florida Bay. With the clouds clearing and gentle waves lapping our boat, it’s easy to believe so. But decades of work show it won’t become a reality without strong political will and continued efforts toward better long-term water management in the Everglades. With that, these isles may glow bright with fire once more.

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Lawmakers pass bill to deal with Everglades suit
Miami Herald - by Mary Ellen Klas, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
May 3, 2013
Florida legislators used a bill to change wetlands regulations to block a lawsuit against the state for approving two no-bid, 20-year lease agreements with sugar and vegetable farmers.
The leases were approved by the governor and Cabinet in January and are now being challenged in court by the Florida Wildlife Federation, which alleges the leases allow the sugar growers to continue to farm without reducing their pollution levels.
The provision was added to HB 999, a wide-ranging bill that changes environmental regulations. The House voted 106-10 late Friday while the Senate voted 39-1 and sent the measure to the governor.
The sugar industry said in a statement that the legislation was needed to "avoid obstructionist litigation from some extreme environmental activists" and to complete the state's clean-up efforts that are part of the Everglades settlement legislators also ratified.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham appealed to legislators to reject the bill on Thursday. Graham, a member of the Florida Conservation Coalition, said it was clearly intended to end the litigation.
The Senate on Thursday stripped the bill of other provisions opposed by environmentalists , including a three-year ban on local fertilizer ordinances and a measure to prevent local governments from imposing wetlands regulations.
Related:
Legislators pass plan to do end-run around lawsuit challenging Everglades leases   Miami Herald

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sugar

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Florida legislators sweeten bill for sugar industry
Tampa Bay Times - by Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
May 3, 2013
Florida legislators used a bill changing wetlands regulations to block a lawsuit against the state for approving two no-bid, 20-year lease agreements with sugar and vegetable farmers.
The leases were approved by the governor and Cabinet in January and are being challenged by the Florida Wildlife Federation, which alleges the leases allow sugar growers to continue to farm without reducing pollution levels.
The provision was added to HB 999, which the House approved 106-10 and the Senate approved 39-1 on Friday, sending the measure to the governor.
The sugar industry said in a statement that the legislation was needed to "avoid obstructionist litigation from some extreme environmental activists" and to complete the state's cleanup efforts that are part of the Everglades settlement legislators also ratified.
The Senate stripped the bill of other provisions opposed by environmentalists, including a three-year ban on local fertilizer ordinances and a measure to prevent water management districts from local wetlands regulations.
Foreclosure reform on Scott's desk
A proposal to speed up foreclosures passed the Senate on a 26-13 vote and now heads to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
The third attempt at foreclosure reform in three years, HB 87 creates new options for expedited foreclosures and tightens up filing standards for banks.
Opponents claimed it would harm homeowners and favor banks, who have been accused of engaging in questionable foreclosure practices. But proponents hailed it as a way to fix Florida's nation-leading foreclosure problem, and return the state's housing market to normal.
"I believe we have a product here that will be an improvement in the process," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. It's "far more tilted to consumers than it is to banks."
Joyner to lead Senate Democrats
Senate Democrats elected Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, their 2014-16 leader. Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant called Joyner "a tireless advocate for Democratic values and ally to Florida's middle-class families."
Joyner, elected to the House in 2000 and Senate in 2006, is the first black woman to serve as Senate Democratic leader, the party said. The current leader is Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.
Card and support for Ken Plante
On the hectic final day of the legislative session, dozens of people paused in the rotunda to sign a poster-sized get-well card for Ken Plante, a highly respected lobbyist and former Republican state senator from Winter Park.
Plante, 72, is suffering from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a progressive neurological disorder with no cure. To many who earn a living in Florida's capital, the good-natured Plante has been a role model, teacher and mentor.
The inscription next to the large card asked for $250 donations to help with Plante's medical expenses. It read: "Kenny is at home, but is using a ventilator to help him breathe, and so his home health care is not covered by insurance. He also suffers as a result of the Medicare 'doughnut hole' in which his prescription medicine costs are astronomical. So Kenny Plante's many friends around Florida have banded together to help cover the health care costs and invite you to join us."

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FL Capitol

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Going green, shrinking the State: Florida leads the way
Huffington Post – by Eli Lehrer
May 3, 2013
With the stroke of his pen on a piece of insurance reform legislation, Florida governor Rick Scott will soon have the opportunity to begin writing another chapter to a rich and under-appreciated history of small-government environmentalism. The legislation he'll almost certainly sign in the next few weeks -- the "coastal preservation" title of a property insurance reform bill -- will protect millions of undeveloped acres in the State of Florida, shield taxpayers from giant potential liabilities, defend private property, and won't cost a penny of tax money. While it's not the first law or regulation of its type -- several similar measures exist in federal law -- it's an approach that deserves a lot more attention and consideration from conservatives and liberals alike.
The bill that Florida lawmakers just sent to Scott's desk contains language that ends state-subsidized insurance for people who build in high-risk coastal areas seaward of an "Coastal Construction Control Line." Without the subsidies that the state currently provides for property insurance in storm-prone areas, developers and homeowners wanting to build along the coasts will probably have to either self-insure or buy much more expensive "excess and surplus lines" insurance. This will slow the pace of new coastal development overall and assure that projects built right near storm-prone coasts are both safe (private insurers will insist on it) and economically beneficial (they'll need to be for lenders to back them.) The results will protect millions of acres of wetlands from subsidized development and, because these coastal areas serve as key wildlife habitat, recreation areas, and buffers against storm surge, benefit people who live inland too. As sea levels rise as a result of climate change, furthermore, the bill will assure that Florida will have to do less to adjust. And, since Florida will no longer assume liabilities for the insurance, the bill also protects taxpayers. In short, it's something that just about every group concerned (except developers) should love.
The approach that the bill takes isn't exactly new. Since the early 1980s, environmentalists and members of Congress from both parties have worked hard to look for ways that withdrawing subsidies and shrinking government could protect the environment. The most visible legacy of this movement is probably the Coastal Barrier Resources Act which withdraws federal subsidies from most barrier islands and barrier beaches and has saved over $1 billion while preserving millions of acres of wild lands. Another set of policies -- conservation compliance -- forbids farmers from using federal subsidies to drain wetlands and requires them to avoid soil erosion when they use these same subsidies to farm on "highly erodible land." Finally, designations of National Forest Wilderness Areas -- a favorite tool of President Ronald Reagan -- preserves land for recreational and conservation use in truly rugged conditions without building massive tourist facilities or spending millions of tax dollars.
This approach of shrinking government to protect the environment, of course, can't work for everything. Although the current manner of administering them could use some revision, there's little doubt that there need to be laws that protect the commons -- air and water -- from industrial pollution. While pure, pristine wilderness is certainly important, furthermore, it's perfectly legitimate to spend tax money to make areas of great historical and natural significance more accessible to the public. But being green does not -- and should not -- mean supporting ever-bigger government. The Florida legislature, in its own way, has just proven it.

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FDEP

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New sources of alternative water supply – conservation
The Ledger.com – by Greg Munson, Deputy Secretary of Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee, FL
May 3, 2013
It was refreshing to see The Ledger's editorial encouraging Floridians to conserve water, but more is being done to ensure an adequate future water supply than illustrated in the April 11 editorial, "Florida's Water Capacity: Waste of Time and Supply."
It's certainly true that conservation is the cheapest form of "new" water. Since 2008, the state's five water-management districts have provided $52 million in cost-share assistance for water-conservation efforts. This funding is in addition to ongoing conservation education, outreach and in-kind services provided by the districts to promote water conservation.
Furthermore, the districts have provided $175 million since 2005 to support one form of conservation, water reuse — and, in almost every part of the state, the districts limit lawn irrigation to avoid the waste of Florida's water. With the help of 2012 legislation and Department of Environmental Protection's rule-making, Florida leads the nation in water reuse and local governments everywhere should be congratulated on this effort.
Conservation, however, is not sufficient by itself to meet Florida's entire future demand. The editorial criticizes SB 364 (HB 109) and implies that it allows utilities to pump more and more water. In fact, this legislation, which provides for longer permits, does not include traditional pumping of freshwater from the ground.
Instead, the legislation implicitly recognizes that alternative water-supply sources must be developed, such as treating and using brackish groundwater, or building reservoirs to capture more rainfall.
The editorial correctly notes that the 30-year permit term is necessary to make financing feasible for these often costly alternative water supplies. In addition, the department and the water-management districts are now making rules that will provide similar incentives for utilities that successfully conserve water.
Florida is ready for the challenge of producing the water necessary to support our residents, our environment and our businesses over the coming decades, but it will take both conservation and new sources of alternative water supply to meet these demands.

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Shooting range proposed for Mecca Farms
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 3, 2013
Land was once set aside for The Scripps Research Institute
There will be gunfire rather than scientific discovery under a proposal to open a shooting range on Palm Beach County's Mecca Farms — once the intended home of The Scripps Research Institute.
A new state plan calls for building a shooting range, for recreational shooters and competitors alike, on about 100 acres of the county's 1,919 acres of former citrus groves west of Palm Beach Gardens. The county already sunk more than $100 million of taxpayers' money into a failed effort to build a "biotech village" anchored by Scripps on Mecca Farms, north of Northlake Boulevard. But Scripps' research labs wound up at Florida Atlantic University's Jupiter campus.
  Mecca Farms
Ever since those plans fizzled in 2006, the county has been looking for a way to make use of Mecca Farms while also trying to recoup at least some of taxpayers' investment.
In August, the County Commission endorsed a $55 million proposal to sell Mecca Farms to the South Florida Water Management District to be used as a part of Everglades restoration.
That deal remains stalled as the county and district differ on price.
While still pursuing the deal with the district, the county is considering the state proposal to use a northwestern portion of Mecca Farms to house a state-owned shooting range. The shooting range would be an extension of the attractions offered at the neighboring 60,000-acre J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
"I'm open to any and all ideas to help the county relieve its debt burden on the property," Palm Beach County Mayor Steven Abrams said about proposals for Mecca Farms.
But after environmental concerns squashed plans to build Scripps on Mecca Farms, a shooting range would not be an acceptable alternative, said Lisa Interlandi of the Everglades Law Center, which opposed Scripps plans.
Selling the land to the water management district for water storage should be the priority, Interlandi said.
"This is land that we need to use for water storage. It's not appropriate for any other use," she said.
Through the years, proposals for everything from a housing development to an amusement park have come and gone for Mecca Farms, while the county pays off the debt from the land deal as well as maintenance costs of the far-flung property.
The county in 2004 paid $60 million for Mecca Farms and spent about $40 million more in planning, permitting and initial construction for Scripps. The county also built a $51 million water pipeline to supply Mecca Farms and development once expected on surrounding farmland.
"Every year that the county holds onto it, they are just wasting money," Interlandi said.
While Mecca Farms' future has long remained in limbo, so too have plans to open a public shooting range.
Costs of creating a public shooting facility got in the way, but now the state is proposing to pay for it, said County Administrator Robert Weisman.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has proposed using Mecca Farms land to build a "world class" shooting facility which would tie into operations at Corbett, Weisman said. The County Commission on May 21 will be asked to consider the shooting range proposal. The cost and other details have yet to be finalized, Weisman said.
"It is something that the public has been wanting for a long time," said County Commissioner Jess Santamaria, whose district includes western Palm Beach County, said about the shooting range. "I want to see Mecca Farms unloaded for a good purpose."
For Santamaria, that means prioritizing the deal with the water management district and also trying to include room for the shooting range.
The framework for a deal that the County Commission approved in August called for the water management district to get Mecca Farms in exchange for $30 million and land trades valued at $25 million.
The proposal would turn Mecca Farms into a water storage area, part of a new $880 million state plan to clean up water pollution and get more clean water to the Everglades.
Cost remains the stumbling block to selling Mecca Farms to the district, with the county and the district about $10 million apart, according to Weisman. Talks between the district and county continue later this month.
"I hope we can work something out with the district," Weisman said.
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Rising seas

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Cities and states are staying afloat by preparing for rising seas
American Rivers – by Fay Augustyn, Conservation Associate
May 2, 2013
After what seems like a never-ending winter, there are many things that I’m looking forward to about the approach of summer: sunshine, warm weather, outdoor patio dining, and beach vacations. But for the millions of people who live along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, summer also marks the beginning of hurricane season.
Last year, Superstorm Sandy slammed into the northeastern seaboard, destroying lives, homes, and businesses and in the process racking up $50 billion in damage. Other major tropical cyclones included Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall in Louisiana and caused $2 billion in damage, and Tropical Storm Debby, which caused severe flooding in Florida and $250 million in damages [PDF].
During the 2011 season, Hurricane Irene [PDF] caused damage of nearly $16 billion in the northeast, and Tropical Storm Lee [PDF] inflicted over $1 billion of damage across a large swath of the eastern U.S.
As climate change leads to warmer air and water temperatures, tropical storms and hurricanes are projected to grow stronger. Coupled with higher sea levels (from the melting of land-based ice and the expansion of the oceans as water temperatures rise), storm surges from stronger storms will reach further inland, threatening homes, businesses, and infrastructure previously not at risk.
Even in areas not typically prone to tropical cyclones, higher sea levels will lead to greater flooding as waters from extreme high tide events and storm surge from nor’easters and other coastal storms envelope communities. Across the U.S., millions of people and tens of billions of dollars of property are located perilously within a few feet of the tide.
Because of the growing threats to our nation’s coastal communities from climate change, cities and states are taking charge to prepare for rising seas. Our new Getting Climate Smart guide contains hundreds of strategies to address climate threats to coastal communities and natural habitats. To illustrate measures states are putting in place to address sea level rise risks, we provide a case study of California [PDF]. From developing sea level rise estimates and visualization tools for planning purposes to requiring projects to consider sea level rise implications, the state is tackling sea level rise through many avenues.
Other states also are taking action. As I’ve written about previously, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently signed an executive order [PDF] to reduce flooding risks to state building and public infrastructure in coastal areas. The state’s eastern neighbor, Delaware, also has comprehensively assessed vulnerability to sea level rise and solicited public input on possible preparedness strategies. The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill (S. 344) that would require the development of sea level rise and storm surge scenarios so that state agencies can conduct a vulnerability assessment of their assets. And a bill (A6558) in the New York State Senate would require state-funded projects to consider sea level rise and other climate change risks and require state agencies to develop model local laws to enable municipalities to plan for climate change.
Local communities are not standing on the sidelines either when it comes to preparing for climate impacts. The four Florida counties in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact have received much recognition for their efforts to better coordinate and collaborate on climate preparedness efforts in what is one of the most vulnerable areas [PDF] in the U.S. to sea level rise. Mayor Thomas Menino also is making sure that Boston is prepared. Several months ago, the mayor announced the convening of a Climate Preparedness Task Force and tasked city agencies with developing climate change preparedness design components for new development, a wetlands ordinance to protect against sea level rise and storm surge, and guidelines for better enforcement of flood-proofing standards for buildings.
These states and communities, as well as many others, recognize the severe risks that sea level rise and climate change pose to public health and safety, homes, businesses, the economy, and ecosystems. By taking action, they are tackling climate change challenges head-on. Other states and communities should take heed and follow in their proactive steps.

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Riney

Justin RINEY
paddling on -


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Expedition Florida 500: Riney returns after a wild ride
TCPalm - Jupiter Courrier – by Cynthia Trone
May 2, 2013
For those of you following Expedition Florida 500, you know it has been a wild ride.
If you have not been, here’s an insider’s view of an incredible journey.
Justin Riney, founder of the nonprofit foundation Mother Ocean, is sponsored by Quiksilver and Tahoe SUP. He has partnered with the State of Florida and Department of Environmental Protection in a yearlong conservation effort as a signature event of VIVA Florida 500, celebrating Florida’s 500th Anniversary.
Launching from Pensacola on New Year’s Day, he has paddle boarded the entire Gulf Coast and just hit Atlantic water for the first time in Key West last weekend.
I am honored to be his Project Lead on this epic journey, and have spent every day since I heard about the project last October working closely with him.
THE MISSION IS SIMPLE
To bring awareness and respect to our natural resources, to protect the waterways, history and culture, and to create ocean advocates across Florida.
As I watch the moon grow full over Jupiter tonight, I remember telling Justin last month in Bonita Springs how beautiful the bright moon would be in the stillness of the Everglades.
I didn’t think about the power of the moon on the tides, and what an added challenge that would bring to his solo paddle through the Everglades.
Based in Tequesta, I have driven thousands of miles since January. Florida has surprised me. The vastness of it, the sweetness of the Gulf Coast, the desolate stretches, the soft sands of remote Forgotten Coast beaches, the kindness of strangers. The southern hospitality and the wild vibrant Glades. The small towns and the rich history.
ENDLESS ROAD TRIPS, AS JUSTIN PADDLES ON
Quietly continuing with his focused mission. We are passionate about what we love, these beautiful waterways and this historic state, and we have gathered thousands to join us along the way. This grassroots effort that is gaining national attention is run from Justin’s iphone and my kitchen table.
He is relentless and unstoppable in keeping up with daily posts and photographs, recording his journey in great detail, and communicating the importance of every area with us as he moves forward. Follow the journey at www.facebook.com/ XF500.
We joined Justin in Naples just before he embarked on the most dangerous and isolated section of his journey, Everglades City to Flamingo.
My son Jackson and I giggled as Justin programmed his Spot Tracker with messages to send to me along the stretches with no cell service. The first and only message that would come to me for the eight nights he was deep in the Everglades read: “I am fine. Tell anyone that may worried about me that all is well. YEWWWWW.” With that came GPS coordinates of his position.
The second and third messages he programmed I was glad to never see. If I had, it would have meant that he was in deep trouble which would involve a helicopter or airboat to get him out. So each day my heart skipped a quick beat when the message came in.
I would then relay the coordinates to Jackson at the University of North Florida, who quickly created a map of the area with an arrow of Justin’s position. Then I posted it on our XF500 facebook page for our 7,000 followers to see. Within minutes, I would have dozens of comments from people across the state just as relieved as I was.
In the Everglades, Justin dug deep, challenged himself physically and mentally, and he found a peace of mind in nature that is a rare and beautiful treasure. He did not use GPS. He navigated the old fashioned way with maps. He coexisted with rats, bugs, snakes, sharks, alligators and the occasional armed fisherman.
His board was torn up and repaired with every bit of duct tape he had. The plan was for us to meet Justin in Key Largo after his triumphant passage across Florida Bay.
MY PHONE, AN ACTIVE ONE
With calls coming in from around the state for XF500 event planning, I have learned the area codes for every county. One afternoon I had multiple calls coming in from a random 305 (Miami) number. I let it go, because I was at work. But it kept calling.
Suddenly I realized that this was a call I should answer, since I am the only emergency contact number for Justin as he was navigating the wilderness alone. “Justin??” I say without a hello as I run out of my office with my phone. “Cynthia! I am using this nice gentleman’s phone here in Flamingo, because mine has no service. How are you?”
We just laughed, as if a phone call could even come close to describing how he was. His knee was ripped up, his board was taking on water and was severely damaged, his water supply was low, but he sounded happier than I ever heard him. Considering the incoming winds and storms, and the condition of his board, crossing the bay would be impossible.
T his was a blow to him because he had been looking forward to completing that leg of the journey, but it was a necessary and wise decision. I made the long dark trip to the end of the road in Flamingo two days later, keeping him waiting late into the night.
Justin made the transition from an extraordinarily brave solo voyage through one of the wildest places in our country, into our car full of kids, dogs, laughter, road trip junk food and lively conversation, with his usual grace and good humor. He has become a part of our family, and like most people know who have spent any time with Justin, he is consistently respectful, patient, polite and kind.
TYPICAL RINEY
He is man with a vision, and has the sharp intelligence to make that vision a reality.
With his soggy gear, his sore knee, his stinky water boots, and his battered board, we arrive in Key Largo for our XF500 Cleanup, and Justin speaks eloquently to a lazy crowd and several politicians at sunset.
We connect with the Sierra Club, and several local politicians who listen carefully.
In Islamorada, XF500 hosted a powerful and fun children’s event, with the world famous environmental activist and artist, Wyland. A few days later, I make another trip to the Keys to scoop up Justin and drive him to Fort Lauderdale for the Rock the Ocean Tortugas Music Festival.
There he meets with Guy Harvey, and greets crowds of ocean advocates with the same quiet passion he shares across the state. His gator knife still strapped to his belt, Justin is not quite ready to face the concrete jungle that is South Florida, and his parents bring him quickly back to the water in Marathon where the journey continues.
COMING BACK TO THE AREA
Justin and Team XF500 will be in the Jupiter-Tequesta-Juno Beach area May 24-27. The public and media are welcome to attend these events, and volunteers are welcome. Call me for details, at 561-629-3765
Namely:
• Friday, May 24th 10:30-1:00
MacArthur State Park, Riviera Beach.
XF500 presentation tour of State Park, and lunch followed with a Q & A opportunity.
• Saturday, May 25th 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
at Juno Beach. Beach Cleanup with Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Florida Paddleboards, and Surfrider from 9-11 a.m. Paddlesurfing and beach celebration for all ages, followed by lunch and XF500 presentation at Sushi Jo’s Juno at noon.
• ‘MOTHER OCEAN FESTIVAL’
Sunday, May 26 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the Lighthouse ArtCenter presents the Mother Ocean Festival. Festival will feature children’s art contest, raku firing, raffle, mural painting, open ceramic studio, refreshments and music.
Riney will present a slide show presentation at 1 p.m., and his 14-foot custom touring paddleboard with original Wyland whale’s tail will be on display.
Ocean-themed art exhibit will be at the Lighthouse School of Art from May 6 to May 31.
Paddlers are welcome to join Riney in a group paddle to Guanabanas, leaving Tequesta at 3:30pm. Call for launch details 561-629-3765.
• Monday, May 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. XF500 Cleanup and celebration at Sandsprit Park in Stuart.

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Florida lawmakers wrap up work on Everglades bill
WINKnews.com
May 2, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida lawmakers completed work Thursday on a new plan to help pay for Everglades restoration, drawing praise from environmental activists and the sugar industry after years of squabbling over ways to protect the famed River of Grass.
On the next-to-last day of the legislative session, the Senate voted 39-0 to send the measure (HB 7065) to Gov. Rick Scott. The bill won unanimous approval from the House earlier in the 60-day session.
"We're very proud of this legislation," said Sen. Wilton Simpson, the lead Senate proponent who referred to the Everglades as "the Eighth Wonder of the World."
The legislation would keep intact an existing tax on farmers in the northern Everglades until the mid-2030s, although it calls for the tax rate to decrease starting in the mid-2020s.
The money from the tax will be used for water quality restoration projects that are part of an $880 million plan that was negotiated between Scott and the federal government.
The bill also calls for spending $32 million a year for the next 10 years in an effort to reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters the Everglades.
Lawmakers pushing the bill touted it as a peace treaty in a dispute over an ecologically fragile area that has been fought over for the past two decades.
Sugar interests and environmental activists on Thursday were quick to praise the final product headed to the governor's desk.
"Sugar farmers are proud to have worked closely with environmental groups and policy makers to help craft a bill that will conclude decades of drawn out litigation that have been a barrier to restoration," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corp. "This bill is a pact that will put into statute the consensus between all groups, which means we can now move forward together with certainty to build the final projects for Everglades restoration."
Robert Coker, senior vice president of U.S. Sugar Corp., called the bill a "true compromise" and said he hopes it leads to a "lasting collaboration."
"''We've been working on these issues for more than 20 years and remain committed to striking the balance that allows farmers to grow food, contribute to a strong economy and also continue to serve as partners in the state's restoration plans," he said in a statement.
The sugar industry praised the bill's language allowing sugar farmers to continue using "best management practices," paid for by the farmers. The industry said those practices have significantly reduced phosphorus-related pollution.
The Everglades Foundation also hailed the bill's final passage.
Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said the bill was "good public policy" that would provide "reliable funding" for restoration efforts. He said it protects language that has guided Florida's restoration efforts for two decades.
Related Articles
AAA praises Fla. lawmakers for passing texting ban
SW Florida could lose out on its share of 50 billion dollars
Future plans for more beach parking ?
Florida lawmakers pass texting-while-driving ban

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Graham

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Graham urges legislators to reject bills aimed at environmental rules
Tampa Bay Times – by Mary Ellen Klas, Tallahassee Bureau
May 2, 2013
Former senator and governor Bob Graham is back in Tallahassee today, this time urging legislators to reject a handful of environmental bills that he believes will have a damaging impact on the environment.
He spoke Senate Democrats urging them to reject HB 999, a bill relating to environmental permitting that prohibits local governments from regulating fertilizer sales and application between now and 2016 as well as local government efforts to regulate wetlands.
"There seems to be a number of bills that have the effect of removing local control,'' he said. "The irony is this is a time when there has been a substantial reduction in the financial and human capabilities of the water management districts or the state to provide the oversight that currently."
He also urged them to reject SB 1684 which ratifies a no-bid Everglades lease agreement between the state and sugar and vegetable farmers. It as approved by the governor and Cabinet in January and is now being challenged in court by the Florida Wildlife Federation. The bill will "have the practical effect to terminate that litigation,'' he said. "We would encourage a no-vote on the bill on final passage because we don't feel the bill will be in the public interest."
Graham, a member of the Florida Conservation Coalition, noted that the special interest push to weaken environmental laws is occurring because the window is open. "For some interests, they see this as the best train to get on for the foreseeable future."

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Lawmakers sign off on Everglades restoration plan
Miami Herald - by Mary Ellen Klas, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
May 2, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Senate put the legislative stamp of approval on the landmark settlement between Gov. Rick Scott, the federal government and the sugar industry on Thursday when it passed a bill to dedicate state money and establish criteria for restoring water quality to the Everglades.
The bill, HB 7065, which had earned the rare support of most environmentalists and sugar companies, will be accompanied by a $70 million investment in the clean-up efforts which are included in the proposed $74.5 billion budget. The Senate approved the measure 39-0 after the House approved it last month 114-0. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it.
The passage comes a day after the governor signed two legislative priority bills on campaign finance and ethics. The Senate had put on hold a vote on the Everglades bill as well as the confirmation of the governor's top agency heads.
Scott entered into the settlement with the Obama administration last year and quietly considered it a priority to have the Legislature ratify the language and create a framework for funding the restoration projects.
"The unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House, and now the Senate, to move Everglades legislation and restoration forward proves the success of true compromise and what we hope will be a lasting collaboration between legislators, farmers and environmental groups," said Robert Coker, vice president of U.S. Sugar in a statement.
"We've been working on these issues for more than 20 years and remain committed to striking the balance that allows farmers to grow food, contribute to a strong economy and also continue to serve as partners in the state's restoration plans," he said.

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Southwest Florida waters run deep ... and early
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
May 2, 2013
Like rust on a hook, pollution builds up across the Southwest Florida landscape during the dry season, on lawns and roads, golf courses and driveways.
And each year, typically in June, heavy rains pound the ground, lifting several months worth of concentrated chemicals and nutrients and delivering them to ditches, canals, creeks, rivers and bays. Water quality scientists refer to these rain events as the “first flush,” and this year it’s taking place a month to six weeks earlier than usual.
Southwest Florida recently had its first real sustained rainy days, with 1.83 inches on Wednesday in Fort Myers and 0.33 inches as of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, which is calling for a 50 percent chance of rain today, a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday, but almost no chance of rain Sunday.
“(First flush is) happening right now for this year,” said Anura Karuna-Muni, a project manager with Lee County Natural Resources. “We had 3 inches of rain on Pop Ash Creek, but the water level didn’t do anything (as of Wednesday). All that water that came down was absorbed by the soil. (But) one of my co-workers went today and said ‘Hey, the water is almost 12 inches above yesterday.’”
Stormwater pollution can cause or feed harmful algae blooms such as red tide (Karenia brevis), which has killed a record 244 Florida manatees in Lee County this year. Airborne toxins from red tide blooms can cause respiratory difficulties in humans and animals. Stormwater pollution can also make the water cloudy, which chokes sea grasses of sunlight.
These same grasses, often referred to as aquatic nurseries, are the base of the food chain for various fish and marine life.
Tidal creeks
Lee County has long been plagued with stormwater runoff issues, mostly because of urbanization and historic water management practices that were aimed mostly at getting as much water off the landscape as fast as possible. Water managers now focus largely on storing water within a particular basin, as it is one of the most efficient and cheapest ways to improve water quality.

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State cools on land buys, shifts approach to conservation
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
May 2, 2013
Less-funded programs and zero-sum plans leave conservation groups a worried bunch.
Long heralded for spending billions to secure green space and create wildlife preserves and corridors, Florida is in the midst of an about-face on the conservation front, with some elected officials saying the state has too much public land and some should be sold to the private sector.
Recent moves by state officials and agencies have environmental groups on edge, worried Florida’s legacy of land preservation may be headed for extinction.
“It would represent a fundamental shift (in Florida’s approach to conservation),” said Charles Pattison of 1,000 Friends of Florida. “It’s essentially a freeze. If you can’t buy any more land until you sell another amount, you’ve basically frozen the amount of acreage you can buy.”
Land acquisition in Florida has been funded nearly every year since 1963, through 11 administrations with various political affiliations. Florida Forever, the latest rendition of taxpayer-funded land-buying programs, had an annual budget of $300 million for nearly 20 years, securing more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion since 2001. Those glory days came to a 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 toffshore oil drilling tax revenue fund land acquisitions — an idea that wasn't well-received by many Democrats and environmental groups.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, sponsored a bill this year that would essentially cap the amount of preserved land in the state. All counties and municipalities, according to Senate Bill 584, also would be required to sell off publicly held lands before purchasing any additional properties. After garnering little support, Hays postponed a vote on the bill, which is likely to die this year. Some expect Hays to introduce the bill again. Hays could not be reached for comment.
Gov. Rick Scott has touted his push to set aside $75 million for state lands in the 2013-14 budget, but only $25 million is guaranteed. The remaining $50 million would have to come from the sell-off of other lands.
People like Jason Lauritsen, manager at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Immokalee, however, worry Florida’s lands and waterways may fall prey to short-term profits.
“In my mind it does represent a fundamental shift in the approach to conservation and the need for it,” Lauristen said. “It suggests an underlying threshold where we’ve purchased enough land and we just need to move some of it around and we’ll be fine. I certainly don’t agree with that.”
Earlier this year the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shocked many conservation groups when it refused to take ownership of Peaceful Horse Ranch, which was once targeted by that agency for purchase. Instead of paying millions for the land (which has nearly 8 miles of frontage on the Peace River in DeSoto County), the state could have taken title for free with $2 million for future maintenance.
Long-term land management and ongoing maintenance costs can rival or surpass the purchase price in some cases, depending on the condition of the land.
DEP refused to take on the property, and a clause in the land contract says the land, if refused by the state, goes to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
“Here it was coming in free of charge, and with $2 million, turned over to the public to help pay the expense associated,” said Andrew McElwaine, executive director of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “It was supposed to be turned into a park.”
The park never happened.
Less than three years ago a DEP committee that ranks sensitive lands for the willing-seller program identified Peaceful Horse Ranch as vital to preserving water quality of the river and Charlotte Harbor. A 2010 DEP report says land also would provide recreation for the public, protect lands near the river from polluting urbanization, and help the South Florida Water Management District create a trail corridor that would link the land to Deep Creek and eventually Myakka State Park.
“There’s a sense that we should plunder our natural resources,” McElwaine said. “The long-term consequences be damned. Even if we make millions of dollars over a long period of time (by preserving the land), get rid of it for one economic opportunity.”
At the same time, environmental groups are scrambling to create revenue sources for future land purchases and maintenance. Several groups are pushing a 2014 voter referendum that would set aside upwards of $500 million for Everglades restoration projects and Florida Forever.
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. It is up for review by a Supreme Court justice, who is expected to deliver a decision in June. From there nearly 680,000 signatures will be needed to get the amendment on the 2014 ballot.

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Altman

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Altman-sponsored bill will hurt environment
Florida Today – Letter by W.W. Gardner, FL House of Representatives, 1978-88
May 1, 2013
Is there no stopping this rape of our state? I recognize House Bill 999 has passed, and I recognize SB 1684 is on its way to special order, so it appears to be a done deal.
SB 1684, sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, will do irreparable harm to our state. It is arguably the most environmentally damaging bill of the 2013 legislative session.
Here’s what it does:
Pre-empts local authority to adopt fertilizer control ordinances that protect water quality.
Creates wetland exemptions for drainage districts and jeopardizes more than one million acres of land and water in Florida.
Ratifies no-bid 30-year sugar leases in the Everglades Agricultural Area, increasing the cost of Everglades restoration and further degrading water quality in the Everglades.
Expedites natural gas pipeline permit applications.
Limits how the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can test for polluted water discharges.
Prohibits water management districts from reducing permitted water withdrawals where an alternative water source is available.
Restricts how local governments deal with development proposals by limiting how many times additional information can be requested.
I, frankly, have become disillusioned with how our state government is treating environmental protection. Florida’s environment is very fragile. It is only a matter of time until it is degraded to the point that developers will move to other states and leave us with a bastard child.
Maybe the Florida Senate will realize where it is headed and defeat SB 1684.

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FL Capitol

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Bill that would ratify water quality standards heads to governor
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
May 2, 2013
The House Wednesday passed a water quality bill despite opposition from some environmental groups along with a batch of noncontroversial water legislation.
SB 1808 would ratify a deal between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calling on the state to set nitrogen and phosphorus limits for waterways.
DEP say its state rules provide flexibility in cleaning up waterways while being less expensive than federal rules. But environmental groups are suing to block state rules, saying they contain loopholes that allow toxic algae blooms to continue in springs and rivers along with coastal red tide.
During debate, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, said the bill didn't do enough to protect people, pets, livestock and wildlife from the health threats. Her amendment requiring the reporting of health incidents was voted down on Tuesday.
"The problem I have with this bill is it forgets why it needed to come to that solution," she said. "That is to protect the people of the state of Florida, the animals of the state of Florida -- the livestock and dogs, and the natural fauna of the state of Florida including manatees."
Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia and bill sponsor, said SB 1808 was "years in the making."
The bill passed 103-13 and is heading to Gov. Rick Scott.
Associated Industries of Florida and a coalition of groups including the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation issued a statement praising the action.
“This legislation is a win for Florida," Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, president of the Florida League of Cities. "Under the new agreement headed to Governor Scott, our state’s water quality program will promote the smart use of taxpayer dollars while protecting the beauty of Florida’s natural waters.”
But Lisa Rowe Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper group said the action, while expected, was disappointing. Her group along with the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida have sued to require the federal EPA to set standards.
Rinaman also said that algae blooms have been reported on the St. Johns River north of Palatka covering 10 square miles and another near Mandarin south of downtown Jacksonville. She said there is no dispute that fertilizer runoff contributes to the algae blooms.
"What concerns me is we are seeing them so early," Rinaman said. "Typically we don't see them until June."
The noncontroversial SB 1806, dealing with total maximum daily loads for waterways, passed the House 117-0 and is heading to the governor.
HB 7157 ratifying DEP rules implementing nitrogen and phosphorus limits passed the Senate 35-2 on April 30 and is heading to the governor.
SB 244, which passed the House 117-0 on Wednesday, would require cooperation among districts in setting minimum flows for springs and rivers. The bill, which passed the Senate 40-0 on April 4, also is headed to the governor.
Related:
Democratic protest slows House to crawl      Tallahassee.com
Florida House approves bill on water quality standards         South Florida Business Journal
Legislature Approves Numeric Limits for Water-polluting Nutrients            WMFE
Business-backed change for Florida water standards approved        Business Journal
House passes bill on water quality standards Orlando Business Journal (blog)
House approves water pollution bill   Tallahassee.com
Water bills stream through House, flow towards governor    The Florida Current
Permitting bill facing opposition from environmental groups looks to change in Senate (05/01/13)
Policy Note: Water Quality (05/01/13)
Nuclear bill passes House, returns to Senate as critic says legislation was "hijacked" (05/01/13)
LobbyTools is seeking talent (05/01/13)
Policy Note: Water Supply (05/01/13)

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Green, gooey mess returns to the St. Johns
Jacksonville.com - by Ron Littlepage
May 1, 2013
The polluters and their lobbyists were slapping themselves on the back Wednesday in Tallahassee after the Legislature passed a bill to limit the amount of nutrients that can go into some of the state's waterways.
The president of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation was so giddy he released this statement: "Florida is ready to move forward and protect our vital rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries that provide one of the many natural wonders of this great state."
Environmentalists say that's hooey and that the limits aren't strong enough.
The polluters counter that Florida has been doing it right for years and is a model for the nation.
Why, then, are algal blooms commonplace? One only had to go to County Dock on the St. Johns River in Mandarin Wednesday afternoon to see slimy, gooey mess that comes an overload of nutrients feed algae and spark a massive bloom.
The mantra of the state's water managers is that Florida is "getting the water right." Yeah, right.

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"Tallahassee is
gutting
environmental
protections"

Grosso

Richard GROSSO
Director of
environmental and
land-use law at
Nova Southeastern
University and former
director of the
Everglades Law Cente.
Earlier he was a
Monroe County planner,


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Grosso: Locals, not state, are now protector of islands
KeysNet.com - by Kevin Wadlow
May 01, 2013
Nearly four decades since Florida legislators moved to protect the Florida Keys environment from local government's neglect, the roles have largely reversed, says law professor Richard Grosso.
Now Monroe County officials seem to stand as a safeguard against a Florida Legislature intent on repealing a host of state environmental regulations, said Grosso, director of environmental and land-use law at Nova Southeastern University and former director of the Everglades Law Center.
"The single biggest problem now is that under the guise of jump-starting the economy, the state has pulled back from oversight of growth management almost completely," Grosso said earlier this month.
The Legislature "has watered down a lot of rules" that protect water quality and lands needed to allow the natural Everglades system to survive, he said.
"When the economy picks back up, it's going to be open season on the very lands that have been targeted for restoration," Grosso said.
"That's a problem for the folks in Monroe County since they're at the mercy of development in Southwest Miami-Dade and the rest of the state. It all affects water quality as it flows down into Florida Bay."
In 1974, the Florida Legislature created the Area of Critical State Concern designation for Monroe County, allowing the state to oversee local decisions on land use and development.
At the time, officials and legislators feared local government showed little interest in protecting the Keys from a development boom that threatened unique waters, wetlands and hardwood hammocks.
Monroe County was forced to create and enforce its comprehensive land-use plan, which resulted in other growth limits. In 1985, the Legislature created the Growth Management Act covering all of the state.
"The rules for the Keys were unlike anywhere else but it was appropriate because the Keys are unlike anywhere else," Grosso said.
The Area of Critical State Concern designation remains in effect but a sharply reduced staff of state planners charged with following Keys development now works for an agency called the Department of Economic Opportunity.
"Right now, Monroe County has a [County] Commission that has a lot of integrity and experience, and a very talented staff that I respect a lot," Grosso said. "I don't know that I've ever seen a better combination of elected and staff leadership there."
He noted, "Planning challenges in the Keys are always going to be great. The state cannot allow good planning efforts in the Keys to be overrun by what happens farther up the state."
Grosso stepped away from the Everglades Law Center to focus on teaching and spending more time with his family. His wife, Key West native Shannon Estenoz, now has her hands full as director of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives.
"I'm still part of the environmental community and engaged in Everglades and Keys things," Grosso said, "but I'm playing a different position."
One his primary concerns is responding to climate change and sea-level rise.
"The Keys are at the cutting edge of issues related to sea-level rise. It's one of the most vulnerable places in the world," Grosso said. "It's a race against time, and we're entering uncharted territory in law and policy."

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House approves water pollution bill
Associated Press – Tallahassee.com
May 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers on Wednesday wrapped up legislation authorizing the state's Department of Environmental Protection to start enforcing rules to reduce water pollution.
The bill (SB 1808) passed the House on a 103-13 vote and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. It cleared the Senate earlier.
State and federal environmental authorities agreed recently 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 federal 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, resulting in blooms that cause red tides and other outbreaks.
On Wednesday, the Associated Industries of Florida praised lawmakers for passing legislation that the group said "will finally bring resolution to the long-standing debate over how to best protect our state's water bodies from nutrient pollution."
The industry group said the Department of Environmental Protection has developed "a sound, science-based approach" in implementing the rules to reduce water pollution.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, said during the debate that the bill didn't go far enough to protect people, pets, livestock and wildlife.
She unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill on Tuesday. One provision of her failed amendment would have required reporting of illnesses occurring within 10 minutes of exposure to an algae bloom. Another required reporting of how many manatees and seabirds died within 20 days of exposure.

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FL Capitol

130501-f
Lawmakers fail to make best use of state surplus
Orlando Sentinel
May 1, 2013
After the Great Recession took a bite out of tax revenues in Florida, state lawmakers had an easy answer if their constituents complained about spending cuts: The deficit made me do it.
But working with the first surplus in five years — enough to bankroll a record-high $74.5 billion budget — lawmakers can't fall back on the same excuse for any needs they shortchanged.
In next year's spending plan, headed for a final vote Thursday, they wisely fed some of the additional dollars to areas they starved in the past, including public schools and employees. But they underfunded other worthy areas, including higher education and environmental protection.
Lawmakers would have been able to invest more in those neglected priorities if they didn't waste hundreds of millions on pet projects and special interest tax breaks. (More on those tax breaks in a future editorial.)
The bottom line? You'll find good and bad in the budget, sometimes within one category:
Education: There's $1 billion more for public schools, including $480 million that Scott wanted for teacher raises. But the salary hikes won't kick in until June 2014, when the state's merit-pay system is ready. While we believe in paying teachers for performance, stalling on raises another 13 months is cruel for a group that hasn't seen a state salary increase in years.
It would have been better to provide a smaller raise for all teachers this summer, and additional pay hikes for high performers next summer, when the merit system is ready.
Public employees: The budget includes $200 million for salary hikes for 160,000 state and university employees. These groups haven't received a general pay increase in seven years. They're overdue.
Higher education: Lawmakers mandated a 3 percent tuition hike. They could have, and should have, spared students and families yet another year of state-dictated cost increases at universities by finding an extra $18 million in the budget.
Environmental protection: There's a funding increase for Everglades restoration, $70 million next year versus $30 million this year, but only $10 million to respond to the alarming decline in the health of Florida's springs. The state's water management districts had called for $120 million for springs. And there's just $10 million in new revenue to buy environmentally sensitive land, when the state used to spend $300 million a year.
Pork: There are hundreds of hometown projects for lawmakers in the budget, like $6.9 million for construction on a new community college campus in Speaker Will Weatherford's district. Even some lawmakers, like Sen. Tom Lee, admitted the budget was too heavy with pork.
Lawmakers might as well vote for the budget anyway. It's hard to imagine them fixing all their mistakes in a second draft.
But here's hoping that Scott uses his veto pen to eliminate some of the worst excesses from the plan — and that lawmakers learn a lesson for next year.

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Jewell

Sally JEWEL
DOI Secretary

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New US interior secretary tours Fla's Everglades
Associated Press - by Jennifer Kay
May 1, 2013
LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Fla. -- New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took an airboat ride through Florida's Everglades on Wednesday during one of her first official trips as leader of the agency responsible for national parks and other public lands, highlighting the importance of a massive wetlands restoration project.
Jewell is an experienced mountaineer, but she didn't get much above sea level in an airboat cutting through the sawgrass in Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. She also planned an 8-mile hike through Everglades National Park.
Briefly stopping in a still patch of water under darkening rain clouds, Jewell said she has a lot to learn about the Everglades, particularly about invasive species, such as the Burmese python, that plague native wildlife. She defended the billions of dollars that have been directed to restoration projects, even though progress has been slow.
"If you do it right, as I think this Everglades restoration plan is doing, you're involving all three: you're taking care of the people, you're taking care of the plants and animals, and you're taking care of the resource for many generations forward," Jewell said.
Congress approved the sweeping Everglades plan in 2000, but major components such as an $81 million bridge have languished through funding and legal challenges.
The bridge along Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County is intended to increase water flow into Everglades National Park. Jewell's predecessor, Ken Salazar, attended the opening of one mile of the bridge in March.
The department says getting $30 million for the next 2.6 mile section of the bridge is a top priority.
Restoration projects help not just the Everglades environment, but also the job market and South Florida's water supply, Jewell said.
"When you've got something as critical as the Florida Everglades and you have a need for people to get to work, what better way to get them to work than to do it in something that's actually going to help the clean drinking water of South Florida, the tourism industry here which drives additional jobs, and actually does something good for the environment that's going to be long-lasting," Jewell said.
Salazar stepped down after four years as head of the agency. Jewell is the former CEO of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. She also served on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Related:
New US interior secretary will tour Everglades         WPEC - ‎
New Interior Secretary To Tour Everglades   WBFS - ‎
New Interior Chief Savors a Steep Learning Curve   New York Times
Secretary Of Interior Takes Presidential Oath Of Office       The Onion (satire)
Sally Jewell: How 'green' is the new Interior secretary?         Christian Science Monitor
Fracking rules coming 'in weeks,' says Interior chief Jewell   The Hill (blog)
News bites: Interior secretary expects the unexpected           The Hill (blog)
Feds set to unveil hydraulic fracturing rule within weeks      FuelFix
Interior Secretary Jewell leads reporter to fresh air for interview      The Spokesman Review (blog)

130501-h







ASR

ASR - Aquifer Storage
and Recovery -
pumping water
underground and
pumping it back - when
needed

130501-h
Safe storage of water ? Go underground
New York Times - by Kate Galbraith
May 1, 2013
AUSTIN, TEXAS — When cities store water for future use, they often use large lakes created by damming rivers.
Now, experts are urging cities to build reservoirs below the ground, where the water cannot evaporate and many of the difficulties associated with above-ground water storage are avoided.
“It just makes so much more sense,” said Jim Lester, president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonprofit research group. Among other advantages, he said, underground reservoirs are cheaper than their above-ground counterparts.
Australia and the United States have increasingly embraced underground reservoir technology. Within Europe, Belgium and the Netherlands developed systems of storing water in sand dunes decades ago. The water utility that supplies London, Thames Water, stores surplus treated water in a chalk aquifer beneath northeast London, a project that the company expanded after a 2006 drought.
Underground reservoirs could help improve water security in the arid Middle East, according to Thomas Missimer, a visiting professor of environmental science and engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Abu Dhabi is working on two such water-storage systems, he said — one in sand dunes, and the other in a type of alluvial plain.
“Locating the right aquifer to achieve what you want is the key,” Mr. Missimer said.
The idea of storing water in the earth is not new. Long ago, the Bedouins blocked ravines with large stones, backed by sand. Water collected in the sand and could be extricated by digging, according to Mr. Missimer, who has co-written a book on underground water-storage technology.
In the modern world, the United States began using the technology around the 1960s. Typically, water is injected into an aquifer, stored and then pumped back up to the surface for disinfection and use. The technique has the formal and somewhat cumbersome name “aquifer storage and recovery.”
Its advantages are myriad, supporters say. Storing water underground averts the need to flood land above-ground, a contentious and potentially litigious process.
“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 engineer with CH2M Hill, a global engineering and construction company.
Compared with above-ground reservoirs, “the space in the subsurface is simply much, much greater, and you don’t need to build walls,” Theo Olsthoorn, a professor of groundwater hydrology at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said in an e-mail.
In addition to the dune projects, he said, some farmers in western parts of the Netherlands collect rainwater from the roofs of their greenhouses during the fall and winter, inject it into a well for storage and retrieve it during the growing season, he said.
Storing water underground also may reduce the need to dam up rivers, and avoids losing water to evaporation. Evaporation can be such a problem that some reservoirs in arid areas of the world, including western Texas, lose more water each year into the air than people actually use.
The aquifer itself can also serve as something of a natural cleanser, according to Mr. Missimer. This especially helps in instances in which water utilities store treated wastewater in the ground, as happens in El Paso, Texas, for example.
However, not every aquifer is well-suited to the technology. Florida, where underground-reservoir technology has been used for several decades, faced some early struggles with arsenic in the water, and other challenges as well.
“It’s been a learning process,” said Bob Verrastro, the lead hydrologist with the South Florida Water Management District, which has financed several projects that use the technology.
Florida utilities like the idea because demand for water is seasonal: Americans flock to Florida in the winter, but it rains the hardest in the summer. So storage is important.
Not every aquifer is suited to the technology. Aquifers ideally have a certain level of salinity. That allows the fresh water that is being stored to rest atop the displaced saline water and be readily accessible.
Wells can occasionally clog, as happened during a trial in Adelaide, Australia, in 1997, in which storm water was injected into an aquifer.
Another challenge is legal. Utilities injecting water into an aquifer must make sure the water is legally theirs to recover. In Texas, for example, “rule of capture” law means that anyone has a right to recover water under that person’s land. So even if a utility injected the water, in theory it could belong to someone else, once it emerged through a well.
Mr. Lester, of the Houston research group, said that the main reason the technology was underused was education. Water utilities, he said, typically do not understand that the underground reservoir technology is already tested and ready to go.
Utilities and water engineers can be “risk-averse,” according to Mr. Dwyer of CH2M Hill.
Proponents say that the technology will only become more relevant with climate change. Water from melting glaciers in places like Chile, China, India, Pakistan and Peru could be stored underground, Mr. Missimer said.
In addition, more weather extremes, like drought and flooding, are expected in the future.
“With these flash floods, we need to try to capture, and take some of that water and store it in the ground,” Mr. Missimer said.

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