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Ancient civilizations toppled by climate disruption – by Tim Radford
August 31, 2013
Historians and archaeologists have invoked catastrophic volcanic eruption, a tsunami, invasion, a socioeconomic crisis, new technology and mysterious forces to explain the collapse of late Bronze Age civilization in Europe.
But a team of scientists have another explanation: climate change more than 3,000 years ago altered the course of history and bequeathed to modern Europe an enduring set of myths and museums full of amazing archaeological finds, but very few facts.
The civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean in the thirteenth century BC was real enough. This is the dramatic landscape celebrated by the great poet Homer, and in the earliest Jewish scriptures that now make up the first books of the Bible, and in the ruins of the region.
Powerful kings and autocrats ruled at Mycenae and Tiryns in the Peloponnese of Greece, the Hittites built an empire in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey, great cities flourished in Canaan, in what is now Israel, and there was a fabulous civilisation based at Knossos in Crete.
Ramses II ruled Egypt for 66 years, and engaged in protracted wars with the Sea Peoples, who exist in ancient records but who remain mysterious.
And then, everywhere and in the same few decades, all these empires collapsed and some were all but erased. Researchers reported recently in Nature that after analysis of a series of studies of conflict and violence, they had identified temperature and drought as a factor in all of them.
Their definition of conflict and violence extended from murder and riots in the streets to the fall of civilizations. And, right on cue, Daniel Kaniewski of the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, and colleagues drive home the climate connection: drought, crop failure and famine accompanied the collapse of the late Bronze Age civilization.
They report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One that they examined a long succession of pollen grains in sediments in an ancient, land-locked salt lake in Cyprus, and found evidence of environmental change that drove a crisis everywhere in the ancient world.
The pollens told a story of vegetational succession: of oak forests, marsh plants and reeds, of Mediterranean woodlands, meadows, steppe grasses, agricultural plants and the weeds that spring up alongside them—and then testimony of a 300 year drought almost exactly co-incident with the failure of so many civilization and the emergence of the Age of Iron.
Such a drought would have precipitated famine, poverty and invasion, as desperate people with nothing at all assaulted cities that had increasingly little to protect. The matching of archaeological and environmental data from the Syrian and Cypriot coasts, the researchers say, “offers a first comprehensive insight into how and why things may have happened during this chaotic period.”
It also underlines the “agro-productive sensitivity” (their words) of the ancient Mediterranean societies to climate, and, they say, takes the mystery out of the crisis of the Late Bronze Age.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.


Florida's Everglades, a Disaster Waiting to Happen
Men’s Journal - by Michael Grunwald, Nov 2007
Despite a $10 billion rescue plan, the Everglades are a disaster waiting to happen. 
In July 1969, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas declared the Army Corps of Engineers America's "public enemy number one." In an exhaustive screed in a national magazine, he detailed how the Corps had plundered the U.S. environment and ransacked the U.S. Treasury with preposterous water projects designed to keep its employees busy and its congressional patrons happy.
The magazine was 'Playboy,' which should give a sense of how much has changed since 1969. And so should this: After spending the 20th century trashing the landscape with dams and dredges, the Corps has been assigned to start cleaning up its mess, to resuscitate some of the rivers, marshes, and coastal swamps it has diverted, polluted, and desiccated.
The most prominent test of this turn-back-the-clock mandate is unfolding in the Florida Everglades, where the Corps is overseeing the largest environmental restoration project in history. It has been replumbing the Everglades with ditches and dikes since the 1930s, diverting and degrading the magical River of Grass. But in 2000, Congress approved a 4,000-page Corps plan to replumb the replumbing: an $8 (now $10) billion effort to revive the wetland ecosystem, an unprecedented rescue mission for panthers, gators, otters, and sportsmen. The project is already a model for ecosystem projects around the world, from the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay to the Pantanal of South America and the Garden of Eden marshes of Iraq.
Yet some things have not changed since 1969. The Corps still builds ecologically destructive boondoggles for special interests. It still has a dysfunctional relationship with the Capitol Hill politicians who use it to steer jobs and money to constituents and contributors. And its recent failures include killing 1,000 people in New Orleans. Even its multibillion-dollar shot at redemption, the 'Glades renewal, is behind schedule, over budget, and off-track. Meanwhile, the region remains vulnerable to flooding that could make the post-Katrina devastation seem like prologue rather than history.
The Army Corps of Engineers is one of the oldest, strangest, and most influential federal agencies. It got its start as an engineering regiment in the Revolutionary War; it's still run by army officers and still works on military projects, including the reconstruction of Iraq. But most of its 35,000-plus employees – more than the Education and Labor departments combined – are civilians working on domestic water projects. The Corps spends billions taming rivers for flood control and navigation, deepening ports, pouring sand onto beaches, chauffeuring salmon around its fish-killing dams, and exercising power wherever water is found in America. It's even responsible for protecting wetlands from development, even though it destroys more wetlands than any developer. Predictably, it approves almost every dredge-and-fill application it receives.
"No entity has done more to destroy America's natural gems," says Tim Searchinger, a wetlands expert with Environmental Defense in DC. "The landscape is littered with sterile bargeways to nowhere that were once great rivers, and counterproductive flood-control projects that destroy thousands of acres of wetlands while promoting development in vulnerable floodplains."
Officially, the Corps is a Pentagon agency, but it's really a congressional toy, with a budget consisting almost entirely of "earmarks" requested by members of Congress. President Bush, like every commander in chief since FDR, has tried to rein in the Corps, with little success; as Justice Douglas wrote, "Getting a man off heroin is easy compared with getting Congress off the kind of pork barrel the Corps administers." And pork knows no party lines; as Bush's former budget director Mitchell Daniels Jr. once complained in a memo after a congressional hearing on Corps bacon, "The festival was bipartisan." So the U.S. doesn't have a water resources policy, just pet projects. The Corps evaluates whether those projects make sense; if the answer is yes, the Corps gets to pour the cement. And the Corps likes to pour cement (its motto is Essayons, or "Let us try"), so the answer is usually yes.
In its heyday the Corps helped develop America. It imprisoned the Mississippi behind dikes, enabling cities like New Orleans to grow and prosper. It controlled the Everglades with 2,000 miles of levees and canals, transforming South Florida from backwater to megalopolis. It launched a national war against Mother Nature on behalf of economic prosperity. But controlling nature had hidden costs. The armoring of the Mississippi obliterated coastal wetlands that once served as hurricane shock absorbers for New Orleans. The replumbing of the Everglades nearly destroyed the South Florida ecosystem. Corps dams on the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest have decimated native salmon; Corps dredging of the Apalachicola River in northwestern Florida has threatened endangered mussels; Corps management of the Missouri River has nearly wiped out the pallid sturgeon, which had done fine for millions of years before the men of Essayons came along.
These unintended ecological impacts were problematic enough for projects with dramatic benefits. But more recent projects rarely make economic sense either. The Corps predicted that its Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway would cost $300 million and float 28 million tons of coal its first year; the actual totals were $2 billion and 1.4 million tons. And the Corps still manages the Missouri River for the barge industry, even though barges produce less than 1 percent of the river's economic benefits. Fishermen, bird-watchers, and ecologists – along with the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service – constantly complain about anachronistic Corps projects, but they don't have Corps juice.
I spent most of 2000 investigating Corps projects for the 'Washington Post,' from a plan to build the world's largest flood-control pump for Mississippi Senator Trent Lott (at a cost higher than the value of all the soybean farms it was designed to protect, according to one study) to a jetty project to protect private fishing trawlers for North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms (at a cost of $500,000 per boat, another report found). Corps leaders devised a secret "Program Growth Initiative," as if they were dot-com execs desperate to increase market share, and sent damning e-mails ordering aides to concoct a rationale for Mississippi River locks demanded by Missouri Senator Kit Bond. After brutal reports on the locks by Pentagon investigators and other agencies, the Corps was forced to redo its analysis of the $1.2 billion project. Soon it metastasized into a $7.7 billion project.
And then the Corps drowned New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina toppled Corps flood walls that were supposed to protect the city, the Corps hid behind the-act-of-God disaster and denied responsibility, so the media focused on FEMA's slow response to the flood. Eight months later, when the Corps finally admitted that "design failure" led to the collapses, Katrina was no longer front-page news. When Lieutenant General Carl Strock, the Corps commander, announced in August that he was retiring, it barely made the papers.
Katrina was a disaster of lousy priorities as well as lousy engineering. Corps projects helped destroy hundreds of square miles of marshes and cypress swamps that once provided the city's natural storm protection. And the Corps failed to provide adequate man-made protection, despite spending more money in Louisiana than in any other state in the five fiscal years before Katrina, because most of that money went to useless pork. A stone's throw from flood walls that failed along the Industrial Canal, the Corps was building a $750 million lock project justified by increasing ship traffic – even though ship traffic was decreasing. The Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet, another seldom-used Corps canal, served as a hurricane highway into New Orleans, amplifying Katrina's surge by two feet.
Needless to say, the catastrophe has persuaded Congress to…do nothing about the Corps. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, the bipartisan team behind campaign finance reform, proposed a modest Corps reform bill last year, but that stalled. The Corps emerged from Katrina with even more power. And it has received 6,000 percent more money for fixing levees than restoring wetlands.
Yes, the corps has an estimated $14 billion plan to restore Louisiana wetlands, even more ambitious than the Everglades project. But has it seen the error of its ways, or has it just found a new way to keep busy ? Former Corps commander Joe Ballard, who devised the Program Growth Initiative, once screamed at underlings to save the Everglades, "We have no choice! We must put our best foot forward. The future of the Corps depends on it!"
It's that "We have no choice!" that reminds you this will never be a Corps of Biologists. It's still an agency of builders, and it still responds to customers who want things built.
The Corps' Everglades plan had support from sugar farmers, developers, and every Florida politician, largely because it's a water storage project, with 180,000 acres of reservoirs designed to hold enough drinking water for double South Florida's population. But it's not clear if any of that water will get to the Everglades. Scientists at Everglades National Park have attacked the plan as a windfall for economic interests, with few benefits for the ecosystem and its 69 endangered species. And the Corps still gives permits to rock miners and developers who are digging up Everglades wetlands – even areas designated for restoration.
"It's crazy," says Shannon Estenoz, Sun Coast regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. "Even when the Corps has a progressive mandate like 'restore the Everglades,' we often watch them buckle under pressure to compromise restoration."
Six years in, the plan is already in rough shape. "It's different from what we told Congress we would do…and it's not restoration!" one Corps manager wrote in an internal memo. Congress has lagged on funding, and the Corps has not finished any of the projects scheduled for completion in 2005. Not one. Meanwhile, independent engineers have warned that the Corps dike that's supposed to protect the Everglades region during hurricanes poses a "grave and imminent" danger to the area should it fail.
Environmentalists like to say the Everglades is a test; if we pass, we may get to keep the planet. And it is a test – of man's ability to fix his mistakes and repair his abusive relationship with nature. Many Corps engineers came of age after the first Earth Day and understand that South Florida's economic health depends on a healthy Everglades. "We are not your grandfather's Corps of Engineers," Stuart Appelbaum, a manager on the Everglades project, has said. "We want to do the right thing."
The Corps has reinvented its rhetoric, and if it can reinvent its priorities it can help create a sustainable future for places like South Florida and New Orleans. But the Corps has always reflected the desires of Congress, so unless reformers can beat pork purveyors on the Hill, the Corps will have to reform itself. Today that seems about as likely as another Supreme Court justice critiquing water policies in a skin mag.
South Florida, Are You Listening?
Katrina wasn't the big one.
In 1928, a vicious hurricane forced a disastrous volume of Florida's Lake Okeechobee through a flimsy dike, killing 2,500, mostly poor African-Americans trapped in the floodplain. America's first Katrina.
That's when the Army Corps of Engineers got down to business in South Florida. Starting in the '30s, it built the massive Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake, making it possible to grow sugar and raise kids in towns such as Belle Glade and Clewiston. By the 1980's the Corps had completed 2,000 miles of levees and canals, making the area "safe" for roughly 7 million more residents and millions of annual tourists – and eliminating half the Everglades.
Now the dike leaks. Last April an independent engineering report said it poses "a grave and imminent danger to the people and the environment of south Florida," with a one-in-six chance of failure in any given year – an existential roll of the dice for 40,000 residents in its shadow and millions more in the floodplain. "It's a scary situation," says the report's lead author, Les Bromwell.
The Corps initially dismissed the report as "sensationalism." But a new Florida Corps commander, Colonel Paul Grosskruger, has made fixing the dike his top priority, a process that could cost billions. For now, the Corps blasts water out of the lake when it gets high, injuring or killing dolphins, manatees, and oysters in the estuaries that ring the peninsula. And they pray that next hurricane season (which begins in June), the dice will roll their way.


Governor Phony
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
August 30, 2013
Fourteen months from the next election, Gov. Rick Scott's sales pitch is clear. He portrays himself as the education governor, the defender of the environment and the advocate for open records. He's the jobs governor, and he has empathy for Floridians without health coverage. Don't be fooled by the packaging. It's a facade that hides reality, and Florida deserves better.
Scott organized a three-day summit last week to tackle controversies over the coming Common Core State Standards and the discredited school accountability system now in place. He promotes the $1 billion in new money public schools received this year and his effort to give teachers raises.
The reality is Scott failed to show up at his own summit to listen to the concerns of school superintendents and others. Instead he ate dinner privately with former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose passion for education is unquestioned even if some of his views are controversial.
This year's per student funding is the highest of Scott's three years as governor. But it is still lower than each of the five previous years under his predecessors, Charlie Crist and Bush. Scott also signed into law the legislation that siphons off school construction money to privately run charter schools. And the governor's last two hand-picked education commissioners have shown more interest in advocating for charter schools and expanding voucher programs than in creating successful public schools.
Now there is another interim education commissioner, and the revolving door in Tallahassee leaves local school districts without clear direction from the state. Will Scott fold on Common Core and the student assessments needed to make them work ?
The governor staged another media show last week to promote a worthy project to improve water flow into Everglades National Park. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage he has done to the environment.
The governor decimated growth management and eliminated the agency that enforced it. He fought the federal government over clean-water standards, neutered the water management districts by slashing their tax base and manipulated the regulatory process to put politics above science. His money for Florida's springs is hardly meaningful. The deal he cut with the federal government on restoring the Everglades put the deadline off again. And to raise money to buy sensitive lands, the state's solution is to sell land it already owns.
Scott is still looking at toll roads to nowhere across the middle of Florida. The state still has no cohesive energy policy. And the governor's environmental agency is more focused on quickly approving the requests of developers than on protecting wetlands. A news conference on one worthy project cannot mask years of bad policy.
Scott inaccurately claims he is more than halfway toward meeting his pledge of creating 700,000 jobs, and he keeps cranking out the news releases. Last week: 100 jobs at Boeing in Miami; 105 new air cargo jobs in Orlando; 200 jobs at technology company Citrix in Fort Lauderdale. The week before that: 40 jobs at the moving and storage company PODS in Clearwater.
Many of the jobs Scott counts won't be created for years, if ever, and the bigger picture is darker. The state's unemployment rate has been stuck at 7.1 percent for three months, better than the national average of 7.4 percent. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force expanded in the Tampa Bay area, Jacksonville and Orlando in the past year but in other areas — South Florida, the Panhandle, Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakeland — the labor force contracted. And the jobless rate in Pasco and Hernando counties is still 8 percent or higher.
Scott's heavy-handed attempt to lure companies from other states is a public relations nightmare, and it isn't working. While Florida now has roughly as many jobs as before the recession, people earn less and there are more part-time jobs. Jobs in the low-paying leisure and hospitality sectors are up. Better paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and professional/business services are still down.
The bottom line: The job situation is not nearly as rosy as Scott projects.
Health care
After Florida failed to persuade the courts to block health care reform, Scott called for the state to accept billions in federal dollars and expand Medicaid to 1 million uninsured residents. "I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care," he declared in February.
Then he stopped listening to his conscience. Scott sat by as House Speaker Will Weatherford blocked expansion, and he has dropped the issue. What the governor has done is reject millions in federal dollars to implement health care reform and left the creation of an insurance exchange to the federal government. He also foolishly signed into law a ban on state regulation of health insurance rates for two years.
New U.S. Census figures show nearly 1 in 4 Floridians lack health insurance, the second highest rate in the nation. Hospitals in Orlando, Vero Beach and elsewhere are laying off workers and reducing pay in part because the new Medicaid dollars aren't coming.
Scott isn't expanding access to health care. He is working against it. He is making it harder for hospitals to make ends meet, harder for the uninsured to get coverage and harder for businesses to comply with the federal law.
Scott promised an unprecedented effort toward government transparency: Regular releases on the Internet of nearly all emails received or written by the governor and his top staff. The goal was to eventually extend the service, known as Project Sunburst, to Scott's 11 agencies as well.
Sunburst has been a bust. Efforts to meet a seven-day window in posting emails to the site routinely goes unmet and are incomplete. Agencies were never added to the project and Scott and his aides avoid creating public records when they can. Scott's chief of staff isn't shy about reminding subordinates that anything they send to him by email is a public record. Contrast that with the first e-governor, Jeb Bush, who was such a believer in efficient communication his state portrait includes his Blackberry in the background.
It's not just Sunburst. The governor also helped kill one of the most promising efforts for open government. He refused to take ownership of a software project, Transparency 2.0, that would have allowed the public to easily track how state government allocates and spends taxpayer money. The project died from neglect.


Growth is reaching its limits in many ways; is democracy too ? – by Travis Epshire, Lakeland, FL
August 31, 2013
The modern world created by humans is coming unraveled.
About 200 years ago, humans in Europe started using factories to produce things. That started the Industrial Revolution. People started leaving farms to come live in cities and work in factories.
The process has accelerated over the years. Economic growth through industrialization for these past 200 years outpaced population growth, to provide a higher and higher percentage of the population on planet earth with improved material well-being. Modern medicine decreased the death rate.
Some dreamed of infinite growth. It was a delusion, because we live on a finite planet. In 200 years, 500 million people has increased to 6 billion and still growing. Increased well-being is reversing into increasing privation and misery, because of shortages of resources, including a shortage of good jobs.
We are using up resources too fast now: water, forests, ocean fish, phosphate, oxygen, etc. Yes, there is a decline in oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
Also, simultaneously, we are reaching the saturation point of the planet's ability to absorb poisons from industrialization.
Growth is reaching its limits. Most of the people on the planet are ignorant or in denial of that fact.
There is no leadership anywhere by government officials to acknowledge the limits and promote appropriate policies. Antarctic and Greenland melt, rising ocean levels. Florida fights Georgia over scarce water. The predicted resource wars have begun.
Detroit goes bankrupt. Overpopulated Egypt disintegrates because there is not enough for all. The damaged Japanese nuclear plant leaks radioactive water into our ocean. For lack of money, Texas converts some paved roads back to gravel roads.
Sadly, our U.S. Congress dawdles, obstructed by some Republicans who are anti-science.
In The Ledger on Aug. 17, columnist Paul Krugman reminded us democracy depends on an informed public voting in candidates who offer problem-solving ideas. Has democracy reached limits too ?


Sea level controls carbon accumulation in the Everglades
Science Codex
August 31, 2013
How much carbon is stored in the organic soils of tropical wetlands is becoming an important question as erosion, agriculture, and global climate change slowly set into motion a series of processes that could potentially release carbon locked up in these wetlands.
In a recent study, Glaser et al. reconstructed a complete, carbon-14 dated 4,000-year history of both organic and inorganic matter accumulation in the Everglades of south Florida.
The authors find that despite the fact that erosion, fires, and similar processes may have removed as much as 2 meters (6.56 feet) of soil from the Everglades, there is a remarkable consistency in the accumulation rates of both organic and inorganic matter in the Everglades over the past 4,000 years.
They speculate that processes such as sea level rise that operate on time scales of centuries or even millennia may be ultimately controlling the rates of formation and accumulation of organic matter in the Everglades.
They further show that the rate of organic matter accumulation in the southern Everglades is two to four times lower than its counterparts in colder and high-latitude environments. The authors attribute the low accumulation rates mostly to the slow rise in sea level since the mid-Holocene, but also to low supply of nutrients and high temperatures; all of these factors favor low rates of organic matter production but faster rates of decomposition.
They note that compared to the northern peatlands, tropical wetlands store relatively small amounts of carbon.
Source: Paul H. Glaser, Barbara C. S. Hansen, John C. Volin, Thomas J. Givnish, Craig A. Stricker, Carbon and sediment accumulation in the Everglades (USA) during the past 4000 years: Rates, drivers, and sources of error, Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, doi:10.1029/2011JG001821


Why is County Commission studying stormwater tax ?
August 31, 2013
The proposed tax levy is 10 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on all property in unincorporated Polk County. This is an alternative to a stormwater utility fee that was proposed and rejected last year. The following is a series of questions and answers on what is proposed and the reasons behind it.
Q. Why is the county taxing rainwater ?
A. It's not. The proceeds from the tax are intended to deal with problems caused after rain falls and picks up nutrients, toxic chemicals and bacteria, which it then carries to the nearest water body. Q. Is there really a problem ?
A. Nearly half of the lakes in Polk that have been tested don't meet state and federal pollution standards.
Q. Don't we already have enough stormwater ponds to take care of this ?
A. No. Any development that occurred before 1982 didn't have to treat stormwater. Further, even in newer subdivisions with stormwater ponds, there are still pollution discharges because of incomplete treatment and because pollutants seep into the ground, through which it may eventually reach lakes and rivers.
 Q. What will the tax money be used for ?
A. Most of it will be used to gather more information on pollution flows, and that information will be the basis for planning projects to reduce pollution. Some of the money will also be used for preventive measures, such as street sweeping and public education.
 Q. How do I know the money will be well-spent ?
A. The County Commission has appointed a five-member technical committee from the private sector to review any projects county staffers propose. The committee is to make sure the projects are cost effective. The panel includes people who have been critical of the stormwater program in the past.
Q. Why do we have to spend the money ?
A. Polk is supposed to comply with conditions in a permit that covers stormwater systems countywide. The permit was issued 2011 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It requires monitoring to detect problems and implementation of projects to fix the problems.
Q. Why doesn't the County Commission just tell DEP it won't comply with the permit and eliminate the need to raise taxes ?
A. A couple of reasons. For one, commissioners take an oath to uphold the law. DEP's permit is authorized by state law. In addition, if Polk refused to comply, it would face damages, civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day per violation and criminal penalties, according to DEP.
Q. If the County Commission approves the tax, will it generate enough money to fix the problems ?
A. It's too early to say. Before county officials can propose projects, they have to complete more investigations into the source of the problems so they can be sure whatever they design will actually improve things. It's likely the cost of constructing projects will be high. The County Commission will have to decide later how to pay for those.
Q. Could that include increasing the stormwater tax rate ?
A. Yes.
Q. Does anyone else in Polk County levy stormwater taxes or fees ?
A. Yes, Lakeland began levying a stormwater utility fee in 1999, and now most Polk cities have some sort of fee.


Central Florida water: Danger zone in view
August 30, 2013.
The use of underground water in the Central Florida area around Orlando, including Polk County, is nearing its maximum. "This should come as no surprise." So says Hal Wilkening about a new in-depth analysis of Central Florida's water needs throughout the next two decades.
That the remark comes from Wilkening is significant, because he is the chief water supply planner for the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The study Wilkening refers to was just completed by the Central Florida Water Initiative. It is considered the most scientifically exhaustive and accurate assessment of the region's water needs. The findings are, indeed, no surprise, but rather confirm what many have known for a long time: The greater Orlando area has just about tapped out the Floridan aquifer as its sole supply of water.
The study says the CFWI territory is using about 800 million gallons of water per day for residential, business and agricultural uses. It further shows there is just 6 percent more aquifer capacity before it becomes an official environmental danger. The aquifer is an underground series of rivers essentially.
Once consumption in the region hits 850 million gallons per day, which is expected before 2020, the CFWI says further pumping of the aquifer will results in "significant" environmental damage to springs, wetlands and other water bodies.
The study also says the region will need 1.1 billion gallons per day by 2035 and needs to begin figuring out where to find that extra water.
The CFWI is a consortium of three water-management districts — St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida — as well as large utilities from Orange, Lake, Seminole, Polk and Osceola counties. The group spent more than a year reaching its conclusions.
Next is the solutions phase. Among the recommendations is "identifying viable alternative supplies." Over the decades, proposals have been to go to less-populated, water-rich portions of the state and raid those supplies. That approach was never appropriate, although it seemed simple to some.
Florida has grown too far. It must treat its water needs and supplies not only from a regional perspective, but from a statewide perspective.
Serious conservation plans, desalination technology that will spare, or certainly slow, the destruction of Florida's and other approaches that have the potential of protecting Florida's freshwater resources while meeting the needs of those who live and work in the state are needed.
The focus must be on solutions that are fair, protective and effective.


Everglades restoration at critical juncture
August 30, 2013
The epic task of restoring and preserving the Everglades faces a major new step in the coming weeks, as a draft report on implementation of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) comes under review by the general public and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Finalizing the plan in timely fashion is critical, as a deadline for inclusion in federal funding expires at year's end. Money for the project is tied up in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a wide-ranging set of laws renewed at irregular intervals, sometimes up to ten years. If the Everglades goes that much longer without massive re-engineering, one of the great wonders of the natural world may never recover.
An effort to undo decades of environmental damage caused by Florida's rampant growth in the 20th century, CEPP is a critical element of a broader project called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP has been called "the most expensive and comprehensive environmental repair attempt in history."
The plan is a massive plumbing job, re-directing the flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee, cleaning it and sending it south along its original, historic path to the Central Everglades. Currently, Lake O discharges are thick with pollutants, and flow east and west, to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River estuaries.
CERP was authorized when WRDA was renewed in 2000 but the going has been slow. A 2012 report by the National Research Council gave letter grades on Everglades ecosystem attributes ranging from from C (degraded) to D (significantly degraded) to F (near irreversible damage). Overall, the council warned, "a focus on restoring the central core of the historical Everglades is needed to reverse ongoing degradation before it's too late."
The draft version of CEPP was approved August 15 by a unanimous vote of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District. The plan's $1.8 billion price tag is to be split by the district and the Corps of Engineers. But no new funding will be committed without authorization by Congress, under WRDA.
That authorization now depends on action in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate having already passed its version of WRDA. With the House under the thumb of the GOP's Taliban Tea Party wing, what happens next is anyone's guess.
The House's markup will begin next month under the direction of Congressman Bill Shuster, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. He has questioned the Senate's version of the bill, vowing to produce a version that will "contain no earmarks", "cut federal red tape" and minimize executive branch authority. (In other words, do it on the cheap, avoid regulatory oversight, and keep Obama out of it.) Though a decidedly conservative politician, Shuster still finds himself under pressure to prove his bonafides to the crazies.
Still, significant forces outside the usual progressive/environmentalist bloc and with clout in GOP circles are lined up in support of Everglades action. Industry group Florida Realtors is on board.
Even Big Sugar, so often cast as the villain, is speaking out. In an email, Brian Hughes, a spokesman for industry group Florida Sugar Farmers, told New Times that his group's members "support legislation that marks the final phase of the southern Everglades restoration process. The most important factor to keep restoration moving forward is cooperation, so we applaud the state and federal officials on their efforts to work together."
If business reps put their shoulders to the wheel, WRDA may emerge with substantial funding for the Everglades. But if a final version of the Everglades plan isn't in place to submit to Congress before WRDA passes, the environmental damage could be irreversible.
As things now stand, and if all goes well, the final plan will likely come up for approval at the November 14 meeting of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board.
Public comments on the plan are being accepted through October 14, here. Also, a series of evening public meetings will be held the week of September 16 throughout South Florida to discuss the draft report, times and dates to be announced here.


Florida environment suffering under Rick Scott appointee - by Alisha Mims
August 30, 2013
Florida’s environmental laws are being enforced less and less under Gov. Rick Scott’s pick - a private company attorney, Secretary Herschel Vinyard - to lead the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). According to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), since Scott took office and Vinyard took over the DEP in 2011, “enforcement has dropped by just about every measure.”
The group released a report yesterday, detailing how the DEP has become “essentially nonfunctional” under Vinyard’s direction, the Associated Press reports.
“There is nothing more than that department [turning] a blind eye, looking the other way when these facilities pollute,” Jerry Phillips, director of the Florida PEER group, told the AP. “The message is out to the employees that they should be aggressive in this area. We talk to these employees, we hear from them and I haven’t heard from a single employee that enforcement is better now under Herschel Vinyard. It’s just the opposite,” he said.
This year, Scott signed into law House Bill 999, an environmental permitting bill, along with its counterpart, Senate Bill 1808, dealing with water quality standards, and Senate Bill 682, dealing with coal ash waste. The controversial HB 999 relaxed environmental regulations on businesses within the state of Florida.
The bill incited strong opposition from Florida environmental groups. In 2006, the Florida DEP went through about 38,000 permit applications a year from developers, a number that now averages about 19,000 annually, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The number of “enforcement actions” against polluters has also dropped significantly, from 2,289 in 2010 to 799 last year.
In May, DEP attorneys Christopher Byrd and Kelly Russel were fired based on a purported lack of need. However, state Senator Darren Soto (D) questioned their forced departures, saying he believed the terminations to be “suspicious given the department’s ‘cozy’ relationship with development interests under Scott.”
Last year, the DEP laid off 58 longtime employees at the same time that Vinyard “installed a number of new people in the agency’s upper ranks whose prior experience was working as engineers or consultants for companies the DEP regulates,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Charles Kovach, a former DEP employee who worked for the agency for 17 years before being laid off last year, believes the layoffs were part of a plan to loosen regulations on polluting industries. “I’ve seen the way politics has influenced that agency in the past, but never like this,” Kovach told the Times. “It’s not about compliance (with the rules). It’s about making things look like they’re compliant.”
Vinyard spent ten years as an engineer who specialized in getting clients environmental permits. According to the Times, “Another engineer who worked for developers heads up the [DEP] division of water resources. A lawyer who helped power plants get their permits is now in charge of air pollution permitting. An engineering company lobbyist became a deputy director overseeing water and sewer facilities.”
The DEP’s chief operating officer is a former chemical company and real estate executive.
The DEP claims that the drop in enforcement actions is a result of their focus on prevention. “Over the last two years, compliance rates have improved dramatically, resulting in a drop of enforcement cases and associated fines,” DEP spokeswoman Reena O’Brien told the Miami Herald. “It is clear by this report that PEER shows a lack of understanding of the fundamental goals of this agency.”
But PEER director Jerry Phillips stands by his group’s findings. “If you are to believe that all of these facilities suddenly decided that with Rick Scott and Herschel Vinyard in that they were suddenly going to comply with their permits is laughable,” he said. “They’ve been very open that they’ve been trying to basically kill enforcement and that’s what they’re achieving.”


Florida leaders failing the environment
August 30, 2013
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., could not have put it better in his column when he expressed dismay that a tri-state compact for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin to rescue our oyster industry "remains elusive." His support for "using every tool at our disposal to correct the poor management of these water flows" is laudable. But this political show doesn't hide Rubio's myopia and that of Gov. Rick Scott and his "streamlined" Department of Environmental Protection as Florida's own policies continue to push the flow of our freshwater springs and rivers toward extinction.
Both Scott and Rubio lament the "livelihoods shattered by a purely man-made disaster," yet each fails to recognize Florida's own treatment of its environment and the disastrous economic consequences that result. Florida's water is the jewel in the crown of sunshine and beaches that supports tourism, fisheries and our unique ecosystems. Yet our iconic springs and rivers are in serious decline by any measure, and Florida is doing little more than looking the other way.
Florida is firing those who won't toe the line to streamline the water permitting that is sucking our aquifer dry, and it is failing to acknowledge the emergency and bring all parties to the table to solve it.
Scott and his well-placed minions believe we can build our way out of this with expensive infrastructure projects like desalination. That thinking is unacceptable as Florida grows. A serious stakeholder group from agriculture, industry, science, environmental advocacy and citizens should be convened now to stop the bleeding. As Rubio said, "It is time for this issue to be resolved once and for all."
Cathy Harrelson, Gulf Restoration Network, St. Petersburg


Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south? – by Chad Oliver, Reporter
August 30, 2013
GLADES COUNTY -   "Move it south ! Move it south !"
That was the chant I heard last week in Stuart during Governor Rick Scott's visit to the St. Lucie Lock.
He was there to discuss solutions to water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are damaging water quality in Southwest Florida.
It led Terry in Punta Gorda to ask the Good Question:
"Why can't more Lake O water be discharged through the Everglades instead of the Caloosahatchee River ?"
Historically, water from Lake Okeechobee did flow south. It slowly moved into the Everglades.
Two things happened to stop that, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect people from flooding. Then came the Tamiami Trail, which is also a man-made structure that basically acts as a dam.
There is a plan in the works to lift part of Tamiami Trail so that more water flows underneath toward the Everglades.
This week, Governor Scott announced his intention to allocate $90 million over three years for the project in Miami-Dade.
Despite the current obstacles, I got a rare view of how water is still flowing south.
As a member of the Governing Board for South Florida Water Management, it's a Good Question that Mitch Hutchcraft has heard often.
"Part of the answer is we now have seven million more people than we used to in a natural condition. We have roads, we have communities. Everglades National Park is half the size it used to be," he said.
Water managers are required by a federal court order to clean what they send south to the Everglades.
"Just moving water south without the water quality component is not beneficial," Hutchcraft said.
They're now using former farmland to build basins and treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee. The dark, polluted water is naturally cleaned as it flows over land.
Our pilot mentioned that it works like a great big Brita water filter.
"To the question of why not put more water south, if we put more water in this basin, then the vegetation no longer has the capacity to clean it the way that we do," Hutchcraft explained.
South of Lake Okeechobee, we see field after field of sugar cane.
The State of Florida has the option to buy an additional 180,000 acres of farmland.
That deal expires in October. Proponents of the deal say it would provide more space to send water south. Opponents say it would kill their way of life and cost too much money.
As for Hutchcraft ? He doesn't see the need for more land; his focus is on completing projects already in the pipeline.
"So we could send more water south, but if we don't make those other project improvements, there's nowhere for it to go," he said.
It's a Good Question that's neither easy nor inexpensive


Group: Environmental laws not enforced under Scott
Associated Press, Bradenton Herald - by Brendan Farrington
August 30, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Enforcement of the state's environmental laws has plummeted under Gov. Rick Scott and the private company attorney he picked to lead the Department of Environmental Protection, according to a report to be released Thursday by a group that represents government workers who work in environmental regulation.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility report says that since Scott took office and Secretary Herschel Vinyard took over DEP in 2011, enforcement has dropped by just about every measure. For example, DEP opened 1,587 cases in 2010 and 663 last year. Similar drops were shown in consent orders, which dropped from 1,249 in 2010 to 482 last year, as well as penalties
The report said the department essentially has become nonfunctional under Vinyard, who worked for a shipyard before Scott appointed him secretary.
"This is nothing more than that department taking a blind eye, looking the other way when these facilities pollute," said Jerry Phillips, director of Florida PEER. "The message is out to the employees that they should not be aggressive in this area. We talk to these employees, we hear from them and I haven't heard from a single employee that enforcement is better now under Herschel Vinyard. It's just the opposite."
DEP said it is taking its responsibility seriously and said the drop in cases is because of a focus on prevention.
"Through outreach efforts such as compliance training events, site visits and structured meetings, we are preventing environmental violations from ever occurring," DEP spokeswoman Reena O'Brien said. "By working to increase compliance through assistance efforts, we are helping to prevent violations that can damage our environment before they occur."
O'Brien said the compliance rate is at its highest ever at 96 percent.
"Over the last two years, compliance rates have improved dramatically, resulting in a drop of enforcement cases and associated fines," O'Brien said. "It is clear by this report that PEER shows a lack of understanding of the fundamental goals of this agency."
Phillips dismissed the explanation.
"If you are to believe that all of these facilities suddenly decided that with Rick Scott and Herschel Vinyard in that they were suddenly going to comply with their permits is laughable," he said. "They've been very open that they've been trying to basically kill enforcement and that's what they're achieving."
The report comes as Scott has increasingly been trying to position himself as strong on the environment as he seeks re-election. On Wednesday, Scott announced a $90 million commitment for an Everglades project and last week announced a $40 million commitment to a project to help treat nutrient-rich water pouring out of Lake Okeechobee into rivers to the south.
But Scott has also made it clear he wants to cut regulations and make Florida as business-friendly as he can, and when he appointed Vinyard, Scott said he has "a passion for job creation."


Report shows State environmental regulation is plummeting – by Ashley Lopez
August 30 , 2013
A new report shows the state’s environmental regulatory agency isn’t enforcing laws as much as it used to.
According to a statewide group that represents environmental regulators, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been regulating companies significantly less in the past few years.
The report from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) shows the total number of enforcement cases opened by the agency in 2012 fell by 42 percent compared to 2011—and is down 58 percent from 2010.
The group also found through a public records request that the agency has filed less consent orders and levied fewer penalties.
Jerry Phillips, the director of PEER, said this could have long term effects on Florida’s water and air quality.
“Frankly, the numbers show that the agency apparently does not consider itself to be a regulating agency anymore,” he said.
This year, Gov. Rick Scott also signed a bill that relaxed several environmental permitting processes.
The Associated Press reports the DEP said the drop in enforcement cases is due to a focus on prevention.
Phillips said, however, now is not a good time for the state to back off on environmental regulation.
“That tells the oil companies or the power companies—whoever is involved—it tells them that they don’t need to be as strict with complying with their permits,” he said.
Meanwhile, there’s renewed interest among oil companies to increase oil production in Southwest Florida. Right now, the DEP is considering an oil permit in eastern Collier County.
In the past few years, the agency has gone through a series of layoffs.


Tapped-out aquifer - Editorial
August 30, 2013
"This should come as no surprise
So says Hal Wilkening about a new in-depth analysis of Central Florida’s water needs throughout the next two decades. It’s significant that the remark comes from Wilkening, chief water supply planner for the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Wilkening was referring to a study just completed by the Central Florida Water Initiative. It is considered to be the most scientifically exhaustive and accurate assessment of that region’s water needs ever.
The findings are, indeed, no surprise, but confirm what most people have long known: The greater Orlando area has just about tapped out the Floridan aquifer as its sole supply of water.
The study says the initiative’s territory is currently using about 800 million gallons of water a day. It further shows there is just 6 percent more aquifer capacity before it becomes an official environmental danger. Once consumption in the region hits 850 mgd, which will be before 2020, the initiative concedes further pumping of the aquifer will results in “significant” environmental damage to springs, wetlands and other water bodies.
The study says the region will need 1.1 billion gallons a day by 2035 and must begin figuring out where that extra water will come from now.
The initiative is a consortium of the St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts as well as large utilities from Orange, Lake, Seminole, Polk and Osceola counties. The group spent more than a year reaching its conclusions. What is not stated in the study is that other regions will inevitably be impacted by whatever the initiative participants do, short and long term.
The consortium’s recommended solutions include “identifying viable alternative supplies.” St. Johns previously proposed an $800 million plan to build a pumping plant on the Ocklawaha River and 500 miles of pipeline to quench greater Orlando’s future thirst. The backlash from across the state was vociferous and unyielding, leading St. Johns to shelve the plan — but not toss it out.
Here in Alachua County we get water and the brutal, self-serving politics surrounding it. We know that when Jacksonville overpumps, it affects groundwater levels in our area. The precedent of allowing Orlando to raid the water of neighboring regions would surely apply here.
No, we should not be surprised by the water initiative’s findings, or even the water management districts’ suggestion that new water raids for cheap water, no matter the long-term environmental cost, are the answer. But we are disappointed the water districts have been so irresponsible and slow moving in implementing serious conservation plans and developing desalination technology that will spare, or certainly slow, the destruction of Florida’s fresh water resources.


"The people" take a real beating from "in" crowd in Tallahassee
Sun Sentinel - by Stephen Goldstein
August 30, 2013
I don't sleep well. Most nights, I toss and turn, alternatively unsettled by a recurring nightmare and a dream, never able to doze for more than a few hours at a time. In the nightmare, we "the people" now accept as a given that money talks in Tallahassee — and the public interest is routinely sold out. Year after year, in the ongoing conflict between power and "the people" in Florida, it's power 100 percent, "the people" zero.
According to a recent article published in this newspaper, "companies, local governments, trade associations and other advocacy groups have spent $120.4 million" so far this year so their lobbyists can tailor-make legislation and regulation — or kill it altogether.
Here are some of the ways the article points out entities paid to play in Tallahassee purely out of their self-interest.
1. For shame, South Florida companies and local governments spent the most to arm-twist the Legislature. Casino interests Las Vegas Sands ($191,000); Hartman & Tyner ($140,000); Isle of Capri Casinos ($135,000) and possible future newcomer and resort developer Genting ($120,000) were the biggest single industry shelling out to influence gaming policy.
2. U.S. Sugar Corp. spent $505,000 and Florida Crystals poured another $370,000 to lobby on Everglades cleanup legislation. No surprise, the Legislature passed a sweeping Everglades cleanup bill and devoted $70 million to the effort. Lawmakers also cemented Cabinet-approved 30-year leases on 14,000 acres of sugarcane and ag land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to stave off potential legal challenges from environmental groups over Sugar's land-lease terms.
3. Next time you consider going to Disney World, think about how it puts its profits above the interests of its sick employees. It got the Legislature to pass a sick-time bill that prevents Orange County from adopting paid-sick-leave requirements for businesses. Disney and Darden Restaurants opposed the measure because it could have added to their costs. Republican lawmakers feared efforts to help sick workers might spread to other counties.
No matter how hard I try, I can't get to sleep, knowing that on the balance sheet of state government, filthy lucre chalks up win after win, and I can't think of a single initiative coming out of Tallahassee in recent years that has favored the interests of "the people."
In my recurring dream, however, the balance of power has shifted in favor of average Floridians.
Don't ask me how, but they have discovered that next to the power of "no money," $120 million or more is chicken feed.
In other words, they have called for boycotts of Florida companies that support legislation against their best interests. Women no longer tolerate efforts to take away their reproductive rights. The LGBT community tells same-sex couples nationwide not to honeymoon in Florida until its ban against gay marriage ends. The boycotts work. For many people, my recurring dream — that "the people" should reclaim their power —is their recurring nightmare. In fact, it is simply the tea party 3.0.
Between my nightmare and my dream, there is the cold light of reality, where, if we restore our democracy, we'll all sleep a lot better. But if the past is prelude to the future, don't count on it. Too many of us refuse to wake up from our self-delusion.


Water is too cheap to urge conservation
Orlando Sentinel – by Beth Kassab, Local News Columnist
August 30, 2013
When I leave the house I bump up the air conditioning to 80. I switched all the lamps to compact fluorescent light bulbs. And I yell at my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
But when the kids are brushing their teeth, I barely bat an eye when they leave the water running. I'm also guilty of taking long showers and probably waste too much water when I wash dishes.
Why am I so green when it comes to electricity, but so careless about water?
I love that my power-saving habits are good for the environment. But my carbon-conscious ways are motivated by my wallet.
The price of electricity is steep. The average bill for Duke Energy customers in July was $144.20. For Florida Power & Light it was $121.38. OUC came in at $133.72.
But here in Central Florida, where we have access to a nearly pristine source pumped straight from the Floridan Aquifer, water is relatively cheap.
Too cheap.
Run through 8,000 gallons (the standard measure from a statewide water-rate survey, though the average household uses closer to 10,000 gallons a month) and OUC charges a measly $15.30.
Most other cities in Orange County and the county water utility charge less than $19 for 8,000 gallons. Eatonville, the lone exception, charges about 80 bucks.
Prices in Seminole County range from about $15 in Winter Springs to $40 in Geneva.
The Toho Water Authority in Osceola County charges $17 for 8,000 gallons.
I hate high electricity rates, and have said so in this column. So you may be asking, "Are you really saying our water bills should be higher?"
We need to get serious about conservation before it's too late.
This week the Sentinel's Kevin Spear reported that a new study shows the aquifer is just about maxed out.
Florida already pumps about 800 million gallons of fresh water a day from deep underground. The study concluded that pumping can increase by about 6 percent before the damage to our springs, wetlands and lakes becomes so severe and costly that we're better off turning to other sources of drinking water.
Meeting the expected demand of 1.1 billion gallons a day during the next three decades will increase reliance on far more expensive-to-treat supplies, like rivers and seas.
Rates will soar when that happens. It would be better — and less expensive — to push new conservation now and stave off the need for those alternative supplies for as long as we can.
There's no better way to do that than to make people pay more for a resource that's more important to life than electricity. The key is sticking it to the biggest water hogs.
Many utilities already charge customers higher rates when they use more water.
OUC, for example, charges customers 63 cents per 1,000 gallons for the first 3,000 gallons. The rate increases to $1.07 for the next 4,000 gallons, then edges up to $1.59 for the next 12,000 gallons.
Great concept.  But increases measured in pennies mean nothing.
Why not keep the same low rate for the first 3,000 gallons and then really ramp up the prices for the next two tiers in increments of at least $5 ?
Conservation does work. Today the average person uses about 97 gallons of water a day. Compare that with 1995, before there were rules about when lawns could be watered and before low-flow showerheads and toilets were common, and the daily average was closer to 165 gallons.
We can keep going. And save money — and the planet — in the long run.


Burnishing green creds ahead of election, Gov. Scott wants to give Everglades a lift – by Jim Turner
August 29, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott is proposing $90 million to help lift a section of the Tamiami Trail, which groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called “one of the most prominent dams” blocking the natural flow of the River of Grass.
Money for the bridge project would be spread over three years and would come from the state Department of Transportation. It is expected to match money from the U.S. Department of Interior, keeping construction on pace to be completed by 2017.
The announcement comes as residents on both sides of South Florida have clamored for relief from Lake Okeechobee water discharges that have negatively affected the health of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river systems.
“Every drop of water that we can send south and keep out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is a win for Florida families,” Scott said in a prepared statement after touring the Fort Myers Downtown Detention Basin on Wednesday. “My message to families being impacted is that we will not give up on you. We are putting forward strategies each and every day to address the water quality issues that are impacting families in our state.”
Last week, Scott proposed $40 million to help build a storm-water retention area along the St. Lucie River.
The 2.6-mile bridge along the Tamiami Trail is planned to break up part of a 10-mile stretch of the road in Miami-Dade County that since 1928 has been a buffer to the natural flow of water between Lake Okeechobee and the southern Everglades.
To keep water from constantly flooding the trail, the water levels are kept low by water district managers. The bridge is expected to re-establish historic water depths, providing flexibility to water managers in handling regional flood protection.
Scott’s proposal was quickly backed by Audubon Florida, which said the trail has long left wetlands parched and diverted water flows from wading bird populations in Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
“The Tamiami Trail bridge is a keystone project that will connect the River of Grass and provide an outlet for dangerously high water levels north of the trail and near the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries,” Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon’s director of Everglades policy, said in a release. “Endangered wood storks and other iconic birds and wildlife of the Everglades will see tremendous value from the expedited completion of this important phase of the Tamiami Trail bridging project.”
Theresa Pierno, acting president for the National Parks Conservation Association, said “elevating Tamiami Trail is vital to protect critical habitat, restore historic water flows into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, and ensure America’s Everglades will be preserved for future generations.”
The federal government has been trying for months to sway the state to be a financial partner on the span. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell welcomed Scott’s partnership in the estimated $170 million to $210 million project.
 “I visited the Everglades during my first two weeks as interior secretary and I am struck by the scale of the restoration effort and by the strength of the partnership we have with the state of Florida,” Jewell said in a release. “I commend Gov. Scott for his leadership on the Everglades and look forward to our continued joint efforts to restore this critical ecosystem while creating jobs and strengthening Florida’s economy.”
President Barack Obama has proposed $30 million this year for the bridge. The budget allocation remains before Congress.
The bridge, which could start to go up in late 2014 if design and build plans are completed early next year, would be the second in that stretch of roadway.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had proposed an 11-mile bridge in 2005, but Congress allocated just enough money to lift one mile of road.
The proposed structure is less than half of what was proposed in an environmental impact statement by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service in May 2010.
The National Park Service began planning the 2.6-mile span in January, just before the estimated $130 million, federally-funded, one-mile-long bridge was completed.
The proposal is the second time this month that Scott, often a critic of federal spending, has pitched federal projects involving South Florida waterways.
Scott announced Aug. 20 that he would float a $40 million proposal to the state Legislature next year that would speed completion of a federal project intended to help clean water released from Lake Okeechobee onto the St. Lucie River.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who heads the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, has already backed the proposal, adding he would support up to $100 million in funding for Everglades restoration.
Negron’s Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin is also going to consider a number of short-term fixes to lessen the lake discharges later this year, including: cleaning the water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; reducing nutrients from septic tanks; raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches; and getting Scott to declare a state of emergency for the lake to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate the lake protection plan.
The St. Lucie County Commission on Tuesday directed its staff to work with government officials in Martin County on asking Scott to declare a state of emergency for the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River estuary. The hope is to use the declaration to seek money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the river cleanup.


Estuary in peril
August 29, 2013
Senate Committee Hosts Water Hearing
Mayor Mandel Urges Estuary Protection
Several hundred citizens turned out last Thursday to hear from water and environmental experts and share their concerns with water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Estuary.
Chaired by State Senator Joe Negron of Stuart, the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin includes eight other Senators, including Lizbeth Benacquisto of Southwest Florida.
The panel heard from Secretary Herschel Vinyard of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Ernie Barnett, Interim Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District and Colonel Alan Dodd, District Commander for the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Doing the heavy lifting for environmental concerns were representatives from the Everglades Foundation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Florida Atlantic University, Audubon Florida and Florida Oceanographic Society. Supporting them with testimony from the floor were representatives of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Society, Conservancy of SWFL, Sierra Club and River Kids, a youth group in Stuart focused on St. Lucie River issues and a host of other concerned citizens.
During Fort Myers Beach Mayor Alan Mandel’s testimony, coming over six hours into the hearing, he urged lawmakers to recognize the short and long term economic damage of the releases, citing the preliminary results of a Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce survey that showed that over 90% of accommodation members have had guests say they are not coming back; 70% have had cancellations.
"This is just a few weeks into the economic recovery," he said. "When we had the BP spill, we didn’t have anything to see. Now you can see the water. We have to allocate some funds to help promote the areas hard hit by the releases. I hope that you’ll take some of these ideas today and find a place to store water, but we’re going to have to counter the impact of what’s going on, not just on our island, but the whole area."
Negron interjected that the state has had some good news. The first six months of 2013 were the best six months ever, even better than ’05-’06.
"Tourism is still very important to Florida. We are still a tourist state…I wouldn’t want to pay $200/night for the water I’ve been seeing…we have to let people know, ‘give us another chance'.”
A host of citizens spoke about the effects the lake releases have had on their lives and businesses. None more memorable than Native American Bobby Billie.
"I’m not here for the Miccosukee or Seminoles, I’m independent – here for nature and the environment," he said. "We have survived for millions and millions of years. Newcomers came to our land and changed it, drained it, killing it. You need to wake up right now. We’re over the edge.”
Negron pushed presenters and speakers to focus on short-term solutions, assuring the crowd that the committee is capable of acting before next March when the Florida Legislature convenes for the 2014 session.
Some ideas that came from several speakers:
• Declare a State of Emergency that could allow the governor to force the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to alter the water release schedule dictated by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Water Release Schedule (LORS).
• Expand water storage and treatment north of the lake.
• Broaden septic tank rules to prevent leakage into ground water. Encourage municipal sewer system use near bays and rivers.
• Expand water treatment and storage south of the lake, ensuring that before water is released into the Everglades, it is treated to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels.
• Raise water levels in the Everglades Agriculture Areas (EAA) a few inches to store more water.
• Encourage local fertilizer ordinances that ban fertilizer use during rainy season.
• Get federal and state funding for projects approved years ago to store water and restore the Everglades.
• Restore the water district budgets to allow completion of approved projects.
Colonel Dodd explained the basic issue related to concern over failure of the Herbert Hoover dike.
"The Corps manages Lake Okeechobee through a systemic approach that balances several competing needs but protection of lives and preventing catastrophic failure is our top priority. Currently releases east and west are our only choices.”
Under questioning from Negron, Dodd consistently defended the LORS plan, noting that not enough progress has been made on lake projects yet to warrant a revision of the plan.
Negron pushed for a fresh look and questioned the priorities on the 2008 schedule.
"Do you take into account the catastrophic effect of what’s being done, the hundred of millions of dollars in loss to our communities? It seems the Corps is fixated on the dike to the exclusion of these other issues.”
Dodd defended the Corps’ plan, "It’s a balancing act we are doing, and we’re doing it according to LORS.”
He brushed aside questions about water quality, noting that, "Water quality is a state issue. We convey water from one location to another.”
Dr. Tom Van Lent, Senior Scientist of The Everglades Foundation, summed up the water release issue as being primarily of two problems: 1) water quantity and 2) water quality.
He explained that the nitrogen and phosphorous is not just a Lake O problem, but come from watershed run-off, septic tanks and fertilizer use.
"We need to focus on water quality in the local (watershed) basin in addition to the lake water. The local basin provides 58% of the water flowing into the estuaries and more than half of the nutrients in that water come from the local (watershed) basin.”
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane encouraged the committee to use balance in considering the water release problem, noting that there is a real economic effect caused by the water releases. Tourism, construction, real estate values are all affected. He echoed a request by Fort Myers Beach Mayor Mandel, inviting the committee to the west coast.
Senior Vice-President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development for United States Sugar, Bubba Wade, encouraged treatment of water north of the lake along with immediate construction of the C-43 reservoir. He also urged those who feel they are not being heard by federal agencies to address those agencies directly.
After six hours of testimony, Negron announced four action items the committee will focus on as it works on recommendations for the full Senate:
1. Reevaluate the 2008 LORS to be sure it balances the risk of overflow with the damage done by lake releases.
2. Find additional water storage.
3. Evaluate whether a state of emergency declaration would impact the state’s ability to work with the federal government to address the releases.
4. Investigate how septic tanks may be contributing to the problem and how the problem can be addressed while protecting private property rights.
To follow the Senate Select Committee or submit comments, go to:


Gov. Scott proffers project to mitigate water woes
Pine Island Eagle
August 28, 2013
"The state is doing the right thing. They are teaming up with the private sector and farms and doing things on public lands to store water so we can reduce this flow from Lake Okeechobee," said Scott.
He also pointed out that the federal government owes the State of Florida $1.6 billion in investments under a 50/50 cost sharing agreement. A lack of federal money has delayed repairs to the failing Herbert Hoover Dike System near Lake Okeechobee.
"They need to fix the dike, it's their job and their responsibility. It's the federal government's responsibility to fix the dike," said Scott.
Fact Box:
Prepared statement from the Office of Gov. Rick Scott
"Gov. Scott Announces $90 M Commitment for Tamiami Trail Project: Major Project Will Direct Water South to Protect Regional Estuaries
FT. MYERS, Fla. Today, Governor Rick Scott announced a $90 million state commitment for the bridging of a 2.6 mile segment of Tamiami Trail road in South Florida. The project would deconstruct a section of the berm that Tamiami Trail road is currently built on, and replace it with a bridge so that water north of the road could flow into the Everglades, providing needed water to the Everglades National Park. The end effect would be to keep more high nutrient water from entering the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries.
Governor Scott said, "This $90 million investment will be a huge step forward in our efforts to restore water quality throughout South Florida. Every drop of water that we can send South and keep out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is a win for Florida families. My message to families being impacted is that we will not give up on you. We are putting forward strategies each and every day to address the water quality issues that are impacting families in our state."
Today's setup of the Tamiami Trail inhibits water flow, which forces more storm water runoff to drain from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, instead of flowing South through the Everglades. By constructing an additional bridge, more water will be able to flow naturally through the Everglades, which will keep nutrient rich water out of the estuaries.
The total cost of 2.6 miles of bridging is estimated to be $180 million. The State of Florida will make a commitment to match federal funds for this project, up to $30 million/year over three years or $90 million total from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) work plan. One of the most critical components of Everglades restoration is increasing water flow under Tamiami Trail into Everglades National Park.
The ultimate completion of the project will provide numerous benefit to the region, including:
Passing an additional 215,000 acre/feet of water from the northern part of the system, including Lake Okeechobee, to the south;
Aiding in the reestablishment of historical seasonal water depths and flooding durations that are critical to the survival of many fish and wildlife species;
Allowing water managers additional flexibility to deal with regional and system wide flood protection; and
Providing water managers flexibility in addressing Lake Okeechobee seasonal high water levels.
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, "I want to applaud Governor Scott for focusing on the things that are important to Southwest Floridians. This commitment is a great step towards improving the water issues that face the Caloosahatchee River and the State as a whole. By raising Tamiami Trail we will be able to remove the constraints on water that is moving south.
The SFWMD is taking emergency action to store excess water on public and private lands and this fall the SFWMD will begin work on a $16 million project at Lake Hicpochee, to help control flows into the Caloosahatchee.
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto also said, "Additionally, the state and the South Florida Water Management District have fully funded a $16.5 million shallow reservoir and restoration project on Lake Hicpochee that will capture and store water out if the C-43 canal. These combined efforts will allow more water to be captured and flow to the South, rather than to the Caloosahatchee, which we have seen is problematic for our estuary and our way of life."
Senator Joe Negron said, "Governor Scott is working diligently to make sure the Everglades are protected and restored. Last week I was proud to stand by him as he committed $40 million dollars to speed up the completion of the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project in Martin County. Today, I am also excited to support his $90 million commitment to bridge 2.6 miles of the Tamiami Trail in Southwest Florida. With the dedication to the environment that Governor Scott has shown, many future generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy Florida's Everglades."
Senator Garrett Richter said, "Governor Scott demonstrated today that he's committed to the long term protection of our community. The Tamiami Trail project means the world to families in South Florida, and it takes real leadership to get the ball rolling on such an important project. The Governor's $90 million commitment means we'll take incredible leaps forward in restoring water quality in South Florida and I look forward to its completion."
Representative Matt Caldwell, Chair of the Lee County Delegation, said, "Businesses across our region have experienced the harmful effects of the high nutrient waters of Lake Okeechobee. Unless we take drastic steps forward, communities year-after-year will continue to be impacted during the rainy seasons. That's why today's announcement by Governor Scott is so important. We must reengineer water infrastructure in this state in order to restore the Everglades and protect our estuaries. The Governor's $90 million commitment is a huge piece in the endeavor, and I want to thank him and his entire Administration for taking water quality issues seriously."
Representative Dane Eagle said, "The ultimate completion of the Tamiami Trail projects will be a game changer for water quality in South Florida. By Governor Scott taking steps forward in completing another major segment, Florida is becoming more proactive in its efforts to create a more sustainable environment for future generations. With this $90 million investment, we're not only committing to restoring water quality, but we're supporting Florida's future economic strength."
Representative Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen said, "I want to thank Governor Scott for his support of area families. While this season's rains have been extraordinarily tough on our region, the issues plaguing the Caloosahatchee deserve a long term focus from leaders in Tallahassee and Washington. With the Governor's $90 million commitment for the Tamiami Trail, he's demonstrated he's focused fully on solving our region's water quality issues."
Representative Matt Hudson said, "Adding additional bridge space to the Tamiami Trail will do a lot to keep nutrient rich water out of our communities. Every drop of water we send south is another drop that doesn't make its way to our shores, which benefits our people and economy. The Governor has clearly demonstrated that water quality issues are a priority and his decision will positively impact our region in years to come."
Representative Kathleen Passidomo said, "I stand with Governor Scott in committing $90 million dollars to help bridge the Tamiami Trail. By allowing additional water flow throughout the South Florida we are not only protecting the Everglades today, but we are restoring and preserving it for future generations of Floridians."
Representative Ray Rodrigues said, "This $90 million means everything to families in South Florida. By moving more water South, instead of East and West, we'll keep more high nutrient water from impacting our communities, which is critical to families and jobs in the region."
"The Governor's commitment to fund the additional critical bridging work needed to increase the water flow south will help provide relief for Florida Families," said Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "This illustrates the importance of taking accelerated steps necessary to get the water right."
FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said, "This is a critical project for Everglades restoration and is long overdue. I am grateful for Governor Scott's leadership for bringing FDOT to the table."
Current Caloosahatchee Actions
The Governor said, "In addition to our long term investments, we're working with the water management district and local partners to take aggressive action on both coasts to mitigate the harmful impacts to families."
In addition, the Governor's Florida Families First budget invested $3 million to create an innovative wetland treatment system in Hendry County that cleans water flowing through the Caloosahatchee River. Governor Scott said, "In addition to these measures by the state, we need the federal government to step up and authorize the C-43 project in Hendry County. This project will help keep storm runoff from impacting the Caloosahatchee and we need Congress to act."

Congressman Trey Radel, R-Southwest Florida, who serves on the Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure, said he is doing everything possible to secure federal funding for projects that protect water supplies.
"I will do everything I can to ensure I am fighting for the State of Florida and Southwest Florida to make sure we have a healthy environment, because at the end of the day, for us in Southwest Florida, a healthy environment means a healthy economy and jobs for all of us," said Radel.
Although the raising of Tamiami Trail is a step forward in sending more water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, local environmental officials agree it's a minimal effort.
"Moving more water south is part of the solution and while it's important, the amount of water that will be moved is a drop in the bucket," said Jennifer Hecker, manager of Natural Resource Policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Hecker said Scott has only provided half of the Everglades restoration funds offered by his previous Republican counterparts.
She said approximately 210,000 acre/feet of water would be sent south but nearly one million acres needs to be moved to see a difference locally, leaving another 800,000 acre/feet of water.
The C-43 Reservoir Project would have a more a significant impact on Southwest Florida, by diverting an additional 200,000 acres, but the federal government has yet to authorize the funding to begin construction. Local environmental officials are hoping the U.S. House authorizes the project by Sept. 16.
Even though C-43 would stagger the freshwater releases into this region, Hecker said current plans for the reservoir have it only storing the water and not treating, meaning an algae bloom could develop in the stagnant water.
Alexis Meyer, local organizer for The Sierra Club, described the highway project as a first step.
"It's a good first step, but many other things need to be done," she said. "It's impacting businesses and our lifestyles. Tourism is our lifeblood in Florida."
She said there needs to be more regulation put on the companies who cause polluted waters, regulation on water quality, and getting the state to purchase the 180,000 acres of the Everglades Agricultural Area before the option expires in October.


Regionwide water plan to address growing strain on Floridan aquifer – by Amy Green
August 29, 2013
August 29, 2013 | WMFE - By 2035 Central Florida's demand for water is expected to exceed what the Floridan aquifer can provide. That's according to the Central Florida Water Initiative, which is exploring how to meet future needs.
The Central Florida Water Initiative is a collaboration among three water management districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and regional water utilities.
For two years the group has studied how much water the region has and how much we need.
Gary Fries of Polk County's Utilities Department says conservation is the best and cheapest way to extend the region's water.
"The resource that we've always used has been a fairly cheap resource. Water has been available. Go out and drill a well, and you've got water. And that obviously is not going to continue."
The Floridan aquifer historically has supplied most of the region's water, but Fries says future sources also will include reclaimed and desalinated water.
The Central Florida Water initiative expects to produce a regionwide water plan by next year. Public meetings are scheduled throughout the region in the coming months.


Water District's new short-term fixes focus on storage, flow - by Chuck Weber/
August 29, 2013
WEST OF STUART-- Holding more water on public lands, and sending more water through the Everglades will hopefully reduce harmful flows to the troubled St. Lucie River.
On Thursday, the South Florida Water Management District released details about a list of short- and medium-term fixes for our current water problems. The plan was submitted to State Sen. Joe Negron, (R) Stuart, at his request.
A key element is holding and storing more water on public lands, such as the Allapattah Flats Wildlife Area in Western Martin County. The property contains many wetlands, and now water managers are taking advantage of that.
"It's a strategic location," said Randy Smith of the Water District. "It does hold a lot of water in the wetlands, and it's capable of holding some more, which is what we're doing right now."
Water managers are already storing water on the property, and plan to increase the amount in coming days and weeks. Other lands targeted for increased storage include the Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife areas in southwestern Palm Beach County.
The most important parts of the Water District's new initiative are planned tweaks to the water system, in and around the Everglades Water Conservation Areas, massive portions of the 'Glades surrounded by levees-- stretching from Palm Beach County south.
Water managers hope to send more water out of the conservation areas-- to coastal Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and to Everglades National Park-- so the conservation areas can, in turn, take more water from Lake Okeechobee, sparing the St. Lucie.
But the conservation areas have had their own high water issues this year. Deer and other wildlife have been forced to higher ground for shelter and food. Fortunately heavy rains have let up in recent weeks, and water levels have fallen.
The Water District's Smith said his agency would watch closely to make sure the planned tweaking would not increase flooding risk for coastal residents, or make things worse for the deer.
"We can move more in from the Lake, as long as we're letting out as much as we're putting in," said Smith. "Because the one thing we can't do is let the water levels rise again in those water conservation areas."
Could the new initiatives completely end the need to send water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River?
"I think it's physically possible," said Smith. "But we're going to need a lot of the stars to be lined up together."
Those stars include a continued break from the wet weather.


Water words matter – editorial by Missy Layfield
August 29m 2013
There’s a whole lot of attention focused on the water releases from Lake Okeechobee these days and rightly so. After a summer of record rainfall, the artificially engineered drainage system that is the Kissimmee River, Lake O, the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River have been talked with handling the amount of water that has fallen on the southern half of the state.As the lake has risen the Army Corps has done the only thing their guidebook, the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) allows, open the gates and drain the lake down the two rivers in order to avoid stressing the Herbert Hoover Dike and the communities it protects. The water releases have triggered algae blooms, hypoxic dead zones, low salinity and dark water causing seagrass die-off.
This has been happening for years as the 5-year old LORS rules our estuaries. The Army Corps has no choice. Last Thursday, Colonel Dodd testified that he didn’t have anything to do with water quality – that was a state issue.
Interesting concept.He’s the man with his hand on the valve that is flushing the polluted water down the river in both directions, and according to him, it doesn’t matter what the quality of that water is, or what environmental damage it’s doing. That’s not his job.
The deeper I delve into the water problems in south Florida, the more convoluted the picture becomes. It’s like there are 4-5 shell games going on at once.
Last Thursday, I sat through 7 hours of testimony at the State Senate Select Committee looking at Lake Okeechobee water releases. Let me paraphrase what I heard there:
It’s not the Corps’s fault; they’re only trying to save the thousands of people living around Lake O from a dike failure.
It’s not the state’s fault; they’ve passed a bucketful of laws to solve the water storage and quality problem. They just haven’t funded them or withdrew funding when the Water Management District’s budget was slashed by the Governor.
The state doesn’t have any money to fund them now. It’s up to those complaining about water quality to find ways to pay for any solutions proposed.
The sugar industry is at fault for all of it.
It’s not the sugar industry’s fault because the farmers around Lake O are careful stewards of water quality and follow every regulation related to fertilizer use.
Get the feeling that the finger pointing is counter-productive? So long as the people are pointing at the sugar industry, and the state is pointing at the feds, and the feds are pointing at the state – nobody has to take charge of fixing the problem!
The only solution is going to come from all parties working together to find a solution that actually works to protect communities both around Lake O and surrounding our estuaries on both coasts as well as the Everglades.
The joint project announced by Governor Scott this week with the Department of the Interior to complete the next phase of Tamiami Trail elevation to allow water to flow south, is a great start. Still to be dealt with is the water quality of the releases that will be sent south to the Everglades. Even if the bridges were completed tomorrow, there’s no change planned to the LORS, so the Corps will keep on releasing water into the rivers until that changes.
But it’s a start and every solution has to start somewhere.
I’d like to propose another start. Let’s start using words that are accurate in this debate. Words have great power. It’s important that we use the right ones. Somewhere along the line, people learned that if you call unpleasant things by a pretty name, they seem less unpleasant. And that certainly applies in this situation.
Starting with "fresh water.”Any junior high science student knows that water is either fresh or saltwater. So, if water is not saltwater, it must be fresh water, right?Except fresh water makes it sound so clean. Crisp, refreshing even. When all they really mean is that the salt content of the water is low enough that it is not considered salt water. I think that in this case, "lake water” is more descriptive because what is coming down our river is definitely not fresh.
And how about "nutrient rich?” This phrase is a marketers dream. What it really is is water that has been polluted with fertilizers like nitrogen and phosphorus. Some of it from the agricultural industry, yes. But most of it from other sources, like septic tanks, lawn fertilizers and naturally occurring elements in the soil. Let’s stop calling it something that we know is misleading.
What we have is polluted lake water flowing into our bay and estuary causing harm. Eventually rainy season will be over and the releases will stop.Our water will clear and we’ll be able to tally the damage this rainy season and the LORS took on our estuary and wildlife.
Hopefully we’ve learned something this summer that will help us all avoid a repeat in future rainy seasons.


Coastal Estuaries in Peril panel gives viewpoints on water quality
Fort Myers Beach Observer - by Mckenzie Cassidy
August 28, 2013
Poor water quality is not only a danger for marine life, but the Southwest Florida economy as well.
That was the message delivered to the island community this week at the Coastal Estuaries in Peril panel at Tween' Waters Inn on Captiva Island. Ray Judah, former Lee County commissioner and current coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, moderated the panel to inform the public.
"There is a lot of deception and misinformation, and you're going to get the truth tonight," said Judah Monday night. "So, when you speak to your elected officials you're going to know what you're talking about."
The problem of polluted water releases is complex and nuanced, and the solution isn't as simple as diverting more water to the east coast or making improvements to failing treatment systems. The good news was that panelists presented a number of short- and long-term options to combat the problem.
Greg Rawl, vice-chairman of the Southwest Watershed Council, said this July was one of the wettest seasons on record and, as a result, more water was released from Lake Okeechobee. Daily flows varied throughout the summer, but last Friday they broke 15,000 cubic feet per second.
Not unlike the last wet season in 2005, released water crossed 11,000 acres of lakes and marshes to the 800,000-acre Caloosahatchee River Basin, carrying nitrogen and phosphorous in suspended solids that darkened the water. The result was algae blooms eating nutrients and oxygen, and killing off aquatic life, officials said.
Islanders had been rejoicing the end of the longest red tide period on record, from September to April, but now their concern is water quality. With recent heavy discharges, Rawl said Southwest Florida can expect other algae blooms in the near future. The east coast of Florida, on the other hand, has the advantage of the Gulf Stream, which filters discharges into the ocean.
There are so many nutrient deposits in Lake Okeechobee, said Rawl, that if releases suddenly stopped it would take an estimated 500 years to clear out. And just because a body of polluted water dries up, doesn't mean the pollutants aren't still lurking under the soil.
Jennifer Hecker, manager of Natural Resource Policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said the algae are killing marine life. Since last January, the conservancy has documented more than 300 manatee deaths. Humans are also developing respiratory problems and cases of skin rashes have been reported. Scientists are also linking chronic exposure to these pollutants with nervous disorders, she said.
Rae Ann Wessel, director of Natural Resource Policy at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the system of dikes and treatment areas across the state pose a conundrum because they either release too much water or not enough.
"We find it nearly impossible to find that middle ground," she said.
Historically, water from the lake had traveled south into the Everglades before merging with the Gulf of Mexico, but it was unnaturally rerouted east to St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee. Local environmental officials are now asking the federal government to fast track the Central Everglades Planning Project, which would divert water back south and decrease the level of pollutants in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The diversion of water east and west accommodated the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area, a majority of which is used by U.S. Sugar. They are now asking that the EAA be reused for fresh water releases under one of two options: Governor Rick Scott declaring a State of Emergency and flooding the EAA agricultural fields, which are insured, or purchase U.S. Sugar-land through a three-year option that expires this October.
Although releases from Lake Okeechobee carry pollutants into Southwest Florida, local water supplies pose a threat as well. Our water shed needs 450,000 acres of storage and current projects only provide 250,000 acres. Completion of the C-43 Reservoir, outside of Alva, would provide additional storage space, but it's just one piece of the puzzle, said Wessel.
Hecker said one of the reasons the state is in this predicament is the lack of measurable and enforceable water quality standards. This includes run-off from major agricultural companies and residential areas.
"Agricultural run-off is a source of nutrient pollution, but also the fertilizer we put on our lawns," said Hecker.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the State of Florida to develop water quality standards in 1998, but they were never finalized. The EPA later stepped in, but current water standards exempt 85 percent of Florida's waters. They don't include intermittent rivers, streams, canals, tidal waters, and others.
Under the current system, taxpayers are responsible for all of the costs of stopping polluted water, said Hecker, rather than the companies that dumped them in the first place. In 1996 a "polluters pay" constitutional amendment was approved by voters, but the Florida Legislature hasn't imposed it, she said.
And what are the costs of polluted water? According to the panelists, 90 percent of the Southwest Florida economy is connected to local water. Besides tourists coming to the beach, tarpon fishing generates $108.6 million, artificial reefs generate $104.2 million, and Lee County has the second highest number of issued saltwater fishing licenses.
Jonathan Tongya, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, organized the Save Our Bay Rally near the Sanibel bridge on Saturday, Aug. 24, and said 500 people attended. Many of those protestors are also attending The Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on Sunday, Sept. 1, from noon-3 p.m.


Florida media need to crank up coverage of water crises
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
August 28, 2013
Two governors, two viewpoints, one disappointing job covering the story of the day.
Why did Florida choose to sue Georgia two weeks ago, the day after federal authorities declared the Apalachicola oyster fishery a resource disaster area ? Duhhh ... We dunno !
But how come Florida Gov. Rick Scott said negotiations between the states have broken down and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said, wait a minute, I thought we had a deal ?
We don't know entirely, but probably we should by now, according to a thought-provoking story out Tuesday in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), a bimonthly magazine for journalism professionals.
Author Susannah Nesmith's analysis wasn't brutal, but she said the story a reader gets depends very much on which state he lives in. Unless he was reading from one of the larger papers -- one that still has an honest-to-goodness environmental reporter who could give the basic argument of each state -- he was knee-deep in "hometown politicians ... allowed to frame the discussion." On each side of the border, the CJR points out, the best coverage came, perhaps, from The Tampa Bay Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Among the media's problems with the Apalachicola tragedy, according to the CJR: not near-enough manpower, not near-enough money to send the reporters they've got traveling to write the definitive story; a lack of fact-checking; too few story sources across the border (Georgia officials don't call Florida reporters back, Florida officials don't call Georgia reporters back);  a  confidentiality order issued by a federal court in 2010 that gives officials in all states involved the right -- in fact, the obligation -- to dodge questions.
But the CJR cited one more distinctive "flaw" -- if you can call it that -- and it struck a nerve with me. It was coverage by the local paper, the weekly Apalachicola Times -- actually, the most extensive coverage of the Aug. 13 story of any newspaper in either state. A praiseworthy job.
But David Adlerstein, the Times' editor and chief writer, admitted that as a small-town local editor, his job is to advocate for the local folks. He calls it "homey coverage" and describes the finished product as "well-sourced and accurate, but not necessarily balanced."
Said CJR author Nesmith, "As Adlerstein acknowledged, the coverage didn't capture a wide range of perspectives -- which means it was short on critiques of the story Scott and the locals were telling."
The reason this struck a nerve is that last week I attended Sen. Joe Negron's meeting of the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. It was in Stuart on the Treasure Coast, scene of unspeakably polluted rivers and waterways -- anything absorbing the freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
I saw firsthand the effect of "homey" coverage. To its credit, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers has unleashed a "lagoon team" of reporters and photographers on the story. But the coverage nevertheless has been more about cheerleading, mining popular emotion, pointing fingers and advocating for one proposed solution than it has been about taking a pragmatic overview. Like most local papers the one in Stuart lets local politicians or other activists define both problem and solution, rather than fact-finding on its own, getting the stories that make discoveries.
As Adlerstein said of his paper -- "... well-sourced and accurate, but not necessarily balanced." That's Scripps' crisis-waters story.
"Homey" coverage. Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers certainly has devoted pages and pages, day after day, to the plight of the area's polluted waters. But I can see a touch of the Apalachicola Times' advocacy in it. Not entirely a bad thing, certainly. Still, they might consider -- as the CJR advises Florida newspapers covering the other desperate water crisis, the one in Apalachicola -- it's not too late to assign reporters to make discoveries, to try to steer the discussion toward addressing the whole problem -- not just the popular solution -- before it gets worse.


Governor Scott tackles Lake Okeechobee runoff
Florida Today
August 28, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott will visit Fort Myers today to announce a $90 million project to further hydrate the Everglades — and help lessen water woes plaguing Southwest Florida.
The project will construct a 2.5-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. A similar 1-mile bridge opened in March on the same 10-mile stretch. The bridges replace the existing roadway, which has blocked the flow of water to the southern Everglades from Lake Okeechobee since its construction in 1928.
Instead, the lake’s discharges have been sent down the Caloosahatchee River and other waterways. The releases have long been a point of concern, especially this year as the frequency of the releases has discolored the water, created algae blooms, harmed marine life, and, according to some business owners, hurt tourism.
Drawn up in 2010, the $310 million project is funded through the Florida Department of Transportation and matched by a grant from the Department of the Interior.
“Today, the Tamiami Trail acts to block water from naturally flowing south. The result is more water backs up, which forces more storm runoff to drain from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, instead of flowing South through the Everglades,” Scott said in an email.
“By constructing an additional bridge, more water will be able to flow naturally through the Everglades. This will keep nutrient rich water out of the estuaries. Constructing the Tamiami Trail Bridge is crucial to the long term health of the region and a critical project identified in the Central Everglades Planning Process.”
The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board voted unanimously Aug. 15 on the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will “identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay while protecting coastal estuaries.”
When the project is completed — no time frame was available — an annual average of 210,000 acre-feet of water will be redirected south, according to the SFWMD.
A total of 6.5 miles of Tamiami Trail have been identified as available for bridging.
Scott will discuss his plans at 10 a.m. at Centennial Park. Among his guests will be Senate Majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; and state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers.
Governor to hold news conference on water issues   Fox 4


Make Florida water quality lasting priority - by Paula Dockery
August 28, 2013
You will die without water. You cannot grow food without water. In other words, water is kind of important.
Water issues are back in the news. Florida elected officials are once again vowing to take action and to provide funding.
In one instance, the state of Florida intends to sue our neighboring state, Georgia, over excessive consumption of water upstream from us. The case is to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. Three states — Florida, Georgia and Alabama — have been duking it out in the federal courts for more than three decades.
At issue is who is entitled to the water from a system of three rivers: the Apalachicola, the Chattahoochee and the Flint. Florida wants the water to sustain its seafood industry on Apalachicola Bay, while Alabama and Georgia want to hold the water upstream in reservoirs to support continued growth and recreational opportunities.
While talks have ensued over many years, details are hidden from public view, so it's difficult to know whether the confidential documents show any compromise among the three thirsty states.
In the other recent example, lawmakers have quickly called for hearings to address the damage to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries caused by the heavy release of less-than-pristine water flowing from Lake Okeechobee. This action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resulted in fish kills and toxic water in the estuaries.
Why was this increased release necessary ? The heavy rains caused the levels in Lake Okeechobee to become dangerously high. We have known for many years that the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike was a serious concern in times of heavy rain, such as during Florida's hurricane season. Likewise, we have known that the water quality in the huge lake is severely degraded.
But until the visual shock of dolphin, manatee and pelican deaths in the Indian River Lagoon, issues about water quality, lake releases and dike improvements have been on the back burner.
Of course, the science will show many other factors that contribute to these adverse effects — such as nitrogen from septic tanks, lawn-fertilizer runoff, and inadequate water storage, water-quality improvement projects, treatment of wastewater and enforcement.
In both these cases, the state has shown a willingness to step up and fight for Florida's economic interests, whether they involve the seafood industry, tourism or recreational fishing. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the state's willingness to act extended to the health of our wetlands, aquifer, rivers, lakes and other natural systems for the sole purpose of ensuring a safe and plentiful supply of clean freshwater?
One simple-and-indisputable fact needs to be stated: There is no life without water. Take a minute to let that sink in. You will die without water. You cannot grow food without water. In other words, water is kind of important.
Our actions do have consequences and those consequences come with a hefty price tag to remedy. It is less costly to prevent a water body from becoming polluted than to undertake another multibillion-dollar restoration effort such as Lake Okeechobee, and the larger Everglades ecosystem, which provides drinking water for millions of Floridians.
It will take political courage, a long-term commitment and adherence to sound scientific and ecological principles. The funding and the policy need to be permanently in place to ensure a continued commitment that prevents misguided political cowardice to weaken that obligation. In 2005, the state was well on its way to sound policy and sustainable, dedicated funding. However, that funding was drained slowly, like a leaky spigot washing away all the progress that a diverse group of stakeholders put in motion.
It will take a concerted effort to work collaboratively with local, state and federal officials for sound policy, rigorous enforcement and sustained funding. The time is now and every day going forward. Water policy needs to be moved up to the top of the hierarchy of state issues and stay there.
As Benjamin Franklin said, "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water."
Let's not wait until the well is dry.


Many viewpoints, one problem
Michigan Technological University
August 28, 2013
Managing water resources responsibly.
Newswise — Why is a Michigan Technological University professor working to develop a model for water resources management in South Florida, 1,500 miles and several ecosystems removed from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?
“Water is an extremely valuable resource everywhere,” David Watkins explains. “We’re facing similar challenges around the Great Lakes: the effects of climate change, extreme water levels, pollution from agricultural run-off,” says the Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering, who specializes in water resources engineering. “And, like Florida, we have many stakeholders with sometimes competing interests in managing and protecting this vital resource.”
So he and researchers from 10 other universities as far away as Hawaii are studying water resources management in South Florida, including the key component of how stakeholders assess water issues and make policy decisions. The $4.4 million, 5-year study is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
It’s a multidisciplinary team. Watkins is developing a water management model for the project. Other specialists are looking at the hydrogeology (ground and surface water geology) of South Florida, the economic aspects of water use and the impact of water use on the environment. Ecological economists are studying potential tradeoffs between the value of the ecosystem and the direct economic benefits that water use can confer. Climate scientists are looking at the effects of climate change and variability on water scarcity, while behavioral scientists are examining people’s biases and beliefs and their effects on the policy and decision making process.
“Our job is not to solve the problem of water scarcity in South Florida,” Watkins explains. “We are using South Florida as a case study to see how multiple stakeholders can cope with complex issues and move towards more sustainable water use .
Water resources management presents a variety of challenges. Housing and business development make certain demands on water resources. Industry and industrial waste management cause other impacts. Economic development is quite simply dependent on water. Climate change affects water resources, and water use in turn can exacerbate climate change impacts on ecosystems.
“The environment typically gets shortchanged,” Watkins says. “That’s why we need to look at ecosystem protection as part of the equation. We need new information on the economic value of ecosystem services and the impacts of water use on ecosystems. We want to figure out how we can support both ecosystem protection and economic development.”
The water management system he develops will apply an adaptive management approach, based on various scenarios, which the study team met in June to start defining. The scenarios assume significant sea level rise, rainfall and temperature changes over land, and a range of population and economic growth rates.
Stakeholders as well as scientists will participate in the study, helping the team develop water management plans that are most likely to generate public support.
The scientists will meet again in fall to move forward with their work.
Michigan Technological University ( is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.


Murphy to take aerial tour Wednesday of Indian River Lagoon
TCPalm - by Jon Shainman, WPTV
August 27, 2013
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is set to get a bird's eye view of the toxic water on the Treasure Coast.
The Jupiter Democrat will take a helicopter tour of the region starting about 9 a.m. Wednesday.
He said the health of the Indian River Lagoon is the No. 1 issue in his office right now, and his job is to wake up other politicians about the extent of the problem by getting people to the capitol.
"I've spoken to Gov. (Rick) Scott about coming to D.C. Spoke to state Sen. (Joe) Negron; I want to get the Army Corps of Engineers, Ag, the South Florida Water Management District. I want to get all interested parties."
Murphy said he is working with fellow freshman congressman, Trey Radel, a Republican from the Fort Myers area, to show that this is a bipartisan issue that demands attention.


Sadly, we’re not surprised at all
August 28, 2013
 “This should come as no surprise.”
So says Hal Wilkening about a new in-depth analysis of Central Florida’s water needs throughout the next two decades. That the remark comes from Wilkening is significant, because he is the chief water supply planner for the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The study Wilkening refers to was just completed by the Central Florida Water Initiative and is considered to be the most scientifically exhaustive and accurate assessment of the region’s water needs ever. The findings are, indeed, no surprise, but rather confirm what most of us have known for a long time: The greater Orlando area has just about tapped out the Floridan aquifer as its sole supply of water.
The study says the CFWI territory is currently using about 800 million gallons of water a day for residential, business and agricultural uses. It further shows there is just 6 percent more aquifer capacity before it becomes an official environmental danger, as opposed to the unofficial one most Floridians have long known about and acknowledged. Once consumption in the region hits 850 mgd, which will be before 2020, the CFWI concedes further pumping of the aquifer will results in “significant” environmental damage to springs, wetlands and other water bodies. The study, incidentally, says the region will need 1.1 billion gallons a day by 2035 and needs to begin figuring out where that extra water will come from now.
The CFWI is a consortium of three water management districts — St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida — as well as large utilities from Orange, Lake, Seminole, Polk and Osceola counties. The group spent more than a year reaching its conclusions. What is not stated in the study is that other regions, importantly Marion County, will inevitably be impacted by whatever the CFWI participants do, short and long term.
We remember well when St. Johns proposed an $800 million plan to build a pumping plant on the Ocklawaha River and 500 miles of pipeline to quench greater Orlando’s future thirst. The backlash from across the state, and especially here in Marion County, was vociferous and unyielding, leading St. Johns to shelve the plan — but not toss it out.
So what is the next step for CFWI? The “solutions phase.” And among the recommended solutions is “identifying viable alternative supplies.” We have heard that term before — right before St. Johns officials started trying to ram the Ocklawaha pumping plan down our throats.
Here in Marion County we get water and the brutal, self-serving politics surrounding it. We know that when Orlando overpumps, it affects groundwater levels here. We also know if Orlando comes to raid our water, when we need our own alternative supplies they will be taken or, heaven forbid, gone.
No, we should not be surprised by the CFWI findings, or even the water management districts’ suggestion that new water raids for cheap water, no matter the long-term environmental cost, are the answer. But we are disappointed the water districts have been so irresponsible and slow moving in implementing serious conservation plans and developing desalination technology that will spare, or certainly slow, the destruction of Florida’s fresh water resources.


Seagrass restoration plan gets Keys airing - by Kevin Wadlow
August 28, 2013
A plan to simplify and speed restoration of damaged seagrass beds in the protected wilderness of Florida Bay will be outlined by Everglades National Park staff at a Sept. 16 session in Islamorada.
The park's draft version of its Seagrass Habitat Restoration Management Plan proposes an assessment and process that applies to most seagrass-repair efforts, which would save time seeking permits and approval.
"One of the challenges in the park is that when we implement projects, we have to be sure to follow all the laws and policies," park planner Fred Herling said.
Rather than file extensive reports on restorations on a "project by project basis," Herling said, the plan would apply to most replantings in the park's waters of Florida Bay.
"It's an overall analysis of a problem, which is the need to restore damaged seagrass," he said. "It's not just one project on a blowhole or prop scar. The impacts and solutions can be applied on a much wider scale."
Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball said in a statement, "The goal of the plan is to provide a concise and easily applied process for evaluating seagrass damage, determining the appropriate restoration action, implementing restoration projects, and evaluating the success of resource recovery."
The draft plan, released Aug. 20, will be open to public comment through Oct. 4. It can be found on Everglades National Park's website:
People can comment in person at the 6-8 p.m. Sept. 16 meeting, scheduled at the Community Building in Islamorada's Founders Park.
"Each year, thousands of boats visit Florida Bay, a submerged wilderness area which supports extensive areas of seagrass habitat," says a project description. "The shallow nature of the bay makes it vulnerable to vessel groundings and propeller scarring damage, which has been occurring with increased regularity..." Nature heals some bottom scarring "but large individual injuries or areas with extensive repeated and cumulative injuries could take decades without management action," the report states.
The primary threat to Florida Bay's seagrasses remains manmade changes to South Florida's ecosystem and water flow, the report notes. But "recreational boat use has also contributed to benthic resource damage."
Studies in 2011 and 1995 of seagrass in 31 Florida coastal counties show "Monroe County had the most seagrass and the most moderate and severe scarring in comparison to all other counties within the study area."
Restoration efforts include transplanting limited amounts of seagrass from healthy areas. Listed as the four "priority seagrass restoration areas in Florida Bay were Porjoe Key, Duck Key, the Tern Keys, and the Buchanan Keys.


South Florida water managers release list of projects to ease Lake Okeechobee discharges
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
August 28, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District has released its list of short-term and midrange projects to alleviate discharges of Lake Okeechobee water to the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
The list includes proposals to increase water storage capacity on several publicly owned sites where reservoirs and stormwater treatment areas are to be built, including the C-23/C-24 site in western St. Lucie County and the Allapattah site in Martin County.
The list also includes proposals to increase the flow of water south from the lake by maximizing the use of pump station in water conservation areas, removing vegetation in canals and cutting a gap in the Old Tamiami Trail.
State Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, asked for the list during an Aug. 22 meeting of his special committee searching for solutions to the discharges.
This story will be updated.


Stuart City Commission calls for eminent domain seizure of U.S. Sugar land
TCPalm - by Mark Burneko
August 28, 2013
STUART — City commissioners have asked the city manager to prepare a resolution favoring state action to seize land owned by U.S. Sugar Corp., a step the city hopes will speed up efforts to stem pollution of the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
Commissioners approved the action Monday after hearing a report by Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, in which Perry outlined the environmental damage to the estuary and nearshore reefs caused by the ongoing discharge of pollutants and sediment from Lake Okeechobee.
Asked by Commissioner Jeffrey Krauskopf for his opinion on the most expedient way of dealing with the problem, Perry suggested the best way to control the level of Lake Okeechobee was to release water southward, its natural direction of flow; rather than east through the St. Lucie River and west through the Caloosahatchee River.
Billions of gallons of freshwater are released daily by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control the level of the lake and reduce the likelihood of a structural failure to the dike that contains it.
A longstanding impediment to creating a southern flow-way, however, is that more than 150,000 acres of land necessary to accomplish the task is owned by U.S. Sugar Corp., based in Clewiston.
Although the state purchased nearly 27,000 acres of U.S. Sugar property for $197 million two years ago, it now has no funding and little time to exercise its option to purchase the rest of U.S. Sugar’s land for another $1 billion. The state’s option on the land expires in October.
One possible solution would be for the South Florida Water Management District to take possession of the land through the process of eminent domain, which would allow the state to negotiate a fair-market price for payment.
“The government maintains broad powers to seize land through eminent domain when it’s in the public’s best interest,” said Sarah Heard, chairman of the Martin County Commission. “That’s why we’re very careful about using it.”
Heard said she was unaware of any legislative impediment to the state exercising its option to seize the property.
While the proposed Stuart commission resolution would have no legally binding effect, it is intended as a clear message the city has reached a tipping point in the fight to protect environmentally sensitive coastal waters.
“You saw how people responded when the BP spill happened,” Krauskopf said, referring to the 2012 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “This is just as bad, if not worse.”


Time for Florida voters to protect natural resources with Water and Land Conservation Amendment
Bradenton Herald – Editorial
August 28, 2013
Fifty years ago, Florida launched an unprecedented land acquisition program that earned the state acclaim for the wise investment in conservation and recreation. The public, the Legislature and both Republican and Democratic governors enthusiastically supported the series of programs that brought almost 3 million acres into state control.
But under Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature, Tallahassee eviscerated the state's well-designed growth management laws and gutted the funding for Florida Forever and regional water management districts, both with land acquisition programs that conserve acreage worthy of preservation.
From 1990 until recently, the highly esteemed Florida Forever and its predecessor program thrived on an annual infusion of $300 million, collected primarily from documentary stamp taxes paid on all real estate transactions. This year, though, Florida Forever received a paltry $20 million in general revenue. To boost that meager amount, the state authorized the sale of $50 million in so-called "surplus" land. The 5,300 acres targeted statewide for disposal include 19.4 acres at Lake Manatee State Park and 13.1 acres at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, the latter in several parcels at the southern approach to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is currently evaluating the land sales and plans to host public meetings in the fall to gather comments. These surplus lands must have value on the open market as development sites, else there would be no point in listing them. Cities and counties would have priority over developers on land purchases, but why saddle local taxpayers with the expense when the state should preserve what it already owns?
Voters will have to wrestle control of land acquisition and conservation away from politicians to put Florida back on the road to preserving land that will safeguard water, wildlife and vegetation. That opportunity exists today.
A coalition of thousands of volunteers and 300 conservation and civic organizations from across the state united to place the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the November 2014 ballot. The Florida Supreme Court is reviewing the ballot language and is expected to rule in mid-September.
Then this grassroots movement must deliver 683,149 verified voter signatures on petitions before the statutory deadline of Feb. 1, 2014, though organizers have set a more ambitious goal of Nov. 30. To date, 150,000 signatures have been collected. The campaign website -- -- summarizes the amendment:
"Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years."
Floridians have proven to be good stewards of the environment, passing a constitutional amendment in 1998 with 72 percent of the vote -- surpassing the current benchmark of 60 percent approval. That amendment boosted the state's ability to sell bonds for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands and created high hurdles for the disposal of those lands, with the intention that conservation lands remain in state hands.
Once a national leader in land conservation, Florida lost its way. Clean water and thriving ecosystems are vital to the state's quality of life and economic prosperity. Future generations will benefit from today's sound investments in public land.
Manatee County is blessed with an abundance of nature preserves and parks thanks to the foresight and determination of community leaders. Voters can leave a similar legacy statewide by signing petitions and approving the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment.


Closer to a state of emergency; Toxic water devastating Treasure Coast
CBS12 News - by Jana Eschbach
STUART, Fla. -- St. Lucie County commissioners give the go ahead to draft a state of emergency. All commissioners unanimously approved the move.
It will be finalized and voted on next week, which will then open up funding for environmental and economic losses.
The news comes the same day we've learned that nearly 100 percent of the 23 acres of state funded oyster beds are dead. 100 percent of the St. Lucie River in Stuart and Port St. Lucie is toxic. Releases from Lake Okeechobee are estimated to continue through 2014.
All this is taking a toll on the tourism and boating industry, the environment, and even people's health.
Bacteria levels are so high, you can't touch the water or risk an infection. Toxic algae so serious, it can cause liver damage.
Tourism numbers on the west coast of Florida are just in, show 70 percent of the tourism industry is seeing a great economic hit.
Fifty percent of hotel guests say they won't return because of the dirty water.
Treasure Coast officials have not yet surveyed businesses to date, but the numbers won't be good.
"The important thing is let's declare it a State of Emergency," said Mark Perry, Executive Director at Florida Oceanographic Society.  "I mean this is not only an emergency environmentally, but economically for the people in the area for their livelihoods and health-wise. So there should be a state team that comes here from Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor's office, and everyone should be on this."
A state Senate panel last week focused on possible solutions for now, like using cattle ranches and conservation lands to hold water, some of it is land currently flooded by Big Sugar.
$4 million of taxpayer money was spent on the oyster reef project. The water in the spring was crystal clear in the estuary. Now, its toxic.
"This is a real real crisis here," Perry said.
With four months of fresh water pouring in, the salinity in the St. Lucie River plunged to zero.
"We went out and did surveys on August 2 and found about 49 percent mortality in the oysters. But for so much fresh water for so long, they cant tolerate it," Perry said. "Those oysters form reef environments, and create habitats for about 300 species of little crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish that are based on the food chain, on up the food chain -- that habitat alone is being decimated."
This week the oyster reefs are declared dead. Your tax dollars were spent on a big project, only to be destroyed once again.
"These coastal estuaries cannot take it -- enough is enough." Perry said.
But Perry says we have to keep spending to keep regenerating these reefs, or the entire estuary will die. What would that look like? No fish, dolphins, manatees, nothing will live in the water.
"Look we cant give up. As soon as this events over we have to get back out there and try to recover this habitat, cause oysters and seagrasses and mangroves, these are critical habitats for these coastal estuaries." Perry said.
The New York Times is here today, CBS Evening News, are focusing on the economy, and other networks on dolphin deaths. Are we gaining any support for funding a comprehensive solution for the coastal and Lake regions with all this coverage? Not yet.
To bring awareness to Washington this week and encourage funding, Congressman Patrick Murphy is taking a tour of the entire Everglades and Lake region projects with South Florida Water Managers first thing Wednesday.
Murphy is trying to secure federal support in Washington to pay for the projects. Fully-funded, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, passed  in 2000, would cost $8 billion, and take 15 to 20 years to complete.
Read more on the plan at:


Dinges from SRWMD explains minimum flows/levels
The Suwannee Democrat - by Joyce Marie
August 27, 2013
Jasper — Jon Dinges, assistant executive director of Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), recently explained minimum flows and levels for the lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers and springs.
SRWMD is currently establishing minimum flows and levels throughout the district, working off a priority list, Dinges said.
“Right now, the one that’s most active is the lower Santa Fe River that is basically from Worthington Springs all the way down to the Suwannee River,” Dinges said. “We have a couple gauges on that river, the Fort White gauge being the most important for data purposes. Also the Ichetucknee River, and all the priority springs that are in that system.”
The springs, he explained, work in conjunction with the river to maintain the flow. All the scientific work has been completed for the lower Santa Fe and SRWMD is now in the peer review process.
“We’ve engaged the University of Florida Water Institute for an independent review of all the science that we did, and there’s a lot of it,” said Dinges. “It took about a year and a half to two years to get all that science done.”
The peer review, he said, should be completed by Oct. 8.
“Everything we’re doing is open to the public,” Dinges said. “It’s a public process, including the peer review. All the work we’ve done is posted on our website and available to the public.”
 (That website is
What SRWMD discovered from their scientific work, along with input from the peer review, Dinges said, is that the lower Santa Fe River is in need of a recovery strategy.
“That means the river is not currently meeting its proposed minimum flows and levels,” he said. “We are gearing up right now and putting together those recovery strategies for the lower Santa Fe River and its springs.”
There has been some withdrawal impact on the Ichetucknee River, Dinges continued, and they are going to put a prevention strategy in place to make sure that over the next 20 years the minimum flows and levels are not violated.
“All that work is being done in a stakeholder-based process,” said Dinges.
Legislatively, he said, they have new tools in their toolbox, in order to be able to work across water management district boundaries. A new Senate bill was passed and signed by Gov. Rick Scott this year that allows water management districts, if they see that a minimum flow and water level is going to be affected by withdrawals in an adjacent district, the governing board of that district can hand it off to the Department of Environmental Protection for an adoption.
“When the state then adopts those minimum flows and levels, they apply across any water management district boundary,” Dinges said. “That’s exactly the approach we’re taking with the lower Santa Fe, the Ichetucknee River and its priority springs. We’ve handed that work off to the DEP and we’re providing technical support. We took advantage very quickly of that legislation and we’re making progress, but nobody’s done this before, so we’re plowing some new ground in our state water policy.”
When asked if he thought it was going to work, Dinges said, “I do, but I don’t think it’s going to be an easy thing to do. There could be legal challenges. So far, we’ve had a lot of coordination with St. Johns district and DEP working together in a regional water supply partnership. We’re just having to take the technical issues and deal with them one after the other, and there have been quite a few. There’s still work to be done, but we’re going to give it our best effort. It’s probably our number one priority right now with the water management district.”

Everglades land deal deadline - by Warren Wright
August 27, 2013
Saving our coastline from Lake "O"
FORT MYERS, Fla.- Water quality experts and environmentalists are saying it's our last best best hope.
A deal to buy US Sugar farm land south of Lake Okeechobee will expire in October.
Its a one billion dollar deal, and the governor has the first right of refusal.
The Department of Environmental Protection could sign off on the option to buy the entire field operation, all 187,000 acres.
If the deal isn't done in the next 8 weeks, US Sugar can demand a higher price.
Ray Judah with the Florida Ocean and Coastal Coalition says "theres no question the price of this land is going to escalate...  so it behooves the state to pursue the closing of this option."
State representative Matt Caldwell isn't convinced that buying u-s sugar lands would solve all our problems.
Instead, he wants to purchase land north of the lake.
Caldwell said "why not look at buying.. you know.. what would probably be much less expensive ranch land, to keep the water up there in the first place."
Judah explains that just doesn't make sense either economically or environmentally. 
The US Sugar deal would cost one billion and would allow the lake "O" release water to flow onto these fields.
But the entire everglades restoration project,  a series of artificial reservoirs, canals and pump stations to keep the US Sugar farm lands safe, would cost about 16 billion dollars.
For Judah, simple is better.  He explained "that would allow the state to do what is really necessary and thats to restore the historic floway- to have the water flow back again to the Everglades National Park and the Florida Everglades."


Experts say poor water quality impacts local economy
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander
August 27, 2013
Poor water quality is not only a danger for marine life, but the Southwest Florida economy as well.
That was the message delivered to the island community this week at the Coastal Estuaries in Peril panel at Tween' Waters Inn on Captiva Island. Ray Judah, former Lee County commissioner and current coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, moderated the panel to inform the public.
"There is a lot of deception and misinformation, and you're going to get the truth tonight," said Judah Monday night. "So, when you speak to your elected officials you're going to know what you're talking about."
The problem of polluted water releases is complex and nuanced, and the solution isn't as simple as diverting more water to the east coast or making improvements to failing treatment systems. The good news was that panelists presented a number of short- and long-term options to combat the problem.
Greg Rawl, vice-chairman of the Southwest Watershed Council, said this July was one of the wettest seasons on record and, as a result, more water was released from Lake Okeechobee. Daily flows varied throughout the summer, but last Friday they broke 15,000 cubic feet per second.
Not unlike the last wet season in 2005, released water crossed 11,000 acres of lakes and marshes to the 800,000-acre Caloosahatchee River Basin, carrying nitrogen and phosphorous in suspended solids that darkened the water. The result was algae blooms eating nutrients and oxygen, and killing off aquatic life, officials said.
Islanders had been rejoicing the end of the longest red tide period on record, from September to April, but now their concern is water quality. With recent heavy discharges, Rawl said Southwest Florida can expect other algae blooms in the near future. The east coast of Florida, on the other hand, has the advantage of the Gulf Stream, which filters discharges into the ocean.
There are so many nutrient deposits in Lake Okeechobee, said Rawl, that if releases suddenly stopped it would take an estimated 500 years to clear out. And just because a body of polluted water dries up, doesn't mean the pollutants aren't still lurking under the soil.
Jennifer Hecker, manager of Natural Resource Policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said the algae are killing marine life. Since last January, the conservancy has documented more than 300 manatee deaths. Humans are also developing respiratory problems and cases of skin rashes have been reported. Scientists are also linking chronic exposure to these pollutants with nervous disorders, she said.
Rae Ann Wessel, director of Natural Resource Policy at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the system of dikes and treatment areas across the state pose a conundrum because they either release too much water or not enough.
"We find it nearly impossible to find that middle ground," she said.
Historically, water from the lake had traveled south into the Everglades before merging with the Gulf of Mexico, but it was unnaturally rerouted east to St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee. Local environmental officials are now asking the federal government to fast track the Central Everglades Planning Project, which would divert water back south and decrease the level of pollutants in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The diversion of water east and west accommodated the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area, a majority of which is used by U.S. Sugar. They are now asking that the EAA be reused for fresh water releases under one of two options: Governor Rick Scott declaring a State of Emergency and flooding the EAA agricultural fields, which are insured, or purchase U.S. Sugar-land through a three-year option that expires this October.
Although releases from Lake Okeechobee carry pollutants into Southwest Florida, local water supplies pose a threat as well. Our water shed needs 450,000 acres of storage and current projects only provide 250,000 acres. Completion of the C-43 Reservoir, outside of Alva, would provide additional storage space, but it's just one piece of the puzzle, said Wessel.
Hecker said one of the reasons the state is in this predicament is the lack of measurable and enforceable water quality standards. This includes run-off from major agricultural companies and residential areas.
"Agricultural run-off is a source of nutrient pollution, but also the fertilizer we put on our lawns," said Hecker.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked the State of Florida to develop water quality standards in 1998 but they were never finalized. The EPA later stepped in, but current water standards exempt 85 percent of Florida's waters. They don't include intermittent rivers, streams, canals, tidal waters, and others.
Under the current system, taxpayers are responsible for all of the costs of stopping polluted water, said Hecker, rather than the companies that dumped them in the first place. In 1996 a "polluters pay" constitutional amendment was approved by voters, but the Florida Legislature hasn't imposed it, she said.
And what are the costs of polluted water? According to the panelists, 90 percent of the Southwest Florida economy is connected to local water. Besides tourists coming to the beach, tarpon fishing generates $108.6 million, artificial reefs generate $104.2 million, and Lee County has the second highest number of issued saltwater fishing licenses.
Jonathan Tongya, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, organized the Save Our Bay Rally near the Sanibel bridge on Saturday, Aug. 24, and said 500 people attended. Many of those protestors are also attending The Sugarland Rally in Clewiston on Sunday, Sept. 1 from noon-3 p.m.


Gov. Scott to unveil new Lake Okeechobee project at Fort Myers press conference
August 27, 2013
Florida Gov. Rick Scott will have a press conference in Fort Myers tomorrow, unveiling a new project that will redirect the flow of water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
The $90 million project, funded through the state department of transportation as well as a matching grant from the Department of the Interior, will essentially construct the next phase of the two-and-a-half-mile-long Tamiami Trail bridge project and allow water releases from the lake to flow south into the Everglades.
That has been a preferred method of release because of current freshwater discharges bringing harmful nutrients into area estuaries to the east and west of the lake.
Scott will discuss his plans at 10 a.m. at Centennial Park. Among his guests will be Florida Senate Majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; state DEP secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.; and state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers.
The discharges from the lake have long been a point of concern, especially this year as frequent releases into the Caloosahatchee and other waterways have discolored the water, created algae blooms, impacted marine life, and according to some business owners, hurt tourism.
Scott said in an email:
“Today, the Tamiami Trail acts to block water from naturally flowing south. The result is more water backs up, which forces more storm runoff to drain from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, instead of flowing South through the Everglades.
“By constructing an additional bridge, more water will be able to flow naturally through the Everglades.
This will keep nutrient rich water out of the estuaries. Constructing the Tamiami Trail Bridge is crucial to the long term health of the region and a critical project identified in the Central Everglades Planning Process. “
Governor Scott tackles Lake Okeechobee runoff      Lehigh Acres News Star
Gov. Scott announces $90 million for project to help water flow south ...    TCPalm
Gov. Rick Scott proposing Lake Okeechobee solution          Wink News-5 hours ago
Scott announces three-year, $90M project to raise part of East Trail Naples Daily News


Report issued on why cattle producers don't adopt recommended practices
August 27, 2013
University of Illinois
Researchers at Oklahoma State University reported earlier this year on non-adoption of 13 commonly recommended management and marketing practices for cow-calf operations in their state. 
Responses from 1,453 producers revealed, for example: 
•Many of the producers were at least 51 years old, "meaning they may not want to adopt practices because they will be retiring soon." 
•"The large percentage of small herd sizes and large percentage of producers who earned less than 20 percent of their income from the farm indicated most were now hobby-type producers."
•Training had significant influence for 13 of the 14 practices, indicating extension efforts are effective. Authors suggested that "future extension efforts will mostly be needed to educate producers on how to implement practices and the value of the practices."
You can read this conference paper, "Non-adoption of best management practices," here


St. Lucie officials want to join with Martin County to take necessary action to restore area waterways
TCPalm - by Keona Gardner
August 27, 2013
St. Lucie officials hope to join with Martin County to get the governor to declare state of emergency.
(Full article by subscription only)


Supreme Court ruling in Florida wetlands case not quite the win developers claim - by Eleanor K. Sommer
August 27, 2013
Decision might lead state agencies to just say “no” to wetland development rather than risk a lawsuit, say experts
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled on a 16-year-old Florida case that didn’t make too many headlines but is bound to have long-term implications for how state land-use agencies decide to hand out development permits on environmentally critical lands
In a 5 to 4 decision the court sided with a Florida landowner who challenged terms for a state-issued permit for developing wetlands. The ruling set a much stricter standard for conditions regulators can place on permit applications.
The case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, pertained to a Florida resident, Coy A Koontz Sr’s request for a permit in 1994 to dredge and fill more than three acres of a 14.9-acre property he owned near Orlando that included protected wetlands.
Under Florida law, Koontz was required to offset any harm to the wetlands by including provisions in his commercial development plan to reduce its overall environmental impact or by mitigating any harm through restoring, enhancing, or preserving other wetlands within the river basin instead. 
Koontz offered to mitigate the environmental impact of the development by deeding the St. Johns River Water Management District a conservation easement on nearly three-quarters of his property. The district instead asked Koontz either to reduce the size of his development further to  less than one acre or to make improvements to district-owned wetlands several miles away. The district in its response to the applicant indicated that such an approach would sufficiently mitigate impacts posed by the development.
Koontz thought the district’s demand was excessive and cut off any further negotiations, leading the water district to deny his permit application. Koontz then sued the water district in 1997 under a state law that provides damages for agency action that is an “unreasonable exercise of the state’s police power constituting a taking without just compensation.”
The case went through several appeals over the years, including a decision by the Florida Supreme Court in favor of the district. Koontz Sr died in 2000 and his son, Koontz Jr, took the case to the US Supreme Court in 2011. On June 25, 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Koontz, saying that a more stringent takings standard (established by two previous Supreme Court decisions, Nollan v. California Coastal Commission [1987] and Dolan v. City of Tigard [1994]) should apply to permit terms that require a landowner to spend money.
There is a good deal of confusion about the ruling, but at first glance, it does seem like a boon for developers, especially those with properties that may require special permitting due to the presence of wetlands or other protected lands. 
Shortly after the court decision, the blogosphere was abuzz with pundits and experts touting it as beneficial for business interests. The Heartland Institute’s Steve Stanek noted that “property owners who need permits to develop vacant land or improve existing structures now have important protections from abusive federal, state, and local governments, thanks to a recent ruling of the US Supreme Court.”
Brian T. Hodges, of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the organization that filed the Supreme Court petition on behalf of the Koontz family, wrote that he felt “like a kid trapped in a candy store” when he read the Supreme Court decision. Hodges, Stanek, and others in favor of property rights and limited government, look at this case as vindication of property “takings” that irk developers who are confounded by state and local regulations governing land use.
However, some environmental activists and lawyers say the ruling is only going to make it harder for landowners to get permits. The decision may encourage permit-granting agencies and governments “to stop being nice,” as one Florida environmental attorney phrased it. 
Though some environmentalists have been “lamenting about how ‘this is the end,’” the lesson of this case for permitting agencies may end up being problematic for property rights advocates and less of an issue for environmental mitigation, says environmental lawyer Thomas Ruppert, the coastal planning specialist for Florida Sea Grant. Ruppert said the ruling may increase the frequency with which permitting authorities deny permits, rather than risk a lawsuit if they try to negotiate with developers.
Ruppert is not alone in this theory. In a New York Times op-ed piece, John Echeverria, a Vermont Law School professor, wrote that the ruling may create a “perverse incentive for municipal governments to reject applications from developers rather than attempt to negotiate project designs that might advance both public and private goals.”
And as Jan Goldman-Carter of the National Wildlife Foundation, pointed out in a post on Wildlife Promise, the ruling does not negatively impact the proper use of “scientifically sound assessments” of wetland mitigation. The five-justice majority did not seem intent on stripping away wetland regulations, she said, rather they wanted to adjust the way in which the regulations are applied.  
Earthjustice managing attorney David Guest concurs. “While the decision may make the courts more accessible to disgruntled landowners, it also makes clear that environmental mitigation is fully appropriate,” he said.
Many property rights advocates may have missed the point that the Koontz decision centered mainly on the way in which the water district went about its efforts to mitigate wetlands destruction and not on the regulations limiting wetlands development per se.
That point, that the court’s decision may inadvertently put a damper on negotiations between property owners and permitting agencies, was also made in the dissenting opinion by Justice Kagan. “If a local government risked a lawsuit every time it made a suggestion to an applicant about how to meet permitting criteria, it would cease to do so; indeed, the government might desist altogether from communicating with applicants,” Kagan wrote.
For its part, the St. Johns River Water Management District is taking the result in stride. It put out an official statement saying that the court’s decision has “clarified the constitutional protections that must be afforded to landowners when governmental entities issue permits affecting protected property interests.”
Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. These habitats that exist between land and water provide important environmental services for humans as well as animals and plants. Wetlands provide breeding grounds for birds and fish; support abundant mammal species; filter pollutants; stabilize local climate; protect against storm surge; and provide people with recreational areas and aesthetic vistas.
As many Florida land buyers discovered in the 1950s and 1960s, wetlands are not always under water. At certain times of the year or during drought periods, these lands can look enticingly buildable. The Florida real estate boom was a direct result of unsuspecting “snowbirds” buying up wetlands during the dry season from unscrupulous land sales companies.
Despite what is known about wetlands, landowners in Florida want a return on land investments, even though development of wetlands in the state has for decades been highly regulated—particularly after extensive degradation and destruction of wetlands in South Florida, including large portions of the Everglades.
Yet as Florida's population increases, so does the need for land development, which, as the Koontz case underscores, inevitably leads to a clash of interest between conservation and development.
Perhaps the real loss in the Koontz ruling is the promise of sustainable development: the ability of permitting agencies to offer incentives and trade-offs to property owners, thus providing opportunities for “win-win” solutions to land use issues.


"There are no plain and simple problems any more. From poverty to race to crime to Vietnam, all we face are crises which threaten to bring down the world upon our heads."

"It has not been a population explosion, but a population redistribution. And the place people have been redistributing themselves to is a place we call 'suburb.'

"People not only cause pollution, but once you have a substantial number of people, it is only people that can solve pollution. Further, the case can be made that more people can more easily and more quickly solve pollution problems than can fewer people."

"It can be done if we, as a nation, decide that we want it done and are willing to pay for it. It is as simple as that and it has relatively little to do with whether the national decision involves 200 or 250 or 300 or 350 million Americans."

"What is wrong, and dangerous, and foolhardy is to make population a crisis."

"What it all adds up to is this: why have a long-range manageable population problem that can be coped with gradually over generations when, with a little extra souped-up scare rhetoric, we can drum up a full-fledged crisis ?"


AEI Classics: The Nonsense Explosion
The American - by Ben Wattenberg
August 26, 2013
In the 1970s, the crisis of the day was overpopulation. In this AEI Classic (American Enterprise Institute) , written 40 years ago, AEI scholar Ben Wattenberg demolishes the 'explosionists’' claims.
Today, Ben Wattenberg turns 80. He wrote this essay on population explosion nonsense in The New Republic in 1970, and was told after it appeared that the magazine received more letters than it had ever received before about a single article. Most of them were hostile. Wattenberg’s 1987 book The Birth Dearth looked again at population trends, focusing on declining fertility. The essay has been slightly abridged from its original publication.
- The Editors
As the concern about the environment has swept across the nation, the ghost of the “population explosion” has suddenly been domestically resurrected and we are again hearing how crowded it is in America.
Life magazine, for example, chose to launch the new decade [1970s] with the headline “Squeezing into the ‘70s,” announcing that because of the crowds, “the despair of yesterday’s soup line has been replaced by today’s ordeal of the steak line.” Two months later, Life featured a story about a young New Jersey mathematician who had himself sterilized because he is “deeply worried by this country’s wildly expanding population.”
Crowded, crowded, crowded, we are told. Slums are crowded, suburbs are crowded, megalopolis is crowded, and more and more and more people are eating up, burning up, and using up the beauty and wealth of America – turning the land into a polluted, depleted sprawl of scummy water and flickering neon, an ecological catastrophe stretching from the Everglades to the Pacific Northwest. Crisis. Crisis. Crisis.
That so very much of this is preposterous, as we shall see, should come as no real surprise to those who follow the fads of crisis in America. There are no plain and simple problems any more. From poverty to race to crime to Vietnam, all we face are crises which threaten to bring down the world upon our heads. And now it is ecology/environment – which is a perfectly good problem to be sure – but with its advent comes dragged in by the heels our old friend the super-crisis of population explosion, which is not nearly as real or immediate a problem in America, and ends up serving unfortunately as a political smokescreen that can obscure a host of legitimate concerns.
While the rhetoric rattles on about where will we ever put the next hundred million Americans, while the president tells us that the roots of so many of our current problems are to be found in the speed with which the last hundred million Americans came upon us, while the more apocalyptic demographers and biologists (like Dr. Paul Ehrlich) are talking about putting still nonexistent birth control chemicals in the water supply, and about federal licensing of babies – the critical facts in the argument remain generally unstated and the critical premises in the argument remain largely unchallenged.
● The critical facts are that America is not by any standard a crowded country and that American birth rates have recently been at an all-time low.
● The critical premise is that population growth in America is harmful.
Let’s, then, first look at the facts. The current population of the United States is 205 million. That population is distributed over 3,615,123 square miles of land, for a density of about 55 persons per square mile. In terms of density, this makes the United States one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world. As measured by density, Holland is about 18 times as “crowded” (at 975 persons per square mile), England is 10 times as dense (588 persons per square mile), scenic Switzerland is seven times as dense (382), tropical Nigeria three times as dense (174), and even neighboring Mexico beats us out with 60 persons per square mile. The United States, by international standards, is not a very “crowded” country.
But density in some cases can be very misleading in trying to judge “crowdedness.” The Soviet Union, for example, is less dense than the United States (29 per square mile), but has millions of square miles of uninhabitable land, just as does Brazil and Australia, two other nations also less densely populated than the United States.
Of course, the United States also has large areas of land that are equally uninhabitable: the Rockies, the Western deserts, parts of Alaska, and so on.
But while it is of interest to know that America has some land that is uninhabitable, what is of far more importance is that we have in the United States vast unused areas of eminently habitable land, land that in fact was inhabited until very recently. In the last eight years, one out of three counties in America actually lost population. Four states have lost population: North and South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming; and another two states, Maine and Iowa, gained less than one percent in the eight years. Furthermore, three out of five counties had a net out-migration; that is, more people left the county than came in.
These counties, the net-loss counties and the net-out-migration counties, are the areas in America where the current hoopla about the population sounds hollow. These are the areas, mostly rural and small town, that are trying to attract industry; areas where a smokestack or traffic jam signifies not pollution but progress; areas that have more open space around them for hunting and fishing than before; and areas where the older people are a little sad because, as they tell you, “the young people don’t stay around here anymore.”
This human plaint tells us what has been happening demographically in the United States in recent years. It has not been a population explosion, but a population redistribution. And the place people have been redistributing themselves to is a place we call “suburb.”
It has not been a population explosion, but a population redistribution. And the place people have been redistributing themselves to is a place we call 'suburb.'
In less than two decades, the proportion of Americans living in suburbs has gone from less than a quarter to more than a third.
But even the total increase in population – rural, city, and suburb – is misleading. The big gains in population occurred ten and fifteen years ago; today, growth is much slower. Thus, in calendar year 1956, the United States’ population grew by 3.1 million, while in calendar year 1968 population went up by 2.0 million – and in a nation with a larger population base.
What has happened, simply, is that the baby-boom has ended. When the GIs came home after World War II, they began begetting at high rates for about 15 years. The best index of population growth in the United States is the fertility rate; that is, the number of babies per thousand women aged 15-44. In 1940, the fertility rate was 80, just a few points above the 1936 all-time low of 76. Ten years later, in 1950, the baby-boom had begun and the fertility rate had soared to 106, an increase of 32 percent in just ten years. It kept climbing. In 1957, it reached 123, up more than 50 percent in two decades.
But since 1957, the rate has gone steadily down to 119 in 1960, to 98 in 1965, and to 85.7 in 1968, not very much higher than in Depression times. The estimated fertility rate for 1969 was down slightly to 85.5 and there is no reason now to think it will go up, although, as we shall see, it may sink further.
When measured by another yardstick, the “percent national population growth” (birth plus immigration less death), the American population is now growing by about 1.0 percent per year; just a decade ago it was growing by 1.8 percent per year. That may not sound like much of a difference, .8 percent, but in a nation of 200 million people it means 16 million fewer people over a single decade!
With all of this, however, comes another important set of facts: our population is still growing. At the reduced growth rate, there are now about two million people being added to our population each year. This may even go up somewhat in the next few years as the baby-boom babies become young adults and – roughly simultaneously – parents. Moreover, a growing population, even a slowly growing population, grows by larger numbers as it grows. As the two hundred million Americans become two hundred and fifty million Americans, there are a proportionately greater number of potential mothers, more babies, and the incremental two million new Americans per year can rise to 2 ½ or 3 million new Americans even with a relatively low growth rate.
The current, most likely projection of the Census Bureau of the US population in the year 2000 – three decades hence – hovers somewhere in the 280-290 million range. That means there will be about 75-85 million more Americans than today, which is many millions more indeed, although not quite the round “hundred million” figure everyone is talking about. It must be stressed, however, that this is only a projection: it could be high, it could be low.
But even the low estimates suggest there will be sixty million more Americans in just three decades – more than the population of Great Britain today.
Those, then, would seem to be the elementary facts. More Americans, although probably not as many as we may have been led to believe. More Americans, but not necessarily inhabiting a statistically crowded country.
More People, More Problems ?
With these facts, we can now turn to the premise set forth by the Explosionists, i.e., more Americans are bad. Are they? My own judgment is – not necessarily.
There are a number of points made by Explosionists and they can only be briefly examined here.
People not only cause pollution, but once you have a substantial number of people, it is only people that can solve pollution. Further, the case can be made that more people can more easily and more quickly solve pollution problems than can fewer people.
Because population growth is currently being linked to environmental problems, we can look there first. The Explosionists say people, and the industry needed to support people, causes pollution. Ergo: fewer people – less pollution.
On the surface, a reasonable enough statement; certainly, population is one of the variables in the pollution problem. Yet there is something else to be said. People not only cause pollution, but once you have a substantial number of people, it is only people that can solve pollution. Further, the case can be made that more people can more easily and more quickly solve pollution problems than can fewer people. For example: let us assume that $60 billion per year are necessary for national defense. The cost of defense will not necessarily be higher for a nation of three hundred million than for a nation of two hundred million. Yet the tax revenues to the government would be immensely higher, freeing vast sums of tax money to be used for the very expensive programs that are necessary for air, water, and pollution control. Spreading constant defense costs over a large population base provides proportionately greater amounts for nondefense spending. The same sort of equation can be used for the huge, one-time capital costs of research that must go into any effective, long-range anti-pollution program. The costs are roughly the same for 200 million or 300 million people – but easier to pay by 300 million.
Lake Erie, the Hudson River, and the Potomac are ecological slums today. If the U.S. population did not grow by one person over the current 205 million Americans, these bodies of water would still be ecological slums. These waters, and any others now threatened, will be decent places only if we are willing to devote resources to the job. That is not a function of population growth, but of national will. It can be done if we, as a nation, decide that we want it done and are willing to pay for it. It is as simple as that and it has relatively little to do with whether the national decision involves 200 or 250 or 300 or 350 million Americans. It should be remembered that pollution occurs in underpopulated places as well: in Sydney, Australia today, in medieval Europe, in ancient Rome.
The Resources Problem
Next, the Explosionists use the “resources” argument. It comes in two parts. Part one: many of our resources are finite (oil, coal, etc.); more people obviously use more resources; the fewer the people, the less the drain on the resources. Part two: we Americans are rich people; rich people use more resources; therefore, we must cut back population particularly fast, and particularly our rich population.
The resources problem is difficult to assess. A demographer now in his sixties seemed to put it in perspective. “Resources are a serious problem,” he said, “We’ve been running out of oil ever since I was a boy.”
The fact is, of course, sooner or later we will run out of oil. So too will we run out of all nonrenewable resources – by definition. We will run out of oil even if population growth stops today and we will run out of oil, somewhat sooner, if population growth continues. Whether oil reserves are depleted in 2020 or 2040 or 2140 does not seem to be of critical importance; in any event, a substitute fuel must be found – probably nuclear. If no adequate substitute is developed, then we (all us Earthmen) will suffer somewhat regardless of numbers.
Part two, that rich people are the real menace both resource-wise and pollution-wise, has recently been particularly stressed by Dr. Jean Mayer, who advises the president hunger-wise but would not seem to be fully up to date demography-wise.
For the simple fact is that wealthier people generally have far fewer children than poor people. With current mortality rates, population stability is maintained if the typical woman has on the average 2.13 children. In a 1964 Census Bureau survey among women who had completed their child-bearing years, it was shown that families with incomes of $10,000 and over had 2.21 children, just a trifle over replacement. This compared with 3.53 children for the poorest women. Since 1964, fertility rates have gone down among young women, and it is possible that when these lower rates are ultimately reflected as “completed fertility” we may see that affluent American women of the future just barely replace their own number, if that.
In short, current population patterns show that affluent people do not cause rapid population growth. And if the entire population were entirely affluent, we certainly would not be talking about a population explosion. Further, if the entire population were affluent and committed to combating pollution, we wouldn’t be talking about a pollution explosion either.
What then is Dr. Mayer’s prescription? Is he against affluent people having babies but not poor people, even though the affluent have relatively few anyway? Or perhaps is it that he is just against the idea of letting any more poor people become affluent people, because they too will then consume too many resources and cause more pollution?
Numbers Aren’t the Problem
There are two important points that run through most of the above. First is that the simple numbers of people are not in themselves of great importance in the United States. There is no “optimum” population as such for the United States, not within population ranges forecast in any event. Whether we have 250 million people or 350 million people is less important than what the people – however many of them there are – decide to do about their problems. Second, the population problem, at least in the United States, is an extremely long-term proposition, and in a country of this size and wealth there is more flexibility in solving the potential demographic problems than might be assumed from the current rhetoric of crisis.
To be sure, much of the concern about population growth is sane, valid, and important. Certainly, the concept of family planning – which for years had been a political stepchild – is now coming into the mainstream, and properly so. That every family in America should at least have the knowledge and the technology to control the size of its family as it sees fit seems beyond question.
Certainly too, population growth must sooner or later level off. While America could support twice its current population and probably four times its current population – growth can obviously not go on forever and it is wise to understand this fact now rather than a hundred years from now. It is also wise to begin to act upon this knowledge, as indeed we have begun to act upon it. It is, accordingly, difficult to complain about the suggestions for legislation to make conditions easier for women to get and hold decent jobs – the thought being that easier access to employment will slow the birth rate. Our problems in the future probably will be easier to handle with somewhat fewer people than with somewhat greater numbers.
But what is wrong, dangerous, and foolhardy is to make population a crisis. Doing so will simply allow too many politicians to take their eyes off the ball. When Explosionists say, as they do, that crime, riots, and urban problems are caused by “the population explosion,” it is just too easy for politicians to agree and say sure, let’s stop having so many babies instead of saying let’s get to work on the real urban problems of this nation. (As a matter of general interest, it should be noted that the riot areas, the high-crime areas, the areas of the most acute urban problems are areas that are typically losing population.)
When the Explosionists say, as they do, that Yosemite and Yellowstone are crowded and that there is a vanishing wilderness because of too many people – they are wrong again. When visits to national parks have gone up more than 400 percent in less than two decades while population growth has gone up by about 30 percent over the same time, then Yosemite isn’t crowded because of population but because of other factors. When you have a nation where a workingman can afford a car and/or a camper-trailer, when you give him three weeks’ paid vacation and provide decent roads, who is to say that is bad? Again, if the population-crisis rhetoric is accepted, it becomes too easy to say that the way to an uncrowded Yosemite is to have fewer people and forget about the hard and far more costly problems of creating more recreation areas, which are needed even if our population does not rise.
When the Explosionists say, as they do, that it’s because we have so many people that Lake Erie is polluted, then once again we are invited to take our eye off the tens-of-billions-of-dollars ball of environmental safety and we are simultaneously invited to piddle around the 25-million dollar programs for birth control, which are nice, but don’t solve anything to do with Lake Erie.
Population Control
Finally, we must take note of the new thrust by the Explosionists: population control. Note the phrase carefully. This is specifically not “family planning,” where the family concerned does the planning. This is control of population by the government and this is what the apocalyptics are demanding, because, they say, family planning by itself will not deduce us to a zero growth rate. The more popular “soft” position of government control involves what is called “disincentives;” that is, a few minor measures like changing the taxation system, the school system, and the moral code to see if that won’t work before going onto outright baby licensing.
Accordingly, the demographer Judith Blake Davis of the University of California (Berkeley) complained to a House Committee: “We penalize homosexuals of both sexes, we insist that women must bear unwanted children by depriving them of ready access to abortion, we bind individuals to pay for the education of other people’s children, we make people with small families support the schooling of others. . . .” (Italics mine.)
Now, Dr. Davis is not exactly saying that we should go to a private school system or eliminate the tax exemption for children, thereby penalizing the poor but not the rich – but that is the implication. In essence, Senator Packwood recently proposed just that: no tax exemptions for any children beyond the second per family, born after 1972.
The strong position on population control ultimately comes around to some form of government permission, or licensing, for babies.
Dr. Garret Hardin, a professor-biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says, “In the long run, voluntarism is insanity. The result will be continued uncontrolled population growth.”
Astro-physicist Donald Aiken says, “The government has to step in and tamper with religious and personal convictions – maybe even impose penalties for every child a family has beyond two.”
Dr. Melvin Ketchel, professor of physiology at Tufts Medical School, writes in Medical World News: “Scientists will discover ways of controlling the fertility of an entire population . . . the compound . . . could be controlled by adjustments in dosage, [and] a government could regulate the growth of its population without depending upon the voluntary action of individual couples . . . such an agent might be added to the water supply.”
And Dr. Paul Ehrlich of Stanford: “If we don’t do something dramatic about population and environment, and do it immediately, there’s just no hope that civilization will persist. . . . The world’s most serious population-growth problem is right here in the United States among affluent white Americans. . . .”
What it all adds up to is this: why have a long-range manageable population problem that can be coped with gradually over generations when, with a little extra souped-up scare rhetoric, we can drum up a full-fledged crisis ? We certainly need one; it’s been months since we’ve had a crisis. After all, Vietnam, we were told, was “the greatest crisis in a hundred years.” Piker. Here’s a crisis that’s a beauty: the greatest crisis in two billion years: we’re about to breed ourselves right into oblivion.
Finally, look at it all from Mr. Nixon’s point of view. It’s beautiful. You (Mr. Nixon) take office and the major domestic problems, generally acknowledged, are the race situation and the (so-called) crisis of the cities. They are tough problems. They are controversial problems. They are problems that have given way only gradually, painstakingly, and expensively over the years. Your opponents are in a militant mood. They have been co-opted in Vietnam and you fully expect them to hold your feet to the fire on these tough domestic problems.
Apprehensively, you await the onslaught. And what is the slogan? No, it . . . can’t be – but yes, it is. It’s coming into focus. Read it: “Lower Emission Standards!” And in the next rank is another militant sign; and what does it say? It says, “Our Rivers Stink.”
Full circle. The opposition sloganeers have gone from the “New Deal” to the “Fair Deal” to the “New Frontier” to the “Great Society,” and now they march to a new banner: “No Sh--”!
Beautiful. Of course, the environment is a real problem, an important problem; we knew that from Senator Muskie. Of course your president will respond to it, particularly since almost everyone is for it, particularly if it takes the heat off elsewhere. But even the environment issue is massively expensive – too expensive to do everything now that ought to be done now.
So wait a minute, you say, your opponents have been good to you so far, let’s see how really helpful they’ll be. And behold, here comes the cavalry.
And what do they say? The problem of pollution is really the problem of too many people. Let the opponents divide among themselves and let the opponents fight among themselves. Let there be a children’s allowance, say some of your opponents. Nay, let there not be a children’s allowance, it will encourage population growth. Let there be better public schools, say some of your enemies. Nay, let each family pay for their own schooling to discourage population growth. Let us help the poor, say the opponents; nay, let us penalize the poor for having too many children. Let then the Secretary of HEW go forth to the people and say, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country – you shall have two children no more, no less; that is your brave social mission in America.”
I imagine there have been luckier presidents, but I can’t think of any.
Ben Wattenberg, an emeritus scholar at AEI, is at work on a new book about America’s future


BMPs help Florida Everglades farmers improve water quality – by Vicky Boyd
August 26, 2013
Farmers within the Everglades Agricultural Area in South Florida continue to improve their farming practices, exceeding phosphorus reduction levels for the 18th consecutive year.
Best management practices, or BMPs, are responsible in large part for the 41-percent reduction in phosphorus across the 470,000-acre farming region south of Lake Okeechobee, according to the news release.
The latest measurements were taken during the 2013 water monitoring year, which ran from May 1, 2012, through April 30.
The most commonly used BMP was more precise fertilizer application methods, improved stormwater management practices and erosion controls to reduce the amount of phosphorus carried in stormwater runoff.
The reductions came in spite of heavy rainfall in the region from Tropical Storm Isaac.
To meet the requirements of Florida's Everglades Forever Act, the amount of phosphorus leaving the Everglades area must be 25 percent less than baseline levels established before the phosphorus reduction efforts started.
The overall actual annual reduction since BMPs were implemented 18 years ago was 55 percent, more than twice that required by law.
In actual tonnage, this water year's reductions amounted to 109 metric tons of phosphorus that were prevented from entering regional canal systems.
During the 18-year-old program, 2,673 metric tons of phosphorus have been prevented from leaving the Everglades area.


Captiva forum addresses SWFL water quality concerns
August 26, 2013
CAPTIVA ISLAND, Fla. - "Your water. Your future. Your choice." That's the slogan, hoping to help tackle the topic of Southwest Florida's water quality.
The Gulf waters usually look like a crystal clear blue-green, but some of the water is a coffee-color after freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee.
People are showing up to the 'Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island for the forum titled "Coastal Estuaries in Peril." It's happening Monday from 6:00 - 7:30pm.
A panel of scientists and the public will talk about the challenges and solutions to the Lake Okeechobee releases.
The Army Corp of Engineers recently decreased the amount of water flowing from the lake, but says releases are necessary to protect homes in the area around the lake from flooding.
But some people, and environmental activists in southwest Florida say the releases are killing local wildlife, and ruining tourism.
Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah is now the coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. Judah is acting as the forum moderator.
"I really want people to ask the penetrating questions and they're going to get the brutal truth tonight. Those people who are here tonight, will have the information so they can better communicate with the elected officials that can make a difference in helping correct this problem," said Judah.


Changes in river chemistry affect water supplies
August 26, 2013
In the first survey of its kind, researchers looked at long-term records of alkalinity trends in 97 streams and rivers from Florida to New Hampshire.
Human activities are changing the basic chemistry of many rivers in the eastern U.S., with potentially major consequences for urban water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, a University of Maryland-led study has found.
In the first survey of its kind, researchers looked at long-term records of alkalinity trends in 97 streams and rivers from Florida to New Hampshire. Over time spans of 25 to 60 years, two-thirds of the rivers had become significantly more alkaline and none had become more acidic.
Alkalinity is a measure of water’s ability to neutralize acid. In excess, it can cause ammonia toxicity and algal blooms, altering water quality and harming aquatic life. Increasing alkalinity hardens drinking water, makes wastewater disposal more difficult, and exacerbates the salinization of fresh water.
Paradoxically, higher acid levels in rain, soil and water, caused by human activity, are major triggers for these changes in river chemistry, said associate professor Sujay Kaushal of the University of Maryland. Kaushal, a geologist, is the lead author of a paper about the study, published August 26 in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The researchers hypothesize that acid rain, a by-product of fossil fuel burning, acidic mining runoff and agricultural fertilizers speed up the dissolving of surfaces that are naturally high in alkaline minerals. In a process known as chemical weathering, the acid eats away at limestone, other carbonate rocks, and even concrete sidewalks, dissolving alkaline particles that wash off into streams and rivers.
Scientists have studied the effects of increased chemical weathering in small mountain streams tainted by acid runoff, where the process can actually help rebalance streams’ pH levels. But researchers have not looked at the accumulating levels of alkalinity in downstream reaches of numerous major rivers and evaluated potential causes until now, Kaushal said.
“It’s like rivers on Rolaids,” Kaushal said. “We have some natural antacid in watersheds. In headwater streams, that can be a good thing. But we’re also seeing antacid compounds increasing downriver. And those sites are not acidic, and algae and fish can be sensitive to alkalinity changes.”
Alkalinity has risen over the past several decades in rivers that provide water for Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, and other major cities, the researchers reported. Also affected are rivers that flow into water bodies already harmed by excess algae growth, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
The extent of the change is “amazing. I did not expect that,” said noted ecologist Gene Likens, a co-discoverer of acid rain in 1963, who collaborated with Kaushal on this research.
“This is another example of the widespread impact of human impacts on natural systems which is, I think, increasingly worrisome,” said Likens, a Unversity of Connecticut distinguished research professor and founding director of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “Policymakers and the public think acid rain has gone away, but it has not.”
Beginning in the mid-1990s after Congress amended the Clean Air Act, new federal regulations have reduced the airborne pollutants that cause acid rain. “It may be that these are legacy impacts of acid rain in addition to mining and land use,” Kaushal said. “The acid rain problem is decreasing. But meanwhile there are these lagging effects of river alkalinization showing up across a major region of the U.S. How many decades will river alkalinization persist ? We really don’t know the answer.”
The team focused on eastern rivers, which are often important drinking water sources for densely populated areas and have decades’ worth of water quality records. Much of the eastern U.S. is also underlain by porous, alkaline limestone and other carbonate rocks, making the region more prone to the types of water chemistry changes that the researchers found. This is especially true in the Appalachian Mountains where soils are thin, steep slopes cause erosion, and acid rain from smokestack industries have had a major impact on forests and streams.
Water alkalinity has increased the fastest in areas underlain by carbonate rocks, at high elevations, and where acid rainfall or drainage was high. The researchers also found that the chemical weathering of these carbonate rocks adds to the carbon burden in rivers and streams, in a trend that parallels rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Rivers in Eastern US Becoming Alkaline, Affecting Water Supplies            Nature World News (Aug.27, 2013)


Clueless to crisis in our environment
Miami Herald - by Carl Hiaasen
August 26, 2013
Florida's Governor Clueless showed up the other day for a photo-op at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam.  The mission was to display concern over the billions of gallons of cruddy water being dumped from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River, a criminal act of pollution that's poisoning the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
Hundreds of demonstrators, many worried about their jobs, showed up at the dam. Rick Scott didn't stop to talk to them.
He spoke for a short time to the media, saying he wants to spend $40 million on a reservoir to filter some of the runoff before it can reach the estuary.
He blamed the Army Corps of Engineers for moving too slowly to upgrade the old Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. He also blamed Congress for failing to release the money committed for Everglades restoration projects.
The governor wasn't so chatty on the subject of Big Sugar, which has donated a pile to his political action committee with the goal of getting him re-elected.
A major reason all that lake slop is being pumped toward the residential areas of both coasts (the Caloosahatchee River carries it west) is that the cane growers don't want it pumped in their direction.
Fearful that the dike will give way, the Corps drains Lake Okeechobee when water levels get high. Last week, the outflow was reduced from 3.1 billion gallons a day to about 1.8 billion gallons a day, still a massive deluge from what is basically a giant latrine for agricultural waste.
Since the most recent discharges from Lake O began in May, more than 1 million pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorus have been flushed into the St. Lucie River and on to the estuary.
Now we get to watch Scott, another Republican whiner about federal spending, bash the feds for not spending enough and not spending it fast enough. Somewhere in the folds of the governor's brain has stirred a fuzzy awareness that clean healthy water is really important to Floridians, and also essential to the economy.
Ask the commercial fishermen in Stuart, the marina operators, the boat builders, the hotel owners and the restaurateurs. Ask the real-estate agents who are trying to sell waterfront lots on smelly, discolored water.
Already in crash mode is the Indian River Lagoon, which runs north from Jupiter Inlet to beyond the Kennedy Space Center. Algae blooms have decimated vast acres of sea grass, and experts suspect the outbreak was triggered by accumulated fertilizer runoff and leakage from septic tanks in Brevard and Indian River counties.
Sea grasses are the nursery for juvenile game fish and shrimp, without which the food chain collapses. At least 280 manatees have died in Brevard during the last year, along with an unusually high number of pelicans and bottlenose dolphins.
Scientists haven't pinpointed the cause, but there's no disagreement that the last thing the lagoon needs is a nonstop gusher of foul substances from Lake Okeechobee.
Scott isn't wrong when he says the federal government is way behind on Everglades funding. Restoration was supposed to be a 50/50 deal with Uncle Sam, but for many years Florida has been spending more than its share.
The main obstacle is Congress - particularly Scott's own party.
After years of diddling, the Senate finally approved money for a new water bill last spring. Among the 13 senators voting against it was Marco Rubio, who has evidently forgotten which state he was elected to represent.
Soon the House will take up the water legislation, and watch what happens when Rubio's tea party soulmates get their hands on it.
The fastest way to stop destroying the St. Lucie Estuary is to pump the toxic water from Lake Okeechobee elsewhere, south through waterways along the cane fields and other farmlands.
That's unlikely to happen, because Big Sugar gives too much money to the campaigns of key Republicans and Democrats.
Sugar companies can afford to be generous because they've been slurping at the public trough for decades, their profits multiplied by federal price supports. During the 2012 election cycle, the industry spent $3.6 million on campaign donations, even more than Big Tobacco.
In fact, the sugar growers are so rich they could afford a special tax to expedite repairing the 143-mile dike around Lake Okeechobee. Make it strong enough to hold all that water during rainy season, protecting not only their precious crops but also the thousands of jobs that depend on clean rivers and bays.
That, of course, won't happen either.
The governor's low-voltage response to the crisis is to blame the feds and spend a few minutes up on a dam. No sense of urgency, no sign of the outrage that families and workers on both coasts are feeling.
In the short time it took you to read this column, about 5 million gallons of gunky water was flushed out of Lake Okeechobee, toward somebody's shore and somebody's home.
Somebody who votes.


DEP to hold meetings across Florida on selling lands – by the News Service of Florida
August 26, 2013
Workshops are being planned for Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers as the state seeks to sell some parcels of publicly held land to raise up to $50 million for future land-conservation efforts.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection meetings are being scheduled for late September and early October, Susan Grandin, department director of the Division of State Lands, said Friday during a webinar on the land-sale proposal.
One or two additional meetings may be set up, depending upon public comments, she said. "We have a lot of steps to go through," Grandin said.
The state has started to take public input on the parcels that could be put on the market. More than 5,300 acres from 168 different parcels at 67 state parks and other publicly owned sites are being considered for the sale.
The proposal has already drawn concerns from the Florida Wildlife Federation, 1000 Friends of Florida and Audubon Florida.
Money raised from sales would be combined with $20 million that lawmakers included in the budget for the purchase of land to protect springs, water quality, water quantity or to serve as a buffer for military bases.
The state Acquisition and Restoration Council, a group that makes recommendations about land issues, will update the process to score the land on Sept. 13.


Joe Negron underscores his Lagoon and Lake 'O' Committee priorities
Sunshine State News
August 26, 2013
Following an eight-hour Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin (IRLLOB) meeting last week in Stuart, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced four "action items" -- short-term solutions to reduce or eliminate ongoing releases from Lake Okeechobee -- that he and his committee will begin to explore immediately.
The committee of eight senators has a Nov. 4 deadline. By then it will have prepared a report for the Senate committees on Appropriations, Environmental Preservation and Conservation, and Agriculture.
The four priorities:
 “First, the 2008 risk assessment, used by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the release schedules, needs to be reviewed. We need to take a look, re-evaluate, regroup, make sure the assessment is based on the latest evidence, balancing the risk of overflow against the certainty of what has happened in our communities,” said Chairman Negron.
Second, I’m committed 100 percent to looking at where we can store water before it comes in to our community. Water storage is job No. 1; we aren’t waiting months or years. Let’s see where we can store it and how much it will cost,” continued Chair Negron. 
Third, we will legally evaluate how the declaration of a state of emergency would impact Florida’s ability to work with the federal government to address the ongoing releases,” said Negron.
“And fourth, at the suggestion of our vice chair, Senator Montford, we recognize the tremendous impact of septic tanks. We agree we all have a responsibility to the environment, and we will investigate how the problem can be addressed, if, and only if, we can do so in a manner that is completely consistent with the rights of private property owners.”
Negron announced the above action items following six hours of input from panels of experts in science, engineering, agriculture, and water management, local elected officials and members of the public.
“The problems caused by ongoing releases from Lake Okeechobee have a ripple effect on the environment, our economy, and the health of our friends and neighbors – including those to the north, south, and west of the lake,” said Negron.
“To address the various aspects of this serious problem, we assembled several panels of experts in science, engineering, agriculture, and water management, and reserved more than one-third of the day’s meeting for input from members of the public. By giving all stakeholders a seat at the table," he explained, "our Select Committee can better determine what can be done at the state level to improve the current situation.”
Senate President Don Gaetz charged the Select Committee on IRLLOB with investigating policies, spending, and any other governmental activities affecting water management in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.
“We know there are short-term actions available, and we now have several substantive proposals to consider,” said Negron. 
“Our economy and way of life are dependent on the waters surrounding our coastal communities,” said Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who serves on the committee. “I commend Chair Negron ... I’m also grateful to many of our constituents who traveled from Florida’s west coast to share their concerns and comments with the Select Committee.”
The Select Committee workshop included testimony from -- among others -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Port St. Lucie; Secretary Herschel Vinyard of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Ernie Barnett, interim executive director, South Florida Water Management District; and Col. Alan Dodd, district commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
In addition, senators heard testimony from a panel of experts who provided technical and scientific details on the current situation. They included Tom Van Lent, Ph.D., senior scientist, The Everglades Foundation; Brian Lapointe, Ph.D., research professor, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Florida Atlantic University; and Drew Bartlett, director, Division of Environmental Research and Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Additionally, Roland Ottolini, director, Lee County Division of Natural Resources, provided her expert perspective on water policy issues affecting Floridians on the west coast.
Two separate afternoon round-tables included testimony from a variety of stakeholders in the local community. The first round table included Kevin Henderson, Evergreen Engineering; Mark Perry, executive director, Florida Oceanographic Society; Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, town of Sewall's Point; and Eric Draper, executive director, Audubon Florida.
The second round table included Tom MacVicar, president, MacVicar Consulting; Bubba Wade Jr., senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development, United States Sugar Corp.; Fred Fanizzi, general manager, Quail Creek Plantation; and, David Hille, chairman, Cabbage Inc.
Members of the Florida House of Representatives, as well as a number of local elected officials from both coasts, were also recognized to discuss short-term solutions. The remaining time was dedicated to comments from members of the public.
Details concerning the next meeting of the Senate Select Committee on IRLLOB will be announced shortly, according to Negron's office. The Senate will begin regularly scheduled committee weeks in September.
For more information on the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, visit the Select Committee website at


Larson Dairy: Keeping farm runoff out of the Indian River Lagoon – by Jon Shainman
August 26, 2013
Lagoon system filters water at Okee dairy farm
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Jacob Larson is a third generation dairy farmer. He takes pride in the quality of his milk. He also takes pride in the way his farm "cleans up after its charges."
On the Larson Dairy farm, which began 65 years ago in Dade County and now is in Okeechobee County, is a three stage filtration process.
First, manure is washed into a lagoon where the solids can settle. That water goes through two more lagoons, then is pumped back onto the grass and hay fields.
"So we allow the nutrient to be absorbed by the grass, then we harvest it and feed it to the cows, so it's a real big recycling process if you will," said Larson.
Doing this takes time, and money.
Larson says many farms didn't want to deal with their runoff and the number of dairy farms in the Okeechobee Basin has dropped from 45 three decades ago, to 17 today.
"Farms were an easy target in the 80s, a big target, and it's weeded a lot of them out," said Larson.
It's important that all the water is cleaned before it leaves the farm.  It's first stop is Mosquito Creek and once it leaves the farm, it makes its way to Lake Okeechobee.
It is the freshwater releases from the lake that have created environmental concerns in the St. Lucie Estuary with the appearance of toxic algae. 
So if the water is cleaner when it leaves Jacob Larson's property, it should be cleaner if and when it's discharged.
"The farmers you see today are doing the best they can to be environmental stewards of the land," said Larson.
Larson Dairy has been cited as a farm that CARES.  CARES stands for "County Alliance For Responsible Environmental Stewardship."  According to the South Florida Water management District, farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area reduced phosphorous in the water flowing from their properties last year by more than 70-percent.


Lawsuit would force the EPA to better monitor Florida waterways
St.Petersburg Tribune – by Kate Bradshaw, Staff
August 26, 2013
GULFPORT — Clam Bayou has long had a reputation as a dumping ground. Debris and fertilizer runoff from nearby homes, businesses and industrial sites wash into it from canals and sewers to the north.
It hasn't always been that way, said Al Davis, who, along with his wife,  Cindy, owns a home on the marshy estuary that straddles the waterfront along southwest St. Petersburg and eastern Gulfport.
“When Cindy and I moved here 10 years ago, we had dolphins and manatees in our backyard,” he said. “That's what attracted us to live here.”
Now, despite several cleanup projects, the couple says the water is shallow and choked with sand and silt that's coated with a nasty ooze.
“It's like a toilet that needs to be flushed,” he said.
The couple has been fighting to see Clam Bayou restored to its natural state for years. Their latest effort is a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — their second. They say the agency isn't enforcing its own rules when it comes to water quality, even after a federal judge told it to. Tallahassee-based environmental nonprofit Florida Wildlife Federation has joined them this time, and the litigation's outcome could impact waterways — and those responsible for keeping them clean — across the state.
If the Davises win, the EPA would have to more strictly monitor pollution in vulnerable waters statewide, or force the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to do so — though many business leaders say tougher regulations aren't needed. More than 300 bodies of water in Florida would be affected, including Caladesi and Honeymoon islands, Weedon Island Preserve and the Hillsborough River in the Tampa Bay area.
The Davises' lawsuit, filed this month, seeks to force the EPA to collect more detailed data about water quality degradation, including fish-tissue sampling and sediment testing. Right now, the agency's only standard for water degradation is the level of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, according to the lawsuit.
This isn't the first time someone has sued the EPA seeking tougher enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Private citizens, groups and governments have sued the federal agency in numerous attempts to either force more stringent pollution rules or to loosen the agency's restrictions.
The Davises first sued in 2009, accusing the EPA of not enforcing Clean Water Act assessment standards for Clam Bayou, which opens into Boca Ciega Bay, a spot deemed worthy of special attention because of its recreational and economic value. The couple prevailed but say the agency hasn't carried out a court-ordered mandate to overhaul the way it assesses water-quality degradation.
“Every two years, you're supposed to look and see if your system's working,” said Tom Reese, the lawyer representing the Davises and the Florida Wildlife Federation. “And if it's not working, you're going to have to figure out how to get it working again. What they've done so far doesn't even come remotely close.”
The EPA has not filed a response to the lawsuit yet, and a spokeswoman for the agency declined to talk about the issue.
Working with a statewide environmental nonprofit group may prove a helpful strategy.
“They're trying to raise the ante, obviously,” said Tampa-based environmental lawyer Ron Weaver. “It creates three or more kinds of additional leverage.”
The wildlife federation can raise money to cover legal fees, bring in the state's best experts and use the reputations of some of its members to elevate the case's credibility before a judge.
Because the Davises' lawsuit includes 309 Florida waterways, a win against the EPA could give environmentalists a legal advantage in future lawsuits over water degradation, Weaver said.
The Florida Wildlife Federation took an interest in the case out of concern that poor water quality and a threatened water supply negatively impacts wildlife populations statewide.
“The overarching question in this whole state is water quality and quantity,” said Preston Robertson, the group's vice president and chief counsel. “We've got too much nutrients flowing into the waters. We just think that the rules are not strict enough.”
State industrial leaders oppose stricter regulations, worried about the impact of costly pollution prevention and cleanup practices on businesses.
“Florida's got the best water quality program in the country,” said Doug Mann, who works for Tallahassee-based lobbying firm Associated Industries of Florida. “Two-thirds of the water quality data that EPA has is Florida-based. This [program] has been very comprehensive.”
Water quality, as a whole, likely has improved since 1972, when the Clean Water Act became law, officials with the lobbying group argue.
“[The EPA] has probably gone well beyond what [this lawsuit is] asking them to do anyway,” said Terry Cole, a lawyer for Associated Industries.
Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson said he's concerned the Davises' lawsuit will interfere with the city's efforts to secure a BP cleanup grant to help restore Clam Bayou.
“This has been a very contentious issue in Gulfport for a long time,” he said. “While I respect the tenacity of what they're doing, I do not appreciate their tactic.”


Swiftmud Hopes two projects will clean up Lake Hancock
Ledger Media Group - by Tom Palmer
August 26, 2013
BARTOW | The south shore of Lake Hancock doesn't look like a construction zone anymore.
Egrets and white pelicans have replaced earth-moving machines in a quiet 1,000-acre network of shallow marshes that was carved out of former mine lands near the point where Saddle Creek continues south toward the Peace River.
Work is winding down on a pair of projects Southwest Florida Water Management District officials say will make the Upper Peace River's flow cleaner and more dependable.
The projects were first proposed in 2003.
Lake Hancock, Polk's fourth-largest lake, lies at the headwaters of the Peace River, which flows south to Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf of Mexico.
It is one of Florida's most polluted water bodies as a result of decades of municipal and industrial sewer discharges from Lakeland and Auburndale as well as urban stormwater runoff via its three main tributaries: Saddle Creek, Banana Creek and Lake Lena Run.
For now, that polluted water flows untreated into the river through a Swiftmud control structure south of the lake. That degrades wildlife habitat downstream, limits the ability of downstream utilities to withdraw water and contributes to pollution of the estuary.
But sometimes not enough water flows. For the past 30 years, sections of the river south of the 4,519-acre lake have been running dry regularly as a result of overpumping that depressed the aquifer level so that old spring vents and sinkholes in the riverbed drain the river instead of replenish it.
The $170 million pair of projects will help to solve both problems, Swiftmud officials say.
The treatment marsh system is the centerpiece of the work to improve water quality. Contractors have planted more than 500,000 marsh plants, which are slowly becoming established and will eventually spread to cover areas now dominated by open water, said Randy Smith, project manager for the Southwest Florida Water Management District who works with staffers overseeing the day-to-day work on the site.
When those marsh plants reach the desired density, they will remove an average of 174,000 pounds of nitrogen a year and will normally discharge enough water downstream to maintain flow in the river.
"That's equal to 20,000 20-pound bags of fertilizer," Smith said.
Nitrogen contributes to turning water in the lake and river green with algae, which makes the water murkier and contributes to oxygen depletion, which limits the types of fish that can survive in the river.
The other main element is phosphorous, but it's naturally occurring in the local soil and would be virtually impossible to reduce to any great extent.
That's why nitrogen is the target. The water from the lake will reach the ponds through a piping system connected to the lake that is powered by 167-horsepower pumps controlled from a nearby 264-square-foot control room.


Analysis: Floridan Aquifer can only handle 6% more pumping before serious environmental harm
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
August 25, 2013
Just how much more water can Central Florida pump from the Floridan Aquifer without causing real harm to the region's environment ? After years of debate, study and anxiety, state authorities say they have finally — and officially — figured it out.
The answer: hardly any.
Using the most advanced databases and computing methodology yet developed for such a task, a consortium of state water managers and local utilities have calculated that the current amount of water pumped from the underground aquifer each day can be increased by only about 6 percent — which means the region is already exploiting the huge, life-sustaining aquifer for nearly every drop it can safely offer.
For the past several years, Central Florida's demand for aquifer water by all users — homes, businesses and agriculture — has averaged 800 million gallons a day. But that demand is expected to rise during three decades to 1.1 billion gallons a day. The problem is, pumping more than 850 million gallons a day from the aquifer will inflict a significant amount of damage to wetlands, springs and rivers, according to the consortium's new analysis, unless a lot of costly environmental splints and bandages are applied.
"This should come as no surprise," said Hal Wilkening, a director with the St. Johns River Water Management District. The consortium, called the Central Florida Water Initiative, hopes its new calculations will give utilities the financial courage to spend large sums of money on meeting the region's rising water needs by pumping water from relatively distant rivers, lakes or even the ocean rather than from the aquifer.
Another option — one not considered likely by state officials — is to improve existing conservation measures so that demand for water is kept in check even as Central Florida's population grows from nearly 3 million today to 4.1 million in 2035.
Members of the Central Florida Water Initiative, closely chaperoned by their lawyers and consultants, have spent the better part of the past year trying to mesh the historical and projected demands for water with the amount of drinkable water actually available from the region's vast aquifer.
"It's taken a long time to go through the excruciating amount of scientific analysis," said Daniel O'Keefe, an Orlando lawyer and chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, one of three state-run districts involved in the project. "I'm encouraged, because now we can start focusing on solutions."
The consortium's boundaries take in southern Lake and all of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Polk counties. Among the dozens of water utilities in that area, the two largest are Orlando Utilities Commission, which pumps about 80 million gallons a day from the aquifer, and Orange County Utilities, which pumps 60 million.
The consortium's newly calculated bottom line for the region's water supply is in line with long-standing thinking that the Floridan Aquifer is already being pushed to its sustainable limits. But the group's recent presentation did offer hope that tens of millions of additional gallons can still be safely squeezed from nature's cistern, though the aquifer's health depends on it receiving 1 gallon of rain for every gallon of water pumped out.
Mark Hammond, director of resource management at the Southwest Florida water district, said 850 million gallons is probably a sustainable volume.
He acknowledged that even the existing average of 800 million gallons a day already causes measurable harm to springs and wetlands, requiring an assortment of countermeasures to fix that damage and prevent further degradation.
But if the region crosses the line of 850 million gallons a day, he added, the remedies needed to prevent even greater damage to the environment would become increasingly costly — to the point that cities, counties and agricultural operations could find it cheaper to build water plants and pipelines that draw from sources other than the aquifer.
Damage or no damage, the initiative's analysis offers no hope of getting more than 925 million gallons a day out of the aquifer.
The findings also emphasize that certain parts of Central Florida are particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation — diminished spring flows, shriveled wetlands and shrunken lakes — because of water pumping from the aquifer.
Those areas include the Wekiva River and its array of springs; west Orange and west Seminole counties; and south Lake County.
The new pumping limit is to be made part of the water-supply planning by the three water-management districts engaged in the consortium's work: the South Florida district (whose territory extends south from downtown Orlando to the Everglades), the St. Johns River district (responsible for areas southeast, east, north and west of Orlando) and the Southwest Florida district (which manages counties west of Lake and southwest of Orange counties).
There are no regulations in place setting 850 million gallons — or 925 million gallons — as a maximum for aquifer pumping. Instead, consortium participants are planning a campaign to generate public support for their findings.
David Testerman, a Swiftmud field technician, said the equipment can transmit monitoring information to the agency's Brooksville headquarters to keep track of water levels, water flow and the overall operation of the system. Last month, a group of legislators and their staffs toured the project.
"I'm not easily impressed, but I was very impressed with what they've done,'' said State Rep. Neil Combee, R-Lakeland, who was a member of the Swiftmud Governing Board when the project was being planned.
"I have high hopes,'' he said. "Time will tell if the science is correct."
The science lies in the design and construction of the treatment marshes. The marsh project is seen as the only practical way to reduce pollution flowing downstream from the lakes.
Studies dating back to at least 1968 that looked at other various methods of restoring the lake concluded it was too expensive.
Not everyone has been a fan of Swiftmud's latest effort.
Lakeland chemical engineer Bob Hayes called the project "neither technically viable nor economically feasible."
Hayes, who proposed a chemical treatment system for the lake's muck in 2006 that has never gotten off the ground, said the marshes will increase pollution flowing into the river, not decrease it.
Swiftmud officials responded that Hayes' criticisms are "unfounded and contrary to current knowledge and understanding of treatment wetlands."
At the bottom of an old mine dike that encloses the wetlands treatment system lies the southern section of Saddle Creek and a new, taller structure that's designed to keep more water in the lake.
About half the time it will allow no water to flow downstream.
It replaces a smaller structure Swiftmud officials built across the creek in 1961.
The larger structure, which Combee described as "a behemoth," was needed after Swiftmud officials voted in 2007 to proceed with a project to allow the lake's maximum regulated elevation to go from 98.7 feet above sea level to 100 feet.
Swiftmud officials contend the 100-foot level is more historically accurate.
The extra water will be used to supplement flow in the Upper Peace River to implement state-mandated minimum flows the agency finally adopted in 2002.
The effort to raise the lake took up the majority of the money for the Lake Hancock project.
Swiftmud officials spent $130 million to buy land or flood easements on 8,340 acres around the lake and along Saddle Creek north of the lake.
Scott Letasi, the Swiftmud engineer overseeing construction of the structure, said they've still got some work to complete upstream on upgrading pipes and canals before they can allow the lake to rise to 100 feet.
In the meantime, the structure is partially open and releasing more than 200 million gallons a day downstream.
He said the structure has the capacity to release up to 1.8 billion gallons a day.
The old structure, which was demolished in June, could release only less than half that, which was a problem during major storms, Letasi said.
To operate the structure properly, Letasi said he needs to know what's happening upstream, explaining sometimes there's a five-day lag time between the time a storm hits north Lakeland and the time the water arrives at the structure.
In addition to the project's planned environmental benefits for the Peace River, the area around these projects will also advance recreational opportunities in a few years.
A planned extension of the Fort Fraser Trail, called the Upper Peace River Legacy Trail, is planned to cross the new Swiftmud structure and continue along the eastern shore of Lake Hancock to an eventual connection to the Marshall Hampton Preserve.
It is being funded jointly by the Florida Department of Transportation and Polk County.
DOT spokesman Robin Stublen said the agency will pay for construction of two bridges and two culverts and the trail design and Polk County would be responsible for constructing the trail itself, which would probably occur in phases as money becomes available.
He said construction of the bridges and culverts is scheduled for spring 2015.
Polk officials would like to build a connection to Circle B Bar Reserve, but that would involve crossing extensive wetlands north of Lake Hancock.
In addition, Polk County officials are applying for boating improvement funds from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help build the lake's first boat ramp south of the lake near the structure.
That ramp would replace a launching area along the shore of Saddle Creek north of the lake in a section of land that is part of Circle B Bar Reserve.
At this point, there's no definite construction schedule for the new ramp.


Big Sugar land deal offers Lake O draining alternative
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 25, 2013
But obstacles, cost make deal unappealing
Time is running out on Florida's chance to use Big Sugar land to create a flood-control alternative to the damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges that are polluting coastal waterways and angering nearby residents and business owners.
October is the deadline for the state's three-year option to buy 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land rimming the southern end of the lake for a locked-in price a little more than $1 billion.
That land could help restore natural lake water flows south to the Everglades, instead of continuing environmentally damaging flood-control lake discharges to the east and west.
Draining lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers helps protect lakeside communities and South Florida farms from flooding, but it is killing coastal fishing grounds and triggering toxic algae blooms that make water unsafe for human contact.
While coastal communities and environmental advocates are calling for the state to revive efforts to create a "flow way" of lake water to the south, huge political and financial hurdles stand in the way.
Florida's option to buy more U.S. Sugar land remains available, but a push to revive the costly flow way proposal may be "dead on arrival" with state and federal officials, according to U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Malcolm "Bubba" Wade Jr.
"If you want to buy it, buy it," Wade told state officials, environmental advocates and frustrated Treasure Coast residents gathered in Stuart to air concerns about the Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Moving forward would require reviving the controversial land deal with U.S. Sugar, which Gov. Rick Scott campaigned against during his run for office three years ago.
Also, budgets have been slashed at the South Florida Water Management District to the point where questions remain about the agency's ability to pay for existing Everglades restoration projects, much less take on new ones.
"That's the big hurdle that we need to overcome … acquiring the land," said Leon Abood, of the Rivers Coalition that advocates for an end to the lake discharges east and west.
Before South Florida development and farming got in the way, water once naturally overlapped Lake Okeechobee's southern shore and flowed south to supply the Everglades. Now the big flood-control lake discharges to the east and west bring too much fresh water, along with pollutants, into the rivers and salty estuaries. That lake water could be cleaned up and used to replenish the freshwater Everglades.
The state's exclusive option to buy U.S. Sugar's property is one of the remnants of the 2010 land deal, where the South Florida Water Management District spent $197 million to buy 26,800 acres from the sugar giant for Everglades restoration. That land has yet to be put to use for restoration.
Two years earlier, then-Gov. Charlie Crist proposed a $1.75 billion buyout deal for U.S. Sugar, where the state would acquire all of the company's more than 180,000 acres to help re-create a long-sought route to get more water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
While U.S. Sugar's far-flung properties wouldn't provide a direct route to what remains of the Everglades, the plan was to use much of the property as trade bait for Florida Crystals and other land owners to line up other land needed to move lake water south.
A host of environmental groups backed the proposal as an historic opportunity to acquire Big Sugar land that had long been off limits to Everglades restoration efforts. But cost concerns, legal fights and backlash from state legislators resulted in watering down the deal to a fraction of U.S. Sugar's land.
Yet even though the total buyout was squashed, the deal approved in October 2010 still provided a 10-year option for the state to buy more U.S. Sugar land.
The per-acre price of $7,400 remains the same for the first three years of that option, but those three years are up in October. As an alternative to buying the entire 153,200 acres, the deal allows the state to buy 46,800 acres at the same per-acre price, which would total about $346 million.
After that, the state still has until 2020 to buy other U.S. Sugar land, but would have to pay the current market value and would have to compete with other potential buyers.
So far, neither the state nor U.S. Sugar seems to be in the mood to make a deal before the mid-October deadline expires. And the possibilities don't appear much brighter for striking a deal before the state's remaining options expire in 2020.
"We are not in any discussions on that with the company," said Ernie Barnett, South Florida Water Management District interim executive director. "It is … a very big price tag."
Creating a southern "flow way" through sugar cane country has long been the Holy Grail of Everglades restoration advocates as well coastal communities tired of being South Florida's flood control dumping ground.
This summer, with hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water since May flowing toward the coast, fouling the estuaries and scaring away tourists, environmental groups and coastal residents are renewing their call for a southern flow way.
The frustrating part is that there is no end in sight, accord to Abood, who thinks that creating a flow way should become a state and federal priority.
It's terrible," he said about water conditions. "They need to work [on] a long-term solution."
State and federal officials through the years have shot down the flow way possibility as too expensive, due to land costs and operational obstacles. They say that just flooding farmland that was once part of the Everglades won't get more water flowing south because the topography has been changed too much.
"The flow way idea has been on the table many times," said Barnett, of the water management district. "We are focusing more on the reality of what we can do."
The state already has spent nearly $2 billion on building stormwater treatment areas for Everglades restoration and has another $880 million Everglades water pollution cleanup plan in the works.
In addition, the state and Army Corps of Engineers are working on a proposed $1.8 billion Central Everglades plan that seeks to get more water flowing south toward Everglades National Park by removing portions of levees, filling in sections of canals and boosting pumping capacity.
Start adding up the costs of the new Everglades plans and Crist's initial U.S. Sugar land buying pitch doesn't look so pricey after all, according to Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, which pushed the U.S. Sugar deal and still advocates getting the land.
On paper that deal remains an option, but politically it's unlikely to happen, Eikenberg said.
"We have to figure out a way to move water south, [but] we have to deal with what's in front of us; what is realistic," he said.


Scientists working to find what's killing dolphins
August 25, 2013
ASBURY PARK, N.J. -- On a Pennsylvania farm 70 miles from the ocean, inside a sprawling laboratory built to treat horses and other four-legged animals, scientists are trying to solve this summer's greatest sea mystery:
What is killing the dolphins?
Many of the dead dolphins that have washed onto the Jersey Shore since July 9 have ended up on metal tables and under the knife in the pathology lab at the New Bolton Center, a large-animal facility in Kennett Square, Pa. The facility is part of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, in the southeastern part of that state near the Delaware line.
A team of board-certified veterinary pathologists cut into each dolphin to perform a necropsy that involves at least an hour of removing major organs and identifying potential abnormalities.
That is just the start of the search for the elusive killer. Many more hours are spent on the hunt. Organ tissues are examined under microscopes. Tests with antibodies, a sign of what is affecting the mammals' immune system, could turn up clues, perhaps providing enough data to help scientists see the big picture.
"One of the saddest things to see on these creatures is some have horrible pneumonias and ulcers so you know that they are suffering. And the shark bites are kind of sobering to look at," said Dr. Perry Habecker, chief of large-animal pathology at the New Bolton Center.
The center's expertise is in working with horse cadavers, then some bovine, and then a mixture of farm and zoo animals, he said.
But a two-decade-old relationship with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., has brought very different animals to the lab. The pathologists are attempting to uncover the truth behind the death of more than 200 bottlenose dolphins that have washed along the beaches of the mid-Atlantic coast since July 9.
Morbillivirus, known for its role in a massive die-off of 742 bottlenose dolphins on the East Coast in 1987, has been found in some of this summer's dead dolphins. But scientists and experts aren't ready to label the virus as the killer yet.
The dolphins are being carefully studied for signs of that virus as well as toxins, biotoxins, bacteria, pollutants and any other potential culprit, said Maggie Mooney-Seus, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast Fisheries Science Center's communications specialist.
"We haven't ruled anything out yet because we have had animals from a pretty wide area and we have to look at everything that could be behind this," she said.
One thing Robert Schoelkopf, director of Brigantine's stranding center, can rule out is superstorm Sandy.
"Somebody tried to suggest that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a couple years ago was to blame. There's no way," he said. "Sandy was a natural occurring hurricane. You have it all over the world and you don't see this happening after a hurricane every time. There's no tie at all with that."
Schoelkopf, whose center staff picks up the carcasses and drives any that aren't badly decomposed to the New Bolton Center, spotted trouble almost immediately when dead, marked up dolphins started washing ashore in early July.
"As soon as I saw the first animal that came in with the lesions on it and the lung infection, my mind shot right back to 25 years ago when I did the same thing," Schoelkopf said.
In 1987, when morbillivirus took its toll on hundreds of bottlenose dolphins, Schoelkopf witnessed the death of 93 animals in New Jersey alone.
In early August, NOAA Fisheries felt the sheer number of deaths compared with prior records justified declaring them as an Unusual Mortality Event. The classification is used for unexpected, significant die-offs of any marine mammal population and allows researchers more funding and other resources to find the cause.
There have been 60 recognized Unusual Mortality Events since 1991 and just 29 were resolved with a cause.
But because of NOAA's declaration, Habecker's team are pulling tissue samples - specifically from the lungs, anus and blowhole, which lend themselves to virus culture - to be sent to labs in Florida and California. Those labs are among few in the nation with the expertise and facilities to look for what kind of viruses might be at play here, Habecker said.
In his own lab, in addition to the gross autopsy, Habecker will examine sub-sectioned tissues on slides under a microscope. Then his team subjects those slides to an antibody, which will show a reaction if morbillivirus is present.
"We know it's out there. It's always been out there, but we don't know why we're seeing some more of it," Habecker said of the virus.
Knowing the cause of the dolphin's illnesses and eventual deaths should give the experts and scientists involved an idea of whether this is a natural occurring illness that happens in a cycle or if it started by something humans are doing, such as pollution, Mooney-Seus said.
"You have to look at everything so you can look for opportunities at remedying it if we can," she said. "It shows something is definitely going on in the ecosystem and that's why we have to look at all those environmental factors as well."
Habecker said historically, pneumonia is the most common cause of death, and there is also a parasitic worm that impacts the brain and can kill dolphins. He said he has seen a variety of things and, like other experts involved, is looking for patterns.
His experience in veterinary pathology tells him that some viruses drive down the immune system so severely that an animal can become susceptible to other problems. So the dolphins may contract morbillivirus, become weakened by it, but ultimately die from something else such as pneumonia. It can have a similar impact as measles in humans, he said.
Larry Hajna, spokesman with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said at least four dolphins have showed signs of the morbillivirus and each of those four died from pneumonia.
Because only dolphins have washed ashore, instead of a variety of sea animals, indicates these deaths are related to a disease cycle, Hajna said.
"It's naturally occurring and it's something that's going to happen again down the road, maybe in another 25 years," Schoelkopf said. "That's the idea of doing the extensive tests like this, that they can possibly find somewhere or some way around the problem."
Considering 1987, Schoelkopf said the deaths seen in New Jersey will probably taper off near the end of September.
Because of all the necessary testing, what was initially a 48-hour process from the time a dolphin is picked up on the beach to the end of the testing, is now taking at least three weeks, Schoelkopf said.
Since the Unusual Mortality Event was declared, the New Bolton Center has taken in 33 dolphins, but Habecker said they had received some before that point, too.
When there are fewer dolphin carcasses along the Jersey Shore, that won't mean the problem was resolved, Schoelkopf said. The dolphins' annual migration south could mean more deaths are reported in southern states, he said.
Mooney-Seus noted that already more dead dolphins are cropping up in North Carolina. July and August saw the majority hit no farther south than Virginia, which has seen the highest body count in July and August with 141, including 25 from last weekend alone, said Joan Barns, spokeswoman for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.
Schoelkopf continues to urge anyone who sees a dolphin, whether it's in the water or on shore, to keep away from it. Sharks have been know to attack the dolphins, most of which die before they come on land, and pose a danger, he said.


South Florida running out of sand (VIDEO)
Huffington Post by Dominique Mosbergen
August 25, 2013
Florida needs sand.
The state, known for its sunny beaches, is reportedly fast running out of the precious commodity due to erosion from storms and tides, a rising sea level and man-made structures like jetties that have been built on beaches, causing sand to build up on only one side of the structure.
"It is quite a concept but unfortunately it's true," Jerry Scarborough of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told NBC News of the sand scarcity.
According to the New York Times, communities who live along Florida's Atlantic coastline have been replenishing their beaches by dredging up off-shore sand for decades.
But in South Florida, the situation has become dire, with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties facing a shortage like none they've experienced before.
"We're running out of sand off-shore, we've pretty much vacuumed everything up," Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University told NBC.
Part of the worry, of course, is that without stretches of pristine beach, people -- particularly tourists -- will be less likely to spend their money in these counties.
But, there's a larger concern as well.
“These beaches, people think they are recreational, but they are storm damage reduction,” Jason Harrah, the Army Corps project manager in charge of the Miami-Dade beach restoration, told the Times. “They are meant to sacrifice themselves for the loss of property or life. In the event we have that kind of storm, we wouldn’t have the means to replenish them.”
South Florida's vulnerability in the face of a large storm "is very real," said Stephen Blair, chief of restoration and enhancement in Miami-Dade's department of environmental resources management, according to the AP.
Communities in South Florida are thus now scrambling to come up with the best way to get sand back on their beaches.
Some ideas include crushing up recycled glass bottles to make artificial sand and buying the coveted commodity from from mines in Central Florida or countries in the Caribbean.


Protestors rally against water releases on Sanibel - by Hollie Hojek, Reporter
August 24, 2013
Hundreds rallied along the Sanibel Causeway Saturday, sending a message loud and clear for state and federal leaders about the damaging fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Many have reached a boiling point.
"We're tired of it! It's affecting our economy, it's affecting our lifestyles and it needs to change," said Sanibel resident Mark Anderson.
For weeks, millions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee have been draining into the Gulf each day.
Protestors say it's ruined everything from the environment to the economoy.
"We need to clean this mess up from Lake O. It looks terrible, it is terrible," said Sanibel resident Sandy Monteclare.
The fight for change united the people of Southwest Florida.
Sick and tired of excuses, these neighbors say they have a solution.
"The solution is plan 6. Restoring the natural flow of Lake O south to the Everglades. It's got to be filtered," said Kenny Hinkle Jr. of Stuart, FL.
It is the protestor's latest message to state and federal leaders; Fund the projects necessary in order to fix the problem.
"This isn't about we don't want it here, we don't want it there. We understand we have releases from Lake Okeechobee but we need to find solutions for everybody- we cannot just keep dumping," said Toni Westland of Sanibel.
Saturday's rally on Sanibel Island is a preview to a rally taking place in Clewiston on Septmeber 1st.
That's when both the east coast and west coast will meet to take their signs and send the message to state and federal leaders to do something now before the shorelines are changed forever.
Lee County leaders hope the potential of millions of dollars from oil giant BP could help build at least one new reservoir to hold water.
But until then...
"The answer is we've got to keep the message in front of Governor Scott," said Monteclare.


State could sell ‘surplus’ Volusia park land
DaytonaBeachNewsJ. - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
August 24, 2013
Four parcels of state park lands in Volusia County that the state considers surplus could be sold to the highest bidder under a proposal to raise money to keep the Florida Forever conservation land buying program afloat.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last week released a list of 169 sites, totaling roughly 5,300 acres, that emerged as potential surplus parcels during a review by staff and consultants.
Park enthusiasts, environmental advocates and conservation groups statewide questioned the proposal, saying the directive handed down by state legislators seems to mock the name of the state’s long-time land conservation program.
“Either it’s forever or it’s not,” said David Hartgrove, conservation chairman for the Halifax River Audubon chapter.
In Volusia, the list includes 29 acres, including two parcels in Lake George State Forest, a parcel on U.S. 1 in Ormond Beach that is part of Tomoka State Park, and a 22-acre strip alongside the railroad tracks at Blue Spring State Park destined to become one leg of the county’s Spring-to-Spring trail system.
No state-owned land in Flagler County is on the list.
County officials said the list caught them completely by surprise. The Volusia County Council voted Thursday to ask the county’s lobbyist, Fred Leonhardt, to let the state know it would like to see the local parcels removed from the list. The council was particularly concerned about the piece the county holds an easement on for the trail.
“Nobody understands why they’re doing this except to be able to say they’re removing public lands and selling them,” said Volusia County Councilwoman Pat Northey.
“I’m very concerned that if we don’t weigh in and figure out how they got on there and how we get them off, a project we’ve worked on for 20 years could be in jeopardy,” said Northey.
The DEP is reviewing the 3 million acres owned by taxpayers and held by the state’s Board of Trustees, which is the Governor and Cabinet. The land is managed by the Forest Service, Division of Recreation and Parks, and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
State officials were ordered to determine if any public lands are no longer needed for conservation. The state’s five water management districts were ordered to undergo similar reviews.
In a statewide webinar discussing the review on Friday, Susan Grandin, director of the department’s division of state lands, said the assessment “is a prudent thing to do.”
The state has “an impressive portfolio of conservation land,” Grandin said. With any investment, she said, it’s always a good point to take a look at that portfolio to ensure it’s the “best it can be.”
The 169 sites amount to about .2 percent of the total holdings, said department spokesman Patrick Gillespie.
The list is still “preliminary” and “likely to change” as the review process continues, Gillespie and other state officials said last week.
To put the list together, Gillespie said each agency went through its holdings to look for outparcels that could potentially be sold. Meanwhile, a state committee also created a model to review state lands and determine outparcels that might no longer be needed.
The Trust for Public Land used a model to produce a list of potential parcels, such as lands separated by roads from the main holdings or parcels where the state intended to buy other surrounding lands and never did. “There are a lot of outparcels that no park visitor has ever been on because it’s just not connected,” Gillespie said.
The parcels also were reviewed by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and department staff to examine the property’s importance for water resources, wildlife habitat or cultural and historic resources.
The state conducted a public meeting in Tallahassee last week and two statewide webinars. State officials said they will review the comments and the list and expect to take a further refined list to the Acquisition and Restoration Council for review in September. After that meeting, the Department plans to conduct a series of public meetings around the state.
Before any land is sold, the Council must formally declare it surplus, then the state is required to offer the land for lease to state universities and colleges at a minimal cost, Gillespie said. Then the state is required to offer it for sale to local governments.
If local governments aren’t interested, Gillespie said the property would be offered in a bid process.
State law requires any proceeds from selling the conservation land to go back into the conservation land-buying fund. That amount is budgeted to be up to $50 million in the coming year. State legislators have directed that acquisition priority be given to buffers for military installations, “to pursue the state’s economic goals,” Grandin said. Other priorities are springs protection and water resource protection.
Hartgrove said he could “appreciate” that the state has some pieces of property that have marginal environmental value, for example cases where the state had to acquire more parcels of land in a single purchase than it needed to get the environmentally sensitive piece it wanted.
“If it went through a very careful vetting process, I think it could be surplus,” Hartgrove said. But, in other cases he’s suspicious other ulterior motives could be playing out behind the scenes.
Northey said Volusia officials would be open to having the state deed the land over at no cost, similar to an agreement the county reached with the St. Johns River Water Management District, which conducted its assessment last year.
In the district’s case, the staff conducted a scientific review of each parcel and decided that 35,000 of its 600,000 acres could be deeded over to public agencies or be sold as surplus. Some of the lands were offered to county governments and it was agreed up to 10,000 acres could be sold. The district has begun working its way through the adopted program, for example, agreeing earlier this year to deed over 3,199 acres in Graham Swamp to Flagler County.
Charles Lee, senior policy advocate for Audubon Florida, said while he would give the district’s ultimate program a “B+,” the state’s proposal would earn a “D-.”
For example, Lee said the state shouldn’t be proposing to sell off 400 acres in Wekiwa Springs State Park, in an area where the region is trying to conserve groundwater, protect the Springs and provide habitat for Florida black bears.
“It’s nonsensical,” said Lee. He is among a number of statewide advocates who are very concerned over the proposal to parcel off land in some of the state’s most sensitive areas, such as Biscayne Bay, Cayo Costa Island and areas of scrub, considered one of the world’s most imperiled ecosystems.
For example, Lee questioned why the state would allow developers to buy land on the islands in Cayo Costa State Park and build in a coastal high hazard zone. Lee said the cost of any clean up after a major hurricane would be borne by taxpayers.
During Friday’s webinar, state officials said they are going to take a second look at a number of parcels on the list that include mangrove wetlands and coastal high hazard areas.
Just as the water management district plans to keep conservation easements over some of the lands it sells to restrict development, DEP officials said the state could also restrict what happens on land it sells to prevent conflicts with the management of adjoining park lands.


Gov. Rick Scott's "band aid" for Indian River Lagoon is not enough
Conservancy of South-West Florida
August 23, 2013
Environmental and citizen groups rally, call for real action
STUART, FL. - A coalition of environmental groups rallied  in front of a state Senate Select Committee and said government must act - not order more studies - to stop toxic algae outbreaks like the one that's making people sick and killing scores of dolphins, manatees, birds and fish in the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.
"This is an emergency," said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone. "We need a statewide emergency management plan to deal with it. Our waters are literally being studied to death."
Members of  the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Florida Oceanographic Society and Conservancy of Southwest Florida said state and federal officials have known about pollution problems from sewage, manure and fertilizer for 30 years, and have yet to take meaningful action to stop the problem at its source.
"We know how to prevent this pollution and we need to start doing it," Jackalone said.
Toxic algae outbreaks like the one sliming the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary on the southeast coast and the Caloosahatchee and its Gulf of Mexico estuary on the southwest coast are causing a public health crisis and an economic nightmare - killing wildlife, hurting property values and devastating tourism revenue.
The groups say that action to stem the pollution must start now. Septic tanks need to be cleaned out and connected to treatment plants, failing sewer lines that pour sewage into the estuary need to be replaced, sewage treatment plants must be upgraded, fertilizer ordinances must be adopted statewide, and, most importantly, agricultural pollution - the primary source of the filthy water into Lake Okeechobee - needs to be regulated. 
The groups called Gov. Rick Scott's announcement that he will propose $40 million worth of taxpayer money in his budget for a system to treat polluted agricultural runoff from Lake Okeechobee a "Band-aid" that only treats symptoms, not the cause. And it only addresses a fraction of the sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff called "nutrient pollution" that's sliming springs, rivers, lakes and bays all over Florida.
"Both the state and federal governments have slime on their hands," said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible because it is not fixing a failing 80-year-old reservoir system that's operated at the behest of Big Sugar, instead of for the citizens of this state. The state is responsible because it is sending filthy water into Lake Okeechobee and refusing to control the pollution at its source. Taxpayers end up paying for the cleanup because government isn't doing its job to prevent this."
Public records show that Gov. Scott's office is not taking the public health threat seriously.
The records of belated water testing by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection show that algae toxin levels in the St. Lucie River estuary have reached levels 2,875 times the safe limit for human recreational activities. They also reveal algae is present which produce neurotoxins that affect the brain, but no further testing for those neurotoxins was done.  Published scientific research has confirmed the widespread presence of a type of cyanotoxin linked to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's-like symptoms in Florida coastal waters, yet no testing for that cyanotoxin was performed. 
Instead of preventing the pollution problem at its source, Gov. Scott's Administration has been allowing polluter lobbyists to write their own loophole-ridden mumbo-jumbo that does little to regulate the sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution that sparks these nasty toxic algae outbreaks. The new Florida "standards" on nutrient pollution leave the following waters without nutrient pollution limits: All South Florida flowing waters, all canals, all tidal creeks, all intermittent streams, and all "physically altered flowing waters that are used for water management."
Together, these exceptions account for two-thirds of all Florida flowing waters. Most pollution entering Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades comes from tributaries in the Northern Everglades. Under Scott's polluter-friendly scheme, most of those tributaries would be exempted from protection.  
"On the west coast, we have dead oyster beds, poisoned drinking water, and algae outbreaks off Sanibel Island and the Caloosahatchee River," said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy, Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "The fact is, the state is not protecting the public. Every citizen deserves clean water and the appropriate measures are not in place to protect our waters and our tourist-driven economy."    
"Gov. Scott and the DEP are dropping the ball on protecting public health, and the Florida Legislature is letting them get away with it," said Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller.
Since he took office, Gov. Scott has eviscerated the very state programs designed to manage and prevent this kind of pollution. The governor drastically reduced state land-buying (which provides natural filtering,) slashed Everglades restoration funding, hacked the budgets of the state Water Management Districts and the DEP, fired many experienced enforcement and scientific staffers, eliminated the state land-planning agency,  and  approved weak, polluter-friendly water standards.
And last spring, the Legislature voted down a measure which would have required state authorities to track the number of children and adults diagnosed with skin rashes, acute respiratory illness, and gastrointestinal symptoms after coming in contact with algae-infested waters. The measure would have also required the Florida DEP to make public the number of dogs and livestock that died within 3 hours of exposure to algae-  infested waters; the number of manatees that died within 30 days of exposure to algae outbreaks; and the number of seabirds that died within 30 days of exposure to algae outbreaks.


Negron: Feds should not have sole jurisdiction on Lake Okeechobee releases
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
August 23, 2013
STUART — State Sen. Joe Negron opened an eight-hour hearing of his select committee on Lake Okeechobee today by questioning the power of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release polluted water into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
“One thing we know, the jurisdiction for determining when water will be released from the lake, that decision is made in absolute and sole discretion by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Negron, R-Stuart, said. “The federal bureaucracy should not have exclusive jurisdiction to decide what water pours into our community.”
Hundreds of people filled a community center in Stuart to listen to panels of scientists, officials, environmentalists and agriculture leaders offer their short-term solutions to the environmental crisis that has been caused by the release of billions of gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
Among the ideas:
● Urge the governor to declare a state of emergency — a move that could give the governor the power to circumvent the federal government when making decisions about moving water out of the lake.
● Assist the South Florida Water Management in contracting with area ranchers and growers to retain water on their land — a practice called “water farming.” Already the district contracts with cattle ranchers north of the lake and recently approved another contract with Caulkins Citrus Co. in Indiantown to store water.
● Push the Corps to revise the release schedule it uses to decide when to dump water from the lake. The corps revised the schedule in 2008 after hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 ripped gaping holes in the dike and a 2006 study found the dike dangerously decrepit. Negron said he wants an assessment by experts from the state and corps to make sure the release schedule is based on the latest evidence, balancing the risk of breach against damage to the environment.
Install a boom across the Indian River Lagoon to prevent water from the estuary from moving north into the waterway.
Pumping ocean water into the estuary to increase salinity levels. Fresh water from the lake has lowered salinity levels, causing a massive die-off of oysters and damaging other wildlife and sea grasses.
● Create a plan to reduce the number of septic tanks on properties near the estuary and river.
● Ensure the Central Everglades Project is included in a federal appropriations bill that will be voted upon early next year.
Raise water levels in agricultural canals south of Lake Okeechobee.
● Enact a local fertilizer ordinance that would ban the use of fertilizers during the rainy season.
In May the Corps began releasing water from the lake into the estuary, and as the record-setting rainy season progressed the corps increased releases to the estuary and Caloosahatchee River, on the west side of the lake.
On July 26 the corps decided to fully open the locks, flushing billions of gallons of polluted water from the lake and stormwater runoff from yards and roads, into the estuary. That water damages wildlife in the estuary, especially oysters and sea grasses. The Corps has said that runoff from yards and roads also has contributed to the damage.
The dike, owned and maintained by the corps, is in such disrepair that the corps must keep the lake at lower levels to prevent a breach. Water conditions have deteriorated and toxic algae has blossomed throughout the estuary. The Martin County health department has warned against contact with the water.
Col. Alan Dodd, commander of the corps’ projects in Florida, spent 30 minutes explaining the corps role in building and maintaining the dike and how the corps decides when to lower the lake. When Negron asked if the Corps would stop releasing water into the estuary if the lake drops to 15 feet, Dodd said he could not give a specific level at which the releases would cease.
The corps cut releases by one-third on Wednesday and will further reduce the flow when the lake hits 15.5 feet. At midnight Wednesday the lake level was 15.74 feet, down from 16.01 earlier in the month.
Negron, chairman of the committee, repeatedly steered speakers to short-term solutions — those that could be implemented immediately — rather than long-term projects. The nine-member committee plans to use input from today’s meeting to push for policy changes and make budget recommendations.
Dozens of members of the public filled out speaker cards and waited hours to address the committee for their two minutes. Negron took only one five-minute break during the eight-hour hearing.
“I’m not here for Miccosukee or Seminoles, I’m independent — here for nature,” said Bobbie Billie, a Native American. “Newcomers came to our land and drained it. We can’t live the way we used to. We need to wake up right now. We’re over the edge.”


Sen. Nelson: We need a new floodgate policy for the Everglades – by Patience Haggin
August 24, 2013
This year’s heavy rainfall has sent water levels in the Everglades to their highest level on record for this time of year.
The high water has caused animals to take refuge on a few tree islands, where they are more vulnerable to predators.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are calling for emergency action to have the floodgates opened immediately to lower the water levels in the conservation area of concern.
Nelson is asking for a new trigger policy that would allow the floodgates to be opened immediately when conditions hit a certain level.
“When we establish what that trigger is, let’s make sure the trigger is tied to the well-being of the environment, the wildlife that lives there, the plant communities and all our endangered species. Let’s make sure that trigger’s there,” Nelson said at a press conference last week.
But this solution is not without controversial. To lower the overall water level in the conservation area, water levels in the canal that runs along Tamiami Trail would have to rise temporarily.
Due to ongoing construction on Tamiami Trail, it may be difficult to bridge the area and the increased water could flood communities south of Tamiami Trail.
Superintendent of the Everglades National Park Dan Kimball said he hopes to meet with the construction contractor for the project about opening the floodgates and letting the water level along the Tamiami Trail rise.
“We need to go and talk to them to see if they are okay with going up to eight feet. Anything above that, they say is going to be a problem,” Kimball said. “With the understanding that it be monitored, and if there’s any problem, then we shut it off.
Sen. Nelson said that if a hurricane hits next week, emergency action might become necessary immediately.


Solutions sought for Lake Okeechobee releases
Florida Today – by Jim Turner, the News Service of Florida
August 23, 2013
State officials: Quick fix needed
TALLAHASSEE — Storing water on ranch land remains a primary short-term option for a Senate committee as it considers ways to lessen the harmful impacts of ongoing Lake Okeechobee water releases into estuaries on both sides of Florida.
The search for a quick fix comes as the releases, while being reduced in size, are intended to ease the stress on the lake’s frail dike system.
State officials said short-term solutions are needed to remove harmful nitrogen-heavy muck and other toxins that have been associated with the deaths of manatees and other wildlife in the estuaries and have reportedly devastated local tourism and property values.
“The solution is to buy up the land that we need to buy to create a sheet flow across the Everglades into the Florida Bay,” offered long-time Martin County resident Bill Summers. “You need to tell the sugar land, ‘You know where to go.’ ”
While long-term solutions have been in the works for years, other temporary fixes presented to the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin on Thursday included cleaning the water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; reducing nutrients from septic tanks; raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches; and getting Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency for the lake to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate the lake protection plan.
“We have to focus on the base hits, not the home runs,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said.
Using vast ranch and agricultural lands as storage areas would reduce the amount of water sent downstream when a release is needed.
The South Florida Water Management District is already using a couple of ranch properties as a means to divert water from the lake, and another 19 ranchers have already presented proposals, said District Interim Executive Director Ernie Barnett.
The Senate committee also wants to look into using publicly owned land, such as the marshy 20,000 acre Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area, which is jointly owned by the district and Martin County.
Committee Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, requested a list of potential short-term fixes from the South Florida Water Management District by the end of this week, including potential price tags.
Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said the biggest question will be the finances.
“Nobody has mentioned the quantity of money,” Hays said.
A report from the select committee is due Nov. 4.
The committee road meeting came as a response to cries about the economic and health impacts from the lake releases on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, as people have been told to avoid parts of the St. Lucie River due to potentially toxin-producing algae blooms.
Many of the residents from along the Indian River Lagoon attending the meeting pointed to years of problems in area waterways tied to the lake releases.
State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, told the committee that “water is our lifeblood.”
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., said Congress needs “to be sold” on the importance of funding the long-term cleanup.
In response to a request by Negron, Murphy said he would again reach out to President Barack Obama — who in February golfed along the St. Lucie River at the gated Floridian Yacht and Golf Club — to get the federal government to respond to the crisis.
“The fact that the river has been declared toxic, that's an embarrassment,” Murphy said.
Prior to the marathon hearing, a coalition of environmental groups called for immediate action to clean the river rather than conduct more studies. The coalition also labeled a proposal by Scott to spend $40 million to speed construction of a water-storage area along the St. Lucie River as a “Band-Aid.”
“It only addresses a tiny fraction of the sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff — called ‘nutrient pollution’ — that comes from within the St. Lucie watershed,” the coalition said in a release.
“And it does nothing to reduce the nutrient pollution sliming all the other, rivers, springs, lakes and bays all over Florida.”
Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer said the state is at fault for allowing filthy water to enter Lake Okeechobee rather than controlling the problem at its source and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for failing to fix the 80-year-old reservoir system.
The Army Corps announced Wednesday the releases are being reduced due to drier weather. However, that could change if storms approach South Florida.


The Nitrogen Cascade: The next big pollution problem
Huffington Post – by David Marger
August 23, 2013
I know that your head is still whirling around thinking about climate change and what to do about it. The earth has hit the 400 parts per million level of carbon dioxide for the first time in 2 million years. The preponderance of drought, shrinking glaciers and super storms, plus actual bona fide peer-reviewed scientific evidence, erases any doubt to any rational educated person about the reality of climate change. I hate to break it to you, but we have another upcoming pollution problem that is just as bad -- The Nitrogen Cascade.
There have been mass animal deaths of manatees, dolphins and pelicans in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida reported this summer in The Huffington Post and The New York Times. The probable cause -- the Nitrogen Cascade. Recent surveys by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University concluded these estuary waters contained 45 percent more nitrogen than is acceptable. A lot of nitrogen pollution comes from septic tanks, storm water and agricultural runoff. But much of it comes from the air too.
Seventy-eight percent of the earth's atmosphere is essentially inert nitrogen gas. Since life first appeared on earth, nitrogen has gone through a biological cycle from 'inert' atmospheric to 'reactive' organic nitrogen and back to inert nitrogen. Every bit of protein from every animal and plant also has 'reactive' nitrogen in it at around 6 percent the dry weight of protein. Nitrogen is taken up by nitrogen fixing plants like alfalfa, soy beans and legumes and made into proteins. The plants are eaten by humans, insects, microorganisms and animals or they eventually die and decompose, recycling their reactive nitrogen. In each case, the nitrogen is returned to the cycle when these organisms die or excrete. Thus was the balanced life cycle of nitrogen.
Then in 1880, Haber invented a chemical process that took natural gas (methane), stripped the hydrogen from it and combined it with atmospheric nitrogen to make ammonia. Ammonia was then used to make gunpowder and other munitions. After WWII the ammonia was used to make fertilizer. The Green Revolution was launched with the idea that, since fossil fuel is so cheap, one calorie of food energy can be created using one calorie of fossil fuel energy.
So now ammonia is a fertilizer and the base chemical of the fertilizer and munitions industry. Only a small portion of the nitrogen in ammonia-based fertilizers actually makes its way into the foods we and livestock eat. The rest is emitted to the air or becomes runoff. The food ends up as human waste and livestock excrement. While the majority of the human waste ends up in wastewater treatment plants, the livestock excrement does not. The majority of this reactive nitrogen ends up as runoff and ammonia emissions. The runoff 'fertilizes' standing bodies of water causing blooms of algal growth which robs the oxygen from these bodies of water causing death of aquatic organisms.
Atmospheric, 'inert' nitrogen, is also converted to reactive nitrogen in a variety of industrial human activities producing airborne particulate matter (PM), NOx and nitrous oxide, representing about 5 percent of the impact of greenhouse warming gas.
There is so much nitrogen now that it is cascading into and overloading the ecosystem.
Collectively agricultural runoff now represents the #1 water pollution problem in the United States according to the EPA. It is why over 50 percent of our rivers and streams are polluted, why the Chesapeake Bay is almost dead, why there is a large and growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and why there was a massive die-off of dolphins and manatees in Florida
Bobby Kennedy Jr., working with NRDC, Riverkeeper, and Earth Justice, has been victorious in court and the law now identifies concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) as being obligated to comply with the Clean Water Act as would any other point source water pollution releaser. But the laws are only slowly being enforced. Especially because the agricultural economy is in the crapper right now and most solutions only add to the cost of livestock maintenance.
Lancaster, Pa., is one of the worst places in the country for nutrient pollution due to livestock releases and emissions. Running through Lancaster, the Susquehanna River transports 40 percent of polluting nitrogen into the Chesapeake Bay each year. There, Peter Hughes, a farming consulting engineer, innovated a system of trading nutrient credits. It is built around the philosophy of using market forces to incentivize farmers and others that if they could mitigate nitrogen releases cheaper than a wastewater treatment plant, they could sell those credits to the treatment plant to help it meets in compliance targets. The farmers would then use that money to pay for the nitrogen mitigating technology. More pollution would be mitigated for less money, serving planet and pocketbook.
I was fortunate to work on micro-aerobic respiration, one of the most effective and cost-effective nitrogen pollution mitigation technologies, developed by Dr. Jerry Northrop. Now installed on giant Kreider Dairy in Pennsylvania, it is a process that uses bacteria to convert the polluting nitrogen in animal waste back into inert atmospheric nitrogen. The nitrogen credits produced by this technology are being bought by the water treatment utilities as a more cost-effective way to comply with their discharge permits.
After agricultural runoff, the next big nitrogen challenge is storm water releases. The total nitrogen in them is equal to the total nitrogen in wastewater releases, but almost all municipalities merely pay the fines as the less expensive way of dealing with mitigating this form of nitrogen pollution. Otherwise it would require a capital investment equal to their existing waste water treatment plants just to handle the storm water for the few rainy days per year.
Now that nitrogen pollution mitigation technology has proven to be cost-effective enough that it increases farmers' profits, governments can start enforcing the laws on the books or leave it to the environmental organizations to file lawsuits. The environmentalists have had a very good record of success in this space. And then maybe we can actually reverse the Nitrogen Cascade.


Toxic Martin County waters spark senators' anger, resolve
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith
August 23, 2013
As long as I've known Joe Negron, I've never seen him show as much emotion as he did Thursday listening to citizens -- many of them his neighbors -- pouring out their hearts, one after another, about the plight of the toxic, black St. Lucie estuary and Indian River Lagoon. 
Never seen his eyes connect with so many people addressing him during a comment period. As a result, not much is off the table for Negron, R-Stuart, "Sympathy Man" -- except maybe septic tanks, identified as a major problem in all counties with dying fish, birds and wildlife, but a problem with a solution the senator is loathe to entertain. More about that later.
The eight senators on Negron's Senate Select Committee on the lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin gathered in Stuart at a senior-center auditorium with an overflow crowd, riveted for seven full hours on five panels of expert testimony and citizens who wanted to be heard.
The idea of the committee is to quit talking and stop the bleeding.  Find a short-term solution to this many-faceted environmental disaster, one headed toward long-term solution when Everglades restoration infrastructure is complete -- not until at least 2018 and probably longer.
Heavy rains since spring have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to order excess fresh-water pumped from Lake Okeechobee. The discharges are sent east into the St. Lucie Canal and west into the Caloosahatchie, to keep the Herbert Hoover dike from breaking.
Senators listened in shock as a father told of his children instructed "not to touch the water;" as the Martin County riverkeeper pleaded to "stop the pumps in the Everglades Agricultural Area -- don't let sugar farms store water in areas we can use;" as a woman crying real tears told them, "we're not in a state of emergency, we're in a terminal state;" as children showed dramatic pictures of sea creatures once alive, now dead; as residents and officials from Fort Myers to Sanibel to Vero Beach to Hobe Sound spoke of once-flourishing businesses gone, the local economy crumbling, a way of life lost.
Clearly, the whole committee was moved by citizens' two- and three-minute stories. By the end of the day, against this backdrop of salinity, toxins from commercial fertilizer, toxins from feces -- a many-splendored cocktail of pollution to disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the most diverse estuary in America -- members were ready to embrace all "ideas" presented.
Among the ones Negron said he will push the committee to explore:
-- Asking the governor to declare the Lake Okeechobee Basin, Caloosahatchee Estuary and Indian River Lagoon in a state of emergency. "I think I just need to find out exactly what a state of emergency means," said Negron.
-- Look at risk assessment factors. "Is the Army Corps ordering the discharges too soon ? Could they let the water in the lake get a little higher? Let's see if we can find a way for Florida to decide when to discharge instead of the Corps."
-- Look at buying land still available on option from U.S. Sugar Corp. "On this Senate committee we have a lot of control of the budget. I'm pledging $100 million from next year's budget right now.
-- Get sugar farmers to give over for storage the ditches they're not using.
The last thought came from the large environmental contingent on hand -- for example, panelists Kevin Henderson and Mark Perry want all excess water to flow south, through sugar farmland. Just take the land you need, they said. Eminent domain. Sewall's Point Town Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, on the same panel, told senators, "You have a right to take those lands."
Another idea was to raise the canal level in the EAA by 3 inches and send the water there. Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, told me, "I don't think that one is going to fly. You would be raising the whole water table."
Col. Alan Dodd, commander and district engineer of the Army Corps, Jacksonville District, took offense at Negron's portrayal of the Corps as ineffectual. "There are multiple decision points where action has to be taken and decisions have to be made," Dodd said. "We have some of the best people in the nation working on this in the Jacksonville district."
The Army Corps works to keep the lake level between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet. The reason: a major hurricane could increase the level to 19 feet. Dodd said when the lake is just above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is at 45 percent.
For a while there, with some panelists, it was like listening to a couple of two-star generals debating collateral damage -- as if, well, if we screw up and hold the water in the lake too long, there's going to be a few deaths south of Lake O, but it's only fair because there's going to be devastation to the east and west of the lake, too. So we go for balance and make the touch choice. Yipes.
Through the day, Negron and most senators slipped gently toward local residents, feeling their pain -- Negron, especially, who grew up in Palm Beach County but has been connected to the lagoon and estuary all his life. "This is a Florida problem," Negron said. "But it deserves national exposure." He asked Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-Port St. Lucie, who attended, to pursue money from Congress and remind President Obama that "he played golf looking out at these waters and they're in trouble now."
Septic tanks popped up much of the day, identified by scientists and agencies assigned to study them as a major water pollutant, not only on the Treasure Coast but on the Gulf side, too.  But, when asked to include a septic-to-sewer conversion among his priorities, Negron said that philosophically, he would not be able to sign on to "anything that allows the government to come onto your land and tell you what you have to do to your property."
I hope the committee will help Sen. Negron rethink that one. He might want to consider the philosophical difference between, say, drowning a few hundred people in Belle Glade (collateral damage), and telling residents it's a public health emergency, shut up and hook up..
Despite the philosophical glitch, Negron had a warm afternoon in Stuart. His caring showed and it was attractive on him.
Toxic water: State Senate hearing Thursday  WFLX,


Florida development may worsen sinkhole problem - by Allison Halliday
August 22, 2013
The idea of your home disappearing into a sinkhole is something that seems utterly horrifying, and the recent increase in this kind of event has the experts scratching their heads.
The problem is discussed in an article by CNBC, and scientists think it may at least partially be due to the fact that developers for extracting more water from the ground in order to develop land, or is down to water being pumped out for agricultural use. Apparently large areas of Florida are situated on limestone, and the stone can be dissolved by the natural acidity of water. However its presence also acts as a support. If it’s removed then support is lost, and the problem can be exacerbated by heavy rains.
According to the experts in Florida real estate, the amount of development means builders are being forced to search for land further outside the cities. As a result homes may end up being built on sites that are less than ideal as developers struggle to meet the demand for competitively priced properties. This could make the sinkhole problem even worse in the future. It’s very difficult for builders to know whether or not a sinkhole is likely to occur on a site, and even though they have to do some drilling in order to meet building codes this doesn’t tell them whether or not a sinkhole will develop in the near future.
Insurance companies in Florida are required to cover homeowners against catastrophic ground collapse, and in recent years the number of insurance claims for damaged caused by sinkholes has increased significantly. In fact claims have increased so much that there are concerns that they could threaten the property insurance market in Florida. The costs for ensuring a home against sinkhole damage can vary dramatically depending on the location of the property. If the home is in an area that isn’t considered to be particularly high risk then insurance can cost around $200, but this can easily increase to $2,000 for homes in higher risk areas.
Approximately a third of all sinkhole activity recorded in the last 50 years has occurred in the previous 13 years, and half of all that activity took place during the last three years. Not surprisingly, sinkhole remediation companies have seen an increase in business over the last five years, and point out the increase in activity could be down to a number of factors, and this is why it’s so important to get an engineer to assess the area.


Governor Scott: Letter to Brigadier General Donald E. Jackson (USA)
August 22, 2013
Governor Rick Scott sent the below letter to Brigadier General Donald E. Jackson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division regarding the Lake Okeechobee Herbert Hoover Dike System and the lack of federal investment for regional restoration projects.
Governor Scott stated: “I am writing regarding the Corps of Engineers’ inaction that led to your decision to open the S-80 Control Structure to relieve the stresses on the outdated Lake Okeechobee Herbert Hoover Dike System. The result of dumping polluted water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries has already led to fish kills, toxic waters, and will undoubtedly impact the regional economy.
The 50-year-old Lake Okeechobee structure is supposed to be a 100 percent federal responsibility. Yet, it has deteriorated due to a lack of investment and maintenance by the Corps of Engineers.
Sadly, had the federal government met all of its obligations in maintaining the Lake Okeechobee dike system, promptly authorized critical projects that benefit the region and met their cost-match promises, the environmental conditions of this region could have been improved and the crisis in the region today would have been mitigated. But, because of the federal government’s inaction and funding delays, I respectfully ask the Corps of Engineers and Congress to immediately meet the following goals to help the region:
- Take the steps necessary to enhance the Herbert Hoover Dike System for Lake Okeechobee;
- Fulfill your cost-match obligations by investing $1.6 billion in South Florida environmental projects, which you owe the state in lost cost-share;
- Provide flexibility to the State of Florida and local partners to pursue critical projects by providing block grants for the design and construction of the projects.
While the Corps is supposed to be our equal partner in many of these endeavors, the federal government has only invested about $989 million to date. To help restore the environment and mitigate the impacts on our communities and help restore our Florida waterways, the State of Florida has already invested more than $2.5 billion in South Florida environmental projects. Too often, Florida families have footed the bill for the federal portion of these projects. The federal government owes Florida about $1.6 billion in investments for these projects.
This is not the first time the federal government has short changed Florida on its commitments. In the case of Florida’s ports, Florida families stepped up and paid for the federal portions of critical projects, including more than $35 million for the PortMiami deep dredge and $38 million to correct Mile Point at JAXPORT. Both projects serve to grow jobs and bolster the entirety of the U.S. economy (in fact, President Obama has been here to tout their success even after short-changing Florida on their funding), but federal leaders were incapable of providing funding or leadership for these type of projects that propel our nation forward.
Moreover, many projects are being held up due to federal red tape, and state and local partners do not even have the opportunity to move forward with projects that would clean water and mitigate impacts to the region. For example, the C-43 reservoir project in Hendry County would store storm runoff water and mitigate damage to the Caloosahatchee River estuary. Unfortunately, this critical project is yet to even be authorized by the federal government.
Equally troubling, as certain areas of the dike begin to experience seepage in the middle of hurricane season, the Corps has advised that it cannot begin hardening walls on the dike system again until 2017. As a result, the Corps is now managing the lake’s water level more to address the stability of an aging dike, rather than protecting the water quality and ecology of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. To make matters worse, the state is pouring money into the one authorized project that can provide storage and treatment for the St. Lucie community, C-44, while the federal government, yet again, is behind in their funding commitment.
Despite the federal government’s gap in investments and delays, we have a responsibility to protect and improve the quality of life for Florida families, and that’s why today we announced that we are committing $40 million to complete the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area Project (STA).
Our Florida Families First budget invested $20 million into the C-44 STA, and with a 50-50 cost share agreement, Florida taxpayers should have only had to invest another $10 million to complete the project in a timely manner. The seriousness of the situation in the region, compounded with failed federal funding commitments, warrants our immediate action. With this $40 million state investment we will cut the completion date in half and offer a long-term solution to the problem the Corps’ maintenance delays have contributed to creating.”


High water leads to fears of deer die-off
CBS 12 - by Chuck Weber
August 22, 2013
WESTERN PALM BEACH COUNTY-- There's more fallout from this year's abnormally high rainfall amounts.
Thursday morning in Western Palm Beach County, CBS 12 cameras found several groups of deer seeking refuge on the levees. That's because water is so high in the Everglades right now, animals are forced to find shelter and food on higher ground.
"Any time there's a high water situation, the animals they become stressed," said Chuck Collins, Fish and Wildlife Commission regional director, based in West Palm Beach. "That's why we take action to close the (Everglades) conservation areas."
What's happening with the deer is a bad sign, with two more months of peak Hurricane season remaining.
The issue brought U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, (D) Florida, to the Everglades for an airboat tour Thursday. State Fish and Wildlife Commission member Ron Bergeron brought the senator to Bergeron's own hunting camp and several others. The hunting camps, built on tree islands-- former Indian mounds-- are another place where deer and other animals congregate in times of high water.
"Back in the mid-1990's, we had the loss of 90 to 95 percent of all the fur-bearing animals out here," said Sen. Nelson. "We're trying to get ahead of it, in case a storm comes."
Senator Nelson and other officials on the tour discussed the possibility of sending more water south, out of the Everglades. But doing that could threaten flooding of homes further in Miami-Dade County.
"Right now, the water's receded a little bit," said Sen. Nelson. "But in an emergency, you're going to have to release the water, because you can't have another kill-off of all the animals."


Islanders and officials question water quality
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander - by Mckenzie Cassidy
August 22, 2013
Islanders and local environmental officials have scheduled two upcoming events to address local water quality.
Hundreds of protestors are expected to gather near the mid-span bridge this weekend for the Save Our Bay rally. The Sierra Club and a number of other environmental organizations are attending the rally on Saturday at 8 a.m.
Jonathan Tongyai, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, said the water quality is the worst he's ever seen since moving to the island in 1972. He organized the rally to grab the attention of state and federal politicians and demand they find a solution to the problem.
“Everywhere I go people are talking about it and they're upset about it. The only way we're going to get the attention of the politicians is to make sure they know their voters are angry," he said.
The quality of local water fell into question after recent releases from Lake Okeechobee's failing Herbert Hoover Dike System, resulting in the spread of polluted waters into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Governor Rick Scott announced earlier this week that the Army Corps of Engineers had decided to significantly reduce the flow of water into South Florida estuaries.
On Monday, Aug. 26 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., local officials will host a community panel called "Coastal Estuaries in Peril," at Tween' Waters Inn on Captiva Island.
Panelists include Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner and coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition; Jennifer Hecker, Natural Resource Policy manager with Conservancy of Southwest Florida; Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy director at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation; and Greg F. Rawl, vice-chairman of the Southwest Watershed Council.


Praying for the Everglades
Sun Sentinel - by Steve Waters
August 22, 2013
With high water levels threatening to drown the wildlife, officials hope South Florida doesn't get hit with a hurricane
There is one hope for the freshwater Everglades as the River of Grass and its inhabitants continue to suffer from the effects of extremely high water levels.
Pray that no storms hit South Florida.
That was the essence of the discussions conducted during an airboat tour Thursday of the waterlogged Everglades, featuring Sen. Bill Nelson and personnel with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron brought together everyone to show them how water levels have submerged 90 percent of the tree islands in Water Conservation Area 3A South, which extends from Alligator Alley to Tamiami Trail.
Bergeron wanted to get an agreement between the state and the federal government where water levels in the Everglades would automatically be reduced when those levels threaten wildlife and their habitat. The Corps lowers levels at 12 feet, when damage to levees becomes a concern.
Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the water level, which is currently 11.8 feet, is being lowered by 1/100th of a foot a week. Moving more water into Everglades National Park "poses a significant risk to people south of Tamiami Trail."
Bergeron said 12 feet is too high because every island is under water. The safety and welfare of people are important, but that can be achieved without drowning the Everglades.
"It'd be similar to when the governor calls a state of emergency in our urban areas … to do whatever it takes to get people back to their normal lives," Bergeron said. "I'd like an emergency trigger when we hit certain water levels … so we don't have a massacre of wildlife like in 1994. The quantity of water in the Everglades and the long duration of that high water is certain death for wildlife."
"That's why I'm here," said Nelson, who tromped around in ankle-deep water on a tree island that Bergeron said should be 18 inches above the water level this time of year.
On Tuesday, Nelson emailed a letter to the Corps of Engineers in which he wrote that animals are crowded onto the few bits of high ground remaining in the Everglades — he saw several deer Thursday — and that "these animals will start dying on a large scale if the water levels in this area aren't lowered by at least one foot in the next 30 days to 60 days."
He also made reference to the high water of 2008, when the Everglades was lowered one foot in 30 days.
"I urge you to act swiftly and open the man-made [flood]gates immediately to lower the water level."
But Nelson did an about-face Thursday, basically saying the high water is not an emergency situation.
"If a hurricane was coming next week, we'd have to release water," Nelson said. "That's why I'm here."
Bergeron said now is the time to safely move more water south, before a storm floods the water conservation areas, the road, the park and the people who live just east of the park.
"I can't understand why we can't repeat what we did in 2008 when the environment's in a state of emergency," Bergeron said.


Pressure is on to fund water solutions
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander - by Jim Linette  
August 22, 2013
Hours after Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane and Natural Resources director James Evans reported on details and progress in their efforts on the continuous damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, Florida Governor Rick Scott said the Corps of Engineers had decided to significantly reduce the flow of water into the South Florida estuaries.
At a hastily called special meeting of the Sanibel City Council on Wednesday, Ruane and Evans brought a nearly standing-room-only assembly of citizens in MacKenzie Hall up to speed on their endeavors of the past two weeks.
Ruane has met with Congressman Trey Radel, State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, the Governor's Chief of Staff, Lee and Palm Beach County officials, Florida League of Cities, and members of the Senate Select Committee before whom he will testify today in Stuart.
"I haven't slept in my own bed for a week," Ruane said Wednesday. "I think we have a group of people and scientists to get to work on short term solutions to this problem. This has evolved in two short weeks, but it feels like two years."
Evans' power point presentation was precise and to the point.
"Lake O is at 15.7 feet today," Evans said. "This time last year it was 12.5 feet. We've had 140 to 170 percent above normal rainfall this summer, so all of the ground, all of the water storage lands are saturated. The only thing to do now is to release water south to the Everglades, which right now is most important."
Evans said the water quality is such right now that it impacts oysters and seagrasses. The low salinity due to the freshwater releases is in the lethal range.
"Oysters are dying and the seagrasses are washing up on the beaches," said Evans. "The dark water plume reduces sunlight to the seagrasses and they die off."
Lake O was designed to hold much more water than the current 15.7-foot level, but because the Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake constructed more than 60 years ago is pourous and in danger of failing, water levels are managed at a much lower level. The dike is being reinforced, but it is a long, slow process that has many more years to go before completion.
"There are human health concerns right now," said Evans. "Although there are no warnings on the west coast, there are advisories and beach closures in effect in the St. Lucie area. Part of the reason we don't have closures here yet is the water travels more than 80 miles to get here, but much shorter in the St. Lucie River estuary."
Ruane has focused his message on the economic impact to businesses because of reduced tourisim.
"It's trickle down ecomonics for Lee County," said Ruane. "Tourism in Lee County is a $4.3 billion indursty supporting 85,000 jobs. This county gets $400 million from the bed tax and sales tax receipts. Lee and Collier counties boast $147 billion in real estate values with owners paying $1.9 billion a year in property taxes.
"The Governor has campaigned about jobs, which is not a partisan based issue," added Ruane. "We are coming out of one of the worst economic downturns in history. No one wants to go back to a downturn like that because of this."
Ruane provided testimony Thursday on the issue at an eight-hour meeting of the Florida Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin in Stuart. The committee is comprised of eight members chosen by Senate President Don Gaetz, including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Southwest Florida.
Ruane testified regarding the significant, detrimental and economic impacts of the high flow regulatory discharges on Sanibel Island and the coastal waters of Lee County; the urgent need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to consider all short- and long-term storage options; the necessity of securing federal funding for the C-43 West Basin Reservoir Project in Hendry County and other long-term solutions; plus the importance of immediate ecological monitoring to determine the full impacts on the Caloosahatchee estuary.
"Our city's top priority must be to move the state and federal governments into fully implementing the long-term solutions to the Lake Okeechobee releases," said Ruane. "If the past years of rhetoric and debate do not quickly move these capital projects into implementation, we will have squandered our economy and the jobs and property values of every person in Southwest Florida."
Additionally, Ruane will address the tremendous economic impact of the releases on the area's businesses, residents and tourist destinations.
This is the first of an expected four hearings as the committee works toward a Nov. 4 deadline to submit a report of its findings to President Gaetz.
"I think state and federal government are getting the message," said Evans. "We aim to work with our east coast partners on releasing water south to the Everglades National Park and for the state to purchase 153,000 acres of US Sugar land south of Lake O to store more water. Even releasing water south to the Everglades is not a solution because the water is not clean enough. We need a system to clean the water before releasing it into the estuaries."
Governor Scott's statement late Wednesday indicates the Corps of Engineers immediately reduced the flow by 33 percent into the C-44 canal that leads to the Caloosahatchee River, and by week's end it will be reduced further, by as much as 57 percent. The announcement came one day after Scott visited the S-80 conrol structure in Martin County and committed $40 million toward the completion of the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project in Hendry County.
"I'm happy with what has transpired so far," said Ruane. "Sanibel always has taken an active role and it's important that we continue to be active in this."
Among comments from other council members came the Knute Rockne style remarks of councilman and former Mayor Marty Harrity.
"This is not our first time at the rodeo," he said. "We know what the problem is, now let's fix it. It all comes down to money. Let's start appropriating money - now! It has an impact on fishing and esthetics here. We're going to be Detroit if this continues. There's no reason for this. It's a disgrace."
When the meeting was turned over to public comments, everyone who spoke thanked the Mayor and Evans for their efforts. Some pledged financial support for forming a Save Our Beaches type organization to keep applying pressure to state and federal agencies to fund short and long term solutions.


Scientists point to water quality problems, septic tanks as woes for Indian River Lagoon
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
August 22, 2013
A Senate select committee was told Thursday that reducing the water flows from Lake Okeechobee into South Florida estuaries will require more spending by state and federal governments on water storage and a focus on septic tanks.
Senate President Don Gaetz in July created the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin amid dolphin, manatee and pelican die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon.
Scientists haven't firmly identified the causes of the wildlife deaths.
Brian Lapointe, research professor at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said his research into manatee deaths is pointing to nitrogen from septic tanks.
He said there are 237,000 septic tanks in Brevard, Volusia and Indian River counties. The nitrogen is feeding the growth of an aquatic grass species that contains a toxin and is smothering sea grasses that manatees eat.
"I think it (nitrogen from septic tanks) is a major contributing factor," Lapointe said.
Drew Bartlett of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was asked whether he agreed.
"Septic tanks and solving septic tanks is a very challenging issue locally," Bartlett said, pointing to the need to site new septic tanks properly. DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. earlier said restoration plans were being developed in the region but septic tanks and lawn fertilizer-use remain concerns.
Representatives of the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Everglades Foundation said more water storage is needed to prevent dumping water into the estuaries and send it south to the Everglades.
"That is a key step that has to happen," said Thomas Van Lent, senior scientist with The Everglades Foundation.
But he also said implementing water quality improvements is needed. "We have to clean it. The water is polluted now."
He was cut off, though, by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and select committee chairman. As with other speakers, Negron pressed for short-term steps that can be taken to deal with the quantity of water being discharged from Lake Okeechobee to prevent breaching the Herbert Hoover Dike.
"I'm interest in water quality, too," Negron said. "Even if this was crystal clear water, it changes the salinity. Even if the water were not polluted it would still cause significant damage to the estuary."
Van Lent replied, "I think the options to addressing quantity of water are limited because of the sheer volume of water coming down."
The committee heard from area residents and legislators who said the poor water quality was killing recreational fishing and the region's economy.
"I never thought of myself as an environmentalist," said Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie. "But I realized if we don't pay attention to what's happening in our waterways and our ocean, we're doomed."
Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott said Florida was committing $40 million towards construction of a reservoir along the St. Lucie River to store water. He will include the $40 million in his 2014-15 state budget request, a spokeswoman said. The Corps announced it was reducing discharges from Lake Okeechobee because flows into the lake were dropping.
Negron pressed Col. Alan Dodd, district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville, to re-evaluate the discharges and risks to the lake dike system. Dodd responded that the federal agency was implementing a management system developed in 2008 and would re-evaluate it but not now.
"What cannot do is spend two years building a system and keep making changes based on the pressures of the day," Dodd said.
Negron later issued a statement announcing four action items. He said a 2008 risk assessment of the Lake Okeechobee dike that is used to determine water releases from the lake should be re-evaluated.
He also said more water storage areas need to be found to avoid releases to estuaries. He said there should be a legal evaluation of how declaring a state of emergency could help in working with the federal government. And last, at the suggestion of Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee and a member of the select committee, Negron said septic tanks should be addressed "in a manner that is completely consistent with the rights of private property owners."
Related Research:
Aug. 22, 2013 Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin meeting packet


State Senate hearing to focus on impact of Lake Okeechobee discharges on St. Lucie Estuary - by Alex Sanz
August 22, 2013
STUART, Fla. -- As concerns over toxic algae and high levels of bacteria in the St. Lucie Estuary continue to grow, the Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin will hold a marathon hearing today to discuss short-term solutions or alternatives to reduce or eliminate current releases from Lake Okeechobee.
RELATED: Flow from Lake Okeechobee reduced bitly link:
The committee was created earlier this year to investigate state and federal policies, spending and other government activities that may have impacted water management in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.
Representatives from the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the Everglades Foundation, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute of Florida Atlantic University, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have been invited to participate .
The eight-hour hearing begins at 1 p.m. at the Charles and Rae Kane Center in the 900 block of SE Salerno Road.
The committee will use the information gathered at today's hearing to prepare a report for Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
The report is expected to be submitted to the committees no later than November 4th.


9 investigates dolphin, manatee deaths in Indian River Lagoon – Channel-9
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. —  There is something very wrong with the Indian River Lagoon. Since the first of the year, 60 bottlenose dolphins have died, and one more that was rescued is expected to recover.
In all, 280 manatees have died in the waters of Brevard County in the last 12 months, sea grass has died, 250 brown pelicans have died and so far, no single cause has been uncovered.
"People always want to point their finger at the problem and come up with a quick solution, but when you're dealing with natural systems, that's usually not the way it happens," said Troy Rice of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.
Earlier this month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an Unusual Mortality Event, “due to increased bottlenose dolphin strandings in the Indian River Lagoon System along the east coast of Florida beginning in January 2013."
The declaration opens up additional federal funding to further study the die-off. Right now, the Investigative Team is preparing to test samples from the stranded animals.
NOAA said blood and tissue samples will be tested for "bacterial, viral, toxin and other infectious agents." NOAA estimates there are currently more than 660 bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon.
But, while scientists investigate the problem, some worry the damage may have already been done.
"The lagoon may be at that tipping point," said Rice. "We've put way too much pollution into the lagoon and fresh water into the lagoon."
In the last several decades, the lagoon's watershed has been artificially expanded about 146 percent according to the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. In addition, development along the coast has gone virtually unchecked since 2011 when the state abolished the Department of Community Affairs which oversaw construction based on availability of fresh water and drainage canals.
Critics also point to the more than 22,000 registered septic tanks in Brevard County as a possible source of contamination.
In a March presentation by Florida Atlantic University, researchers found that, "Septic Tank Effluent contaminated groundwater to levels in violation of State standards and suggest subsurface transport of contaminants into Jones Creek via the uppermost zones of the surficial aquifer."
"I think the Indian River Lagoon is a clear example of the stresses that we are putting on our systems," said Christopher Byrd, a former state environmental attorney. "The lagoon has hit a tipping point and it's in decline, it's being decimated."
While the deaths of manatees and brown pelicans are alarming, scientists said it is the dolphin die-off that should be most concerning.
"They are sort of the canary in the coal mine for the Indian River Lagoon," said Megan Stolen of Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute of Melbourne Beach. "It really speaks to what the whole system is going through."
Dolphins are the apex predator in the Indian river Lagoon. Their deaths have caught the attention of not just researchers but recreational fishermen along the waterway. While fishing continues to be a popular hobby, fishermen complain that the numbers of fish are not as great as they had been in the lagoon, with many deciding to practice catch-and-release rather than eat the fish caught in the waters.
For now, the State of Florida is investigating the manatee and pelican deaths, while the federal government is in charge of the bottlenose dolphin deaths.
"(What) we might be seeing is a sort of cascade of events," said Stolen. "We're seeing multiple influences come tighter in a perfect storm."

Aquafarm withdraws water request for now, may later submit amended version – by Deborah Buckhalter
August 21, 2013
With a controversial water-use issue in play, a steady stream of local residents turned out Tuesday night for the Northwest Florida Water Management District’s open house session in Marianna. Several agency experts were on hand to meet with visitors one-on-one as the ventured in to learn more about the agency and its mission, its regulations and the processes by which it operates.
But as expected, a majority of the questions posed related to a local sturgeon farm’s request to draw down significantly more water from the Floridan aquifer than it is currently permitted to pump out. Sturgeon AquaFarms in Bascom had asked several weeks ago for permission to increase its daily draw from the current 2.8 million gallons to an average daily of 5.7 million with a maximum of 7.2 million on any given day as long as the monthly totals average to 5.7 million a day. The farm was first permitted for a 1.4 million drawdown in 2009, and was allowed to double production in 2012, when it gained approval to pump the current average daily limit of 2.8 gallons.
Many local residents say they object to that, citing drought and other conditions that they say make the additional withdrawal a danger to the environment, wildlife, and human consumers who depend on the aquifer for drinking water and recreational uses.
Visitors at Tuesday’s open house learned new information that evening; the aquafarm has withdrawn its request for the addition water, at least temporarily. However, it will likely come back later with an amended request, agency staff predicted.
In the meantime, the company may be busy finding answers to several questions the agency posed in replying to the original water use amendment application, which was deemed incomplete and in need of additional information.
The matters noted by the agency in response to the original request would likely still be at issue if the company submits an amended draw-down request as expected. A period of review will follow any request.
For the open house session, the agency had prepared several placards with general information about its field and posted them various stations where members of the crowd could go and talk individually with the agency representatives in various fields of expertise.
At one station, for instance, the placard outlined the parameters for reviewing drawdown requests; the project is reviewed to determine whether it meets the demands of three factors; it must be consistent with the public interest, must be a reasonable and beneficial use of the water resource, and must not interfere with existing legal uses. Once an agency review is complete, it goes before the agency’s governing board for a decision on whether the permit will be approved.
In responding to the original request for additional draw-down, agency staff asked the company for more information. For instance, it wants the company to analyze several issues, and to provide documentation of those studies. As an example, the agency wants the farm to look at a variety of different ways that water could be cooled, since more efficient cooling potentially reducing the amount of water withdrawal that would been needed. The company had cited the need for more cool water directly from the aquifer as one justification for the additional drawdown the company will need as it expands its business.
The agency also wants the aquafarm to design, perform and evaluate a multi-well aquifer performance test over the winter months, when seasonal agricultural activities in the surrounding area have essentially ceased. The test would include data from one of the company’s pumping wells, an existing aquifer monitoring well and an additional monitoring well that would be placed at a specified location on the property and which would be constructed “similar to the proposed production wells," the agency directed. The data woud need to include continuous water level readings from the monitoring wells for three months, with measurements collected at 15-minute intervals. The test design would have to be submitted to the agency for approval before it was implemented for the agency’s purposes.
The company would also have to evaluate the additional drawdown’s effect on the resource and on its users. The agency spelled out some of the information it would expect to be included in that evaluation, and the means by which it should be calculated.
The agency also asked in its response that the company submit pumping reports for all of 2013 and going forward until the final action on the application.
The agency has already issued a temporary permit allowing the company to install an additional well on the property, but one which, under its current status, could only be used in lieu of one of the three existing well, in the event that one fails or needs to be taken off line for another reason. The company cannot use it to draw an additional amount of water out under its current status. The temporary permit will undergo a less-stringent review than the withdrawal request before it is made permanent, but is expected to work its way through that process easily if its purpose remains to a replacement well only.
Held at the Jackson County Agriculture Complex on Penn Avenue in Marianna, Tuesday’s informal meeting was scheduled at a time when local residents are expressing concern over AquaFarms’ original request. Agency leadership felt the community would be particularly interested in NWFWMD operations at this time in the light of their concerns over this specific issue, and set the session as an overall review of the agency


A symbol of Florida’s environmental degradation
Miami Herald - Editorial
August 21, 2013
Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic stretches north from Jupiter Inlet to Ponce Inlet, just south of Daytona Beach. The lagoon, a place once as lovely and peaceful as its name, includes the St. Lucie River, an outlet of Lake Okeechobee, which means the lagoon is in deep trouble this year.
The phosphorous-laden runoff being directed out of the lake to prevent flooding is being sent into the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee River on the West Coast because it is too polluted to be sent into the Everglades, which needs the water.
But the lagoon’s troubles really began in 2011 when a super bloom of phytoplankton spread through its Mosquito Lagoon, killing off more than 30,000 acres of fish-hatchery-friendly sea grass. In 2012 came a deadly brown algae plume never before seen in Florida, which was followed by a reddish algae that creates a poison that can sicken people.
This year the lagoon has seen a record number of mystifying manatee, dolphin and pelican deaths, along with sporadic fish kills. Scientists don’t know what is causing all these deadly phenomena, but they believe there are more underlying causes than the phosphorous-laden water flowing out of the St. Lucie, or the inevitable polluted stormwater runoff so common to most Florida waterways.
A whole ecosystem may be slowly dying while we stand by twiddling our thumbs. So credit Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, then, for holding a symposium on the Indian River Lagoon last week that drew national media attention. Scientists posited causes and potential solutions but, of course, fixing the problem takes money and political will, neither of which are in abundance these days.
Sen. Nelson did cite a bill approved in the Senate that would build a $270 million reservoir and a $33 million canal to channel lake water to a 9,000-acre recharging area to cleanse it before it’s released elsewhere. The bill, unfortunately, is going nowhere in the House. The Florida Congressional delegation needs to step up and breathe life back into the legislation.
Perhaps it was Sen. Nelson’s symposium that helped nudge Gov. Rick Scott into visiting the St. Lucie area Tuesday. Until now, Gov. Scott has blamed the federal government, most specifically the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which manages the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and nearly every summer must reduce the lake’s volume to protect the aging dike. But what is killing the St. Lucie and the Indian River Lagoon — and the Caloosahatchee — is as much a state responsibility as a federal one.
So give Mr. Scott a hand, too, for pledging $40 million to complete a project that will clean up polluted stormwater runoff before it reaches the St. Lucie. Even as he continued to blame the feds, the governor took some state responsibility on his shoulders.
He should. Lake Okeechobee’s pollution from nutrient-rich runoff from agriculture and urban development isn’t the feds’ doing, after all. The state dearly values its agricultural businesses and its new development, both pillars of Florida’s economy.
But these economic engines have negative effects, too — none more shocking than what’s happening to the Indian River Lagoon. Even with more money and political support, the remedies won’t come quickly.
It takes time to build reservoirs and stormwater treatment plants. There should be a sense of urgency from both state and federal leaders to find — and fund — those remedies before the lagoon is pronounced DOA.


Corps to slow damaging Lake Okeechobee dumping
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
August 21, 2013
With water levels falling in Lake Okeechobee and concerns about its aging dike easing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday cut back on dumping that has devastated coastal estuaries.
If the generally dry weather continues, the damaging flows could be cut back further as early as this weekend.
The Corps, concerned about the rain-swollen lake putting too much pressure on the 80-year-old earthen dike, has dumped some 300 billion gallons of water from the lake since May 8. The flow of water laden with agricultural nutrients down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers has combined with local runoff to fuel algae blooms, fish kills and anger in communities on both coasts.
The Corps said the emergency releases through the massive lake’s two main relief outlets were critical to protecting the dike and public safety. Engineers calculate the effort kept the lake two feet lower than it might have been otherwise and kept the dike out of a high-risk, high-water danger zone. Lake levels stood at 15.74 feet Wednesday, down from a peak of just over 16 feet.
“The steady decline has opened up some room to reduce the discharges,” said Lt. Col Thomas Greco, the Corps’ deputy district commander for South Florida.
During a tour of the main flood gates on the St. Lucie on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott blamed “inaction” by the federal government on dike repairs and other water quality projects for the latest round of damaging dumping from Lake Okeechobee. The Corps has defended its efforts, saying it has spent more than $220 million to shore up the most vulnerable 21-mile stretch of the 143-mile-long dike and is now repairing culverts that are another weak point.
High water worries extend beyond the lake.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday wrote the Corps warning that deer and other wildlife could die off in flooded sections of the Everglades without quick relief. Nelson has scheduled a Thursday tour of the hardest hit area, Water Conservation Area 3, an expanse of state-owned marsh north of Everglades National Park and west of Miami-Dade and Broward suburbs.
In the letter, Nelson urged the Corps to open flood gates that had helped drop water levels after similar flooding in 2008.
“I am quite confident if this was done again — if the gates were to be opened immediately — we would again prevent a horrific catastrophe,” wrote Nelson, who intends to tour the area with Broward County developer Ron Bergeron, an avid Glades outdoorsman and member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Greco said water levels in the area have dropped a third of a foot in recent weeks, but the Corps is still analyzing options for additional drainage, with one concern the potential for increasing the flooding threat in the Las Palmas community at the outskirts of western Miami-Dade.
Water releases reduced from Lake Okeechobee         Fox 4
Army Corps of Engineers reduces flow from Lake O            Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Army Corps of Engineers reduces flow from Lake Okeechobee       WPTV
Army Corps of Engineers reduces flow from Lake O to ...   The Republic


DEP hears concerns about state lands surplus list including waterfront tracts
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
August 21, 2013
Standing along clear stream as it meanders through a forest of pines, magnolia and hickory trees before flowing into Lake Talquin, Bob Monahan recalled fishing in the past and watching bald eagles nesting along the lake shoreline 10 miles west of Tallahassee.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday issued a list of parcels covering 5,331 acres that it is considering possibly selling. The list includes the 49 acres at Lake Talquin State Forest in Leon County that Monahan visited on Wednesday.
In its 2013-14 state budget, the Legislature provided $20 million in new revenue for the purchase of state lands, plus up to $50 million from the sale of existing state lands. DEP officials say they are looking for land than can be sold to buy high-priority conservation lands.
Monahan, president of Friends of Lake Talquin, said he doesn't think the state forest land there should be sold.
"What is better (conservation) in the state of Florida than wetlands?" Monahan said. "This is one of the finest wetlands in the state of Florida, in my opinion."
DEP on Wednesday held a workshop Wednesday on the proposed list of 169 sites scattered across 67 state parks, forests and other land management units. Webinars will be held Thursday and Friday.
Monahan said he couldn't attend because he hadn't heard about the workshop until Wednesday, when his group learned from a reporter that the land was on the potential surplus list.
Before a workshop audience of about 75, DEP officials explained their process of developing an initial list in July of 319 sites and 10,362 acres. After a review by state agencies, the list was reduced to the 169 sites and 5,331 acres and posted on a DEP website on Tuesday.
Department officials told the audience that the process represented the first comprehensive, scientific review of all state conservation lands. 
Marianne Gengenbach, acting director of the DEP Office of Environmental Services, said the analysis is ongoing. After the workshop and webinars this week, the department will schedule other meetings around the state.
If other agencies and local governments don't want the property identified as surplus, she said, the department could recommend selling some property with conservation restrictions.
"The list you have in front of you simply tells you where we are in that assessment right now," Gengenbach said. "These parcels are a long way from being sold."
Audience members representing environmental groups raised concerns about various sites being included on the list including those at Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park, Goethe State Forest, Torreya State Park and Porter Pond in Washington County.
Charles Lee of Audubon Florida asked how 150 acres of rare mangrove swamp along northern Biscayne Bay could be included on the list. Gengenbach responded that she couldn't address specific sites but she invited him to send his concerns in an email.
"It could be this is one of those things that is problematic," she said. "That's why we are here (tonight)."
Lee also said the list includes 2,500 acres within the Green Swamp in Southwest Florida and 385 acres along the Wekiva River. He said the St. Johns and Southwest Florida water management districts filtered out lands in those areas recently when they assessed their land for possible surplus.
"We have some serious concerns about the output of this process so far," Lee said. "We particularly urge you to get the Green Swamp and Wekiva properties off of this list."
Related Research:
* Florida Department of Environmental Protection State Conservation Land Assessment web page
* Aug. 20, 2013 DEP list of proposed surplus lands



Environment award winners set shining examples - by John Buchanan
August 21, 2013
Although Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has awarded its annual Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award since 1994, this year's three winners are perhaps the most exemplary ever.
The 2013 recipients, who will be formally honored by Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam at a breakfast ceremony Oct. 25 during Florida Farm Bureau's annual convention in Ponte Vedra, are Barbara Goering of The Farmton Tree Farm in Volusia County, Dudley Calfee of Ferris Farms, Inc. in Floral City, and Shane Platt of Kissimmee Park Properties in St. Cloud.
The work they have done sends a clear message to the public about the environmental responsibility and engagement of Florida's farmers and ranchers.
"We've had a lot of good winners over the years," said Andy Rackley, director of agricultural environmental services at FDACS. "But these three are as good as we've seen since I've been with the department for the last eight years. And what they've demonstrated is that you really can make some major moves to double down on your commitment to the environment and production agriculture and be successful doing it."
In a broader public sense, Rackley said, the awards - created to spotlight innovative environmental practices by Florida farmers and ranchers - reinforce awareness that agbusiness operators are in the best position as major landowners to do something that they have control over that will improve the environment. "And that's true not only because they own the land," Rackley said, "but also because they have the resources to do something positive."
FDACS's ag-environmental awards, given in cooperation with an independent committee that includes representatives of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, water management districts and environmental groups, are designed to recognize self-motivated efforts to improve water and air quality, or restore lands as wildlife habitats. "And all of those kinds of individual activities benefit the Florida environment," Rackley said.
In today's world, where farmers and ranchers are often at odds with environmental activists, it's important to understand that "farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists, because their livelihoods are based on protecting the integrity and productivity of their land," Rackley said. "Quite frankly, I don't know a farmer or rancher who doesn't do everything in their power to try to make sure that they leave a very small footprint and protect the environment, because their business depends on that."
Platt, the fifth-generation representative of his family to run Kissimmee Park Properties, which operates a 1,200-acre, 250-head cow-calf enterprise and 60-acres of citrus production, said he was honored to have been recognized for his family's long history of good environmental stewardship.
"It's really special," said Platt, who was also named the 2013 winner of the National Cattleman's Beef Association southeast regional Environmental Stewardship Award earlier this month. "We've been practicing environmental responsibility for generations. But to now get recognized for it is just very special."
Platt stressed, however, that environmental awareness and responsibility are nothing new for him or his family's 135-year-old business.
"Our goal has always been to protect the ranch's economic aspect and also the sustainable wildlife habitat that we work in," Platt said.
For example, he noted, although the protection and promotion of wildlife corridors are now hot topics of discussion, his family has been practicing those things for 70 years.
More recently, Platt has focused on rotational grazing and water resource management. "Rotational grazing improves the quality of your pastures when your cattle can roam," he said. "And to do that, you have to have a water source. We've got lots of lake frontage. But that doesn't mean it's in the right locations. So as a result, we accomplished rotational grazing by putting in over five miles of new fencing."
And because he didn't want to dig water holes, he installed almost two miles of pipe and six individual 1,150-gallen water troughs in each of the new fields.
Platt is also a big supporter of the move toward so-called prescribed burns, as opposed to uncontrolled burns, as a modern best practice.
Those three practices are good examples of smart business practices that are also good environmental practices, said Platt, adding that the underlying importance of the issue is obvious.
"It's our obligation to protect the land," he said, "because that's the source of our economic well-being as a business. And that is a message that has always been repeated to me."
Goering earned recognition for her 59,000-acre timber operation because of her leadership in creating the Farmton Local Plan, an innovative 50-year initiative to place nearly 80 per cent of the land into conservation.
Calfee won the award for his work in developing large-scale commercial flats for strawberry production. For the past six years, he has harvested the first commercial flats of strawberries in Florida and also produced blueberries while dramatically reducing the use of pesticides, plastic mulch and plastic drip tube and fungicide application.



Everglades restoration report gets unanimous vote - by Kevin Wadlow
August 21, 2013
A critical vote Thursday moved the restoration plan for the Everglades and Florida Bay forward but major changes lie years away.
"It's like knocking over the first domino in line of dominoes," said Eric Eikenberg, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation. "But it's a very, very long line."
In a unanimous vote, the board of the South Florida Water Management District endorsed a draft report of the Central Everglades Planning Project, which means the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will publish the plan for comment in the Federal Register on Aug. 30.
"When this project is completed, approximately 210,000 acre-feet of water on an average annual basis will be captured and directed south where it can provide ecological benefits," says a project summary.
The South Florida Water Management District is the state's lead agency on Everglades restoration, working with the Corps of Engineers.
"This is one of many steps but it is an important one that comes after extensive public participation and technical work," district Chairman Dan O'Keefe said in a statement.
The plan outlines construction projects that keep water from Lake Okeechobee flowing on a more natural course toward Florida Bay.
After this summer's heavy rains, high levels of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee now are being diverted to coastal estuaries, where the abrupt change in salinity has been blamed for fish kills and other problems. "There is no immediate solution to the problems in the estuaries," Eikenberg said Friday.
There also is the problem of obtaining nearly $2.2 billion in estimated costs for the Central Everglades project, tentatively slated to be shared by the state and federal governments.
"We still have to get Congress to allocate the money," Eikenberg said.
Adding new bridges along the Tamiami Trail, seen as a major effort to get fresh water into Florida Bay, is a separate program.
"We're before Congress right now on trying to get funding for the next 2.6 miles of bridges," Eikenberg said. "It would be a hodgepodge of funding sources, but it is considered one of the most critical projects in the national park system."
A one-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail opened earlier this year in western Miami-Dade County. The next bridges would be installed in Southwest Florida near Naples.


Florida waters alive with toxic algae, toxic politics - Editor
August 21, 2013
STUART, Florida, August 21, 2013 (ENS) – Environmental groups rallied today ahead of a Florida State Senate Select Committee public meeting, demanding that government act to stop toxic algae slimes that are sickening people and killing dolphins, manatees, birds and fish in two areas of the state.
On Florida’s southeast coast, the St. Lucie River, its estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon are slimed with algae that grow on excess sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff released locally and from Lake Okeechobee to the north. Most of the nutrient pollution entering Lake Okeechobee comes from tributaries in the northern Everglades that take runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area, which grows most of the sugarcane in the United States.
The St. Lucie River also is experiencing unprecedented levels of bacteria; Martin County health officials have warned the public to avoid contact with the water.
Also affected by the slimy mess are the Caloosahatchee River and its Gulf of Mexico estuary on Florida’s southwest coast.
Members of the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Florida Oceanographic Society and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said at the rally that state and federal officials have known about these nutrient pollution issues for 30 years, and have yet to take meaningful action to stop the problem at its source.
“This is an emergency,” said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone. “We need a statewide emergency management plan to deal with it. We know how to prevent this pollution and we need to start doing it.”
The fluorescent green and black slime of toxic algae is the environment’s response to nutrient runoff made worse by this season’s heavy rainfall. The South Florida Water Management District says July’s soaking of South Florida that capped the wettest start to the wet season since 1968 has made the situation worse. District meteorologists reported the wettest April-July period on record in South Florida since 1932.
State Senator Joe Negron, a Republican who chairs the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, is holding a committee hearing in Stuart on Thursday to come up with “short-term” solutions to the toxic algae outbreaks.
On August 7, Negron announced the creation of a website for collecting public comments on the economic and environmental impacts of ongoing releases of nutrient-contaminated from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon as well as accepting suggestions for short-term solutions or alternatives.
“Constituents have the option of leaving a comment related to a specific subtopic, such as pollution or property values, or a general comment about how Florida should address the economic and environmental impacts caused by the ongoing releases from Lake Okeechobee,” said Negron.
The environmental groups have plenty of advice for the Select Committee. “Septic tanks need to be cleaned out and connected to treatment plants, failing sewer lines that pour sewage into the estuary need to be replaced, sewage treatment plants must be upgraded, fertilizer ordinances must be adopted statewide, and, most importantly, agricultural pollution – the primary source of the filthy water into Lake Okeechobee – needs to be regulated,” they said in a statement today.
“Both the state and federal governments have slime on their hands,” said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible because it is not fixing a failing 80-year-old reservoir system that’s operated at the behest of Big Sugar, instead of for the citizens of this state,” said Reimer.
“The state is responsible because it is sending filthy water into Lake Okeechobee and refusing to control the pollution at its source,” she said. “Taxpayers end up paying for the cleanup because government isn’t doing its job to prevent this.”
In July, environmental groups filed a lawsuit alleging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has damaged the Caloosahatchee River by failing to release enough fresh, clean water from Lake Okeechobee.
The plaintiff groups, Earthjustice, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Florida Wildlife Federation, hope a federal judge will order the Corps to maintain freshwater flow levels that, they say, are already mandated by state law.
Water testing by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows that algae toxin levels in the St. Lucie River estuary have reached levels 2,875 times the safe limit for human recreational activities.
They also reveal algae is present which produce neurotoxins that affect the brain, but no further testing for those neurotoxins was done.
Published scientific research has confirmed the widespread presence of a type of cyanotoxin linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in Florida coastal waters, yet no testing for that cyanotoxin was performed by the DEP.
Instead of preventing the pollution problem at its source, the Scott Administration “has been allowing polluter lobbyists to write their own loophole-ridden mumbo-jumbo that does little to regulate the sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution that sparks these nasty toxic algae outbreaks,” the environmentalists warn.
The environmental groups contend that the latest Florida standards for nutrient pollution leave two-thirds of the state’s waters without nutrient pollution limits, including all South Florida flowing waters, all canals, all tidal creeks, all intermittent streams, and all “physically altered flowing waters that are used for water management.”
“On the west coast, we have dead oyster beds, poisoned drinking water, and algae outbreaks off Sanibel Island and the Caloosahatchee River,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy, Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The fact is, the state is not protecting the public.”
The Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin will meet on Thursday, August 22, 2013, from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Charles and Rae Kane Center in Stuart. They will receive expert and public testimony on activities affecting water management in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.
The Select Committee has invited U.S. Senator Patrick Murphy, a Florida Democrat, to speak at the public meeting. Murphy represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District, which includes Stuart and the St. Lucie area.
Senator Murphy has invited Governor Rick Scott to Washington to work with federal officials on correcting the conditions causing the algal outbreaks. His letter of invitation states, “There is no action too big or small to be considered to save our waters, and no one, especially government officials, can say that this isn’t their problem – we must work together to address this multi-faceted crisis on the federal, state, and local levels.”
The governor has not indicated whether or not he will accept Murphy’s invitation.
Today, Scott toured the St. Lucie Lock to view the algal mess for himself, but he ignored some 300 demonstrators who chanted “Save our river,” looking at the water and then leaving without acknowleging them.
On Tuesday, Scott announced a $40 million budget proposal to speed up completion of the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project. The project will clean diverted water from Lake Okeechobee and stormwater runoff year-round.
The governor blamed the federal government for failing to meet its obligations in maintaining the federally operated Lake Okeechobee dike system and fulfilling its cost-share obligations to the State of Florida for environmental projects.
Scott said, “We’re here because the Corps is not maintaining the Lake Okeechobee dike system and they’re not fulfilling their financial commitment to Florida. Florida families are paying the price for federal inaction. Despite federal inaction, we are speeding up solutions because Florida’s families and the environment can’t wait any longer.
But the environmental groups today called the governor’s $40 million announcement a “Band-aid” that only treats the symptoms, not the causes, of the toxic outbreaks.
They said the proposed funding would only address a fraction of the contaminated runoff that is sliming Florida’s springs, rivers, lakes and bays, “killing wildlife, hurting property values and devastating tourism revenue.”


Martin County urges continued support for St. Lucie Estuary
August 21, 2013
As the crisis in our waterways worsens, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners is requesting all levels of government to work with Martin County in finding needed solutions.
"We have two stark options right now. We can either kill the Estuary or we can fix it. It's time to fix it," said Sarah Heard, Chair and District 4 Commissioner of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.
On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott, Senator Joe Negron and several other members of the Florida Legislature visited Martin County and announced a $40 million commitment to speed up completion of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area, already under construction in western Martin County.
"We applaud Governor Scott for taking the necessary action of requesting state funds for the C-44, a critical component of the Indian River Lagoon-South Project," said Chair Heard. "Upon completion, this project will provide relief to the ailing St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. We continue to urge all levels of government to support full funding of all phases of the C-44 and all components of the IRL-S Project. The IRL-S Project will substantially reduce the harmful impacts our waterways have endured."
Over the past two weeks, Martin County has hosted officials from all levels of government including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Congressman Patrick Murphy, Governor Rick Scott and Senator Joe Negron, as well as representatives from various government agencies. Awareness of the need to solve the crisis in our waterways is growing, and reaching a national audience. The Martin County Board of County Commissioners greatly appreciates the commitment of our federal and state partners and urges their ongoing assistance.
Tomorrow Martin County will host the first meeting of the Florida Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, chaired by Senator Joe Negron, Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and a member of the Martin County Legislative Delegation. Chair Heard will be speaking at the Senate Hearing, and her written comments regarding solutions can be read here: More information on the Senate Select Committee can be found here:
Martin County is a long-time leader and proud partner in Everglades restoration. Martin County citizens have taxed themselves eight of the past ten years, generating $75 million to buy land to implement the IRL- S Project. We have acquired 45,000 acres for IRL-S projects that will restore upland and wetland ecosystems. Since 2000, Martin County has invested over $50 million for water quality improvement in 25 stormwater projects covering over 6,000 acres. We have restored 28 acres of oyster habitat in the St. Lucie River. We have also adopted a strong fertilizer ordinance.
The County's strong commitment to the environment is believed to be unprecedented by a local community, and is part of what makes Martin County such a special place so worthy of protecting.
"We are so proud of our residents for "speaking up" for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon," said Chair Heard. "Please continue your efforts to save our river."
How to Speak Up for the St. Lucie
Martin County has initiated the Speak Up for the St. Lucie campaign. To get involved, residents can go to under Hot Topics/Speak Up for the St. Lucie. Here they will find sample letters, updated news, photos and other resources. The "Speak Up for the St. Lucie" campaign on Facebook continues to grow, with over 2,500 "likes": .


Next Martin County visit, Rick Scott should use the Bill Nelson approach
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
August 21, 2013
How is it Bill Nelson comes to Martin County with empty pockets and empty promises and gets a hero's welcome, but Gov. Rick Scott flies in with $40 million to help solve the polluted St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon (added to the $20 million from last year) and he virtually gets mooned by the local press?
Where are the "five tough questions" for Bill Nelson and Congress ?
How about U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's five questions? When is he going to start pushing for money in the House?
Only Scott gets questions, apparently. And by the way, they ranged from Why not consider legal action over the Lake Okeechobee releases, like suing the Army Corps for violating the federal Clean Water Act? to Would you commit to decline future sugar donations?
In the battle to fight toxic pollution in the estuary and lagoon -- a vast economic engine in Martin County -- Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers has chosen its friends and foes. And fie-fi-foe-fum, Rick Scott, guess where you fell in the pecking order? Sorry, fella.
Tuesday morning The Stuart News passed out "Stop Killing Our Lagoon" signs and its editorial staff posed for a photo holding them up in the newsroom. There was no "Thanks for the money, Guv." There was, in capital letters, "FIVE QUESTIONS OUR GOVERNOR MUST ANSWER" on the front page. OK, that's good. Questions are good. But why only for Rick Scott ?
I would link the story so you can see, but the newspaper has a pay wall up. Unless you subscribe, you don't have access to the online edition.
Some folks in Tallahassee who did see the story and follow the governor's travails at the St. Lucie lock Tuesday advised Scott, "Just take the money back, they're ingrates." Lucky for Martin, the governor is neither petty nor vindictive. Say what you want about Scott, he is nothing if not focused, and right now he's focused on water discharges and toxins in Martin County and finding money for the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project.
So, I have to wonder, is it wise for the press to sic the dogs on the one guy who is extending the county a helping hand? God knows, nobody in Washington is. How wise is it to keep on mining readers' emotions with fist-bump "gotchas" when you have a chance to help the estuary? Mean signs waving in his face aren't an incentive for Scott to bust his gut on Martin's account. As I said, he's not a petty man. But human nature being what it is, it's easier to do nice things for the people who like you.
The announcement of the $40 million for Martin County was initially posted in a letter to Brig. Gen. Donald E. Jackson, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division. It came Monday, a day before Scott's tour of the lock. What it said is that "inaction" by the federal government to maintain the Herbert Hoover dike system around Lake Okeechobee has resulted in a need to relieve stress on the system through water releases. It was strong enough to get Jackson's attention.
On Wednesday Scott issued a statement following the Corps of Engineers’ decision to significantly reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee into South Florida estuaries. According to the Corps, a 33 percent reduction of flow from Lake Okeechobee into the C-44 canal is effective immediately, and by week’s end, it will be further reduced up to approximately 57 percent. 
Said Scott, “Yesterday, I expressed my concern to Col. Dodd about how families in South Florida were being impacted by the Corps’ release of water from Lake Okeechobee into regional estuaries. Now the Corps has determined it can significantly reduce these flows without compromising the Lake Okeechobee Dike system.  While today is a good step forward, there’s much more to be done.
"Any amount of water from the lake that’s dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers impacts families in the area.  With more than $2.5 billion already invested, Florida families will continue to do their part in restoring area waterways, but we need the federal government to step up and fulfill their obligations.” 
Read the governor’s letter to the Army Corps here.
Newspaper aside, local officials in the Treasure Coast area expressed appreciation for the $40 million budget item, which still needs the Legislature's approval next session:
Chris Dzadovsky, St. Lucie County Commissioner, said, “It is encouraging that Governor Scott is taking an active role in the issues we face with the onslaught of filthy water being discharged into our waterways and killing local businesses our economy, and our environment.  More needs to be done, and intergovernmental (local, state, and federal)cooperation will be essential in producing solutions.”
Sarah Heard, chair and District 4 commissioner Martin County Board of County Commissioners, said, “We applaud Governor Scott for taking the necessary action of allocating state funds to the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area, a critical component of the Indian River Lagoon-South (IRL-S) Project. These funds will help speed up this project, which upon completion, will provide some relief to the ailing St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. However, we continue to urge all levels of government to support full funding of all phases of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area and all components of the IRL-S Project. The IRL-S Project will help reduce the harmful impacts our waterways have endured.” 
“The crisis in the St. Lucie estuary demands immediate solutions,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida executive director. “The natural water flow of the Everglades has been altered so severely that a single, rainy summer can cause devastating impacts to our coastal estuaries and native birds and wildlife. Governor Scott’s commitment of $40 million will bring needed restoration benefits to the estuary sooner.”
Sewall's Point Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch said, "Governor Rick Scott's recommendation to put forth $40 million, in 2014, toward completing Martin County's C-44, Storm Water Treatment Area, and Reservoir project, is a gift. It is a gift in that with the support of the Legislature it could become a reality; it is a gift in that the gesture recognizes the importance of this local watershed project by our governor; and it is a gift in that it creates discussion and education on change regarding the Lake Okeechobee discharges. I am very thankful."
So am I. Martin County is going to need every penny to complete the plan for IRL-S.


St. Johns Water District director says conservation is key - by Melissa Ross
August 21, 2013
It's a startling prediction — within about 20 years, the First Coast might have to start removing salt from seawater just to provide enough freshwater for residents. 
The other option could be to pump more water out of Florida’s aquifer.
These are issues being studied right now by the St. Johns River Water Management District, an area that makes up 18 counties in North and Central Florida.
Hans Tanzler III is executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
He says desalinization will be expensive for the First Coast. Pumping water out of Florida’s aquifer also comes with a cost, albeit a lesser one.
Groundwater costs about $2 per 1,000 gallons,  while fresh water made from seawater costs about $10 per 1,000 gallons.
“We need to be very focused on conservation,” says Tanzler.


The world's leading scientists outline hazards of unchecked climate change – Blog by Frances Beinecke
August 21, 2013
A leading body of scientists has offered an alarming view of what unchecked climate change could do to our communities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a draft report that seas could rise by as much as 3 feet by the end of this century if we don’t rein in dangerous carbon pollution.
Imagine what this could mean. Children born today might witness Miami becoming part of the Everglades, New Orleans sinking underwater, and parts of New York looking more like Venice.
This isn’t some disaster movie scenario. The Nobel-Prize-Winning IPCC includes the foremost experts in the field. If they say unchecked climate change could inundate our coasts, we should listen. We owe it to future generations.
The IPCC could fine-tune the wording of its draft before making its report public a few weeks from now in Stockholm. The central points, though, won’t change. After all, we’re already seeing the disruptive power of climate change today.
Rising seas are already backing up storm sewers in Miami Beach and flooding city streets at high tide. The storm surge from Sandy already devastated New York’s low-lying neighborhoods and infrastructure. Repairing the subway system alone will cost an estimated $5 billion; adapting it to handle future flooding will require billions more.
Many cities are trying to adjust to the changing climate. Boston’s Water and Sewer Commission, for instance, now factors sea level rise and storm intensity into infrastructure plans. These initiatives will help make us more resilient, but adaptation will not solve the problem.
We need a national push to confront climate change at its source: carbon pollution.
President Obama’s new climate action plan will help get us there. It calls for setting limits on carbon pollution from power plants—the largest source of global warming emissions in the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to create these standards, and it can begin right now to craft a program that will help all 50 states reduce dangerous pollution. NRDC’s experts outlined a similar approach, and we concluded it can cut carbon pollution 26 percent by 2020 and save people money on electricity bills. This represents real and far-reaching carbon reductions. 
Carbon standards are one of our most effective ways for addressing climate change. Yet some lawmakers still refuse to acknowledge the climate threat or the role people play in it.
The IPCC draft report has a clear message for these deniers: “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010. There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”
How confident are the scientists? There is 95 percent certainty that humans are causing climate change. That settles that.
It is time to leave behind the distractions of climate deniers and confront this crisis. American communities are already rising to the challenge, becoming better prepared and more resilient.  Now we must join together as a nation and reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change. This is how we can honor future generations and protect them from the worst impacts described by the IPCC.

Business owners had enough of Lake "O" water
August 20, 2013
FORT MYERS, FL--Look out over most places across the Caloosahatchee River and you'll still see the effects of the millions of gallons of fresh water from lake "O."
"Beautiful waters that we used to have that are pretty much non-existent anymore," said owner of Bay Breeze South Boat Rentals Joey Blanchard.
Business owners  we spoke with before, who make their living on the water, still say nothing is being done and have had enough.
"I actually have customers in my boat looking down at the water complaining," said  Blanchard.
In the past couple weeks, Paradise Boat Rentals in the Cape says customers are literally turning away and leaving after seeing the brown coffee like water. 
"They step back here, they see this water and they are like this is filthy swamp, I don't want to go out in this," said Collin Wellenreiter.
Tuesday, in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Governor Rick Scott says the fresh water release has killed fish and hurt the regional economy.
Scott also blamed the Corps of not maintaining the Lake "O" structure.
Now Governor Scott wants to commit $40 million dollars to help fix the problem and asked the Corps of Engineers to pitch in $1.6 billion.
"However the Governor wants to put that, whatever makes it sound the best that's fine but it is very simple, they need to stop opening the locks," said Wellenreiter.
The Army Corps of Engineers responded to Governor Scott's letter by saying it is disappointed in Scott, but will take the time to enhance their relationship.


Corps reduces water releases from Lake Okeechobee
August 20, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will reduce the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee as a result of falling lake levels, drier conditions and an improving precipitation forecast.
The new target flow from the lake to the Caloosahatchee Estuary is 6,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock (S-77). The new target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is 2,800 cfs, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (S-80) near Stuart. The new target flows will be effective at 5 p.m. today, and are a result of the lake's drop into the Intermediate Sub-Band as defined under the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS), the lake's water control plan. The current lake level is 15.74 feet.
Additionally, should the lake fall into the Low Sub-Band as defined by LORS (15.57 feet today), the Corps will further reduce the target flows to 4,000 cfs at Moore Haven and 1,800 cfs at St. Lucie. Water managers report this could happen within the next week, depending on precipitation.
"Lake levels have responded well to a combination of decreased inflows to the Lake, increased outflows, and relatively dry conditions," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. "The same water control plan that we used to increase water releases now calls for the Corps to decrease the discharges. There are still several months left in the wet season, so we will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments as necessary."
Since May 8, the day the Corps began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee, the discharges have totaled 900,000 acre-feet, and has resulted in a lake stage nearly two feet lower than if no releases had occurred.
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps' water management page at the Jacksonville District website:


The Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District issued a news release Tuesday afternoon,
responding to Gov. Rick Scott's letter released Monday evening.

In a statement, Jacksonville District Commander Col. Alan Dodd says he is "disappointed" in Scott's letter.
Army Corps statement
"The Corps is disappointed in Governor Scott's letter. However, we welcome the opportunity to better educate our partners and enhance our relationship. As we heard during the Governor's press conference today, he recognizes the dedicated efforts of the Corps of Engineers and acknowledges that we can only operate within the authorities given to us."
"Regarding Herbert Hoover Dike, the Corps is actively replacing or removing 32 water control structures around the lake, which currently present the greatest risk of dike failure. We have already installed 21.4 miles of cutoff wall in the dike between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade to reduce the risk of failure."
"In terms of funding for our other civil works projects, we receive funding through congressional authorization and appropriations and can't act outside of our given authority. Long-term solutions to reduce current constraints within the system requires a collaborative effort. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the state of Florida in our many shared endeavors."



Governor Scott has plenty to say but none of it face to face with Treasure Coast protestors – by Michael Williams
August 20, 2013
STUART, Fla. - Fenced out and frustrated. Hundreds of Treasure Coast residents--signs in hand and voices raised--could only shout and watch from a distance as Governor Rick Scott rolled past them in a motorcade to look at the St. Lucie Lock. It is his first trip to the Treasure Coast aimed at learning more about the toxic green algae that is a result, in part, of the huge discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
I asked Governor Scott if he would spend time to listen to the voices of the people outside the fence. He said, "I've been governor for a little over two years. I've focused on water issues the entire time."  But he never went out and shook hands or asked moms, business owners, or anyone else what was on their mind.
The Army Corp of Engineers showed Scott the lock gates--from which fouled lake water flows non-stop. Scott later told reporters, "The federal government has to stand up. We are paying our taxes. This is so unfair to Florida citizens. We pay our federal taxes. They need to show up and fund the projects they committed to fund."
The finger pointing is inevitable and environmentalists say red tape is slowing federal contributions to Everglades restoration. The aim is to eventually send more treated water from the lake into the Everglades (as nature designed it), rather than emptying it to the east and west.
Eric Eikenberg is CEO of the Everglades Foundation. He told me, "The governor has done a lot so far. The $880 million water quality plan was a step. That is leadership he demonstrated. But this is not just one issue. We are entering the next phase of restoration and Governor Scott needs to lead us on that."
Environmentalists and residents are demanding the leadership from Scott and some argue he could push harder with Republicans on Capitol Hill.  He is pledging $40 million to speed the building of a reservoir to divert future water runoff. But that project is still years from completion and local leaders are hoping to find alternate ways to divert runoff before then.
The debate on how best to meet that goal never ends. In the middle of a growing economic and environmental crisis Scott --indeed every Florida political leader- is being judged on how they lead the charge.


Gov. Scott in Martin County: 'Federal government has to step up' on Lake O releases
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
August 20, 2013
MARTIN COUNTY -- Gov. Rick Scott  put the blame for discharges from Lake Okeechobee squarely on the federal government Tuesday afternoon minutes after a tour of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam.
"The federal government has to step up" and start funding water quality projects, Scott told reporters after a tour of the lock and dam with state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and several officials from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Scroll down for Scott's responses to TCPalm questions.
Scott saw water tumbling through the dam at a rate of nearly 3 billion gallons a day, nearly two-thirds of it coming from Lake Okeechobee, as well as about 500 people protesting the discharges, many carrying signs and chanting, "Save our river."
In a Monday letter to Brig. Gen. Donald E. Jackson of the Army Corps of Engineers, Scott criticized the corps for not properly funding efforts to shore up the ailing Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.
Col. Alan M. Dodd, commander of the corps district that includes Florida, said he was disappointed in Scott's letter.
"I'm kind of disappointed. We thought we had a very strong partnership with the state. And obviously, that perception was one-sided," Dodd said before Tuesday's tour with Scott. "The state's an important partner to us in everything we're doing. But we feel that we need to have more discussions about the actual facts on all the projects in the works that we're doing so they understand better the complexity and how much the federal government is doing for them."
As protesters continued to chant outside a visitor center at the lock and dam, Scott said, "The corps can't make things happen if they're not funded" by the federal government.
In what are supposed to be 50-50 cost shares, Scott said, the federal government has put forward $989 million for South Florida water quality project while state taxpayers have contributed $2.5 billion.
Scott reiterated that he would push the state Legislature for an extra $40 million to complete one such project, the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area, which is designed to for strip dirty chemicals out of freshwater before it reaches the St. Lucie Estuary.
The project, estimated to cost between $750 million and $1 billion, is supposed to be a 50-50 collaboration between the state and the Corps. Scott said the $40 million, coupled with $20 million already allocated by the Legislature, will be used to build the stormwater treatment portion of the project "within 18 months" while the Corps builds the reservoir.
In the short-term, both Scott and Negron said the state and the South Florida Water Management District need to continue to work with landowners willing to store excess water on their land around the lake rather than have it discharged to the estuaries.
Negron said he'd like to see the discharges reduced by 50 percent with what's called a "dispersed water management program" he said would keep the Treasure Coast's Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee Estuary on the west coast from being "the septic system for South Florida."
Since the discharges began May 8, more than 67.1 billion gallons of Lake O water has poured into the estuary, plus another 56.3 billion gallons from runoff into the C-44 Canal. Over the weekend, the amount of nitrogen entering the estuary from Lake O topped 1 million pounds.
The nutrient-laden freshwater has wreaked havoc on the estuary, which is naturally a combination of fresh and salt water. Virtually all the oysters in the estuary have died, sea grasses are threatened and people have been advised not to come in contact with the water because of toxic algae blooms and high levels of bacteria.
Although loud and boisterous (one protester yelled, "Take a swim, governor" during the tour of the spillway), the crowd remained orderly.
"It's 500 passionate people who are extremely well-behaved," said Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder. "They were no problem for law enforcement."
Scott never spoke to the crowd. He arrived in a car with darkly tinted windows that drove into the facility, leaving protesters behind a locked chain-link fence. To meet with members of the media in a nearby visitors center after the tour, he was driven to a fenced-in parking lot and entered through a back door as the protesters surged at the front door.
Rumors circulated through the crowd that the corps had lessened the flow of water through the spillway during Scott's tour. John Campbell, a spokesman for the corps, said there had been "no changes in the flow rate for the event," but added the flow typically fluctuates throughout the day because of tides and other factors.
Negron said he, Scott and Herschel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, went to downtown Stuart before heading to the lock. There, the three walked along the Riverwalk and spoke with employees of the Mulligan's restaurant on West Osceola Street.
Can't view the videos ?
* Gov. Scott answers questions during visit to Martin County.
* Colonel Alan M. Dodd talks to TCPalm before Gov. Scott's visit.
Scott spent 12 minutes talking to the media after his tour of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Tuesday. About five minutes of that session was spent answering reporters' questions.
Here is a look at how he answered the questions Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers sent him in advance Monday. Scripps and its WPTV news partner asked him the questions Tuesday.
Q: The state previously has sued the Army Corps of Engineers, and last week you announced a lawsuit against Georgia over Apalachicola Bay water issues. Why not consider legal action over the Lake Okeechobee releases, like suing the Army Corps for violating the federal Clean Water Act ?
A: Right now, the federal government needs to stand up and do their job. What they need to do right now is fund the project, fund the Corps, the Corps will do their job if they have the money.
Q: You previously said this is an issue up to federal decision makers, but now you're here visiting and offering suggestions. What changed ?
Scott did not allow time for reporters to ask this question. He did answer a different, but somewhat related one below:
Q: You cannot help but hear the angry voices outside. They say it took months for you to show up here. Today the optics are really bad. You go behind a barbed wire fence, have not sat and listened the people out there and their voices. We're in a cramped media room. Are you now going to go spend time to listen the voices of the people you represent ?
A: Gosh. Ive been governor now for a little over two years, two and a half years. I focused on water issues the entire time. I have great partners here that are focused on water issues in the state. What we did with the Everglades was historic. The funding we have for the Everglades is historic. The relationship we built by working with the Army Corps of Engineers, (Department of) Justice, (Environmental Protection Agency), (Department of) Interior, the environmentalists and the agriculture community is historic. I'm going to continue to do that. I've been working on this project since the problem started and I'm going to continue to work on it.
I've worked very hard to ensure we get the right thing to happen. Today, we're announcing that we're going to make sure there's another $40 million in this budget to deal with this issue as quickly as we can.
Q: What is the best short-term solution to improve the quality of the Indian River Lagoon water ?
A: Here's what the water management district is doing already. They're looking at where they can look with landowners to store water. They're doing that as quickly as they can. On top of that, there is going to be some hearings next week that Sen. Negron is holding to look at any other options we have. But today, what we're going to do, is make sure we have the funding for C-44, the storm treatment area, to make sure that we have that and we get that finished in the next 18 months.
Q: The state has an option to buy 107,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land to make way for a flow-way south. Will you commit to purchasing any of it ? Or do you think it could have a negative impact on Florida's economy to buy the land ?
A: I'm going to continue to work with the water management districts to make sure that we spend the money as wise as we can. We want to make sure that Florida taxpayers' money is spent in a manner that's going to make sure that we deal with the water issues the right way. We don't have unlimited dollars, and we're going to make sure we're going to spend the money the right way.
Q: Like many Florida politicians, you have accepted substantial campaign money from sugar industry interests. Would you commit to decline future sugar donations ? If not, how would you argue you are taking an objective look at this issue ?
A: Look, what I'm focused on is today, we're gonna make sure we do the right thing for this community. We're going to put the additional $40 million in to deal with the storm treatment area. Today, every one of us needs to call the federal government and say, 'do your job. Fund these projects. Allow the Corps of Engineers the funding so they can do the right thing.'
Social media from Gov. Rick Scott's visit
Can't view our special social media report ?  Click here:
Here are the five questions Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers sent the governor in advance Monday and asked him Tuesday:
Question 1: The state previously has sued the Army Corps of Engineers, and last week you announced a lawsuit against Georgia over Apalachicola Bay water issues. Why not consider legal action over the Lake Okeechobee releases, like suing the Army Corps for violating the federal Clean Water Act?
Question 2: You previously said this is an issue up to federal decision makers, but now you're here visiting and offering suggestions. What changed ?
Question 3: What is the best short-term solution to improve the quality of the Indian River Lagoon water ?
Question 4: The state has an option to buy 107,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land to make way for a flow-way south. Will you commit to purchasing any of it? Or do you think it could have a negative impact on Florida's economy to buy the land ?
Question 5: Like many Florida politicians, you have accepted substantial campaign money from sugar industry interests. Would you commit to decline future sugar donations ? If not, how would you argue you are taking an objective look at this issue ?
Staff writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.


Residents want focus on SWFL runoff impact - by Jim Spiewak
August 20, 2013
SANIBEL ISLAND, FL - Residents and visitors of Sanibel Island want to know when they will get relief from the horrors of the Lake Okeechobee runoff.
Record levels of water continue to pump into our waterways—Southwest Florida gets about 75 percent of the fresh water released. The east coast gets 25 percent.
As Gov. Rick Scott tours the St. Lucie River today, he says he will address the concerns of both coasts, but not everyone here in Southwest Florida feels he is focusing his energy in the right direction.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it has to release the water to save the Herbert Hoover Dike from breaking and flooding inland communities.
For the last eight years, the crystal blue waters off Sanibel Island is where New York resident Cindy McKinney has escaped from the everyday grind of life.
"This is absolute paradise, and I love coming here, and I'm not sure… if this doesn't get fixed, we would have to think twice about coming back again," she explains.
The exact thing the people of Sanibel hope they never hear is becoming a familiar tune.
"Just the fact that we were able to book as late as we did to even get a place here… it used to be that you had to book a year in advance or you couldn't get back on the island," said McKinney.
The city's mayor has been to Tallahassee, called a special meeting for Wednesday and will testify in front of a senate committee on the economic impacts—proof that Sanibel is feeling the impact.
But residents want to see more.
"More has to be focused on this side of the state, with 25 percent going to the east coast, certainly something has to be done with the dike around Lake O," explains Sanibel resident Norm Berger.
Residents aren't just blaming local leaders; they are also blaming themselves for not being vocal enough.
"More has to be done to project the impact here and certainly the water quality as well," said Berger.
Scott is expected to discuss the impacts felt by both sides of the state. The impact in Southwest Florida should be loud and clear.
"The commercials I saw that compare this to the Jersey Shore, and they're right: I could see better in the Jersey Shore. We were just in Maryland a month ago, and the water is cleaner up there, and that's right on the Atlantic. You just don't to see this down here," said McKinney.
Support for this side of the state is minimal from U.S. senators.
Senator Bill Nelson has only referred to the issue as a Florida problem, and Senator Rubio has not weighed in at all.
Closer to home, Congressman Trey Radel said he supports funding the reservoir project in LaBelle, but said these things take time.

Sanibel Mayor to address Senate Select Committee
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander
August 20, 2013
After conducting a hastily called special meeting of the Sanibel City Council on Wednesday to discuss the city's efforts regarding this summer's continuous damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane will provide testimony Thursday on the issue before the Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin in Stuart.
The committee is comprised of eight members chosen by Senate President Don Gaetz, including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Southwest Florida.
Mayor Ruane will testify regarding the significant, detrimental and economic impacts of the high flow regulatory discharges on Sanibel Island and the coastal waters of Lee County; the urgent need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to consider all short- and long-term storage options; the necessity of securing federal funding for the C-43 West Basin Reservoir Project and other long-term solutions; and the importance of immediate ecological monitoring to determine the full impacts on the Caloosahatchee estuary.
"Our city's top priority must be to move the state and federal governments into fully implementing the long-term solutions to the Lake Okeechobee releases," said Ruane. "If the past years of rhetoric and debate do not quickly move these capital projects into implementation, we will have squandered our economy and the jobs and property values of every person in Southwest Florida."
Additionally, Ruane will address the tremendous economic impact of the releases on the area's businesses, residents and tourist destinations.
The workshop runs from 1 to 9 p.m. and "will explore short-term solutions or alternatives to reduce or eliminate current releases from Lake Okeechobee," according to the agenda.


Scott wants feds to spend $1.6 billion on Glades projects, including Hoover dike
Orlando Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
August 20, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott, a frequent critic of out-of-control federal spending, implored the Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday to pony up more money to shore up the Hoover dike system along Lake Okeechobee and help clean up Florida waterways.
After stressing fiscal restraint in his first year in office, Scott found his voice on environmental causes and guided state money into Everglades restoration while negotiating land deals to clear up litigation and clean up the water. Along the way, he has goaded federal officials to upgrade the Hoover dike and pay their share of other water projects.
On Tuesday, Scott complained about the Corps’ decision to open the floodgates at the Hoover dam, which has dumped millions of gallons of polluted water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. That led to fish kills “and will undoubtedly impact the regional economy,” he told Corps officials in a letter.
Scott urged the Corps to enhance the dike system and spend $1.6 billion on South Florida environmental projects -- “which you owe the state,” a refewrence to the nearly 10-year-old agreement to split restoration costs equally between Florida and the feds. He said it should come in the form of bloc grants so the state and local partners can design and build those projects.
Scott said the state already has invested more than $2.5 billion in South Florida projects and the feds only about $989 million. “Too often, Florida families have footed the bill for the federal portion of these projects,” he wrote.
The governor also announced a $40-million state commitment to speed up completion of the C-44 Storm Water Treatment Area project. The project will clean diverted water from Lake Okeechobee and storm water runoff year-round.
Some federal officials and members of Congress have acknowledged that Uncle Sam has been slow to pay its share of the 50-50 split for Everglades restoration, largely because of controversies that held up passage of a Water Resources Development Act that authorizes spending on projects around the country.
Scott’s letter reflected a growing impatience with the federal response and an attempt by the governor to look after the state’s interests even while attacking federal spending in general. It was sent the same day he toured a section of the St. Lucie River with state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Business owners had enough of Lake "O" water       Wink News
Fla. Gov. pledges money while criticizing feds          Kansas City Star
Gov. Scott tours Martin County in response to toxic water concerns            WPEC
Gov. Scott in Martin County: 'Federal government has to step up' on Lake O ...     TCPalm
Gov. blasts Army Corps         Fox 4
Gov. Scott set to tour part of St. Lucie River            San Francisco Chronicle
Gov. Scott will tour Lake O, blames Army Corps of Engineers        Wink News
Gov. Rick Scott Tours St. Lucie Estuary       WJNO
Scott pledges money while criticizing feds    First Coast News


Gov. Scott touring part of St. Lucie River to access impact of water release
Associated Press, – by Kyle Hightower
August 20, 2013
STUART, Florida — Gov. Rick Scott is committing $40 million to finishing construction on a storm water treatment project by the St. Lucie River.
The governor is making the announcement Tuesday during a tour of the river.
Scott says the $40 million investment from Florida will speed up the completion date of the project which he says will protect the water quality in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
He says the dumping of polluted water there has led to fish kills and toxic water.
Scott says the federal Army Corps of Engineers hasn't done its part in maintaining the Lake Okeechobee dike system.
Business owners had enough of Lake "O" water       Wink News
Fla. Gov. pledges money while criticizing feds          Kansas City Star
Gov. Scott tours Martin County in response to toxic water concerns            WPEC
Gov. Scott in Martin County: 'Federal government has to step up' on Lake O ...     TCPalm
Gov. blasts Army Corps         Fox 4
Gov. Scott set to tour part of St. Lucie River            San Francisco Chronicle
Gov. Scott will tour Lake O, blames Army Corps of Engineers        Wink News
Gov. Rick Scott Tours St. Lucie Estuary       WJNO
Scott pledges money while criticizing feds    First Coast News


Dirty water ? – Public Issues
August 19, 2013
Every time I turn on the TV news, I see reports of people complaining about the "dirty water" from Lake Okeechobee polluting the estuaries. When are the TV newscasters going to report the real problem of the water going INTO Lake Okeechobee. They can't clean up the lake unless they do something to slow the flow of the water going into it and clean it up before it goes into the lake. We need stormwater treatment areas north of Lake Okeechobee. The SFWMD bought 16,000 acres in Glades County years ago, allegedly for water storage and treatment. Not a single drop of water is being stored there. That land is leased out for cattle ranching instead. A lot of taxpayer money was spent on this land. It is about time they started using it for water storage. The state doesn't need to buy more land for water storage. They need to use the land they already bought.
Also, why are they still allowing backpumping into Lake Okeechobee on the south end of the lake? The SFWMD allowed backpumping in June, even though the lake was rising fast and they were letting water out to tide to keep it from going up even faster. When are they going to stop dumping the nitrogen rich water from the cane fields back into the lake?


John L. Hundley named Chairman of the Board of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida - Press Release
August 19, 2013
BELLE GLADE, Fla., Aug. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- John L. Hundley was named chairman of the board of directors of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative yesterday following the full retirement of George H. Wedgworth, the founding president and chairman for more than a half century.
"Serving as Chairman of the Board and President for more than 50 years has been my life's work and extremely rewarding," said Wedgworth. He noted that during his tenure, the Cooperative's processing facility has grown from a 5,000 ton grinding capacity per day to the state-of-the-art sugarcane processor of 26,000 tons per day. Additionally under his leadership the Cooperative became vertically integrated with its refining partner Florida Crystals Corporation which now own and operate the world's largest cane sugar refining company, ASR Group. Wedgworth added, "I'm very comfortable with the transition and am pleased to be able to hand over the helm to my good friend, colleague and fellow grower-member John Hundley."
Hundley was elected to the Cooperative Board in 1986 and has served on the executive committee for 16 years. He is president of Hundley Farms, Inc. which grows sugarcane, sweet corn, rice, tomatoes, squash, cotton, peanuts, soybeans and assorted winter produce in the Everglades Agricultural Area, Bainbridge GA and scattered farms in central and north Florida. A native of Pahokee, Hundley grew his father's farming operation that he operated from 1965-1969. In 1969, he and his wife Patsy formed Hundley Farms, Inc. that they have turned into a multi-generational operation with their daughter Krista and son-in-law Eric Hopkins and son John Scott Hundley.
Hundley sits on the Board of the Florida Sugar and Molasses Exchange, Pioneer Growers and served on the board of Farm Credit of South Florida for 15 years. He was also appointed to the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board serving from 1978-1983. During his tenure on the District Board, the Board served as the Board of the Keys Aqueduct Authority and spearheaded the efforts to revamp the Authority to assure residents of the Keys a steady source of clean drinking water.
In accepting his new role as chairman Hundley said, "I'm honored to be selected by my fellow board members to carry on the strong role the Cooperative plays in assuring a vital agricultural community in the Glades. I look forward to working with the Board, grower-members and staff to continue to grow the business for the benefit of all."
"Today marks a historic day in the history of the Cooperative," said Antonio L. Contreras, CEO and president of the Cooperative. "George's vision, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit are the hallmark of the Cooperative. His mission will continue to be carried out by the dedicated Board, staff and grower-members."
The Belle Glade based Cooperative is comprised of 46 grower-members who produce sugarcane on 70,000 acres producing 3.2 million tons of sugarcane and 350,000 tons of raw sugar. The Cooperative employs 540 people during the height of the harvest season. Along with Florida Crystals Corporation the Cooperative owns ASR Group, the world's largest sugar refining company with an annual production capacity of more than 6 million tons of sugar. The company produces a full line of consumer, industrial, and food service products. In the European Union, the company owns and operates sugar refineries in London, England and Lisbon, Portugal. Across North America, ASR Group owns and operates six refineries located in New York, California, Maryland, Louisiana, Canada and Mexico. The company's brand portfolio includes the leading brands Tate & Lyle®, Lyle's Golden Syrup®, Sidul®, Sores®, Domino®, C&H® and Redpath®.
SOURCE Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida


Politicians must aid imperiled lagoon
Florida Today – by Bob Stover, Executive Editor
August 19, 2013
Elected officials need to take lead in helping to solve estuary's problems
Something can die so slowly we don’t really notice until it’s too late to save it, and we regret it afterward.
It’s also possible something can die right in front of our eyes and we don’t seem to care.
I suspect too many of us have fallen into one or the other of those two modes when it comes to the pollution that is killing the Indian River Lagoon.
There are red flags everywhere, many of them documented by Jim Waymer, FLORIDA TODAY’s environmental reporter. The decline is reflected in dying sea grass and sick and dying wildlife. This is almost certainly related to the presence of too much nitrogen and phosphorus, which can result from freshwater runoff that washes fertilizer and septic-tank discharge into the lagoon.
Some of Jim’s work has been revelatory, but he’s not alone in publicizing what’s going happening. Go online and search for “Indian River Lagoon pollution.” I did Friday, and the first 10 search results included:
• The St. Johns River Water Management calling it an “estuary in distress.”
• A Tampa Bay Times article about the “Indian River lagoon mystery ailment killing dolphins, manatees, pelicans.”
• The Ocean Research and Conservation Association saying, “We have arrived at the tipping point for the Indian River Lagoon.”
• An economist saying, “Allowing pollution of Indian River Lagoon bad business for Florida.”
On Aug. 8, the New York Times printed an article focusing on the problems in the northern part of the lagoon, which includes Brevard County. The article prompted a letter from Richard Baker of Vero Beach, president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society, under the headline “A Toxic Florida Lagoon.” It said the situation in the southern counties — Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin — is “worse” than in the northern region.
It’s not like there hasn’t been any warning about all this. Online you can still find a link to a 2005 article by an earlier president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society in which he chronicled the problems in the southern portion of the lagoon. His introductory sentence said simply:
 “Our Indian River Lagoon is dying.”
With eight years of deterioration since he wrote that, we are experiencing the same problems in the north reaches of the lagoon. The lagoon has lost more than 74 square miles of sea grass since 2009.
So why do we let this continue in slow motion, moving from south to north, from populated areas to less populated areas, from sea grass to fish and water fowl, and without a major initiative to correct it?
Our local, state and federal elected leaders would be the logical ones to take on this issue and marshal resources to protect this treasure. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of them inspired to take the lead to build the coalitions and risk-taking steps that are required.
There certainly is a lack of regional leadership to pull them together. And it may be they all know it would take money and regulation to correct the problem, and these days few are brave enough to venture down paths that require either of those.
The truth is that if you are an elected local, state or federal official and your jurisdiction touches the Indian River Lagoon, then you should be responsible for helping solve this problem — and soon. Kicking it up the ladder or down the road isn’t acceptable.
That’s my view about who should step up. Tell me what you think.


Saving the Everglades
Miami Herald - Editorial
August 19, 2013
OUR OPINION: Vital clean-up plan one step closer to reality
Some thorny issues and financial hurdles remain to be worked out, but, in a heartening move, a plan to clean up and redirect Lake Okeechobee spillover southward into the Everglades got a real boost this month from the South Florida Water Management District.
The board approved the ambitious, complex project on Aug. 15, giving supporters hope that it can meet a crucial deadline to present the joint state-federal plan to Congress this year for funding.
The $1.8 billion Central Everglades proposal has the water management district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers splitting the costs. Expensive? Yes. But also necessary if two vital estuaries — the St. Lucie River on the East Coast and the Caloosahatchee River on the West Coast — are to be saved, and parched portions of the Everglades are ever to be slaked.
The summer rains have come in record amounts this season. That means the Corps must release water from the lake to keep it from flooding during hurricanes and from breaching the rickety Herbert Hoover Dike.
But rather than send the water south in a historic flow into the Everglades, the Corps must divert the water east and west into the two river systems. Why ? Because the lake’s water is so badly polluted by runoff from agriculture and urban sprawl.
This torrent of dirty water kills shellfish beds and sea grass nurseries off both coasts. This year, it has dirtied the St. Lucie to the point that residents are warned to stay out of the water, period. The Central Everglades plan would make such intrusions less likely. The plan would also clean up the phosphorous-laden water before sending it southward.
It’s a good plan that should be put to work as soon as realistically possible. But first, some kinks must be worked out, along with the assurance of adequate funding.
The water management district worries that it might violate federal clean-water standards if the lake flow isn’t adequately cleansed and wants federal assurance that it will cooperate with the state rather than punish it if that happens. But, in turn, the district must make every effort to ensure that the water can be cleaned up well enough to justify sending it into the Glades.
The district also wants — rightly — guarantees that the feds will keep their part of the fund-matching bargain. The state has already spent $2 billion on Everglades restoration and another $880 million on the Everglades water-cleanup plan. While the state was spending all that money in the 2000s, federal support stalled. Commendably, President Obama reopened the money pipeline in his first term.
To be fair, the federal government lately has spent a lot of money on another part of the Everglades system — repairing the creaky Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee to prevent flooding during hurricanes. The dike was built after two storms in the 1920s sent water surging out of the lake, killing thousands of people. This year the Corps finished a $220-million overhaul of the dike’s weakest section, but much more work is needed. The dike is still one of the agency’s most vulnerable levees. Shoring it up remains a Corps priority.
The Everglades is a unique ecosystem badly damaged and infringed upon by generations of Floridians, and the Corps, too.
So using public money to repair as much man-made damage as possible to restore the Everglades is in all our interests. The water management district and federal authorities must do everything possible to make the Central Everglades plan a reality this year.


Land-sales fight could be brewing - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
August 18, 2013
TALLAHASSEE | Florida potentially has $70 million to spend on conservation land purchases this year.
However, $50 million of that funding is contingent on the sale of "surplus" state land bought under previous conservation initiatives. In the coming week, the state Department of Environmental Protection is expected to unveil a surplus-lands list that may eventually generate some funding, but is equally likely to generate controversy.
"We're going to wait to see the list before we make any judgment," said Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Audubon of Florida. "We want to wait to see the sausage before we evaluate the cook."
Audubon and other environmental groups have lamented the decline of Florida's conservation land-buying efforts, which once totaled $300 million or more annually. But an economic recession coupled with a more politically conservative state leadership sharply curtailed the current Florida Forever land-buying program.
Heading into the 2013 legislative session, the environmental groups reached an agreement with Gov. Rick Scott to revive Florida Forever. In exchange for Scott supporting the use of general revenue for the program, the environmental groups agreed that $50 million could be raised through the sale of surplus lands.
The new state budget, which took effect July 1, sets out $20 million for land purchases along with $50 million from potential surplus land sales.
Now, the DEP is in the process of refining the criteria for identifying surplus lands and then developing the list — which should make its debut sometime before a hearing that is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Tallahassee.
The DEP has stressed that the list is just another preliminary step in the process and that lands will not be declared surplus without further hearings and review. Ultimately, it would be up to Scott and the state Cabinet to declare property as surplus and authorize its sale.
Although Draper said he is "comfortable" with the evaluation process, he has some concerns.
First, he said the Legislature limited the use of money generated from the surplus lands sales to certain types of conservation projects, including purchasing buffer land for military bases in the state.
Draper also said it is uncertain how the criteria the DEP is using to evaluate potential surplus lands will impact the process. For instance, he said an emphasis on protecting lands deemed valuable for water quality may lower the evaluation for lands more involved with wildlife habitat protection.
"We're not sure that the weighting is going to turn out in way to favor the most environmentally sensitive lands," Draper said.
Draper said ultimately the DEP surplus lands list may run into the same opposition that was faced by Florida's water management districts, which also tried to identify surplus lands under the governor's directive.
"People really turned out in terms of comments and participation to object to a lot of projects that were put on the lists," Draper said. "So the districts had to really narrow their lists."
Draper said he wasn't surprised.
"Any time the state talks about surplusing some of these lands somebody shows up and says, ‘Hey, I hunt there or that's where I watch birds,'" Draper said. "Somebody is out there who cares about the land. They can't assume that people are just going to go along with this. There is going to be pushback from the public."
In the long term, Audubon and other environmental groups are advancing a constitutional initiative — slated for the 2014 ballot — that would require the state to set aside some $100 million a year for conservation land protection.
Draper said the groups have collected more than 150,000 voter signatures out of the nearly 700,000 that will be required to put the measure on the general election ballot. Facing a Feb. 1 signature deadline, Draper said the groups recently decided to raise money and hire professional signature gatherers in order to meet the deadline.
Dean Cannon. The former House speaker from Winter Park enjoyed a successful launch of his lobbying career, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel. Cannon's firm, Capitol Insight, earned some $1.55 million in lobbying fees during the first six months of 2013, which covers the annual legislative session. Although Cannon is prohibited from lobbying the Legislature for two years, other members of his firm can lobby lawmakers, while Cannon is free to lobby the executive branch. The firm's clients include AT&T, The Villages and Walt Disney World. State ethics laws were recently changed to extend the two-year ban to executive branch lobbying by future lawmakers.
Mitch Needelman. The former Republican state representative from Melbourne was arrested Thursday on charges of bribery and bid tampering, stemming from a contract that Needelman signed as the Brevard County clerk of courts, a position he won after he left in the Legislature in 2008.
"This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing — fighting for the future of Apalachicola," Gov. Rick Scott said in announcing Florida will sue the state of Georgia, alleging Florida's northern neighbor's unrestricted use of water has harmed the Apalachicola community and its oyster industry.


Time for Florida to stop running on idle
Sun Sentinel – by Stephen Goldstein, Columnist
August 18, 2013
If South Florida were a car, I'd say it was a clunker stuck in neutral.
Year after year, I watch as it continues to be the land of poor choices and missed opportunities: Never have so many possessed so little imagination — or worse.
For example, in Broward, I-595 and its feeder roads are a crime against nature. If there is a God, surely one day she'll make us pay for having dumped such an obscene amount of concrete in one place for the sole purpose of getting ever-more vehicles to architecturally-arrested housing developments, their only saving grace being that once inside you don't have to look at them. Oh, to be able to plow it all under and start over!
It's the same with what passes for our economy.
Our greatest marketing assets remain the sun, beach sand, and oranges. And we continue to delude ourselves into thinking they are all we'll really ever need. Beyond that, we are trapped in a boom-and-bust mentality of our own making: With the blessing (collusion?) of elected officials, developers overbuild, go bankrupt, and take the rest of the economy down with them.
Thats when talk of attracting new commercial sectors invariably occurs — but goes nowhere. At the slightest indication that the economy is improving, as told by real estate transactions, we're off again to capture the next boom. We judge the region's broad fiscal health by private developers' short-term success at making a quick buck.
Like every candidate for governor, Rick Scott promised us jobs, and he was supposed to be believable because of his vast business success. But he's failed to deliver. Barack Obama's stimulus dollars have created more jobs in Florida than Scott has.
The governor is so desperate for good news on the jobs front, any day I expect him to declare retirees over 65 "available for work," and so countable among the gainfully employed, precipitating a major drop in unemployment stats. When an unimpressive new call center opens, the governor treats it like earth-shattering news.
Economic development in Florida is a mirage. What Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California — "there isn't any there, there" — applies to us as well, unless you're a dreamer.
If I close my eyes, I see an opportunity so obviously staring us in the face, that's probably why everyone ignores it.
Travel with me in my imagination: South Florida becomes recognized as the leading national center for the study of aging and human development, a "laboratory of the future."It would be a natural fit for our senior population, a dynamo for economic growth, and a surefire way to enhance the quality of life of millions beyond our borders.
Can you already see how my narrative unfolds?
Numerous start-up laboratories move here to conduct pioneering stem-cell research to treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and a host of age-related conditions. Marketing firms that specialize in testing products and services for aging and aged populations come here in droves. Numerous nutritional institutes conduct studies that determine which foods and diets promote seniors' health. Cadres of architects and interior designers set the pace for the intelligent design of multi-generational living quarters, as well as public and private places serving older populations.
For example, to reduce the need for retrofitting, our building codes would require that all new construction have wide doors and hallways for wheelchairs, safety bars in bathtubs and showers, slip-resistant floors, and other safety and mobility features.
Researchers regularly conduct sociological and psychological studies, taking advantage of the rich racial and ethnic diversity of our population. Medical device manufacturers test new products here. Everywhere you turn, you are reminded of Florida's unique, new role.
But return to reality and our choice is clear: Stay stuck in a clunker or rebrand South Florida as a vibrant arena for the study of aging and human development.
We've gotten out of funks before; we can do it again. Florida has always been for dreamers with gumption. Marjory Stoneman Douglas saved the Everglades. Julia Tuttle convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad into South Florida and transformed it. Without the two of them, few of us would be living here.
Barbara Capitman saved the rundown art deco buildings of South Beach from the wrecker's ball, and they have become a one-of-a-kind tourist destination.
We snooze, we lose!


Up to voters to protect Florida's treasures - Editorial
August 18, 2013
For more than 20 years, the Florida Legislature viewed funding the state's model environmental lands protection program as every bit as important as providing sufficient money for public education, roads and other programs that Floridians rely upon daily.
There were no second thoughts. It had become part of Florida's heritage, thanks to Govs. Bob Martinez, Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush, who knew Florida's natural beauty and treasurers were the reason new residents and businesses flocked to the state. And they knew it would be self-defeating not to preserve sensitive land that protected drinking water supplies and enabled residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors.
But then the Great Recession hit, younger lawmakers who didn't properly value Florida's environment took office after others were term-limited, and Gov. Rick Scott, a relative newcomer to the state, was elected.
Environmental protection was put on the chopping block. Growth management laws were gutted. Funding for the state's model land preservation program — Florida Forever, previously known as Preservation 2000 — was cut more than 95 percent.
The downward spiral slowed last legislative session, when the Legislature authorized $75 million for Florida Forever at Scott's request. That was somewhat deceiving, because $50 million of that must come from the sale of state lands, but the governor does appear to be more concerned with protecting the state's natural riches.
Yet who knows what will happen next session? There are no longer guarantees that Florida's environment will be adequately safeguarded, and that should concern all residents, as well as business leaders, who know Florida's natural beauty underpins its appeal.
This is why voters need to enthusiastically back Florida's Water and Land Legacy Campaign — a drive to place a proposed amendment to Florida's constitution on the November 2014 ballot. If adopted, the amendment would, for the first time, guarantee a state source of funding for land preservation and other environmental programs in Florida.
The effort is spearheaded by some of the most distinguished environmental groups in Florida — including the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Nature Conservancy, Florida Wildlife Federation and 1000 Friends of Florida.
This is not some land grab or an attempt to dilute private property rights. Indeed, it protects landowners' rights, allowing the state to buy lands outright that should be protected.
The Water and Land Conservation Amendment would require no new taxes. Rather, it would mandate 33 percent of net revenues from the documentary tax paid on real estate transactions be used for conservation land purchases, trails, beaches, protecting drinking water sources, encouraging fish and wildlife programs, and paying debt service on bonds, among other efforts.
And just as important, the Legislature would be barred from diverting the funds for other purposes, as it has done with specific trust funds.
The amendment is expected to generate about $10 billion over its 20-year life. It would sunset in 2035.
But first things first: The Florida Supreme Court has to approve the ballot language — which shouldn't be a problem, in our view. The review is scheduled for Sept. 19.
Obtaining the number of required registered voters' signatures is the bigger hurdle, and that's where citizens can help. The campaign (florida needs 683,149 verified signatures to make the ballot — as of last week, the count stood at 119,305.
The statutory deadline is Feb. 1, 2014, in order to make the general election ballot that November, but the campaign isn't taking chances, shooting for Nov. 30 to be safe.
“This will be the most important vote on land conservation and the environment in our lifetime,” says Will Abberger, the campaign's chairman and the director of conservation finance for the Trust for Public Land.
“We need Floridians to sign the petition and send it in and contribute so we can get on the ballot.”
The Legislature in recent years hasn't shown the appreciation for Florida's environment that past Legislatures — Republican and Democrat — did. Voters have the chance to take matters into their own hands.
Signing the petition to gain a spot on the ballot — and pushing the proposed amendment to victory with at least 60 percent of the vote in November 2014 — would indeed leave a legacy for our children, grandchildren and future generations.


What we think: Fight for imperiled bay, but don't neglect springs
Orlando Sentinel
August 18, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott opened a new front this past week in Florida's long-running water war with Georgia and Alabama over the Apalachicola River system. Scott declared that he would go to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Georgia's "unchecked consumption" of water in the system, which has devastated the Apalachicola Bay fisheries — and the people who depend on them — downstream in Florida.
"We must fight for the people of this region," Scott said. "The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake."
Bravo. Although Scott's lawsuit won't bring quick relief, we're glad he's standing up for the region and its people. We only wish he would apply that same sense of urgency to another water emergency in Florida.
Many of Florida's iconic natural springs are dying, victims of pollution and excessive groundwater pumping. Their once crystal clear waters have become fouled with algae and weeds. The degradation in world-famous Silver Springs near Ocala has gotten the most attention, but Central Floridians have seen a decline closer to home in Wekiwa Springs.
And while the impact of their deterioration is not as concentrated as the environmental and economic damage in the Apalachicola Bay, studies have shown thousands of jobs and millions of dollars depend on healthy springs because of the tourists they attract. Springs also are vital sources of fresh water and the hubs of fragile ecosystems.
The last budget Scott signed included $10 million for springs restoration. But when Florida's water management districts drew up a plan earlier in the year for restoring springs, the bottom line came to $122 million.
Last week state Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, refiled a bill aimed at rescuing the most endangered springs. It would direct water management districts to identify the springs in decline in their regions, and develop five-year restoration plans for them.
Rep. Linda Stewart, another Orlando Democrat, sponsored the same bill in the House in the last legislative session. It went nowhere in either chamber. Legislative leaders figured it would be too expensive. But the price of inaction could be much higher.
According to the most recent estimates from state economists, lawmakers could have nearly $2 billion more to work with as they put together next year's budget. They need to make springs restoration a higher priority. A push in that direction from Scott could be decisive.
There are other steps the Scott administration could take to improve the health of springs that wouldn't cost money. It could start by dropping its efforts to help large water users more easily drain the state's aquifers and diminish the flow supporting springs.
While he's right to defend the Apalachicola Bay, the governor also needs to fight harder for springs.



agricultural and
consumer affairs

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam talks about the issues at hand
August 17, 2013
The News-Press Editorial Board had the opportunity to interview state agricultural and consumer affairs commissioner Adam Putnam this week.
We discussed citrus greening, water quality, consumer topics, and his thoughts on running for governor, which was limited to “I am campaigning for agricultural commissioner.” We also discussed his concerns about our dependence on natural gas.
Florida is quickly approaching total dependency on natural gas as its sole source of fuel for electricity. Currently 63.8 percent of electricity produced for FP&L, which supplies most of the power to Lee County homes and businesses, is through natural gas. It is our most abundant fuel source and one that cuts down on our reliance to fossil fuels. But the fuel is not produced, or stored here. It is piped here.
Should anything happen to the two FP&L pipelines currently bringing the gas (two new pipelines are planned) to the peninsula, Florida faces a catastrophe. It is the best source for fuel and currently cheap to purchase, but such a dependence on one source is reason for concern.
“It is not a good situation to be in,” said Putnam, whose department inherited the state energy office three years ago through a legislative mandate. He wants a diversified energy portfolio and rightly so.
Reliance on coal as a fuel source is quickly diminishing. Coal plants are shutting down throughout the country. Only 5 percent of FP&L electricity is produced through coal. The reliance on coal as a fuel source is higher with Seminole Electric Cooperative at 46 percent, 1 percent less than its supply for natural gas. Local electric co-op LCEC, which relies on Seminole as a power supplier, will switch completely to FP&L next year.
We agree with Putnam that now is the time to push for other energy sources. Nuclear power’s stake in the game is limited. There is only one active plant in Florida and FP&L relies on it for 20 percent of its power. The state remains committed to continued development of renewable energy sources like solar power. We have plenty of sunshine, so why not use it. We just have to figure out a way to control the cost of that sunshine.
As far as other alternative fuel sources, like biofuels, Putnam said Florida is concerned about the cost and ineffectiveness of such projects in an unstable market. A Southwest Florida plant, called FL Biofuels LCC, recently closed citing the high price of feedstock and unstable market conditions.
Putnam believes too much of Florida’s food crop is moving into fuels, like ethanol, where the benefits are low.
We also support his position that a new Florida law restricting ethanol in fuel is meaningless because a federal law already requires it. The difference is if stations choose to sell gas without ethanol they will not be penalized for it.
He also wants to hold people accountable for accepting state and federal grants focused on the development of alternative energy but not delivering on their promises. “It is a flagrant problem and we want to pursue it to the letter of the law,” Putnam said.
Another energy issue he mentioned was underfunding the solar power rebate program. “People only got 52 percent of the rebate,” he said.
Other topics we discussed:
Babcock Ranch
In an opinion piece to The News-Press, Putnam supported the preservation of more than “70,000 acres of valuable land in the heart of Southwest Florida.” He understands the importance of protecting its natural resources and supports the public-private partnership as a way of guaranteeing an optimistic future for the land, which stretches from the Gulf of Mexico over to Lake Okeechobee and through Charlotte and Lee counties.
Last Tuesday, he reiterated the importance of making sure the land remains a working ranch with cattle, and sustaining its significance to the environment. He has made it a priority to streamline the board, which manages the property. He was concerned about the great turnover on the board recently and supported legislation that passed this year, creating an advisory group of natural resource and business experts to protect the rights of the ranch’s surrounding communities. Lee officials voiced concerns about lack of representation on the board and wanted assurances that they would also be represented. The legislation included the selection of two members from Lee and Charlotte counties.
Among his ideas for the property and ones that we support, are expanding “primitive camping opportunities for youth groups, giving wounded veterans opportunities through Operation Outdoor freedom.”
Babcock is the largest public-private partnership ever attempted in the state. Putnam knows of the immense challenges facing such a large piece of land with so many operating parts, but we are encouraged that he is taking such a vested interest in the land to help preserve its existence.
To no one’s surprise, Putnam considers water quality the top issue facing Florida, especially the rising levels of Lake Okeechobee and the frequent water discharges into the Caloosahatchee, which impacts plants and wildlife. He knows the dikes or dams there are among the 10 worst in the country. “The Army Corps is skittish about holding water,” Putnam said. “When that thing tops 16 feet, they are scared to death.”
He knows the massive amounts of money — $600 million to fix portions of the dike are helping but are not nearly enough. Only 21 miles of a 140-mile project have been completed. He also knows that should it come off the top 10 list, funding would start to dry up, meaning there would be delays in fixing the rest of it or finding answers or developing new criteria for water releases.
The lake controls much of what happens to our water environment. Lake releases are choking the life out of our ecosystem and we must investigate new strategies for improving our water quality. Putnam seems to recognize this and we hope his agency will continue to be vigilant about working with other state and federal departments to insure the health of the lake and nearby estuaries.
He also wants the federal government to allow the state to regulate its own water quality. He knows the state has adopted one of the toughest numeric criteria measurement standards in the country and “I think Florida’s out to retain decision-making power,” he said. He does not want the EPA to single out Florida with certain provisions in the Clean Water Act and not make other states, like George and Alabama, accountable for maintaining the same water quality standards.
“Half of the EPA data on water quality in the country is Florida data and the DEP has been aggressive in handling water quality over time.”
When an estimated 1,200 miles of Florida waterways are impaired, it will be important for the state to maintain the strictest of controls on monitoring water quality through the latest standards. We also hope Georgia and Alabama adopt similar standards because their water flows into some of our critical waterways.
Consumer affairs
This department came under agriculture’s jurisdiction only three years ago and he wants to change its approach. “We are spending too much time chasing little league football programs and people ripping them off,” he said. “Let’s deregulate programs not ripping us off, like church dinners” and military groups.
He wants more emphasis placed on child as he says, the “explosion of in victimization” of child identification theft. Unknowing, the children ages 4 through 12 are the victims of such crimes, meaning that when they get older and try to get a credit card, their credit has been destroyed and will take years to have it restored.
Putnam also wants to eliminate the fee for registering on the do not call list. He is working with other agencies to crack down on the people who are issuing certificates to security guards without ever passing training courses. The illegal process has allowed for at least 30 people to receive licenses to carry guns without ever passing a course.
Putnam was in favor of opening more offices throughout the state, including one in Punta Gorda, for people to obtain concealed weapons permits. There was a spike in demand the last three years because of killing sprees across the nation. Where he wants the emphasis on issuing such permits is identifying mental health issues. Those with a history of mental health issues should not be given the right to carry guns. He is not for additional restrictions on the Second Amendment, but we do encourage him and other officials to continue the process, so guns do not end up in the hands of the mentally unstable.


Computer simulation shows flooding threat from Lake O dike failure
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
August 16, 2013
A breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike would almost certainly rank as a catastrophe — but the scope and scale of loss would vary widely depending on where and when it burst and how much water was in Lake Okeechobee.
If the worst did happen, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, regional emergency managers and local leaders hope they have taken steps to — at the very least — minimize the death toll.
“I would like to hope and pray that it’s not as much a life safety issue anymore,’’ said longtime Palm Beach County Administrator Robert Weisman.
After Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the protective levees surrounding New Orleans and killed some 1,800 people in 2005, South Florida emergency managers for the first time drew up mass evacuation plans for towns that suffered deadly flooding from Lake Okeechobee during hurricanes in 1926 and 1928. The Corps, meanwhile, says it has strengthened the dike’s most vulnerable 21-mile stretch.
But at high water levels, the dike remains a high-risk hazard for potentially devastating flooding. A major failure could send torrents through lakeside towns and muddy water to the suburban outskirts of Palm Beach County.
‘So many variables’
Corps spokesman John Campbell said it’s difficult to predict what might happen. “There are just so many variables,’’ he said. “A lake at 17 feet is going to be very different than a lake at 20 feet. Certainly, the higher the lake level, the more that would actually be felt.’’
A hurricane battering embankments or pushing the lake over the levee could also multiply the threats.
A Corps-funded simulation of breaches presented at a 2011 national dam safety conference mapped out huge swaths of lakeside land vulnerable to flooding. The simulation underlined what history has already shown. The biggest threats and impacts would come along the southern bank, where the dike protects 40,000 residents living along the lake’s most populated stretch from Clewiston to Pahokee.
In an extreme worst-case failure, the simulation extended flood waters more than 20 miles, spreading south and east across an expanse dominated by sugar farms. The deepest pools would collect in areas that have subsided by several feet after decades of farming on eroding peat soils that were once Everglades marsh. Much of the area is still farmed but homes and apartments also have been built in some of the lowest-lying areas near the lake.
The modeling suggests elevated roads, railroad tracks and levees would help contain much of the water as it neared western Palm Beach County’s suburbs.
The presentation included maps only for a breach at 25 feet. That’s far above the historic high of 18.8 feet and the 21-foot level where engineers predict the existing levee would fail.
While federal engineers openly discuss dike deficiencies the Corps remains reluctant to provide details, maps or modeling of the potential consequences of a failure, citing security concerns heightened since the 9/11 terrorist attack.
“We try and balance the risk of making sure the public is informed, and keeping the public safe with operational security of not allowing others to know what our vulnerabilities are,” said Laureen Borochaner, engineering division chief of the Corps’ Jacksonville office, which monitors and maintains the dike.


New protesters bring new weapons to water wars
Palm Beach Post - by Sally Swartz, a former member of The Post Editorial Board
August 16, 2013
The new generation fighting to save the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon brings some fresh and interesting tactics to this long, continuing battle.
The Indian River Lagoon north of St. Lucie County is suffering a die-off of sea grasses and record numbers of deaths of manatees, dolphins and pelicans.
The St. Lucie River is suffering a bloom of toxic blue-green algae that make local waters dangerous to fishermen, boaters, swimmers and waders. The district and Corps have been dumping billions of gallons of freshwater polluted with fertilizers and pesticides from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River on the east coast and the Caloosahatchee River on Florida’s west coast.
The lake, too high from seasonal rains and runoff from farms, is stressing the dike that surrounds it, making it a candidate for a Katrina-like disaster if water is not released.
For the first time, organizing protests via social media (Facebook) has brought people of all ages out to wave signs, chant and protest at two weekend events. The first, Aug. 3 at the St. Lucie Locks, drew a crowd estimated at up to 5,000. The second, Aug. 11, drew enough people to form a line along the Atlantic shoreline from Stuart Beach to Jensen Beach and spell out “Save Our Rivers.” Crowd estimates varied from 2,500 to 5,000.
See video of the protest here.
Evan Miller and Clint Starling, who organized the first two, are joining the third, billed as the Sugarland protest, Sept. 1 from noon to 3 p.m. at Clewiston’s Sugarland Park and vow to plan more after that.
Read about the Sugarland protest, bringing together people from the east and west coasts of Florida, here.
The new protesters are less than impressed with the tactics the South Florida Water Management District and the Corps use to silence critics.
For starters, the district and Corps have perfected a “bore them and they will go away” technique of overwhelming residents with slide shows and technical data designed for engineers and water bureaucrats, not for the general public.
At a meeting of the Water Resources Advisory Commission in Jensen Beach, officials managed to clear out an angry crowd of about 150 in an hour with yawner slide shows. One presenter admitted a slide of a graph packed with writing too tiny to read was unintelligible to all but the most technically savvy. So why include it?
Longtime river advocates such as Maggy Hurchalla, a former Martin commissioner who has been active in Everglades and Indian River Lagoon restoration planning, posted brief, easy-to-understand information on the river rally site and call-to-action invitations to attend water district meetings. Florida Oceanographic Society’s Mark Perry also has a clear slide show about the Plan Six solution.
One protester found something very entertaining to record with his cell phone at the WRAC meeting. This video, which more than 4,000 have viewed on YouTube, shows officials from the water district, the Corps and the sugar industry playing with their cell phones and other electronic devices while the public, and specifically in the video, an Audubon representative, speak.
In previous “save the river” protests over the years, many felt that officials were not listening.
The video shows them not even pretending to pay attention. It’s titled, “Thanks for not listening.”
Saving the rivers is no short-term project. Some Martin residents have been at it for a lifetime. But it’s heartening to see a new generation bring new weapons to this ongoing war. Telling the truth isn’t the only important thing to do, but it’s the first step.



Plan to divert water release efforts from Lake Okeechobee
Aug 16, 2013
STUART, Fla. (AP) - A plan to divert some of the Lake Okeechobee water now dumping into the St. Lucie Estuary took a small step forward.
The South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors tentatively approved a draft plan Thursday for the Central Everglades Planning Project. According to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers ( ), the approval sets in motion a process designed to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project included in the federal Water Resources Development Act that Congress is considering.
The board approved the action unanimously, but some members had significant concerns. James Moran, a board member from West Palm Beach, said the project won't meet quality standards set by a federal court order on water entering the Everglades.
"We're only kidding ourselves and only kidding the public," Moran said. "Nothing is going to happen on (the project) unless the water quality issue is resolved."
The $1.8 billion project would send about 65.2 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water south each year rather than east toward the St. Lucie Estuary and west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. That's less than half of the nearly 143.4 billion gallons of water discharged to the St. Lucie each year from Lake O every year. The Caloosahatchee gets almost 326 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water annually.
The project would use land south of the lake that's already in public hands. It is scheduled to take at least 10 years to complete. Federal water bills generally are approved every seven years, so inaction could mean a significant delay.
Several Martin County officials spoke at the meeting. County Commissioner Sarah Heard told the board the billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water was "turning our estuary into a filthy, frothy opaque nightmare; and it's toxic."
Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding said this would be the first of several projects needed in the future.
"This is a good beginning," Fielding said. "But it is just a beginning. Everyone needs to be aware that we need to get all the water south."


Sinkholes cost state millions each year - Staff report
August 16, 2013
Florida has a long, ongoing problem with sinkholes, which cause millions of dollars in damage in the state annually.
Sinkholes can develop quickly or slowly over time. They are caused by Florida’s geology — the state sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations making them even more prone to sinkholes.
On March 1, a sinkhole underneath a house in Seffner, about 60 miles southwest of the Summer Bay Resort, swallowed a man who was in his bed. His body was never recovered.
But such fatalities and injuries are rare, and most sinkholes are small, such as one that opened in the Hartwood Reserve community in Clermont in July. That hole, 10 feet across and 10 feet deep, caused a road to be blocked off to traffic.
Two homeowners near Powderhorn Place Drive and Peace Pipe Court were briefly asked to leave their homes while officials checked to see if that small hole was growing.
Also in the month of July, but in 2011, a sinkhole swallowed a beauty supply business in Leesburg. That hole, estimated to be about 60 feet wide, destroyed Main Street Hair & Beauty Salon, which Rafeek Mohamid had owned for 17 years.
The property has since been filled in and rebuilt.
Other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors like extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction.
Is It Our Fault America is Sinking ? (Aug 16, 2013)




US Sen. Bill Nelson focuses efforts on Treasure Coast waterways
CBS 12 News - by Jana Eschbach
August 16, 2013
STUART, Fla. -- After spending the day touring the St. Lucie Estuary by boat and helicopter, Senator Bill Nelson walks into a special meeting in Stuart to say, "What you have is a toxic brew in the Indian river and the St Lucie Estuary."
A national audience will be focused on the polluted St. Lucie River, currently coated in a green toxic algae.
"Yes its past time--we have 2 stark options right now. We can either kill the Estuary or we can fix it. It's time to fix it." said Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard.
A polite Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, Jacksonville District US Army Corps Of Engineers was in attendance, but said very little. He said he follows orders.
"Do you understand the impact this is having on people?" CBS 12's Jana Eschbach asked.
"I understand there's an impact," Lt. Col. Greco said. "Certainly we do our best throughout the year to minimize those impacts, but this time of year--the extreme wet season, the impacts are exacerbated."
Senator Bill Nelson, (D) Florida, united a panel of experts to find a cure to the toxic waterways plagueing the Treasure Coast. But in the end, it takes money and coooperation to get rid of the toxic river and pollution problems killing dolphins and manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.
What is the plan ?
Nelson said his action plan includes a $270 resevoir, a $33 million canal to channel the water, and a 9,000 acre water recharging area. We own the land. The US Senate passed the plan in Washington, but it can't get through the House of Representatives for a vote.
Senator Bill Nelson said the Tea Party is blocking the funding.
"We are going to have to get the Tea Party crowd to understand that not only our livlihoods are affected here--but our very environment is affected here and we've got ot continue with these projects to clean up this river." Nelson said.
But here at home, we've had issues getting the governor to commit to a solution that protects the residents on the coast and the Lake Okeechobee region at the same time. Gov. Scott called the river polution and discharges a "federal issue" he could not "control." Scott said "The Army Corps is not on my payroll."
We asked Sen. Nelson if the governor should be part of the solution.
"The entire everglades is not only a Florida issue, it is a United States, it is a planet earth issue. And we better get about it" Sen. Nelson said.
We ask if he can you make the governor step up to the plate on this?
"You really want me to get into a fight with the governor don't you? Florida has always done its part," Sen. Nelson said.
This week Gov. Scott backed a plan to sue Georgia over water resources coming into Appalachacola Bay, but has made no move to take similar action here. Meanwhile, every water entrance remains posted along the St. Lucie Estuary for dangerous levels of bacteria. You can't go in it, or touch it from Palm City to Port St. Lucie to Hutchinson Island. A toxic color of green algae coats the water in some pockets.
National NBC Network media crews toured the river today with local leaders and the Senator who called the St Lucie, "a river with no life."
Nelson brings a whole new audience to the problems here-the green goo toxic algae and pollution problems during the lost summer of 2013.
Even if Congress approves the federal plan, they have to find the money to pay for it. most funding since the sequester has been cut from projects like the Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.
The next plan that lacks funding right now is called CERP. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including funding for the C-44 project that promises to improve the water quality.
CERP's news release says "the Project purpose is to improve surface-water management in the C-23/C-24, C-25, and C-44 basins for habitat improvement in the Saint Lucie River (SLR) Estuary and southern portions of the Indian River Lagoon.  The project is expected to provide significant water-quality improvement benefits to both the IRL and the SLR Estuary by reducing the load of nutrients, pesticides, and suspended materials from basins runoff."
Based on the feasibility study and PIR approved by Congress in 2007 and further refinements, the project is expected to include the following components:
Construction and operation of four new large-scale above-ground reservoirs and their connecting canals, control structures, levees and pumps to capture water from the, C-23, C-24, C-25, and C-44 canals for increased storage. A total combined new water storage of about 130,000 acre-ft (44 billion of gallons) of new storage. 
Construction and operation of four new storm-water treatment areas (STAs) (constructed marsh), one for each C-23/C-24 North, C-23/C-24 South, C-25, and C-44 basins, to reduce sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen entering the SLR estuary and the IRL. A total combined new STAs (constructed marsh) of about 9,100 acres.
Restoration of about 92,100 acres of upland/wetland areas and habitat with ditch plugging, berm construction, and periodic fire maintenance.
Redirection of water from the C-23/C-24 basin to the Northfork of the SLR attenuating freshwater flows to the estuary.
About 7.9 million cubic yards of muck removal from the SLR’s estuary. 
About 900 acres of oyster shell, reef balls, and artificial submerged aquatic vegetation near muck removal sites will be added for habitat improvement.
CLICK here to see the entire plan:
CLICK here to see the statewide plan: protecting and restoring/other everglades#stlucie


LO release

Army Corps of Engineers monitoring Herbert Hoover Dike for seepage; Billions of gallons of water going into coastal estuaries comes from runoff, Okeechobee News - by Katrina Elsken
August 15, 2013
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) inspectors are keeping close watch on two seepage areas in the Herbert Hoover Dike, according to a Wednesday press briefing by Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, USACE deputy commander for South Florida.
Seepage is normal and common in the 143-mile earthen berm that encircles the lake, he explained. There are usually 12 to 15 seepage areas, mostly along the south end of the dike. Most of these are “level 1,” where wet spots can be found but measurable water is not flowing.
Where the water level of Lake Okeechobee is higher than the land level on the other side of the dike, the pressure forces the water into -- and sometimes through -- the dike. The higher the water level rises, the greater the pressure against the earthen berm.
The Corps tries to keep the lake level between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level, which is considered an optimal balance for safety, the environmental health of the lake and water supply needs.
At 16 feet, the chance of a dike breach is about 5 percent according to governmental studies.
At 18 feet, the risk of dike failure is about 45 percent.
At 20 feet, dike failure is expected.
On Aug. 14, the Corps was monitoring two “level 3” seepages through which clear water is flowing.
A level 3 seepage in Reach 1 (the area between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade) is flowing at about 2.5 gallons per minute. Lt. Col. Greco said flow has increased recently in this area, which was previously monitored at 2 gallons per minute. The land elevation there is about 11.8 feet above sea level.
The second level 3 seepage is in Reach 3, an area between South Bay and Clewiston. Water is flowing at about 0.5 gallons per minute through the dike in that area. The land elevation there is about 9.8 feet above sea level.
On the north side of the lake, the land elevations are higher. For example, the City of Okeechobee is about 26 feet above sea level.
There are currently no Level 4 seepages. Level 4 means the water is eroding dirt from the berm. Should this happen, the Corps will use reinforcement such as concrete “rip rap” in those areas.
Lt. Col. Greco said about half of the freshwater entering the estuaries comes from the lake and about half comes from runoff along the waterways between the lake and the coast.
On May 8, 2013, the Corps started discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River at Moore Haven and into the St. Lucie Canal at Port Mayaca, to help slow the rise of Lake Okeechobee. Without those releases, the lake would be at more than 17 feet now, according to Lt. Col. Greco.
Between May 8 and Aug. 13, 533,000 acre feet of water (about 173 billion gallons) went through the locks at Moore Haven, while 1,100,000 acre feet of water (356 billion gallons) went through the W. P. Franklin Lock near Fort Myers and into the estuaries on the west coast.
On the other coast, during that time frame, 206,000 acre feet of water (about 67 billion gallons) from Lake Okeechobee went through the locks at Port Mayaca and 379,000 acre feet of water (about 123 billion gallons) went into east coast estuaries.
Outflows to the south have been smaller because the water conservation areas south of Lake Okeechobee are already saturated. Pushing too much water south would flood the Everglades National Park and threaten wildlife there.
This week the flows south from the lake were 920 cubic feet per second.
There are three water conservation areas (WCA) between the lake and Everglades National Park. WCA1 is 220 square miles; WCA2 is 210 square miles; and, WCA3 is 915 square miles. As water evaporates and more storage is available, water from Lake Okeechobee is released south into the WCAs.
A few days respite from the rain helped the level of Lake Okeechobee drop slightly below 16 feet this week. The big lake’s 730-square-mile surface allows up to one-half inch a day of water to evaporate on a hot, cloudless day. Sunny days also cause plants in the lake to absorb more water.
The combination of evaporation and plant transpiration is referred to as evapotranspiration.
On Aug. 14, the lake level was 15.99. On Aug. 15, the lake level was 15.97. According to USACE data, during that 24-hour period, 0.01 feet of lake water was added due to precipitation and 0.02 feet was lost to evaporation.
The remaining difference in the lake level, 0.01 feet, is attributed to the releases of lake water to the east, west and south, being greater than the water entering the lake from waterways such as the Kissimmee River, Taylor Creek/Nubbin Slough and Fisheating Creek.


A1 Resrvoir

South of Lake
Okeechobee is the
infamous and costly
A-1 "Reservoir"

DEP issues permit for major Everglades restoration project
August 15, 2013
A-1 Flow Equalization Basin project part of Gov. Scott's Everglades Restoration Plan
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for the first major construction project as part of Governor Rick Scott's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan – to the South Florida Water Management District authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the largest component to be constructed in the historic plan.
Governor Scott said, "I was proud to work with environmental stakeholders to create our $880 million plan to fully restore the Everglades. This session, we secured $70 million in the Florida Families First Budget to take on important projects – and today is a major step forward in restoring this natural treasure."
The A-1 Flow Equalization Basin is a more than 15,000-acre shallow impoundment area – or reservoir – south of Lake Okeechobee designed to store approximately 60,000 acre-feet of stormwater. The primary objective of the project, the largest of three flow equalization basins identified in the plan, is to reduce the impact of peak stormwater flows through temporarily storage and work in tandem with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment ares to optimize treatment efficiency.
This Flow Equalization Basin is a shallow impoundment that will also contain vegetation to help reduce phosphorus concentrations before moving water to the stormwater treatment areas. Stormwater treatment areas are constructed, carefully managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.
"We have to continue moving forward with meaningful projects that impact the Everglades," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "DEP, the South Florida Water Management District and all our stakeholders are working together to get the water right and improve the quality and flow of water going to the Everglades."
To address water quality concerns associated with existing flows to the Everglades Protection Area, the Department, Water Management District and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engaged in technical discussions starting in 2010. The Governor’s plan was presented to EPA 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.
In May, Governor 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 goal of the 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 Water Management District has already achieved several milestones ahead of schedule.
“Continuing Everglades water quality improvements remains one of the South Florida Water Management District's highest priorities,” said SFWMD Interim Executive Director Ernie Barnett. “This project will enhance the performance of the highly successful stormwater treatment areas we  already have in operation."
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:
- 6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are constructed, carefully 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.
About the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The Department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally-sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the Department’s website log on to


Governor Rick Scott plans visit to ailing St. Lucie Estuary as SFWMD takes action on Everglades plan - by Alex Sanz
August 15, 2013
STUART, Fla. -- Governor Rick Scott will tour the St. Lucie Estuary next week, as concerns over toxic algae and high levels of bacteria continue to grow.
Scott will tour the S-80 Control Structure on the St. Lucie River and assess the impact of water being released from Lake Okeechobee with Senator Joe Negron, his office said on Thursday.
The announcement came hours after the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District tentatively approved the Central Everglades Planning Project, a plan that would allow some water from Lake Okeechobee to be released south of South Bay and into the Everglades.
"Florida's quality of life is intrinsically linked to its environment," Dawn Shirreff, a senior Everglades policy advisor at the Everglades Foundation said. "It is a long-term solution. It's not going to offer relief tomorrow but it is really important that the public sees that decisive actions are being taken." 
The approval charts a course that may some day send 65 billion gallons of water through a series of basins, canals and reservoirs from Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay.
That, Shirreffs said, would reduce the number of discharges from the lake into the St. Lucie and other estuaries and lessen the impacts on the environment.
"If you release the bottom end it will help the top end. And, you don't have to be a hydrologist to figure that out," Ronald Bergeron, the commissioner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. "We're pumping the half we chose to drain on top of the half we chose to save with half the area and the same amount of rain as you had 100 years ago."
On Thursday, during a meeting with researchers and scientists, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said the $1.8 billion project would have far-reaching implications on the health of the Everglades, the welfare of wildlife and the livelihood of thousands of people.
"What I saw was a river that had no life," Nelson said after an aerial tour of the St. Lucie River. "There were no mullet jumping. There were no seagulls. No pelicans diving. There was no osprey. All of it was not a functioning river. So, you have a polluted river."
The concerns, Nelson said, stretched from Hobe Sound, north of West Palm Beach, to Merritt Island, near the Kennedy Space Center, where the unexplained deaths of dolphins, manatees and pelicans had been reported.
Martin County residents said they were frustrated at the pace of state and federal inaction.
"The people here have just had enough," John Kane, a Palm City resident said. "I mean, we have lost our summer … our boat is sitting in a rack building, not able to be used, because we can't go in the water."
Kane worried about the impact on future generations.
"This is very, very important to everyone. Our kids. Our grandkids. And, for generations to come," Kane said. "We're killing it. We're just absolutely killing it. And, it makes no sense not to try to do something that is within our power to do."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must submit a draft proposal to Congress no later than December 31st for the Central Everglades Planning Project to be considered.
If it misses its deadline, action may be delayed until 2021.
Scott, Negron to tour St. Lucie Lock and Dam in Martin County on Tuesday         TCPalm
Gov. Scott to Tour St. Lucie Estuary on Tuesday      WJNO


Hoover Dike

While Hoover Dike is
being reinforced, the
high LO water level
is an imminent threat

Lake Okeechobee dike leaks emerge as inflows lessen
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 15, 2013
Inspections revealed increasing leaks in two spots on Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike, even as this week's brief relief from summer rains reduced the amount of water flowing into the lake, the Army Corps of Engineers reported Wednesday.
Flooding threats from rising lake levels prompted the Army Corps of Engineers in May to start dumping billions of gallons of lake water out to sea to ease the strain on the more than 70-year-old dike that protects lakeside communities from flooding. The 143-mile-long dike surrounding the lake is considered one of the country's most at-risk of a breach.
Rising water levels led to weekly inspections, which identified two spots where more water than usual is seeping through the earthen dike, according to the Army Corps.
While water seeping through the dike is not unusual, increased "seepage" can lead to erosion and make the dike more susceptible to a breach. No dike erosion has been found, according to the Army Corps.
"We are keeping our eye on that," Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Army Corps' deputy commander for South Florida, said Wednesday.
The two spots of increased seepage are located in the portions of the dike considered most susceptible to a breach — one in the area between Port Mayaca to Belle Glade and the other between South Bay and Clewiston.
If erosion starts occurring at those spots or others along the dike, Greco said repairs would be made to reinforce the 30-foot-tall structure, which remains in the midst of a decades-long repair.
In good news for flood control efforts, the amount of water getting drained out of Lake Okeechobee on Wednesday was more than the amount flowing into the lake — a reversal from a week ago. That's due to a drop-off in rainfall, which helped the lake drop back just below 16 feet above sea level on Wednesday.
The problem is, the Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet and forecasts call for more rain over the weekend.
Draining lake water out to sea eases the strain on the Herbert Hoover Dike, but it has damaging environmental effects on coastal waterways.
Since May 8, Lake Okeechobee water discharges west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River have totaled about 244 billion gallons, according to the Army Corps.
That deluge of lake water throws off the mix of salt and fresh water in the estuaries and brings an influx of sediment and pollutants that cloud fishing grounds. Oyster reefs and sea grass beds that provide habitat for everything from game fish to manatees are dying. In the St. Lucie River Estuary, toxic algae blooms as well as boost in bacteria have already prompted Health Department warnings against human contact with the water.


Lawsuit: EPA Failed to stop pollution at Weedon Island, other Florida Preserves – by Linda Hersey (Editor)
August 15, 2013
Alfred and Cindy Davis of Gulfport, along with the Florida Wildlife Federation, assert that anti-pollutions laws are not being followed to protect designated 'outstanding Florida waters.'
A Gulfport couple, along with the Florida Wildlife Federation, has filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that it has failed to enforce the Clean Water Act in protecting 309 waterways in the Sunshine State.
Alfred and Cindy Davis, represented by attorney Tom Reese, assert that rules limiting pollution in designated "outstanding Florida waters"  have not been followed, reports the Current, which covers Florida politics and policy.
You can read the court filing here for details.
The designated "Outstanding Florida Waters" list includes well known preserves, waterways and parks across the state. Locally, they include Boca Ciega Bay, Weedon Island State Preserve, Caldesi Island State Park, Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area and Egmont Key. (See the complete list here.)
The designation also protects such significant landmarks as the Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, and John Pennekamp State Park in the Florida Keys.
The Gulfport couple was a party to a similar suit in 2009 that ended in the federal agency agreeing to review "impaired waters" in Florida to determine if anti-pollutions laws are being met.
Reese argues that Florida is flouting federal anti-pollution laws established through the Clean Waters Act.


New committee working to resolve water issues - by Joelle Parks, Reporter
August 15, 2013
LEE COUNTY, FL - State Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto and Agriculture Commisioner Adam Putnam say they are working together to find a fix for the water quality issues stemming from Lake Okeechobee. "It hurts. It's heartbreaking. But that's why we fight so hard," said Benacquisto.
Benacquisto reacted to images above Southwest Florida's waterways.
"We're in a bad period, the record rainfall and the issues that we're dealing with that we deal with on the annual basis, when you compound those together it is not the best of conditions," says Benacquisto.
This year conditions are so bad that a new committee was just formed to specifically tackle water quality issues stemming from Lake Okeechobee.
Benacquisto is part of that task force that will travel the state starting next week.
"We're going to push very hard to reestablish what the priorities are with regard to funding and policy," says Benacquisto.
Priorities were clear to Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam when seeing video of the waters. "This is an unfortunate example of what happens when were blessed to have rainfall frankly, and if we had a better way of storing it, we wouldn't be wasting it, we wouldn't be causing impacts on the coast," says Putnam. Don't expect the dead sea grass or brown murky water to go anywhere soon, Commissioner Putnam says in order to fix the mess, you have to fix the source. "Until we can get the dike finished in Lake Okeechobee this is going to continue to be a problem," says Putnam. It's a problem without an easy solution. The cost to fix just 23 miles of the 140-mile long dike was $600 million. "Farmers, tourism, quality of life... everything is connected to water. We're in this thing together. We have to continue to do more to better manage the supply," says Putnam. WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

South Florida Water Management board OK's contract for new chief
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
August 15, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH — As part of its consent agenda, the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors on Thursday morning formally approved a contract hiring Blake Guillory as the district’s executive director.
Guillory currently heads the Brooksville-based Southwest Florida Water Management District.
He is the third person in the post since 2011. He replaces Melissa Meeker, who left June 7 after a two-year tenure to become vice president of Stuart-based marine environmental consulting firm CSA Ocean Sciences.
Guillory’s hiring had the approval of Gov. Rick Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard. The Florida Senate must approve the appointment at its next legislative session, which begins in March.
The board meeting is continuing Thursday and is expected to consider supporting the Army Corps of Engineers' draft proposal for the Central Everglades Planning Project, which would help alleviate some of the discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee Estuary on the west coast.


Water board tentatively approves plan to alleviate Lake O discharges to St. Lucie Estuary
Associated Press – The Republic
August 15, 2013
STUART, Florida — A plan to divert some of the Lake Okeechobee water now dumping into the St. Lucie Estuary took a small step forward.
The South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors tentatively approved a draft plan Thursday for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). According to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers ( ), the approval sets in motion a process designed to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project included in the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that Congress is considering.
The board approved the action unanimously, but some members had significant concerns. James Moran, a board member from West Palm Beach, said the project won't meet quality standards set by a federal court order on water entering the Everglades.
"We're only kidding ourselves and only kidding the public," Moran said. "Nothing is going to happen on (the project) unless the water quality issue is resolved."
The $1.8 billion project would send about 65.2 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water south each year rather than east toward the St. Lucie Estuary and west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. That's less than half of the nearly 143.4 billion gallons of water discharged to the St. Lucie each year from Lake O every year. The Caloosahatchee gets almost 326 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water annually.
The project would use land south of the lake that's already in public hands. It is scheduled to take at least 10 years to complete. Federal water bills generally are approved every seven years, so inaction could mean a significant delay.
Several Martin County officials spoke at the meeting. County Commissioner Sarah Heard told the board the billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water was "turning our estuary into a filthy, frothy opaque nightmare; and it's toxic."
Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding said this would be the first of several projects needed in the future.
"This is a good beginning," Fielding said. "But it is just a beginning. Everyone needs to be aware that we need to get all the water south."
Nearby Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson held a meeting following a helicopter tour over the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
"What I saw was a river that had no life," Nelson said. "There were no mullet jumping. There were no seagulls. There were no pelicans diving. There was no osprey. All of it was not a functioning river."
According to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers ( ), Nelson said the Central Everglades Planning Project will be crucial to the river's future.
Board OKs plan to alleviate Lake O discharges         Houston Chronicle
Everglades restoration plan approved; hurdles remain           Sun-Sentinel
Board OKs plan to alleviate Lake Okeechobee discharges    Naples Daily News
Water board members tentatively OK plan to alleviate discharges to St. Lucie ...    TCPalm


Water farming ? Concept seen as one solution to toxic algae
CBS 12 - by Chuck Weber/
August 15, 2013
INDIANTOWN-- It's billed as one of the answers to the 'green goo' problem now plaguing the St. Lucie River and other waterways in Martin and St. Lucie Counties. The concept is called water farming.
On Thursday, the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District will consider a pilot project that would convert an abandoned citrus grove near Indiantown, into a place to hold and store water. That's water that won't flow into the St. Lucie River.
Massive amounts of water released from Lake Okeechobee, and runoff from other areas, have ended up in the River-- resulting in blooms of toxic blue-green algae, the appearance of bacteria, and disappearance of sea life.
Under the three-year pilot water farming project, some of the water heading for the River would instead be pulled from the St. Lucie Canal near Indiantown, and pumped onto an old citrus grove owned by Caulkins Citrus.
The grove, like many in our area, sits fallow, following years of disease and hurricanes.
If the pilot project proves successful, it could be replicated on other farms, potentially having a significant impact on the amount of water flowing to the St. Lucie Estuary.
"It's one tool that the Water Management District has in its tool box," said the Water District's Matt Morrison.
The Water District would pay Caulkins $1.2 million for building a berm around the former grove, monitoring the project, and simply holding the water.
"There's a component that does provide for payment for use of the land, rather than the Water Management District going out and investing capital in acquiring land," said Morrison.
"The most important part?" observed Tom Kenny, former Martin County commissioner, now consultant for Caulkins, "It does not go back down the canal and through the St. Lucie Locks and into the River."



Central Everglades plan up for vote, would move more water south
CBS 12 - by Chuck Weber/
WEST PALM BEACH-- People in the Stuart area have been demanding it for years. Send more water south, less to the coast, they say.
Those cries increased recently as the coastal waterways of Martin and St. Lucie Counties have been fouled with toxic blue-green algae and bacteria. Sea life in the St. Lucie Estuary has all but disappeared. It's the result of the runoff from months of above average rainfall, and massive water releases from Lake Okeechobee, where there are fears of a levee breach.
Thursday water managers will consider taking a big step toward increasing water flows out of Lake Okeechobee to the south. The board of the South Florida Water Management District will vote on the so-called Central Everglades Planning Project.
The $1.8 billion plan includes a 15,000-acre shallow reservoir 20 miles south of South Bay, in Western Palm Beach County. The project also includes elements in the Everglades: removing three miles of a levee on the Palm Beach-Broward County line, filling in part of a canal in Broward, and removing more levees further south.
These measures should allow more water to flow south, taking pressure off the St. Lucie Estuary.
"It provides the treatment, storage, and conveyance capacity to move the water south," said Ernie Barnett, interim Water District executive director. "There's no projects that can make this 100 percent discharge-free (to the St. Lucie River) in the future. But our goal is to diminish the frequency that they happen."
The Army Corps of Engineers led and expedited the Central Everglades planning process. This week's Water District vote is a step to getting approval and funding from Congress.
The South Florida Water Management District governing board meeting is Thursday, August 15, at 9:00 a.m.


A1 Resrvoir

South of Lake
Okeechobee is the
infamous and costly
A-1 "Reservoir"

Everglades Restoration project to help Beach
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer
August 14, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for the first major construction project as part of Governor Rick Scott's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan -- to the South Florida Water Management District authorizing construction, operation and maintenance of the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin, the largest component to be constructed in the historic plan.
The A-1 Flow Equalization Basin is a more than 15,000-acre shallow impoundment area -- or reservoir -- south of Lake Okeechobee designed to store approximately 60,000 acre-feet of stormwater. The primary objective of the project, the largest of three flow equalization basins identified in the plan, is to reduce the impact of peak stormwater flows through temporarily storage and work in tandem with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment ares to optimize treatment efficiency.
This Flow Equalization Basin is a shallow impoundment that will also contain vegetation to help reduce phosphorus concentrations before moving water to the stormwater treatment areas. Stormwater treatment areas are constructed, carefully managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.
To address water quality concerns associated with existing flows to the Everglades Protection Area, the Department, Water Management District and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engaged in technical discussions starting in 2010. The Governor's plan was presented to EPA 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.
In May, Governor 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 goal of the 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 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 constructed, carefully 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.



Algal blooms result
from releasing dirty
Lake Okeechobee
water into the St.Lucie
and Caloosahatchee
rivers - for necessary flood protection.

Phil Latzman: Saturated Everglades facing overflowing disaster
Sun Sentinel - by Phil Latzman
August 14, 2013
Marjory Stoneman-Douglas is rolling over in her grave. The River of Grass she wrote about and ultimately helped save is quickly turning into the river of mess.
The head of the Miccosukee Tribe, whose people have lived near the swamps for centuries, put it bluntly. "The Everglades is dying," Miccosukee Chairman Colley Billie told six members of Florida's Congressional Delegation last week.
Recent record rainfall has left the Glades saturated. The four-month period between April and July of this year was the wettest on record since 1932. If a hurricane — or even a tropical storm — passes through the state, the result could be an overflowing disaster that would be devastating to fauna, flora and humans alike.
If the federal government doesn't act quickly to improve the water flows, Florida's largest wilderness area may lose many of its mammalian inhabitants.The already-endangered Florida Panther could be wiped out completely. Bobcats, deer, racoons, hogs, opossum and rabbits may be among species to disappear, as well.
We've seen this before, and with horrifying results. In 1994, there was a similar crisis in the Glades. High water levels back then are reported to have killed off more than 80 percent of the white-tailed deer population. Many other mammals drowned, starved or died of disease, damaging the entire ecosystem. We can't let that happen again.
There is no easy solution. For one, Lake Okeechobee is overflowing. Waters levels are reaching above 16 feet, critically high for the 143-mile-long Herbert Hoover dike, which surrounds the lake. Should the dike breach, thousands of people and millions of animals could lose their lives in a calamity of biblical proportion.
To alleviate pressure on the dike, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, has no choice but to increase runoffs. The outflows to the east and west are dumping huge amounts of fresh water into a system of ocean-bound canals, and are making saltwater increasingly and dangerously more brackish.
To make matters worse, many of the pesticides and fertilizers used for farms are believed to be leaking into these flows. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen are feared responsible for algae blooms, turning rivers and estuaries green, contributing to an alarming increase in manatee and dolphin fatalities. Fisherman are also reporting massive die-offs of fishthat rely on the waterways to which the canals are connected.
A permanent solution to how Florida manages and distributes its water runoff is needed.
In our recent history, restoration has been a bipartisan issue. and Republicans The Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott put together a package this spring that provides an additional $32 million annually toward those efforts.
But that's a drop in the bucket. A comprehensive 30-year, $7.8 billion federal restoration plan — passed by Congress in 2000 — has run into political obstacles, and has been slow to implement.
In the meantime, a temporary fix seems obvious. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron is pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redistribute flow to the south so it can travel through Everglades National Park and into Florida Bay.
With this in mind, a Corps project along Tamiami Trail is in its final stages. A one-mile bridge over a section of the thoroughfare would allow gushes of water to be un-dammed, and begin a more natural exodus southward. But while the bridge is already built, Army engineers haven't acted quickly enough to open it. It isn't scheduled to begin operation until December, after a rainy season that threatens more tropical activity.
Only a few generations ago, the Everglades was considered useless land. In the early 20th century, Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, for whom the county is named, famously uttered "Yes, the Everglades is a swamp; so was Chicago sixty years ago." Under his misguided leadership, parts of the Glades were drained to make room for real estate.
Devastating hurricanes in the 1920s that killed thousands of people proved Broward posthumously and positively wrong. But until Stoneman-Douglas's best-selling wake-up call was published in 1947, no one knew how precious the great swamp truly was, and why it was worth saving, not draining.
We've learned lessons from our past the hard way. Now, we must act quickly to save the Everglades from a calamity. Let's hope it's not too late to complete the process of righting the wrong and fully restoring the "River of Grass." 
Phil Latzman is a veteran radio journalist in South Florida.


Pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries
Sun Sentinel - by John Poggi
August 14, 2013
As an environmental professional, I am compelled to set the record straight on the pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. Several key points are being omitted from the media's present discussion.
The pollutants to the estuaries are fresh water, phosphorous and nitrogen. The source of the phosphorous and nitrogen is agricultural runoff originating in Central Florida and the Kissimmee valley. This runoff enters the Kissimmee River, and the polluted water flows from the river to Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by a 30-foot-tall dike, making the lake like a large bowl. Once in the lake, the phosphorous and nitrogen settle to the bottom and remain in the sediment with no natural way to escape. This accumulated sediment and muck is then mixed with the incoming water from the Kissimmee River and discharged out to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when the lake rises to regulated levels, as it is doing now. This phosphorous-laden fresh water then enters the estuaries, lowering salinity and providing fertilizer for algae to bloom. These blooms stress the fish and aquatic organisms in the estuaries, ultimately killing many of them.
There are presently no alternate routes for this fresh water to be discharged in order to lower the lake. The sugar industry and other agricultural interests south of Lake Okeechobee do not want their fields or crops flooded and destroyed. The polluted water is, by federal law, not allowed into the Everglades system until it is cleaned up to much lower phosphorous levels. Federal and state-funded Everglades restoration plans are necessary to clean this water and allow it back into the Everglades natural system where it is desperately needed. Funding by both the federal and state governments has been slow and sporadic, and restoration efforts have been slowed or stalled altogether due to this lack of funding.
Conditions ripe for ecological disaster 


Sen. Bill Nelson in Stuart tomorrow to discuss Indian River Lagoon
August 14, 2013
According to a news release, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will visit Stuart at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
A spokesperson for Nelson said the senator will be at the Flagler Center, 201 S.W. Flagler Ave.
News release
STUART, Fla. – The water flowing in the Indian River Lagoon near here has had a strange green tint. And lately, officials have seen a huge spike in the unexplained deaths of hundreds of manatees, dolphins and pelicans along a stretch of the Indian River from Titusville near Kennedy Space Center south to Hobe Sound near West Palm Beach. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who grew up on the river in Melbourne, has worked with others for years on projects aimed at protecting it.
“The Indian River is part of our livelihood and an it’s important part of our state’s economy and environment,” Nelson says. “And as someone who grew up on this river, I am here to tell you: I will not let it be ruined."
Experts say there are various possible causes for the assault on the river this year: a virus could be killing dolphins; a toxin linked to human sewage could be killing manatees; and, discharges from a rising Lake Okeechobee appear to be fouling the river near Stuart.
Nelson will head to Stuart Thursday to meet with several experts including - a scientist at Florida's prestigious Harbor Branch marine institute located just north of Fort Pierce – who recently did a study linking manatee deaths near Vero Beach to pollution which the Tampa Bay Times, in reporting on the study, noted may be coming from mismanaged deep-well injection and septic tanks. Deep-well injection involves pumping waste thousands of feet underground.
Nelson will also be meeting with local community leaders who likewise are alarmed at the situation.
The lawmaker's investigation comes on the heels of news that federal officials are assembling a task force to look into the large number of dolphin deaths on the U.S. East Coast including in the Indian River Lagoon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently classified the deaths as an “unusual mortality event” and will put together a task force to look into the issue.
This isn’t the Florida Democrat’s first trip to the region, just recently he was there to meet with South Florida Water Management District officials at their headquarters in West Palm Beach to talk about the discharges. And, earlier this summer after an increased number of manatee deaths were reported, Nelson and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan measure that aims to address the growing problem of algae blooms.
In addition, Nelson also has always been a strong supporter of Everglades restoration projects that would help alleviate the need to dump water from Lake Okeechobee into the Lagoon.
Nelson will be joined Thursday afternoon by leading researchers from the Harbor Point Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, the Everglades Foundation, the Florida Oceanographic Society, St. Johns River Water Management District & Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other local and community officials.
Rep. Patrick Murphy to meet with Negron about poor water quality next week       TCPalm - WPTV NewsChannel 5


Apalachikola watershed

watershed reaches
into 3 USA states:
FL, GA and AL.

Another Florida-Georgia water war looming
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
August 13, 2013
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will sue Georgia in U.S. Supreme Court for siphoning too much water from the Apalachicola River system and triggering a costly and dramatic die-off of oysters, fish and wetlands.
The announcement was tied to a hearing in Apalachicola by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee at which oystermen and river experts described worsening conditions in the river and in Apalachicola Bay, which is known for its oysters and the iconic images of oystermen using long-handled tongs and small boats to rake the shellfish from the bay's bottom.
The Apalachicola River forms at the Florida-Georgia state line where the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers merge. It flows south 106 miles across the state's Panhandle into Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Florida, Alabama and Georgia have waged legal warfare for decades over allocation of the water, now used by power plants, agriculture and many Georgia cities.
The metro Atlanta area gets most of its water — 360 million gallons a day — from the Chattahoochee River, and Georgia's consumption is expected to nearly double by 2035, according to Scott's office.
With too little fresh water flowing into Florida, vast wetlands along the Apalachicola have been in decline for years. When there is enough flow in the river system, the Apalachicola floods those wetlands, flushing critical nutrients into the bay and sustaining reproduction of popular sport fish.
Sharp declines in the river's flows also have triggered a rise in salt content in the bay, which weakens oysters and leaves them vulnerable to predators and disease.
Scott toured the bay Tuesday with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who are members of the Senate committee.
"Because Georgia has not negotiated in good faith to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, we are announcing today that Florida will bring suit in the U.S. Supreme Court next month to stop Georgia's unchecked consumption of water that threatens the existence of Apalachicola fisheries and the future economic development of this region," Scott said.
Several at the hearing doubted a lawsuit would bring relief soon enough.
"Down the road it might help us out, but we need something short-term," Shannon Hartsfield, an oysterman and president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association. "As soon as this rainy season and the little bit of water we're getting from it, as soon as it's over, we are out of luck. We can't survive, and the oysters can't survive."
Dan Tonsmeire, head of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper advocacy group, said the congressional hearing was helpful in that it drew public attention to the plight of the bay.
"The only real solution is for Congress to tell the Corps of Engineers that they have to send the water here. That will level the playing field, and that will get Florida and Alabama and Georgia to the negotiation table," Tonsmeire said.
Scott said it has not been decided if Alabama would be included in the lawsuit.
A spokesman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday a response to Scott's announcement was being prepared.
Florida to sue Georgia over lost oyster beds in water rights battle    Reuters
Florida: State Plans Suit Over Water  New York Times (blog)
Florida governor says he'll sue Georgia for water      USA TODAY
Florida to Sue Georgia in U.S. Supreme Court Over Water  Bloomberg
Florida plans to sue Georgia over 'unchecked' water use, Deal calls ...          Creative Loafing Atlanta
 Florida Suing Georgia Over Water to Save Apalachicola Bay          wmbb
Scott says state will sue Georgia over water  The Northwest Florida Daily News
Tri-State Water Wars: Florida To Sue Georgia Over Water Flow To ...        International Business Times
Florida plans to sue Georgia over 'unchecked' water use, Deal calls ...          Creative Loafing Atlanta
"Water War' causes over half of Florida oyster industry to die          WEAR
Scott says he'll sue Georgia for water flow to Apalachicola  Tallahassee Democrat
Florida Breaks Truce in Water Wars   Stephen Burge
Florida Asks US Supreme Court to Review Georgia's 'Unchecked ...           Bloomberg BNA
Governor sues Georgia over water as Rubio and Nelson blame ...
Scott says Florida will file US Supreme Court action in water dispute ...     The Florida Current
Angry speech by Florida governor announces Supreme Court suit ...  
A Pipeline for Fracking Water            Circle of Blue WaterNews


Florida realtors and Everglades Foundation joint statement about Lake Okeechobee discharges
PRWeb – San Francisco Chronicle
August 13, 2013
As polluted water floods South Florida rivers and beaches, it brings threats to human health and the environment, as well as damages to property and the economy.
Palmetto Bay, FL (PRWEB) August 13, 2013
Dangerously polluted water is flooding our rivers and beaches threatening human health, killing fish and wildlife, creating algae blooms, and damaging property values and the economy.
Just as our fragile real estate market is in recovery, we cannot afford a setback caused from unnecessary water pollution.
This crisis could result in a major setback for Florida’s economy. Florida Realtors and the Everglades Foundation join together and call for action to solutions that will reduce the harmful pollution discharges being seen today.
“We are already hearing reports that seasonal renters are reconsidering whether they want to spend their winter in parts of Florida impacted by polluted water,” said John Sebree, Florida Realtors Senior Vice President of Public Policy. “These are families who have returned to the same areas for generations who may not return.”
“Recently I spent time at the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers to see the terrible damage that is being done to those rivers and estuaries,” said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. “I was joined there by Realtors and others who are being directly harmed because of the economic impact of polluted water being discharged from Lake Okeechobee. We will work together to make sure that the Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers take steps to ensure that this never happens again.”
Everglades restoration is entering its next phase. Projects such as the C-43 reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) need to be authorized. Ongoing construction of the C-44 reservoir along the St. Lucie River must be completed. All of these projects are vital to the restoration of America’s Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District will vote on the Central Everglades Planning Project at its August 15 meeting in West Palm Beach. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must complete its work on CEPP by the end of the year. If the Corps fails to finish its work, CEPP will not be included in the current proposed Congressional Water Resources Development Act. Congress is not expected to take up another WRDA bill for at least seven years.
Our rivers and America’s Everglades cannot afford another delay in taking action.
For more information, visit:
For the original version on PRWeb visit:
Florida Realtors and Everglades Foundation Call for Actions to ...  TopNews Arab Emirates
John Poggi: Pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries            Sun-Sentinel


Lawsuit launched challenging ongoing flooding of endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow habitat and Everglades National Park
Center for Biological Diversity – Press Release
August 13, 2013
VERO BEACH, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity and noted scientist, Dr. Stuart Pimm filed a formal notice of intent today to sue the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over continued flooding of habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow and Everglades National Park. According to the notice, the two agencies have violated the Endangered Species Act through water releases that place the sparrow at serious risk of extinction and in the process, have altered vegetation across a broad swath of the national park. 
“For 20 years the Army Corps of Engineers has been flooding Everglades National Park in the wrong place and at the wrong time, destroying the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and precious park prairies in the process,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This can’t be allowed go on any longer.”
Since 1993 the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing large amounts of water during what should be the dry season through a series of gates, called the “S12s,” and flooding the western portion of Everglades National Park. The area in question once harbored the world’s largest population of Cape Sable seaside sparrows, with more than 3,000 birds, but flooding has decimated the population, and in recent years, there have been fewer than 300 birds in the population.  As the only population west of Shark River Slough, this population provides the species as a whole with a crucial buffer against extinction should a fire or other catastrophe wipe out the other populations, all east of the Slough. In addition to hurting the sparrows, flooding of the park has eliminated a large area of marl prairie, the most diverse plant community in the Everglades. 
“There is no question that the sparrow population west of Shark River Slough is critical to the survival of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow,” said Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University and long-time sparrow researcher. “It’s unconscionable that flooding of Everglades National Park and the sparrow’s habitat has been allowed to go on for so long.”
The Army Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service have long promised that the Central Everglades Restoration Project would solve problems with flooding of the park by directing flows back to the southeast, along their historic path, but when or exactly how this will occur remains largely speculative. Today’s notice seeks to remedy this situation and gain some certainty for the future of both the sparrow and the park. 
“Despite the long list of plans with complicated acronyms, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is hanging on by a thread,” said Greenwald. “It’s long past time to fix this problem.”    
The Center and Pimm are represented by Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Lawsuit planned over endangered sparrow habitat in Everglades     TCPalm
Conservationists plan to sue federal government over endangered ...           The Republic
Gov't Flooding Threatens Endangered Sparrow, Suit Says   Law360


A toxic Florida lagoon
NY Times – Letter to the Editor by Richard Baker, President, Pelican I. Audubon Society, Vero Beach, FL
August 12, 2013
 “Deaths of Manatees, Dolphins and Pelicans Point to Estuary at Risk” (news article, Aug. 8), which covered the Indian River Lagoon’s problems in its northern portion, accurately portrays the dire conditions there.
In the lagoon’s southern portion, in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties, the problem is worse, caused by the yearly discharge of 143 billion gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the lagoon through the St. Lucie Estuary. Humans have been warned not to put even their fingers into the lagoon because of serious health concerns about toxic algae.
Much of this pollution is coming from our federally supported sugar industry, diverting polluted water from its natural flow south into the Everglades; instead, it is being diverted into the St. Lucie River and into the Indian River Lagoon.


Dawn Shirreffs named Senior Everglades Policy Advisor for Everglades Foundation
August 12, 2013
Dawn Shirreffs named Senior Everglades Policy Advisor for environmental non-profit the Everglades Foundation. She previously served as Everglades Restoration Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
Palmetto Bay, FL (PRWEB) August 12, 2013
Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, has named Dawn Shirreffs Senior Everglades Policy Advisor. She previously served as Everglades Restoration Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“We are thrilled to have Dawn join us at the Everglades Foundation,” Eikenberg said. “She is a creative thinker, consensus builder and strategist with a deep understanding of the issues involved in protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.”
“I have worked closely with the Everglades Foundation on a multitude of efforts involving Everglades restoration and have always been impressed with the Foundation’s emphasis on science-based research,” Shirreffs said. “This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the Foundation’s strategic planning and work with the Foundation’s many partners.”
“While NPCA will miss Dawn, her work at the Foundation will allow her to continue bringing together diverse stakeholders for our common goal of restoring America’s Everglades,” said John Adornato, Sun Coast regional director for National Parks Conservation Association. “The national parks of the greater Everglades ecosystem retain a strong advocate with Dawn joining the Foundation’s team.”
Shirreffs has thirteen years of wide-ranging experience working with environmental non-profit organizations in public and government affairs, non-profit management and campaigns. Her focus since 2007 has centered on implementing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects and policies.
Shirreffs also served as the Florida Program Coordinator for Clean Water Action. She has been involved with a number of non-profit environmental organizations and dedicated several years at a non-releasable wildlife sanctuary where she coordinated public education on Florida panthers and cared for large exotic animals including predatory cats and reptiles. Dawn has served on the Board of Directors of the Tropical Audubon Society and as the Everglades Coalition’s Treasurer and National Co-chair.
Shirreffs joined the Everglades Foundation on August 12, 2013.
For the original version on PRWeb visit:


The 'water wars'
have been going on
for some time in
North Florida -

Feds need to stop water ‘disaster’
August 12, 2013
A U.S. Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday in the city of Apalachicola on the plight of Apalachicola Bay. The session should show members how the lack of fresh water is killing the bay and, we hope, spark action.
Sen. Marco Rubio pushed for the visit by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and hopes the exposure will finally get Washington to come to the estuary’s rescue.
Alas, the courts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and, so far, Congress have done little to aid the fabled water body.
Georgia is freely allowed to take water out of the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, primarily to supply the drinking water to the Atlanta region.
With less fresh water flow, Apalachicola Bay’s salinity levels dangerously increase, damaging the estuary, particularly its famed oysters, a fishery that has virtually collapsed in recent years.
Not long ago, the bay produced 10 percent of the country’s oysters and 90 percent of the state’s.
The situation is the result of Georgia allowing runaway growth in the Atlanta region with scant concern for water supplies.
It became dependent on Lake Lanier, the reservoir created by the federally constructed Buford Dam, though that project was intended for flood control, navigation and hydropower.
No regard was given to the impact on how water diversions of the river system would affect Florida or Alabama, where roughly 800,000 households depend on a nuclear plant that relies on river flow.
The Army Corps was equally indifferent.
As Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions recently pointed out, the Corps allowed the amount of water the Atlanta area took from the lake daily to increase from 10 million gallons in the 1950s to 170 million. Now, not enough water is making its way downstream, particularly during droughts.
Some have tried to dismiss the conflict as a case of marine life being valued more than people. That’s baloney. This is a matter of irresponsible state policies jeopardizing another state’s resources, industries and livelihoods.
Only recently has Georgia taken any meaningful steps to conserve water.
Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Rubio have tried to help, offering legislation that would ensure Florida and Alabama more water, but last May the Senate deleted the provision before passing the 2013 Water Resources Development Act.
But the senators haven’t given up.
After the panel announced the visit, Rubio issued a statement that conveyed the seriousness of the crisis: “Understanding the effects of this disaster on the local community, supporting industries and regional economy are key to appreciating the significance of the Apalachicola Bay and its situation.”
Rubio does not exaggerate. What is happening to Apalachicola Bay is a disaster. No one suggests metropolitan Atlanta forgo drinking water, but it can curtail its prolific water use.
It’s time Washington gave Apalachicola Bay and the fishing and tourism businesses it sustains a break.


Fishermen hit hard by Okeechobee water releases - by George Solis, Reporter
August 12, 2013
LEE COUNTY, FL -  The continuous freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee into Southwest Florida are plaguing business owners. For weeks, we've shown how the freshwater has transformed area beaches.
Now fishermen are starting to feel the sting. Charter fishermen say there are still fish in the water. They're just not as easy to catch and find.
Many of them have to go a lot further out then they -- and their customers -- would like.
The now-brown colored waters of San Carlos Bay have charter boat Captain Joey Blanchard feeling a little blue.
"You don't see all the life that you normally see in short in the waters," Blanchard said.
He's longing for the blue of waters to come back. Not just for beauty, but business sake.
"Starting to hurt business, people are starting to actually complain. People that we're taking out on the boats fishing [talk] about the water quality," Blanchard said.
The continuous heavy freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee have transformed these waters and fishermen say with it -- their livelihood.
"It's pretty much pushed a lot of fish out of the bays, more deeper into the Gulf, a lot of the bay fish have moved out," Blanchard said.
He says fish like snook, red fish and spotted sea trout have moved to deeper waters.
But some visitors like Cathy James say they don't want to go that far.
"I'd turn around and go home. I don't want to go out 32 miles to begin with," James said.
Other fishermen say that even that far out there are no guarantees.
"I went out about 20 miles out Pine Island south and the trout fishing was terrible, the water was mud water," said Captain Larry Conely with Reel- Ality Sport Fishing Charters.
Blanchard said all he and the rest of the fishermen can do is wait it out -- and think about the better times, which hopefully come again soon. He says on a good day he'd catch anywhere between 20 to 30 fish. In today's water, it's about half that.
"What you get out there is the visibility in the water, it's pretty clear you can see stingray, sharks, it's easy to spot the dolphins, the manatees, the visibility now is less than a foot, so when you get out there you're basically looking at dirty, brown-muddy water," Blanchard said.


Florida Wildlife Federation sues over "Outstanding Florida Waters" designation
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
August 12, 2013
The Florida Wildlife Federation and a Gulfport couple are suing the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming the federal agency and the state of Florida have failed to enforce state and federal laws for designated "Outstanding Florida Waters." 
There are 309 designated "Outstanding Florida Waters," many of them listed since 1979, and they include the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers, the Florida Keys and Hillsborough River.
Water bodies receive the designation to prevent the lowering of existing water quality and to preserve the "exceptional ecological and recreational significance" of the waterbody, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 
Tom Reese, an attorney representing Alfred J. and Cindy Davis and the Florida Wildlife Federation, says those designated outstanding Florida waters have become degraded by pollution despite the laws and despite a 2010 settlement agreement with the EPA in another lawsuit. He filed petitions in the 1980s to list six waterways including Sarasota Bay and the Withlacoochee River in West-Central Florida.
"I think the EPA will agree they have to do this," Reese said. "Part of the problem they (federal officials) are going to have to make Florida do it, or they will do it for Florida."
A lawsuit contains alleged facts and only represents one side in a legal dispute.
An EPA spokeswoman said Monday the agency does not comment on pending litigation. A Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said Monday the department has not had time to review the lawsuit to provide comment.
The federal Clean Water Act includes an anti-degredation policy with established tiers for water bodies for applying when proposed activities may affect water quality, according to the federal EPA web site
The Davis couple also sued the EPA in 2009 and reached a settlement in which EPA promised to review Florida's list of "impaired" waters to determine whether they comply with anti-degredation policies.
Reese said Florida still hasn't set its impaired waters list or set pollution limits to match the antidegredation policy.
"Florida is not doing it," Reese said. "They are basically thumbing their nose at EPA and is saying 'We're not going to do it.'"
The Florida Wildlife Federation wasn't a party to the 2009 lawsuit. The federation and other groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 over the failure to set water quality standards in Florida known as numeric nutrient criteria.
A 2009 court agreement that led EPA to declare it would set those standards touched off a political revolt at the state Capitol from utilities and industry groups who said federal rules would be too expensive and difficult to comply with. 
In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 1808, which approved a "path forward" agreement between EPA and the state calling on the Florida DEP to set those pollution limits. Environmental groups are contesting  that agreement in federal court.
Reese said he thinks a similar fight probably would follow if the new lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tampa, is successful.
"Congress wouldn't be happy and would cut their (EPA) budget," Reese said. "And states would start ripping and tearing their shirts and screaming."
Related Research:
* Aug. 10, 2013 Florida Wildlife Federation/Davis federal lawsuit against EPA
* Dec. 20, 2010 Davis settlement agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
* Outstanding Florida Waters Rule
* Florida DEP Outstanding Florida Waters web site



Hilary SWAIN

Hilary Swain named 'Conservationist of the Year'
Highlands Today – by Pamela Glinski
August 12, 2013
Archbold Expedition Executive Director Hilary Swain has been in the spotlight this year after being named "Conservationist of the Year" by the Florida Wildlife Federation on June 8 and being honored as one of WGCU's "MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida."
"This is not about me, it is about the work," said Swain. "I feel very fortunate to work for an organization that has all the fundamentals right."
Executive director at Archbold since 1995, Swain oversees all of the research, educational programs, conservation and land management projects at the facility's three properties: Archbold Biological Station, Archbold Reserve and the MacArthur Agro-Ecology Research Center (MAERC).
"Our overall goal is to conduct long-term ecological research, practice great conservation, and help educate people about the importance of this region," said Swain of the scrub habitat of the Lake Wales Ridge and the headwaters of the northern Everglades.
Swain is not only in charge of a staff of 50, up to 100 volunteers and hundreds of visiting scientists, she also serves on numerous statewide advisory boards, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the former president of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.
A governor's appointee to the state board for the Acquisition and Restoration Council, Swain makes recommendations on land purchases and has been involved in land management programs on a regional level. She also serves on the national board of Nature Serves.
"I'm someone who is very lucky to work at what I love," said Swain. "We live in one of the greatest conservation areas in the world . a place where there are so many plants, animals and ecosystems that are found nowhere else on the earth."
"Many Floridians have no idea what's going on in the heartland of the state," said Swain, who views her awards as an opportunity to raise public awareness of the importance of the Northern Everglades headwaters to South Florida's water supplies.
Swain was also selected by PBS's station WGCU to be included in "MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida," a series of video interviews that focus on influential women who have inspired people with their ground breaking work and made in difference in communities.
"The national PBS program is called MAKERS.WGCU decided to do the same program locally," said Swain, who found the honor bestowed on her at the Feb. 25 event in Ft. Myers "very personal."
A conservation biologist who earned her bachelor's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Newcastle, Swain has taken on many roles throughout her life. She has been a scientist, an educator, a wife, mother, a land manager and a conservationist.
Born in Scotland, Swain grew up in Northern England. She immigrated to the United States in 1985, where she married Geoff Swain, a professor of ocean engineering at Florida Tech in Melbourne.
Swain worked on the faculty in the biology department at Florida Tech before being recruited to run Archbold 18 years ago.
Swain said that living at the biological station, 100 feet from her office, has had its advantages. It gave her son, Nicholas, and daughter, Alexandra, the opportunity to grow up with a deep appreciation of nature and a unique understanding of science.
"I love working here because I work with really great people," said Swain. "It's a very stimulating place."
Named for its founder, Richard Archbold, Archbold Biological Station is a pristine ecosystem located on 5,192 acres of scrub lands, lakes, sand hills and flatwoods that Swain described as "a hidden gem" and "one of Florida's rarest habitats." Adjacent to the property is Archbold Reserve, another 3,648 acres of protected land.
"We are not a state park, we are not a zoo, and we are not state-owned," Swain said. The non-profit facility, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a dedicated and protected site that has been operating because of the generosity of private donors since 1941.
Located at 123 Main Drive in Venus, Archbold has seven trails open to the public, including a sign-guided walking tour called "Walk through Time," where visitors learn about the facility's history. MAERC is a 10,500 acre working cattle facility, Buck Island Ranch, that studies the importance of land management in sustaining the quality of Florida's water supplies, wildlife habitat and food production. For more information on the Archbold Expedition properties, tours, the lodge or the new learning center, call 863-465-2571, or visit .
"In Florida, we will always be amazed at what we've managed to save. and I think we will always be appalled at what we have lost," said Swain. "But that gives us the impetus to keep working hard, to move us in the right direction."


Is Florida one big sinkhole waiting to happen ? Answer may startle you - by Linda Hersey (Editor)
August 12, 2013
Like alligators and water spouts, sinkholes are part of the Florida landscape. Here's what to do if you encounter a sinkhole.
With news that a Disney resort is collapsing over a sinkhole, Florida environmental officials are issuing tips for keeping safe after spotting a Sunshine State sinkhole.
They also warn that no matter where you are or where you go in Florida, you cannot avoid the risk of a sinkhole.State leaders announced Friday that the Florida Geological Survey has received a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address sinkhole vulnerability. (Find more information here.)
Here is a quick summary – in an easy-to-follow FAQ – on Florida sinkholes and what to do if you encounter one:
Is there a sinhole-free area in Florida ?  Technically, no. Since the entire state rests on limestone, or carbonate rocks, sinkholes could form anywhere. However, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher. 
So, are sinkholes just part of the Florida environment? Thousands of naturally occurring sinkholes can be seen throughout the state of Florida,  including many that connect underground to springs, rivers and lakes.
I spotted a depression on my property. Do I have a sinkhole ?  Maybe. But a number of factors can cause holes. Expansive clay layers in the earth may shrink upon drying, buried organic material, poorly-compacted soil after excavation work, buried trash or logs and broken pipes all may cause depressions to form.  If the settling is affecting a dwelling, further testing by a licensed engineer with a licensed geologist on staff or a licensed geology firm may be in order. 
What should I do if I encounter a sinkhole ? 
-  The hole should be immediately cordoned off.
- Clearly mark the sinkhole to protect traffic.
- Contact local law enforcement to report the hazard.
- Call your city or county road department to initiate repair work. 
If the road is private, repair of the hole is usually the responsibility of the landowner or property owners’ association
What You Should Know About Sinkholes    WUSF News
Florida geologists to map state for sinkholes  First Coast News
Video shows Clermont resort sinkhole collapse         Central Florida News 13
Florida holiday villa filmed falling into sinkhole
Sinkhole Near Disney World Topples Building         Sky News
Sinkhole Partially Swallows Up Florida Resort         PARADE
Homes swallowed up as sinkhole opens in Florida    Irish Independent


Paddleboard businesses hit hard by toxic water
CBS 12 News – by Miranda Grossman
August 13, 2013
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- The toxic water on the Treasure Coast is creating crippling consequences for businesses relying on water for revenue. One of the hardest hit industries -- paddleboard tour operators.
Dan Neumann, owner of Coastal Paddleboarding, says the momentum quickly changed this summer, with the millions of gallons of water discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.
The toxic water is swiftly killing his business.
South Florida Water Management District says it's likely the the lake releases will continue through the winter, maybe even into the spring.
If this business can't find a new home in cleaner water further south, they might not make it through the week. Paddleboard businesses hit hard by toxic water


Water Management officials approve water use permit for proposed oil site
WGCU – by Ashley Lopez
August 12, 2013
Oil exploration in Collier County is one step closer to final approval.
The South Florida Water Management District approved a five-year water use permit for the Dan A. Hughes Company, which wants to look for oil near Golden Gate Estates in Eastern Collier County.
The proposed oil exploration site, which is within 1,000 feet of homes in the area, has drawn a lot of protests from nearby residents.
While drilling requires final approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Hughes Company already cleared one big hurdle.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said the permit allows the company to pump five million gallons a month from two local wells, which he said won’t impact nearby residents’ water supplies.
“As long as it has no impact on adjacent users, then the district is obligated to issue the permit,” he said.
The company needs water to clean equipment and to mix with chemicals used in the oil drilling process.
Smith said the successful permit application means the drilling process would not do environmental harm.
“It means you’ve gone through a very rigorous process ahead of time to provide information that, for example, says that the impact will not impact wetlands that may be in the area,” he said. “You have to provide scientific proof of that and that you can’t do any harm to the shallow aquifer where you are drawing that water.”
Opponents, however, have said the drill site is too close to conservation areas and would hurt the property values of nearby homes.


Human chain forms along Martin County beaches to protest Lake O discharges
TCPalm - by Sade M. Gordon
August 11, 2013
Thousands of protesters stretched across Jensen and Stuart beaches Sunday as part of a rally against discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.
And they say they won’t stop protesting until they win the fight.
According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, between 2,000 to 2,500 people showed up to create the human chain across the Martin County shoreline, but organizers Evan Miller and Clint Starling estimates more than 5,000 took part.
“We connected the chain all the way to Jensen,” Miller said at Stuart Beach.
  Beach protest
It was the second protest put on by Miller and Starling to challenge millions of gallons of water being discharged daily from the lake and local runoff into the Indian River Lagoon. A South Florida Water Management District official said last week there’s a good chance the lake releases will continue at some level through the winter and possibly into the spring.
Protesters arrived at the beaches wearing costumes and wielding signs expressing their displeasure with the state of the waterway.
More than 5,000 gathered at the first protest Aug. 3 at Phipps Park in Stuart.
“This is a remarkable event showing broad-based community support to demand cleaning up our waterways,” said Martin County Commissioner John Haddox at the Sunday rally.
Miller said another rally was in the works, but an exact date and time had not been set yet.
“I’m glad that people are coming out to show their support to save the lagoon,” said Mike Schneider of Hobe Sound. “It needs to be done. Change needs to happen now.”

Learning to live with nature
August 11, 2013
One of the hardest lessons we humans seem reluctant to learn is that we are a part of nature, not separate from it.
From turning the wandering Kissimmee River into a canal to draining parts of the Everglades for development, the history of our relationship with the physical world has been filled with disasters.
Part of the problem is ignorance, which leads to the belief that nature is an enemy of civilization.
Another problem is our need to manipulate things over which we really have no control.
The third problem is how we've come to expect government at all levels to come to our aid when something goes wrong.
For example, when Lake Jackson began to shrink, the first thought was somebody had to be pumping water to somewhere else. Some people believed there was a crack in the lake bottom, or poorly designed dams and canals sucking the water away.
Almost no one accepted what scientists were saying -- that Florida's bodies of water typically rise and fall due to the weather. The scientists said droughts were the main reason for the dilemma, plus a growing population increasing the need for pumping water from the aquifer. As aquifers lose water, so do the lakes, the scientists explained.
Lakeside property owners, however, didn't believe it. Two concerns were that property values would fall and paying higher taxes for waterfront property that was further and further from the water was not fair. Pressure was put on local officials and politicians. An in-depth study is under way. With the large amount of rainfall this summer, however, lakes and creeks are rising.
Some property owners along Lake June have a different complaint about nature. They're complaining about Illinois pondweed choking their beaches and boat houses.
Like the home owners on Lake Jackson, the people along Lake June are convinced something unnatural is happening -- the weeds must be exotic and invasive -- an outside disaster that requires major intervention.
Like the Lake Jackson folks, they want government to solve the situation, by which they mean getting rid of the plants altogether.
But Illinois pondweed, despite its name, is a native to Florida. And while inconvenient and messy, it serves several purposes -- not the least of which is providing safe habitat for fish and stabilizing the lake bottom. To totally remove it will damage Lake June, if in fact the plants can be eradicated at all.
So here's the point -- people who buy homes to enjoy nature have to take nature as it is. Shore lines do change, plants do grow, just like bees sting and fire ants bite. It is up to us to adapt to nature, not declare war on what is meant to be where it is.



The algae is coming, but its impact is felt far from water – by staff
August 11, 2013
Algae blooms are green or red or brown, slimy, smelly and you don't want it coming soon to a waterfront near you.
Most of us don't give a lot of thought to algae until the furry-like monstrosity is spreading over beaches, rivers, lakes and bays, but gigantic algae blooms have become an increasing problem around the world.
The danger algae blooms pose is that they sap the body of water where they are growing of nutrients and oxygen; they then die, decompose and rot.
CLICK to Listen The seas off China have been hit by their largest-ever growth of algae with waves of green growth washing
onto the shores. The fate of Florida in time not too far ? CLICK picture to HEAR the news story (11 min.).
“[The cost is] in the billions, and a lot of that comes from the decrease in property value from water that looks just noxious and green and slimy.
- Don Anderson, U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms
"Fish can't live in there. This happens in coastal areas, it's happened in the Chesapeake Bay, [and] it's happened on a massive scale in the Gulf of Mexico," says NPR's food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles.
Part of proliferation of algae blooms is due to agricultural demands.
Booming Algae Bloom
Imagine for a moment you're in Eastern China, with temperatures in the upper 90s and extreme humidity making life in the city unbearable. So you head to the shore for a special weekend on the resort beaches of the Yellow Sea in the city of Qingdao.
But instead of refreshing blue waves, a carpet of what looks like green fur stretches across the sand and over the ocean as far as the eye can see. Piles of the green, algal slime are as much as 10 feet high. This area of China is home to some of the biggest algal blooms on the planet.
"In truth it dwarfs any other of the algal blooms that we deal with all over the world," says Don Anderson, the director of the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms and a senior scientist for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The algae, Anderson tells NPR's Jacki Lyden, derives from seaweed farming, the edible kind that gets wrapped around sushi. The seaweed grows on underwater bamboo stands, but those grow nonedible algae, too. When farmers clean it off, it washes to shore; fertilizer runoff exacerbates this massively.
Green Scum
Closer to home, algae has plagued coastal Florida this summer, and blooms are predicted for the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie.
Oceanographer Richard Stumpf, with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recently returned from a research station on Lake Erie. Stumpf is in charge of forecasting hazardous algal blooms, and expects to see a significant bloom this year.
"The bloom just started in the past week on the far western part of the lake," Stumpf tells NPR. "There was scum on the surface of the lake."
But Stumpf says this year will not be as bad as 2011, which saw a record-breaking bloom of blue-green algae stretching from Toledo to Cleveland.
"I talked to a charter boat captain, and he went out two years ago and for 10 [to] 15 miles he went through scum," he says. "You can say he lost customers."
Stumpf's goal with the algae forecast is not just to predict where the algae is, but where it is not, so that people in unaffected areas of the lake don't lose tourist revenue because the whole body of water has a bad reputation for algae.
It is a problem that has plagued Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio for years, an area some residents consider the "poster child for blue-green algae."
Residents like Milt Miller are well-acquainted with the algae. He and a group of residents have had enough with the persistent blooms and are trying to get rid of it.
"The lake touches every facet of our lives whether it be recreationally [or] employment wise," Miller says. "Real estate prices around the lake plummeted."
Miller also says that it is not just the people with lakefront property who are affected. Because of the summertime residency, everything from car washes to laundry mats to supermarkets and big box stores feel the pinch of a lack of tourists the algae blooms cause.
"So it's not limited to areas immediately adjacent to the lake, it literally impacts all every fragment of our whole society," he says.
Anderson agrees, and says that conservatively the algae blooms have about a $100 million a year impact on the U.S. — and that's just on the marine side of the picture.
"The freshwater estimates are in the billions, and a lot of that comes from the decrease in property value from water that looks just noxious and green and slimy," the scientist says. The algae can also produce toxins, Anderson says, that can kill fish and birds and even be harmful to humans.
Combating It At The Source
Some farmers are trying to reduce their impact by cutting off this problem at its source: the farm.
Agriculture is the central part of the story when it comes to algae blooms. As a species, we have to grow a lot of food to survive. To do this, we use a lot of fertilizer that has ingredients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which is very important for plant growth.
"The thing is, by fertilizing the planet, we end up fertilizing everything," says NPR's Charles.
That "everything" includes streams, lakes and oceans. That is what feeds the algae bloom.
Clagett Farm is a model farm owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. One of the things they do is try to educate farmers in the watershed about their impact on the Bay.
Michael Heller manages the Clagett Farm in Maryland, and he knows the dangers of nutrient runoff. He says solutions to water quality have to start a lot earlier in the agriculture process.
"I think this is the most important point we can make is that every part of the farm is important for runoff," Heller says. "Too often the focus is right at the streams, but it's what's happening up in the fields that's most critical."
Heller says that at poorly managed farms, livestock often endanger watersheds. Herds of cows erode the ground leading to soil runoff. That runoff gets mixed with nutrient-dense manure and fertilizer, which eventually makes its way to the Bay.
But at the Clagett Farm, nitrogen-absorbing legumes abound and cows are moved from pasture to pasture to maintain fresh fields. Fencing always keeps the animals away from the stream.
The fences are just the first layer of the filtering process on the farm. Past the electric fences is a road that acts as a grass buffer, and just off the road is a dense forest. The soil here is mostly organic matter that Heller says acts like a sponge.
"That's not going to allow any nutrients or water to run off," he says. "So by the time that droplet hits the stream, it has little or no sediment in it and very minimal or no nutrients in it, so that what we're sending down to the Bay is a positive thing."
Heller says the key is a holistic approach, and that's the way more and more farmers are starting to think.
"Does the system work? The cattle, the veggies, the hay, the pasture; do they all fit together in a system that works and protects water quality?"
The fight against algae doesn't start and end with the farmer, however. You can help too, says NPR's Charles, by holding off on fertilizing your lawn.
"A beautiful green grassy lawn is not natural, and you're probably putting more nutrients on there than it really needs," he says.

Video of water management officials goes viral – by Karl Man
August 11 2013
WEST PALM BEACH--You've seen the footage and heard the cries for change, but this is a whole new angle to the toxic algae saga along the Treasure Coast.
Kenny Hinkle JR is not only is he a concerned parent and freelance storyteller he is the man behind
A video posted this week to YouTube.
What the video shows officials on their phones and tablets from the South Florida Water Management District. The video leads one to believe that the officials were not paying full attention to when people were voicing their concerns at this meeting held Wednesday in Jensen Beach.
Since Hinkle posted his candid capture to YouTube it has already racked up thousands of hits and more to come.
The South Florida Water Management released this statement to CBS 12 in response to the viral video.
“Using camera and video editing software to suggest otherwise does public servants and committed volunteers an injustice.”
All the commotion over the toxic algae far from over.
A protest is scheduled for Sunday on Jensen Beach to support cleaning up the river. 10,000 people are expected to attend and form a human chain along Hutchinson Island.

With varying lake levels, it comes down to location - by Joe Callahan, Staff writer
August 11, 2013
Chris Fulghum remembers when the water in Lake Weir was high enough for boats to dock at Gator Joe’s restaurant.
Fulghum, an assistant manager at the restaurant, said now the water barely reaches the pier pilings.
“I remember when I was in high school the boats just pulled up and docked,” he said, thinking back about seven years ago.
But despite seemingly endless deluges throughout Central Florida in the last four months, Lake Weir’s water level has remained nearly the same as it was last year.
Records kept by the St. Johns River Water Management District show Lake Weir was at 50 feet above sea level in the summer of 2012.
After the level dipped to just under 49 feet in late May, the level has since climbed back by 1 foot to the same level as last year.
During the same basic period, Orange Lake has made a more significant recovery. Though still at a critically low level, Orange Lake’s level has climbed by 2 feet since last year, linked to heavy rain that began falling in April.
Last year, Orange Lake had dropped to 49.64 feet above sea level, just a foot above its all-time low. At that time, the lake level was 7 feet below average and the Heagy Burry Park boat ramp had to be closed.
But thanks to four months of almost daily deluges, there has been a noticeable lake level rise at Heagy Burry.
This summer, the Orange Lake level was at 51.53 feet above sea level and is now only 5 feet below average.
So why is Orange Lake’s level rebounding and Lake Weir’s level not rebounding?
Hank Largin, spokesman for the St. Johns River Water Management District, said rainfall — or the lack thereof — is by far the top factor when it comes to lake-level fluctuations over time.
“When you say an area received 10 inches of rainfall there could be a wild swing,” said Largin, meaning one part of the area may have gotten 10 inches but another may have only gotten three.
It all depends on where the rain falls — whether directly on the lake or at least within its watershed.
Rainfall statistics for a 12-month period — from Aug. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013 — reveal the Orange Lake area received 15 inches more rain than the Lake Weir area.
Weather Underground, a website featuring many private and educational weather collection sites, shows there have been major swings in rainfall from throughout Marion County.
One site in Citra near Orange Lake recorded 45.12 inches of rain in that 12-month period. Meanwhile, an Ocklawaha collection site off Lake Weir recorded only 30.72 inches during the same time span, the data showed.
In Ocala, at the official site located between those other weather sites, the total rainfall was 51.19 inches during the same period.
Since April 1, Ocala’s official site recorded 29.15 inches — nearly the same amount the gauge near Lake Weir received in 12 months.
“It really comes down to rainfall,” Largin noted, adding when rainfall is up, lake levels are up.



Florida scientists deploy beetle in invasive plant battle
Associated Press – Bradenton Herald
August 10, 2013
LITHIA -- Scientists hope a beetle will help them stop an invasive plant from smothering Florida's native habitats.
The leafy, green air potato vine is menacing hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods and wetlands in every Florida county. The habitat loss could significantly affect native Florida plants and animals such as gopher tortoises, red foxes, deer and bobcats.
Tiny, red air potato beetles from Asia have been deployed to eat the vines and suppress their growth.
State entomologist Eric Rohrig told The Tampa Tribune that in areas where the beetles were introduced last year, air potato vines aren't growing as tall.
"We believe they will kill the air potatoes," said Rohrig. "Right now, they are suppressing them. The beetles (Lilioceris cheni) munch away and destroy all the leaves."
The beetles do not have any natural predators in Florida, but they only eat air potato vine. Scientists believe the beetles will die out if their food supply runs out.
The state studied the beetles for five years before agreeing to release them, Rohrig said.
The beetles were first released in Hillsborough County and then statewide. The effort is funded through a partnership between federal and state agriculture departments.
"Right now, the focus of the project is to release them at large infestations on public lands," Rohrig said.
"In city, county and state parks, even Everglades National Park. Anywhere there is a problem. As the project progresses, we will also distribute them in residential areas. After several years, we expect to see some great results."
Air potato is a member of the yam family and produces small, oblong potatoes. It was first introduced in Florida by a botanist in 1905 and has been spreading ever since. The vines can grow as many as 9 inches a day to lengths of as much as 70 feet.



Dying sea grass beds - by Warren Wright
August 9, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla.-  A puzzling predicament in southwest Florida, large amounts of sea grass are floating up to the surface of our estuaries, something that typically doesn't happen until winter.
But finding out why, has become a real problem. 
The water is too dark to see through, and it's getting worse. 
For the first time in a long time, fisherman are complaining of dark water around Bokeelia as it reaches into Charlotte Harbor.  
Fisherman from Bokeelia like "Rocky" say the last two weeks have been worthless, especially with large fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee.  
Rocky said,  "I can't catch the fish that I used to catch.... their gone."
Captain Jack Stanaland ferrys people out to Cayo Costa and he doesn't like what he's seeing either.
He added that "we do see that quality of dark water coming up into Charlotte Harbor.
That concerns me,  this is a tourist industry and people like to come here for that clear clean water."
But there's another issue boaters are facing.
Carole Faircloth works at Monroe Canal Marina and she says "I've seen grass floating more recently in the past two weeks than I have in the past year."
Local sea grass beds are critical for providing shelter for invertebrates and small fish... which in turn provide food for the bigger game fish.  Lose the sea grass, lose the fish, and the economy takes a hit.
Judy Ott is a marine scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.  
She says all this continuous fresh water is problematic: "it stresses the sea grasses so much that they die back and then they get ripped out... then when that happens its  really hard to reestablish them."
Fisherman and scientists all say the same thing, reservoirs are needed to hold the excess water around lake okeechobee, clean it, and push it south into the Everglades.
But first elected officials have to make it a priority.



Miccosukee struggle to save their homeland
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
August 9, 2013
Tribe warns that pollution is killing Everglades
When his 4-year-old daughter asked why he was traveling to Washington earlier this month, Miccosukee Chairman Colley Billie told her he needed help to save their tribal homeland and preserve what remains of their traditional way of life.
He said he wanted her to see wading birds, which once blanketed the heart of the Everglades but have dwindled to just a few, and to swim in clean waters now choked with pollution.
"The Everglades are dying," Billie later told a half-dozen Florida members of Congress. "The tree islands are disappearing. We cannot grow corn. We cannot teach our young the traditional way of life. Now even the animals are disappearing."
The Miccosukee – a proud, private and unconquered people who fled into the Everglades nearly two centuries ago to escape forced removal to the West -- say they have nowhere else to go and must keep fighting to save their land from pollution that flows from surrounding farmland and encroaching development.
With few exceptions, they are the only full-time residents of the Everglades, the only ones living in the midst of a state and federal restoration project intended to clean the water and restore a natural flow from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.
The larger Seminole Tribe, which is more scattered across Florida, has been deeply engaged in restoration plans. "The Tribe is okay with the overall direction of the project," said Seminole spokesman Gary Bitner.
But the Miccosukee have long scorned parts of the project while trying to control waters that flow through their reservations.
Resplendent in brightly colored shirts and belts, Billie and several other tribal members came to Washington earlier this month and implored members of the Congressional Everglades Caucus to give them a seat at the table. In particular, they're concerned about dangerous levels of fertilizer pollution that pass through their reservation straddling I-75 – known as "Alligator Alley" -- in southwest Broward County before draining into Everglades National Park.
They are determined not to budge.
"That is how we survived. We were taught to never, ever leave the Everglades. If you leave the Everglades, you lose your culture, you lose your language, you lose your way of life," tribal member Michael Frank said.
"That's part of my ancestors out there. When you see a big old tree dying, that's grandfather dying. That's grandmother dying. That's part of me that's dying out there."
The Miccosukee were once part of the Seminole Tribe, which descended from the Creek people who lived in what is now Alabama and Georgia. Their ancestors spread into Florida in the 17th and 18th centuries to expand hunting grounds, flee conflicts with other tribes and evade white settlers and their armies.
The Seminoles kept moving south, forming alliances with runaway slaves to fight federal troops in the 1800s during a long struggle over control of the Florida frontier. Thousands were forced to move West as part of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
But a band of Mikasuki-speaking Seminoles retreated into the Everglades, where they fished and hunted and built villages isolated by a daunting marsh. To this day, they take pride in being an unconquered people who maintained a distinctive language and way of life.
In the late 1950s, they split from the Seminole Tribe to form the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, which was formally recognized by the federal government in 1962.
The 650-member tribe, which runs the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino on the western edge of Miami, is battling the IRS over accusations that it failed to report and withhold taxes from the distribution of gambling profits.
But on their mission to Washington, tribal leaders focused on environmental concerns. Their most pressing concern is the L-28 Interceptor Canal that brings water laden with phosphorous levels 10 times greater than what is considered healthy.
The state and federal restoration plan calls for storage areas that will release water when needed and filter it through underwater plants to remove fertilizer pollutants. But the Miccosukee say these plans are more than 10 years away and may not improve water quality enough to save native plants and wildlife.
Caucus members and an Interior Department official acknowledged this week that the canal problem should be addressed.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, inserted language in a spending bill that directs the Interior Department to work with the Miccosukee to find a solution. The Interior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the department already is looking for one.
"Nobody knows this area better than the Miccosukee, who live off the land," Diaz-Balart said. "They obviously now have other revenue sources, but forever that's how they've eaten, that's how they've survived.
"Ignoring the concerns of the Miccosukee is something we would do at our own peril, and at the peril of Everglades National Park."


People criticize Lake Okeechobee draining delays
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 9, 2013
After decades of waiting for relief, patience isn't a welcome sales pitch for people living beside waterways polluted by drainage for South Florida flood control.
Dozens of frustrated Treasure Coast residents, business owners and elected officials on Thursday crowded into a meeting of South Florida water managers in Jensen Beach to voice their objections to the ongoing deluge of polluting water being drained out of Lake Okeechobee.
The draining that eases the strain on the lake's troubled dike dumps billions of gallons of water each day into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Those damaging discharges foul coastal fishing grounds and can make water unsafe for human contact.
LO water release
Lake Okeechobee water release - necessary, but causes some big problems -
State and federal officials Thursday detailed a host of long-term Everglades restoration plans aimed at moving more lake south instead of dumping it into the delicate estuaries. That includes a new $1.8 billion Central Everglades plan to restore southern water flows, which next week could get the support of the South Florida Water Management District.
Yet, the benefits of those water storage and treatment plans remain more than a decade away, assuming officials can get the state and federal funding that has backlogged similar Everglades restoration plans through the years.
It's a frustratingly familiar refrain for those left living and working beside waterways that face an influx of pollution when Lake Okeechobee's waters rise too high. Health Department signs prompted by toxic algae blooms already warn against swimming and even touching the water in some areas near Stuart.
"Enough is enough," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. "We can't keep seeing these warning signs at our boat ramps. … We know there is a better way."
Opponents to the discharges want state and federal leaders to jumpstart efforts to move more Lake Okeechobee water south — the direction it used to flow before farming and development got in the way.
Many blame the political influence of Big Sugar for blocking efforts to turn sugar cane fields in what used to be the Everglades back into wetlands.
But sugar industry representatives counter that state and federal leaders long ago created a drainage system aimed at making way for farming and development.
Efforts to revive a push for creating a large "flow way" of water across sugar cane land would be "dead on arrival" with state and federal officials, U.S. Sugar Senior Vice President Malcolm "Bubba" Wade Jr. said.
The South Florida Water Management District in 2010 already spent $197 million to buy 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration, in a deal that included a 10-year-option to buy the rest of the sugar giant's land. So far, that's an option budget-cutting state officials have opted not to pursue.
Lake Okeechobee on Thursday topped 16 feet above sea level, about 4 feet above this time last year and beyond the 12.5 to 15.5 foot range the Army Corps tries to maintain.
Rising lake levels, boosted by a rainier-than-usual summer, threaten to increase erosion of the more than 70-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike — one of the country's most at-risk of a breach.
The flooding threat triggered the lake releases that started in May and could continue through the end of the year.
The problem is, the deluge of lake water throws off the mix of salt and fresh water in the estuaries and brings an influx of sediment and pollutants that cloud the water.
Opponents to the lake discharges call them a threat to both the environment and their economy, killing marine habitat and scaring away the tourists and other customers relied on in their waterfront communities.
"We are witnessing the collapse of an ecosystem," said fishing charter Capt. Danny Barrow, of the Snook and Gamefish Foundation. "It is being murdered."
Despite months of draining Lake Okeechobee water out to sea, lake water levels are expected to top 16 feet this week    Sun Sentinel
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Lake Okeechobee water releases ... WPTV
Lake Okeechobee Dike At Risk As Water Levels Rise, Drainage ... Huffington Post
Slime along St. Lucie River stirs issue in advance of Senate hearing ...         The Florida Current
History repeating: Toxic algae contaminated water in 2005  WPEC
 Thousands gather to protest water run-off    Hometown News
Leaders get an earful about toxic water on the Treasure Coast from ...         WPEC
Okeechobee water release hurting business ? NBC2 News

Residents, business owners, environmentalists worry about effects of Lake Ockeechobee releases – by Ashley Lopez
August 9, 2013
Business owners, water management officials and environmentalists gathered at the Franklin Lock in Alva Thursday.
The lock is one of many now opened by the Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to deal with rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee, but there are concerns that these water releases will have long-term effects on water quality and tourism.
The Corps began increasing water releases to combat rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee earlier this summer. The past few months have seen record rainfall and as of this week water levels are at 16 feet.
The water releases are now visible throughout a host of waterways east, west and south of the lake. Water under the Sanibel causeway, in the Caloosahatchee, and even near the beach is now brown.
Al Durrett, who owns Fish Tale Marina in Fort Myers Beach, said this doesn’t bode well for his business and the surrounding tourism industry.
I think the hotels and motels and those types of businesses the people that it’s really going to affect,” he said. “We count on so much business during the rainy season. People come to Florida hopefully for clean water, and right now we are not experiencing the cleanest water that we could have.”
Corps officials said their primary concern right now is to lower the lake levels to make sure the aging Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding it doesn’t leak. Officials have warned in the past, that a breach of that dike could lead to devastating floods.
In a conference call with reporters, Lt. Col. Thomas Greco said the Corps is preparing for persistent heavy rainfall.
“We are taking that very seriously and again implementing the measures that we can to lower those lake stages, but at the same time monitor Herbert Hoover dike to ensure that we provide the maximum safety to those communities surrounding the lake,” he said.
However, managing water levels through water releases concerns environmentalists and nearby residents who said it’s deteriorating the water quality of estuaries east and west of the lake.
Greco said on the conference call that a lot of the dark water is also from runoff in nearby basins.
However, Thomas Van Lent, the senior scientist at the Everglades Foundation, said the ongoing releases from Lake Okeechobee will eventually pollute the water even more than runoff.
“The nutrient contents that are nitrogen and phosphorus are much higher than the surrounding basin-- especially in nitrogen,” he said. “So, as this becomes more estuarine we will start to see the effect of that. So, I don’t think we have even seen the real onset of the most serious water quality effects.”
Van Lent said residents and local businesses can also expect blue-green algal blooms in the future—on top of already brown water. In fact, a green bloom is already visible in the Franklin lock.
Van Lent said, unfortunately, there are only long-term solutions to this problem.
“We did not get here over night, and we are not going to find the solution overnight,” he said. “It’s going to take fixing both the quantity of the water and see if we can re-plumb the project to make it function more like the way it did before we built all this infrastructure. We got to find ways of cleaning up this water both that is coming into the lake and the water that is coming from the local basin-- from the people that live here.”
The state and federal government are spending billions together to restore the historic flow of water south into the Everglades. Once that is completed years from now, water from the lake can flow south instead of into the estuaries.
Until then, there are water management plans kicking around Capitol Hill that will help the state build reservoirs to store the excess water near Lake Okeechobee.
The Florida Legislature has also created a Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin. The committee meets August 22 and will discuss solutions for many of the problems associated with the lake’s water levels.


Toxic algae alerts up on Martin County waterways
August 9, 2013
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - If you are flying along the St. Lucie Estuary in a boat on a sunny day, you might miss the spreading worry. But Mary and Dutch Radabaugh do not. They manage St. Lucie Marine and gave me a close look at clusters of toxic green algae spreading in the estuary and far beyond. Environmentalists says huge discharges of nitrogen laden water from Lake Okeechobee are largely to blame.
"It is a big mess," says Mary Radabaugh, "affecting business, home ownership, property values, (and) people can't swim."
Toxic algae alerts are up on Martin County waterways. Waterway bacterial warnings are spreading too, including part of St. Lucie County.
Environmentalists say Everglades restoration is the big answer to avoiding the huge lake discharges in the future. Clean the water from Lake Okeechobee that is polluted.
Then move that water into the Everglades as nature designed it, long before man made canals sent it east and west.
Mark Perry is executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said " We need more storage treatment, water coming out of the lake through what is now the Everglades agricultural area, down to the Everglades, very slowly , treating it, storing it before it goes south."
The problem, though, is that the blueprint for restoration seems to be forever bound in red tape. Environmentalists are hopeful, again, that the latest water quality crisis will fast track approval of key pieces of the long promised restoration plan.
Radabaugh has heard it all before. She and so many others want meaningful action. She said, "How do you keep the livelihood of people already in an economic crisis going when you are destroying their main economic engine?"
Urgent questions that Treasure Coast residents say need answers before it is too late.


Big Sugar

US sugar subsidies and the Caribbean’s sugar economies – Analysis - by Bilal Maneka, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
August 9, 2013
Agricultural policy is a highly controversial topic in the United States, for while Washington pushes economic openness for other nations, it actively employs protectionist policies when it comes to its own closely held economy. This is especially true with sugar. The U.S. government heavily subsidizes its sugar sector, imposes quotas on sugar imports, and then hectors developing countries on the wisdom of cutting back on their own subsidies. These measures protect private U.S. sugar producers from foreign competition, allowing them to seek unreasonably high prices in the U.S. market. U.S. consumers are likely to lose from these policies, as they end up paying higher prices at U.S. supermarkets, and, moreover, Caribbean sugar prices also have been adversely affected by U.S. protectionism in the sugar industry.
The Caribbean Sugar Economies
The implementation of sugar quotas by the United States has led to colossal losses for Latin American sugar economies. Sugar quotas have often been used for political objectives against Caribbean countries. Since 1985, millions of U.S. dollars have been spent—and wasted—in an attempt to revive the sugar industry by poor Caribbean-basin countries. Narrowly implemented U.S. trade policies have pushed Caribbean sugar economies to the verge of collapse. The United States annulled the Cuban sugar quota in 1961, just two years after the Cuban Revolution. Likewise, Nicaragua’s “quota was reduced to zero” when the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza regime. [1] The United States now has an absolute trade embargo with Cuba after U.S.-owned sugar companies in Cuba were nationalized in 1961. Before the revolution, 69.1 percent of Cuban trade overall and 54.8 percent of its sugar trade was with the United States. [2] The revolutionary government nationalized the sugar industry, a move that was seen as against free market principles. Yet Washington violates similar principles by keeping its sugar policy narrowly in place. Such double standards that block sugar imports from struggling Caribbean markets will continue to impair and distort U.S.-Caribbean relations.
Although the U.S. government blamed Fidel Castro for unfairly nationalizing the country’s sugar factories owned by Florida’s Fanjul family, most Cubans saw the family’s control over its major commodity as a form of colonial-style domination. Fanjul was likened to the East India Company on the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj. Under Fanjul’s domination of the Cuban sugar industry, the majority of sugar produced went to United States, leaving a shortage for domestic consumers who ended up paying higher prices. Nationalist sentiments, mixed with a desire to free the economy from U.S. interference, led to nationalization of American companies. The Fanjul family still owns sugar factories in Latin America, especially in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, although its major sugar plants are now in Florida. American environmentalists have voiced serious concerns about the Fanjul family’s sugar production in Florida, as it enormously damages the Everglades and the Florida Bay, and results in drainage and biochemical discharge that harms native animal habitats. [3]
Remnants of the previous neo-colonial relations, that at one time defined U.S.-Caribbean interaction as a hierarchical relationship of dominator and dominated, can nowadays be found in the United States’ sugar policy, which has prevented equitable trade arrangements with poor Caribbean countries. The sugar industries in Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and Belize now face difficulty in exporting sugar due to protectionist U.S. sugar policies. In most Caribbean islands, the Agriculture Production Index, a measure of aggregate agricultural production in a given time period, has been declining in the past few decades because of U.S. farm subsidies. For instance, in Jamaica the index declined by 16.6 percent from 1996 to 1997. [4]
While it cannot be denied that factors such as poor governance, diseconomies of scale, lack of technical know-how, political instability, and a low world price for sugar affect Caribbean sugar production, U.S sugar policy has had the strongest negative effect on Caribbean sugar economies. In fact, the reason that the world price of sugar is at a historical low right now is because the United States and the European Union have driven down the global price for sugar by imposing trade restrictions on foreign imports. In 2002, “Cuba shut down half its once-mighty sugar industry,” and shortly thereafter in 2003, Trinidad’s state owned sugar company decided to make “all of its 9,200 employees redundant.” [5]
Some advocates of the United States’ sugar policy argue that in a globalized world, Caribbean countries can target other larger markets. But European sugar policies are hardly any different from those of the United States. Indeed, Europe’s agricultural sector is one of its most subsidized sectors. Tereos, the French sugar conglomerate, hauled off one of the biggest E.U. subsidies, taking a total of $223 million USD last year alone. [6] Studies also show that countries geographically closer to each other trade the most. It would not be very profitable for struggling Caribbean economies to export a non-durable commodity like sugar to the other side of the globe, on account of high shipping costs. It is more likely that African countries would export sugar to E.U. countries, as they are closer to Europe. Here, it makes more sense for Caribbean economies to export to the United States.
Ever since the Great Depression of the early 1930s, Congress has prioritized its Farm Bills over other important decisions and policies. The whole notion behind the Farm Bill was to create a dynamic domestic food supply and make the United States less dependent on other nations for food. Due to an excess of global food supply in the 1930s and the stock price decline during the Great Depression, U.S. farmers suffered a huge blow from falling prices for agricultural commodities. President Roosevelt came to the ‘rescue’ of farmers by implementing the Farm Bill to support domestic farm prices during the Great Depression. Since then, sugar lobbies have misused the Farm Bill. It comes with a huge opportunity cost to the United States, as farm policy benefits only a few. The CATO Institute’s trade policy analysis estimates that the total cost of U.S. farm support programs was $1.7 trillion USD over the past 20 years. [7]
Arrangement of the Subsidy Program
The pending U.S. Farm Bill once again favors the sugar lobby by providing it with subsidies and monopolistic access to the domestic market, which could have serious ramifications for U.S. sugar policy in the coming years. Although the Farm Bill failed to initially pass in the House this year by a vote of 234 to 195, private sugar lobbies have not given up, and are pressing to ensure that it passes in this session. Every year the U.S. government gives out $25 billion USD to agribusinesses, with 75 percent of all subsidies going just to 10 percent of the country’s farms. [8] As a consequence of U.S. policy, sugar prices in the United States have now soared to three times the world price and currently stand at about 20 cents per pound, compared to less than 10 cents just a decade ago. American consumers and shopkeepers bear the burden of the deadweight loss brought about by sugar subsidies and import restrictions. Inflated sugar prices cost consumers $3.5 billion USD annually, in addition to the tax payments that fund the generous payouts to agribusiness. [9] Sugar subsidies and protectionist policies demonstrate quintessential special interest lobbying, and result in a generous but largely undeserved gift to well-connected economic interests. Anti-protectionists insist that the U.S. domestic sugar market should be opened up to unrestricted trade.
Subsidies to sugar producers are transmitted from the U.S. government to farmers through a “complex system of loans and quotas.” [10] Loans are usually granted directly to processors instead of farmers, so there is hardly any wealth transfer from top to bottom. Production workers and laborers earn minimum wage. Provided the harvest yields revenues higher than the cost of the loan, the loans are repaid to the government and profits are retained. However, if profits are meager, the company can pocket the advance from the government and leave the bureaucrats to either sell the sugar at a loss or pay to store it and hope for a price rise later. This price control mechanism allows the government to prevent sugar prices from falling.
Last year, sugar prices in the United States only fell from 25.5 cents per pound to 21 cents per pound due to poor harvests, but private companies were able to repay their loans in the form of sugar instead of cash. [11] This quarter, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to buy sugar from producers at an approximate cost of $38 million USD in order to increase sugar prices, which will maximize benefits for the producers. [12] The USDA plans to sell the sugar to ethanol-producing firms for a much lower price than it initially loaned it out at. [13] This practice results in huge losses for the government. According to this fiscal year’s forecast, the government plans to buy 400,000 tons of sugar—leading to a federal loss of $80 million USD when sold to ethanol producers. [14] In the past nine years, sugar processors have borrowed $8.8 billion USD from the government at very low interest rates ranging from 1.125 percent to 1.25 percent in 2012. [15] (By way of comparison, student loans are usually at about 7 percent interest, a situation so unfair it scarcely requires comment.) Additionally, the USDA does not care how the processors spend the borrowed money, which means that this loan mechanism is unregulated. [16] This means that the borrowers can even spend the amount for their personal use if they chose, and thus taxpayers’ money routinely winds up in the hands of sugar-producing families. The nation continues to incur losses from sugar companies’ success in lobbying for the maximization of their personal welfare.
According to the Wall Street Journal, sugar companies were amongst the largest donors to politicians in the 2012 election cycle. [17] Politicians and congresspeople, in return, vote in favor of federal farm subsidies. That is precisely the reason why the Farm Bill is expected to pass, as it has had no problems in getting House approval in the past. According to the USDA, $644 million USD still remain unpaid by sugar producers for the current fiscal year, and payments are due August 1. [18] Economists speculate that these companies are most likely to default, inflicting more damage on U.S. taxpayers. With a national debt of about $16 trillion USD, it makes little economic or social sense to spend billions of dollars on such a policy, which comes at an enormous cost to society. Furthermore, according to a report by the conservative CATO Institute, the Farm Bill is also subject to fraud and corruption. $1.3 billion USD in subsidies have been directly transferred to farm owners who did not use their farms for produce; $500 million USD, annually, is improperly recorded as contributing to production. [19]
Another aspect of U.S. sugar policy is the quota system. Quantities of imports above the quota limit are subject to stiff duties. Sugar imports that exceed set quotas are struck with “a prohibitively high duty of 16 cents per pound,” which is “sufficiently high to make sugar imports unprofitable.” [20] In 1998, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Australia had some of the least restrictive quotas, allowing more of their sugar to enter the United States, whereas Peru, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico (despite the North American Free Trade Agreement), Costa Rica, and other Caribbean countries had the most restrictive penalties in place, keeping their sugar out of the U.S. market. [21] These statistics vary across time, but sugar prices in the United States have remained above the free market price. Today, Brazil, one of the largest producers of sugar, is subject to a similar quota, along with 40 other countries. [22] Many of these are impoverished Caribbean countries that have been producing sugar for centuries. Tropical and naturally fertile Caribbean islands with perfect weather conditions are innately suitable for sugar harvest. Cuba, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago are amongst the major sugar producers in the region. Excluding Cuba, these islands form the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC). [23]
The Farm Bill is clearly a measure that rewards the sugar lobby and harms the poorest of the hemisphere. Daniel Griswold of the CATO Institute correctly noted that “the highest trade barriers remaining in the United States are aimed at products that are disproportionately consumed by poor people at home and produced by poor people abroad.” [24] The poor people of the hemisphere are most affected by such an irrational farm policy.
In relative terms, producing an ounce of sugar in the United States is much more expensive than producing the same ounce in the Caribbean. To understand the scale of opportunity cost of sugar subsidies, a 2006 report by the Commerce Department revealed that each preserved job in the U.S. sugar industry represents three jobs lost in confectionery manufacturing due to the resulting hike in sugar costs. [25] 20,000 jobs in the confectionary industry are lost every year due to the sugar policy of the United States. [26] In a world where global economies are indelibly interconnected, protectionist policies by the United States can have serious ramifications for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In 1984, New Zealand’s government eliminated all of its agriculture subsidies and repealed its protectionist policies. This allowed for foreign competition, innovation, and adoption of better technology in its farming sector. Today, New Zealand is one of the largest exporters of quality agricultural products around the globe. The United States should look to the example it provides. U.S. consumers would be better off buying lower cost sugar from Caribbean basin countries, and Caribbean farmers living in poverty need fair access to the U.S. market. The United States portrays itself as the biggest supporter of free market economies, yet it violates the very basic idea of the free market system through its sugar policy.
[1] Professor Najjar, Nabil Al and Baliga, Sandeep. “Sugar Daddy: Quotas and the U.S. Government,” Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University. HBS Case Study, 2004. Accessed July 17, 2013.
[2] William M. Leo Grande, ‘Cuban Dependency: A comparison of pre-revolutionary and post revolutionary International Economic Relation, 1979, pp, 1-29
[3] Schwabach, Aaron. “How Free Trade Can Save The Everglades,” The Goergetown International Environmental Law Review, Accessed July 15, 2013.
[4] Dr. Ahmed, Bilal. “The Impact of Globalization on Caribbean Sugar And Banana Industries,” The society for Caribbean studies annual conference papers, University of Nottingham 2-4 July 2001. Accessed July 23 2013
[5] “The Caribbean Sugar Industry, Sweet And Sour,” The Economist. August 28 2003. Accessed July 13, 2013,
[6] Walt Vivienne. “Even In Hard Times, E.U. Farm Subsidies Roll On,” Time. May 14 2010. Accessed July 17, 2013.,8599,1989196,00.html.
[7] Griswold Daniel. “Making the Case For Free Trade,” CATO Institute. October 30, 2004. Accessed July 17, 2013.
[8] “That Sickening Sugar Subsidy.” Bloomberg, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 July, 2013.
[9] Beghin, John and Elobeid, Amani “The Impact of U.S. Sugar Program,” November 17 2011. Accessed date 20 July 2013.
[10] “Sugar’s Sweet Deal.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 26 July 2013. Joshua Zumbrun. 6/30/2008. Accessed Date: July 20 2013
[11] ”That Sickening Sugar Subsidy.” Bloomberg, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 July, 2013.
[12] “3 Firms Got Most Sugar Aid.” Wall Street Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Sage. Web. <>.
[13] “That Sickening Sugar Subsidy,”, Bloomberg, 13 March 2013, Accessed 26 July, 2013,
[14] “3 Firms Got Most Sugar Aid.” Wall Street Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Sage. Web. <>.
[15] Alexandra Wexler, “Bulk Of U.S. Sugar Loans Went To Three Companies,” Wall Street Journal , June 26 2013, Accessed July 23, 2013.
[16] Fox, Lauren. “Tempers Run High in Congress Over Student Loan Debate.” US News. U.S.News & World Report. 09 July 2013. Accessed July 23, 2013.
[17] ”3 Firms Got Most Sugar Aid.” Wall Street Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Sage. Web. <>.
[18] Alexandra Wexler, “Bulk Of U.S. Sugar Loans Went To Three Companies,” Wall Street Journal , June 26 2013, Accessed July 23, 2013.
[19] Chris Edwards, “Ten Reasons To Cut Farm Subsidies,” CATO Institute. June 28, 2007. Accessed: July 21 2013.
[20] Professor Najjar, Nabil Al and Baliga, Sandeep. “Sugar Daddy:Quotas and the U.S. Government,” Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University. HBS Case Study, 2004. Accessed July 17, 2013.
[21] Ibid.
[22] “Sugar’s Sweet Deal.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 26 July 2013. Joshua Zumbrun. 6/30/2008. Accessed Date: July 20 2013
[23] Armstrong, Delroy Anthony. “The Potential Impact of Trade Policy Changes on Caribbean Sugar,” Louisiana State University. August 2004. Accessed July 19, 2013 Armstrong_thesis.pdf.
[24] Griswold Daniel. “Making the Case For Free Trade,” CATO Institute. October 30, 2004. Accessed July 17, 2013.
[25] Sens: Shaheen, Lugar, Toomey, “Sugar subsidies out of date,” The Hill Op-Ed. August 8 2012. Accessed July 19, 2013.,
[26] Website Homepage,, Accessed July 21, 2013


What is environmental impact of Lake Okeechobee discharge into St. Lucie River ?
August 9, 2013
Residents weary of eating fish caught in polluted water
STUART, Fla. —There is no question the discharge from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River is having an environmental impact. The question is just how much of an impact is it having ?
Evan Miller grew up along the river and said it's hard to watch the millions of gallons of discharge pollute the river he loves.
"It's just angered the community and we've all united to really let our voices be heard on this problem," Miller said.
Many people along the river, including Miller, believe the water is toxic, killing fish and wildlife in the area and is making the fish in the river unsafe to eat.
Officials disagree.
There's no question the water is toxic. It's a murky brown in most places, coated in blue-green algae in others. You're no longer allowed to swim in the river.
But the Martin County Health Department said it's safe to eat fish caught in the river.
Don't tell that to Arianna Vinardell of Port St. Lucie. She loves to fish near the Roosevelt Bridge. But Friday, she was tossing back everything she caught.
"They breathe the water. They eat things that are in here. The water is on them and in their gills," Vinardell pointed out. "Why would you want to eat that? It just doesn't seem OK."
The Health Department, though, said the flesh of the fish does not absorb the toxins. Health officials advise not to fish in areas where the blue-green algae are thick, but outside those areas are safe. Most of all, they stress using common sense and not to eat a fish that seems out of the ordinary.
As for the water killing fish and wildlife, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Friday that's just not happening. Officials there told WPBF 25 News they have not had one single report of a fish-kill in the St. Lucie River.
Miller finds that hard to believe and is planning a protest for Sunday. He expects thousands of people to line the river between Stuart Beach and Jensen Beach. They will write a message saying, "Save our rivers now."
"I think we're going to have to keep all the people that we can united as one and keep on doing this as long as we have to," Miller said.


As wildlife dies, outrage mounts over Florida slime – by David Guest
August 8, 2013
EPA turns back on stopping killer goo that chokes waterways, coastline.
Right now, in the prime-time of summer fishing, surfing, and swimming season, health officials in one of the prettiest places in southeast Florida are warning people not to touch the water because it poses a dangerous health risk.
A massive toxic algae outbreak along the Atlantic coast, north of Palm Beach, is turning the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Rivers sci-fi green. This is one of the most biologically productive parts of South Florida, and one of the most popular for water sports.
It’s also the same place where hundreds of manatees, birds, fish and dolphins have been washing up dead since last winter and spring. A New York Times article today dealt with many of these same issues. Thousands of fed-up local residents are taking to the streets in protest. On man carried a sign which said it all:
“No One Wants Sewer Front Property.”
As this crisis unfolds, what is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doing? Fighting us in federal court!
The EPA is trying to wiggle out of a binding legal agreement (consent decree) it made in 2009 with Earthjustice and our clients to limit the sewage, manure, and fertilizer pollution that sparks the algae outbreaks. We are now challenging the EPA’s attempt to alter the consent decree in the Northern District of Florida.
The green slime covers miles of riverfront property in the coastal communities of Stuart, Hobe Sound, Port Salerno, and Jensen Beach. An algae outbreak here several years ago caused waterfront property values to drop—permanently—by a half million dollars.
“The sickening situation has some people so angry that they are calling for politicians to be voted out of office,” read a story in the Stuart News.
Local resident Benjamin D'Avanzo told the paper:
Our politicians take an oath into office and it should be apparent by the mess right here that they are not representing us.
Giant slugs of this filthy water, filled with excess nitrogen and phosphorus from industrial-scale sugar, vegetable and cattle operations, are being released from Florida’s inland “liquid heart”—Lake Okeechobee. Regional water managers say recent rains have made the lake too high and they need to let some of the water out. So, out it goes – through the St. Lucie River to the Atlantic, and down the Caloosahatchee River west into the Gulf of Mexico, carrying toxic pollution to the coasts.
Leon Abood, a real estate agent in Stuart, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
It's as bad for the economy as it is for the environment. There is no end in sight … We have had it.
A local surfer angry about the environmental crisis organized a Facebook page and put together a protest in just a week. Thousands of people showed up on Aug. 4 and crowded a public park in Stuart, saying they are tired of the government coddling polluters and selling out the public.
One pair dressed as medics and carried an inflatable dolphin in a stretcher to memorialize the hundreds of dead dolphins. Others carried signs showing stacks of manatee carcasses. Several protesters said they have gotten nasty skin conditions and health effects from the pollution, and that the toxic water has made their pets sick.
One man arrived dressed as a piece of, um, sewage.
It’s been five years since we sued over the government’s inaction on setting limits on this pollution. Our clients are the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club. Back then, we were hopeful when the EPA settled the suit by agreeing to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida.
Now, we are disappointed to see the EPA asking a judge to modify the consent decree so that fewer waters are protected and big polluters can keep dumping sewage, manure and fertilizer into our public waters, sparking the algae outbreaks like the one sliming the St Lucie and Indian Rivers.
It’s as if the Department of Bridges has decided not to have any standards for a huge class of bridges and now those bridges are collapsing. The slime covering the rivers on the southeast coast are like those collapsing bridges. It is clear-cut proof that the Clean Water Act is not being enforced. Here it is, the prime of summer, and people can’t fish or play in the waters they love without endangering their health. That’s wrong.
The angry residents plan another rally this Sunday along the beachfront, where the pollution coming out of the rivers is spreading into the Atlantic.
Photos of the outbreak, and ongoing news coverage, are available at TCPalm's Our Indian River Lagoon and "Save the St. Lucie River and Martin County Wildlife" Facebook page. And for more information and news about Florida’s algae outbreaks—their causes and solutions—visit


Conservation lands for sale in Florida - by Mike Vasilinda
August 8, 2013
The State of Florida is getting ready to put up ‘for sale’ signs – on some state-owned property. This year’s state budget requires land to be sold before more land can be bought.
Nearly 3-million acres of state-owned conservation land in Florida is being evaluated. And possibly, put up for sale. “We’re going to run through all of our land. We’re going to score it based on what we can sell eventually,” says Patrick Gillespie from Department of Environmental Protection.
The Department of Environmental Protection was given 70-million dollars in the state budget to purchase new land… The hook? The state has to make up that money in large part by selling property it already owns. “This legislature and some of the people in power in Tallahassee don’t have that point of view,” says Eric Draper, Audubon Florida.
The list is still being compiled on which state-owned properties they’ll put up for sale. There will be a public hearing later this month. “Every time the state tries to sell a piece of conservation land, the people who are using it stand up and say hey, wait a minute,” says Eric Draper, Audubon Florida.
State and private agencies are working together to agree on a list of properties to put up for sale. The list won’t include well known parks like the Everglades. “We’re going to try and prevent selling any land that we think still is needed for conservation and can be helpful to protect natural resources,” says Patrick Gillespie from Department of Environmental Protection.
Other groups in the state are working toward a state constitutional amendment which would require one-third of the tax on real-estate transfers to go toward buying lands.. It’s estimated to bring in a little less than one-billion dollars a year over the next 20 years. The money would be used to purchase land, restore conservation lands, beach restoration and water projects in the state. “We think we need to buy more land. Buy more wildlife habitat,” says Eric Draper, Audubon Florida.
The state hopes the process will lead them to valuable land Florida doesn’t already own.


Emotions run high at water advisory panel in Jensen Beach - by Jana Eschbach
August 8 2013
JENSEN BEACH, Fla. -- Normally the commission panel meets with little ado to address the issues of funding and Everglades Restoration projects. But on Thursday, the Water Resource Advisory Commission meeting is charged with emotion from the public.
MORE: Escalating concerns over Lake Okeechobee rising water levels
"If that's not worth the money, if this isn't worth the money than what is? Where are our taxes going ? Where is our money going ?" said teacher Crystal Lucas.
Residents turned out by the hundreds to comment. This comes as the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon turn green with toxic algae. 
Martin and St. Lucie Counties' Health Departments are declaring the water off-limits due to fecal contamination and bacteria.
The panel met to talk about solutions. Some are billions of dollars, involving reservoirs and redirecting water flows and complex ecosystems. Some take decades to build and work.
But while the solutions are complex, the problem is plain to see for 5 year-old Hannah.
"It's turning green. All the animals are dying...all the fish are dying. The same thing," said Hannah. "Now everything is dying at the river."
Hannah knows she can't go swimming.  
"Because it may make you sick..if it gets in your eyes or ears it may make you sick very easily because they took out the salt water," Hannah said.
"I brought her because this is her future," said her mother Crystal Lucas. "I don't want her to come and hear stories secondhand. I want her to see there were people fighting when she was little. I don't want her to think this is something just on the front page of the news."
There are multiple plans and projects to repair the damage done and restore some water flows southward. These projects need billions in funding, and much of that funding was stripped by Washington this year.
In a joint news release this week, state agencies said:
"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Department of Health and South Florida Water Management District are working together to address the complex environmental and public health issues affecting the St. Lucie River and Estuary, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. The agencies, along with other state and local partners are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to balance flood control, navigation, water supply, water quality and the overall ecological health of these water bodies."
DEP continues its restoration efforts for the Treasure Coast. In July, the department announced the adoption of the first restoration plan for the St. Lucie River and Estuary with local governments already investing $230 million to address storm water runoff.
Under Governor Scott’s leadership, the department also set the first restoration road map for the Indian River Lagoon. The three restoration plans for the lagoon account for more than $300 million invested or to be invested in restoration projects. Stakeholders in the area have completed, or will complete, hundreds of projects over the next five years.
“These restoration plans and collaborative commitments illustrate what can be accomplished when the state invests wisely to support and supplement Department and water management district restoration programs,” said Department Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Much more needs to be done, but these projects can pave the way to restoration while we continue to gather the data and information needed to guide future efforts.”
With Lake Okeechobee’s water level continuing to rise from months of above-average rainfall, the South Florida Water Management District is taking action to capture and store water throughout the flood control system.
In addition to using regional public projects to store excess water, the district is working with property owners to retain water on their land rather than drain it, to accept and detain regional runoff, or do both.
Holding water on these lands is one tool to help reduce the amount of water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and/or discharged to the St. Lucie Estuary during the current high water conditions throughout South Florida.
The recent development of an algae bloom in the St. Lucie Estuary has highlighted the complexity and unique challenges these ecosystems present. South Florida Water Management District meteorologists report the wettest April through July period on record in South Florida since 1932.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who manages the level of Lake Okeechobee with input from stakeholders including the district, has been making regulatory releases. The heavy influx of fresh water into the St. Lucie basin at this time of year is a primary reason for the type of bloom currently occurring over a significant segment of the estuary.
DEP deployed staff to sample the algae and current water quality conditions in three locations in the St. Lucie basin last week. Initial tests confirmed a bloom of potential toxin-producing cyanobacteria. DEP’s laboratory in Tallahassee conducted additional analyses of the samples. The results received Tuesday confirmed the presence of microcystin (toxin). These results have been shared with the Department of Health and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
This data, along with different types of investigations by the Department of Health and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will inform both short- and long-term strategies to protect public health and the environment.
The area remains under a precautionary advisory by the Department of Health in Martin County and residents are encouraged to follow that guidance and stay advised to any current advisory conditions.
"People need to know that they can become sick or experience respiratory problems from swimming in or coming in contact with the affected waters,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Floridians should listen closely to local health advisories to keep their families safe.”
In addition, DOH officials urge people to not allow their pets to swim or drink in or near algae blooms. Avoid eating fish harvested from areas near or in the blooms. Some people who are very sensitive to the algae may develop a rash. If you do come in contact with affected waters, wash with soap and water right away. As always, if you experience an illness, please see your health care provider immediately.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Research Institute is continuing regular monitoring of fish and wildlife in the area and working with our state and federal partners to gather and analyze current data. Fish kills can occur due to low dissolved oxygen in the water, which can be caused by algal blooms, as well as high temperatures and extended periods of cloudy, rainy weather. Although cyanobacteria blooms can occur at any time of year, they usually take place during summer or early fall. They are influenced by light, nutrients, and temperature.
“This is a complex issue that involves several eco-systems and the unprecedented amounts of rain in the last several months,” said Nick Wiley, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We encourage the public to help our efforts to better understand this situation by adding to our surveillance capacity and reporting fish kills and injured or sick wildlife”.
To report a fish kill or abnormally behaving fish, call the FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submit a report online at
Report sick, injured or dead wildlife including manatees and sea turtles to the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922
You can find additional information on health effects related to algae at
For more information about the water quality protection and restoration programs visit
Funding for current water projects:"


Lake Okeechobee rising as drainage problems grow
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 8, 2013
Lake Okeechobee's rising water level is expected to hit 16 feet Thursday, continuing to climb despite the deluge of lake water getting dumped out to sea for South Florida flood control.
Increased water levels boost the strain on Lake Okeechobee's more than 70-year-old dike, which is considered one of the country's most at-risk of a breach.
To lessen the strain on the dike, the Army Corps of Engineers since May has been dumping billions of gallons of lake water west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River.

While those lake discharges help avoid flooding in South Florida, they are having damaging environmental
  LO water release
Lake Okeechobee water release - necessary, but causes some big problems -
consequences on coastal waterways — fouling fishing grounds and in some areas making water unsafe for human contact. The lake draining could continue through the end of the year, according to the Army Corps.
A rainier-than-usual summer has nearly twice as much water flowing into Lake Okeechobee as the amount of water being drained out, according to the Army Corps. "There has been a tremendous amount of rainfall," Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Army Corps' deputy commander for South Florida said at a Lake Okeechobee briefing Wednesday. "We have still not reached the peak of hurricane season. … We are taking that very seriously."
The lake early Wednesday was 15.99 feet above sea level, nearly 4 feet above this time last year. The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet.
So far no signs of damage or significantly increased seepage through the earthen dike have been found, Greco said.
When the lake goes above 17 feet, the corps considers the dike at a "significantly higher" risk of a breach.
The polluting effects of the lake discharges are prompting outrage in coastal communities where the water quality problems threaten to scare away tourists and scar marine habitat.
Proposed Everglades restoration projects that call for building more water storage and treatment areas could one day provide an alternative to the damaging dumping of lake water out to sea. But that relief remains backlogged by high costs and other political hurdles.
"There are no short-term fixes to turn the water off," Greco said.
Despite months of draining Lake Okeechobee water out to sea, lake water levels are expected to top 16 feet this week    Sun Sentinel
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Lake Okeechobee water releases ... WPTV
Lake Okeechobee Dike At Risk As Water Levels Rise, Drainage ... Huffington Post

Construction to begin under Scott Everglades plan - by: Amy Green
August 7, 2013
WMFE - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued its first construction permit under Gov. Rick Scott's $880 million dollar plan to clean up the Everglades. A new reservoir will be built south of Lake Okeechobee.
The state aims to start construction on the 15,000-acre reservoir in October.
Audubon of Florida's Charles Lee says the goal is to reduce pressure on stormwater treatment areas.
The treatment areas contain aquatic plants to cleanse water of damaging phosphorus before it flows to protected areas of the Everglades.
Lee says the treatment areas don't work well when they're flooded with too much water.
"Instead of putting out low numbers of phosphorus, down around 15 or so parts per billion, which is what they're capable of when you have a balanced system. When you get too much water in there it'll run up to 40 or 50 parts per billion in a hurry."
Lee says the new reservoir will help, but it won't do much for troubled areas in the northern and central Everglades, which reach as far north as Kissimmee. 
He says more water storage is needed north of Lake Okeechobee.
The governor's Everglades plan settles two decades of litigation over the region's water quality.
The reservoir is expected to be complete by the end of 2014.


Court rules against mining in Everglades Agricultural Area
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
August 7, 2013
A massive rock mine should not be allowed to eat up Palm Beach County farmland that was once part of the Everglades, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The decision by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals stops U.S. Sugar Corp. from turning 7,000 acres of its farmland south of Lake Okeechobee into a rock mine.
The ruling was another big victory for environmental groups who have now used the courts to foil plans for at least three rock mining operations, which they argued threatened Everglades restoration.
“It’s a big victory for the Everglades,” said Lisa Interlandi, an attorney for the Everglades Law Center. “This area is intended to remain agricultural and to be available for Everglades restoration.”
Between 2006 and 2010, Palm Beach County approved new or expanded rock mining on 20,000 acres of western farmland, despite environmental concerns.
Rock mining produces material for road building and other construction. But environmentalists have long warned that the deep digging and blasting of rock mining threatens to pollute water supplies and get in the way of Everglades restoration.
1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club were among the environmental groups that filed the legal challenges, arguing that the rock mining proposals would run afoul of restrictions aimed at limiting rock mining to agricultural operations, Everglades restoration or producing materials just for public road construction
Court rules against rock mining in Everglades Agricultural Area      Palm Beach Post
U.S. Sugar loses appeal on mining permit in the Everglades  South Florida Business Journal
United States - US Sugar loses appeal on mining permit in the ...     AgraNet



Florida water managers mull selling some State lands – by Bonner R. Cohen, PhD,  a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research
August 7, 2013
Under a directive from Republican Gov. Rick Scott to assess whether the public lands they manage are fulfilling their “core missions,” Florida state agencies are taking inventory of state-owned lands for possible sale back to the people.
Water Management District Inventory
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) launched potentially the most impactful inventory assessment, beginning a “land assessment process” that will determine the fate of the 1.5 million acres (more than 2,300 square miles) it oversees.
Accumulated over the years primarily for conservation purposes, SFWMD’s properties include wildlife habitat and vast but scattered tracts of land that front rivers, marshes, and bays. The water district’s lands stretch from the Kissimmee River in south central Florida to marshes in southernmost Miami-Dade County.
SFWMD’s holdings are as large as its mission is vast. The district is charged with providing flood protection as well as maintaining water quality, water supply, and the ecological health of South Florida’s natural areas.
Government Owns 30 Percent of Land
Federal, state, and local governments own nearly 30 percent of the land in Florida. Scott’s directive is designed to restore private property rights and reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars spent to manage so much government land.
Initially, SFWMD will assess what to do with half its holdings, or 750,000 acres. The District expects to hold on to most of its properties, but it knows certain tracts are likely to wind up for sale.
Most likely to go on the market are isolated tracts, typically a few hundred acres in size, that aren’t contiguous to larger conservation or restoration areas managed by the District.
Private Management Suggested
Bob McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based public policy organization, says state officials could have more efficiently cared for government-owned lands by working more cooperatively with privately owned land management companies.
“It is commonly understood that the State of Florida lacks the time and resources to properly manage all the land in its care,” said Bob McClure. “The state uses private services in a multitude of areas. One option could be to privatize the management of its land holdings such that they are protected and preserved for effective use, while being mindful of the best interest for the short- and long-term needs of the state.”
The process of state officials deciding what lands to hold on to and what lands to dispose of will take time. Before any land is put up for bids, there will be further evaluations, appraisals, public comment, and approval from the agency’s governing board.


Wasteful irrigation

New effort targets water use planning – by John Buchanan
August 7, 2013
Accurate analysis of agricultural water use and projection of future demand are critical to Florida's economy and food supply.
And thanks to a bill passed by the legislature earlier this year, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has begun a new initiative to improve the planning process.
The legislation directs FDA to establish an agricultural water supply planning program that includes the development of data that more accurately forecasts agricultural water supply demands based on at least a 20-year period.
For the past 20 years, estimated future water supply needs for agricultural use have been independently developed by the state's five water management districts and incorporated into their regional water supply plans.
At least three different methodologies have been used to generate analyses of future ag water demand. Those different methodologies have often resulted in dramatic differences in water demand estimates for the same crop in adjacent counties.
As a result of CS/SB 948, which took effect July 1 and provides an initial $1 million in funding, FDA is now the clearinghouse for data that estimates agricultural acreage by crop and related-water demands.
By 2030, Florida's demand for fresh water will increase by about 1.4 billion gallons per day (bgd) for a total of 7.9 bgd, according to current estimates.
Traditional sources of fresh groundwater will not be able to meet all of the additional demand.
Diversification of water sources is needed to maintain a reliable water supply. Regional water supply plans, developed by the water management districts, identify alternative water supply projects that can, if constructed, produce approximately 2.0 bgd of water by 2030. That is more than adequate to meet projected 2030 needs.
Agricultural irrigation and public supply are, by far, the largest categories of water use.
The water districts expect agricultural irrigation demand will grow by almost 8.5 percent. Anticipated reduction in production acreage and increases in agricultural water conservation efforts are projected to keep increases in agricultural irrigation demand to a minimum.
However, accurate forecasting and planning are increasingly critical to Florida's agriculture industry, said Ray Scott, environmental administrator at FDA's Office of Agricultural Water Policy.
One example of the historical challenge of data discrepancies was in Osceola County, Scott said.
"The demand statistics associated with citrus in the county were much higher in one water management district than the other," Scott said. "And in our opinion, the differences were greater than could be explained by different irrigation practices or whatever. They were more the result of applying different methodologies. It was very clear in that case that either one estimate was understated or one was overstated. And when we got involved, it wasn't immediately clear to us which it was. We didn't have the right number yet. But it indicated to us that there needed to be improvement in the way ag water demand is projected in the future."
The Osceola County example became the genesis for FDA's legislative push, supported by Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam, to assume a centralized leadership role in future planning.
"As the state department of agriculture, we needed to have a better handle on current agricultural acreage and water needs," Scott said. "And, in part, this effort was an acknowledgement on our part that we could either be critical of the water management districts, or we could step in an make a positive contribution to the water supply planning process. We decided to approach it by trying to play a positive role in the overall process."
For Florida farmers and ranchers, Scott said, the primary benefit of the new and consolidated effort is that "if we're going to make sure that we have sufficient water for future agricultural needs, we need to see [demand data] that is as precise as accurate as possible when we are determining current acreage and water use, and then projecting them into the future."
Scott has already met twice with the state's five water management districts.
"The purpose of those presentations," he said, "was just to come together and talk about how we are going to proceed with this process."
One key element of the new initiative is an improvement to the National Agricultural Statistic Service annual crop survey. Because it is done on a statewide basis, Scott said, it is difficult to use the data on a regional basis.
"We are working with the WMDS (water districts) on this to try to identify the most significant crops we would like to have those crop surveys done on county-by-county basis," Scott said, "so we would have more locally specific data that would give us a better way of determining local agricultural production and water needs."
Darrell Smith, assistant director of the Office of Agricultural Policy, noted that conservation is the most important practical aspect of established policy. "And we have a good story to tell statewide when it comes to agriculture and what the industry is doing to help conserve water," he said.
The new effort, Smith said, will simply help ensure that the future needs of Florida farmers and ranchers are successfully met.


Work continues on solving dolphin deaths – by Sandy Bauers, Inquirer Staff Writer
August 7, 2013
The number of dead or dying dolphins that have washed ashore recently on the New Jersey coast increased to 28 Tuesday morning with the discovery of a "skeletonized" carcass at Holgate.
Strandings also are continuing along the coast, from New York to Virginia.
In July alone, 91 bottlenose dolphins became stranded along this stretch of coast, "a very significant increase over the norm," said Mendy Garron, who oversees a regional stranding network for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A team of veterinarians, virologists, toxicologists, and other experts is reviewing the data to determine whether the strandings rank as an "unusual mortality event" - a formal designation that would loosen funds for an intensive investigation led by federal authorities.
More coverage
Based on necropsies - the animal version of autopsies - at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, officials know that four of New Jersey's stranded dolphins had pneumonia. One had morbillivirus, an infection related to human measles and canine distemper that has figured in past strandings.
But pinpointing an overall cause or causes for the strandings could take weeks or months, Garron said.
July's strandings of bottlenose dolphins numbered 47 in Virginia, seven in Maryland, two in Delaware, 20 in New Jersey, and 15 in New York.
Since 1991, officials have declared 59 "unusual mortality events." Causes include ecological factors, infectious diseases, biotoxins, and human interaction, but many remain undetermined.
The species most commonly involved are California sea lions, manatees, and bottlenose dolphins.
One official mortality event involves the stranding of emaciated dolphins this summer in the Indian River lagoon system along the east coast of Florida. By the end of July, 53 dolphins had been found.
Another event being investigated is in the northern Gulf of Mexico, where more than 1,000 dolphins and other related species - all referred to as cetaceans - have been reported dead or dying since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Garron said it is important to study these because dolphins are "sentinels for water quality and life in our oceans. Plus, when something is affecting these animals, it could be affecting us as humans."
New Jersey environmental officials have said the current strandings appear to be part of "a natural disease cycle" and not water quality.
Nevertheless, "these animals can carry diseases that can be transmissible to other animals, other mammals, or even humans," Garron said. "It's something we're continuously screening them for. The more we look, the more we tend to find."
In 2011, officials declared an unusual mortality event for harbor seals in New England, traced to an avian-based influenza. The strain was not transmissible to humans, but in the process of discovering that, scientists learned how the virus mutated over several months.
Studies after a 1987-88 die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the East Coast, in which 742 animals died, showed there were distinct dolphin populations along the coast, said Lance Garrison, a NOAA research fishery biologist based in Florida.
They congregate in the same areas and breed among themselves.
Satellite tagging data and other studies show that the dolphins stranding along the New Jersey coast are likely part of a population that summers there, then migrates to near Cape Hatteras, N.C., for the winter.
They stay mostly along the coast and out to water depths of about 80 feet, Garrison said.
Scientists' best estimate is that the population numbers nearly 10,000. But in a year, they can withstand only about 70 cases of "human-caused mortality" - which could include strandings, depending on the cause - and still be considered a healthy population, he said.
The current number of strandings is higher, but the animals that came ashore in Virginia could be from a more southerly group of dolphins.
A third population stays farther offshore. Garrison said genetic tests could distinguish between coastal and offshore animals, but not between the northern and southern groups.
If most of the strandings turn out to be from the northern group, "it would be reasonable for that to have a significant effect on the population long-term," Garrison said.
As the carcass count mounts, scientists at New Bolton and other places able to handle large animals continue with the necropsies.
In a process that takes upward of an hour, they begin with an overall assessment of the organs and tissues, said Perry Habecker, chief of large-animal pathology, then begin analyzing tissue samples under a microscope to search for evidence of cancer, infections, or other systemic diseases.
Officials warn the public not to touch stranded animals but to call the marine mammal stranding network (1-866-755-6622).

Concerns rise for Florida oyster industry
August 6 2013
There could be big problems ahead for the oyster industry in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are concerned about the lack of water flow in the Apalachicola river.  The flow of water from Atlanta has been the subject of a law suit for more than two decades.  The problem has worsened in recent years because of increased drought conditions.  Governor rick Scott is pointing a finger at the corps of engineers.
"You know, it's so disappointing that the corps engineer hasn't solved the problem. It's been devastating to the oyster industry. We need more water flowing through there if we are going to have more oysters.”
Governor Scott says the corps needs to get the water flowing so people in the oyster industry can get back to their lives.



Escaped python kills 2 young boys in Canada
USA Today – by Doug Stanglin and Michael Winter
August 6, 2013
Two young boys sleeping at their friend's home above an exotic pet store were strangled by a python that escaped its enclosure in the Canadian town of Campbellton, New Brunswick, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday.
"The preliminary investigation has led police to believe that a python snake escaped its enclosure in the store sometime overnight," said Constable Julie Rogers-Marsh, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Police were notified about 6:30 a.m.
A former employee of Reptile Ocean told the National Post that the snake was an African rock python between 14 and 16 feet long. Initial reports incorrectly stated it was a boa constrictor.
The unidentified boys were 5 and 7 years old, the RCMP said. They were believed to be brothers who were on a sleepover at the owner's apartment, according to theNational Post.
Rogers-Marsh said it was not yet clear how the non-venomous snake escaped. It apparently traveled through the ventilation system and crushed the boys as they slept. Autopsies will be conducted Tuesday.
The python, the only large snake in the store, was captured and turned over to police.
Store owner Jean-Claude Savoie told Global News he discovered the grisly scene in the living room, which the python entered through a hole in the ceiling.
"My body is in shock. I don't know what to think," he said. "I thought they were sleeping until I (saw) the hole in the ceiling. I turned the lights on and I (saw) this horrific scene."
He said he considered the two boys "like they're my kids."
Savoie, who pinned and caged the python, said no one normally handles the snake, which he described as "vicious." Former store employee Tim Thomas told the National Post that "every cage had two locks on it." The store also has two enclosures for crocodiles.
In the wild, African rock pythons feed on monkeys, antelopes, warthogs and even crocodiles. In suburban areas, their prey includes dogs, goats, rats or fowl.
They rarely attack humans, but when they do, the victims are typically children.
The town of around 7,000 people, in far eastern Canada, "is in shock," said Campbellton Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau.
Reptile Ocean, on its Facebook page, calls itself an exotic pet store "open to the public for purchase and viewing." It opened in 1995 and is categorized as "noncommercial zoological gardens."
Comeau noted that the snakes have been imported legally only since 2009.
In South Florida on Monday, police captured a 14-foot-long Burmese python that a homeowner found while cleaning out his shed.
In January, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission held a month-long competition to capture and kill invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
But Florida wildlife officials say African rock pythons pose an even bigger threat to the state and are more dangerous than their Burmese cousins.
"This is just one vicious animal," Kenneth Krysko, a herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, said in a 2009 National Geographic article. He said African pythons are "so mean they come out of the egg striking."


LO water release

Lake Okeechobee Releases
US-ACE Fact Sheet
August 6, 2013
Setting the Record Straight
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiated releases from Lake Okeechobee in May in an effort to control water levels as authorized under its water control plan, the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).  Since that time, a number of statements have been made that are inconsistent with the facts regarding the Corps’ water management activities. 
Current Actions
As of today (Aug. 2, 2013), the lake level is 15.86 feet NVGD, up 1.63 from July 1.  Inflows continue to outpace outflows, but the gap has started closing in recent days.  The Corps has maximized the flows to the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Canal as authorized by LORS.  The Corps plans to discharge at current levels until the lake level returns to the Low Operational Sub-Band as defined by LORS.  It is unknown when this will occur because the lake continues to rise, despite the releases. 
Myths & Facts
Myth:  The Corps is to blame for killing wildlife in the estuary.
Fact:  Since May 8, more water has flowed to both estuaries as a result of runoff from heavy rain than has come from the lake.  Thus, heavy precipitation in the region has done more to upset the saltwater/freshwater balance in the estuaries than the water releases. The bottom line is that the lake is at dangerously high level and rising every day, and moving water out of the lake is critically important.
Myth:  The Corps is to blame for releasing fecal-contaminated water.
Fact:  The Corps releases water from the lake in accordance with LORS, and we do share the concern about the quality of the water being released. It is important to note that the Corps has no control over the quality of water that flows into the lake; it is polluted by phosphorus from fertilizer, poorly-maintained septic systems and herbicides and pesticides from across the watershed. Water quality is a state responsibility, and the state must take action to improve the quality of water flowing into and out of Lake Okeechobee.
Myth:  The Corps has capacity north and south of the lake that isn’t being utilized.
Fact: The Corps and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) continue to work together to explore all options for lowering water levels. The SFWMD reported today that this is the wettest start to the annual wet season in 45 years, with the district-wide average rainfall for the last month at 10.36 inches. Just one inch of rain falling on one acre is equal to about 27,154 gallons of water. The SFWMD has provided 3500 acre feet of storage, which can handle only about eight hours worth of water coming in to Lake Okeechobee. We are exploring ways to increase the current minimal southern flows through the Water Conservation Areas; however we must first carefully analyze the impacts of potentially flooding Tamiami Trail and Miami-Dade County, as well as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s concerns about wildlife impacts. We do not currently have the capability to move water through the Everglades Agricultural Area. We are years away from realizing benefits from several long-term solutions such as the C-43 Reservoir and the Central Everglades Planning Project. Public safety is the Corps’ top priority, and as such, potential impacts are constantly being evaluated in regards to how a decision in one part of the system may adversely impact another. Our partner, SFWMD, agrees: “South Florida is saturated, leaving very few places to move water as we work to keep the system prepared for the peak of the hurricane season,” said Susan Sylvester, SFWMD Chief of the Water Control Operations Bureau. “Our continual challenge with heavy rainfall is balancing flood control for 7.7 million residents while protecting the region’s wildlife and natural systems, including the Everglades.”
Myth: If the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) Rehabilitation Project were completed, the Corps would be able to reduce releases and hold more water in Lake Okeechobee.
Fact: While the purpose of the HHD Rehabilitation Project is to strengthen its ability to continue protecting lakeside communities, there are other considerations for how much water will be held in the lake once the project is completed. Higher lake levels adversely impact the ecology of the lake and its habitats. We will always need to regulate the level of Lake Okeechobee; the ultimate goal, however, is to increase our storage and conveyance options to do so. Water quality improvements implemented by the state will also have a positive impact.


High water

"...WOW !, It used to be
only knee deep here !"

Where will wildlife go in saturated south Florida ?
August 6, 2013
MIAMI — The heavy rains that have saturated South Florida could force wildlife such as deer and panthers to cluster together on high ground in the Everglades if water levels continue to rise, said a wildlife conservationist.
Animals can also quickly run out of food and shelter, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner Ron Bergeron. As he kept a close eye as the water rises around tree islands and levees, Bergeron was calling on state and federal agencies to begin lowering water levels in the 700,000-acre conservation area.
He feared a repeat of what he called the "massacre" of the mid-1990s, when months of high water wiped out 90 percent of the deer herd and other animals, the Miami Herald reported on Sunday.
"It's natural in a 100-year act of God to have extreme high water," Bergeron said. "The weak die and the strong survive. When you extend that event like in 1994, it becomes a man-made event, and that's unnatural. I don't want to wait till it's too late."
In response to Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, state and federal agencies temporarily raised water levels in a canal that runs along Tamiami Trail and pushed that water into Everglades National Park, and eventually to Florida Bay. Water levels dropped about a foot in a month, he said.
“"I'm not asking for something that hasn't already been done. We need to be proactive rather than reactive."”
Ron Bergeron, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner
"I'm not asking for something that hasn't already been done," he added. "We need to be proactive rather than reactive."
Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy district commander for South Florida, said they were working to find alternating means of moving water out of the conservation area and an analysis would be completed in the next few days.
Increased flows could flood communities south of the Trail and east of Everglades National Park, he cautioned.
"We don't have all the data and information to make a change right now," he told The Miami Herald. "We're going through the data to see what kind of flexibility there is. We've got to look at other components of the system so it doesn't have adverse impacts somewhere else."
July's soaking capped the wettest start to the season since 1968 and the last four months have been the wettest April-through-July time period since 1932, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
"Our continual challenge with heavy rainfall is balancing flood control for 7.7 million residents while protecting the region's wildlife and natural system, including the Everglades," said Susan Sylvester, the chief of the district's water control operations bureau, in a statement on Friday.
The Army Corps has been making regulatory releases and water levels were currently at or above scheduled levels in the Everglades conservation area, officials said.


LO water release

Lake O reaches critical levels - by Melissa Beltz
August 5, 2013
  LO level
LAKE OKEECHOBEE—South Florida’s rainy season has been especially relentless this year, causing Lake Okeechobee’s water levels to rise to alarming levels. The lake now stands at 15.78 feet as of July 30, and continues to rise, with rainfall occurring almost daily.
High lake levels have serious consequences, especially during the height of hurricane season. Is it the responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers to keep an eye on water levels and to take action when the lake reaches critical levels. John Campbell, public affairs specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville Division, which oversees Lake Okeechobee, explained that the Corps has been releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River to the west and the St. Lucie Canal to the east.
“As we’ve gotten deeper and the lake has continued to rise, we’ve increased the water we’ve been releasing and we’re now discharging at maximum capacity, which varies due to several factors,” said Campbell. Those factors include tidal influences and how much water is already in the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Canal. “We’re attempting to push out all that we can, but the lake continues to rise because of inflows from the north, mainly, the Kissimmee River Basin, as well as Fisheating Creek.”
This season’s heavy rainfall is not helping the Corps’ efforts. From January 2 to July 30, the district-wide rainfall -- which includes 16 counties stretching south to north from eastern Miami-Dade to southern Orange and east to west from Broward, Palm Beach and Martin to Lee, Collier and northern Monroe -- was 35.05 feet, 6.5 feet higher than average, according to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
“Our biggest concern is the Herbert Hoover Dike,” explained Campbell. The dike was built by the federal government in the 1930s, after two hurricanes caused earlier embankments to collapse, killing more than 2,500 people in 1926 and 1928. Originally, the dike consisted of 67.8 miles of levee along the south shore of the lake and 15.7 miles along the north shore. After a major hurricane in 1947, additional construction was necessary and in the 1960s, 143 miles of levee, as well as 19 culverts, hurricane gates and other water control structures, were built and named the Herbert Hoover Dike.
The integrity of the dike, however, has been compromised.
“Because of construction methods used in the 1940s and 50s, there has been erosion. As the lake rises, our concern becomes the stability of the dike,” explained Campbell. When the lake reaches levels in the 16 to 17 feet range, the water puts excess pressure on the already compromised dike.
In 2007, an adjusted water control plan was passed and implemented in 2008. The new plan, called 2008LORS, attempts to maintain lower lake levels in order to preserve the Herbert Hoover Dike, according to SFWMD. Previous water control plans, which allowed water levels to reach into the 17 to 18 feet range before it was necessary to take action, caused erosion of the dike, including internal seepage. The current plan lowered the level at which action should be taken to 15.5 feet. The lake has now surpassed that level, and the Corps is doing everything in its power to reduce the water to a lower level.
“The rising lake adds to rising concerns. We will start taking a lot of proactive action. We’ve started doing weekly inspections of the dike, especially in certain areas that were known to have problems in past. If the lake reaches a level above 16.5 feet, we will do inspections on a daily basis. That’s a proactive measure, to detect issues before they become major issues,” said Campbell.
High lake levels not only affect the integrity of the dike, but pose an increased risk for residents who live nearby during hurricane season.
“As a hurricane comes within striking distance, there’s so much water in the lake it’s like a small ocean, and the winds can generate a pretty powerful storm surge, which could impact residents who live along the lake’s edge,” said Campbell. “When [Tropical Storm] Isaac hit in 2012, we received heavy precipitation which amounted to a three-foot increase in a one-month time period. Last year at this time, the lake was between 12 and 12.5 feet. Isaac hit in August. By early October, the lake was 15.93 feet, where it topped out. We haven’t hit that point yet, but we’re well on our way. Clearly, we’re much earlier into the wet season. If we were to see a tropical event that causes a three-foot rise, the lake would be above 18.5 feet. That’s cause for concern. We’re doing our best to stabilize the rise in the lake ... but Mother Nature has a role in that, too.”
Campbell explained that managing the lake levels is a balancing act. As water is released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Canal, coastal areas are adversely impacted.
“It’s very challenging. The thing we have to balance is the impact to coastal areas when we release water from Lake Okeechobee,” said Campbell.
As of July 30, inflows into the lake totaled 16,215 cubic feet per second, with outflows totaling only 9,473 cubic feet per second. Campbell explained that if rainfall continues at its current rate, the lake will continue to see inflows that exceed outflows.
“The Corps’ highest priority is public safety and actions are being taken to stabilize the dike. The Corps is working on a number of projects to reduce the risk of dike failure, but they will take several years to complete. We started working on some in 2007 and there’s enough work on the dike to take us past 2020. These are long-term fixes,” explained Campbell.
“It’s a very complex issue,” said Campbell. “But the biggest reason behind our efforts is public safety.”

No time to lose
Miami Herald - Editorial
August 5, 2013
OUR OPINION: Urgent need to complete Everglades clean-up plan
It’s happening again, and it’s bad. Billions of gallons of foul brown water are being flushed into two South Florida rivers to lower Lake Okeechobee and protect the Herbert Hoover Dike during hurricane season.
Two lovely estuary systems, the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida and the St. Lucie in the Southeast, are being assaulted by unwelcome pollution.
These two systems have suffered inundations before, of course, but there is a solution that could eventually give these rivers a respite.
It’s a costly solution, to be sure, but then so is every remedy to clean up and restore the Everglades, the state’s magnificent River of Grass. Lake Okeechobee should drain south into the Glades, but it’s so polluted by agriculture and urban runoff — phosphorous, nitrogen and other poisons — that it would literally be a state crime to send the water directly south.
To its credit, the state built a billion-dollar network of marshes to clean lake runoff before sending it southward, but even at that, there still isn’t enough storage capacity to contain so much spillover.
So instead, the U.S. Corps of Engineers must divert the water east and west when the lake level rises to flood stage. July’s record rainfall forced the Corps to open the gates. Pictures of nasty brown water gushing into the two rivers would make anybody cringe.
The solution is an ambitious $2.2 billion draft plan being negotiated by the Corps and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that would clean up some lake water and restore historic water flows to the Central Everglades. The negotiations are supposed to wrap up any day now, which is good news. The plan must be formalized in time to be included for authorization in a congressional civil-works bill set to be voted on this year. If the plan isn’t completed and sent to Congress now, years could pass before presenting it again. So the project must be done this year, period.
The River Coalition — civic, environmental and business groups that formed after a 1998 inundation in the St. Lucie — is pushing negotiators to conclude talks and get the ball rolling in Congress. The Everglades Foundation is also urging the DEP, the Corps and various stakeholders to wrap up, pointing out that any plan authorized this year could be revised later, if needed.
Sometimes it seems as if there is no end in sight for making reparations for all the egregious injuries done to our unique Everglades ecosystem. And every element of the ambitious, expensive restoration plan has assumed a cloak of urgency in recent years.
But with the Lake Okeechobee floodgates opening last month, the Central Everglades clean-up project took center stage. There is real opportunity here to make progress, and we mustn’t let that chance slip away.


Spring dive

Wakulla winding back wetlands protections – by Jennifer Portman, Democrat Senior Writer
August 5, 2013
Citizens aim to put issue to public vote.
CRAWFORDVILLE — Wakulla County once was known as a leader in water-quality protection. But in the last year, its Board of County Commissioners has backed away from some of its more stringent environmental policies, citing costs and a chilling effect on development.
  Walkulla Springs
The shift has some county residents worried — and preparing to take action.
The most recent, and most controversial, decision came at its meeting last month, when the commission voted 4-1 to begin the process of repealing the county’s wetlands ordinance and remove it from its comprehensive plan. Three years ago, the board, under a different make up, unanimously approved the reinstatement of the ordinance, first adopted in 2006.
“It was totally unexpected,” said Victor Lambou, a resident and retired wetlands expert who helped design the county’s ordinance. “I was surprised it even came up because wetlands have been so popular and everyone thought they were important. This is such a reversal.”
At tonight’s board meeting, Commissioner Howard Kessler — who cast the lone vote against killing the provision — will ask his fellow commissioners to let county voters decide if their wetlands should retain the additional protections. Kessler, who, since being re-elected along with two new commissioners in November, frequently finds himself voting alone, expects his request will be shot down.
But plans already are under way for a citizen-led initiative petition drive to collect enough signatures to force the issue on next year’s ballot. The effort won’t be easy, but some say county residents haven’t been this riled up since an effort several years ago to allow a bottling plant near cherished Wakulla Springs.
“This crosses the labels of conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican,” said Kessler, who has heard from many county residents, including those not typically associated with environmental causes. “There is serious consideration of moving forward with a referendum to place the wetlands ordinance back in the county charter.”
State protection enough
Commission Vice Chairman Richard Harden, who was elected last year, spearheaded the move to get rid of the wetlands ordinance. He said its requirement that wetlands be protected from development by a 75-foot buffer is excessive, unnecessary and thwarts growth.
“For me it’s a property rights issue,” said Harden, a Sopchoppy native. “I do care about the environment, but I care about people and property rights.”
Harden said there are several lots in the county that cannot be developed because of their size and proximity to wetlands. The ordinance allows property owners to apply for an exception to build up to 35 feet from a wetland if they can show they had no other option. In June, the board moved to begin the process to expand that provision — again by a 4-1 vote — to allow for a variance up to a wetlands’ edge.
But after studying the issue, Harden decided the ordinance should be repealed altogether. With so much of the county’s acreage state and federal forest land, he said limited options for development should not be further hampered.
“The land we have left is all we have to live and work and drive the economy of our county,” he said. “Citizens bought property with dreams of building their dream homes and they can’t.”
The county’s wetlands, said Harden and other county residents who support his move, can be adequately protected by existing state regulations overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection and Northwest Florida Water Management District. He called the county ordinance redundant. One person has so far been found to have violated the ordinance.
“I believe people are a lot more responsible with the property than they are given credit for. People will do the right thing,” he said. “Wakulla’s wetlands are not endangered at all.”
The 'Golden Goose'
But others doubt the ability of state agencies to properly police the fragile wetlands and are concerned about losing local protection of the precious resource. They say Wakulla County’s economic future depends on ecotourism and visitors looking for natural coastal experiences, including dining on local seafood.
“Our industry is our natural-resource base and wetlands are critical,” said Ron Piasecki, chairman of the Hydrogeology Consortium’s Wakulla Springs Alliance, which is lobbying the commission to at least keep its ordinance in the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone.
Wetlands are integral in protecting the water quality of the area’s rivers and springs, including Wakulla Spring, and are nursery grounds for marine and other aquatic species.
“I’ve said it before, wetlands are Wakulla County’s Golden Goose,” Lambou said.
While state agencies have building permit requirements to reduce harmful impacts to wetlands, they do not enforce similar stringent buffer requirements. The loss of locally accountable officials is a concern, as is state agency staff cutbacks.
“The state can write whatever regulations it wants to write, but the enforcement of those regulations is a whole other matter,” Kessler said. “If you don’t have the will to properly staff the agencies there is no way the job properly gets done.”
Kessler and others say they have been told the water management district has just two people devoted to wetlands permits. An agency spokeswoman, however, said such counts can’t be made because district staff members work collaboratively on wetlands permit requests.
Commission Chairman Randy Merritt, who tried unsuccessfully two years ago to kill the wetlands ordinance and sponsored the move to allow building closer their edge, conceded state regulations provide less protection. But, he stressed, the county’s comprehensive plan provides for setbacks from karst features, such as springs and sinkholes. Under current county rules, development is barred within 300 feet of second- and first-magnitude springs such as Wakulla and is forbidden within 100 feet of other springs, sinkholes and spring runs.
“You couldn’t build Wakulla Springs Lodge today,” Merritt said. “We aren’t saying you can go destroy wetlands. We all know wetlands are important. (But) there is some point at which the benefits outweigh the costs. I think the state protection is a good balance.”
Loosening restrictions
The county recently has been backing away from increased water-quality regulations. Last year, it rescinded a rule requiring all new construction not on sewer to install advanced wastewater treatment septic systems. Now, the requirement only applies to property less than 5 acres in the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone and to lots one-sixth of an acre or less outside the protection zone, Piasecki said.
The commission also has discussed stepping back from plans to update its sewage treatment plant to advanced wastewater treatment standards. Several years ago, the county joined a lawsuit against the city of Tallahassee that forced it to update its wastewater treatment to such standards.
“We need to take responsibility for that, especially when we have demanded others to do so,” Kessler said. “It also is very curious to me that many of the people who cry that the state has all these regulations already in place are the same people who are crying that they don’t like big government and they want local rule. How does this match up?”
Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, said Wakulla County’s recent moves reflect a trend on the state level.
“There is this misplaced belief that solving environmental problems is somehow problematic for economic development,” said Pattison, whose group lobbied in support of keeping the county’s wetlands ordinance. “We think that it is fundamental for the entire state economy. What is it that we have other than environmental features that attract people ?”
New alliance
Final repeal of Wakulla’s wetlands ordinance and its removal from the comprehensive plan requires additional public hearings and board action. Final adoption is not expected until December. The comprehensive plan change would be reviewed by the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Piasecki said his group will lobby the agency to reject it. Short of that occurring, concerned citizens have one more option — an initiative petition drive to force inclusion of the wetlands ordinance in the county charter.
Such an effort would be difficult. The county charter requires signatures from 30 percent of voters countywide and in each of the five districts, who were registered in the last election. Other counties, including Leon, set the bar at 10 percent for initiative petition efforts.
But supporter of the wetlands’ protection are optimistic. A new group, Wakulla Wetlands Alliance, was formed last week to sponsor the petition drive.
“If it can be done,” said the group’s chairman Lambou, “this is the issue.”

Water advisory panel to discuss St. Lucie Estuary, Indian River Lagoon
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
August 5, 2013
JENSEN BEACH — A panel that advises the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board on water quality issues will discuss conditions in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon at a meeting this week on the banks of the lagoon.
The district’s Water Resource Advisory Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Frances Langford Dockside Pavilion at Indian RiverSide Park, 1707 N.E. Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach.
The advisory body to the governing board and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is tasked with “improving public participation and decision-making about water resource issues in South and Central Florida,” according to the water district’s website.
The panel’s agenda includes an update on water conditions in Lake Okeechobee, the estuary and the lagoon by Ernie Barnett, the water district’s interim executive director, other members of the district’s staff and Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the Army Corps of Engineers deputy district commander for South Florida.
Kevin Powers of Stuart, a member of the water district’s governing board, is vice chairman of the commission.
Treasure Coast commission members include Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart; Doug Bournique of Vero Beach, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League and a member of the St. Johns River Water Management District; Patrick Hayes, a former Martin County commissioner representing the Loxahatchee Coalition; Tom Kenny of Seabranch Management in Hobe Sound; Joe Capra of Stuart-based Captec Engineering; and George Jones, former Indian Riverkeeper now Everglades Holiday Park manager in Broward County.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a Sewall’s Point commissioner, is an alternate.


Author: Everglades closest thing to paradise
August 4, 2013
Union City, N.J. is no idyllic garden, but Gary W. Schmelz begins his autobiography, "A Journey to the Edge of Eden," there, where he grew up.
Eden comes closer when he moves to the edge of the Everglades as an adult and runs a nature center.
His memoir describes what he discovered, whether walking waist-deep through Big Cypress Swamp, counting how many algae, sponges and other creatures lived on a single blade of turtle grass on Marco Island or fishing in and around southwest Florida's Ten Thousand Islands.
Gary became an expert, studying the fossils, geology, plants, birds, animals and aquatic life of southwest Florida so he could teach children at the Big Cypress Nature Center about their surroundings.
He continues sharing knowledge through the book, and readers will find the lessons are livelier because Gary made many of his discoveries with his father, Henry.
Henry ran a stationery store in Union City where Gary had few encounters with nature while growing up. Gary raised worms, for instance, and tried fishing in the Hudson River, but caught only trash.
By Gary's 10th birthday, however, the father and son escaped the city briefly for fishing trips to Long Island and Cape Cod.
Gary's interest in the sea persisted. He joined the Navy, and once pulled up the arm of a giant squid while retrieving a water sample on a research ship. At the University of Delaware, he took graduate studies in marine biology.
While Gary did research for his doctorate on striped killifish - small fry on which wading birds and larger fish feed - Henry was eager to help on summer vacations.
They waded along shorelines and swamps of Delaware, seining fish and swatting mosquitoes.
The father and son reunited in Florida. After Gary gained work at the Big Cypress Nature Center, his parents retired and moved nearby, allowing Henry and Gary to hike together through swamps and fish from a small boat.
Once a snake flew over their heads on a backcast after Henry unknowingly snagged it with his fishing lure.
Another time, Henry slipped in the water. After steadying himself, he pushed away what he thought was a log, but actuall was an alligator.
Henry and Gary have smelled the bad breath of a manatee rested its head over the side of their boat. They watched bottlenose dolphins beach themselves after herding mullet toward shore in a frenzy that forced the men to duck fish sailing through the air. Afterwards, the dolphins wiggled back into deeper water.
Through those experiences, Henry became nearly as knowledgeable about south Florida as his son.
Henry persuaded people to return the conch shells that they collected after showing them that animals still lived inside the shells.
Another time, as Henry explained how a barnacle lived upside down and caught food by waving its legs, a child asked: "Are you a professor?"
After Henry died in 1988, Gary became a professor at Edison College while also writing books about Florida's wildflowers and scientific papers about mollusks that he discovered while studying fossils left from when the ocean once covered parts of Florida.
Gary mused that the ocean might rise again, a thought not so far-fetched as changing climates threaten coastlines.
Warming seas killed the coral reef in the Cayman Islands where he and his dad used to snorkel with tour groups that he led.
Developers cut up the cypress forest and custard apple swamps around Naples, where he lives.
But the region still holds places where panthers lurk, fishing spiders scamper down trees to snatch mosquito fish from swamps, and moonflowers form a canopy of white along the edge of the forest.
"There is still a lot of work to be done to protect south Florida's ecosystem," he wrote. "From both Dad's and my point of view, the Everglades-Big Cypress-Ten Thousand Island complex forms a subtropical Eden that comes as close to paradise as anyone can find on this planet."
Journey to the Edge of Eden: the struggle to preserve Southwest ... (Aug.5)


St.Lucie Inlet

A new generation rallies to save St. Lucie River
Palm Beach Post – Opinion by Sally Swartz, former Editor, PBP
August 4, 2013
Water too polluted for swimming, fishing or boating, toxic algae and sick fish are old problems water managers create every time they dump Lake Okeechobee’s overflow into the St. Lucie River.
On Saturday, a new group of young people, organized via Facebook, joined lifelong river warriors to march on Stuart’s St. Lucie Locks protesting the river’s sad state.
It’s no shock that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers locked up the lock area, claiming the toxic blue green algae could make people sick. A Corps spokesman said officials worried about letting crowds clamber over the lock structures.
Undaunted, residents stuck their signs on the fence around the lock.
By late Friday, 2,400 had promised Martin County High School grad Evan Miller, 29, whose Facebook rant started the rally, they would join him to “Save the St. Lucie River and Martin County Wildlife.” A Martin sheriff’s spokesman estimated the crowd at more than 3,000. Organizers estimated 6,000.
“You couldn’t ask for a nicer behaved crowd,” Martin Sheriff William Snyder said. “These are good people.”
The hundreds of young people joining the gray-haired environmental crowd also are a testament to the power of K-8th grade Environmental Studies Center classes required for all Martin students. A generation has grown up exploring the river and getting to know the creatures that live in it.
Photos of a truck hauling away dead manatees in the Indian River Lagoon north of Martin County, toxic algae and health department warnings to stay out of the St. Lucie River inspired Mr. Miller.
“I woke up one morning so mad I didn’t know what to do,” Mr. Miller said. He posted a rant on Facebook, got some replies, and realized “everybody was feeling the way I was and I thought, ‘Hey, let’s make it a real event.’
So he did. See the rally page here.
“It just grew from that,” he said. “I had no idea it ever would get this big.”
Mr. Miller, a former professional surfer, is sales manager for an eyewear firm and sales rep for a surfboard firm. He grew up in Martin County and now lives in Jacksonville but spends a lot of time in Martin.
The crowd includes oldtimers such as Martin native Boo Lowrey, 71, who attended his first river rally in 1953, and Val Martin, who has 1930s county records showing commission protests about polluted lake water pouring into the St. Lucie.
Martin Commissioner Sarah Heard wears signs showing the river’s toxic colors. Kids and dogs wear homemade “Save Our River” placards. One invites Gov. Rick Scott to “come swim with the children” and another calls the Corps “eco-vandals.”
Florida Oceanographic Society and longtime river advocate Mark Perry urges the crowd to push legislators “to get that water moving south” to the Everglades.
Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum touts a solution “that doesn’t endanger anybody.” Make the sugar industry, he said, “flood their own damn fields” instead of dumping billions of gallons of polluted lake water into the river. The Army Corps, as always, claims local runoff causes more problems than lake water.
But pressed for statistics, the Corps conveniently has none later than July 18. The Corps opened all seven gates at the St. Lucie Lock to the max after that, turning the brackish (salt and fresh water mixed) river completely fresh in some areas.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) still earning its ‘“Don’t Expect Protection” nickname, sent director Herschel Vinyard a few weeks ago to push vague plans that have scant chance of happening and won’t help much if they do. South Florida Water Management District, which likes the Corps to take the blame even though the district and Corps manage the lake together, is saying nothing.
So, after the biggest rally to save the river in Martin history, what’s next?
“We have thought about the future,” Mr. Miller said. “I believe the people of Martin County will support a rally every weekend if we have to…until we see change.”
His Facebook posts after the rally confirm that he’s already planning Save the St. Lucie River Part 2 for next Sunday, 10 a.m. at Stuart Beach.



Concerns rise with the water
Miami Herald - by Susan Cocking
August 4, 2013
Conservationists are fearing a repeat of the wildlife destruction from 2008.
After above-normal rainfall in June and July, water levels in the Everglades are the highest on record for this time of year, with the historical peak of hurricane season still ahead.
That’s got Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner Ron Bergeron of Weston extremely worried. Bergeron, the commission’s point man for Everglades restoration, has been tooling around the ’Glades on his airboat this past month, watching with growing alarm as the water rises around tree islands and levees, forcing the local denizens — deer, panther, marsh rabbit, bobcat, bear and even some wading birds — to cluster together on high ground. With nowhere to run, they can quickly run out of food and shelter.
If the waters keep rising for much longer, the commissioner fears, the region will see a repeat of what he calls the “massacre” of the mid-1990s, when months of high water wiped out 90 percent of the deer herd and other animals.
Bergeron is calling for emergency action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with other federal and state agencies, to begin lowering water levels in the 700,000-acre conservation area between Alligator Alley and Tamiami Trail.
“It’s natural in a 100-year act of God to have extreme high water,” Bergeron said. “The weak die and the strong survive. When you extend that event like in 1994, it becomes a manmade event, and that’s unnatural. I don’t want to wait till it’s too late.”
Bergeron proposes what he calls a “toolbox” to temporarily raise water levels in the L-29 canal that runs along Tamiami Trail and push that water south under the highway into Everglades National Park, and then to Florida Bay. That’s what state and federal agencies did — at Bergeron’s urging — in response to inundation from Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, and water levels dropped about a foot in a month.
“I’m not asking for something that hasn’t already been done,” Bergeron said. “We need to be proactive rather than reactive.”
But Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the Army Corps’ deputy district commander for South Florida, says not so fast.
Greco says the Corps is working with its partner agencies to find alternate means of moving water out of Water Conservation Area 3-A. But he said public safety is a concern with ongoing construction to raise and bridge Tamiami Trail and the possibility that increased flows could flood communities south of the Trail and east of Everglades National Park.
Greco said he hopes to have an analysis of alternatives completed in the next few days.
“It’s a tricky system down there, a tremendous amount of water,” he said in a telephone interview from his Jacksonville office. “We don’t have all the data and information to make a change right now. We’re going through the data to see what kind of flexibility there is. We’ve got to look at other components of the system so it doesn’t have adverse impacts somewhere else.”
Bergeron hopes the Corps doesn’t take too long to get on board. While managers discuss ways of accomplishing the multibillion-dollar restoration of natural water flows through the Everglades over the next 30 years, he said, they need to keep the region’s wildlife and ecology at the forefront.
“I’m looking for government to deviate from normal operations in extreme high water events to accommodate the wildlife while we accomplish the largest environmental restoration in the history of the world,” Bergeron said. “If we don’t work together, the [Everglades] could die before we get to the 30-year restoration.”
Record rains soak South Fla. as storm season peaks  7Online WSVN-TV
Soggiest South Florida In Over 80 Years       WBFS
Daily Downpours Worry Central Florida Farmers     The Ledger
Weather: Central Florida storms to gradually weaken           Central Florida News 13


Hydrilla waterweed

Fast-spreading weed invades Lake Waccamaw
Fayetteville Observer - by Greg Barnes
August 4, 2013
LAKE WACCAMAW — Nobody knew what it was at first, just an incredibly fast-spreading aquatic weed near the public boat ramp on Lake Waccamaw.
Rob Emens, an invasive species specialist with the state Division of Water Resources, visited the boat ramp in October and immediately knew it was the dreaded hydrilla.
The weed is so invasive it threatened to choke almost all of the nearly 9,000-acre Lake Waccamaw in as little as five years if left unchecked.
In early June, the state began treating affected areas of the lake – about 600 acres – with a herbicide called fluridone. The state will share the $196,000 cost with the town of Lake Waccamaw and Columbus County.
The lake will need another treatment next month after more surveys and probably a third treatment later this year. Emens estimates the cost will spiral to a total of nearly $500,000 this year and to $4 million within eight years.
He said state officials hope to have hydrilla in check within six years, but there certainly is no guarantee.
Hydrilla was discovered in Lake Gaston, near the Virginia state line, in the 1980s. The plant remains, despite spending as much as $1 million a year in eradication.
Lake Waccamaw, about 12 miles east of Whiteville, is the largest of the Carolina bay lakes and the third-largest of the state’s freshwater lakes. It is home to nearly 50 species of fish and mollusks, many of them considered rare and threatened. One species of endangered fish - the silverside – is found nowhere else in the world.
Left untreated, Emens said, hydrilla would have threatened Lake Waccamaw’s entire ecosystem. Fishing, boating and swimming would have become all but impossible. Property values would have dwindled.
Hydrilla typically spreads from lake to lake by hitchhiking on boat propellers. Left to dry out, it quickly dies, Emens said. But a clump of hydrilla kept damp on a propeller or in a live well can survive for days, even weeks. Once the plant takes root in a lake bed, the nightmare begins.
Hydrilla can reproduce by sprouting plants from stem fragments. But the main nemesis are tubers that settle in the lake bed. Emens said the tubers can lie dormant for years, the main reason eradication is so difficult.
Hydrilla can grow from the lake bed to a height of about 18 feet, making the shallow Lake Waccamaw – its deepest point is only about 11 feet – an ideal host. Once it reaches the surface, hydrilla spreads into a dense, almost impenetrable mat of leaves and stems.
Grass carp, a big Asian fish that feasts on aquatic plants, is one method of controlling the noxious weed. Although considerably cheaper than herbicide treatment, the carp feast on all varieties of a lake’s plants, which can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem if the carp are overstocked.
In the end, fluridone was chosen because it mainly attacks just the hydrilla and does not harm fish or people.
Regardless of the eradication method chosen, the problem is not going away anytime soon.
“Hydrilla is just a huge black cloud over that (lake) right now,” Emens said.
And although improvements in hydrilla management are being made, nothing is on the horizon “that would radically improve the process,” said Rob Richardson, an associate professor and extension specialist with N.C. State University.
Like kudzu, hydrilla was introduced in the United States from Asia for its esthetic value – kudzu for gardens, hydrilla for use in aquariums.
Hydrilla is believed to have been introduced in the wild in Florida in the 1960s. Someone is thought to have dumped out an aquarium containing hydrilla, which escaped into a canal system and then spread into nearby ponds, Emens said. Now, hydrilla can be found in almost every major water basin in Florida


Moisture probe

Measures exactly the
soil moisture

Lake wales firm sells water conservation
August 4, 2013
LAKE WALES, Aug 04, 2013 (Menafn - The Ledger - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Despite the fact you've run a successful family business for 24 years -- or perhaps because you've run a successful family business for 24 years -- you can't afford to rest on your laurels.
Robert Kirkner, owner of Water & Earth Sciences Inc. in Lake Wales, a geologic consulting firm, decided to open a new line of business earlier this year selling advanced soil moisture sensors to Florida farmers looking to save money on their irrigation costs.
Water & Earth has an exclusive license to sell the soil sensors manufactured by Decagon Devices of Pullman, Wash.
The Decagon system includes two sensors buried at about one and two feet that are wired to a roughly 4-by-8 inch plastic box set on a post. The box contains the electronics that read the sensor data and transmit it wirelessly to a cell phone, laptop computer, tablet or other digital device.
A single unit costs 3,000, including installation costs, software and a service contract, Kirkner said. Additional units cost less, and each one can sufficiently monitor about 40 acres.
The sensor system can save money by providing precise information on soil moisture, which determines when to irrigate and, more importantly, when to stop, he said. It represents a significant advance on the traditional eyeball method most growers still rely on to make irrigation decisions.
"Everybody knows when to turn irrigation on. Hardly anybody knows when he's putting too much on," Kirkner said.
The Decagon software includes a graphic readout of soil moisture showing the "Goldilocks zone" as a bright blue bar. The sensor line running above the bar shows more than enough soil moisture while anything below that zone alerts a grower it's time to run the sprinklers.
The software includes a low-moisture alert that can be sent to the grower's cell phone, Kirkner said.
Overwatering by 15 percent to 20 percent is common, he said. That represents additional costs in diesel fuel, the most common fuel for irrigation pumps, and less efficient fertilizer application because overwatering washes away nutrients.
Based on the latest studies of grove caretaking costs from the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Kirkner calculates an 80-acre grove on the Central Florida Ridge would save more than 5,000 a year on diesel and fertilizer.
"One of the things that attracted me to this technology is the value added," Kirkner said. "There's so many positives to it, I'm surprised it's not more popular."
Arnold Schumann, professor of soil and water science at the Lake Alfred Center, acknowledged that soil sensors generally save money by improving the efficiency of irrigation and other caretaking costs. His research focuses on "precision agriculture," or the use of advanced computer, satellite and other advanced technologies to monitor and control farm production practices.
But Schumann added many growers have expressed reluctance to make the big, up-front investments such technologies require until scientists come up with better solutions to deal with citrus greening, a fatal bacterial disease rampant in the state.
"The landscape of the economics has vastly changed because of greening," he said. "Because of the cost of production in greening-endemic areas, it's become a question of risk management and priorities."
However, soil moisture sensors have proven more effective at monitoring and heading off the stress on trees caused by over- or underwatering, Schumann said.
That's important in battling greening because scientists have shown infected trees are more vulnerable to any kind of additional stress.
Born in Troy, N.Y., Kirkner, 61, moved to Tampa with his family as a teenager, he said.
He earned a bachelor's degree in geology at the University of South Florida in 1976.
Kirkner specialized in hydrology, the study of surface and underground water, for a Tampa consulting firm and later for his own company based there, he said.
The work took him to Polk County and other Central Florida communities.
"I decided that, if there was ever an excuse to move here, I would grab it," Kirkner said.
That excuse came in 1989, when he began Water & Earth Sciences Inc. in Lake Wales, which was close to several clients.
His sons, Chris, 34, and Cameron, 31, now work with the company, which has annual revenues of about 500,000.
"We hope to make it (the Decagon system) a larger part of our business because I see a potential," Kirkner said. "I think once the word gets out, we can really make money on this."




Long Bar Pointe project in Bradenton raises conflict-of-interest questions
Bradenton Herald – by Sara Kennedy, Reporter
August 4, 2013
MANATEE -- Questions have arisen over what opponents contend are glaring conflicts of interest among the parties making decisions about the Long Bar Pointe project in southwest Manatee County.
Officials are considering whether zoning changes and altered countywide environmental regulations should be allowed for the proposed "coastal resort" development.
Among the issues raised:
• Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac's employment as a consultant for developer Larry Lieberman before her election to the commission.
• Campaign contributions from developers Carlos Beruff and Lieberman and affiliated companies of $42,500 to six of the seven Manatee County commissioners who will decide whether approvals should be granted for the project.
• Business relationships between Beruff and Manatee County Planning Commission 1st Vice Chairman David Wick.
• Beruff's position as chair of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, an agency that must grant a permit for the project to go forward.
Manatee County Attorney Mickey Palmer has concluded that Benac has no conflict, nor do any of the others who have accepted campaign contributions from the developers, he wrote in a July 26 memo to county commissioners.
Benac left employment as a land planner well before assuming her post as a county commissioner, wrote Palmer.
Nor does she have ownership interest in any engineering or land planning firm, he wrote.
The law requires "a current relationship between the Commissioner and the affected persons or entities," he wrote. "In the absence of a current relationship, there is no voting conflict."
Palmer added: "Moreover, in the absence of a statutory voting conflict, a Commissioner is not allowed to abstain from voting on moral or ethical grounds."
A conflict of interest has not occurred, Palmer concluded, even if six of the seven county commissioners have accepted campaign contributions from developers and their affiliates.
He relied on Florida statutes governing the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and on a formal opinion issued more than 37 years ago by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
"If voting conflicts were actually present, then six Commissioners would be required to abstain from voting, and the Board would be unable to consider or act upon the Long Bar land use applications," Palmer wrote.
"The law does not envision or sanction such an absurd result."
Commissioner Michael Gallen was the sole member of the board who did not receive campaign contributions from the developers.
In Wick's case, however, Palmer could not yet make a judgment on whether a conflict might exist. But in the end, he said, it won't matter in the decision-making vote to be taken by county commissioners, since the planning commission is simply an advisory board and not a decision-making body.
Wick is Beruff's longtime friend and occasional money-lender, and is also the former president of Medallion Home, the development company Beruff founded and continues to run, Wick said.
The two are also officers in an existing company, SR 44, LC, as Wick reported in a disclosure form for the county.
Wick told the Herald he has a clear conscience."If I've loaned him money, I recuse myself; he does pay me much better money than anything I can get on the street," Wick said.
He said he routinely checks with county attorneys to decide where to draw the line on voting or abstaining.
"If I put anything in it, I immediately tell everybody," said Wick, referring to his money-lending arrangements with Beruff.
As a member of the advisory county planning commission, Wick has already voted this year in favor of Comprehensive Plan changes that Beruff and Lieberman hope county commissioners, who make the final decision, also will approve.
Palmer has asked for more information from Wick.
"The analysis relative to Mr. Wick, however, focuses on whether he and the developer in question are 'business associates' as that term is narrowly defined in the statutes," wrote Palmer.
"Since Mr. Wick is still in the process of examining (at my request) selected documentation relative to his business dealings, I am unable to opine at this time on any voting conflict that may have been faced by Mr. Wick," Palmer also wrote.
As for Beruff's position as chairman on the Swiftmud board, the agency's external affairs manager, Terri Behling, wrote in an e-mail message Friday:
"Our policy on the Governing Board refers to state statute 112.3143 that covers voting conflicts." That statute applies to "public officers," defined as any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency, including any person serving on an advisory body.
"We do not currently have an application under review for this project, however, Mr. Beruff has indicated he is going to request that the permit be reviewed by DEP," the state Department of Environmental Protection, Behling wrote.

Manatee County shouldn't compromise environment policies for Long Bar
Bradenton Herald -  Commentary by Linda T. Jones, Chair of the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club.
August 4, 2013
The developers of Long Bar Pointe say that their project will be a boon to our economy, and assure us that it will not harm the environment. If that is true, then why are they requesting special exemptions from county development policies that ensure no harm will occur ?
We're not talking about a few rules. Their two one-sentence text amendments would exempt the developers from the entire Conservation and Coastal Management sections of the Manatee County comprehensive plan -- 47 pages of policies that protect our natural habitats, keep our water and air clean and prevent flooding during hurricanes.
Long Bar Pointe
Long Bar Pointe - Sarasota Bay
These rules not only protect our resources, they also support a growing ecotourism economy. Bird and wildlife watching alone brings in $3.1 billion to Florida. Add to that all of the other nature-related activities that attract our visitors.
We know very little about the developers' site-specific plans. They have submitted only a traffic study to the county, and have shown the public a diagram that includes a large marina, boat ramp and boat basin -- uses which would be incompatible with our current comprehensive plan.
The new navigational channel into deeper water will require the dredging of large amounts of the highest quality seagrass beds and wetlands in our county. These systems are essential habitats and nurseries for our fish and shellfish, and very important for our local commercial and recreational fishery businesses.
Mangroves, essential to marine life, birds and the estuarine food chain, also protect the shoreline from erosion and flooding. They cannot be extensively trimmed without harm. They need both their roots and their branches. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, extensive trimming of a mangrove shoreline could result in a loss of 87 percent of its annual productivity.
Developers say they will mitigate the damage, but you cannot mitigate natural habitats or a destroyed coastline. Mitigating turtle grass seldom works to restore what was lost.
It has taken many years and millions of dollars in regional public funds to achieve the gains in seagrass coverage in Sarasota Bay, mainly due to improving water quality. It makes little sense for our county to spend large sums to restore this bay's seagrass and then adopt amendments that would reduce them.
The developers say they wish to create a "public benefit." However, we already have our most important public benefit -- our natural resources, and no public boat ramp will make up for their loss.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appears to agree, and in May turned down a permit for a similar project in Pasco County. An upscale housing development asked permission to dredge a 60-foot-wide channel through seagrass beds for their marina. The Corps determined that the project was "not in the public interest," citing many of the same concerns we see in the plan for Long Bar Pointe.
Making the developers' boat even harder to row is that Sarasota Bay is both an Outstanding Florida Water and a National Estuary. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection fact sheet on OFWs lists public interest tests, most of which this project would fail. One reads, "Whether the activity will adversely affect the fishing or recreational value or marine productivity in the vicinity of the activity."
The county's planning staff has recommended denial of these rule-loophole text amendments. They object to the potential for environmental damage, their many inconsistencies with other policies -- the county's as well as the state's -- and lack of justification for change. Consistency means that rules may not contradict each other.
The map amendment also should not be approved. The potential impacts from increases in mixed-use intensities, traffic, hurricane evacuation, and marina are inconsistent with our current comprehensive plan.
There is no need to "fix" our comprehensive plan. We have a plan that is working well -- one that encourages healthy growth and reflects our community vision. Our county commissioners should defend it.
They should also be wary of the precedent set by these amendments. The vaguely worded policy exemptions open the door for other, similar requests to ignore the rules.
Safeguarding our environment will not prevent the property owners from building a profitable development. They already have an approved plan allowing reasonable use of their land. They simply will not be able to change it in ways that harm Sarasota Bay.
The policies that protect our natural resources should apply to all. They protect all that we need and enjoy, and also form the reason why new residents, visitors and clean industries wish to locate here.


Seagrass returning to Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today - by Jim Waymer
August 4, 2013
SEBASTIAN INLET, Fla. — Scientists transplanted tufts of seagrass along an otherwise bald Indian River Lagoon bottom recently in hopes of growing back the once-lush fish habitat that algae blooms doomed.
No one knows whether the $110,000 experiment will work or whether the cloudy waters that smothered seagrass during the past few years will return to do so again.
But researchers hope the grass transplants teach them the best ways to grow back a vital nursery habitat for fish and crabs, as well as the manatees' favorite meal.
"This used to be — as far as you could see — grass," Adam Gelber, a senior scientist with Atkins North America, said as he and two other scientists transplanted shoal grass along Sebastian Inlet's interior.
At the inlet, their environmental consulting firm is planting seagrass harvested in Vero Beach. That effort is part of a larger project that could transplant grass at up to 30 sites in the lagoon — but likely fewer — occupying about 1 acre of lagoon bottom. The project ranges from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to Titusville, to Vero Beach.
Seagrass provides prime habitat for fish, crabs and other marine life and is considered a key barometer of the estuary's overall health. Each acre of seagrass supports about 10,000 fish and $5,000 to $10,000 in economic activity in the lagoon region, according to St. Johns River Water Management District and other studies.
Transplants are just one way biologists hope to restore some 74 square miles of seagrass lost since 2009, much of it clouded out by algae.
The scientists harvest the seagrass with hand tools only — no machinery — and manually install the grass at the recipient study sites.
They use shoal grass, because it's among the fastest growers.
They place metal "manatee cages" over many of the transplants to keep ravenous seacows from chomping the experiment bare. But at least one manatee was quick to find this week's plantings among the inlet's seagrass-starved shoals. After Atkins consultants planted the first tufts of grass, they returned later that day and found evidence a seacow had made a snack of their work.
"That night, we came back to look at it and it was already bitten down," said Don Deis, a senior scientist with Atkins.
The St. Johns River Water Management District's planned cost for the larger, three-year transplant project is $85,000. The Sebastian Inlet District chipped in about another $25,000.
Similar grass transplants in recent years have shown success along the inlet's interior, patching boat propeller scars and other barren spots. The inlet district saw grass thrive after it had to transplant grass to make up for seagrass impacted by an August 2007 dredging of the channel. But large influxes of algae-ridden water from the north wiped out most of the grass along the inlet shoals, scientists said.
The lagoon has undergone severe seagrass loss since 2011, when an unprecedented phytoplankton "superbloom" clouded out the sunlight seagrasses need to grow.
A brown tide bloom that first struck the lagoon last summer re-emerged this year in the northern lagoon and southern Mosquito Lagoon. The same algae species, Aureoumbra lagunensis, bloomed almost eight years in a row in Laguna Madre, Texas, making it the longest harmful algae bloom ever recorded.
In all, the lagoon has lost an estimated 47,000 acres of seagrass since 2009.
Not only grass has died. More than 110 manatees may have perished from the same mysterious illness since July 2012, state wildlife biologists suspect. And at least 54 bottlenose dolphins have floated up dead in the lagoon since Jan. 1, as well as 250 to 300 brown pelicans earlier this year.
Donor sites where seagrass will be harvested include just off Pine Island on Merritt Island, just north of A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway in Titusville and near Vero Beach.
Grass harvested from the donor sites grows back quickly.
The transplant sites are 100 meters from shore and cover about 100 square meters, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that authorized the project.
One positive sign scientists find at Sebastian Inlet is the emergence of Johnson's seagrass. It's pioneering roots typically precede a seagrass rebirth.


Root irrigation

Root irrigation

Subsurface irrigation: Higher yield, lower pollution
St.Augustine Record – by Peter Guinta
August 4, 2013
Farmers say this system uses two-thirds less water
HASTINGS — The recent introduction of sub-surface irrigation may well preserve the future of Florida farming by protecting Florida’s aquifer.
Danny Johns, owner of Blue Sky Farms, whose family has farmed in Hastings for generations, cultivates 680 acres of 23 different kinds of potatoes at his efficient farmstead off County Road 13 and believes this type of irrigation could be the coming thing.
“I have yet to be sold that this is the way I want to go,” Johns said. “But it uses two-thirds less water and less fertilizer. This is another tool. Everything we do is risk mitigation. We only have one shot a year to make a crop.”
Back in July 1930, a Frank Johns and his son F.A. Johns, were written up by writer F.C. Heslop in Tractor Farming magazine as the “First Horseless Farm,” meaning they farmed without a mule.
They used “only two Farmall tractors and a two-row McCormick-Deering potato planter with fertilizer attachment.”
Johns is aware of the fragility of the Northeast Florida water table, so his motto has become: “Do more with less.”
That’s why Johns, president of the Vegetable Growers Association, is trying subsurface irrigation in several fields. It costs $300 to $500 per acre to install, which is relatively high, he said.
To put it in, rows of water-carrying tape are buried 18 to 22 inches deep about 16 feet apart and hooked to a pump. The slow release of water from the tape raises the water table to where plant roots can reach it.
For much of history, irrigation ditches have been flooded with water and designed so moisture seeps sideways. The downside of this is that water left contains pesticides, nitrogen and phosphorus. It flows to the end of the row into a ditch and then to the ground water or river.
Johns uses common types of irrigation, but says subsurface appears to deliver the right amount of water at the roots of plants with zero runoff. Automatic controls are available that monitor moisture content in the soil, potentially making irrigation almost hands-free.
Jan Brewer, environmental manager for St. Johns County, said, “Everyone is fully aware that excess nutrients promote aquatic vegetation. The DEP and EPA are working to develop ways to remove nutrients from the St. Johns River. This new technology is one of those solutions being considered.”
This means farmers spend less money on fertilizers, and less water is withdrawn from the Floridan Aquifer, she said.
Henry Warner, supervisor of St. Johns Soil and Water Conservation District, said, “Forty-eight percent of our potable water is being used by agriculture. If we could cut that percentage even a little bit, there would be less pressure on the aquifer by salt-water intrusion.”
This area has the right soils — well drained but not rocks or pure sand — for this kind of irrigation, he said.
According to Warner, 26,000 acres of St. Johns County is under cultivation.
“When this system is in place, growth is uniform across the row. Farmers must determine if it will conserve resources, otherwise they are not going to buy into it,” he said.
He said the system won’t work with citrus trees or sod; though there is a sod farm in St. Johns trying it.
Crops grown in the county include potatoes, cabbages, sorghum, blueberries, peanuts and corn for ethanol.
“Reduction of our water use can only be to our benefit,” he said. “In the future, well systems will be more vulnerable. This (system) could be a breakthrough if farmers are willing to test it and demonstrate this as an effective tool. It’s not adoptable everywhere, but it might be possible to reclaim lands that were previously difficult to irrigate.”
Tom Cheyne, a federal advisor with the National Resources Conservation Services, based in East Palatka, said there’s no waste, called “tail water,” with subsurface irrigation.
“Farmers still have to fertilize the way they used to. This is a water quality advantage,” he said. “But you won’t have water spill over into other ditches. It’s the way to go. It’s going to more than pay for itself.”


Symposium brings sea level rise to light
Palm Beach Daily News – by JudySchrafft, Palm Beach
August 4, 2013
The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation recently co-sponsored (July 26th) a daylong symposium regarding global warming and sea level rise.
If anyone in Palm Beach wonders where and why our beaches are gone and doesn’t understand the ramifications to the many suggested fixes, they should read High Tide on Main Street by John Englander, the keynote speaker.
As a participant in the symposium, Englander joined coastal geologists, elected representatives, state and local officials, Ph.D. candidates, and the Marshall Foundation’s own devoted interns in enumerating the causes and effects of international ecological abuses that have contributed to the global crisis.
In particular, speakers related this problem to our own area, the Everglades ecosystem, and offshore and onshore changes that are already evident. As awareness of, and concern for, these problems become more prominent in the public consciousness, scientific knowledge is ever at work, but the reverses, even if they were to start today, are decades off.
Global warming and sea level rise are a fact of life that is here to stay. We must acknowledge the fact, do our best to adapt to ongoing changes in, for instance, weather patterns nationwide and worldwide, and support legislation aimed at developing long-term fixes.
State Rep. Mark Pafford said the problem will be the “dominant issue of the next century.”
The Marshall Foundation is to be commended for bringing this most import subject to the attention of our residents, where the situation reveals itself most noticeably in the plight of our beaches and the specter of a compromised drinking water supply.
Symposium conclusions and other related information will be found online at by Aug. 9th.



Audubon Florida urges citizens to add their names to letter to Negron
TCPalm - by Audubon News Release
August 3, 2013
MIAMI — As the ecological crisis in the Indian River Lagoon worsens, Audubon Florida has proposed nine recommendations to resolve this ongoing problem, according to a news release from the group.
Eric Draper, Audubon Florida's executive director, spelled out the proposals in a letter to state Sen Joe Negron, R-Palm City, chairman of the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Click here to see the letter.
"The discharges to the coastal estuaries are an ongoing tragedy that demands urgent government response," Draper said in the release. "Dead and dying fish and wildlife are heartbreaking symptoms of a larger water management problem. The local residents who call the area home and rely on the coastal habitats have given new urgency to get to work on solutions."
Audubon's letter to Negron recommends advancing Everglades restoration projects, improving to water management and reducing water pollution. Click here to see Audubon's detailed recommendations.
Florida's weather cycles results in huge diversions of stormwater to the coasts. Before modern drainage, that water sat in swamps and seeped to the Everglades or coasts. Now these huge slugs of polluted water overwhelm the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, cause algae blooms and kill off marine life.
"The crisis in the Indian River Lagoon is a catastrophe in its own right and is a symptom of a larger drainage and pollution problem," Draper said in the release. "To help the Lagoon, the natural flow of the Everglades needs to be restored to allow clean water to flow more naturally through the Kissimmee River south towards Florida Bay."


To see the full letter
sent to Senator Negron,
please CLICK here

Audubon letter to Senator Negron
Audubon Florida

Indian River Lagoon Solutions

August 3, 2013
Senator Joe Negron
Chair of the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399 
RE:  Solutions for Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin
 Dear Senator Negron:
Thank you for providing leadership on the health of the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee.  The discharges to the coastal estuaries are an ongoing tragedy that demands urgent government response. Hopefully the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin can recommend a workable set of solutions that the state of Florida can implement.  I write today to offer some specific recommendations.
Audubon has a long history with Lake Okeechobee, and we have five chapters in the counties along the Indian River.  Our sanctuary in the Lake’s western marsh provides habitat for many species of water and shore birds.  Audubon’s science staff are active contributors to the various plans that have advanced to reduce pollution and improve water management to ameliorate the impacts of wet weather and drought.
While many of your constituents are demanding an immediate end to discharges into the St. Lucie, real solutions require longer-term thinking and recognition that the region has significant water management and pollution problems requiring government action.  Many of these solutions were debated and/or authorized by the Legislature in 2007 but not implemented.  
Click here to see Audubon's full list of recommendations.
On behalf of Audubon’s members, I commend your leadership and ask you to give consideration to our recommendations and lead boldly.  We look forward to providing additional comment at the committee’s hearings and during the next legislative session.  Please call on our policy and science experts if we can help in any way.  
To see the full letter sent to Senator Negron, please click here.

Citizens must act to preserve our state's water resources
The - by Steve Enzor, Winter Haven, FL
August 2, 2013
Recent articles and letters to the editor make excellent points about the reality of our growing problem regarding our water supply. These writers' intelligent words join the thousands of other intelligent words written and spoken on this vital topic.
If words were all it took to solve this problem, it would have been solved long ago. Until actions that hold officials accountable for the ditch-and-drain-to-the-Gulf of Mexico policy of water management that we are victims of occur, nothing will change except we will have less water, more concrete and wealthier developers.
Action to turn this around is not likely to happen because there is too much money to be made in draining wetlands to build on. It has been, and most likely always will be, about the greed and self-interest of those with the power to say no more draining of the swamp.
Our local representatives to the water management district have consistently supported draining water rather than storing water in our natural storage areas. The most recent appointee to the district's board has large family land holdings in the flood plain of the Peace Creek. Is it likely he would support allowing water to remain where it naturally does or more likely support moving it downstream?
Is it more likely a local state representative and land developer along the Peace Creek would support draining or storing water in natural areas?
These officials' words, along with those of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, say they are not draining the swamp, but if we examine the reality of their actions, we clearly see more dry land and concrete in flood plains, and more water speeding to the gulf.
Talking and writing about this won't change it. Flooding the chambers of water management district meetings, city and county commission meetings and local legislative delegations meetings with voters might.


High water

Commissioner Ron
Bergeron of the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission wants the
extremely high water
levels in the Everglades
lowered to save the wildlife and habitat.
The water where he
is standing at his
Everglades camp
would normally be just
above his knees.
(Steve Waters)

High water levels threaten Everglades
Sun Sentinel - by Steve Waters
August 2, 2013
Wildlife such as deer, panthers and wading birds are at risk.
The River of Grass is becoming Lake Everglades and that could have a devastating impact on the 'Glades and its inhabitants.
Sky-high water levels in the freshwater Everglades are poised to kill vast amounts of the fur-bearing animals that live there, destroy the tree islands that provide them with food and shelter and also affect wading birds and endangered species such as the Florida panther.
"My concern is we're at extreme high water levels with three more months of rainy season," said Ron Bergeron, a commissioner with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who has been out in the Everglades in his airboat several times to get a first-hand look at the situation.
"What I'm trying to avoid is another 1994 massacre of wildlife."
Nearly 20 years ago, high water levels killed 80-90 percent of the white-tailed deer in the Everglades, along with raccoons, wild hogs, opossums, bobcats and rabbits. The animals either drowned, succumbed to disease from being crowded onto the few bits of high ground that weren't underwater or starved to death.
Record rainfall this spring and summer has led to the highest water levels ever recorded for this time of year in the Everglades water conservation areas, which are in southwest Palm Beach County, western Broward County and northwestern Miami-Dade County.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, May 18 through Aug. 1 was the wettest start to the rainy season in 45 years.
"We're pretty early in the wet season. We could see record high stages later in the season," said Tommy Strowd, the district's director of the Operations, Maintenance and Construction Division. "We share the commission's concern for getting as much water as we can out of the conservation areas."
The solution is to let water flow south under Tamiami Trail. From there it would go into Everglades National Park and the C-111 Canal on into Florida Bay.
In 2008, Bergeron, who had been appointed to the FWC by Gov. Charlie Crist the year before, spearheaded an effort to lower extreme water levels in the conservation areas caused by Tropical Storm Fay by one foot in 30 days. The plan was a success, as the submerged deer islands were once again dry, the wildlife survived and there was no flooding or water quality issues south of Tamiami Trail.
"We've done this before," said Everglades National Park superintendent Dan Kimball, who noted that a one-mile bridge that was recently built on Tamiami Trail is days away from being cleared of fill.
"From the standpoint of the park, we want to be as helpful as we can be," Kimball said. "We have a new tool called a one-mile opening so we can move more water south into the park, so we're very supportive of that."
Kimball also noted that there is an ongoing construction project to raise Tamiami Trail so more water can be pumped into the L-29 Canal, which is at the southern end of the water conservation areas and runs along the roadway. Putting more water in the L-29 drains more water from the conservation areas and also increases the flow of water under the road.
The problem is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the lead agency on Everglades restoration, has been slow to act. Bergeron said 90 percent of the tree islands are totally underwater and the deer and other wildlife are already stressed. If a tropical storm or hurricane were to hit South Florida and dump even more rain, an environmental disaster is a certainty, so why isn't the Corps doing what it can to protect the Everglades?
"I agree with everyone and every comment that water certainly needs to be sent south," said Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Deputy District Commander for South Florida.
But Greco said he had two concerns. The first was possibly delaying the Tamiami Trail road construction project and even damaging the road by raising water levels too high in the L-29.
"The last thing we want to do is jeopardize that road and our folks in dealing with construction for several more months," Greco said.
Bergeron, a Weston businessman who has decades of road-building experience, said the road project is so far along that raising the water level in the adjacent canal would not affect it and if it looked like it might be an issue, the flow could be stopped.
"Since the project is designed for a high water elevation, it certainly looks feasible," said Gus Pego of the state Department of Transportation. "The details just need to be worked out. Instead of raising the water to the maximum elevation, Commissioner Bergeron said raise it maybe only six inches."
Bergeron also said that in 2008, the Tamiami Trail was lower than it is now and the higher water levels had no effect on the road.
And even if the project was delayed 30 days, said Bergeron, what's more important: Saving money on the road contract or saving the Everglades?


Mosaic pumping precious ground water to dilute waste below state maximums
Bradenton Times - by Staff Report
August 2, 2013
BRADENTON – Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate mining company, is permitted to pump up to 70 million gallons of water each day out of Florida's ground water supply for the next 20 years.
Some of that water is being used to dilute polluted waste from its mining operations, only so that it can be dumped into creeks without violating state regulations.
Mosaic's permit allows the $24 billion company to pump water from more than 250 wells throughout Manatee, Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and De Soto counties. Meanwhile, those areas have been under stringent water restrictions for 20 years. 
According to a Tampa Bay Times investigative report, Mosaic claims that half of the water it is collecting is used in mining operations, while the other half is used in factories. No one can say how much is used for dilution. 
Editorial: Water: The Hidden Tax on Phosphate Mining       (September 8, 2011)


South Florida rainfall set July records
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
August 2, 2013
South Florida is saturated — even without much impact from the remnants of Tropical Storm Dorian, which remained just off the coast much of Friday.
The South Florida Water Management District said it was the wettest start to the wet season — which typically begins in mid-May — in 45 years.
Much of the region, from Lake Okeechobee to Everglades marshes, are near or at historic high levels of water, with levels boosted by the wettest July since 2001.
The National Weather Service also reported that it was the wettest month of July on record for two cities.
Miami Beach’s 18.57 inches was the most rain in July for record dating to 1927 – a whopping 14.12 inches above typical rainfall.
Fort Lauderdale’s 15.49 inches were the most record since 1913, 9.51 inches above an average month.
Hialeah also record 13.48 inches, the second wettest July since 1940.
Across the 16-county water management district, which stretches from south of Orlando to Key West, an average of 10.36 inches of rain fell in July — 147 percent of average.
Lake Okeechobee received 9.15 inches of direct rainfall during the month, which has contributed to high water levels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping water from the lake in an effort to reduce pressure on its aging dike.


What is influencing EPA decisions ?
Sun Sentinel – Opinion by Carl Schneider, Delray Beach, FL
August 2, 2013
Are big money and politics forcing the EPA to back off continuing the investigations into hydraulic fracturing as the cause of contaminating water in several locations?
As reported by Neela Banerjee in a July 31st article in the Sun Sentinel, the EPA has stopped investigating the cause of well water contamination in Dimock, Pa.; Parker County, Texas; and Pavilion, Wyo. over the objections of the investigators.
This smells as bad as the methane gas found in the wells. Someone should investigate the leaders of the EPA to determine what influenced them to stop the investigation.
big money lobbyists and politics are found to be the reason, these decisions should be reversed and heads should roll.


US Capitol
Feds and Florida
FL Capitol

Central Everglades Planning Project faces state, federal bureaucratic hurdles
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
August 1, 2013
See why Everglades advocates are afraid a plan that could help the St. Lucie estuary might be delayed another seven years.
“Bureaucratic gobbledygook” could be to blame if a wide-spanning Everglades plan, which would help the battered St. Lucie Estuary, collects dust for seven more years.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg voiced that concern about the Central Everglades Planning Project in a letter last month.
By the end of 2013, the $2 billion initiative needs to be in the federal Water Resources Development Act that Congress is considering. The plan could reduce the highest level Lake Okeechobee releases into the St. Lucie by 50 percent.
The next version of the federal water bill may not pass for seven years, Eikenberg said. The last one went through Congress in 2007, was vetoed by President George W. Bush and the U.S. House overrode the veto.
It’s not as simple as slip-something-into-this-bill, however. Environmentalists and state and federal lawmakers are nursing an intergovernmental headache over the back-and-forth to move the project along.
The federal project, which would spare estuaries by sending more Lake Okeechobee water south, still needs a local government to agree on sharing project costs. South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers continue to hash out details of a preliminary plan to do that. The initiative first rolled out in October 2011.
Eikenberg said that during conversations at the Pentagon, the Army Corps told him the local sponsor needed to step up by July. The district’s July board meeting passed without a commitment, and a subsequent special meeting never happened, despite the Everglades Foundation’s urging.
 “Shame on all of us if we allow bureaucratic gobbledygook to cause delay and solutions missed,” Eikenberg wrote in a July letter to the district.
Kevin Powers, vice chairman of the board, said the district has been waiting to see the Corps’ draft proposal.
The district board won’t meet again until Aug. 14 and 15 at its West Palm Beach headquarters. Based off normal Corps time frames for this type of project, Congress wouldn’t receive the Everglades report until 2014, said Eric Bush, planning and policy division chief for the Corps.
The process requires more public and agency comment, paperwork, approvals and deadlines — an anticipated 240 days from whenever the district agrees to a draft, according to the Corps.
Eikenberg stressed they are quibbling over draft wording that can be changed later in the process. He guessed that the late start puts the project at a 50-50 tossup just to make it into this water bill.
 “We’re trying to keep everybody focused in an elementary style here,” Eikenberg said. “This is like a perfect civics example. Let’s just get it authorized.”
It took months to work out agreeable wording about how the water would flow south through state-owned water quality facilities, including liability issues. Some cost-share proposals still need Corps approval, said Kim Taplin, chief of the Corps’s Central Everglades branch.
But Bush said he expects the Corps and district to approve the draft by the Aug. 15 meeting.
It helps that the Central Everglades plan has the attention of President Obama’s administration. But Bush couldn’t guarantee how much more quickly the process could move.
 “There could be a pull from the administration which could shorten some of those time frames, but not all of them because some of them are sort of statute driven,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said he’s working with the Senate and the Corps to make sure everything is in line.
 “It’s very frustrating,” Murphy said. “The government bureaucracy is something that drives me nuts. As much as we try to streamline it, if it’s something that’s a longer project to do, we just have to work within the parameters there now.”
State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said it’s “no time for excuses or delay.” He’s pushing the district to move the project along.
Powers said even with a late start, he thinks the Central Everglades project won’t sit idly for years.
 “It’s such an important issue that the policymakers, the Corps, right on up through their system, to the elected officials, they’ll make it happen,” Powers said.


130801- b
Exclusive look at Picayune Strand restoration - by Rick Ritter, Reporter
August 1, 2013
COLLIER COUNTY, FL - Tucked away in southern Collier County stretches 50,000+ acres and one of the largest planned developments in the world.
"Just try to visualize 55,000 acres of construction site," said Janet Starnes, South Florida Water Management District.
It's all part of restoring the Picayune Stand Forest -- an area that's gone from a healthy wetland ecosystem to a nightmare for wildlife over the years.
"A big part of this is for the animals and plants," said Lacy Shaw, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a developer tried building on the site but went bankrupt -- drying out the entire landscape and making room for invasive plants.
"Being this dried out on an unnatural environment, the exotic species have gone crazy and really taken off," Shaw said.
"Exotic vegetation in Picayune Strand Forest is a large issue, it's a large problem," Starnes said.
Panther, bear, deer -- they are all living in a distressed environment.
"The large mammal species require hundreds of acres of land just for individual members of that species," Starnes said.
"Our project will help preserve a habitat for the Florida panther and other threatened and endangered species in area," Shaw said.
The project is directed by the U.S. Army Corps and South Florida Water Management District -- an estimated cost of $600 million.
We got an exclusive look at construction on Thursday.
More than 80 miles of canal plugs are being added, along with three water pump stations -- while getting rid of 200 miles of road.
"The pump stations' purpose is to maintain the current levels of flood protection for the residents north of here in Golden Gate Estates," Shaw said. "The pump stations make all the environmental restoration and the benefits that we will eventually get possible."
The stations are crucial in fighting off exotic vegetation.
"Exotic vegetation creates a landscape that's not useable by native animals in the area," Shaw said.
"It's very, very dry right now. As a result of it becoming dry, we end up with a monoculture of cabbage palm," Starnes said.
Officials say wildlife is already responding to work that's been done.
"It's amazing how fast the environment responds to increasing this hydrology and bringing it back to the way it was historically," Shaw said.
"To see this area go from a native state to a development-impacted state and to see it back to a native state -- it's so incredible to me," Starnes said.
The plan is to complete the entire project by 2018 -- putting some beauty back into Southwest Florida and letting wildlife thrive once again.
"It's actually going to put back what used to be here and its the very thing that attracts people to the state of Florida," Starnes said.

Flooding concerns for the Everglades
August 1, 2013
WEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Dangerously high water levels in the Everglades have officials worried for wildlife.
Defenders of the sea of grass are concerned wildlife in the Everglades will have difficulty surviving and flourishing due to nonstop rain brought upon during the storm season.
Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Ron Bergeron said most of the Everglades has been hit hard by mother nature. "Most of these islands are completely submerged," Bergeron said. "Probably 90 percent of them, and we're in the highest point. If we go to other islands, they'll be water up over my waist."
Dry islands necessary for the survival of animals have become waterlogged, and they are unable to live in these conditions for more than 30 to 60 days. The water levels have hit record highs and are considered an ecological emergency. "This water could end up being four feet." Bergeron said.
Bergeron, along with others, have begun pushing federal and state agencies to work with the water-management timetable and open the man-made gate holding back the Everglades water at Tamiami Trail from its natural escape route.
The plan was already used in 2008, when the Everglades faced a similar scenario. "All government agencies should come together and deviate from normal operations since we're in a state of emergency in our environment," Bergeron said.
High Florida Everglades Water Levels A Danger to Animals: FWC NBC 6 South Florida
Flooding concerns for the Everglades            7Online WSVN-TV

Lake O discharges send stained water to beaches – by Jim Linette
August 1, 2013
Environmentalists, including Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), are keeping a close watch on an abundance of unusually dark water that has moved in along Sanibel beaches and in the Caloosahatchee River estuary in recent weeks.
Excessive rainfall in the Lake Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee River watersheds over the past two months is causing the discoloration due to freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Releases into the Caloosahatchee wind up reaching the Gulf of Mexico at Sanibel.
The normally clear green or blue beach waters turns a dark tea color because it contains tannins from organic and plant material it picks up along the way
According to the SCCF website, as of July 23 the salinity level at Iona is in the "lethal" range for shoal grass and oysters. "High oyster mortality at Iona is expected," the website report states. Chlorophyll spikes have been measured at Tarpon Bay and Redfish Pass.
"Beaches along Fort Myers Beach continue to experience patchy stranding of red drift algae," according to SCCF monitors. "Dead sea grass has been observed along the beach. Water color is highly stained and dark along the beach as the river plume stretches along the island and into Matanzas Pass."
According to a report from the Lee County Health Department, it is safe to swim in the stained water as water quality samples are taken and tested weekly with the results posted on its website
The discoloration is expected to dissipate when the heavy rain and freshwater discharges are halted.



Miccosukees urge Congress to stop Everglades pollution
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
August 1, 2013
“The Everglades is dying,” partly because of water pollution that runs from agricultural areas through Miccosukee lands, tribal leaders told members of Congress from Florida on Thursday.
The leaders, resplendent in brightly colored shirts and belts, urged Congress to help them reduce the levels of phosphorous in the water to save what’s left of the ancient Everglades and preserve the Miccosukee way of life.
“We want to see that water clean. That’s all we’re asking,” Wayne Billie, a tribal elder, said at a briefing held by the Congressional Everglades Caucus, which is led by Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.
The elders urged federal intervention to give them “a seat at the table” among stakeholders taking part in a massive Everglades restoration project.
The state and federal restoration plan is designed to spread the flow of water in wide sheets from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay and filter out pollutants that wash off farmland along the way. Plans include creation of massive storage areas that release water when it is needed and filter it through underwater plants that remove some of the pollution that comes from fertilizer runoff.
 But the Miccosukee leaders said these plans are moving too slowly and may not improve water quality enough to save native plants and wildlife and make the Everglades livable for people who have made it their home for centuries.
The Florida members who make up the Caucus promised to help.
“It makes no sense to me to save the water if everything in the water is dead,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia


Water release

Stop the water dumping – Editorial by Missy Layfield, Editor
August 1, 2013
Anyone who walks along our beach or our pier or fishes in the back bay is aware that our water quality has taken a nose dive since Lake Okeechobee water releases have increased. Our water is brown, nearly black in some places, just like the water that flows out of the Lake. That would be because most of the water flowing down the river is from the lake. We pick up some from the Caloosahatchee drainage basin, but Lake O provides the key polluted water.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) treat the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers like drainage ditches during the rainy season. Actually worse than drainage ditches. We suspect that if you were caught dumping water this polluted into a ditch, the Department of Environmental Protection would have something to say about it. But if it’s the USACE doing it, so it’s all good.
Except when it’s not.
Our water, usually a sparkling green/blue, is now brown. And it’s going to stay brown for a while. This week the discharge from the Lake that flows down the Caloosahatchee River and out into the bay and eventually the Gulf, was "maximized” by the USACE to lower the level of Lake O. They threw open all the gates and let ‘er rip. But the polluted water has been flowing for weeks. While the brown water will eventually go away, we can’t predict when. Or what condition our sea life will be in when it does.
With the Hoover Dike failing, we understand why the lake must be kept low. We also understand that the use of the C-43 reservoir will help, a little. What we don’t understand is why the estuaries on both the west and east coasts that are damaged by these releases get so little attention. We also don’t understand why agricultural interests trump environmental interests whether it’s during the rainy season now when we’re drowning in polluted water or during the dry season when our river and estuary are dying of thirst for "fresh” water, but the sugar fields come first.
If anyone in power at USACE or SFWMD cares about the estuaries, they’ve done a truly terrible job of conveying that to the residents on both coasts. Delicate estuary ecosystems are dying and we seem to be the only ones who notice or care.
In the really old days, Lake O water flowed south, feeding the Everglades with freshwater. Enter the corporate farmers who drained the glades around the lake and built fields. The Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect Lake O communities after thousands died in the 1920’s in hurricanes. That dike is failing now. Has been for years. While the USACE works on replacing the failing sections, Lake O is kept low so as not to strain the dike.
Why is Lake O water so polluted? Lake O is essentially a retention pond for the agricultural industries around it. Lake O water is used for irrigation for the $1.5 billion/year agricultural industry; once the water is no longer needed and it is polluted with nitrogen and phosphorus and all manner of other agricultural chemicals, it is back-pumped into the lake. Water that flows off sugar fields is too polluted to flow into the Everglades, but not, apparently to be pumped back into the lake. When the lake rises, most of that polluted water flows down the Caloosahatchee River to us.
They don’t call it polluted; they call it "nutrient rich.” Nice spin.
The Caloosahatchee becomes essentially a river of death that flows from Lake O into our estuaries, blocking sunlight, dropping salinity and killing off sea grass, oysters, fish hatcheries and countless other forms of sea life.
In this broken water management system, the coastal estuaries are the real victims. Actually, I should phrase this so those whose only concern is JOBS can understand the problem.
Poor water quality costs JOBS.
When our water quality is damaged, our economy suffers. The #1 economic engine in our state and in Lee County is tourism. When you damage that engine, it does not rebound immediately. Our economy is just now recovering from an oil spill that never reached us and a global economic downturn. Tourism is a very sensitive business, easily affected by bad water quality or even the rumors of bad water.
Each new business that arrives in Florida is hailed as a provider of JOBS. Why are those JOBS more important that the ones we already have, that are at risk in our community due to this issue? Why does no one care about the boat captains, the servers, the housekeeping staff -- the many tourism related JOBS that are put at risk when the USACE and SFWMD gamble with our water quality? Lee County Tourism is a $3 billion industry. We count too!
Who is responsible ? The USACE manages Lake O water levels. They work with the SFWMD. But it’s politicians who call the shots. Big donors tell politicians what shots to call. Who’re the big donors ? Sugar industry companies, executives and employees are often on the big donor lists.
If we want our river, estuary and beach to get a fair shake when water decisions are made, we need to let our representatives know about it. Contact them and tell them that they have to find a way to solve Lake O’s problems that don’t involve ruining our water quality. It’s past time that the agricultural industry was expected to solve the pollution problems they’ve created.
If this matters to you, speak up now.


The vanishing wetlands in India – by Ananda Banerjee
August 1, 2013
The destruction of nearly one-third of India’s wetlands is setting of alarm bells in conservation circles
In movies, they are shown as dark and dank places, full of bloodthirsty creatures lurking in unseen corners. Our perception of swamps, marshes and other such semi-aquatic habitats have always walked on the fear of the unknown. They have been as seen hot, humid, mosquito-breeding infestations, and not recognized for the richness of their ecosystem.
This mindset has led to the large-scale destruction and paving over of wetlands that dot our cities and countryside. The disappearing wetlands, part of our commons, has at long last set alarm bells ringing in conservation circles.
Wetlands are defined as areas of land that is either temporarily or permanently covered by water. They are neither truly aquatic nor terrestrial. Each wetland is ecologically unique. It recycles nutrients, purifies and provides drinking water, reduces flooding, recharges groundwater, provides fodder and fuel, facilitates aqua-culture, provides a habitat for wildlife, buffers the shoreline against erosion and offers avenues for recreation. But, wetlands across the country are threatened by reclamation by draining and filling, besides pollution, and are exploited for their natural resources, leading to the loss of biodiversity. “Wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats of the world. They are considered as wastelands in our country. This is pushing us towards an unperceived ecological crisis,” said B.C. Choudhury, scientist and former faculty member at the Wildlife Institute of India.
Dire situation
The situation is dire, according to environment ministry. “Research suggests that one-third of Indian wetlands have already been wiped out or severely degraded,” it said in a recent report.
India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention (February 1982), an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The country has only 26 sites (see table) designated as wetlands of international importance, with a surface area of 689,131 hectares, whereas a much smaller country like the UK has 169 Ramsar sites.
Even these 26 sites are plagued by uncontrolled development and illegal encroachment. They include all of India’s largest and well-known lakes—Wular in Kashmir (fresh water), Sambhar in Rajasthan (salt) to Chilka in Orissa (brackish)—each one of them rapidly shrinking.
Pulicat Lake, India’s second largest lagoon bordering Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, is threatened by the Dugarajapatnam port project, which has already acquired 2000 acres of its area.
Kolleru Lake, the second biggest freshwater lake located in Andhra Pradesh, faces massive anthropogenic pressure. Almost 90% of the lake bed has been covered by fish tanks that have turned into a drain.
In Kerala, the Vembanad lake—said to be India’s longest lake and the largest in the state—is famous for the annual snake boat race held on its waters. This wetland is regarded as the rice bowl of central Kerala. It provides drinking water to millions of people in Thrissur and Malappuram districts, apart from supporting 12 species of threatened birds.
When most wetlands in Kerala were reclaimed for various reasons, this unique ecosystem was protected, primarily by those who farm in the lake’s wetlands. But, land use changes and waste dumping are posing a major threat to the lake.
“The lake is an example of how unregulated commercial interests destroy a wetland. An airstrip is planned here. There is sand mining on the islands. Resorts have come up all over, and each resort has illegally netted off portions of the wetland,” said Neha Sinha, advocacy and policy officer, Bombay Natural History Society.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) study estimated that wetlands cover 7% of the earth’s surface and deliver 45% of its natural productivity and ecosystem services. Globally, 1.5-3 billion people depend on wetlands as a source of drinking water as well as food and livelihood security. These natural resources are estimated at $20 trillion a year. But despite the benefits, wetlands have been systematically destroyed by being converted to industrial, agricultural and residential use.
Nothing to show
Despite India having a National Wetlands Conservation Programme since 1985-86 that provided financial support for the protection of 115 wetlands in different states, there’s nothing to show for this on the ground.
Conservationists blame state governments for not being proactive and letting the issue slide. With no working plans being drawn up by the states, the Central funds are unused.
The environment ministry has outlined threats to the wetlands, which include habitat destruction and encroachments through drainage and landfill, overexploitation of fish, discharge of waste water and industrial effluents, uncontrolled siltation and weed infestation, and harmful fertilizer and pesticide runoff.
The vanishing wetlands did nudge the government into action earlier this year.
In February, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved a proposal for the merger of the National Lake Conservation Plan and National Wetlands Conservation Programme, creating the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems, aimed at a more holistic framework for the conservation and restoration of lakes and wetlands.
The plan is to be operational during the 12th five-year plan that ends on March 2017 at an estimated cost of Rs.900 crore on a 70:30 cost-sharing basis between the Central and state governments (90:10 for the north-eastern states), with the bigger part of the money coming from the Union government. But apart from the announcement, there hasn’t been much by way of progress beyond that in terms of guidelines or the nodal agency under which plan will function.
The role of the wetlands is critical as a habitat for wildlife. For instance, they act as a refuge to thousands of migratory birds. Of the 465 important bird areas identified by BNHS and Birdlife International in the country, 125 are in the wetlands, all potential Ramsar sites and needing immediate protection.
Take the example of the Kawar Lake in Bihar. An oxbow lake, it’s the largest water body in the state and home to more than 20,000 migratory and local water birds. One of the three wetlands of Bihar identified under the wetland conservation programme of the environment ministry, it is threatened by illegal land sales and encroachments that are resulting in it shrinking.
Funds to the tune of Rs.31. 36 lakh earmarked by NWCP for the lake are lying unutilized in the state’s treasury since 1992, said Arvind Mishra, member, State Board for Wildlife, Bihar.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, Udhwa Lake is the state’s only bird sanctuary, comprising two inter-connected water bodies, Pataura and Berhale. Here, intensive agriculture is squeezing the life out of the lake. Whatever is left of the wetland is prey to encroachment for settlements, poaching of birds and illegal fishing.
Noupada, referred to as the salt bowl of Andhra Pradesh, is a 4,000-acre swamp adjoining the Telineelapuram bird sanctuary. This is considered the only remnant of the marsh ecosystem on the eastern coast of India and is home to communities that practice a unique and traditional style of inland fishing. It harbours a globally important breeding site for spot-billed pelicans and painted storks. About 150 of the pelicans and 250 of the storks breed here and scientists have also recorded nesting Olive Ridley turtles, an endangered species. However, the entire area is threatened by several projects, including the controversial Bhavanapadu thermal power project promoted by East Coast Energy Pvt. Ltd (ECEPL).
The Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat comprises of the largest seasonal saline wetlands and is also Asia’s largest flamingo breeding ground. This unique habitat is now threatened by a proposed massive road construction project.
“While the project proponent claims that the road is meant to facilitate mobility for the Border Security Force (BSF), our sources on the ground unequivocally assert that this project is nothing but a cover for promoting and expanding tourism in the region,” according to Conservation India, a wildlife conservation web site and a campaigner against the road project.
The threat posed by the project was outlined in a report by eminent conservationists M.K. Ranjitsinh, Divyabhanusinh Chavda and Asad Rahmani, deputed as experts by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to assess the situation.
“If the proposed road is allowed to be constructed, it would in all probability result in the abandonment of this breeding site and thus India would lose the only breeding site of flamingos, which in turn could spell doom to the population of these birds in the Indian subcontinent,” the report said. In her letter to the environment minister, another NBWL member, Prerna Bindra, said, “Importantly, too, were this road to come up, it will also destroy the sacred and unique mangrove forest of Shravan Kavadia. This Avicennia mangrove is one of its kind in the world. Located more than 100 km inland from the sea and completely landlocked, these Avicennia trees are enormous in stature, extraordinary for mangroves anywhere. Most importantly, such ecological devastation seems pointless given that there is accessibility by a perfectly viable alternate alignment.”
The fight over wetlands is a global one. In the US for instance, conservationists and local citizens have been battling developers and the sugar industry over the destruction of the Florida Everglades for decades.
All over India, it’s the same story—not a single wetland has been spared. While the monsoon breathes fresh life into the country’s wetlands, policy makers will hopefully wake up to the need to conserve this critical ecosystem. So far this year, India has recorded a good monsoon and by now the rain has replenished the wetlands, offering yet another opportunity to retain what we have before it’s destroyed.


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