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Time running out for vital waterway
September 30, 2013

Pollution is suffocating a critical habitat for fisheries and the most bio-diverse estuary in North America. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.


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As deadline nears, officials say purchase of sugar land is not a priority
WGCU News – by Ashley Lopez
September 30, 2013
The October 12th deadline for state officials to buy up sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee is quickly approaching.
Environmentalists have said the state should be diverting water from the lake through the Everglades Agricultural Area. However, water managers say buying the land is not a priority right now.
Officials from the South Florida Water Management District said a host of projects meant to ease the effect of water discharges east and west of Lake Okeechobee are enough.
Right now, state officials are working on an Everglades Water Quality Plan, building reservoirs to hold lake water and bridging along and Tamiami Trail to facilitate water flow south. Other projects are also in the works.
In a statement, water managers said by concentrating efforts on land the state already owns, they are quote “focusing taxpayer dollars on their most effective use.” But some environmentalists don’t agree.
Jennifer Hecker with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said these projects won’t sufficiently protect Florida’s ecosystems in the long term.
“We don’t have the capacity to move the amount of water that is necessary to stop the harmfully high releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River without acquiring more lands in the Everglades agricultural area,” Hecker said.
Hecker said the pending projects are helpful, but possibly only handle about 10 percent of the water from Lake O’.
Another environmentalist, Jonathon Ullman with the Sierra Club, said if the deadline to purchase land passes, future purchases become more costly and less likely.
“There are details in this contract that make it more difficult than before the 12th,” he said.
However, not all environmental groups agree with focusing efforts on buying sugar land. Audubon Florida has said that strategy may take more time and money than the plans already in place.


Florida wildlife corridor expedition members paddle Everglades tributary
WUSF News - by Steve Newborn
The last time we checked in with Carlton Ward Jr. was when the Tampa photographer was premiering the documentary based on his 1,000-mile trip hiking and kayaking up the length of Florida. Now, the leader of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is setting his sights on a largely untouched river that flows into Lake Okeechobee. Beginning today, he'll be part of a group that's traveling roughly 60 miles over four days down Fisheating Creek- by paddleboard.
They're starting at a ranch just north of State Road 70 that belong to Ward's cousin, Doyle Carlton III. He and the adjacent landowners joined together to do a 27,000-acre conservation easement with USDA back in 2010 to protect and restore the headwaters of Fisheating Creek. This area is considered an important stepping stone within the Florida Wildlife Corridor. In addition to food production and wildlife habitat, these lands will be important in helping improve the water quality of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. 
Also Ward tells us of a successor trip the 2012 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. It's expected to begin in the headwaters of the Kissimmee River/Everglades ecosystem, go northwest past Interstate 4 through the Green Swamp, continue through the Withlacoochee River system and Big Bend preserved areas, and then wind its way through the Panhandle. The exact route will be determined at an upcoming meeting of the stakeholders involved in the Expedition. You can read archived reports of WUSF's coverage of the trip here.
Ward tells WUSF's Steve Newborn that it's all part of his message that Florida's natural lands need to be preserved.
Here's some links to the project and some of the people taking part in the journey: (great resource for others interested in paddling there)


Old newspaper offers perspective on River's troubles
CBS 12 - by Chuck Weber
September 30, 2013
STUART-- Would you believe Treasure Coast residents have been fighting to stop harmful releases to the St. Lucie River for some six decades?
Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, recently showed us a yellowed newspaper from 1956, saved by a long-time resident.
The 1956 Stuart News edition included an editorial expressing concern over harmful, muddy releases coming from Lake Okeechobee, going to the St. Lucie River-- even way back then.
"Our rivers are a muddy mess and the mud extends far out to sea," Perry read from the article.
"That's happening right now," Perry exclaimed. "We have 14 million pounds of silt and sediment, since May 8, to September 17."
This year's heavy discharges to the St. Lucie have led to blooms of toxic blue-green algae. Some people developed rashes. Sea grasses and oysters died.
If this has been going on for six decades, will there ever be a solution to the St. Lucie River's problems?
"Only if we redesign, re-engineer (the water management system), so that the water doesn't get discharged from the Lake," said Perry. He and other River activists continue to push for a flow-way from "Lake O" to the Everglades water conservation areas.
The previous governor, Charlie Crist, struck a land deal with U.S. Sugar Corporation that could facilitate a flow-way. But the recession hit, there's a different governor, and the South Florida Water Management District says right now there are no negotiations for the U.S. Sugar land.
The Water District says for now, it's relying on the less extensive Central Everglades plan to reduce flows to the coasts. River activists maintain that plan won't be enough.


Protect Florida's imperiled water supply
Orlando Sentinel - My Word: by Walter Taylor, Winter Park, FL
September 30, 2013
How many more studies and articles, such as "Aquifer is maxing out, exhaustive study finds" (Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 26), are necessary to get action from the Governor's Office, the Florida Legislature and county and local officials to drastically reduce the amount of water sucked daily from the Floridan Aquifer?
Many years ago, the late Henry Swanson pleaded with elected officials in Tallahassee to conserve water and protect the aquifer.
Sadly, much of the water taken from the aquifer goes to watering lawns. Elected officials do little to encourage homeowners to have lawns that require less water. Homeowners associations and/or county and city officials often penalize homeowners who have replaced their water-sucking grass with a water-friendly native landscape.
Unless stiff penalties are imposed on Florida's citizens to reduce water consumption, the aquifer will continue to be lowered.
One does not need a doctorate in water management to know that pumping more than 850 million gallons of water a day damages our wetlands, springs and rivers. Fresh water is not a limitless resource in the state. I was appalled when I read in the Aug. 26 article the remark by Hal Wilkening, a director with the St. Johns River Water Management District, that "this should come as no surprise."
Give me a break.
I want to know why directors and other officials at St. Johns and the other management districts have allowed commercial bottlers, counties and special citizens to take huge amounts of water from the aquifer and then sell the water for profit or for whatever the purpose.
Are Gov. Rick Scott and certain powerful legislators in Tallahassee dictating to directors of the five water-management districts what to do and what not to do?
I am aware that permitting regulations, for example, have become more lax under our state's Republican administration.
In fact, the water-management districts have been working to streamline the permitting process to make it easier for developers and other applicants to submit permit requests. Instead of stiffer regulations, permit evaluators often have their hands tied because of some political dictum and currently are rewarded for completing the most permits generated in a given period of time.
"Good old boy politics" seems to occur in several state regulatory agencies, including those protecting Florida's water and other environmental resources.

The science is clear: The IPCC and the need for climate action now – by Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC
September 30, 2013
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its latest assessment of what science is telling us about the state of our planet. Researchers are more certain than ever before that humans are causing climate change and that some of its most dangerous impacts are accelerating faster than expected.
Many Americans already know this to be true. We have seen our own communities pummeled by more intense and more frequent heat waves, droughts, and storms. But even as we witness one record-breaking event after another, we count on scientists to interpret the larger trends. The IPCC is the most authoritative group in the business.
More than 600 researchers from 32 countries reviewed more than 9,000 peer-reviewed studies for this report. Their produced 2,000 pages of scientific analysis and worked through 56,000 comments. The assessment they produced is sweeping, comprehensive, and inescapable.
The science is clear: we are gambling with the well-being of our kids and future generations.
Pollution from human activities is changing the Earth’s climate. We see the damage that a disrupted climate can do: on our coasts, our farms, forests, mountains, and cities. Those impacts will grow more severe unless we start reducing global warming pollution now.
The IPCC panel noted, for instance, that seas could rise by 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.
Some naysayers have pounced on reports that the rise in surface temperature was slower in the past 15 years than over the past 50 years. They leap from this to an unscientific claim that global warming is no longer a threat. The world’s scientists know this is nonsense.
Researchers will continue to refine the details of the interplay between natural cooling cycles and human-caused warming. But here is what we already know: the planet has not cooled. It has continued to warm, and the last decade was the hottest on record since 1850—even with two cooling cycles of La Nina.
Treating a temporary slowdown as a miracle that will save us from climate disruption would be the height of folly. The science tells us that if we fail to reduce global warming pollution, global temperatures will rise to dangerous levels and unleash devastating extreme weather events and accelerate destructive sea level rise. A few years of steady temperatures at record high levels won’t prevent the collision that awaits us.
Regardless of whether our car is speeding at 90 miles an hour or 85 miles an hour, we are still in the danger zone. The time has come to put on the brakes.
The single most important thing we can do to protect our communities from climate change is to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Here in the United States, power plants account for the largest source of these emissions—40 percent—yet plants are free to pump as much carbon as they want into the atmosphere. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to end the era of unlimited carbon now.
The Obama administration has begun this process. Last week it proposed the first-ever carbon limits for new power plants. Now it is preparing similar limits for existing power plants. States and utilities will likely have a great deal of flexibility in how they meet the standards for existing plants, including investing in energy efficiency, renewable power, and carbon capture technology. NRDC’s analysis shows that this approach can cut fleet-wide carbon pollution 26 percent by 2020 and save people money on their monthly electricity bills. It could also create a net increase of 210,000 jobs in 2020. That’s a great investment for today and tomorrow.
As we chart our path forward, we must always use science as our guide. Right now the evidence is sending a clear and resounding signal: act now to reduce carbon pollution and ensure our children inherit a more stable climate.
Reposted with permission.  Originally posted at



FL Senator

Around Florida: It's time to 'redeploy' funds, Negron says - by Matt Dixon
September 29,2013
If you’ve received state funding for years, you may have a tough legislative session.
As Florida’s revenue picture improves, Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is calling on lawmakers to find money that has been spent on projects for many years and redirect it elsewhere.
The idea is that some projects have received money for years with little oversight. Often a project can snag funding one year simply because it received funding in previous budget, Negron said.
He has set a goal of “redeploying” $300 million in current state spending. While he has not developed a comprehensive list, his request is that Everglades funding be increased from $75 million to $100 million.
The idea, which Negron announced Thursday, will likely be met with resistance from Democrats.
To put the $300 million figure in context, it represents roughly 1 percent of the $29 billion in general revenue available to budget-writers.
He also warned committee members that they will feel pressure from groups losing funding.
“I don’t care if you are reducing $100k or $2.5 million, it will be the beginning of the apocalypse,” he said.
The idea will likely face pushback from Democrats who have supported spending more money on areas like public education and health care.
Since state economists announced there would be an estimated $845 million in additional revenue next year, it has sparked partisan fights over how it can best be used.
Republicans have forwarded plans to cut taxes and pad the state’s $1 billion rainy day fund, while Democrats said it should be invested back into the state.
A group named Florida for All organized a news conference in front of Scott’s office on Thursday to hammer his plan for the increased revenue: a $500 million tax break.
“We are here today to say investing in our teachers and students is more important than your special interest tax cuts,” David Worrell, head of the Leon County Teachers Association.
The group is funded, in part, by the Democratic Governors Association, which has made Scott’s defeat one of its top priorities.
The Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry did not let the message go unanswered, calling the group “extreme liberals.”
“Governor Rick Scott has proven that effective governing means providing tax cuts that help our middle class AND delivering record state-based funding for K-12 schools, as well as pay raises for our teachers,” he wrote in a statement.
Representative: Don’t test kids next year
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, said Thursday that Florida should take a year off from standardized testing of students rather than try to come up with an alternative to tests based on the Common Core Standards in time for the 2014-15 school year.
Speaking to reporters after a rally on school funding, Castor Dentel said she didn’t disagree with Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to begin untangling the state from the tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of states.
Those tests are meant to measure student learning based on Common Core, a set of standards that Florida and almost four dozen other states are moving toward using. But Castor Dentel, who is a public school teacher, said attempting to develop new tests by the end of the next school year would be problematic.
“I would be suspect of any test that they tried to create to meet that deadline,” she said. “Deadlines can be changed.” And she said the state shouldn’t continue using its current exam, the FCAT. “There are other options,” she said. “We don’t have to test that year with a standardized test.”
News Service of Florida
Senator wants more funding for springs
State lawmakers earmarked $10 million to protect Florida’s natural springs during this year’s legislative session, reviving after two years the restoration efforts started more than decade earlier under former Gov. Jeb Bush. Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, said after a committee meeting Wednesday that he doesn’t want the 2013 funding to be a one-time allocation.
The state has about 1,000 springs that face an intrusion of nitrates and increasing signs of saltiness.
Water management districts and local governments were able to add $27 million in matching funds to the state’s 2013 contribution for improvements around Silver Springs in Marion County, Ichetucknee Springs in Columbia County, Suwannee River Springs in Dixie County, Jackson Blue Spring in Marianna, Williford Spring in Youngstown, the Wekiwa Springs group around Orlando, Kings Bay and Crystal River, and the Weeki Wachee Springs group.


Choking on algae and anger is no way to live, Star Banner - by David Guest, an attorney for the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice in Tallahassee.
September 29, 2013
This fall, as fluorescent green toxic algae continues to break out in front of pricey waterfront homes along South Florida's Treasure Coast (north of Palm Beach) and around the southwest tourist meccas of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, there's an explosion of citizen protest and lot of talk about moving the polluted water somewhere else, please.
What we need to talk about is cleaning the water up, not just moving it around. Our government has the power to do this, but instead, all that leaders suggest is more engineering to move the polluted swill from one place to another. It's wrong-headed, and it needs to stop. They need to hold polluters accountable.
Here's the deal: The sickening toxic algae outbreaks now ruining some of Florida's most lovely coastal communities come from sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff. In South Florida, the fertilizer-laden swill comes from huge corporate agricultural operations, namely, Big Sugar, Big Vegetable, and Big Cattle. These are businesses which provide something we all want, but that doesn't give them a free pass to use our public waters as their private sewer.
Our government now spends our tax dollars operating government canals that move agricultural waste into rivers that lead to Lake Okeechobee. Then, the government moves the contaminated lake water into canals that spew the filth to the estuaries on the east and west coasts.
The people along Florida's sandy coasts have rallied by the thousands. They would prefer this water stay inland, thank you very much. They are dealing with dead fish, dolphins, birds and manatees; unpotable water supplies; and ruined tourism businesses. So, the current cry is to “move the water south” into the Everglades.
Here's a better idea: Clean it up at the source.
Right this very moment, the government could be stopping this pollution by simply refusing to allow these private companies to dump polluted water into the public canals, which the government operates with our tax dollars.
There should be specific, numeric limits — speed limit signs, with easy-to-read numbers — at each of these canals. If a corporation's pollution level is over the limit, then the government should just refuse to move it into the government's canal system. That will keep the pollution out of Lake Okeechobee and out of our estuaries.
The polluting agricultural corporations need to take personal responsibility too. You can't throw your garbage over the fence onto your neighbor's property. So you shouldn't be able to dump your polluted water into public canals, rivers and estuaries.
We've operated on this principal for years when it comes to municipal sewage. We passed laws that made it illegal for cities to dump untreated sewage into public waters. As we learn more about the effect this nutrient overloading has on ecosystems, we need to fine-tune these standards and set proper limits.
That's what we insisted on in 2009 when we forged our binding legal agreement (consent decree) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA agreed to set numeric limits in Florida to control the sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution that sparks the algae outbreaks.
The EPA is now trying to wriggle out of its agreement, and we are in federal court, challenging the EPA's outrageous attempt to alter the consent decree.
As I write this, I just received an email with a picture of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. It has the tell-tale green slime starting to break out. Too much phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, feeding nasty algae. Here we go again.


Lagoon agenda in Tallahassee is keeping water clean in the first place
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
September 29, 2013
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers are chalking up hundreds of millions of dollars to clean, move and store dirty water destined to hit the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
But with a Senate committee dedicated to the lagoon and a newly piqued interest from Scott, Tallahassee's environmental circles hope the timing is right for Florida to focus more on keeping water clean in the first place.
Many environmental groups think the lagoon case study provides ample evidence for Republican lawmakers to rethink preventive rules, from fertilizer and septic tank use, to water quality standards in general.
Water rules may not be prescriptions to cut down the heavy doses of freshwater dumping from Lake Okeechobee into local estuaries. Instead, the goal is limiting the nitrogen and phosphorous loads that can turn local waters toxic.
"You can build treatment programs to store the water, you can capture it in reservoirs, you can treat it with the chemicals," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "But really, government is not doing anything to keep the nutrients out of the system. Nothing."
For years, state lawmakers have pushed to scale back local governments' ability to limit fertilizer use. Last legislative session, a three-year moratorium on fertilizer ordinances any tougher than the state standard nearly passed in a controversial environmental regulation bill. Lawmakers stripped the provision from HB 999, which Scott signed into law.
In 2012, the Legislature repealed a law requiring inspections of septic tanks every five years. Lawmakers instituted the inspection just two years earlier.
Scientists tie both the seepage from septic tanks and runoff from fertilizers to large levels of nutrients polluting the lagoon.
With the GOP Legislature's prevailing view that less regulation is better for business, environmentalists are cautious about banking on any new environmental rules in 2014, however.
"I doubt we will see increased regulation out of this Legislature, but you may see stepping back some from the pre-emptive legislation that would prevent localities from protecting their water qualities," said David Cullen, a lobbyist for Sierra Club. "That would be a good outcome."
Sen. Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican chairman of the lagoon committee, wasn't a fan of last year's bill allowing the Department of Environmental Protection to implement its own standards for water quality, rather than adopting stricter federal guidelines.
The issue between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Act previously was tied up in the courts.
Negron voted with the vast minority. In a 34-4 vote, Negron was the only Republican in opposition. Each Florida House member representing the Treasure Coast voted for the bill.
"I felt the legislation didn't focus adequately on making sure that water quality in Florida remained at a high standard," Negron said.
In July, state officials in Stuart touted a new 15-year restoration plan for the St. Lucie estuary, focusing on removing nitrogen and phosphorous. Local river advocates, like Mark Perry of Florida Oceanographic Society, thought the plan would take too long and not require enough help from agricultural interests.
Sometimes it doesn't take a new bill to "do what you said you were going to do," Draper said.
In 2007, the Republican Legislature unanimously passed the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program. It directly ordered plenty of plans, instructions for funding, pollution limits and nutrient control mechanisms from north of Lake Okeechobee all the way to the estuaries.
St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt was the Florida Senate's president, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio served as House speaker. Both bodies unanimously passed the bill.
Then in 2008, everyone's attention turned to the $1.7 billion chance to send water south to the Everglades, Draper said.
"When Gov. Crist got elected the next year, all of a sudden the more exciting thing to focus on is buying out U.S. Sugar," Draper said of the proposed 187,000-acre land buy. "I share part of the responsibility for this, because we all kind of chased after it. But at that point, we just sort of stopped working on the northern Everglades."
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, already said he will focus on ensuring previous legislation is enforced in the March-through-May legislative session. Negron agreed to look at the 2007 plan further.
"If we need to have increased enforcement of existing regulations, I think that is something we would address," Negron said.


Silver Springs

Silver Springs

The opportunity of Silver Springs - Editorial
September 29, 2013
History will mark this Tuesday as a milestone for our community — Silver Springs State Park officially opens. For the first time in its rich and colorful existence, Silver Springs will be a public facility, run by and for the public. It has been a long time coming.
After a century of private ownership, the state of Florida acquired the springs and the land surrounding it two decades ago to ensure the iconic natural landmark would be protected and preserved for posterity. Economic and environmental changes — neither for the better, we might add — combined to make it necessary, indeed prudent, for the state to turn the last vestiges of the granddaddy of all Florida tourist attractions into a state park.
The park is nowhere near completed as it opens. It is, rather, a work in progress that will give the people of Ocala/Marion County and elsewhere access to both the springs and the history and heritage that are as much a part of Silver Springs as its clear, cool waters.
The drive to make Silver Springs a public park was initiated by the County Commission, particularly Commissioner Stan McClain. McClain and his fellow commissioners recognized the unyielding environmental degradation of the springs as well as their economic potential in a growing portfolio of ecotourism offerings. Three years of pushing and prodding resulted in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection finally agreeing to make Silver Springs into a park.
It is a public policy blessing for the health of the springs and the Silver River they feed — and potentially the local economy.
The latter is where local energies need to begin to be focused now. There is no question the Silver Springs brand is marketable. But the community needs a marketing plan and budget to do that on a national scale. Where else in Florida is there such a large spring in an urban setting? More to the point, where else is there such a major spring with so many other outdoor recreational opportunities in Florida, or anywhere else, for that matter?
Silver Springs gives Ocala/Marion County a big-name natural attraction to lure outdoor enthusiasts, or just day-trippers, to our community. Once here, they can enjoy just the springs, or venture farther and take to our hiking trails, biking trails or water trails. They can ride horses or tour our picture-perfect horse country. They can bird watch in our forests or go for along walk in the woods or in any of our nationally recognized community parks.
In short, now that Silver Springs State Park is here, there is plenty to do and plenty to market to ecotourists.
Of course, marketing on a national scale takes money. And the County Commission has the power to generate the kind of money that's needed through an increase in its local tourist development tax. It would raise another estimated $1.5 million a year from visitors and passersby, not local residents. If we want people to come to Ocala/Marion County from near and far, if our community is going to sell itself as an ecotourism destination, if we are going to capitalize on the brand that is Silver Springs, we need a detailed development and marketing dollars.
The crown jewel, Silver Springs State Park, is in place. Now let's hope our leaders will let her shine.


Combating rising seas
Miami Herald - Editorial
September 28, 2013
OUR OPINION: Miami Beach on right course to keep low-lying areas dry
Calling all hydrologists and civil engineers — South Florida’s got jobs for you as it seeks to fend off rising sea levels from climate change over the next one hundred years. That’s one of the main messages that emerged from a recent day-long seminar in Miami Beach, where local officials met with experts from Holland to learn how that low-lying country defends itself from an ever-persistent sea.
Another message: Remedies for staving off rising waters along our shores won’t be cheap or simple. But they are necessary.
Scientists forecast that, over the next century, seas could rise from 1-1/2 feet to six feet. That’s a lot of water. And it won’t just be coastal areas that are affected.
South Florida’s porous limestone foundation could increase ground water levels far inland as the ocean rises. Studies have shown that a three-foot rise in sea level would flood western Miami Beach permanently, but also overrun inland communities like Weston. There will simply be no place for the water to drain away.
Some of the Netherlands’ methods for restraining the sea won’t work here in Florida. Oceanside dikes are out of the question, for example. So are mountainous sand dunes, which the Netherlands have built along its coast. Building such dunes here would damage coral beds and raise other environmental concerns.
But, as the seminar’s participants learned, there are some solutions, like Miami Beach’s $200 million overhaul of its aging drainage system, which now leaves major streets and low-lying neighborhoods inundated for days after even normal rainstorms, not to mention our seasonal high-tide periods.
While Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties all joined a climate-change agreement several years ago to assess and reckon with the risks of rising sea levels, the Beach is the first city in South Florida to put money into combating increased flooding. The project includes wells to store runoff water, installing more pumps to eject flood water and using “backflow” preventers to keep shore water from backing up into city street grates.
What lies in South Florida’s future? More elevated roads and buildings, more so-called “retreats” from building on the coast, more 24-hour pumps to keep water at bay everywhere, more storm-water runoff collected from urban areas and redirected for irrigation — all feats of engineering that will require big financial investments over the next 50 years.
And government officials in coastal cities will have to rethink zoning laws near their beaches. When an aging Miami Beach hotel is razed, it should not be the site for another high-rise condo, for example, which simply puts more people at risk. It could become green space instead. Better to take a hit on city property-tax coffers than put more residents in harm’s way.
Sure, all these changes in attitude and policy sound daunting. But what other choice do South Floridians have?
Stand by and wring their hands as the underpinnings of beachside condos and resorts are washed away during a hurricane’s storm surge, the tourist industry drowns as beaches disappear under water and a whole way of life is permanently altered for the worse? Those aren’t options.
The folks at that seminar have the right idea: Plan now to prepare and pay to control what the future is bringing our way — higher waters, eroding beaches and more flooding risks. The Netherlands has held the sea at bay for centuries. Now it’s South Florida’s time to face the inevitable and act early to combat this very real threat.


Swiftmud officials to set lake levels and river flows for more water bodies in Polk - by Tom Palmer
September 28, 2013
LAKELAND | Setting lake levels and river flows for more water bodies in Polk and surrounding counties will be the topic of a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Southwest Florida Water Management District's Tampa Service Office, 7601 U.S. 301.
Swiftmud officials have already set minimum levels for the section of the Peace River that is in Polk County as well as several lakes.
The latest level set was for Lake Hancock, which lies on the headwaters of the Peace River, whose maximum regulated level was raised from 98.7 feet to 100 feet above sea level during the past year.
Swiftmud officials purchased thousands of acres around the 4,519-acre lake and along Saddle Creek to accomplish the higher lake level, which is intended to allow water managers to store water to replenish flow in the Upper Peace River during dry periods.
Portions of the river have had little or no flow periodically over the past 30 years because excessive aquifer pumping in the area has dropped aquifer levels, eliminating historic artesian flow that maintained the river's flow.
According to a schedule released by Swiftmud officials, more adopted levels will be considered in the future in Polk County, but not until 2016.
They include the North Prong and South Prong of the Alafia River as well as lakes Amoret, Aurora, Bonnet, Easy, Effie, Eva, Josephine, Little Aurora, Lowery and Trout in the Haines City-Lake Wales area.
Swiftmud officials are scheduled in 2017 to set minimum standards for intermediate and high flows in the Upper Peace River.
Residents can submit written comments by Oct. 16 on the draft priority list and schedule to Doug Leeper, chief environmental scientist, at or to 2379 Broad St., Brooksville, Fl. 34604-6899.


How should Florida spend surplus ?
Sun Sentinel – by Kingsley Guy
September 27, 2013
Here are four ways we can make our state much better.
The economic recovery has been the most tepid since before World War II, a testament to the fiscal incompetence of the Obama administration and a dysfunctional Congress. The national unemployment rate still stands at 7.3 percent, an intolerable figure the "status-quo left" is calling the "new normal." Even that figure misrepresents the enormity of the nation's financial mess, since it doesn't factor in discouraged workers who have left the labor force.
There are a few bright spots, however, and the Sunshine State is among them. The housing bust that triggered the Great Recession hit Florida harder than most states, and its unemployment rate soared to among the highest in the nation. Today, Florida's rate is down to 7 percent, which is below the national average.
Under both Democratic and Republican leadership, Florida for the most part has been fiscally responsible and business friendly, which are major reasons the state has bounced back as well as it has. Its bond rating is among the highest in the land, and the current governor and Legislature plan on keeping it that way. Contrast Florida's unemployment situation to California's (8.9 percent) and Illinois' (9.2 percent). The tax-and-spend, union-dominated politicians in the Golden State and the Land of Lincoln are doing their best to drive their states into default and penury.
The slowly improving economic condition of Florida has resulted in an increase in tax revenue, and this year Florida is expected to have an $845 million budget surplus. Gov. Rick Scott wants to use more than half of it to cut taxes and fees, and he's been soliciting citizen input on how to spend the balance. My dueling colleague Stephen L. Goldstein and I have a few, somewhat disparate ideas, which we are broaching today. Here are mine:
♦1 - Use some of the money to help pay the transition costs of a complete shift to a defined contribution, 401(k)-style pension plan for all state employees. Most private employers shifted from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions decades ago because they found the former to be unsustainable. Florida's pension system is in good shape at the moment, but so was Illinois' at one point, and now it is ruinously in the red. State employees deserve wage and benefit packages equal to those offered by quality private-sector businesses, but they don't deserve more than the workers paying the freight.
♦2 - . A Florida Department of Education study this year using hard data shows that charter schools in most categories of student achievement score higher than traditional public schools. Yet, charter schools (which are public schools) receive only about 60 percent of the funding of their traditional counterparts. Use some of the budget surplus to better fund charter schools, without shortchanging traditional public schools.
♦3 - Community colleges are vital to workforce training, yet they often are ignored by the Legislature in favor of the state's universities, in particular its flagship institutions. The community colleges deserve better.
♦4 - Nothing is more vital to Florida's economy than it's water resources, but as former Sen. Bob Graham and many others have pointed out, they have been badly neglected in recent years. Use some of the budget surplus to purchase wetlands, help fund water management district projects, and improve pollution controls.



"Making of a sinkhole"

Is Florida sinking ? - Jessica Bartels, Staff Writer
September 27, 2013
In recent news stories, Florida has been called the Swiss cheese state. Some tourists will change their vacation destinations. Many homeowners are packing up their belongings and fleeing the state of Florida due to a series of sinkholes opening up throughout the state.
Running from the state is not going to help. Sinkholes are just one of the world’s many natural disasters. Other parts of the world are more susceptible to earthquakes or tsunamis. Florida just happens to be the home of sinkholes just as Alaska and California are home to earthquakes. These sinkholes are not something just opened up out of nowhere, they are to be expected.
There are theories of why Florida has sinkholes. The most commonly accepted theory is that Florida was once under water. As it rose above sea level, the land held air pockets because of a mixture of acidic water with oxygen.
These pockets are known as rock caves, and exist under the state’s surface. As the state became more developed and we began to build on top of these caves, the pressure above these caves causes them to collapse.
The time it takes to collapse is unknown and immeasurable. We know that these caves are here and have been here longer than we have. There are documented sinkholes in the state of Florida since as early as the 1800s.
Home owners are fleeing some sink holes areas for good reason. A recent tragedy in Seffner reveals the danger. Jeff Bush, 37, and part of his house were swallowed by a 30 feet wide by 25 feet deep sinkhole in February. Danger is a major concern to some residents. Some are evacuating as precaution. Others are finding it too expensive to keep their homes.
Areas of recent sinkholes such as Seffner and Ocala may also suffer a major loss in property values. Sinkhole insurance is not feasible for the average family in that area. Most insurance companies do not have sinkhole coverage as an option. This makes it extremely difficult for some homeowners, especially younger homeowners, because some banks offer financing contingent upon keeping costly insurance premiums.
Sinkholes have opened all over Tampa’s surrounding area. Two large sinkholes have swallowed resorts in Orlando Florida this year. The first incident was estimated at over $53 million dollars in insurance claims. A 5-acre, 8 feet deep pond in Woodland Villages, a housing neighborhood in Ocala, was emptied on August 20, by an apparent sinkhole.
In August 2012, a sinkhole was discovered in the Louisiana bayou, 40 miles south of Baton Rouge in swampy waters. Over the last year, the hole has expanded to over 24 acres. Over 350 residents near the bayou were evacuated. More recently, on August 20, 15 feet of treeline submerged beneath the earth as the sinkhole devoured the land. The disappearing trees were caught on live camera and are popular views on social media. Florida is not the only place worrying over sinkholes.
As for the bay area, four major sinkholes have opened in Seffner this year. The most recent appearance was on the weekend of August 24. A collapsed rock cave between 1425 and 1427 Lake Shore Ranch Drive opened in a homeowner’s backyard.
Although the 8 feet wide and 10 feet deep hole is far enough from homes that sheriffs do not believe it to be a threat, people residing in nearby homes have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. This location is within 2 miles of the hole that opened in February.
Tourists might be thinking twice before loading the kids up for their trip to Disney World. Some people are apprehensive after the recent collapse of Summer Bay resort in Orlando caused by a massive 60 feet wide, 15 feet deep sinkhole that opened on August 11, 2013. Because of the “outbreak of sinking spots,” Florida may drop in the top ten hot spots to visit. Unfortunately, that will hurt the economy of our state. People may decide to take their families to Disney Land instead of Disney World.
These disasters are just what the name describes: natural. They are unavoidable. Tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, tidal waves… you pick your disaster when you pick your location.


Toxic algae

CLICK to enlarge

Report: Polluted farm runoff linked to toxic green algae slime in U.S. waters
Washington Post – by Darryl Fears
September 27, 2013
They call it the green slime, a toxic ooze of algae that covered lakes and other water bodies across the United States this summer, closing beaches in Wisconsin and Kentucky, and killing scores of dolphins, manatees, birds and fish in Florida, a report says.
At least 21 states closed lakefront beaches and issued public health advisories as a result of toxic algae between May and September; last year 20 states took similar actions.
Toxic algae is the byproduct of the same types of pollution that causes dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay — phosphorous and nitrogen from livestock manure and chemicals sprayed on crops such as corn that spills from farms into assorted waterways during moderate to heavy rains.
Urban sewage overflows that send millions of gallons of stormwater mixed with raw human waste during rains also contributes to the problem, even though such point-source pollution, unlike most non-point-source farm pollution, is heavily regulated by the federal government, environmentalists say.
The effects of polluted runoff is made worse by the changing climate, said Hans Paerl, professor of marine and environmental sciences at the University of North Carolina. “Global warming and intensification of major storms and droughts play major roles in the spread of toxic blue-green algal blooms worldwide.”
At least one drinking-water provider, Des Moines Water Works, is struggling to clean nitrates from water it supplies to a half-million customers as a result of polluted runoff from farms.
Nitrates recently spiked to twice the level the Environmental Protection Agency allows, forcing the utility to pass the million-dollar cost of cleaning water drawn from the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers to ratepayers.
The report, “Toxic Algae: Coming Soon to a Lake Near You?”, was released Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, an environmental nonprofit group, and Resource Media, a nonprofit public relations organization, to raise national awareness of the problem.
It describes a growing toxic danger that threatens human health and has claimed the life of at least one person, more than 20 pets since 2001 and a multitude of marine life.
The report follows a federal court’s ruling ordering the EPA to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Water Act and draw up a plan to limit the flow of pollution into the Mississippi River, which feeds into the gulf.
In a Sept. 20 decision written by Judge Jay C. Zainey, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Louisiana sided with environmental groups that challenged the EPA’s “hands-off approach” to managing pollution.
An EPA attempt to dismiss the suit was denied. The court was not persuaded by the agency’s argument that it was leaving it to states to manage pollution, with EPA’s help, because it had no jurisdiction to compel a cleanup.
Zainey gave the EPA six months to at least begin to develop a plan. A spokesman for the Department of Justice, which represented the federal government in the suit, said only that its lawyers were reviewing the decision and had not decided its next step.
The suit was filed by several nonprofit environmental groups, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Minnesota Center for the Environment, Iowa Environmental Council in Des Moines and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others.
“We are gratified that EPA cannot duck this important decision, and hope [it] takes quick and decisive action to control widespread nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi River,” said Kris Sigford, the water quality director at Minnesota Center for the Environment.
“Lake recreation is a big business in Iowa—generating $1.2 billion in annual spending and supporting 14,000 jobs,” Susan Heathcote, the water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council in Des Moines, said in a statement.
“Yet Iowa’s lakes have among the highest nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the world, and consequences of this problem, including algae blooms and poor water clarity, have already landed 79 of the state’s top recreational lakes on Iowa’s impaired waters list.”
The algae report also calls on federal officials to do more to limit water pollution. It advises federal and state officials to restore tainted water, pass a farm bill that calls for less runoff and healthy soil, and pay for more research into algae blooms and hypoxia, the oxygen-depleted water conditions that causes fish-killing dead zones.
Algae turns water green when rain is followed by drought. Bacteria from algae thrive when water levels fall in lakes, reservoirs and ponds, taking advantage of the low flow and low volume.
Cyanobacteria, often called blue-green algae, can produce nerve toxins and toxic chemicals that attack human skin. “In some cases,” the report said, some toxins “can cause asthma-like symptoms, severe vomiting, diarrhea or irritated skin or eyes.” Children are most at risk, it said.
The only known human fatality linked to algae occurred in Dane County, Wis., after a 17-year-old dived and splashed in a scum-covered pond at a county golf course. That death in 2002 was the first in the nation caused by toxic algae.
Two years ago, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) fell ill after swimming in an algae-covered lake near his house in Oklahoma.
Over the past summer, New York waters had the most reports of toxic algae infestation with 50, followed by Kansas with 18 and Washington with 12. In all, there were 147 reports in Iowa, Oregon, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida and California, among other states.
Grand Lake St. Mary’s in Ohio has spent $8 million since 2009 removing green slime that has cropped up May through October. In southeast Florida, the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon were choked with algae, prompting the state Department of Health to warn residents to avoid it.
A massive algal bloom in southwest Florida killed a record 241 of Florida endangered manatees where they spend winter, according to a count by the states Fish and Wildlife Institute. There are only about 5,000 manatees in the wild.
Run offs from cities and farms contibute to algae growth, but the fact that EPA , due to a faulty applied test, ignored not only 60 percent of the pollution, but all the nitrogenous (urine) waste in municipal sewage certainly does not help. Nitrogenous waste, besides exerting an oxygen demand is also a fertilizer and fot each pound capable to grow 20 pound of algae. EPA clearly never implemented the CWA, due to this faulty applied BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) test! BUT trying to understand this essential test and what the consequences are, seems to be to much to ask from journalists, while billions are wasted and the public is kept in the dark. (Peter Maier)
Report raises fear about toxic algae fed by pollution The Japan Times


Sheet flow continues to be a problem for flooded areas
September 27, 2013
CHARLOTTE/LEE COUNTY, Fla.- WINK News got a look from the sky at all of the water that's causing so many problems for people in Charlotte and Lee counties. Video shows swamped roads, flooded pastures, and surrounded homes. One of those areas is prone to sheet flow.
Much of Welborn Road remains flooded, even after crews laid gravel yesterday. Firefighters are monitoring the area. Water is gradually flowing south to the Caloosahatchee River, causing the sheet flow.
Crews with the Bayshore Fire District were out this morning surveying various streets, checking on the ones they graveled yesterday. They're also adding more roads to their list of ones that need assistance, after concerned neighbors called them overnight and this morning. Firefighters say that's a good indicator the sheet flow is picking up.
Sheet flow normally takes about 72 hours to move out. Crews are preparing for longer though, considering how saturated the ground is with all the recent heavy rains.


Supporters of land-buying amendment win state Supreme Court OK
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
September 26, 2013
A proposed Florida Constitution amendment that would provide more spending for conservation land-buying and restoration cleared a major hurdle Thursday.
The amendment proposed by environmental groups for the 2014 general election ballot would provide one-third of the state documentary stamp tax revenue for conservation spending. The amendment would generate $19 billion over 20 years, according to the state Financial Impact Estimating Conference. 
The Florida Supreme Court said in an opinion issued Thursday that the proposed amendment complied with constitutional requirements including that it cover a single subject. 
"It's a huge deal," Will Abberger, chairman of the Florida Water and Land Legacy political committee, said of the Supreme Court opinion. 
The group and its environmental supporters have collected 385,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. They need 683,317 by Feb. 1, but Abberger said they are seeking to collect them by Nov. 30 to provide time for local elections supervisors to verify signatures.
"For citizens to amend the constitution via the initiative process is difficult," Abberger said. "This is one of the major hurdles. We are over it now."
The initiative has support from numerous environmental groups including Audubon Florida, the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy. Abberger is director of director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land, which also has provided financial support.
Supporters say the amendment is needed because the Legislature has sliced spending for land acquisition through the Florida Forever program and for Everglades restoration. They say both are important to the state's economy, environment and quality of life.
State budget analysts say the amendment would raise $648 million in fiscal year 2015-16 and would increase to $1.2 billion a year by the end of the 20-year period. But Florida Water and Land Legacy estimates the measure will raise $10 billion over 20 years, or about half of what the state analysts have estimated.
At the Florida Water Forum in Orlando last week, Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa and House Republican whip, said the amendment is a "terrible idea" because it ties the hands of legislators in writing the state budget. She and Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, urged that at the forum to oppose the measure and not sign the petitions.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee, said Thursday that legislating appropriations through the constitution fundamentally "is not the right way." And he said conservation spending could drop as a result.
"I think, frankly, folks who are concerned about public lands should think long and hard about what they are setting up," Caldwell said. "They may be limiting themselves to only those (documentary stamp tax) monies."
Abberger responded by pointing out that Florida Forever had been reduced by 96 percent since 2009. 
"You can't go any lower," he said. "If you go any lower it is zero."
Related Research:
Sept. 26, 2013 Florida Supreme Court advisory opinion on land-buying amendment (SC 13-659)
Full text of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment
May 23, 2013 Complete financial impact analysis
May 23, 2013 Ballot 75-word financial summary
May 23, 2013 500-word summary analysis


Supreme Court approves conservation ballot measure
Sepetember 26, 2013
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday approved a 2014 ballot proposal that would set aside money to conserve land and other natural resources and help restore the Everglades.
The court is required to review proposed constitutional amendments to make sure they meet legal standards, such as a requirement that ballot initiatives deal with single subjects and do not have misleading summary language.
Justices, in a 10-page opinion, unanimously found that the proposal, known as the "Water and Land Conservation" amendment, met the standards.
Will Abberger, the chairman of the campaign and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land, issued a statement calling the Supreme Court decision a "monumental step" as supporters try to get the proposal on the 2014 ballot. "With the Florida Supreme Court’s stamp of approval, we can now move forward to asking voters to establish protection of Florida’s water and land as a constant commitment and not something that shifts with the political winds,” Abberger said.
The proposal would require the state to set aside documentary-stamp tax dollars, which are collected on real-estate transactions, to fund conservation efforts. Backers of the proposal still need to collect 683,149 petition signatures to get on the ballot. A news release Thursday said about 385,000 Floridians have signed petitions.
Court OKs Florida Land & Water Legacy Ballot Language The Ledger (blog)
Conservation amendment headed to Florida 2014 ballot       South Florida Business Journal


The Loxahatchee River estuary, an economic and ecological treasure - Guest Editorial by a member of the Jupiter area community
September 26, 2013
Recently, unfortunate algal blooms in the St. Lucie River estuary have illustrated that we are part of an integrated system.
Not only are the ecosystems connected – the marshes, cypress floodplain, mangroves, oyster and seagrass beds, and the offshore coral reefs – but we are connected to the ecosystem.
Huge freshwater discharges and toxic algae blooms have clarified the value estuaries bring to our communities.
Undoubtedly, there is an economic value in the aesthetics and recreation opportunities afforded by our estuaries. These economics come in many forms – waterfront residents or tourists enjoying the beautiful sunsets on the waterways, the family kayak or paddleboard outing, and the angler on a fishing trip.
There is also an ecological value that is ever present with the wading birds, fish, shrimp and crabs that inhabit the mangroves, oyster and seagrass beds.
Scientists report that more than 70 percent of Florida’s recreational and commercially important fish, crustaceans and shellfish spend part of their lives in estuaries. However, water managers must also manage flood control through our estuaries, which can disrupt the delicate balance of these systems, and can cause significant ecological and economic damage.
Fortunately for the Loxahatchee River and our community, teams of dedicated people and multiple agencies have been working diligently for decades to provide protection.
Our community is realizing the benefits.
Even with record setting rainfall, the Loxahatchee River has weathered these events and has been spared many of the problems our neighbors in the St. Lucie have experienced.
These results are no accident – it is the product of great work.
For example, The South Florida Water Management District works to balance flood control and environmental restoration. During this unusual wet season, the SFWMD has been successful in managing flood control releases into the Loxahatchee River to minimize degradation.
Palm Beach County, Martin County and the Florida Park Service have restored thousands of acres in the Loxahatchee River watershed. These beautiful natural areas deliver high quality water to the Loxahatchee River. The Town of Jupiter works to clean storm water before it enters the river.
The Loxahatchee River District created the regional water reclamation facility to protect the river from pollution associated with septic tanks.
And, the Jupiter Inlet District conducts maintenance dredging of Jupiter Inlet and the river’s waterways.
There is still a lot of work to do, but we see evidence of real progress.
There are also many ways you, as an individual, can help protect the Loxahatchee River.
For example, we need to be aware of what goes on our yards and streets often enter our waterways. Grass clippings carried into storm drains contribute to accumulations of “muck”. Excess fertilizer on our lawn feeds harmful algae. And dog waste left on swales can cause harmful levels of bacteria.
• On Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the River Center is hosting a celebration of National Estuaries month, and five years of environmental education and awareness of the Loxahatchee River.
There will be fun activities for kids, exhibitors from a variety of environmental, safety and recreational organizations, presentations and shows.
You can even take a tour of the habitats found in the Loxahatchee River through the variety of exhibits that feature more than 6,000 gallons of aquariums.
I invite you join us to learn more about our beautiful local estuary, and what you can do to help protect it.
Together we can make a difference and protect our valuable ecological resources for generations to come.
Bud Howard, of Tequesta Director of Water Resources Loxahatchee River District 561-747-5700 Ext. 108


Ban Ki Moon

U.N. Secretary General

Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future is the theme for this year's World Tourism Day.
Huffington Post – by Dave Randle, President and CEO of WHALE Center
September 26, 2013
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called attention to the day with these remarks:
"With unsustainable consumption and climate change threatening global water resources, this year's World Tourism Day highlights the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage water.  In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel.  By making water saving a priority we can all help to build the future we want."
Tourism is a large consumer of water and if not done sustainably can be devastating to local communities. Cancun, Mexico, is a good case study in this kind of devastation where the local community no longer has an adequate water supply while the nearby tourism resorts are watering lawns, golf courses, and meeting every tourist need.
On the other hand tourism can be a model for sustainable water management that helps :
● improve the experience of the tourist
● cost savings
● protection of ecosystems and biodiversity
● disaster reduction
● reducing pollution in the waterways
Improving the tourist experience can happen in several ways. For example, having an adequate water supply during times of drought can make all the difference in the world with regard to enjoyable tourist experiences. In addition, water is needed by the tourism industry to support a number of activities at resorts, like swimming pools, fishing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and sailing. Finally, water brings aesthetics to the tourist experience which is part of the reason tourists choose a resort or destination in the first place.
In Bermuda they have learned the lesson that conserving water is essential during a drought. Water conservation is now mandated after droughts diminished the quality of the tourism experience when there were serious water shortages.
Water conservation can also result in significant cost savings for the tourism industry. Cost savings can be realized in the form of reduced overall water purchase costs, water treatment costs, water storage costs, landscaping costs, and water and sewer costs. The Tradewinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach, Florida, for example, report that they have reduced their water costs. Much of this was accomplished through linen reuse and using reclaimed water for irrigation.
Water conservation also protects ecosystems and biodiversity by providing minimum stream flows necessary for fish and wildlife, wetlands necessary for migratory birds, preservation of plant species, and protection of wildlife habitat. The Walt Disney Company in partnership with the Nature Conservancy created the Disney Wilderness Preserve where they have preserved about 11,500 acres of critical wetlands at the headwaters of the everglades. The preserve provides habitat for 1000 species of plants and animals including some threatened and endangered species. The Disney Wilderness Preserve has become amodel for restoring wetlands,as well as, a model for how tourism can contribute to wetland preservation.
Tourism can also benefit with disaster reduction through water conservation. With proper landscaping, storm surge and flooding can be reduced by as much as 50%. Water conservation can also mitigate drought impacts and reduce the strength of hurricanes and tropical storms through wetland protection.
Every tourism resort or destination has a desire to keep its environment pristine and beautiful. Water conservation can reduce pollution in the waterways through landscaping, and water collection systems, that can reduce runoff. Reduced flow in water sewer drainage means less litter, fertilizers, and debris from storms.
There are several steps that the tourism industry can take regarding water. Some of the strategies to get started include:
Set goals for water reduction.
Measure results and showcase to guests.
Measure water use per occupied bed to set benchmarks.
Collect water from roofs for cleaning & landscaping.
Install low flow showerheads and taps.
Acquire water efficient washing machines & dishwashers.
Service water pipes, valves, pump seals, hoses, boilers, and appliances to prevent problems before they occur.
Install data loggers on meters for constant monitoring.
Use storm or grey water for irrigation and landscaping.
Install low flow or composting toilets.
Develop a plan to increase use of recycled or reclaimed water
Tourism can also provide educational messaging to tourists to encourage water conservation such as the message below provided by the Caims Regional Council.


US wildlife officials to test trap designed to capture Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades
Associated Press – by Jennifer Kay
September 26, 2013
MIAMI - Federal wildlife officials alarmed by an infestation of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades have tried radio tracking collars, a massive public hunt and even snake-sniffing dogs to control the invasive species. Now there's talk of snaring the elusive pythons in specially designed traps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture received a patent in August for a trap that resembles a long, thin cage with a net at one end for the live capture of large, heavy snakes.
Researchers say Burmese pythons regard the Everglades as an all-you-can-eat buffet, where native mammals are easy prey and the snakes have no natural predators. The population of Burmese pythons, which are native to India and other parts of Asia, likely developed from pets released into the wild, either intentionally or in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Wildlife officials are racing to control the python population before it undermines ongoing efforts to restore natural water flow through the Everglades. According to a study released last year, mammal sightings in the Everglades are down sharply in areas where pythons are known to live.
A field station for the National Wildlife Research Center, which falls under the USDA, is preparing to test the trap in a natural enclosure that contains five pythons.
Over the coming months, the researchers will try baiting the traps with the scent of small mammals such as rats, and they will try camouflaging them as pipes or other small, covered spaces where pythons like to hide, said John Humphrey, a biologist at the research centre. Future tests may use python pheromones as bait.
"There's still more to be learned, there's still more to be tested," Humphrey said. "This is just one of your tools that you have to put together with other things to get the problem solved."
The trap was developed to catch exotic snakes without ensnaring smaller, lighter native species, Humphrey said.
The 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) trap is made from galvanized steel wire with a tightly woven net secured to one end. Two separate triggers need to be tripped simultaneously for it to close, which should keep it from snapping shut on such native snakes as the eastern diamondback rattlesnake or the water moccasin.
"The largest native snakes are generally somewhat smaller than the youngest of the pythons," Humphrey said. "That was the impetus of the design."
The longest python ever caught in Florida was more than 18 feet (5 metres), found in May beside a rural Miami-Dade County road.
Humphrey developed the trap in collaboration with Wisconsin-based Tomahawk Live Trap, which is working on a licensing agreement to sell the traps along with other snake-handling equipment such as tongs, hooks and secure bags.
It's not clear where exactly the traps would be deployed, or whether they would be effective in an area as vast as Florida's Everglades.
Everglades National Park alone encompasses 1.5 million acres (600,000 hectares), and all but roughly a hundred thousand acres of that is largely inaccessible swampland and sawgrass, vital breeding grounds for a variety of protected species.
It might not make sense, or even be possible, to place and monitor traps in hard-to-reach swamplands, said park spokeswoman Linda Friar.
Traps have been used in the park to collect pythons for research but not for population control, Friar said.
Most of the state and federal efforts aimed at pythons have focused on learning how the elusive snakes have adapted so well in the wild, and that learning process continues, she said.
One of the challenges facing wildlife officials is that the tan, splotchy snakes are incredibly difficult to spot in the wild, even for seasoned hunters. Researchers say they'll fail to see a python they're tracking with a radio collar until they're practically standing on it.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allows hunters with special permits to remove pythons and other exotic reptiles from some state lands. Earlier this year, a state-sanctioned hunt that attracted worldwide media attention. Roughly 1,600 amateur python hunters joined the permit holders for a month, netting a total of 68 snakes.
In an Auburn University experiment, specially trained dogs found more pythons than their human counterparts, but researchers also found that the dogs, much like humans, would falter the longer they worked in South Florida's often oppressive humidity.
State wildlife officials also try to catch pythons through "exotic pet amnesty days" where people can relinquish non-native species with no questions asked. Florida prohibits the possession or sale of pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of the species.
A prolonged cold snap has proven to be one of the better methods of python population control, killing off large numbers of the snakes in 2010. The population rebounded, though, because low temperatures aren't reliable in subtropical South Florida and because pythons reproduce quickly and in large numbers.
Everglades' Pythons: New Trap To Catch Snakes      Sky News
Trap devised for Everglades pythons The Spokesman Review
USDA Testing Specially Designed Trap To Catch Everglades Pythons        International Business Times
USDA to test new trap to catch Everglades pythons Pioneer Press
Federal wildlife officials to test new trap to catch rampant Florida ...          The Guardian


Water pollution deemed critical problem
Ft Myers Beach Bulletin, Ft Myers Beach Observer - by Bob Petcher
September 26, 2013
The message was loud and clear from three members of the Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition at an open public forum at Pink Shell Resort on Wednesday -one that was attended by only roughly 30 people.
High flow regulatory freshwater releases discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are damaging our coastal habitats and water quality to the point where the action will negatively affect not only our ecology but our economy, tourism industry and eventually our health in a devastating way. The problem is water management.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Natural Resources Policy Director Jennifer Hecker and FCOC coordinator Ray Judah made power point presentations about the scientific angles of the impact during the Coastal Estuaries in Peril forum. Afterwards, they heard public comments and answered questions and made pleas for everyone to act now.
All three environmentalists are urging state and federal government agencies to implement both short- and long-term solutions to prevent devastation of ecological, economical and overall quality of life. But their voices have been heard, and they plead that all Southwest Floridians take action by contacting state representatives to ask for support of the following federal priorities: fund the 2013 Water Resources Development Act; support a contingency authorization and funding for Central Everglades Planning Project; and fund the bridging of Tamiami Trail through the Everglades.
"We are not trying to say that the sky is falling, but when you can see dolphins and manatees dying, the water is becoming extremely unsafe. That's when we, as a community, are needed to act before we start seeing people become ill," said Hecker. "The problem is becoming so self-evident that you can't hide it anymore. When the visitors can see it and see dead sea life, you can no longer ignore that there is a problem. The situation we are experiencing is intolerable."
"The more voices and the more diverse those voices, the more powerful the message," said Wessel. "Even if it's a quick email to list the priorities, as a taxpayer who lives in this state, you can just say I want you to take these actions."
(Email Gov. Rick Scott at and urge him to support the above four priorities.)
It was stated the situation has reached "crisis proportion," yet so many have fallen on "denial" and are "pretending" our waters will eventually clean itself of the present pollution or that the flows will stop soon.
The fact is, while water flows our way were slowed in the recent past, lately they have increased due to all of the rain the lake has received. Town of Fort Myers Beach Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen has been monitoring the situation and stated the water flows have increased in the past couple of weeks . Scientific research shows that anything higher than 4,500 cubic feet per second is harmful to the estuaries, and high flows were up to 10,000 cu ft/s in July. Fast forward to more than three months later.
"Things are not getting fixed the way they should. There are some modest improvements here and there, but they are not going to solve our problem," said Hecker. "Killing the lake is only going to create poor water quality that comes down our river and estuaries in the future. We need to let the public know and understand that (state officials) are going in the wrong direction. The ultimate solution is they have to buy U.S. Sugar lands to put the water back flowing south and where it belongs."
Judah discussed the importance of Plan 6 -the restoration of the historic flow-way in the Everglades Agricultural Area- involving the purchasing of 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land and a state purchase option that expires this month for an agreed-upon lower price of $7,400 an acre, before the price dramatically rises. He stated the state should obtain the 20,000 acres from U.S. Sugars through the purchase option, then the remaining land of U.S. Sugar could be used in a land swap with Florida Crystals to be able to finalize the piece of the puzzle for land necessary to convey water to the south.
"The governor has the authority to declare a state of emergency, hold a special session with the Florida legislature, come up with the funding to purchase U.S. Sugar land and have the land necessary for the storage treatment conveyance to the south," said Judah. "The governor needs and should take steps."
Go to to learn more.


With murky water and manatee deaths, lagoon languishes - by Greg Allen
September 26, 2013
Something is wrong in Florida's Indian River Lagoon.
Over the past year, record numbers of dolphins, manatees and pelicans have turned up dead in the 150-mile-long estuary that runs along Florida's Atlantic Coast. Bouts of algal blooms have flourished in the waters. All the signs point to an ecosystem that is seriously out of balance. The crisis has mobilized scientists, residents and elected officials in Florida.
An Ailing Lagoon
Florida has gotten a lot of rain this year. While that's good in some ways, for the lagoon it spells trouble. As Lake Okeechobee has risen, water managers have diverted much of the excess flow down canals, taking it West to the Gulf of Mexico — and east to the Atlantic.
Dennis Hanisak of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce uses a small pontoon boat to check on a network of monitors that keep track of the lagoon's vital signs — temperature, pH, salinity, oxygen levels and other factors like turbidity and water color.
Along the lower end of the Indian River, Hanisak says, the lagoon is looking sick. "This year with the Lake Okeechobee discharges," he says, "we see very low salinities, we see very high nutrients. We see very high water color. We see high turbidity."
The fresh water lowers the salinity in the lagoon and carries silt and other solids that make the water murky. Perhaps most critically, water from Lake Okeechobee carries high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, pollutants that Hanisak says have had a big impact.
A Plague Of Algae
Because of the release of water from Lake Okeechobee, the lower end of Indian River Lagoon this summer has been beset by large algae blooms, some toxic. They've killed off delicate sea grass beds and dealt a blow to a regional economy that depends on the lagoon for recreation and commercial fishing.
It's the third year in a row of bad news in the lagoon. In 2011, the northern end of Indian River was devastated by an algae superbloom, an event that was followed last year by a different outbreak.
"We have reached a tipping point in the Indian River lagoon now," says Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Harbor Branch who has investigated the algal blooms and the death of marine mammals in the lagoon. In the past year, more than 60 dolphins and 120 manatees have died. At least with the manatee deaths, he says, the cause is clear.
As sea grass has died, Lapointe says, manatees have turned to eating a type of macro algae, a red seaweed that has become toxic with the lagoon's changing chemistry. "This is what they're left with to eat. And they're eating a lot of this — 40, 50 pounds a day or more," he says.
Crisis Declared
The algae blooms, along with the manatee and dolphin deaths, have led many in Florida — including politicians — to declare a crisis. Florida's Senate formed a select committee to search for answers.
"We are past the time for talking and power points and deliberations. We are here to find some short-term solutions to the current environmental crisis," said Sen. Joe Negron, who chaired a recent hearing in Stuart, a town on the St. Lucie estuary.
Speaker after speaker told the committee that there are no short-term solutions. The Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees and water level in Lake Okeechobee, says releases of polluted water from the lake are unavoidable. Because of all the rain, they're necessary to avoid a possible catastrophic breach of the lake's levees.
The only real answer, scientists say, is to stop draining Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River lagoon and restore its natural flow through the Everglades to the south. That's a long-term solution still many years and billions of dollars away.
Septic Tanks Galore
But stopping the water releases from the lake would still address only part of the problem in the lagoon. A larger issue — one that may be even harder to deal with — is septic systems. In three counties on the lagoon, Lapointe told the committee, there are 237,000 septic tanks.
"Do the math. Over 1 million kilograms of nitrogen a year are going toward the Indian River lagoon from septic tanks alone," he said.
Crisis or not, there's little political will in Florida to begin requiring communities to move residents off septic tanks.
In his 40 years of work on the Indian River lagoon, Lapointe has seen similar crises come and go. A few years of drought may ease the algae blooms. Politicians may lose interest. But, he says, if the lagoon's health has indeed reached a tipping point, the way that communities and elected officials react this time will have long-term consequences for the river.


Former Pahokee Mayor: 'Don't let Lake Okeechobee flood us out'
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith
September 25, 2013
JP Sasser drove 400 miles from tiny Pahokee to Tallahassee for what he thought would be a 20-minute opportunity to address Sen Joe Negron's Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.
In the end, as the speaker list increased and Tuesday afternoon wound down, Sasser's 20 minutes was whittled to 10. Nevertheless, the four-term former mayor and lifelong resident of Pahokee -- population a whisker under 6,000 -- made what he called the "priority point" of his trip to the Florida capital:
Sasser's succinct, straightforward delivery from the unheard side of the water issue -- the story of perhaps the next victims of the Lake Okeechobee discharges -- had senators focused and on the edge of their seats.
"The people to the northeast and northwest think they can fix their rivers' problems by sending all the water south and drowning us out," he said. "We haven't had a seat at the table yet, and we think it's time we're included."
Sasser told the Senate panel the "sugar towns" south of Lake Okeechobee, economically disadvantaged as they are, number about 85,000 in population.
"We're lucky," he said wryly, talking about the effects of a Herbert Hoover Dike failure. "Pahokee is 14 feet above sea level. The water will only come up to our ankles."
He also attempted to correct the senators' impression of water quality in Lake Okeechobee. "I keep hearing it referred to as 'dirty water' or 'polluted water.' The lake is clean. Check with the scientists. We do our due diligence and our efforts are monitored to prove it. But the water coming down from the Kissimmee River isn't clean. So, every time the (U.S. Army) Corps discharges from the lake, it's like they're flushing a toilet and all the filth goes east or west."
He said he was proud of the Glades cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay -- all have had complete-community sewer systems for years. 
Said Sasser after the meeting, "I was pretty happy with the way it all went. Senator Negron took me back to his office for a talk, and I got to spend some time with Senators (Lizbeth) Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) and (Maria) Sachs (D-Delray Beach). I know them both, but they didn't have to take their time with me. They just did."
He said, "The first thing Senator Negron did was to sit me down and assure me that nobody wants to flood Pahokee. I told him, 'Oh, yes, they do. They want all the lake water flowing south. Do that and we're done.'"
In fact, during the meeting, one Martin County citizen-speaker told Negron, R-Stuart, he thought the state should buy all available U.S. Sugar Corp. land to flow the whole of the Okeechobee excess south. Negron asked him how much that would cost -- the answer was $1.54 billion. The citizen suggested the state could always pay for it out of reserves. "All the reserves available, everything, is only about $3 million," the senator replied.
Negron had begun Tuesday's meeting with the announcement that he has set aside $1 million to restore critically damaged oyster beds in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. 
The South Florida Water Management District's Ernie Barnett told the committee that since Aug. 1, 10 billion gallons have been sent south to ease the flow of nutrient-polluted water east and west of the lake.
Negron thanked Gov. Rick Scott and House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, for approving $2.7 million to get water flowing more quickly. "It's made a real difference in increased pumping (into Everglades National Park)."



Judah offers insight to Beach forum tonight
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer - by Bob Petcher
September 25, 2013
Environmental champion Ray Judah will be accompanied by three scientists for an informative "truth" session during an open public forum entitled Coastal Estuaries in Peril at Pink Shell Resort tonight. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and the forum runs from 6 to 7:30.
Judah, who will moderate the session, will be joined by Greg Rawl, a professional geologist and vice chairman of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council; Rae Ann Wessel, a marine scientist and Natural Resource Policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation; and Jennifer Hecker, Natural Resources Policy director for Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
The forum will provide information from the scientific point of view about the economic and environmental impact suffered since high flow regulatory freshwater releases were discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and consequently along Southwest Florida beachfronts and saltwater estuaries.
"People will have the opportunity to hear the truth and to receive the hard science behind what needs to be done to properly manage Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Restoration," Judah said. "This is not just about the excessive amount of fresh water released. Its also about the nutrient loading of our estuaries that lead to fish kills, red tide and algae blooms."
The former Lee County Commissioner stated Rawl has an in-depth understanding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by chart tracking. The two natural resource officials are seasoned veterans who will provide information about the polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee.
"Greg will provide charts and graphs to help people understand that correlation because there is a direct nexus between nutrients and harmful algae blooms," said Judah. "Rae Ann will focus on conditions of the river and also talk about the impact on the volume and rate of flow. Jennifer will focus on nutrients and the broader picture involving the numeric nutrient criteria that the state has advocated their responsibility in assuring their compliance with the Clean Water Act for years, but only recently is attempting to comply under Federal consent order."
Judah stated he will discuss the reality of some of the proposed programs, such as the Central Everglades Planning Project.
"CEPP is a good first step to restoring the Everglades because it involves several components like the joint partnership between Florida and the U.S. Department of Interior to fund 2.6 miles of bridging on the Tamiami Trail," he said. "CEPP also is involved in the removal of a levee that has separated what is known as Water Conservation Area 3 and 3B, which will enhance flow south to the Everglades once they restore and bring part of that levee back to natural grade."
Numbers will be presented to show that Gov. Scott "embellished his recent statement" about alleviating the adverse impacts from the massive release of water from Lake Okeechobee on the estuaries on the east and west coast of Florida.
"Once completed, the entire CEPP program will actually pull approximately 210 acre feet off of Lake Okeechobee by directing that water to the south," said Judah. "The bulk of the water that will flow past the restored levee and the bridging under Tamiami Trail comes from the agricultural area (drainage from the sugar fields) itself. To put that in perspective, only 210 acre feet with the completion of the CEPP program comes from the lake. I've dubbed it the 10 percent solution. It will not address the problems that we are experiencing with the massive releases from Lake Okeechobee."
Judah stated he will reiterate the importance of Plan 6 -the restoration of the historic flow-way in the Everglades Agricultural Area- in a smaller scale. This plan involves the purchasing of 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land and a state purchase option that expires in October for an overall price of $1.132 billion.
"'The portion of the option that expires is an agreed-upon price of $7,400 an acre," he said. "After October, the state can still buy the land but the price will dramatically increase, and the state will have to compete with other potential buyers."
For Plan 6 to work and restore flow-ways to the Everglades, more land must be obtained for storage, water treatment and conveyance, says Judah. Directly to the south of the southern area of Lake O, there are 20,000 acres of U.S Sugar land between Miami Canal and North New River Canal and 30,000 acres of Florida Crystals land.
"The breakdown is what is only needed is 50,000 acres of privately owned land to make this work," said Judah. "If we would obtain the 20,000 acres from U.S. Sugars through the purchase option, then the remaining land of U.S. Sugar could be used in a land swap with Florida Crystals to be able to finalize the piece of the puzzle for land necessary to convey water to the south."
At a recent forum, the noted environmentalist questioned the Army Corps why the Herbert Hoover Dam does not have a spillway and, instead, uses the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers as its release valve. He cites his belief of an influence that U.S. Sugar Industry has on certain groups as a determining factor.
"Every other reservoir in America that has a dam around it has a spillway for the very important reason to prevent dike failure and to maintain integrity of the dam. Yet, in this particular instance, the Army Corps has not incorporated a spillway while they renovate and strengthen this particular dike," he said. "The Corps will need to seriously consider a spillway to do pulse releases to the south. This influence on the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers prevents the logical, appropriate reasonable design of the restoration of the Herbert Hoover dike with a spillway and a flow-way to the south.
Judah believes Gov. Scott should declare a state of emergency. Tourists have shortened or cancelled vacation times on both Florida coasts due to water quality reasons.
"The governor has the ability and legitimate legal justification to declare a state of emergency because of the environmental and economic impact that has ravaged the east and west coat of Florida," he said.
While weekly tests on water quality at various local beaches have shown no threats, Judah spoke to Lee County Health Department director, Dr. Judith Hartner, last week about water quality in the Caloosahatchee River and proposed public health concerns.
"She said that they are starting to see evidence of bacteria in the river. What will follow will no doubt be public health warnings for people not to come in contact with the water," said Judah. "Now that we have all these excessive nutrients in our water, we are going to see algae blooms, red tide and fish kills from now until March. We are also going to see manatee deaths when the red tide gets into the respiratory system of (these mammals)."
Judah sees a difference in behavior between both Florida coasts.
"The west coast unlike the east coast is not nearly as mobilized in demanding meaningful action from the governor and legislature," he said. "On the east coast, you have the river coalition working with the business community. This side of the state really needs to come to grips with the fact of what is happening with the very foundation of our tourism-based economy and our real estate industry.
"No one wants to come to an area whether to visit or to live where you have dirty water that leads to a decline in fisheries, impairment and enjoyment of use of the water whether it is fishing, boating or swimming. These issues need to be addressed quickly.
"The solutions are there. What still remains is the political will to carry out the necessary projects to stop the polluted water discharge from Lake Okeechobee."


Leaders stop waiting on politicians to act on Lake O
September 25, 2013
FORT MYERS, FL.--Neighbors tell WINK News they're fed up because lawmakers aren't getting the job done when it comes to the Lake Okeechobee fresh water releases.
The Conservancy of southwest Florida announced we are now seeing major oyster kills and can expect really bad red tide algae bloom because of all the fresh water nutrients in our water system.
"It's not clear, it's not blue, it's not green, it's brown," said Bill Armstrong.
The brown, coffee-like water straight from Lake "O" has a lot of people fired up about what they say it's doing to our local economy.
Even home owners on Sanibel, like George Wilgus, are frightened that it's ruining their investment.
"Property values will be decimated by what's occuring," said Wilgus.
After the Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that the flows from Lake "O" have increased to southwest Florida, local community leaders met tonight, demanding action.
"We have been able to survey hotel guests and know that they are leaving as a result of the poor water quality," said Southwest Florida Conservancy's Jennifer Hecker.
Visitors talked to also say they don't plan on coming back because of the brown water.
A few weeks ago Governor Scott visited southwest Florida and announced a $180 million plan to restore the everglades.
"The Governor was embellishing that project as a way in which to alleviate the massive release from lake," said Ray Judah with the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition
But Judah says he did the math and says  that project will only solve 10% of the problem and right now, he's calling on Governor Scott to take immediate action.
"Declare a state of emergency. We have been ravaged here in this area as well as the east coast, protecting our environment and our economy," said Judah.


Renourishment idea too good to happen – Guest Opinion by Charles LeBuff, author from Fort Myers, FL
September 25, 2013
Every once in a while, a Mailbag contributor creates and submits a thought-provoking suggestion that demands our consideration.
Such was the case Sept. 10, when Victor A. Smith of Punta Gorda tendered his letter, “Long-term solution,” about Collier County’s spending $24 million to place 360,000 cubic yards of sand on Naples, Park Shore, Pelican Bay and Vanderbilt Beach.
He argues that trucking sand throughout Southwest Florida is an “asinine solution,” and suggests local officials should buy a dredger.
His is an idea that is a logical problem-solver and if actually implemented would be cost-effective and beneficial.
By brainstorming, Smith’s suggestion, as if it were an immediate reality, one can envision the Legislature forming a special district known as the Southwest Florida Beach Management District. This “beach renourishment district” would include the counties situated between the southern shore of Tampa Bay and Cape Romano; Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier.
With state and federal grant monies to kick-start it, this district could purchase an enormous hydraulic dredger and associated equipment, hire employees and assume the full responsibility of renourishing beaches in the district.
The resources and responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to maintain navigable channels, but they have beefed up trying to fix the Kissimmee River/Lake Okeechobee/Hoover Dike/Caloosahatchee (and its watershed and associated estuary)/St. Lucie Canal and Estuary/Everglades problems (big jobs, all).
Money that now is appropriated through taxes is much better spent by this district than local tax monies that we each have transferred for years via our respective county ad valorem taxes to taxing districts, such as the South Florida Water Management or Lee County Hyacinth Control districts.
Although this adds another layer of taxes it is something that I embrace, even though I no longer live on or regularly visit our region’s barrier beaches. But, I’m somewhat selfish. I don’t see beach renourishment specifically tied to any ongoing financial responsibility of mine to support beach maintenance in front of some errantly placed (allowed by politicians) near-water resort development, someone’s beach-encroaching private home or public recreation.
I view my tax contribution as helping to provide nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles and shorebirds and open space for nude sunbathing.
Great idea, Mr. Smith, but you and I (and a majority of this district’s voters) know that the region’s politicians of today don’t have a clue (those 60 years ago didn’t either) as how to accept such a good idea and put it into action.


Scott calls for president to step up Lake O help
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
September 25, 2013
With the damaging flood-control discharges from Lake Okeechobee increasing, Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday stepped up his efforts to blame the federal government and called for President Barack Obama to visit coastal communities with polluted waterways.
A return of rainy weather during the past two weeks has Lake Okeechobee water levels back on the rise, adding to the strain on the troubled dike that protects lakeside communities and South Florida farmland from flooding.
To lessen the flooding risk, the Army Corps of Engineers during the past two weeks has ratcheted back up the draining of lake water out to sea — continuing the damaging environmental and economic consequences along the coast.
Scott in August criticized the pace of the federal government's effort to rehab the lake's dike, considered one of the nation's most at risk of a breach.
On Wednesday, Scott announced that he sent the president a letter calling for him to tour areas suffering through water quality problems due to the lake discharges, "to see how the federal government's shortcomings have affected families."
Scott called for the president to push for more efforts to "enhance" the lake's dike and said the Army Corps should "reevaluate its risk assessment" to try lessen damaging discharges by holding more water in the lake.
"My fear is that the common sense solutions that local leaders have put forward are falling on deaf ears with your administration," Scott wrote to the president. "Your oversight is urgently needed."
A statement released by the White House Wednesday said that the "President remains committed to the Administration's partnership with the state of Florida in our shared goal of restoring the Florida Everglades."
It didn't mention the president making a visit.
The Obama administration considers the Lake Okeechobee dike rehabilitation and Everglades restoration as federal priorities, White House spokesperson Joanna Rosholm said. The Army Corps of Engineers is waiting for congressional approval to move forward with projects that could lessen lake discharges and help the Everglades, she said.
Scott's letter to the president comes the same week that a host of environmental groups sent the governor a letter calling for Scott to support the state buying more sugar cane land that could be used to send more Lake Okeechobee water south, as it once naturally flowed, instead of draining lake water toward the coast.
Scott was an opponent of former Gov. Charlie Crist's $197 million land deal that in 2010 acquired 26,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for Everglades restoration and provided a 10-year option to buy the company's remaining property.
A deadline to buy up to 153,000 acres of additional U.S. Sugar land at the same $7,400-per-acre price expires in October. So far state officials aren't buying.
The Army Corps of Engineers since May has been dumping hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water into the normally salty St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The draining brings an overwhelming influx of fresh water along with sediment and pollution that is fouling water quality, killing sea grass and oyster beds and scaring away game fish.


38 groups urge Scott to have state buy 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land before option expires
September 24, 2013
In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott dated Sept. 23, 38 groups wrote to Scott calling on him to have the state buy 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land before the state's exclusive option expires next month. The land would be part of Everglades restoration efforts. Here is the text of that letter.
September 23, 2013
Dear Governor Scott,
On behalf of afflicted coastal residents, South Florida taxpayers and millions of people whose drinking water depends on a restored Everglades, we call on the State of Florida to complete the purchase of up to 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar lands before the exclusive option expires next month.
Five years ago, the South Florida Water Management District announced it would purchase 187,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land south of Lake Okeechobee to restore clean water to the Everglades and provide relief to coastal estuaries. On October 12, 2010, the District closed on a contract to purchase 26,800 acres of land for $197 million, while retaining a three-year exclusive option for the rest.
The state’s exclusive 3-year option -- to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre -- will expire next month forcing the state to pay market prices for the land and compete with other buyers.
On November 18, 2010, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Sugar purchase “serves the public purpose of conserving and protecting water and water-related resources.”
Never before has that public purpose been more evident. Coastal estuaries served by the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are collapsing along with their local economies. While short-term solutions can provide limited relief, the permanent solution is to send more water south to the Everglades by buying more sugar land to store, clean and eventually flow water south.
The purchase of U.S. Sugar lands before October 12, 2013, represents the most cost-efficient method for storing, treating and moving water south. We strongly urge you to make the investment in Florida’s future at a price that may never come again.
• Frank Jackalone, Senior Staff Manager, Sierra Club
• Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
• Manley Fuller, President and CEO, Florida Wildlife Federation
• Mark Perry, Executive Director, Florida Oceanographic Society
• Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy Director, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation
• Kathleen E. Aterno, Florida Director, Clean Water Action
• Katie Tripp, Ph.D. Director of Science and Conservation, Save the Manatee Club
• Sandy Gilbert, Chairman, START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide)
• Michael J Holsinger, Holsinger Horticultural Services
• Russ Hoffman, Beautiful Ponds
• Carol Leonard, Board of Directors, Coastal Wildlife Club, Inc.
• Terry Brant, Legislative/Legal Affairs Chairman, Florida Water Conservation Trust
• American Health Trust
• Island Aeromarine Services
• Linda Young, Florida Clean Water Network
• Burton Eno PhD, PE (ret), President, Rainbow River Conservation, Inc.
• Donna Melzer, Martin County Conservation Alliance
• Dan Hilliard, Director, W.A.R., Inc.
• Kings Bay Springs Alliance
• Peter Anderson, Chairman, President and CEO, REEF RELIEF
• Karen Fraley, CIG Sarasota Bay Guardians Coordinator, Manager/Naturalist, Around the Bend Nature Tours LLC
• John McCabe, President, Ding Darling Wildlife Society
• Alexis Segal, Executive Director, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper
• Mike Chenoweth, President, Florida Division of the Izaak Walton League of America
• Florida Keys Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
• Pamela Pierce, Cypress Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America
• Michael Orchin, Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
• Laurie Macdonald, Director, Florida Programs Defenders of Wildlife
• Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director, South Florida Wildlands Association
• John Marshall, Chairman, Arthur R. Marshall Foundation
• Alan Farago, President, Friends of the Everglades
• Karja Hansen, President, Urban Environment League
• Charles Pattison, 1000 Friends of Florida
• John Adornato III, Sun Coast Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association
• Debbie Matthews, Sierra Club Florida
• Elinor Williams, President, Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
• Steve Brodkin, President, Concerned Citizens of Bayshore Community, Inc.
• Charles Sobczak, Lee Reefs


Powerful senator calls his community the 'septic system' for Orlando
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
September 24, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — An influential state lawmaker says he is tired of his community being treated as the “septic tank” for Orlando and is pressing for more money to deal with damages from polluted waters flowing out of the rain-swollen Lake Okeechobee.
Thanks to a wetter-than-usual rainy season, the lake waters -- fueled by flows from south of Orlando and off of fertilizer-laden agricultural lands -- are at levels high enough to require discharges into South Florida's major rivers.
This summer, discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers have contributed to major algae blooms that have mucked up the rivers and threatened tourism — spurring the Senate to create a new Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin that is looking for "short-term" solutions to the outbreak.
A legislative panel earlier this month OK'd a $2.7 million budget request for South Florida water projects in the hope of providing relief for the dirty water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Department of Environmental Protection officials said the $2.7 million would help the South Florida Water Management District make improvements to pumping stations that will shoot more lake water south into Everglades National Park. The effort would reduce the flow by about 1 billion gallons a day. The agency is also looking to store water on public lands in the St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee basins.
And Gov. Rick Scott has also pledged $37 million in state and local money to begin cleanup of Central and North Florida springs and another $40 million to build the C-44 reservoir on the St. Lucie side of Lake Okeechobee, again to slow discharges into the river.
But Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican in charge of the basin committee, blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a hearing Tuesday for “over-reacting to weather” and “putting way more emphasis on a dike problem and totally under-estimating the economic damage to our communities.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing polluted lake water into the rivers to prevent further weakening of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The long-term solution to the problem would require more than $2 billion to repair the levee, design new reservoirs and finish Everglades restoration.
As of Monday, the lake was at 15.76 feet of water and rising. South Florida Water Management District deputy executive director Ernie Barnett said during the last month, the region has received 8 to 12 inches of rain “and they couldn’t have fallen in worse places.”
According to federal risk-assessments, the dike has a 1 percent probability of a breach at 15-foot levels, but that probability jumps to 45 percent if the water gets to 18 feet deep – which Army Corps officials have argued leaves them no option but to dump the water into the rivers and other flow-ways.
But Negron called that “a knee-jerk reaction, just pulling the plug and making our communities the septic system for Orlando south.”
To that end, Negron said he planned to push for another $1 million to fund an oyster reef and sea grass restoration project targeting both the St. Lucie/Indian River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries.


Scott urges Obama to visit Lake Okeechobee to 'see federal shortcomings'
Miami Herald
September 24, 2013
In what is becoming a weekly habit, Gov. Rick Scott sent another letter to President Obama today; this time, urging him to come visit Lake Okeechobee to accelerate the federal financial and policy response to the threatened region. 
Here's his letter: 
September 24, 2013  
The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW - Washington, DC  20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing on behalf of the millions of Florida families who are being impacted by the Corps’ discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee. First and foremost, we invite you and members of your administration to tour impacted areas and see how the federal government’s shortcomings have affected families. After a tour, you will no doubt make Lake Okeechobee enhancements more of a priority than what is currently reflected in your budget reductions.
Unfortunately, our state has seen investments in the Lake Okeechobee dike system decrease under your watch. In 2013, you funded maintenance at $130 million, but your 2014 budget proposes a reduction to $86 million. This funding reduction is astonishing considering the federal government has yet to deliver on its responsibility of supporting a dike system that can keep families safe while mitigating environmental impacts.
While your administration’s proposed budget does not properly prioritize these projects, we will move forward on the state level and engage Congress regarding the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA).  Through the WRRDA bill we will ask Congress to authorize important water restoration projects outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), including the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). These projects will help move more water south through the Everglades ecosystem.
We also need your help in getting the federal government to step up and fulfill its funding obligation to critical water projects already authorized. Congress’ pace in providing the funding needed to keep up with Florida’s investments is frustrating, at best. To fast track one of these authorized projects, I recently announced the State of Florida is committing $40 million to the stormwater treatment component of the C-44 project along the St. Lucie River. We cannot wait for federal funding to speed restoration in this watershed. Florida’s investment is advancing by two years the completion date for the C-44 project, delivering its much-needed benefits to Florida families and the environment. 
Throughout the Everglades ecosystem, the State has repeatedly stepped forward in investing in restoration efforts ahead of federal spending. We have dedicated close to $420 million for four critical projects that are ready to move ahead, if the federal government can be relied on to fulfill its commitment to cost-share funding. These are the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project, C-111 Spreader Canal located near Everglades National Park, the Broward Water Preserve Areas and the C-43 West Reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River.
In addition to investing millions of dollars in projects that address water quantity and flow, Florida has also focused on addressing water quality. In 2012, Florida adopted a historic water quality plan to achieve the stringent water quality standards in the heart of the Everglades. In addition, the state has implemented the most comprehensive nutrient reduction program in the country and recently began its Basin Management Action Plan for Lake Okeechobee. While our work to improve water quality is critical to the region, the state’s immediate and overwhelming need is solutions to address water quantity.
At a recent hearing in Stuart, Florida, State Senator Joe Negron raised questions regarding the flexibility of the draining schedule for Lake Okeechobee. The Corps must reevaluate its risk assessment to determine if recent repairs to the dike could provide additional flexibility within the existing lake schedule and reduce harmful discharges to our estuaries. Excuses as to why simple solutions cannot be executed undermine our efforts to help families. My fear is that the common sense solutions that local leaders have put forward are falling on deaf ears with your administration. Your oversight is urgently needed. Thus, I am appealing to you to implement these items through any means possible:
·         Take the steps necessary to enhance the Herbert Hoover Dike System for Lake Okeechobee.
·         Fulfill your cost-match obligations by investing in environmental projects with the state.
·         Provide authorization and federal funding to projects ready for implementation.
·         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.
 Should you accept our invitation, you will have an incredible opportunity to see first-hand what can be done with a strong partnership. 
Sincerely: Rick Scott, Governor


Senate panel told more Lake Okeechobee water being diverted from estuaries
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
September 24, 2013
Water discharges from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries have been reduced by 10 billion gallons with actions taken since Aug. 1, a South Florida Water Management District official told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
The nutrient-rich lake water has killed seagrass and aquatic life in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, scientists say.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the water is being discharged to prevent the lake from rising and possibly breaching the dike that surrounds it.
Senate President Don Gaetz in July appointed the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin to investigate and make recommendations. The committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, held its second meeting on Tuesday in Tallahassee after an initial meeting in August in Stuart.
This month, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission approved spending $2.7 million for projects to increase the release of water south from the lake in order to reduce flows to the estuaries.
Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, thanked legislators and Gov. Rick Scott. He said the funding pays for work to remove obstacles blocking flow and allows the agency to pump more water onto district lands.
On Monday, 38 environmental groups sent a letter to the governor urging him to take action before an Oct. 12 deadline to buy an additional 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for water storage and treatment.
Barnett told The Florida Current that the deadline is for buying the land at a set price of $7,400 an acre but it would remain available for purchase afterward by the state at a negotiated price.
In response to a senator's question, Barnett told the select committee that the district isn't looking to buy more land.
"We are not asking for additional funding for land acquisition because we have a significant amount in our portfolio," he said.
David Cullen, representing the Sierra Club, urged the Senate committee to support the deal, which he said would cost $1.1 billion for the 153,000 acres.
Negron, the Senate's budget chief, asked where the money would come from, and Cullen pointed to the possibility of using state reserves or making a smaller purchase.
"We have a little over $3 billion in reserves," Negron said. "That is the entire state budget and includes money in trust funds we could access in an emergency."
Negron also said the water diversions were a good start at reducing flows to the estuaries. He announced Tuesday he would seek $1 million for oyster restoration projects to help improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River estuary.
Related Research:
* Sept. 23, 2013 Letter to Gov. Scott urging purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. lands
* Sept. 24, 2013 Northern Estuaries Recovery Program (oyster restoration)
Excerpts from speech offered to Florida Senate subcommittee         Fort Myers Beach Observer
"River Warriors" Organize to Fight Lake Okeechobee Pollution       New Times Broward-Palm Beach (blog)
Lake O ripple effect affects us environmentally, economically         Fort Myers Beach Observer
Lake O water's southerly shift helps troubled rivers, officials say     Sunshine State News


Septic systems ... Funny you should mention that
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
September 24, 2013
Just when I thought the day-late-dollar-short Environmental Protection Agency had flushed us Floridians for good, they come up with an act of impeccable timing for the yuk-laden rivers under assault on either side of Lake Okeechobee.
The EPA Tuesday declared a week in September, 23-27, its first-ever SepticSmart Week.
Get it ? Septic tanks ... the gooey St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee, Kissimmee and Indian rivers ... septic tanks ... Tuesday's meeting of the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin in Tallahassee ... septic tanks.
Thanks, EPA. Great day to make the announcement.
The EPA is encouraging homeowners "to take action" so that their septic systems are functioning properly. Nearly one-quarter of all American households, the agency points out, more than 26 million homes, depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater, and many of the systems in place aren't safely doing the job.
Repeat, many of them aren't safely doing the job.
Might I add that some of those 26 million homes are slap-bang on, or critically near, banks of the very waterways now gasping for breath in south Central Florida.
It's been easy for those who live along the toxic waterways to make their deteriorating quality of life somebody else's fault. Forty years ago it was cattle ranchers; today it's sugar farmers and anybody growing in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
But increasingly, as scientists like Harbor Branch professor Brian LaPointe and others have explained, pollution in the estuaries is the result of a number of human factors -- yes, I'm saying we're a big part of the screw-up.
Those human factors include wastewater sewage effluents, sanitary sewer overflows, combined sewer overflows, agricultural runoffs, golf course and fertilized-lawn runoff, concentrated animal feeding operations, street litters and leaking underground storage tanks.
A growing body of evidence on the degradation of the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary in particular points to leaching septic tanks as a "major" contributing factor. How major is still a matter of conjecture. LaPointe, who has studied the river for more than 30 years, thinks it's considerable. “One septic tank on 4 acres -- that’s enough to create a nutrient problem,” he says.
Me, I'd like to see EPA encourage total septic-to-sewer conversions within so many miles of a river or a waterway leading to a river.
I know that in Martin County, where protests over the condition of the water have grown angrier, there are an estimated 30,000 homes, or about a third of the population, on septic tanks, many of those homes built before 1986.
I also remember that when Martin County first considered a countywide sewer system, the late Sen. William G. "Doc" Myers, R-Hobe Sound -- on the Martin County Commission from 1968-1972, and again from 1976-1978 -- pushed hard for a total septic-to-sewer conversion. He was the only one who did.
Interesting to note that a major dissenter was then-County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla, Martin's environmental maven, who now blames the state for failing to protect Martin's rivers. Her reason for the against-position wasn't cost. A county sewer system will encourage development, she said.
Frank Wacha, another commissioner at the time, told me, "If she could get away with it, Maggy would legislate an outhouse in every backyard to keep people out of Martin County."
All water over the bridge in 2013.
For the moment, I'm grateful to the EPA for the perfectly timed SepticSmart Week announcement

South Florida Water Management District OKs $622.2 million budget
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
September 24, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District approved a 2014 budget of $622.2 million Tuesday, up nearly 10 percent from this year’s $567.4 budget.
Despite the increase, tax rates decreased for the third straight year. The budget cuts the property tax in 2014 to 41.1 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, down from 42.89 cents this year.
Although no members of the public spoke at the district’s budget meeting Tuesday, the budget did not receive unanimous approval from the district’s governing board. Glenn Waldman, the board member representing Broward County, cast the lone “no” vote.
“Not until we provide better for our employees,” Waldman said, referring to planned cuts to employee benefits.
The district is responsible for ecosystem restoration, including the Everglades, flood control and water supply in 16 counties between Orlando and Key West.
More than 80 percent of the budget is dedicated to restoration and flood control, with $261 million to be spent on operating and maintaining more than 1,500 miles of canals, levees, pump stations and five man-made wetlands. Also included in the budget is $250.9 million to restore the Everglades, improve Lake Okeechobee and protect the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Following record wet-season rainfall, the budget invests in building projects that will provide more than 100,000 acre-feet of water storage and $29 million to support construction of the Indian River Lagoon-South C-44 reservoir. Another $9.4 million was approved to pay landowners, mostly ranchers and farmers, to store water on their land.
Property taxes make up about 43 percent of district revenue. Other funding sources include licenses, fees, agricultural taxes, state and federal money and investment income.
South Florida Water Management District: 2013-14 budget highlights
Estimated revenue from property taxes: $266.6 million.
Tax rate: 41.1 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value, 4.2 percent less than this year’s rate of 42.9 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.
What this means: The owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption paid up to $87.62 in taxes this year. In Palm Beach County, where most homesteaded properties increased this year by a state-mandated value of 1.7 percent, the owner of that same home would pay $83.94 in water management district property taxes next year.


Lucas appointed to Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative board
September 23, 2013
BELLE GLADE, Fla., Sept. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Charles W. Lucas was appointed to the Board of Directors of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative at its Sept. 19, 2013 board meeting filling the unexpired term ending January, 2015 held by the recently retired Chairman George H. Wedgworth.
Lucas, of Ft. Myers, FL, earned his Masters of Business Administration from the University of South Florida and has been active in Florida agriculture since 1981. He currently is president of King Ranch- Florida Division where he oversees the company's agricultural operations including citrus on the east and west coasts and sugarcane, sod, rice and winter vegetable operations in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Prior to joining King Ranch as president of its Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership in 2005, he was vice president of Southern Gardens Citrus and senior vice president of Turner Foods. Lucas sits on the Board of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and the Florida Land Council. He has held several leadership positions in the citrus industry including serving as a Commissioner on the Florida Department of Citrus, president of Florida Citrus Processors Association, chairman of the National Juice Products Association, and director of Florida Citrus Mutual.
"Charlie's tenure in Florida agriculture and keen business acumen will make him a great asset to our Board," said Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida Chairman John L. Hundley. "His leadership in the citrus industry will prove to be valuable in his new role at the Cooperative."
In accepting his appointment, Lucas said, "I'm honored to join the Board of the Cooperative. The Cooperative  comprises some of the most forward thinking farmers anywhere in the County." Lucas added, "To be part of the world's largest sugar refining company is really exciting and I hope to be able to contribute to the continued success of the Cooperative."
Wedgworth announced his full retirement and stepped down from the Board in August after 52 years at the helm. The board passed a resolution honoring Wedgworth for his many contributions to the Cooperative and betterment of Glades agriculture at the September board meeting. 
Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative is comprised of 46 grower-members who produce 3.2 million tons of sugarcane yielding 350,000 tons of raw sugar grown on 70,000 acres of land primarily in Palm Beach County. As partners with Florida Crystals Corporation, they own and operate the world's largest cane sugar refining company ASR Group that operate nine sugar refineries in five countries with the capacity to produce six million tons of refined sugar annually. The company produces a full line of consumer, industrial and food service products under the prestigious brand names of  Domino®, C&H®, Redpath®,Tate & Lyle®, Lyle's Golden Syrup®, Sidul® and Sores®.


Water flow from Lake Okeechobee increases again
The Associated Press
September 23, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Federal officials say above-average rainfall this month has forced them to increase the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the lake to reduce pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover Dike. Parts of the earthen dike date to the 1930s.
The water is directed into the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie estuary. Critics say polluted freshwater from the lake has ravaged those ecosystems this summer.
Drier conditions in August allowed the Corps to reduce the flow of water from the lake. However, Lt. Col. Tom Greco says above-average rainfall returned in September.
Water levels in the lake were at 15.75 feet Monday. The Corps aims to keep that level between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet.


Indian River Lagoon destruction needs quick action - by Steven Carrion, Guest Columnist
September 22, 2013
Only one hour away from UCF lies the Indian River Lagoon, a 156-mile safe haven for an estimated 4,300 species of both plants and animals, 53 of which are currently classified as either threatened or endangered.
Some commonly identified fauna of this ecosystem include one-third of the nation’s manatee population, hundreds of bottle-nosed dolphins and different species of sea turtles that nest here at rates higher then any other place in the Americas.
The oyster reefs in the lagoon also provide habitat to a myriad of juvenile fish species, including those that are commercially or recreationally important. However, the lagoon’s biological integrity is now being severely threatened by human activity.
Real systemic change must be made in order to prevent recurring episodes that will only lead to loss of natural resources, revenue, taxpayer money and time.
Although expansive in range, covering around 40 percent of the Atlantic coast of Florida, the estuary has not fared well in the midst of the ever-increasing human population and associated activities that have been detrimentally affecting the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that around 3 million pounds of nitrogen makes its way to the lagoon annually.
In the St. Lucie Estuary, an estimated 1 million pounds of human-sourced nitrogen is taking its toll as well. Nitrogen, along with phosphorus, is limiting elements for primary producers at the base of the food chain, so this excessive amount of nutrients allows for harmful algal blooms to occur.
Pollutants such as heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, bacteria and oil add to human-sourced contamination. Recently, scientists at the FAU Harbor Branch campus have found increases in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the waters of the lagoon, which have also been found in biological samples taken from resident dolphins. These findings suggest that run-off from livestock production are impacting the lagoon, since much of these operations allow excessive use of antibiotics in animal feed.
Scientists have determined that a shocking 70 percent of sea turtles in the lagoon have tumors, such as fibropapillomas, that are associated with pollution, according to a Sun Sentinel article.
The Indian River Lagoon is estimated to have an annual economic value of $3.7 billion due to real estate, commercial fishing and recreation. Greg Sapp, an economist, has said that permitting continued pollution of the Indian River Lagoon is “bad business for Florida.”
Indeed he is right, as an unhealthy lagoon has already been causing water-related businesses to suffer from contamination in the estuary.
Dan Neumann, who operates Coastal Paddleboarding, said the pollution is killing his business, CBS12 News reported.
It is clear that the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem is experiencing severe problems that have been reminding many of Chesapeake Bay’s substantial deterioration.
Citizens should urge their local and state lawmakers to act rapidly and effectively to solve this issue, not for the short term but for continued prosperity.
There is no single cure-all for the ailments of the lagoon, and it is therefore imperative for a multi-perspective action plan to be formulated.
Oyster reef and sea grass restoration must continue, and stricter guidelines on discharges and effective waste water treatment must be proposed. 
A demonstration to show support for the lagoon led by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program will be held on Sept. 28 at the Melbourne Causeway.


Let's keep Wekiva River the natural wonder it's always been
Orlando Sentinel - by Russ Moncrief, Guest columnist
September 22, 2013
Over the past few months, the Sentinel has published several articles and editorials about the continued degradation of Florida's springs and waterways. I wish the warnings would have as much impact on our legislators as they have had on me.
I was born in January 1923. So I've been around awhile. And for a significant segment of my 90 years, the Wekiva River and its tributaries have played a major role in my life.
In 1974, my wife, Katie, and I purchased Camp Seminole, an old fishing camp on the banks of the Wekiva just north of State Road 46. Since Katie was going to manage the venture, we changed the name to Katie's Wekiva River Landing. Although she was the manager, I spent every free moment helping her and our clients.
Our resort included 55 recreational vehicle and tent sites, six log cabins, five cottages, a store and thousands of people annually who used Katie's Landing as their base for exploring Florida's natural wonderland.
Katie knew that just sitting on the bank or splashing in the water wasn't enough. The birds, the turtles, the alligators, the otters, the animals that come to the river to drink, the lush foliage — all of this and much more could be fully appreciated only from a kayak or canoe.
Soon she had her staff picking up or dropping off passengers and canoes at Highbanks, Blue Springs, Kings Landing, Wekiva Marina or other specially arranged locations.
Vacationers from near and far, local families, church groups, school groups, adventurers young and old — all reveled in the education and adventure the river afforded. Many visitors returned each year because they'd fallen in love with the Wekiva.
Photojournalists from around the world took pictures and wrote articles — often for airline magazines — depicting a side of Florida that has too often been lost in the shadow of our world-famous theme parks. The articles brought new clients.
Once while visiting Austria, Katie spotted a man wearing one of the Katie's Landing T-shirts sold in her camp store. When she asked if he'd actually been there, he launched into a rave review of the Wekiva River. "You absolutely must go there!" he told her.
But all was not well.
Russ Fisher, a retired Air Force colonel who owned a fishing shack on the banks of the Little Wekiva River, began to notice subtle but disturbing changes. He and his wife, Eleanor, Fred and Pat Harden, and Katie and I began to discuss what we could do to reverse the negative trends. Others joined us. And some 30 years ago we formed the nonprofit advocacy group Friends of the Wekiva River.
Due in large part to our efforts, local government entities became more restrictive in what they allowed to be dumped into the waterways. We began sponsoring Wekiva River cleanups.
I designed and had a company build hundreds of long-handled small nets for retrieving trash from the bottom of the river. When Vice President Al Gore was speaking at an environmental rally at Wekiwa Springs State Park, I was privileged to be photographed with him, showing off my invention.
By investing thousands of hours, members of Friends of the Wekiva River — many of whom understand much more about science than I do — were able to have the Wekiva River designated Wild and Scenic, included in the Aquatic Preserve, listed as an Outstanding Florida Water, safeguarded by the Wekiva Protection Act and much more.
But as the Sentinel articles have shown, dangers increasingly threaten once again.
Katie's Landing — which it's still called, immortalizing Katie's role as a Wekiva River ambassador par excellence — is now a Florida State Park.
But the way I'd like to be immortalized — and you start to think about such things at my age — is for our 14 grandchildren, our 16 great-grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren after them, to be able to enjoy this natural wonder just as much as Katie and I have.
In fact, I'm asking all of Central Florida and beyond to ensure that everyone has that opportunity.
Russ Moncrief has been a teacher at Edgewater High School, director of Seminole Community College's vocational-technical program and "maintenance man" at Katie's Landing.



Population boom to bring sea change - by Ted Jackovics, Tribune Staff
September 22, 2013
It’s well known that by 2015, Florida could surpass New York as the nation’s third most populous state. What’s drawn less attention is that much of Florida’s population growth through 2060 is expected to take place within two broad corridors: the Tampa Bay area through Orlando to the Atlantic coast and the Tampa Bay area to Jacksonville.
Hillsborough County alone could gain 600,000 people to reach a population of about 1.8 million — and add 400,000 jobs to reach 1 million by 2040, mid-level projections in a University of Florida study indicate.
That kind of growth clearly would affect transportation, the environment and the types of new jobs — with the service and health industries growing even more.
Growth also might increase housing values, create crowding similar to what’s affected the ambiance of South Florida in recent decades and shift cultural attitudes; for example, more people may want to live closer to where they work.
“The new population growth will make Tampa younger, more urban,” said Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, who sits on local transit boards.
“Livability, the economy, transit — these and other factors will be reflections of the increasing vibrancy of the Tampa area,” Suarez said.
Two sources contributed to Florida’s population growth between 2010 and 2012: Net migration accounted for 69.7 percent, and births over deaths accounted for 30.3 percent.
While the nationwide recession slowed Florida’s population growth in recent years, short-term signals that demographers check — from surveys of utility billings to the reports that moving companies file — show Florida’s population has begun to grow steadily again, though not at previous rapid rates. That’s in line with nationwide census reports.
“Florida’s population growth in 2013 is a little more than last year,” said Scott Cody, research demographer for the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “But I don’t like to rely on one year’s growth.”
Florida’s population on April 1, 2012, was estimated to be 19,074,434, a 1.5 percent gain since 2010, the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research said in a report to the Florida Legislature earlier this year.
That compared with 32.7 percent growth in the decade of the 1980s; 23.5 percent in the 1990s; and 17.6 percent in the 2000s.
But even at an annual growth rate of less than 2 percent, Florida’s population is expected to reach 19,750,577 by 2015 and 25,583,153 by 2040, a July report by the Florida Demographic Estimating Conference showed.
By comparison, New York state’s population in 2015 is expected to reach 19,546,904, and 19,623,506 in 2040, a Cornell University report for the state said.
Demographers warn against comparing reports from different agencies because researchers can use different assumptions and methodology.
However, the findings from multiple sources for Florida’s population outlook appear to be in general agreement. That includes the rationale for why the Tampa Bay region is likely to outpace other areas of the state in population growth.
Florida’s seven most populous counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas and Duval — account for more than 50 percent of the state’s population.
“The three Southeast Florida counties and Pinellas County are very nearly out of vacant, developable land,” a consultant’s draft report in August for the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization said.
“The impact is that Hillsborough and Orange counties, as well as other Tampa Bay, Southwest and Central Florida counties such as Lee, Polk and Pasco, will absorb a proportionately greater share of Florida’s growth than was the case prior to 2000.”
Hillsborough County’s population ranked fourth statewide in April 2012 with 1,256,118 people, while Pinellas County ranked sixth with 920,381.
But Hillsborough ranked third behind Miami-Dade and Orange counties in adding the most population between 2010 and 2012, with a gain of 26,892 residents.
And growth is expected to spread from Hillsborough both north and east.
The Florida Department of Transportation in April reported more than 7.5 million people and 3.1 million jobs are in the 15-county corridor planners call the Tampa Bay-Orlando-Daytona “Super Region,” the 10th largest U.S. regional economy.
As many as 5.7 million additional residents are expected in 50 years in a 60-mile-wide corridor between Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach and Melbourne.
More than 5.2 million people and 2.2 million jobs are located in a corridor FDOT identified between Tampa and Northeast Florida and Jacksonville, which includes portions of some counties included in the Central Florida study.
FDOT estimates the Northeast Corridor population could expand by more than 80 percent by 2060, with four of five new residents locating in the Tampa Bay area or in counties surrounding Jacksonville.
On the county level, planners are fine-tuning population growth projections with an eye toward seeking residents’ input on how they’d like the area to develop.
The Hillsborough MPO began with University of Florida forecasts of an increase from 1.1 million residents in 2010 to either 1.4 million, 1.8 million or 2.3 million by 2040, based on low, medium and high projections.
Then the MPO planners showed how population and employees could be distributed based on different assumptions and community vales, resulting in three “Alternative Futures for 2040”:
◆ Outward Growth — Expand growth boundary to make room for new suburbs. Extend roads and water lines.
◆ Focus inward — Create new town centers in older commercial areas. Add rapid bus, rail and circulator shuttles and pedestrian and bike connections.
◆ Jobs along corridors — Create new corporate parks with housing along major corridors. Add express toll lanes along Interstates 4, 75 and 275.
Residents are invited to offer the MPO feedback in an online survey being conducted through Oct. 20 at and at countywide kiosk locations.
“The population growth figures are stunning,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who serves on the MPO board. “I for one am paying attention. For transportation to be efficient, it needs to be near densities of population.”
Population growth’s impact on Tampa Bay housing values will depend on how and where growth spreads, in particular whether it continues to sprawl into Pasco and other counties, said John Tuccillo, chief economist of Florida Realtors.
Normally, greater population would produce upward pressure on housing prices, but that will depend on how specifics in the Tampa Bay region work out, Tuccillo said.
The recession accelerated the long-term transition of the Tampa-Orlando-Daytona “Super Region’s” economy, FDOT’s Future Corridors Initiative report stated.
During the past decade, the Tampa-Central Florida corridor lost jobs in construction and manufacturing, but it reported solid gains in professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
Trade, transportation and utilities comprise the largest major industry employment sector, and the economy will be driven by clusters of industries dependent on transportation for access to labor, markets, suppliers, customers and visitors.


State needs a water ethic
Gainesville Sun - by Lucinda Faulkner Merritt, Fort White, FL
September 22, 2013
From shrinking flows and blooming algae in North Florida's rivers and springs to South Florida's dying Everglades and foul discharges from Lake Okeechobee, Florida faces water crises. To find solutions, we must be willing to conserve water, stop pollution, adopt a water ethic and unite around a vision for the future of Florida.
Water conservation is the cheapest, easiest and quickest way to solve water supply problems. Cynthia Barnett's book "Blue Revolution" offers examples of how people in different communities have worked together to conserve water. Compared to Barnett's examples, Floridians don't seem very serious about water conservation, and that's too bad because solutions to our water problems must involve all of us or those solutions won't be fair. To unite us, we need a statewide push for water conservation that isn't happening.</p><p>What we're getting instead is talk about expensive, large-scale alternative water supply projects such as desalination plants. It's hard to understand why our water managers are choosing those projects without first encouraging us to do all we can to conserve water. Does their choice have something to do with who pays (taxpayers) and who profits (corporations that build the projects) when conservation is ignored and big alternative water supply projects are promoted ?
While Florida may need alternative water supply projects in the future, it makes sense for us to adopt a conservation ethic first and do all we can to conserve water now; otherwise, the only thing those big projects will do is encourage even more water use !
When I say "conservation," here is what I mean. For homeowners, water conservation means retrofitting our houses with cisterns or gray water systems and giving up watering our lawns; for farmers, switching to micro-irrigation techniques and moving water-intensive crops out of springsheds; for homebuilders, including water-saving fixtures and water re-use systems in all newer homes; for engineers and inventors, developing new ways for people and businesses to save water.
When it comes to pollution, we must stop using our waters as sewers for human and animal waste, and we must greatly reduce the amount of fertilizer we use. If we don't, it's only a matter of time before we face a public health crisis caused by fouled drinking water. We need strong statewide regulation and enforcement of both point and non-point sources of pollution to ensure that our dirty waters are cleaned up. Governments must find ways to move people off septic tanks and onto sewer systems.
Solving our water problems will cost money. Bonus: Solving the problems will also create jobs. The alternative to spending that money is the failing system we have now, and we've learned from the Everglades that the longer we wait to fix our water problems, the more expensive the fix becomes.
As Barnett suggests in "Blue Revolution," we need a strong water ethic that protects our waters for our children and grandchildren. Because such an ethic takes time to evolve, however, we must encourage it. To level the playing field with polluters and water wasters in courts of law, we should consider granting our waters the legal right to exist and appointing human guardians for them. Local governments throughout the United States and countries all over the world are using this approach. Why not Florida ?
Another way to encourage a water ethic would be to articulate a compelling vision for water use in Florida. Right now the vision seems to be, "Use as much water as you can and dump your waste in it, too." An alternative vision could be, "Florida has the cleanest, most abundant water in the world and is an international model of wise water use."
I hope that candidates for public office in 2014 will talk about their visions for Florida. I'd love it if at least one of them would call for a statewide task force to develop innovative solutions to our water problems. Members of that task force could include representatives of all water stakeholder groups as well as engineers, inventors and other creative types such as artists and writers who can think outside the box. For example, why can't Florida's strawberry and citrus growers harness the power of sun and wind to protect their crops during freezes, instead of using massive amounts of water? I floated this task force idea to a group of elected officials and one of them told me, "That will never happen." He's a realist and maybe he's right. But when I think about all the inventions that would have never happened if people like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell had listened to naysayers, I realize that we need visionaries just as much as we need realists. How can we change the ways we deal with water unless we have the open-minded will to try ?
I've aligned myself with the visionaries because I don't want to be known as one of the people who wrecked our waters. I'd rather be remembered as someone who inspired others to believe that change is possible and who worked to make Florida an international model of wise water use.


St. Lucie Estuary too damaged for brief respite in water releases from Lake Okeechobee to have helped, environmental activist says
Palm Beach Post - by Liz Balmaseda, Staff Writer
September 22, 2013
The two-week respite from heavy releases of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary will do little to help the estuary’s ravaged ecosystem, an activist who has protested the releases said.
“I don’t want to sound pessimistic. Two weeks without releases is better than two weeks with releases,” said Crystal Lucas, a teacher at Jensen Beach High School who helped develop its marine biology program. “But in terms of long-term environmental impact, two weeks is minimal.”
Neither did Lucas — a speaker at the Sept. 1 Sugarland Rally in Clewiston that drew critics of the releases from Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts — think the increased releases the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began Saturday are going to have a significant effect on top of the damage caused by previous releases, which killed oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife and helped cause toxic algae to bloom this summer.
“Everything that’s going to die has already died,” she said.
Citing heavy rainfall this month, the corps on Saturday increased the flow of water from the lake into the estuary and the Caloosahatchee River — which flows into the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers — on Saturday morning.
The corps began releasing water from the lake in May after a record-setting start to the rainy season saw lake levels rise past 16 feet above sea level — at least 6 inches higher than the level the corps thinks is safe for the aging Herbert Hoover dike that surrounds the like and protects communities as far west as Wellington from flooding.
Construction on the 143-mile dike began in the 1930s after hurricanes killed over 2,000 people and swamped much of the lower part of the state. It is now in such poor condition that it is ranked among the most likely to fail in the United States. Higher water levels put more pressure on the dike, and because water can flow into the lake six times faster than it leaves the lake, the corps tries to keep the lake’s level between 12.5 and 15.5 feet during the rainy season.
The lake’s current level at the start of the weekend was 15.67 feet.
In May the corps began releasing polluted water into the estuary and river to control the rising waters. As the rains increased and the lake rose, so did the releases. Billions of gallons of fresh water were flushed into the estuary, where brackish water with higher salinity levels support a delicate ecosystem. The fresh water lowered the salinity levels and oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife began dying.
Water conditions were so poor after the toxic algae bloomed in the estuary this summer that the Martin County Health Department posted signs warning people to stay out of the water.
The corps recently had cut back the lake-to-waterway releases. The St. Lucie Estuary was reduced to 1,179 cubic feet per second from 1,800. On Saturday, the corps restored releases into the St. Lucie to the 1,800 level, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam near Stuart.
The target flow for the Caloosahatchee is 4,000 cubic feet, as measured from the Moore Haven Lock and Dam.
“The above-average rainfall so far this month is a sharp contrast to the drier conditions experienced last month,” said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville district deputy commander for South Florida. “Keeping with trends so far this wet season, we anticipate local basin runoff will continue to be a significant source of flows through the Franklin and St. Lucie Locks.”


Act, reservoir valuable in cleaning up Caloosahatchee – by Trey Radel, U.S. Congressman, R-Fort Myers
September 21, 2013
This week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which I am a proud member, passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). Why is this important? In Florida, we know how vital our water is to our economy. At our ports, beaches, lakes and in the Everglades, protecting our water and ensuring a healthy environment keeps Florida beautiful and our economy growing.
This WRRDA Bill is monumental in a few ways. It contains zero earmarks, is the most conservative water resources bill ever put before Congress and has strong bipartisan support. For comparison, the last bill like this passed in 2007 and cost more than $30 billion, while WRRDA will save $2 billion.
Also, contained in WRRDA is the authorization necessary to complete the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir and make it easier for Lee and Collier County to pay for their own beach re-nourshment.
The Caloosahatchee River Reservoir will be a holding tank for Lake Okeechobee runoff in years where we have higher than average rainfall, preventing the freshwater from harming our beach ecosystem. More than a decade ago, long before I came to Congress, the federal government made a promise to our state to share the cost of building this reservoir. As you would expect from the federal government, this project has dragged on and come in over budget, leading to dirty, brown water showing up on our coastline.
The result has been disastrous to our local economy, and I have been fighting to help our local and state leaders find a solution to this problem. In doing so, I worked hard to ensure the authorization to complete the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir was included in the bill we just passed out of Committee.
WRRDA should come to the House Floor for a vote in October. Southwest Florida is now one step closer to seeing completion of this Reservoir.
Another provision in WRRDA will make it easier for Collier and Lee County to pay for their beach re-nourishment. Right now, they are unable to do this and stay in the federal system. This is a sad example of the insanity of the federal government, when local communities cannot easily pay for their own projects.
WRRDA reforms our water management system, giving local governments more control. Now, Sanibel Mayor Ruane and Naples Mayor Sorey don’t need to fly to DC to ask if they can fix their beach, they can just go ahead and do it.
WRRDA ensures that an empty suit in Washington will no longer be making decisions that affect our local environment. In Southwest Florida, we know what is best for our community, and we know a healthy environment is a healthy economy.


water release

Corps increases flow of Lake O waters into St. Lucie Estuary, Caloosahatchee River; move follows environmental problems
Palm Beach Post  - by Liz Balmaseda, Staff Writer
September 21, 2013
Citing heavy rainfall this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River on Saturday morning.
This move comes after several protests this summer about the impact of polluted water from the lake on local waterways and the communities they serve — and just three weeks after one drew several hundred environmental activists from both coasts to Clewiston for a Labor Day rally.
Another rally — one in which people are to join hands across eight causeways from Martin to Volusia counties — is set for Sept. 28. Its purpose is to call attention to the problems the releases have created for the Indian River Lagoon.
The corps began releasing water from the lake in May after a record-setting start to the rainy season saw lake levels rise past 16 feet above sea level. As the lake rises so does the corps’ concern for the aging dike around the lake the safety of communities on the lake’s shore.
Construction on the 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake began in the 1930s after hurricanes killed over 2,000 people and swamped much of the lower part of the state. It is now in such poor condition that it is ranked among the most likely to fail in the United States. Higher water levels put more pressure on the dike and because water can flow into the lake six times faster than it leaves the lake, the corps tries to keep the lake’s level between 12.5 and 15.5 feet during the rainy season.
The lake’s current level is at 15.67 feet.
In May the corps began releasing polluted water from the lake into the estuary and river in an attempt to control the rising waters. But as the rains increased and the lake rose, so did the releases. Billions of gallons of fresh water were flushed into the estuary, where brackish water with higher salinity levels support a delicate ecosystem. The fresh water lowered the salinity levels and oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife began dying.
A toxic algae blossomed in the St. Lucie Estuary and water conditions were so poor that at one point during August, the Martin County Health Department posted signs warning people to stay out of the water.
The Corps recently had cut back the lake-to-waterway releases. The St. Lucie Estuary was reduced to 1,179 cubic feet per second from 1,800. On Saturday, the Corps restored releases into the St. Lucie to the 1,800 level, as measured at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam near Stuart.
The target flow for the Caloosahatchee — which flows into the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers — is 4,000 cubic feet, as measured from the Moore Haven Lock & Dam.
“The above-average rainfall so far this month is a sharp contrast to the drier conditions experienced last month,” said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. “Keeping with trends so far this wet season, we anticipate local basin runoff will continue to be a significant source of flows through the Franklin and St. Lucie Locks.”


Floating animal havens can pose flood-control threat
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
September 21, 2013
A gas bubble rising below the water's surface gives life to a drifting green blob, threatening to clog floodgates and swamp unsuspecting South Florida.
At least that's the old-black-and-white-horror-movie version of the floating plant islands that drift across South Florida lakes and the Everglades.
Tussocks, also known as "sudds," are actually naturally occurring clumps of aquatic vegetation that break loose from their roots and grow into a floating oasis for marsh rabbits, snakes, alligators and wading birds.
While that's good for fostering wildlife habitat, it can pose a risk to South Florida flood control if tussocks drift too close to the waterside structures relied on to keep neighborhoods and farms dry.
The tricky balance between flood control and environmental protection resurfaced for water managers during this rainier-than-usual summer, when more flowing water put more tussocks on the move.
"You have this big blob of organic material come to the surface," said Paul Gray, an Audubon of Florida scientist. "They can be small as a boat [or] several acres. … If a several-acre tussock floats into a water control structure, it could clog the whole thing."
It often begins with the decaying roots of a water lily emitting a bubble of carbon dioxide that sends a clump of lake bottom floating to the surface.
"It looks like there's all this potting soil floating on the surface," said Dan Thayer, who heads land and vegetation management for the South Florida Water Management District. "You have all the ingredients for plants to grow rather rapidly."
That clump of water lilies, cattails, pickerelweed and lake bottom can grow into a floating island, sometimes getting large enough and old enough to sprout oak, willow and swamp maple trees, Thayer said.
Lake Kissimmee, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades are prime territory for tussocks.
In the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the northern reaches of the Everglades stretching across Palm Beach County, tussocks can grow into tree islands that provide vital wildlife habitat in the famed River of Grass.
"They are full of life," said Gray, who monitors Lake Okeechobee for Audubon. "They are part of the diversity of the lake."
Earlier this summer, a dilemma for water managers arose when endangered Everglades snail kites nested on a 1.2-acre tussock drifting toward a vital flood-control structure on the southern end of Lake Kissimmee.
Lake Kissimmee drains into the Kissimmee River, which drains into Lake Okeechobee. Clogging those floodgates as the peak of hurricane season approached threatened to cause cascading flooding effects.
Normally when a tussock gets too close to flood-control structures, the district would use an aquatic harvester — like a floating combine — to break it up and haul away the clumps of vegetation.
But in order to protect the snail kites, whose population has dwindled through the years, water managers used pipes and ropes to try to anchor the drifting island long enough for the young birds to leave the nest.
While that slowed the persistent tussock, it may not have held during a storm, raising concerns as the rains continued.
"They wanted us to hold off as long as we could. … There's that extra sensitivity [for] a bird we are trying to protect," Thayer said. "We had a contractor with a harvester ready to go at a moment's notice."
Luckily, hurricanes continued to steer clear of Florida and the last of the baby snail kites left the nests before the tussock floated too close to the floodgates.
Soon after, the harvester went to work busting up the wooded, would-be drain blocker.
The tussock-tug-of-war to protect the snail kites may have been a first for the district, but it won't be the last time water managers are left to wrangle with them.
"They look like an island. You wouldn't believe they are floating," Thayer said.


US Congress

Central Everglades plan stymied in Congress
Orlando Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
September 20, 2013
Four other projects move toward federal funding.
WASHINGTON – Florida's attempt to prevent devastating discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to surrounding communities suffered a setback in Congress on Thursday.
Environmentalists hope to get federal funds for a Central Everglades restoration project that would send water from the lake southward through western Palm Beach and Broward counties and into the Everglades, filtering out pollution along the way.
This summer, water from the rain-swollen lake has been channeled into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, contributing to major algae blooms and fish kills.
"The stakes are high," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation in Miami. "We have high water levels in Lake Okeechobee. Two estuaries are basically dead due to billions of gallons of polluted water moving east and west [from the lake.] We have no ability to move it south.
"The local economy along the estuaries has been decimated over last several months, and there's no end in sight. Floridians who reside in these areas want action."
But the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure refused to consider any amendment to a sweeping water bill before approving it on Thursday. That prevented attempts by Floridians led by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to clear a path for the Central Everglades project to be included in the long-awaited Water Resources Reform and Development Act.
The bill does authorize federal spending on four smaller Everglades projects: $433 million to build a Water Preserve Area in Broward County; $297 million to build a reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida; $89 million for a spreader canal in Miami-Dade County; and $96 million for a Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project.
All are part of a comprehensive plan to improve waterflow and remove pollution to restore the Everglades, preserve endangered species and provide water for South Florida communities. The Central Everglades project is considered a crucial link to all the others.
"Rather than focus on peripheral issues, which has been done to date, it looks at what are the key things we can do to redistribute the waterflow from Lake Okeechobee all the way south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida's director of Everglades Policy.
But this project – unlike four that are included in the bill -- has not yet been fully cleared for construction by the Army Corps of Engineers. Brown and Frankel tried to add language that would allow the Central Everglades project to be authorized for spending if it is cleared by the Army Corps within a year of the bill's enactment.
Brown and Frankel still hope to amend the bill when it reaches the House floor next month.
A Senate-passed version would allow such projects to be authorized if the Corps approves them by the time the bill takes effect, expected by the end of this year.
But House leaders want Congress to fully consider all projects rather than leave such decisions to the Army Corps or any agency. For this and other reasons, they refused to allow amendments to the bill on Thursday.
Floridians are eager to be included in this water bill because it would be the first to pass Congress since 2007. Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., promised Brown he will try to enact authorization bills every two years.
Brown shot back: "We can't wait two years in Florida!"


Drilling approved near Golden Gate Estates, opponents fuming - by Mary Wozniak
September 20, 2013
Preserve Our Paradise plans to file a petition for a hearing to challenge decision.
The news that a permit was issued Friday for a Texas oil company to drill two wells near Golden Gate Estates was met with outrage by residents and others opposed to the drilling.
The state Department of Environmental Protection gave the go-ahead to the Dan A. Hughes Company of Beeville, Texas “after thorough and thoughtful evaluation,” the agency announced in a press release. “The applicant has demonstrated that it will adhere to the department’s strict regulatory requirements which ensure public safety and protection of our natural resources.”
Documents: Drilling permit 1353H for Collier County Wildcat Well | Drilling permit 1354 for Salt Water Disposal Well
“We’re not surprised, based on everything we’ve heard, but we are very disappointed,” said Jaime Duran, who lives about 1,500 feet from the drill site with his wife, Pamela. He called allowing the permit “a criminal act” by the governor, the state DEP, the company doing the drilling and Collier Resources, the company that leased the mineral rights to the Hughes company.
“They are drilling too close to homes. It is unprecedented in Southwest Florida,” Duran said.
One of the wells is exploratory, and the other will be a disposal well if the exploratory well is successful. Both will be on an 2.8 acre site.
Golden Gate residents first learned of the permit application in April by receiving a letter asking them to for information so an evacuation plan could be devised in case of an explosion or accident at the proposed drill site. They formed a group called Preserve Our Paradise and used social media and a flurry of protests, marches and sit-ins over the next five months to urge the DEP to deny the permit.
Some of their concerns are noise, traffic, safety, health and contamination of the water aquifers that supply fresh water.
They also are worried that the permit may open the door to the possibility of “fracking.” Formally called hydraulic fracturing, the process involves injecting a well with a cocktail of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure to fracture rock and access previously untapped reserves of oil and gas.
State DEP officials said that the Hughes company does not plan to frack.
Group members thought they were making headway when the DEP held a meeting Sept. 10 at the Golden Gate Estates Community Center to address the avalanche of comments and concern, the first time the agency has ever held a public meeting on a drilling permit.
At the time, Danielle Irwin, DEP Division of Water Resource Management deputy director, said that a “notice of intent” to award or deny the permit would be issued by Sept. 30, with another 21-day comment period before the final decision is made.
But the final permit was issued Friday, Dee Ann Miller, DEP spokeswoman, said. Now a 21-day period begins for people who oppose the decision to file a petition for an administrative hearing.
Preserve Our Paradise will do so, said Karen Dwyer, a spokeswoman for the group.
“I think it’s absolutely criminal to push for this approval,” said John Dwyer, her husband and a group member. “I think there’s been undue pressure in high places placed by the Collier family to force passage of this permit.”
Collier Resources is one of the Barron Collier Companies, named for the county’s founder. The company owns 800,000 acres of mineral rights across Southwest Florida.
The Hughes company has leased the rights to 115,000 acres that reach to the northern tip of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and south to the Picayune Strand State Forest. The well site is also adjacent to the boundary of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.


Water worries flow with increased Lake O releases
September 20, 2013
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that it's increasing the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee. Starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, the amount of freshwater flowing through the Caloosahatchee River will increase by more than half a billion gallons.
This comes less than a month after those water releases were cut significantly. The Army Corps says this month's above-average rainfall is the cause. But, to people living and working on Fort Myers Beach, that means more brown water.
"We have much passion when it comes to this island," John Heim said.
As a 28-year beach resident, Heim feels a natural responsibility to stand up for the Gulf. "We are basically saying, this is our identity, we choose to face it."
The water on Fort Myers Beach is clearer than it was two weeks ago. But, he knows that's about to change. Like many on the beach, Heim is frustrated.
"Are we surprised? No," Heim said. "We are willing to work with the Corps but at the same time, we've lost faith in them when it comes to their actual message because it seems to be one where it says this, and the next thing ends up being something completely different with a question mark at the end."
Right now, 1.9 billion gallons of water from Lake O are flowing into the Caloosahatchee each day. Saturday, it will rise to 2.5 billion gallons a day. That's enough water to fill 3,787 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It's lot of water, but to put that in perspective, at the peak of rainy season, the release was nearly double that amount.
"Yeah, it's worrisome because every day that affects my business," said Chuck Bryan, owner of Chuck's Last Stop. "I've walked out there, I've seen the brown water, I've walked out there, I've smelled the brown water."
Bryan said beach businesses are banking on state leaders to find a long-term solution fast because every increase in water released means fewer customers.
"It's not an easy issue to deal with but it's got to be dealt with eventually," Bryan said. "I can't quantify I was hurt. All I can say is yeah, a few less customers this year than last."
As releases continue, is there help for local businesses that have been hurt? We posed the question to Governor Rick Scott's office. They tell us, "Governor Scott sent a letter to Secretary Hershel Vineyard asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to expedite any for permits from local partners to help support the impacted areas."


Army Corps of Engineers meeting to discuss Central Everglades Planning Project - by: Jamel Laneé
STUART, Fla. - The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a meeting Thursday to discuss sending some Lake Okeechobee discharges south.
The meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. will focus on the Central Everglades Project, which would divert more than 65 billion gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades.
Even though the Corps recently lowered the amount of water being discharged, that could change because of recent rain.
A representative with the agency stated in an e-mail Wednesday that if the area gets a substantial amount of rain that causes Lake Okeechobee to rise, then the flows could be increased.
The lake level stood at more than 15 feet on Wednesday.  The Corps says they try to keep the level between 12 and 15 feet.
According to a regulation schedule, engineers could release up to more than a billion gallon of water a day if the lake were to rise quickly.
Engineers say it's unlikely they'll make any adjustments before next week.
Thursday’s meeting will be held at the Wolf High-Technology Center at Indian River State College.
Related Link:
Additional meeting scheduled to discuss Central Everglades ...       TCPalm



E. Clay SHAW, Jr., former Congressman (1993-2007) died after battle with lung cancer
Sep 10, 2013,
he was 74.

Clay Shaw, Big Sugar and the Everglades - by Alan Farago, President of Friends of the Everglades
September 19, 2013
In obituaries, Florida Congressman Clay Shaw has been roundly praised as a moderate Republican and champion of the Everglades. A little too roundly. Shaw served 26 years in Congress, at a time when the GOP perfected polarization tactics as well as any southern Democrat. It is not enough to note, in passing, a Republican leader who stood up for protecting one of the most threatened ecosystems in the United States. How Clay Shaw was a friend of the Everglades deserves a closer reading and involves the story of a Republican who braved dissent of the Jeb Bush orthodoxy at the time and in a state that determined the outcome of the most contested presidential election in US history.
In June 2001, Shaw was in the entourage when President George W. Bush visited the Everglades. According to a New York Times report at the time, “Mindful, perhaps, that the president was not seen as having lavished sufficient praise on Representative Shaw at the Everglades event, speakers went out of their way to pay homage to him here. Al Cardenas, the state Republican chairman, singled out Mr. Shaw for “special recognition” as “someone who fights so hard for Florida every day in Congress.” (“Florida GOP sees Bush visit as latest slight”, NYT, 6/14/2001)
The fact of the Everglades as a political swamp could not have been lost on any of the participants. In a region where every developed acre of wetland involved the vigorous application of persuasion skills — from zoning applications, to sales, to mortgages and political contributions — , the sixty mile wide watershed of the River of Grass — stretching more than a hundred miles from the boundaries of Orlando and Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Keys — represented more a totem for platted subdivisions, strip malls culture, sugar cane and rock mining (for cement) than a herald for ecological harmony.
The vaunted balance between man and nature in the Everglades is often preached and more often breached. By that summer 2001, political leaders at the speaker’s podium were doing what they had been doing for decades before and since: promising to re-arrange the multi-billion dollar water infrastructure in one of the nation’s fastest growing states to give some chance of survival to the once-magnificent biodiversity of America’s only tropical wilderness, including iconic predators like the Florida panther roaming a shrunken, degraded habitat. Protect the environment and the economy.
Democrats, including Al Gore during the 2000 election, had been badly boxed in by the political weight of Florida developers and Big Sugar. Jeb Bush, who gained his first elected office as governor of Florida in 1998, had substantially benefited from the builder lobby and the sugar billionaires. Scarcely six months earlier, on the same day the US Supreme Court decided in favor of George W. Bush, Jeb signed with President Bill Clinton in the Rose Garden the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Bill.
As a former mayor of Fort Lauderdale, one of the fastest growing cities in Florida, Shaw’s political career spanned small segregationist towns to sprawling metropolis and suburbs marching to the Everglades. The state was filled with millions of new voters whose weak connections to a splendid wilderness just on the other side of the Florida Turnpike represented new political opportunities for the exploiters.
In 1993, at the very spot in Everglades National Park where in 2001 President George W. Bush affirmed his commitment to America’s Everglades, a Democratic White House and the late governor of Florida Lawton Chiles, celebrated peace and progress on of the nation’s most enduring environmental challenges.
Democrats in Congress, in Florida, and the Clinton White House wanted a bill – any bill – to settle decades of litigation. Republicans wanted a bill that would keep all the economic stakeholders and interests who depended on exploiting the Everglades – for cheap water, for limestone, for sugar – in play. While the distinction is actually blurred (only a Democratic sugar billionaire had the weight to get a phone call to President Clinton during one of his Oval Office trysts), Clay Shaw was one of the very few Republicans in Congress who understood and despaired the corrupting influence of the sugar subsidy in the Farm Bill. Congressman Shaw viewed the 2000 achievement of federal legislation called CERP as great progress. He would be its watchdog.
Governor Jeb Bush had different ideas. In 1994 Jeb —  a well-connected, first-time political candidate — had been defeated by Lawton Chiles. Although Chiles surrendered the sword of litigation to the federal government, he had also carefully cultivated support among Florida’s builders, developers, and Big Sugar. If the Everglades would be saved, it would be in the spirit of not “rocking the boat”. Meanwhile, through his Foundation for Florida’s Future, Jeb had been tinkering with conservative ideas to unleash the power of profit as motivation for public good instead of what he derisively called “command and control environmental regulation”.
For industry — the sugar industry –, those ideas mainly related to shifting the costs of pollution, or, cooking the books at the expense of the Everglades and the public. This was the swamp that Congressman Clay Shaw straddled, as a pragmatist who trusted that the federal court settlement in the Miami courtroom of Judge William Hoeveler a decade earlier, established the facts of pollution by Big Sugar and deadlines to fix the Everglades.
For example, the biggest cost component of the original $7.8 billion price tag for CERP was a technology called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR, by acronym). Fully $3 billion of the price tag was aimed toward sinking 300 wells to store “excess” water in the hydrological equivalent of political sausage grinders. These wells, it was asserted with confidence, would replace the need for taking hundreds of thousands of acres out of sugar production. (The single federal agency qualified to judge the utility of applying ASR wells in Florida, the United States Geological Survey or USGS, was not consulted in the plan’s formulation.) In theory, ASR wells provided a vertical plane to store vast quantities of water instead of the horizontal plane: taking private lands in sugar cane production for surface water storage.
For ASR to work, Governor Bush attempted a significant re-write of Florida water quality law. In April 2001, Sierra Club issued a state-wide alarm: “The Florida Legislature is now considering a law that would eliminate the standards for total coliform and other biological and chemical contaminants in our underground drinking water supply when water is pumped down from the surface. Our drinking water supply, the Florida Aquifer, would become a septic tank.”
What did Big Sugar want? Simple. Big Sugar had an extraordinarily profitable and successful business model based on taxpayer subsidies and the support of the Florida legislature, Congress, and the White House. Sugar gets what it wants, when it wants, and any regulatory initiative that begins to tamper with that model — given its de minimus contributions in the form of “best farming practices” — is anathema.
The public outcry in 2001 against changing state water quality standards forced a rare policy retreat (one legislator in Georgia, when she heard of the Florida plan to store contaminated water in drinking water aquifers, trenchantly called the Jeb Bush plan “dumber than dirt”.) Bush was furious with environmentalists and never again acknowledged Sierra Club or its role in the hearts and minds of Florida voters. Nevertheless, ASR remained the “driver” of Everglades restoration plans for years within agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers and EPA even while the scheme retreated further and further into the background. Its leaders on the ground and in Washington knew better than buck political orthodoxies in Florida.
As a supporter of the 2000 Everglades restoration plan, Congressman Clay Shaw accepted aquifer storage and recovery and, like other political officials, had little complaint if the state moved in the direction of simplifying permitting. The Everglades were dying — they are always dying — and changes had to be made even if the water, first injected and later recovered, contained fecal matter, arsenic, or carcinogens. The Bush lieutenants were deaf to entreaties by environmentalists pleading for a Plan B. At any rate, the events of September 2001 shoved environmental issues into deep and distant pastures. Suddenly Floridians were preoccupied with terror and Al Qaeda jihadists letting off steam in Fort Lauderdale strip clubs before knocking down the World Trade Towers.
Meanwhile Big Sugar planned its next attack: to re-write pollution standards for the Everglades without upsetting the 1994 settlement agreement between the state and federal government. The opening of this new front against the Everglades was rationalized as progress by Gov. Bush. In early 2003, Big Sugar flooded Tallahassee capitol hallways with lobbyists.  ”Now the sugar brigade has stormed Tallahassee to try to muck up the Everglades Forever Act, the very cleanup bill that has worked such wonders that Big Sugar pushed it through the Florida Legislature nearly a decade ago. In addition to moving the cleanup deadline back from 2006 to 2026, the industry’s bill would have weakened the phosphorus standard from 10 to 15 ppb, prevented the state from converting any more sugar fields into artificial marshes, and basically eliminated any threat of enforcement. “An absolute betrayal,” says Charles Lee, an Audubon Society lobbyist who has worked on Everglades issues for 30 years.” (Sugar Plum, Michael Grunwald, The New Republic, April 24, 2003)
That spring, Congressman Shaw was chairman of the Florida congressional delegation and point person for federal Everglades funding. He confronted the Bush political camp.
Joined by fellow Republican Congressman Porter Goss, Shaw strongly objected to the draft Bush legislation, saying it was “inconsistent” with both the Everglades Forever Act and the 1992 court settlement. The bill “creates significant ambiguity and diminishes the standard” for water quality, would “have negative impacts” on Interior Department resources, “limit the state’s ability” to protect the Everglades environment and “does not reflect state intent to fully fund water-quality improvements.” Shaw met with the leaders of the Florida legislature and with Governor Bush. (Governor Must Veto Glades Clean Up Bill, Key West Citizen, 4/30/2003)
Unaccustomed to heresy within GOP ranks, Bush accused Shaw in the press of being uninformed. (Bush: Sugar bill no Glades Threat, Miami Herald, April 8, 2003) Shaw ratcheted up his response. In a letter to the Florida legislature, Goss and Shaw called the legislation a potential “fatal error”. “Only a few years ago, following months of negotiations, a diverse group of stakeholders reached a consensus that ensures the long term protection and habitat of the Everglades… ” (“Congressmen warn state about tinkering with Everglades, AP, April 4, 2003)
In the middle of the legislative session, Judge Hoeveler called for a hearing — at which Congressman Shaw testified — , cutting through criticisms leveled by Bush lieutenants like FDEP Secretary David Struhs in lockstep with sugar industry spokesmen who derided environmentalists for being “Chicken Littles” and “crying wolf”.
On May 9th, Judge Hoeveler issued an extraordinary order: “This Cause comes before the Court upon a hearing held on May 2, 2003 called by this Court to address state legislation concerning the Everglades restoration efforts which, as of the date of this Order, the bill in question had not yet been signed by the Governor into law. The Court now feels compelled to comment on the present situation, and take action, as described … During the hearing, the state parties repeatedly reassured this Court that the new state legislation, should it become law, will have no effect on the hard-won agreement reached by the parties more than a decade ago, and entered by this Court as a Consent Decree. To be clear, I wish to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that insofar as the new legislation, proves inconsistent with the Decree, the parties’ obligations as yet forth in the Decree remain unaltered. The agreement embodied in that Decree remains binding upon the parties, and I intend to enforce it as it currently reads, unqualified. This Court does not yet have cause to attempt to apply the legislation, and I sincerely hope I am never obliged to do so, for the bill is clearly defective in many respects. The loose language it employs in describing compliance with its own mandates, such as “”maximum extent practicable,” robs it of meaning or binding effect. It opens the door to ten or more extra years with no showing that such a lengthy extension is necessary. While I am deeply troubled by the content of the bill, I am dismayed by the process that led to its passage. The bill was moved quickly through the legislative process, reportedly at the behest of more then forty lobbyists for the sugar industry. There simply is no acceptable explanation for the speed by which this was accomplished, given the fact that the deadlines remain three and a half years off and given the State’s assurances much of the cleanup project is proceeding on track. The important issues addressed, namely, the plan for funding and completing the restoration project, warranted serious consideration by Florida’s elected representatives. Moreover, the sponsors of the bill should have allowed time to consider input from the broad range of interests impacted. Yet the treatment of the bill seemed calculated to avoid federal participation or public scrutiny… In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection, I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land, but I do recognize the right to waste them or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
On May 20. 2003 Gov. Jeb Bush brushed off the federal judiciary and signed the Everglades bill into law. He also spurned a massive outcry by civic leaders, environmentalists and every newspaper editorial board in the state. In the Palm Beach Post Sally Swartz acidly observed, “… deluded officials, clueless legislators and a governor who won’t admit a mistake intend to “fix” the bad law with a still-secret new one. Sure they will.” (“Marketing the Everglades Bill, Palm Beach Post, May 21, 2003)
The controversy over the Jeb Bush/ Big Sugar attempt to change the Everglades Forever Act had deep repercussions. David Struhs, the Bush lieutenant who lied to the press that federal agencies had “approved” the proposed changes in order to speed the bill’s passage, eventually resigned. After objections by Big Sugar, Judge Hoeveler, one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary, was removed from Everglades litigation that remains the landmark of a storied career. The passage of the 2003 legislation lead to a new Clean Water Act lawsuit by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. In 2013, that litigation finally resulted in a major win for environmentalists and a settlement requiring, ultimately, more than $880 million in water treatment marshes to protect Everglades water quality. Although Governor Rick Scott claims credit for state commitment, in fact it was the result of another federal lawsuit. Big Sugar and the state of Florida continue to appeal the ruling by Hoeveler’s successor in Everglades related litigation, Judge Alan Gold.
In August 2003, Stephen Goldstein for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel wrote on Congressman Clay Shaw. (“Don’t let deal sour project”, Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, August 20, 2003): ”Big Sugar owns Jeb Bush and the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature — but not U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw. So, when the industry unleashed some 46 lobbyists to get a sweetheart bill passed giving it carte blanche to pollute the Everglades, elected officials of both parties melted. It was politics at its most saccharine in Tallahassee — but led to one of Shaw’s finest hours. ”I never read a worse drafted piece of legislation in my entire life,” says the Washington veteran, who ought to know good from bad after representing South Florida for nearly 23 years. He says it was full of “weasel-words,” that turned previously negotiated timetables and standards holding Big Sugar accountable for Everglades clean-up into gaping loopholes allowing for the dumping of deadly phosphorous willy-nilly. ”No one will confess to authorship of this bill,” Shaw adds, aghast at the machinations of members of his own party. “This legislation puts greater burden on the taxpayer. It’s a new tax. It flies in the face of the mandate from the electorate that polluters pay. It’s an incredible thing — one industry’s hold on Florida. I would never have believed it.” … He pledges that he’ll “never give up on the Everglades”; it’s his “passion”: “As long as I live and breathe, I’ll be devoted to cleaning up and preserving it.” The River of Grass is “full of life”; “we’ve messed it up, but we have no right to change the cycle of life” there. He says he’s “been around long enough to know you don’t pick up your marbles and go home. You keep moving. The game is never over.”
In the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel obituary for the late congressman, Jeb Bush praised Shaw, “… as being an an ally on Everglades restoration. “Politics doesn’t have to be about elbows and knees and mean-spiritedness,” Bush said.
The record — on both Jeb Bush and Clay Shaw — shows otherwise, although Shaw was never mean-spirited.
In 2006 I wrote to a colleague, “I’ve seen Clay Shaw at work in federal court, defying Jeb Bush on the Everglades and it was a sight to behold. He deserves our gratitude: I can’t think of another Republican from Florida who has taken as many real risks as Shaw in defense of the Everglades.” That November Congressman Clay Shaw was defeated by a Democrat who received campaign finance support from Big Sugar. While Shaw died after a long battle with lung cancer, the battle he will be best remembered for, goes on.
Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades


FEMA coincidentally redraws flood maps as Lake O. teeters on edge of disaster
Florida Weekly – by Roger Williams
Septrember 19, 2013
At the watery end of the rainiest summer in years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has come calling on South Florida with plans for new flood-risk maps.
Property owners who find themselves in the red zones of the new maps are likely to have to pay more for flood insurance in the future. Conversely, some property may be drawn out of high-risk zones, and thus have the chance to pay less, officials say.
FEMA will reveal the new map proposals at public meetings this week in Martin, Okeechobee, Glades and Hendry counties in the central and eastern peninsula near Lake Okeechobee; Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties on the southwest coast, meanwhile, have more contemporary maps that were redrawn in recent years — with some troubling and unanticipated effects.
Is bad water management the reason for the new maps, and thus a chance for federally mandated insurance companies to make a lot more money?
“No,” says Sarah Heard, a Martin County commissioner and clean-water advocate.
“We’ve been begging for revised FEMA maps for a decade. This is just the federal government moving slowly. We knew the old maps were obsolete — these new maps are way more accurate, and we can provide protection for people who need it most.”
The coincidence of excess water and FEMA, however, is startling. Flood risk, along with polluted estuaries and the potential for choking algae blooms, is now significantly more visible on both the east and west coasts of Florida from Orlando southward, in part because of huge volumes of water that came into and were released out of Lake Okeechobee during the summer.
On the west side of the lake, in Lee County, Commissioner Frank Mann says new maps may help better define areas at risk to floods, but they can create some terrible legal payback from property owners dissatisfied with the FEMA analysis.
His experience might serve as a caveat for those in other counties.
“Almost three years ago, we adopted the latest FEMA maps, with flood zones for Lee County. When we did that, it affected our comprehensive plan, and made some areas undevelopable.
“Those landowners sued us for millions of dollars and won, as if we had stolen their properties. Now we’re appealing it. But if we lose…”
Both Commissioner Heard on the east and Commissioner Mann on the west agree that the fixes to Florida’s water system remain years — decades or a century, they say — in the future.
Which echoes the judgment of Clewiston Mayor Phillip Roland, who has spent almost 40 years in public service in the middle of the state and at the base of Lake Okeechobee, watching his lake and his town become increasingly inundated by troubled waters.
As for the insurance issue, he says, “the new flood maps may be needed because the Corps of Engineers won’t certify the dike — so yes, property owners are going to have to pay more money. If the Corps keeps the level of the lake at the level that they set (no higher than 15.5 feet, a level exceeded by almost a foot this summer), then they should be able to certify the dike.”
The problem, in his eyes, is the Kissimmee River basin to the north, where water that once took five or six months to reach the lake now takes two days. The water from there also comes in much greater volume, filling the lake much faster than engineers can release water east and west.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when the Kissimmee is going to start to flow,” says Mayor Roland. “If they start releasing in front of that flow, they wouldn’t have to blow these estuaries like they do.”
And, he concludes, it would help if the cow country to the north of the lake was used to hold water, instead of feeding more than half-a-million cows.
For Commissioner Heard, Commissioner Mann and many others like them, only two things are required for a big fix: time and money.
“In Martin County we are on the brink of collapse,” explains Commissioner Heard. “We first passed a resolution here telling the then-regulators stop these discharges — they were killing our economy, our shrimp, our oysters, our fish — in 1930. There are comprehensive solutions and they will take many years and billions of dollars to restore the ecosystem.”
It started, says Commissioner Mann, a century ago.
“It took us 100 years for the federal and state police to severely damage the water’s natural systems,” he notes. “And it’s going to take us most of the next hundred years to restore it — and it will never be restored completely.
“Having played this game since 1974 (when Commissioner Mann became a state legislator), I’ve heard all the quick solutions, and I’ve heard them all restated in the last two months. It all gets down to money.”


Meeting Thursday in Stuart to discuss plan to send some Lake O water south
TCPalm - by staff
September 19, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will meet today in Stuart to discuss the draft report for the Central Everglades Planning Project and give interested individuals, groups and agencies an opportunity to comment and ask questions.
The project's goal is to capture water lost to tide and redirect the water flow south to restore the central and southern Everglades ecosystem and Florida Bay. The corps is jointly conducting this planning effort with the South Florida Water Management District.
Diverting Lake Okeechobee Water
What: Public meeting to discuss the $1.8 billion Central Everglades Planning Project, which would divert about 65.2 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water south each year rather than east to the St. Lucie Estuary and west to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
Where: Wolf High-Technology Center on the Chastain Campus of Indian River State College, 2400 S.E. Salerno Road in Stuart
Who: Host is U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
When: Sept. 19. It begins with an open house at 6:30 p.m., followed by formal presentations and public comments from 7 to 9 p.m.
About the project: It would use land south of the lake that’s already in public hands. It is scheduled to take at least 10 years to complete.
The amount of water it would divert is less than half of the nearly 143.4 billion gallons of water discharged to the St. Lucie each year from Lake Okeechobee. The Caloosahatchee gets almost 326 billion gallons of the polluted water annually.
Background: At their Aug. 15 meeting, the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors tentatively approved the corps’ draft plan for the project, setting in motion a complicated process — including the public meetings, — designed to have it included in the federal Water Resources Development Act that Congress is considering.
Other information: View the draft implementation report and environmental impact statement.
Public comments on the report will be accepted through Oct. 15.
Comments can be submitted electronically to or mailed to Gretchen Ehlinger, Army Corps of Engineers, P.O. Box 4970, Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019.


State plan to get rid of Broward, Palm Beach land raises concerns
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
September 19, 2013
Fear of "For Sale" signs popping up on publicly owned land in Palm Beach and Broward counties is raising concerns about Florida sacrificing more open spaces for development.
Statewide budget-cutting has the South Florida Water Management District considering selling, trading or otherwise disposing of about 21,000 acres of potentially "surplus" land.
That includes nearly 1,000 acres in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, alongside the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The district's surplus list also includes about 30 acres alongside Broward County's Everglades Holiday Park.
Environmental groups say that the district holding onto land is a good use of taxpayer-owned property; protecting both dwindling wildlife habitat and strained underground water supplies.
"Any acre of land that is not covered by concrete is your core mission. It is recharging the aquifer," Laura Reynolds of the Tropical Audubon Society in Miami-Dade County told the district board.
District officials say they aren't just unloading the public's land for the benefit of developers. The district plans to first offer the land to counties and other local or state government agencies for continued public use. While private suitors are interested, the district also could end up keeping its proposed surplus properties.
The idea is to get rid of land that no longer fits into the district's plans for building water management structures or for environmental restoration efforts.
"It's important [to] look at our resources and figure out how to prioritize," district board Chairman Daniel O'Keefe said.
In addition to guarding against flooding, protecting drinking water supplies and leading Everglades restoration, the South Florida Water Management District also happens to be one of the biggest landowners in Florida. The district owns or controls nearly 1.5 million acres of land spread across a 16-county region from Orlando to the Keys.
Under orders from state lawmakers to cut costs, the district since April 2012 has been conducting a review of about half of its land holdings to look for surplus opportunities. Of that property under review, the district's board on Sept. 12 OK'd exploring the potential sale, trade or donation of about 21,000 acres.
Any sales, trades or other disposal of district property would still have to go back before the board for approval.
Broward County officials already have told the district they want the 32 acres bisected by Griffin Road, near Everglades Holiday Park. The property could become an extension of the park.
The district's 994 acres in Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve that have been offered up as surplus are wedged between State Road 7 and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge — the northern reaches of the Everglades.
The Agricultural Reserve includes 21,000 acres of prime farmland west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, where the county has been trying to maintain land for farming amid encroaching development.
The county has spent $100 million of taxpayer money buying up about 2,400 acres in the Agricultural Reserve in a voter-approved program to protect farmland from development.
The district's land in the Agricultural Reserve is now being used by a horse-training facility, vegetable farm and a 313-acre county park. Environmental groups worry that a change in ownership could open portions of the property to more homes.
"It's a very important buffer to the Loxahatchee wildlife refuge," said Drew Martin, of the Sierra Club. "It is very important that this land be maintained."
Palm Beach County already has joint ownership of the 571 acres of vegetable farms and operates the park on 313 acres of the proposed surplus properties; making a potential sale to any interested developers more difficult.
Yet public trust remains frayed from past district land deals as well as Palm Beach County zoning decisions allowing development to spread in the Agricultural Reserve, according to Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center.
During South Florida's building boom, GL Homes paid about $10 million to buy the development rights of water district land in the Ag Reserve to increase the number of homes the company could build in the farming area.
"We want to make sure that whatever the district does with this land, it doesn't result in more homes directly adjacent to the refuge or within the Ag Reserve," Interlandi said.


What the Dutch can teach us about sea level rise – by Rick Stone
September 19, 2013
American scientists and engineers have been comparing notes with Dutch counterparts over the problem they both have: how to protect their low lands from rising sea levels.
In the U.S., it’s treated as a new problem. But the Dutch stopped panicking about sea level rise about 800 years ago and began to address it systematically.
Dikes and levies are a big part of the plan. But the Netherlands has also learned to pick its fights, and even let the water win sometimes.
Flood control is second nature to powerful local water authorities that have the power to veto development plans that lack flood provisions.
"In the U. S., that just wouldn't happen," said economist Dale Morris who works for the Dutch embassy in Washington, D. C.
In the U.S., it’s treated as a new problem. But the Dutch stopped panicking about sea level rise about 800 years ago and began to address it systematically.
At a sea level seminar in Miami Beach, Morris said Americans need to evolve in their approach to sea level rise as the Dutch have for generations.
"The Americans tend to work ad hoc or they look at a problem on a smaller, near-term basis. they don't look at the integration of the water system as a whole," Morris said.
But if they did, sea level rise -- at least in South Florida -- might look a lot less scary. Florida Atlantic University engineer Fred Bloetscher said the gradual inundation from the sea -- the doomsday scenario that most of us imagine -- is not the real problem.
It's the integrated system.
"For the majority of people in Florida, sea level will manifest itself as the ground water rises," Bloetscher said. "So, it's kind of an attack from below. You'll notice neighborhoods flood more often."
And that could lead to solutions such as neighborhood-scale water plants that turn storm water into drinking water, or send it underground or into the Everglades. By then, we'll be coping with a higher sea level instead of waiting for it... and, if the Dutch can be persuasive, thinking about it in new and more effective ways.
Climate science: Rising tide


Congress set to bless Okeechobee reservoir project
September 18, 2013
Bill would OK $297 million to capture water from Lake O.
WASHINGTON — Southwest Florida’s long-sought remedy to the brackish Gulf water spoiling local beaches is getting a boost this week.
A House committee is expected to approve a massive water infrastructure bill today that would authorize $297 million for construction of a reservoir to capture fresh water released from Lake Okeechobee during flooding caused by excessive rain.
The C-43 reservoir would end the practice of pumping the water down the Caloosahatchee River, carrying mud, plant material and fertilizers downstream to Southwest Florida beaches. Instead, the reservoir would hold up to 55 billion gallons of water just south of the Caloosahatchee in Hendry County.
The project has the strong backing of Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, who told reporters Wednesday the reservoir would help stop “the filthy, dirty, coffee-brown, disgusting water that is absolutely killing our economy.”
The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the water infrastructure bill in May. Its measure also would authorize the C-43 reservoir as part of a broad restoration of the Everglades.
Even if the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves the bill, the reservoir is not a done deal.
The full House would probably not vote on the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) until at least October. Assuming it passes, the House and Senate would have to reconcile their different versions before sending a final bill to President Barack Obama for signing.
Then there’s the issue of finding the money. The WRDA bill authorizes but does not appropriate funding.
About $100 million, most of it state money, has been spent buying land and designing the reservoir. Because the cost of such projects is split equally between federal and state partners, Washington will be asked to cover most of the remaining $500 million needed to build it, said Kurt Harclerode, operations manager at the Lee County Natural Resources Department.
There’s no assurance Congress will approve the money soon, especially with the possibility of a federal government shutdown as Democrats and Republicans feud over the 2010 health care reform law and spending. Harclerode said the project may not be finished for at least a decade.
Still, he said, today’s vote will signal a milestone for a project that’s been in the planning stage since the late 1990s and has involved a number of competing interests, including farmers who use the water for agricultural operations.
“These projects take a long time, but we keep pushing that rock up the hill and this is the next step to get to the final goal,” he said.
The C-43 reservoir is not the only project important to Southwest Florida that’s in the water resources bill the House will vote on today.
The measure also would give Collier County more control and input in replenishing and maintaining its beaches. And it would allow for the Picayune Strand, a forest and wildlife area east of Naples, to seek more government funding to expand preservation efforts.
Cong. Radel Optimistic about Water Bill to pay for Reservoir          Wink News


Exercise land purchase option to finalize Lake O solution
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin - by Ray Judah, a former Lee County Commissioner and long-time environmental activist
September 18, 2013
The recent press conference held in Fort Myers by Gov. Scott to announce a joint agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Interior to fund the construction of 2.5 miles of bridging along the Tamiami Trail, to enhance water flow to the Everglades, was a wonderful example of the state and federal government continuing to work together on behalf of Everglades restoration.
The bridging is a component of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which is a state and federal initiative to use land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
When completed CEPP is expected to provide for the conveyance of approximately 220,000 acre feet of water south to the Everglades. An acre foot is essentially one foot of water covering an acre.
Gov. Scott and the State Legislature now have a tremendous opportunity to finalize the most critical piece of the Everglades restoration puzzle by moving forward with exercising the state's option, created several years ago, to purchase U.S. Sugar land holdings. The three- year option on 153,209 acres at $7,400 per acre expires Oct 2013. The state would still have an opportunity to acquire U.S. Sugar lands after October but, at a much higher price and having to compete with other potential buyers. To place things in perspective, CEPP is expected to cost approximately $2.6 billion and the entire comprehensive Everglades restoration efforts is expected to cost approximately $16 billion over 30 years.
It is interesting to note, that in 2005, the east and west releases from Lake Okeechobee amounted to 2.6 million acre feet. This totaled 855 billion gallons of turbid fresh water containing excess nutrients and other contaminants. The coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida sustained unprecedented damages to sea grass and fisheries and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie were covered with toxic blue-green algae. Health Department officials warned citizens not to touch the water. Threats of serious health problems were cited.
River and estuary damages are certain to occur repeatedly under present drainage structures and practices. Restoration of the historic southern flow-way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is the most cost effective and efficient solution to alleviating the destruction of the rivers and east-west estuaries that were once acclaimed as the most bountiful in the nation.
The purchase of U.S. Sugar lands is absolutely critical to recreate a flow way through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee to redirect the massive release of lake water that continues to cause adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
Our extremely wet summer rainy season of 2013 is shaping up like 2005 and with CEPP, including the bridging, conveying only approximately 10 percent of lake water to the south, it is imperative that the state acquire additional lands for the necessary storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
Gov. Scott should declare a state of emergency given the devastating economic and environmental impacts to the west and east coast communities of south Florida and schedule a Special Session with the Legislature to investigate options to acquire the U.S. Sugar lands. Such action would help bring to an end decades of degradation to our rivers, coastal estuaries and Florida Everglades. Bond financing, BP oil spill disaster funds dedicated to Florida under the Restore Act, or the re-prioritization of the South Florida Water Management District's Capital Improvement Program would provide the necessary funds to enable the state to exercise the land purchase option.
The final ingredient to "getting the water right" is the political will to complete the final phase of Everglades restoration.


Experts warn of health hazards associated with water releases - by Steve Campion, Reporter
September 18, 2013
The fresh water rushing down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee does more than make our coastline murky.
Leading environmental experts warn the dirty water could also bring a potential health hazard.
Visitors on Sanibel Causeway Wednesday afternoon said the shorelines were not too inviting.
"It is not very pretty. We were surprised when we got here," said Cris Lewin.
Lewin and her sister-in-law Nikki Gordon told us you can't even see what you're stepping into off our shores.
At first glance, the water just seemed discolored. WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral
Environmentalists counter it is polluted and when you start to examine what is actually in the water, you realize why the Caloosahatchee River was once called one of the most endangered waterways in the United States.
Rae Ann Wessel with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation told us the billions of gallons of fresh water wash in potentially harmful nutrients and chemicals.
"People should be cautious," said Wessel. "This is water that has a history. It has nitrogen and phosphorus. It has pesticides, herbicides, oils and greases."
She explained not a drop of the water gets treated before being dumped into the Caloosahatchee River unlike water sent south into the Everglades National Park.
Department of Health experts counter you can swim. They report bacteria levels remain safe.
South Florida Water Management officials said Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River are monitored for nutrient levels. They said some parts of the estuary remain in poor health while other areas are bouncing back given the slowdown in releases.
Heavy rain to bring more Lake O discharges to toxic waters WPEC
Continued rain could mean more Lake O discharges, runoff in St ...            Fort Pierce Tribune

Florida waiting for federal water resources funds
Miami Herald – by Dominic Calabro, President and chief executive officer of Florida TaxWatch
September 18, 2013
Florida is making the most of its 14 deepwater ports with investments aimed at improving the state’s competitiveness in the global economy. Florida’s port expansion plans will create a more efficient freight-handling system and make the state more attractive to companies interested in relocating to Florida.
Floridians will benefit from port expansion with lower transportation costs and state and local governments will benefit from additional tax revenues.
However, there is one obstruction affecting the process of improving Florida’s ports: The federal government must approve port projects before they can be done, whether or not federal funds are used in the project.
The U.S. Senate recently passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which now is being considered in the House. This bill, if passed, would have several positive effects on Florida, including: authorization for important projects such as Everglades restoration; spending for maintenance dredging projects; and expansion of a public-private partnership (P3) pilot financing program for navigation, flood and storm projects
Passage of the WRDA will complement the substantial investments Florida already has made to improve the quality of its ports system — identified as being critical to realizing Florida’s goal of becoming the premier trade hub for U.S. trade with Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions of the world. Investments in Florida’s port system have encouraged private-sector investments in logistics capacity in our state.
Maximizing the benefits of both public and private-sector investments depends on proper coordination so that benefits of other components of the logistics system can create efficiencies. These efficiencies are critical for Florida’s recovery from the recent recession, which had a severe impact on the state.
There are two steps to getting a federal project done under the WRDA. First, the project must be authorized, then the project funds must be appropriated. The uncertainty associated with federal appropriations has caused Florida to commit state funds to projects in both Miami and Jacksonville because of their importance in improving Florida’s competitiveness in the world. Under the WRDA, the Miami dredging project would receive a federal appropriation that would reimburse the state, as Florida has already paid the federal portion so that PortMiami will be ready for post-Panamax ships when the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014. The Miami and Jacksonville projects, along with important projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP, authorized in WRDA 2000), are important to Florida’s business and environmental future.
Funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund would be required to be spent in the same year they are collected and be fully spent on harbor and port operation and maintenance if the WRDA is passed. This would require the fees paid for port use to be spent on upkeep of ports and not for other purposes. This will help Florida ports continue to improve their efficiency and compete against ports in other states.
Passage of the WRDA will make Florida’s transportation and logistics system more efficient and create jobs in our state. Florida’s U.S. senators and representatives should support the WRDA to help Florida’s competitiveness in the world economy.
Spend Florida's expected budget surplus ... Miami Herald Editorial in Bradenton Herald


WRRDA bill is essential to health of SW Fla's environment and economy – by Kevin Lollar
September 18, 2013
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act might not sound sexy, U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, said Wednesday during a conference call, but it’s essential to the health of Southwest Florida’s environment and economy.
Commonly called WRRDA, the bill will be voted on this week in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Among other things, WRRDA would be the final authorization for the $580 million C-43 West Basin Reservoir off State Road 80 in Hendry County – the federal government would pay $297 million of the cost.
The reservoir would hold 55 billion gallons of water from the Caloosahatchee River during wet periods, thus preventing that nutrient-rich fresh water from flowing downstream to cause harmful algal blooms and other environmental problems in the estuary.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been criticized for spending too much time studying projects before starting them.
Part of WRRDA’s goal is to cut the red tape and bureaucracy and streamline the way the Corps initiates and completes projects such as the C-43 reservoir.
“I promise that if there are any delays once the bill is passed, if there are any more holdups from the Army Corps of Engineers, it won’t just be my voice getting very loud,” Radel said.


Adena Springs
Adena Springs

Listen to Interviews:

Dennis Baxley

Bob King

Adena Springs faces deadline on water use permit - by Yelena Orrelly and Donna Green-Townsend
September 17, 2013
Update Tuesday 10:03 a.m.: Adena Springs Ranch’s third Request for the Additional Information Letter (RAI) has been extended to Dec. 11.
Hank Largen, spokesperson for the St. John’s River Water Management District, said his staff still needs more information to decide whether to approve the consumptive use permit. The district wants Adena Springs to conduct tests to explore what changes withdrawing water would have on the environment.
He said the ranch is currently requesting for 5.3 million gallons of water a day, less than their previous request of 13 million gallons of water a day.
Original story: The Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County faced a deadline Monday in its efforts to obtain a consumptive use permit from the St. John’s River Water Management District.
The ranch’s owners must respond to its third Request for Additional Information Letter (RAI) from the St. John’s River Water Management District. District spokesman Hank Largen said he expects Adena Springs to respond because Adena staff have been in communication with his staff.
“Our staff is working with them, we’re in contact with them. They’re asking questions on what information we need so they’re either going to supply the requested information or they’re going to request an extension on the time frame,” Largen said.
It has been nearly two years since Adena Springs Ranch requested a consumptive use permit for an allocation of more than 13 million gallons of water per day for its cattle grazing operation. In that time, there have been many conflicting opinions from Marion County residents on the permit request.
The water management district has received nearly 6,000 pieces of correspondence from both sides in regard to the permit.
Bob Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, Bob Knight, opposes the permit.
“I do not think it’s a wise thing for Marion County to support because it basically competes with Marion County’s ability to get water in the future, or development, and it makes Silver Springs even sicker than it is already,” said Knight.
According to Knight, Adena Ranch threatens Silver Springs in two ways: water flow reduction and an increase in nitrates caused by Adena clearing trees on their land.
While some are concerned about the negative environmental effects of the Adena Springs proposal, others like state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-District 23) think there is a happy medium that can be reached.
“I think there’s a healthy balance of discussion about protecting our resources, our natural resources and being good managers of that,” Baxley said. “And at the same time understanding here’s a man that has invested in 25,000 acres and wants to do something, I would rather have grazing cattle than another huge subdivision.”
Meanwhile, Knight said he’s worried Adena Springs may get a permit because the district is feeling pressured.
“I think they’re between a rock and a hard place on this, and it’s going to be politically very difficult not to issue a permit. So, I’m not optimistic that a permit won’t be issued. I hope it will be a very small quantity of water and I would really like to see it offset by groundwater reductions elsewhere,” he said.
If the Adena Springs staff provides all the information requested, Largen said his staff will begin the process of finalizing the application and making a decision. But Adena Springs still has the option of asking for an extension to its RAI letter. The last extension gave the company 120 days.
Adena staff did not respond to WUFT’s multiple requests for comment.
Full Interviews with Dennis Baxley and Bob Knight
WUFT’s Donna Green-Townsend talked with both Republican State Representative Dennis Baxley from Ocala and the Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, Bob Knight about both sides of the controversial cattle operation.
Representative Baxley says he believes Frank Stronach is a good environmental steward.  He also says a cattle ranch would be a better use of the property than another large retirement community like “Top of the World.”
Knight said he doesn’t feel Adena Springs Ranch needs the water when it could be utilizing other conservation measures by storing rainfall and other techniques. He said the aquifer has not recovered from over pumping that has already occurred from a wide variety of industries, including agricultural use.  He’s worried the St. John’s River Water Management District will feel pressured to give a consumptive use permit to the Adena Springs Ranch because Stronach has spent a lot of money in the community.
Download interviews:
Dennis Baxley         Bob Knight


Additional meeting scheduled to discuss Central Everglades Planning Project
September 17, 2013
JACKSONVILLE -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has scheduled an additional public meeting to discuss the draft report for the Central Everglades Planning Project and give interested individuals, groups and agencies an opportunity to comment and ask questions.
The public meeting will be held Sept. 25 in Homestead, in addition to the four public meetings being held this week throughout south Florida as part of the public meeting series. Each meeting will host an open house from 6:30 to 7 p.m., followed by formal presentations and public comments from 7 to 9 p.m.
Sept. 16: Sheraton Suites Plantation in the Plantation I/II Room, 311 N. University Drive, Plantation
Sept. 17: SFWMD Lower West Coast Service Center, 2301 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Sept. 18: SFWMD Governing Board Auditorium, Building B-1, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach
Sept. 19: Susan H. Johnson Auditorium, Wolf High-Technology Center, Indian River State College, Chastain Campus, 2400 S.E. Salerno Road, Stuart
Sept. 25: John D. Campbell Agricultural Center Auditorium, 18710 S.W. 288th St., Homestead
The Draft Integrated Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the Central Everglades Planning Project is available online for public review at: Public comments on the draft report will be accepted through Oct. 15.
Comments can be submitted electronically to: or mailed to:
Dr. Gretchen Ehlinger
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019
The goal of the Central Everglades Planning Project is to capture water lost to tide and re-direct the water flow south to restore the central and southern Everglades ecosystem and Florida Bay. The Corps is jointly conducting this planning effort with the South Florida Water Management District.
Additional information on the Central Everglades Planning Project is available at:


Broward Mayors' climate change plans sound laughably inadequate - by Deirdra Funcheon
September 17 2013
Ninety-five percent of scientists now agree that global warming is a scientific fact -- and , as one particularly terrifying Rolling Stone article explained in June, "South Florida is uniquely screwed, in part because about 75 percent of the 5.5 million people in South Florida live along the coast." We're looking at anything from three to 16 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, depending on which scientists you trust.
Forget reinforcing beaches with sand -- there is so little sand available for renourishment that experts are looking at creating fake sand out of glass. Our peninsula can't be fenced in with dikes like Copenhagen -- its size makes that impractical. In Miami, experts are taking about raising all the roads and building an elevated city (though they're not sure what to do with the Turkey Point nuclear facility). The Rolling Stone author predicted that costs of insuring and reinforcing everything would drive people away before anything, and the city was doomed.
And in Broward ?
Yesterday, mayors from cities throughout the county met for a Broward Mayors' Roundtable on Climate Change.
Well, at least they met.
According to a press release put out after the meeting, Broward County mayor Kristin Jacobs hosted. "No one ever talked about climate change or sea level rise, before Mayor Kristin Jacobs was elected to the Broward Commission," noted Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.
From the press release:
City mayors noted environmental projects in their cities ranging from wind turbines to building natural compressed gas plants. The consensus: the need for collaboration, funding and public education.
"We need to talk about coordination and communication. We have a $3 million federal grant for storm water improvements. What wasn't communicated was planning for sea level rise fifty years from now. If we don't, we'll be building every twenty to thirty years," said Oakland Park Mayor John Adornato III.
"We're building a new walkable community from east to west Commercial Boulevard. Businesses have joined us. We'll have wide sidewalks, trellises, and trees," said Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Roseanne Minnet who talked about the economic benefits of a community appealing to residents and attractive to tourists.
A number of mayors agreed that educating the public about conservation investments was a challenge.
"Plantation imposed a storm water management fee of thirty dollars per year," said Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic. "We needed the money to maintain and sustain our flood water management." Not all residents were in favor.
Mayors of coastal cities noted the impact of sea level rise on beaches and the need for shoreline protection. "We're putting efforts into moving water out," said Hollywood Mayor Richard Blattner.
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper noted that her city was spending $15 million on energy improvements that included use of water management, conservation, wastewater uses and a locale for a planned compressed natural gas plant.
Well, if trellises on Commercial Boulevard don't save us, perhaps someone at the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, set for November 7-8 in Fort Lauderdale, has some better ideas. Even they are predicting a one- to two-foot sea level rise by 2060, a 3- to 6.5 foot rise by 2100.


Rising up - like the
French on barricades
(in 1848) ?

Choking on algae and anger, Floridians rise up (blog) – by David Guest
September 17, 2913
Toxic algae, caused by runoff, spreads widely into communities.
This fall, as fluorescent green toxic algae continues to break out in front of pricey waterfront homes along South Florida’s Treasure Coast (north of Palm Beach), and around the southwest tourist meccas of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, there’s an explosion of citizen protest and lot of talk about moving the polluted water somewhere else, please.
What we need to talk about is cleaning the water up, not just moving it around. Our government has the power to do this, but instead, all that leaders suggest is more engineering to move the polluted swill from one place to another. It’s wrong-headed, and it needs to stop. They need to hold polluters accountable.
Here’s the deal: The sickening toxic algae outbreaks now ruining some of Florida’s most lovely coastal communities come from sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff. In South Florida, the fertilizer-laden swill comes from huge corporate agricultural operations, namely, Big Sugar, Big Vegetable, and Big Cattle. These are businesses which provide something we all want. But that doesn’t give them a free pass to use our public waters as their private sewer.
Our government now spends our tax dollars operating government canals that move agricultural waste into rivers that lead to Lake Okeechobee, the big hole you see northwest of Miami on maps of the Florida peninsula. Then, the government moves the contaminated lake water into canals that spew the filth to the estuaries on the east and west coasts.
The people along Florida’s sandy coasts have rallied by the thousands. They would prefer this water stay inland, thank you very much. They are dealing with dead fish, dolphin, birds, and manatees, unpotable water supplies and ruined tourism businesses. So, the current cry is to “move the water south” into the Everglades.
Here’s a better idea: Clean it up at the source.
Right this very moment, the government could be stopping this pollution by simply refusing to allow these private companies to dump polluted water into the public canals which the government operates with our tax dollars.
There should be specific, numeric limits—speed limit signs, with easy-to-read numbers—at each of these canals. If a corporation’s pollution level is over the limit, then the government should just refuse to move it into the government’s canal system. That will keep the pollution out of Lake Okeechobee and out of our estuaries.
The polluting agricultural corporations need to take personal responsibility too. You can’t throw your garbage over the fence onto your neighbor’s property. So you shouldn’t be able to dump your polluted water into public canals, rivers, and estuaries.
We’ve operated on this principal for years when it comes to municipal sewage. We passed laws which made it illegal for cities to dump untreated sewage into public waters. As we learn more about the effect this nutrient overloading has on ecosystems, we need to fine-tune these standards, and set proper limits.
That’s what we insisted on in 2009 when we forged our binding legal agreement (consent decree) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA agreed to set numeric limits in Florida to control the sewage, manure, and fertilizer pollution that sparks the algae outbreaks.
The EPA is now trying to wriggle out of its agreement, and we are in federal court, challenging the EPA’s outrageous attempt to alter the consent decree.
As I write this, I just received an email with a picture of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. It has the tell-tale green slime starting to break out. Too much phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, feeding nasty algae. Here we go again.


Congressman Radel's stance on Lake “O” release – by Nicole Papageorge
September 17, 2013
During a conference call by U.S. Congressman Trey Radel, the phone lines were packed. Many people in Southwest Florida had a lot to say, as the freshman lawmaker spoke about the harmful freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and the affects its having on the area.
"It is vital to our environment," Radel said, "And I can't stress this enough, this is vital for our economy. If we have people coming from Europe or from the mid-west who visit our beaches with dirty, filthy, coffee-like water, they're never going to return again."
The congressman is working to pass a bill to help with clean up efforts. He also mentioned the role Gov. Scott is playing in helping with cleaning things up.
"The governor is doing a great job too," Radel said, "by dedicating more resources of the state to ensure that we have clean water as well. Just a few weeks ago I was with the governor in downtown Fort Myers where he announced something like a $90 million project. Which, again, helps divert some of the water to help clean up ours and send it to an area where it can be naturally cleansed."
The "Water Resources and Reform and Development Act" bill will be voted on this week in the transportation and infrastructure committee.
The congressman says the bill will pass.


Long-term water release solution presented by Corps - by Laura Roberts, Reporter
September 17, 2013After a summer of looking at the murky Gulf water, we're all ready to hear about a fix. On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented one of its long-term solutions. This project is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
"I'm just concerned about the brown water," said Bill Larson, a Sanibel resident who attended the public meeting in Fort Myers.
Ultimately it will decrease the amount of water sent down the Caloosahatchee and dumped into the Gulf, but it's going to take a lot of time and in the end, it won't rid us of these releases completely.
"It's ugly; it's not pretty. We're used to seeing the crystal blue green waters that we always have," said Shane Spring of the Sanibel-Captiva Board of Realtors. At the meeting, the public got to take a closer look at one of the long term solutions as the Army Corps presented its draft of the Central Everglades Planning Project.
"I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the options for managing the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee," Larson said.
The $1.8 billion plan includes changes to canals, bridging and pump stations. Those are designed to increase water flow to the Everglades and decrease the amount flowing through the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie rivers.
"It's really a significant step forward to start to divert some of those flows that are going to the estuaries and moving them south," said Kim Taplin, Central Everglades Branch Chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District's Planning and Policy Division. Ultimately, the plan will decrease the flow to the Caloosahatchee by 25 percent.
"This is something we have to fix and we can't keep pacifying it every year," Spring said.
A draft of the project will likely be finalized later this year. The plan is to present it to Congress in the spring. Once it's funded, this long-term solution will take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to implement.

ASR pilot projects deliver hope to Lake Okeechobee deluge sufferers
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith
September 16, 2013
Dean Powell, director of the watershed management program at South Florida Water Management District, offered a promising status report last week on a little-known pilot program to store and convert bad water to good in the upper Lake Okeechobee basin.
The original Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan relied heavily on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) technology, though not everybody involved was a believer when CERP was approved in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. Nevertheless, Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the SFWMD, to undertake a pair of pilot projects to see how well the technology works, or if it would at all.
Addressing the governing board Thursday, Powell said the model ASR wells -- though challenges still exist -- have proved they "definitely should be kept in the toolbox of potential solutions" for storing and improving large volumes of water over longer periods of time. And they can increase water supplies during seasonal and multiyear droughts.
  ASR project
ASR "plants" have been used in Florida and throughout the United States for about 30 years, Powell said. What they do is to inject and recover treated and untreated groundwater, partially treated surface water and reclaimed wastewater.SFWMD officials say that after dealing with damaging freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee, what should catch everybody's attention is the technology itself, making it possible to store more water than a typical above-ground reservoir.
In fact, Ernie Barnett, aquatic biologist and assistant executive director of SFWMD, described ASR as the CERP feature that dealt with lake releases to the estuaries, and the two pilots are proving it can work as originally envisioned.
In the proper location, for example, where the Kissimmee River connects with Lake Okeechobee, the first pilot has been operational through several cycles. That facility actually stores 3,000-acre feet of water on a footprint of 2 acres with 100 percent recovery efficiency.
"A very large side benefit is that it is improving the water quality," Powell said. Inflow water comes in from the Kissimmee with 130-150 ppb phosphorous count, but goes out at between 10 and 30 ppb.
The second pilot, the Hillsboro ASR pilot, is newer. Well rehabilitation was required on the site. It has a lower recovery efficiency -- 40 percent at present -- because the aquifer is more saline. The system has had only three test cycles through 2012; its efficiency number should increase as time goes on, Powell said during his presentation.
Certainly there are challenges involved with ASR, but Powell and other scientists believe they can be overcome. Among them: initial monitoring is expensive; wells can be susceptible to clogging; and chemical reactions in the aquifer could produce arsenic, though that problem is among the easiest to resolve.
Each well costs about $4 million to construct, with a very small land footprint. Thus, land purchase is virtually negligible.
Powell says the groundwater model shows the aquifer can support 140 wells without losing its integrity.
Most ASR facilities in Florida, primarily owned by municipalities, store water in the upper Floridan Aquifer in areas where the aquifer is brackish. The injected fresh water displaces brackish water in the aquifer to form a "freshwater bubble."
Powell also gave his ASR presentation to the National Academy of Sciences when the group met in West Palm Beach on Tuesday.

New UF/IFAS survey: Floridians strongly support endangered species protections – UFnews
September 16th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians are ardent fans of endangered species and want to see them protected, even if it means fines for violators or restrictions on personal freedoms, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey finds.
In conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, an online survey of 499 Floridians last month found that survey respondents ranked the importance of endangered species as 11th out of 15 public issues, well behind topics such as the economy, health care and food safety.
But they were solid in their support of legal protections for endangered species of all kinds, including fines, restrictions on residential and commercial development and buying habitat for endangered species to ensure their survival.
Florida is home to 47 endangered animal species, such as the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee, and another 44 plant species, including the Key tree-cactus and pondberry.
When it comes to actions and behaviors that could protect endangered species, the survey found Floridians are more inclined to take some steps than others, said Tracy Irani, director of the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center, the research group that led the study.
“What we found, generally, is that people were most willing to avoid harmful activities such as avoiding buying invasive species or driving slower, than they were to do more active things, like supporting or belonging to an environmental group,” she said.
For instance, 55 percent of survey respondents reported they were “very likely” to avoid harmful activities, such as not releasing pets into the wild or taking care to not degrade endangered species’ habitat, while only 23 percent reported they would be similarly disposed to engage in environmental civic behavior, such as joining a conservation organization.
Other key findings from the survey of demographically representative Floridians:
*Sixty-six percent of respondents felt the Endangered Species Act should be strengthened.
*Seventy-eight percent agreed or strongly agreed that “the use and development of land should be restricted to protect endangered species.”
*Respondents were more likely to consider plants, fish and mammals worthy of being conserved than microorganisms, invertebrates and reptiles.
*Roughly twice as many respondents agreed or strongly agreed that agricultural and industrial chemicals and pollution pose a threat to endangered species than did those who cited legal fishing or hunting.
*Florida residents considered themselves only slightly or fairly knowledgeable about issues affecting endangered species, but they’re interested: 85 percent said they are likely or very likely to pay attention to news stories dealing with issues related to endangered species.
Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said it’s gratifying to see public support for the future welfare of the plants and animals in ecosystems.
And as the administrator who leads UF/IFAS, he said, there are many research and extension personnel dedicated to ensuring the preservation of biodiversity and that it’s good to see strong public support for that work.
“Florida is home to so many unique species of plants and animals, and it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to protect them,” Payne said.
The August survey was the third of four surveys PIE Center officials hope to conduct every year, to track public opinion on important agriculture and natural resources issues over time. Previous topics have included water and immigration. The fourth survey, expected later this year, will cover perceptions about food and agricultural practices.
The PIE Center will host a webinar on endangered species Wednesday.  To register, go to
For more information, visit




A laundry list for ultimately cleaning up the Everglades
Orlando Sentinel - by Maggy Hurchalla, Guest columnist and former five-term Martin County commissioner and a member of the earlier Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida
September 15, 2013
Dirty water flows into Lake Okeechobee in flood times at six times the rate it can be dumped back out.
Is that the whole problem and the place we should be concentrating our efforts ?
All the water users and all the drained land around the lake are the problem.
It's not just about what flows into the lake. It's about what can't flow out.
What flows from the drainage all around the lake, to the coast and to the Everglades, is too dirty, too much and too fast.
The whole plumbing system of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem is at fault.
The agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee gets blamed because it's huge and has huge impacts. The drainage water has to be cleaned up before it can be sent south.
Storing irrigation water in Lake Okeechobee means lake levels need to be kept higher. Then the lake needs to be dumped to the coastal estuaries.
The east and the west sides of the lake contribute to the problem with their own dirty drainage and water demands and the demands of utilities for coastal cities.
That said, there is lots that needs to be done north of the lake.
Sewage package plants, high-density septic systems, and leaky sewer pipes need fixing. Fertilizer ordinances are needed. Sludge should not be spread on pastures where it adds to dirty runoff.
The Upper Chain of Lakes are the headwaters of the Kissimmee River. A release schedule exists that the Corps of Engineers follows to keep them from flooding. That schedule needs to be revised.
The Kissimmee River used to wind 100 miles down to Lake Okeechobee. The river used to have 20 to 40 parts per billion phosphorous when it hit Lake Okeechobee. The 50-mile ditch we created dumps 80 to 180 ppb phosphorous into the lake.
About 13 miles of a planned 22 miles of the Kissimmee ditch have been restored to a winding river so far. More needs to be done.
We need to get federal funding for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge. The plan is for 50,000 acres of outright purchase and 100,000 acres of easements on cattle ranches to assure that we don't pave over what we're trying to restore.
Lake Okeechobee went belly up in the late 1970s with continuous algae blooms lake-wide. There were massive fish kills and the whole thing stunk.
Fourteen years ago, the target was to reduce phosphorous inflows from 500 tons a year to 140 tons a year by 2015 to solve the problem. Fourteen years later, inflows still average 500 tons a year.
The Department of Agriculture worked with farms to adopt voluntary best-management practices to decrease sediments and nutrients in runoff. They have not cleaned up the water. We need water-quality regulations that work.
The reservoirs and treatment areas in Okeechobee County that are part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project need to be planned and funded and built. The state needs to acquire the land well ahead of time so that can happen.
There are important things not to do.
Before the housing bubble burst in 2008, there were developments waiting in line to build cities within the Kissimmee drainage basin. They went away. They need to stay away or the work of restoring the Kissimmee will be lost.
Plans to build expressways through the Kissimmee Valley need to go away. If we want to make things worse, we shouldn't bother with restoration.
The short list of what needs to be done:
• Get the fertilizer, sewage and sludge out of the runoff.
• Adjust the water-release schedules for the Chain of Lakes.
• Restore more of the Kissimmee ditch.
• Fund the new National Wildlife Refuge.
• Adopt land-use regulations that assure that the Kissimmee Prairie won't be paved over.
• Construct CERP reservoirs and treatment areas in Okeechobee County.
• Mandate water-quality regulations that work and solve the problem at the source.
Doing all of that won't restore the Everglades or protect the coastal estuaries from Lake dumping.
Doing all of it is a necessary part of a comprehensive solution that will solve the problem.
Maggy Hurchalla was a five-term Martin County commissioner and was a member of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, which developed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project.


Silver Springs

Silver Springs

Farms contribute to spring flow declines and pollution - by Robert L. Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute
September 15, 2013
An open letter to Adam Putnam, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, concerning the restoration and protection of Florida’s aquifer and springs.
Dear Commissioner Putnam:
Thank you for convening the meeting of the Water Policy Advisory Council in Gainesville on Aug. 23. It was a pleasure meeting you and observing your genuine interest in finding a productive role for your agency in the protection of the imperiled Floridan Aquifer and the springs that depend on it for a clean and abundant source of water. The purpose of this letter is to request that you use your influence towards protecting both the public’s water supply, as well as overseeing that private interests conduct responsible irrigation and fertilization practices.
I am sending you this letter because of your dual role as the state’s principal elected official with responsibility for oversight of agriculture and the protection of the public/consumer trust. While effective production of agricultural crops is critically important to the future sustainability of our state, it is no more important than the sustainability of our equally precious Floridan Aquifer and springs. The widespread and highly visible damage to Florida’s springs in agricultural watersheds such as the Suwannee/Santa Fe basin demonstrates that agricultural best management practices are not working. There is shared responsibility for these problems between agriculture and residential users in our more urban springsheds as well, with elevated nitrate concentrations and serious flow reductions in springs such as Wakulla, Silver, Rainbow, Wekiwa and Volusia Blue, just to name a few.
Presentations provided by the water management districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and researchers at the University of Florida documented the fact that nitrate nitrogen concentrations are at record-high levels in a majority of Florida’s 1,000-plus artesian springs, and spring flows are in serious decline (
These impairments are largely human-induced and have been repeatedly studied and publicized for the past 20-plus years. In many spring basins in North and Central Florida, the state’s agricultural industry inadvertently contributes to both spring flow declines and nutrient pollution. Other key contributors to these problems are water and wastewater utilities, residential outdoor water use, septic tanks and landscape fertilization.
Based on an analysis of the overall groundwater recharge to the Floridan Aquifer, the Florida Springs Institute has concluded that average groundwater use needs to be reduced by more than 50 percent to restore healthy aquifer levels and spring flows. This reduction in groundwater pumping will require the combined efforts of rural and urban water users to pump less groundwater and to find less environmentally-damaging alternative water supplies. But this step is just one half of the puzzle.
Use of nitrogen fertilizers in areas where the Floridan Aquifer is vulnerable due to a lack of confinement is leading to widespread groundwater pollution. The available evidence consistently indicates that in these poorly confined areas, there are no available best management practices for intensive agriculture or landscape fertilization that will adequately protect the underlying groundwater from nitrate contamination. The Florida Springs Institute has estimated that the necessary reduction in nitrogen use in these vulnerable areas is greater than 90 percent. A similar estimate was independently presented at the meeting by Wendy Graham of the University of Florida Water Institute. Fertilized agriculture will need to move operations to areas where the aquifer is better confined to meet the springs nitrate water quality standard.
There is an environmental disaster unfolding before our eyes regarding springs and aquifer impairment. Immediate and significant actions are needed by Florida’s government.  All of our state agencies need to publically acknowledge the fact that continuing on our current course of excessive pumping, and intensive use of nitrogen fertilizer, will result in continuing aquifer and springs degradation.
The bottom line is that two things need to happen as quickly as possible:
(1) reductions in springs’ nitrate concentrations, and
(2) increased aquifer levels and spring flows.
This desired turn-around is in the hands of the state officials who participated at the Aug. 23 meeting. Please continue to work with them and help to provide the leadership needed to achieve these goals.
As promised, I am attaching the executive summaries from two springs restoration plans completed by the Florida Springs Institute. They summarize our current understanding of these issues and actions needed to restore and protect these important spring systems.  These summary documents and the full-length spring restoration plans can be downloaded from our website:
I would also like to offer you an open invitation to join me to see firsthand what is happening to our natural springs. Seeing is believing.


LO marshes

LO marshes

Lake Okeechobee rising
Herald Tribune
September 15, 2013
Man-made controls prove inadequate, and crucial estuaries suffer.
Man's efforts to control nature have been severely tested this summer in Florida, and man -- as well as nature -- is losing.
The rains that have pummeled South Florida are the heaviest in 45 years, pushing Lake Okeechobee to the brim of the man-made, earthen dike that surrounds it. The risk of overflow has forced the release of excess water into the estuaries of the St. Lucie River to the east and the Caloosahatchee River to the west.
As described by New York Times reporter Lizette Alvarez, in a story published in Wednesday's Herald-Tribune: "The rush of fresh water from the lake and the estuaries' own river basins, along with the pollutants carried in from farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses, has crippled the estuaries and, on the east coast of the state, the Indian River Lagoon."
The estuaries and the 156-mile-long lagoon -- which need a natural balance of salt and fresh water to be breeding grounds for marine life -- have been overwhelmed by the inflow. Manatees, fish, shellfish and sea grass have suffered massive kills.
Communities on both coasts that depend on the estuaries for commercial fishing and recreation have suffered as well and have protested to their elected officials. And state officials, from Gov. Rick Scott on down, have vowed to help them.
But, as Florida's rains continue, so will the releases from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers. The only alternative would be to let the lake overflow, flooding farms and communities to the south.
Once a 'river of grass'
It wasn't always this way. Before Okeechobee was encircled by towns and agricultural lands, its summer overflow would wash south through the Everglades, creating the "river of grass" that author and environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas described.
But, as Alvarez points out, after two hurricanes struck in the 1920s -- flooding the lake region and killing 2,500 people -- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 143-mile earthen dike. Then the corps made matters worse by channeling water from the Kissimmee River into the lake to prevent flooding in the north.
As a result, during the rainy season, water pours into Okeechobee much faster than the corps -- which oversees the lake's dike and locks -- can pump it out. This year, the discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee have been heavier than normal.
The outcry from communities have gotten attention. Gov. Scott has visited the affected areas and proposed spending $130 million on two projects: One would let more water from Okeechobee be filtered, treated and released into the Everglades; the other would clean more of the water that flows into the St. Lucie. (A similar treatment project is planned for the Caloosahatchee.)
Also, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz created the "Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin." The committee, he said, "will investigate policies, spending, and any other governmental activities affecting water management" in the region.
The chairman of the new committee, Sen. Joe Negron, whose district includes parts of St. Lucie and Indian River counties, said in August: "We have a crisis in our community. We have an environmental emergency, and what I want to focus my attention on from now until the beginning of the year is what things can we do short-term to lower the amount of water pouring into our community."
Weak environmental record
But whether Scott and the Legislature can and will work to reduce the outflow and clean up the discharge is questionable.
Last month, a group representing state employees who work in environmental regulation released a report showing that enforcement of Florida's environmental laws had fallen sharply under Scott took office with a pro-business, anti-regulation agenda.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility report says that after Scott named former shipyard attorney Herschel Vinyard to head the Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, enforcement dropped. The DEP opened 1,587 cases in 2010 but just 663 last year, the report said. Voluntary consent orders fell from from 1,249 in 2010 to 482 last year, along with penalties assessed and fines collected.
"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, told the Associated Press.
If Scott and the Legislature have changed and truly want to address the Okeechobee crisis, it will take time and billions of dollars in state and federal funds. Then maybe they can restore a semblance of what nature intended.
But whether Scott and the Legislature can and will work to reduce the outflow and clean up the discharge is questionable.
Last month, a group representing state employees who work in environmental regulation released a report showing that enforcement of Florida's environmental laws had fallen sharply under Scott took office with a pro-business, anti-regulation agenda.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility report says that after Scott named former shipyard attorney Herschel Vinyard to head the Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, enforcement dropped. The DEP opened 1,587 cases in 2010 but just 663 last year, the report said. Voluntary consent orders fell from from 1,249 in 2010 to 482 last year, along with penalties assessed and fines collected.
"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, told the Associated Press.
If Scott and the Legislature have changed and truly want to address the Okeechobee crisis, it will take time and billions of dollars in state and federal funds. Then maybe they can restore a semblance of what nature intended.
Imprisoned Okeechobee might be headed for a jailbreak      Gainesville Sun


Pollution in Lake Okeechobee
New York Times
September 15, 2013
Re: “In South Florida, a Polluted Bubble Ready to Burst” (news article, Sept. 9):
Joni Mitchell’s words — “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” — have never been more relevant. Sadly, her message didn’t resonate with planners, engineers and developers in South Florida, where Lake Okeechobee has become an environmental quagmire.
Environmentalists are quick to fault the Army Corps of Engineers for creating these larger ecological problems, but the essential problem in the Everglades and across the country is our poor local management of water. Paved, impervious surfaces, including the ubiquitous drive-through restaurants, malls, parking lots, roads — and even lawns — contribute to excess surface water runoff, carrying polluted water into our rivers and bays.
We need better planning that considers the impact of many small engineering decisions on the larger regional ecosystem. If we combine technology and engineering with ecology and design, we can help restore the natural resilience of our landscapes. With political courage and strategic local actions, we can unpave parking lots and restore a piece of paradise.


State of Florida pledges $90 million to help fund a bridge to somewhere in Everglades National Park
National Parks Traveler – by Jim Burnett
September 15, 2013
In 1928 a highway known as the Tamiami Trail was built across the southern Florida peninsula, and while it was a boon for developers, the dam-like roadfill created serious problems for Everglades National Park. A partial solution—replacing some of the road's berm with bridges—got a welcome boost with a recent pledge of $90 million from the State of Florida.
On August 28th, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced the state's commitment of $30 million a year over three years to help replace a 2.6-mile section of existing highway berm with a bridge along the northern boundary of Everglades National Park. The state dollars are being offered as a match to a similar $90 million investment in federal dollars.
The total estimated cost—$180 million—is a sizeable chunk of money, but unlike some other highway projects derided as a "bridge to nowhere," this one would offer a solution to several closely-related problems.
Fresh Water Once Flowed Freely Across Southern Florida
In the late 1800s, the southern end of the Florida peninsula was largely undeveloped, and although the area was a rich and complex ecosystem, it was viewed by some as merely wasted "swampland." Fresh water—including sometimes copious amounts from tropical storms—flowed freely southward as a shallow, slow-moving sheet of water through the large but shallow Lake Okeechobee, and then onward through the Everglades to coastal estuaries and the sea.
The area's mild winter climate made it attractive for residential and agricultural development and tourism, but the problem was what to do about all that "swamp." The answer was decades of construction of an elaborate system of dikes, canals and pumping stations to drain wetlands and try to control flooding—not an easy task in this relatively flat terrain.
An East-West Highway was a Key to Development of South Florida
It was a classic example of "if you build it, they will come," and much of south Florida is now both a major agricultural empire and home to millions of people. A key missing link for that development in the early 1900s was a highway linking Miami on the state's east coast with Naples on the west.
The answer was a road known as the Tamiami Trail (now US 41), and to keep construction costs down, the primary technique was to simply bring in fill, build a very long berm, and lay a roadway on top.
The natural flow of freshwater southward through what's now Everglades National Park was interrupted, and the result was a host of unintended consequences to what the park website described as a delicately-balanced "mosaic of ponds, sloughs, sawgrass marshes, hardwood hammock, and forested uplands."
Everglades National Park Now Relies Upon "Engineered" Water
Everglades National Park is a relative newcomer to this story; the park was established in 1947 to conserve some of the remaining natural area, and includes about 1.5 million acres out of about 18,000 square miles in the original Everglades ecosystem. A short paragraph on a park map sums up the challenge: "Fresh water flowing into the park is engineered. With the help of pumps, floodgates, and retention ponds along the park's boundary, the Everglades is presently on life support, alive but diminished."
And that brings us back to the State of Florida's offer of $90 million to help replace 2.6 miles of that Tamiami Trail berm with a bridge. Ironically, impetus for the state's support for the project came from a summer with too much rain in southern Florida, and a press release from the Governor's office helps explain the problem.
"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."
Excess Water in Lake Okeechobee Causes Big Problems
Swollen by unusually heavy spring and summer rains, Lake Okeechobee is literally on the verge of bursting at the seams. In the 1930s, a 143-mile long earthen dike was constructed around the lake to regulate water levels, and the Army Corps of Engineers, fearing failure of the aging levee, has released tens of billions of gallons of fresh water from the lake into estuaries to the east and west.
The deluge of not-so-clean water has upset the delicate balance of salt and fresh water in the estuaries and fouled water quality in areas with important commercial crops of oysters and other shellfish. The water in some areas has become unsuitable for swimming, game fish are disappearing, and businesses that depend on tourism are hurting.
Those problems spurred the state's recent announcement of help for the Tamiami bridge project. According to Governor Scott, “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."
Economic Losses from High Water Spur State Support for Bridge Project
A number of state politicians also expressed their support, including Representative Dane Eagle, who 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.”
The bridge work is only a small part of a much larger regional Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and the project would also be a win for the park, where the Governor's announcement was welcome news.
“One of the most critical components of the Everglades restoration is increasing water flow under Tamiami Trail into Everglades National Park,” said Superintendent Dan Kimball.
“This is a crucial step forward in the Everglades restoration, and we are very thankful to the governor for the commitment he demonstrated today to the Everglades restoration and to the key part it plays in Florida’s economy.”
Everglades Restoration Depends on Partnership
“Several significant advances have been made recently that demonstrate the protection of America’s Everglades remains a national and state priority,” said Park Superintendent Kimball, “and that the federal/state partnership necessary for our success is very active in moving forward together.”
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell also issued a statement praising the state's offer. “We welcome Governor Scott’s partnership with the Department in the construction of a 2.6- mile bridge on the Tamiami Trail, a critical next step in our collective efforts to restore the Everglades,” Jewell said.
“Bridging the Tamiami Trail is a key component of Everglades’ restoration plans to increase water flow through the central Everglades into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay," Jewell noted. "This will both help restore wildlife habitat in the Everglades and improve flood conditions in the Water Conservation Areas north of the trail."
Proposed Bridge is Phase Two of the Project
The state money would help fund the second phase of an eventual 6.5 miles of bridging planned for the Tamiami Trail. The first step in the project was completed in February of this year, when the National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of the first mile of bridge on the Trail.
Congress authorized an additional 5.5 miles of bridges along the trail in 2011—but that vote did not provide the funding to do the work. The Department of the Interior is seeking $30 million in its 2014 budget to help begin the work—and provide the needed dollars to match the state's contribution—but that request will have to compete with many other projects in a time of tight federal dollars.
The State of Florida has stepped in to cut the federal cost of the next phase of the project in half. Now the question is whether this plan for a "bridge to somewhere" will go anywhere in a Congress distracted by partisan divisions over bigger budget issues.


Pilot program helps ranchers build water retention areas on their property - by Kevin Bouffard
September 14, 2013
SEBRING | Jimmy Wohl has proof Florida ranchers run profitable operations while serving as good stewards of the land, protecting the environment in the public interest.
Audubon of Florida recently honored Wohl, 62, an owner of his family's 5,200-acre Rafter T Ranch near Sebring, with its initial Sustainable Rancher Award for his leadership in a state program that offers ranchers financial incentives to build and maintain water treatment systems on their land.
"The great thing about Jimmy is he's a very articulate spokesman," said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Florida Audubon. "His ranch is a shining example of what we want to do."
What Audubon wants to do, in cooperation with the state and federal governments, ranchers and other environmental groups, is clean up the water that running unfiltered from the headwaters of the Everglades drainage basin to Lake Okeechobee and eventually to the Everglades, Lee said. The basin runs as far north as Osceola and Orange counties and includes parts of Polk and Highlands counties.
The pollutant of primary concern is phosphorous that runs off residential and commercial properties and eventually makes its way to the Everglades, said Lee and Ernie Barnett, an aquatic biologist and assistant executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.
Phosphorus pollution promotes growth of non-native plants, such as cattails, in the Everglades, crowding out the native sawgrass and creating an environmental imbalance, Barnett said.
"The natural balance is disrupted," he said.
Wohl was one of eight Florida ranchers who participated in a $6 million pilot program run by the water management district called the "Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project."
The program, which ran from 2006 to 2011, paid ranchers to construct water retention areas on their properties that acted as natural phosphorous filters, Lee and Barnett said. In addition to construction costs, the program paid ranchers for annual maintenance and a "participation fee" for three years.
Wohl said he spent $1 million, including a $324,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant he obtained independently, to construct dikes and canals on the eastern edge of his property along Arbuckle Creek. That created a 150-acre settling pond that has become a mecca for wildlife, including, deer, turkeys, roseatte spoonbills, freshwater pelicans, white ibis and alligators.
"He's done a great job out there," Barnett said. "There's beautiful wildlife on his property."
While not pristine, the water projects have proven to be a surprising magnet for all species of native Florida wildlife, said Paul Gray, a science coordinator at Audubon.
"While we're storing water, we're getting wildlife benefits for free," he said.
Wohl restored another 1,300 acres on his ranch to a natural wetland, which becomes a marshy area during the summer and fall rainy season, he said. He planted the area with water-tolerant grasses so that he can use it for grazing land the rest of the year for his 1,000 cows and 800 calves.
Both the pond and the wetlands hold and clean millions of gallons of water until it can be safely pumped into Arbuckle Creek during the dry season, Wohl said.
"What we're doing is re-hydrating degraded wetlands," Wohl said. "Mother Nature intended these areas to be wetlands. We are recreating that natural function."
Ironically, his father, Tommy Wohl, following the common practice of the time, built a dike-and-canal system to drain the area for pasture land after he purchased the property in 1962, he added. Wohl and other environmentally sensitive ranchers now recognize that was a mistake.
"I have seen the detrimental effects of overdrying land," Wohl said. "This benefits the ranch as a source of additional revenue, and it creates a more effective watershed."
Wohl and Lee agreed such incentive programs represent an improvement over a regulatory approach that often becomes punitive.
"Give me a financial incentive rather than creating an onerous regulation that many times doesn't make good sense," Wohl said. "It's like training a dog. You get better results with a treat than a kick in the head."
Wohl's treat, in addition to the property improvements, was the $60,990 annual fee over three years the water management district paid for his participation.
The fee varies based on the amount of water the participating ranch holds, Barnett said.
The annual payment is a vital part of the program because it helps keep the property in agriculture as opposed to more environmentally damaging residential or commercial uses, Lee said. That's one issue around which the agriculture and environmental communities have formed a tight alliance in recent decades.
"I think they (ranchers) see it as added income, which is how we'd like to see it," Lee said. "I would also like ranchers to stay in business. If they stay in business, they won't sell to developers."
Because of Wohl's success and advocacy, the water management district made the pilot program an ongoing initiative called the Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services Program, Barnett said. It operates along similar lines, including funding for the water retention improvements, maintenance costs and an annual participation fee.
The South Florida Water Management District has already approved nine water projects worth $9 million over five years, he said.
One of those projects is on the 3,500-acre XL Ranch in Highlands owned by Lake Wales-based Lightsey Cattle Co.
The ranch rebuilt dikes and other structures that expanded an existing reservoir by more than 20 percent, said Cary Lightsey, an owner of the family company. The project was built under the pilot program and qualified for a 10-year contract under the Northern Everglades program.
Lightsey agreed with Wohl the re-hydrating the land has resulted in more and better grass for ranching operations plus the aesthetic benefit of more wildlife.
"Our land doesn't percolate out anymore. We have so much better grass now," he said. "It's a win-win for the state of Florida. They don't have to buy the land (for water projects). They get the benefits at a lesser price."
The district has also created another $3 million pilot project called "water farming" that will pay citrus growers for adopting treatment systems, Barnett said.
Given the water district's current budget of $619 million, the payment for environmental services programs represent an affordable way to supplement its existing public works programs, he said.
"Both are very important pieces of the water management system," Barnett said. "The land owners become part of the solution to our water quality and water supply issues."



FL Ag Commissioner

Ag Commissioner: Water No. 1 concern for Florida's future
Associated Press (The St. Augustine Record) - by Brendan Farrington
September 13, 2013
ORLANDO — Florida’s freshwater supply is its top problem as it tries to maintain economic and residential growth, Agriculture Commission Adam Putnam said during a discussion Thursday at a leadership summit.
“If you think about the golden eggs that Florida depends on — tourism, agriculture, construction — they’re all dependent on water,” Putnam said as he moderated a panel discussion at the first Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit. “This is a critically important issue and they’re all inseparable.”
But he noted that Florida has also historically made bad choices, such as trying to build a cross-state barge canal, straightening and then unstraightening the Kissimmee River and other water projects.
“There’s been some chapters in our history where we didn’t exactly get it right, and we need to get it right,” he said.
The discussion came during a two-day summit organized by lawyer, lobbyist, GOP fundraiser and news aggregator Justin Sayfie. The meeting included a bi-partisan mix of leaders from state and local government, business groups, education leaders, nonprofit groups, the media and more.
Florida’s demand for water is expected to increase by about 1.4 billion gallons a day to 7.9 billion gallons in the year 2030, said Melissa Meeker, former head of the South Florida Water Management District and current vice president of CSA Ocean Sciences, Inc., a global marine environmental consulting firm.
The state needs to find a sustainable water supply if it wants to continue to grow, attract new industries, meet agricultural needs and still protect the environment, Meeker said. While conservation is important, it won’t be enough, she said.
“The easy things have been done already,” she said.
She advocated for great water reuse, increased water storage and recovery and desalinization and other alternative water sources, saying tapping traditional sources are either too costly or unavailable.
“It’s no longer acceptable for us to use water just once and then dispose of it,” Meeker said.
She said that some of the 1.7 billion gallons of water that flows into the ocean and Gulf each day must be captured and stored for use.
“We have 1.7 billion gallons of water going to tide. Just lost forever,” she said.
Author and journalist Cynthia Barnett, who specializes in water issues, agreed. But she also said Florida can do a much better job conserving water.
She said Florida should decide to use 2 billion less gallons of water per day by 2025 instead of 2 billion gallons more.
“I think it’s that dramatic. I think we’re that wasteful,” she said. “It’s possible to live very differently and live well and I think we will. I think we can still cut our water use in half.”
The summit also features discussions on education, energy, tourism, transportation and more. Sayfie said he will make it an annual event.
“This is historic. We’ve never had a gathering like this in the state’s history and we’re going to build on it going forward each year,” Sayfie said, adding that he hopes people will look at long-term issues facing the state. “Change happens so fast, we want to make sure that Florida is taking advantage of that.”
Related (or same publication):
Ag Commissioner Putnam: Water No. 1 issue facing Florida's future ...       The Republic


City proposes plan for St. Johns River cleanup – by Lindsay Boetsch
September 13, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Cleanup will soon begin on the St. Johns River thanks to a plan proposed by the city. It comes two years after it was supposed to be released.
Earlier this month tests showed toxins were below the harmful level for recreational exposure but about the threshold for drinking water.
According to the Florida Times Union, it's still unclear how the city will fund the work.  There are construction projects that will cost at least $300 million dollars.
Public Works Director Jim Robinson wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in September. He said the city is committed to making improvements to the health of the St. Johns river and its tributaries and will meet state-imposed water pollution reduction goals for 2015 and 2023.
A few years ago, Jacksonville joined Clay, St. Johns, and Putnam counties and other businesses in making a commitment to prevent pollution in the river.
There are several parts to the plan. The first is to phase out 757 septic tanks by 2015. Septic system failures could cause nitrogen to run into the creeks or rivers, which can cause the green algae.  But 2023, the septic systems off San Jose Boulevard and Riverview near the Trout River will be removed.
There's also a plan to improve stormwater retention. By 2015, there are 12 drainage projects to work on including McCoy Creek. Five years after that, projects at Pottsburg Creek, Hogan Creek, and Bay Street will be finished.


Learn about those who have tried to ruin Florida's natural gifts
Sun Sentinel - by Stephen Goldstein
September 13, 2013
Living in Florida is a privilege, not a right. But it has been taken for granted by almost everyone living here.
Transplants relocate from anywhere at will. They bring with them their prejudices and preferences without any obligation to help create a sense of shared community uniquely Floridian. In fact, once here, people are geographically isolated from the rest of the state.
It goes with the territory of the peninsula: Residents of Pensacola have more in common with east Alabamans than Conchs of Key West. No wonder we are a state hopelessly divided and that our politics and social policies are regressive and becoming more so.
So, to help bring Floridians together and move the state into the 21st century, I propose that all current and prospective residents show proof of having read and passed a comprehension test on the contents of two books before they are allowed to move in — or remain here.
Reading "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, Floridians will see the underbelly of American history. It will stir the consciences of all but the most morally callous and obtuse. Summarizing his purpose, Zinn says, "I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, . . . of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army," and much more.
You might want to propose changing the name of Jacksonville and sit out future Columbus Days to honor the memories of the men who died, whose lands were pillaged, women raped, and children murdered in the name of God's will and Queen Isabella. Zinn gives new meaning to the word injustice. After Sen. Marco Rubio reads it, he'll have to edit his stump speech about how we are an "exceptional" nation, unless he means for doing some pretty bad stuff. After Floridians read Zinn, they will reverse the corporate takeover of the state.
Reading "Everglades, River of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas must make conservationists of us all — or we're doomed. Its title doesn't do it justice: It should really be subtitled "Man's Inhumanity to Nature."
The first chapter, "The Nature of the Everglades," is slow going, imitating the pace with which someone would slog through the waterscape. Thereafter, it quickens as humans vie with nature and other humans out of greed and ignorance.
A milder moralist than Zinn, Douglas writes a history of Florida as an unbroken desecration of a gift of nature that we squander at our peril, especially today as elected officials continue to allow developers and Big Sugar to exploit the land at the public expense. Read Douglas and it will appall you that some people would turn the Everglades into shopping malls and tract housing.
These days, politicians try to get elected and/or stay in office by pitting us against each other. But we are all Floridians.
So, it is up to us to put aside our superficial differences and work together for our common good. Who woulda thunk the answer might be as simple as reading two books or, better yet, starting a book club with our fellow Floridians ?
The pen is mightier than the sword only if it spurs you to act.



Prof. Daniel KAHAN

Yale Law School

'Threatening climate change messages are not effective'
The Guardian - by Diane Toomey for Yale Environment 360
September 13, 2013
In this interview with Yale 360, prof Dan Kahan explains why scientists and the media need to frame the science in ways that will resonate better with the public
It's a common refrain: If people only knew more about the science, there wouldn't be so much polarization on the issue of climate change. But Dan M. Kahan's groundbreaking work has gone a long way to prove that idea wrong. In fact, he's found, it's not the lack of scientific understanding that has led to conflict over climate change, but rather the need to adhere to the philosophy and values of one's "cultural" group.
Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School, says "individualists" — those who believe individuals should be responsible for
Dan Kahan their own well-being and who are wary of regulation or government control – tend to minimize the risk of climate change. On the other side, he notes, those who identify with the "communitarianism" group favor a larger role for government and other collective entities in securing the welfare of individuals and tend to be wary of commercial activity – he sees them as likely to favor restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Diane Toomey, Kahan maintained that in order to break down this polarization, the issue needs to be reframed in a way that minimizes the likelihood that positions on climate change will be identified with a particular cultural group. "Are there ways to combine the science with meanings that would be affirming rather than threatening to people?" he said. "I think if somebody believes that there just aren't any, I think that person just doesn't have much imagination."
Yale Environment 360: It's been conventional wisdom in certain circles that people who discount the threat from climate change are not scientifically literate – they just don't understand the evidence laid in front of them. But your research shows that this is not the case. In fact, polarization on climate change can actually be chalked up to which cultural group you belong to – "individualism" versus "communitarianism." What do these opposing groups believe, and what does that have to do with one's belief, or not, in the threat of climate change?
Dan Kahan: The groups are defined by their shared understandings of how society should be organized. People who are more individualistic believe that individuals should be responsible for securing conditions that enable them to flourish without assistance or interference from any kind of collective authority or entity. People who are more communitarian think the collective is responsible for securing the conditions for individual well-being and sometimes should be able to take precedence over the interests of individuals if there is a conflict. People who are more individualistic are going to be more disappointed to believe that the consequences of activities that they like, such as a lot of commercial market activities, are creating harms that you would have to restrict. But if you believe that people who are engaged in commercial market activities are generating lots of inequality, it would be congenial for you to believe that this activity is really dangerous and ought to be restricted.
So part of the theory is that people have a predisposition, based on their values and emotional engagement with the information, to understand it in a certain way… It's important to recognize that that's how people get any kind of information relating to science. People need to accept a lot more about what is known to science than they could possible figure out on their own. They are going to be looking to people like themselves, whose outlooks they share.
e360: But we are talking here about a scientific question. Are you saying that people look toward scientists that they perceive are "like them"?
Kahan: Most of the things that people are making informed decisions about that depend on science are not going to be ones they have consulted scientists for information about. Most of what people know – the decisions they make that are informed by scientists – is based on information that is travelling through all kinds of intermediaries. Scientists aren't on television giving marching orders. That's not a good model of how people come to know what's known by science – from the mouth of the scientist to the ear of the citizen. People figure these things out because they are situated in networks of other people who are part of their everyday lives. And those networks ordinarily guide them reliably to what's known.
e360: In a study you and colleagues published in the journal Nature Climate Change, you found that as scientific literacy increases, polarization on climate change actually increases as well. Why would that be?
Kahan: Once you have an issue that has become a signifier of your membership in and loyalty to the group, then making a mistake about that can be really costly to your membership in that group. If I marched around [the Yale] campus with a sign that said, "Climate change is a hoax," even though I have tenure, my life wouldn't be as good as it is.
You know, Bob Inglis, the congressman from South Carolina, he was like the Babe Ruth of conservative political ratings. Nobody did better than he did [in ratings from conservative groups] across all the issues that normally determine whether you are a conservative in good standing. And then one day he says, "Well, I'm concerned about climate change and what impact that could have on my constituents and other people in the country." Soon after that, he is out of office because he is defeated in the primary. Now, imagine that you are a barber in the 4th District of South Carolina [which Inglis represented in Congress]. Do you think it is a good idea when somebody comes in for a shave to hand them a petition that says, "Save the polar bears" or something like this? I mean, you'll be out of a job as quickly as he was. The impact of making a mistake relative to your group membership is large. The cost of making a mistake on the science is zero.
So I think that people, because they generally process information in a way that is good for them, are going to predictably form views that connect them to their group.
e360: So, they're being rational.
Kahan: That's a kind of rationality. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a climate scientist to do that with respect to climate change because it's really obvious what position your group has.
e360: Let's talk about a fascinating experiment that you carried out. You asked people to assess a study on climate change after reading one of three articles. One article had nothing to do with climate change, another called for strict CO2 regulations, and a third advocated research on geo-engineering, the manipulation of the environment to offset the rise in CO2. You found that the group that read the geo-engineering article was less polarized over the validity of the climate change study. Why would that be so?
Kahan: We examined whether people, in judging the validity of evidence on climate change, would be more or less open-minded based on whether they had just previously been exposed to information either about geo-engineering or carbon limits. Logically speaking, whether the information
Are there ways to combine the science with meanings that would be affirming rather than threatening to people?"
on climate change is valid doesn't depend on whether you can do carbon emissions limits or geo-engineering or anything else. There either is a problem or there isn't. But psychologically, the hypothesis was that these two kinds of stories would determine the meaning that people attached to the evidence on climate change. The meaning of the carbon limit story was the one that tends to make more individualistic people resist evidence on climate change. It's kind of like a game-over message. The geo-engineering story, on the other hand, has in it certain kinds of themes that people who have an individualistic world view are moved by and find inspiring – the fact that we use our ingenuity to overcome and deal with limits, including the limits that themselves might be generated by the use of our own ingenuity. So just knowing that geo-engineering was a possibility, the hypothesis was that that would generate a meaning for the subsequent evidence we showed them on climate change that wouldn't be nearly as threatening. And measuring the outcome here is simple: Are you engaging the information in a more open-minded way? And we found that they were, and because they were, there was less polarization.
e360: It's hard to imagine Bill McKibben, for instance, tweaking his message as he campaigns against the Keystone XL pipeline. McKibben, I imagine, is going to continue to call for exactly what he believes in: no pipeline. I'm wondering, as far as climate change goes, maybe these positions have been too entrenched for too long to hope for any reduction in polarization.
Kahan: I'm not sure about Bill McKibben. I haven't talked to him, so I don't know what he thinks. But I do know [climate scientist] James Hansen thinks that you ought to have nuclear power. We did the same experiment where we used nuclear power [instead of geo-engineering] and we got similar effects.
I think the only thing that is certain not to work would be a style of framing the issues and presenting information that continues to accentuate the perception that the sides on the debate are identified with particular groups. I believe there are ways – in fact, many ways – of presenting the information about climate and science that don't have that effect. The question is: Which ones are like that, and how could you deliver them? The point is, are there ways to combine science with meanings that would be affirming rather than threatening to people? I think if somebody believes there aren't any, I think that person just doesn't have much imagination.
e360: You do offer some examples at the local level – Florida, for instance – where adaptation to climate change has taken place without running into the cultural identity obstacle. Why wasn't the individualism/communitarianism dynamic at work in those instances?
Kahan: The reason there is potential to promote engagement there is that the meanings are entirely different. People in Florida have had a climate problem since they got there. It's a bad climate. It gets overwhelmed by water and hurricanes. It's not like this is news to them. I can find materials that were distributed in the 1960s that are not all that much different from what they are using now to try to explain to people why you have to worry about saltwater penetration into the aquifers. Every few years you have to do things since sea level rises. They are used to talking about this, and they're used to talking about it with their neighbors. They may be red and blue when talking about certain national issues, but they're all just property owners. The insurance guy is there saying one thing, and so is the power company. Now, people are going to squabble because choices always have to be made in politics. But for purposes of this debate, they are all on the same team. You don't have to come up with clever framing messages. Just use the way that people already talk about these issues.
e360: Are you saying that in Florida they talk about the threat of climate change without actually using the words "climate" and "change?"
Kahan: People talk about climate and climate change in Florida, but really what they talk about is: How do we deal with the problem we've always dealt with? I don't know that there is a taboo on mentioning the word "climate." What they're talking about is: What do we do here in Florida?
e360: I understand that you have a project on the ground in Florida right now, in which you are looking at science communication on the issue of climate change.
Kahan: We're advising different municipal actors who are part of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. Those groups are working together from Florida's four most populous counties to implement a directive that was actually passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor in 2011: that everybody should update their comprehensive land-use plan to reflect the most recent information on sea level rise and other kinds of adverse climate impacts. We've been talking about how to create a science communication environment in which the members of the public will be receptive to the type of information that travels to them. But, of course, a lot of time what you're communicating is: How about the estimates from this model about exactly how much sea level is going to rise? And how about that model and what if we made this assumption?
These are decision-makers in administrative positions who are getting information from scientists and are trying to make sense of it and understand the trade-offs and the costs and benefits. What we try to do is help the members of the compact understand what the best evidence is on the ways to communicate the science.


Construction completed on Broward levee improvements; Palm Beach County next
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
September 12, 2013
The $20 million fix is finished for the 60-year-old levee that protects Broward County from getting flooded by the Everglades.
Now attention turns to shoring up problems in the Palm Beach County portion of the 105-mile-long East Coast Protective Levee, which stretches from West Palm Beach to the Tamiami Trail.
Federal regulators have raised concerns about the condition of both the Broward and Palm Beach County portions of the aging, earthen levee that separates suburbia from what remains of the Everglades.
Upgrades to the levee were required to address safety concerns and to avoid steep increases in flood insurance rates for communities near the levee.
By January, the South Florida Water Management District expects to complete an engineering review needed to get its federal certification for the work done on the Broward section of the levee, well ahead of the May deadline.
Next month, the district board will be asked to approve construction contracts for work to fix the Palm Beach County portion of the levee, expected to take a year-and-a-half to complete.
The East Coast Protective Levee, which stretches from West Palm Beach to the Tamiami Trail, keeps the Everglades from flooding towns built on former Everglades land in western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties
"We are on track and on target," said John Mitnik, who heads engineering and construction at the South Florida Water Management District.
The breach in New Orleans' levees following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 led to tougher federal scrutiny for levees across the country, including South Florida's East Coast Protective Levee.
"We don't anticipate any issues at all in Broward County," Broward County Mayor Kristen Jacobs said. "The work that has been done out there … it's in solid shape."
The East Coast Protective Levee, built in the 1950s, stretches across western portions of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
An engineering assessment in 2010 revealed that Broward portions of the levee failed to meet certification standards for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In addition, an Army Corps of Engineers review finalized in 2011 determined that the levee was minimally acceptable, the middle tier on the federal government's new three-tiered levee-rating system. That finding also triggered the need for repairs.
Concerns raised by levee inspections included signs of erosion, culverts needing repair, rutting on top of the levee, overgrown vegetation obstructing maintenance as well as sections of the levee not being high enough.
Without levee repairs, flood insurance prices were expected to spike for Broward communities including Coral Springs, Miramar, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Southwest Ranches, Sunrise, Tamarac and Weston.
Palm Beach County communities near the levee also face potential insurance hikes if repairs aren't made.
The year-long work completed this summer to repair the Broward section included flattening the slope of the levee and reinforcing banks by adding a berm at the base of the structure. Maintenance ramps were added and emergency reinforcing materials have been stockpiled near the levee to be ready to respond to potential breaches.
Much of the 18-month project to repair the Palm Beach County section involves repairing or replacing worn out culverts as well as removing an old water pumping station.

Florida (less than) Forever - Commentary
September 12, 2013
For the better part of two decades, the state of Florida acted responsibly to preserve our natural resources and enhance our quality of life. Through our visionary land acquisition program, Preservation 2000, and its successor, Florida Forever, we have purchased and maintained some of the state’s most critically sensitive lands for habitat protection, water quality, water recharge, recreational activities and nature-based tourism.
While in the Florida House in 1999, it was my challenge to craft the Florida Forever program to continue the success of Preservation 2000 while adjusting to the need to manage the lands already purchased, to focus more on water resources and depleted water quality, and to allow greater public access. The successor program contained $300 million in annual funding to accomplish these goals. With our much-touted land acquisition and preservation efforts, Florida was the envy of the nation.
Under five governors, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, the promise was fulfilled and conservation and preservation funding was provided. As the economy took a hit, so too did Florida Forever funding — but with the expectation that as revenues increased so would its funding. But that didn’t happen.
Take last year as an example. While revenues rose and Florida experienced its largest budget to date, the $300 million Florida Forever program was given only $20 million. As a misguided gesture of goodwill, a provision was added that would allow an additional $50 million in acquisition authority if the state sold conservation lands already purchased and used those proceeds for “better” land purchases.
This scheme technically allowed the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to claim they allocated $70 million for land acquisition. The likelihood of having the money during the current year was slim: Potential lands needed to be identified and presented to the public for comment. Then the list needed refining and the state Cabinet had to approve, followed by an appraisal, resolution of legal and title issues, putting the lands on the auction block and their sale. Who would buy these lands? Would they be developed? Would we recoup our investment?
To be intellectually honest, the state funded just $20 million, only one-fifteenth of the $300 million intended, and then redirected funds meant for the Florida Forever trust fund.
Why did the environmental community agree to such an ill-conceived deal? Were they so hungry for $20 million that they were willing to lend credence to such an iffy proposition?
Don’t get me wrong. As the author of the Florida Forever bill, I anticipated and allowed for the surplus of lands that were not targeted for purchase or lands that no longer met a resource purpose. However, I never intended a “sell an acre to buy an acre” farce. The goal was to attain a net gain.
After the Department of Environmental Protection released its list of 169 proposed surplus sites totaling 5,331 acres in 67 state parks, forests and wildlife areas, the public spoke out in an attempt to save many of these areas. The list since has been trimmed some.
Audubon has identified seven properties on the department’s “scientifically reviewed” list that they believe are the most important to retain due to their significant value for water quality, wetlands, water recharge, wildlife habitat, and endangered species.
It’s difficult to imagine what kind of scientific review was employed by DEP. Also on the list are the Green Swamp management area and 2,628 acres of the 9,369-acre Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County.
And the 79-acre Porter Pond Tract in Florida’s Panhandle has a significant amount of pristine lakefront on a sand lake that has the potential of 40 inches of annual groundwater recharge.
With little faith in government to do the right thing, a grassroots effort sprang up to put the integrity of the state’s land acquisition program before the voters on the November 2014 ballot. A similar effort passed with overwhelming support decades earlier when the budget was almost half of what it is now. The Water and Land Conservation Amendment petition can be downloaded at: structions-for-download ing-the-petition/.
Those in office who claim to care about our quality of life should show it by restoring the full funding of $300 million to the popular and proven Florida Forever program by using the dedicated funding source of documentary stamps that rises with property sales.
How important is ensuring an adequate supply of life-sustaining water? Doesn’t it justify spending less than half of one percent of the $74 billion state budget?
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at
Paula Dockery: Program becomes Florida (less than) Forever           Tallahassee Democrat (blog)


Greening research bears fruit
September 12, 2013
LAKE ALFRED -- After watching helplessly for four years as a fatal disease marched relentlessly across the state, taking out thousands of grove acres, Florida citrus growers may shortly have some new weapons citrus greening.
Low-volume pesticide spraying technology that could be available later this year and an effective repellent to keep disease-carrying insects out of groves, perhaps ready by next year, are two of the early returns on the $16.8 million investment growers made on citrus greening research last year.
Lukasz Stelinski, an entomologist, and Russell Rouseff, a food chemist, have cracked the mystery of what in the guava plant repels the citrus psyllid, a host for the greening bacteria and the primary cause of the disease’s transmission. Both work at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
The mysterious chemical is dimethyl disulfide (DMDS), found in many plants but in significant quantities in guava, Stelinski said.
Their discovery may lead to the first commercial product against citrus greening available to growers. The Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council in August authorized two new contracts aimed at developing a DMDS product that can be applied in groves and repel psyllids for at least three months.
The council and the Florida Department of Citrus have financed the greening research drive along with state and federal money,
Although DMDS effectively repeled psyllids in field tests, the chemical is highly unstable in current forms, Stelinski said. The applications used in the research worked for just three to four weeks.
A cost-effective DMDS application for citrus groves needs to last at least three months, he said.
Stelinski and Rousseff are working with Auburn University and ISCA Technologies of Riverside, Calif., to develop a time-release mechanism to extend DMDS’ effectiveness, Stelinski said. That’s similar to time-release mechanism used already in medical drugs.
“I think we’re on to something, and I’m optimistic we’ll have a new tool in the fight against psyllids,” Stelinski said. “There’s no one thing that’s going to control psyllids. I don’t think it will be a magic bullet.”
Another weapon in the fight was developed by Lake Alfred center entomologist Mike Rogers, whose research shows low-volume aerial spraying with the pesticide Malathion 5 effectively knocks down psyllid populations.
A low-volume aerial spray program could address two vexing issues in the fight against greening: “Bad neighbor” growers who don’t take the recommended efforts on psyllid control and abandoned groves.
Both result in safe havens for large psyllid populations that eventually spread to neighboring groves. Growers who are taking the costly recommended steps against psyllids have complained that fight is compromised by bad neighbors and abandoned groves.
Because a low-volume spray program can cover tens of thousands of grove acres in a matter of days, it could be employed on abandoned groves at little additional expense to participating growers, Rogers said. The lower cost also could entice greater participation from bad neighbors in the psyllid eradication effort.
“We can probably get more people to join in at a fraction of the cost” of ground sprays, he said. “A lot of growers around that (abandoned) grove may be willing to pick up the cost.”
Aerial Malathion sprays cost about $6 to $8 per acre, roughly a third the cost of other aerial and ground pesticide applications, said Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League. The Rogers team used Indian River groves in its research showing the low-volume sprays can effectively kill psyllids.
“It’s the best bullet we have in the revolver to fight this disease,” Bournique said.
Aerial Malathion is cheaper because it works with just one gallon per acre of the water-pesticide mixture, Rogers said. Other EPA-approved aerial pesticide sprays need 10 gallons or more per acre.
That means an airplane carrying 500 gallons of the pesticide mixture can cover just 50 acres per flight, requiring weeks to cover large areas, he said. That same plane can apply aerial Malathion over 500 acres in a single flight.
The lower amounts of pesticide makes the technology environmentally friendly.
The Indian River League is developing an area-wide program for this fall on groves in Indian River and St. Lucie counties west of Interstate 95, Bournique said. Growers owning more than 80 percent of groves in that area already have agreed to participate, and Bournique expects virtually 100 percent cooperation by the first spraying in the fall.


LBC OKs spending to divert Okeechobee discharges
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
September 12, 2013
The Joint Legislative Budget Commission on Thursday approved a $2.7 million budget amendment that will help divert about one-third of the Lake Okeechobee water now flowing into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Water is being discharged to reduce the possibility of the dike around the lake being breached, but that nutrient-rich water is flowing into estuaries where it is choking aquatic life.
The South Florida Water Management District and Department of Environmental Protection said they identified operational and structural changes to the existing pumping stations to help send 1 billion additional gallons into Everglades National Park and to out to sea. A DEP spokesman said spending on projects would begin immediately.
"I believe this proposal will make a significant reduction in the amount of water pouring into our community," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Gov. Rick Scott last month announced $40 million would be spent to speed up construction of the C-4 Stormwater Treatment Area project to clean diverted water from Lake Okeechobee and stormwater runoff. He also said he will commit $130 million over three years for the Tamiami Trail project, which involves placing the road on a bridge to improve flow of water through the Everglades.
Negron said that next year he plans to seek $100 million for Everglades restoration, which would be a boost from the $70 million for cleanup and restoration provided in the 2013-14 state budget.
He said restoration includes water storage projects that will help protect the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers from discharges. Negron also chairs the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.
"These programs are inextricably linked," Negron said. "As we help Everglades restoration we help the Lake Okeechobee discharge problem."
The commission also approved a DEP plan for its petroleum contamination cleanup program as required for the release of $75 million in additional clean-up funds. Budget language providing $125 million for cleanups provided only $50 million prior to approval of the plan.
Representatives of the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association said they remain concerned about a rule being developed by DEP to administer language in a budget implementing bill, SB 1502, that requires competitive bidding for site cleanups. They are concerned about how a contractor who is chosen as the low bidder could affect ongoing store operations.
Randy Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Retail Federation, said his group would like the state to get the lowest price for site rehabilitation and is working with DEP.
"We are still working towards this property rights issue to try to come up with a reasonable solution which we can all be satisfied with," Miller said.
Related Articles:
* Sept. 12, 2013 LBC amendment -- Lake Okeechobee discharges
* Sept. 12, 2013 LBC amendment -- petroleum contamination sites
Legislators approve $2.77 million quick fix for South Florida waterways     Naples Daily News
Legislative Panel Earmarks $2.8 Million to Curb Lake Okeechobee ...         WGCU News
Caloosahatchee River quick fix receives OK The News-Press
Fla. to spend $3m to help with Lake Okeechobee Water Release     Wink News
$2.8 Million for Deluge-Damaged St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee ...       Sunshine State News
Panel OK's $2.7 mil for Lake O pollution quick fix   Orlando Sentinel (blog)
Fla. Legislators OK $3M For Water Flow Improvement Projects     Law360 (subscription)


New well proposal creates concerns over drinking water
September 12, 2013
Locals are concerned about Bay County's drinking water show up to discuss new wells that Gulf Power says it needs.
The power company wants to build five injection wells to disperse what they use as cooling water at their plant.
Some residents voiced their concerned about possible contaminants getting into the aquifer, which is where an abundance of our drinking water comes from.
The injection wells would feed into the Tuscaloosa Level of sediment which is 7,000 feet below the ground level where as the maximum depth for drinking water wells is 438 feet.
Gulf Power and Department of Environmental Protection officials assured the group the wells will be insulated and monitored under D.E.P and E.P.A guidelines to protect drinking water.
D.E.P Assistant Director Clifford Wilson said, "What's great about this project is that it's a tested process. It's not new to Florida, it's been in play for a great deal of time. We have the same type of operation, very similar in Pensacola with the Crist Plant. It's been very successful, it's been a great process and there's been a tremendous amount of assurances put in place to make sure there is that vertical separation as well as all the confinements that you need so there is no impact to our ground water."
Gulf Power is wanting to use reclaimed water from Bay County and Panama City, possibly from Lynn Haven to serve as the cooling water at the plants.
It would then be sent through these wells instead of the county or cities discharging into any of the bays or waterways.
The company has been using salt water and say it's not working as well as fresh water would.


Panel OK's $2.7 mil for Lake O pollution quick fix
Sun Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
September 12, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — A legislative panel OK'd a $2.7 million budget request Thursday for South Florida water projects in the hope of providing relief for the dirty water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
This summer, discharges from the rain-swollen lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers have contributed to major algae blooms that have mucked up the rivers and threatened tourism — spurring the Senate to create a new Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin that is looking for "short-term" solutions to the outbreak.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing polluted lake water into the rivers to prevent further weakening of the Herbert Hoover Dike. Solving the problem would require billions of dollars to repair the levee, design new reservoirs and finish Everglades restoration.
Department of Environmental Protection officials said the $2.7 million would help the South Florida Water Management District make improvements to pumping stations that will shoot more lake water south into Everglades National Park. The effort would reduce the flow by about 1 billion gallons a day.
The agency is also looking to store water on public lands in the St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee basins.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is in charge of the basin committee, intends to seek $100 million next spring for two Everglades reservoir projects in South Florida designed to reduce polluted discharges into the rivers.
In recent weeks, Gov. Rick Scott has also pledged $37 million in state and local money to begin cleanup of Central and North Florida springs and another $40 million to build the C-44 reservoir on the St. Lucie side of Lake Okeechobee, again to slow discharges into the river.
But pressures to clean up the algae-polluted rivers and the state's springs will be competing with Scott's promise to cut $500 million in taxes and increase education funding in an election year.
State economist Amy Baker told the panel Thursday that lawmakers would have $845.7 million in surplus revenue next year. And $449 million of that is considered one-time cash that won't be available in future years.


Robert Beltran named director of Swiftmud - Staff report
September 12, 2013
The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board has appointed Robert Beltran to serve as executive director, taking over for Blake Guillory, who recently became executive director for the South Florida Water Management District.
Beltran has served as assistant executive director for the district, which is commonly known as Swiftmud, since March 2012.
Swiftmud’s jurisdiction includes Marion County west of Interstate 75. The rest of the county is covered by the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Beltran earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and master’s degree in environmental engineering from Tulane University.

Caloosahatchee water quality project begun
WZVN, – by Jim Spiewak
September 11, 2013
Ground is now broke on the first ever water quality project along the Caloosahatchee River.
The goal --bring relief to residents suffering from lake runoff.
Many say this project will not bring relief to residents of Southwest Florida. 
Leaders say the new facility will.
When finished, this $3 million dollar multi-year project will pump filtered water that seeps in from the lake back out.
It will do so through what's called "floating aquatic vegetation." 
Its a process of using plants to filter nitrogen and phosphorous out of dirty water. Pumps will then return the water back to the river.
How much relief will this one project bring?  Consider this -- thousands of cubic feet per second are rushing out of the lake--engineers say this project will only be able to handle 100 cubic feet per second of flow.
Leaders who helped put this into place do have a message for critics.
"You don't steal second base with your foot on first. You gotta start somewhere and for the folks that live in SWFL and are impacted by the Caloosahatchee this is very positive step forward that will ultimately make a difference as we start adding components to it," said Matt Hudson, State Representative.
Representative Hudson is referring to -- if a project this size is successful, he says many others all over the state could follow.
Storage is a secondary component to the project. It will be able to store roughly 1 foot of water among its 660 acres.
Permits will be ready in one month and the project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014.


Farcical deal lets natural Florida slip away - by Paula Dockery
September 11, 2013
I anticipated the surplus of sites but never intended a "sell an acre to buy an acre" farce. The goal was to attain a net gain.
For the better part of two decades, the state of Florida acted responsibly to preserve our natural resources and enhance our quality of life. Through our visionary land-acquisition program, Preservation-2000 and its successor program, Florida Forever, we have purchased and maintained some of the state's most critically sensitive land for habitat protection, water quality, water recharge, recreational activities and nature-based tourism.
While in the Florida House in 1999, it was my challenge to craft the Florida Forever program to continue the success of P-2000, while adjusting to the need to manage the land already purchased, to focus more on water resources and depleted water quality, and to allow greater public access. The successor program contained $300 million in annual funding to accomplish these goals. Florida was the envy of the nation with our much-touted land-acquisition and preservation efforts. Under five governors:  Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist the promise was fulfilled, and conservation and preservation funding was provided. As the economy took a hit, so too did Florida Forever funding, but with the expectation that, as revenue increased, so would its funding. That didn't happen. Take last year for example. While revenue rose and Florida experienced its largest budget to date, the $300 million Florida Forever program was given just $20 million to continue some of its numerous activities. As a misguided gesture of good will, a provision was added that would allow an additional $50 million in acquisition authority if the state sold parcels of conservation land already purchased and used those proceeds for "better" land purchases.
This scheme technically allowed the Legislature and governor to claim they allocated $70 million for land acquisition.
The likelihood of having the money in the current fiscal year was slim: Potential land needed to be identified, presented to public for comment, the list refined, approved by Cabinet, appraised, put on the auction block, legal and title issues resolved, and then sold. Who would buy these pieces of land ? Would they be developed ? Would we recoup our investment ?
To be intellectually honest, the state funded just $20 million, only one-fifteenth of the $300 million intended - and then redirected funds meant for the Florida Forever trust fund. Why did the environmental community agree to such an ill-conceived deal? Were they so hungry for $20 million that they were willing to lend credence to such an iffy proposition ?
Don't get me wrong. As the author of the Florida Forever bill, I anticipated and allowed for the surplus of sites that were not targeted for purchase or sites that no longer met a resource purpose, but never intended a "sell an acre to buy an acre" farce. The goal was to attain a net gain.
Now that the Department of Environmental Protection has released its list of 169 proposed surplus sites, totaling 5,331 acres in 67 state parks, forests and wildlife areas, the public is speaking out to save many of these areas.
On the list are the Green Swamp Management Area and the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area, both of which are designated as areas of critical state concern. With little faith in government to do the right thing, a grass-roots effort sprung up to put the integrity of the state's land-acquisition program before the voters on the November 2014 ballot.
A similar effort passed with great support decades earlier, when the budget was almost half of what it is now. The Water and Land Conservation Amendment petition:
Those in office who claim to care about our quality of life should show it by restoring the full funding of $300 million to the popular-and-proven Florida Forever program, using the dedicated funding source of documentary stamps, which rises with property sales.
How important is ensuring an adequate supply of life-sustaining water ?  Doesn't it justify spending a mere fraction of 1 percent of the $74 billion budget ?


Lake Okeechobee pollution swells to near-disaster levels
Huffington Post
September 11, 2013
South Florida's Lake Okeechobee is one of the state's most celebrated sites, but this month is may also be a pending environmental disaster. One of the largest lakes in the United States, it is also one of the most shallow, just nine feet deep on average during normal conditions. Unfortunately heavy downpours over the last few months have left water levels in the lake closer to 15.5 feet. Now some people fear the swollen lake may be ready to burst. If that happens, decades of pollution and waste that have gathered in Okeechobee could soon flood the surrounding region, the New York Times reports.
The swollen lake has already sent polluted waters into nearby estuaries. The pollution — runoff from farms, home septic systems and golf courses — is feeding the growth of toxic algae, which can kill oysters and affect manatees, sea grass and other freshwater organisms.
Dirty plume
Dirty plume of Lake Okeechobee water on the West Cost (Sanibel Island)
"These coastal estuaries cannot take this," Mark D. Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, told the Times. "These estuaries are so important to us, our environment and our economies."
Meanwhile, the lake pollution — visibly evident in the form of brown, murky water or green algae — is reportedly hurting both tourism and real estate prices.
This year's flood is actually the reverse of the situation just six years ago, when drought allowed state officials to remove 1.9 million cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the lake. Tests on that "muck" revealed elevated levels of arsenic, pesticides and other chemicals.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the dikes around the lake and the flow of water out of Okeechobee, met with local residents last week to discuss water quality issues. Representatives explained that there is a lack of federal funding to maintain the failing dam systems and that maintaining both the lake and the surrounding area is a delicate balancing act.
Federal funds aren't the only monies in short supply. Florida's state budget may not support many abatement activities. According to the News-Press, the 2014 budget would cut $10.4 million from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the state agency in charge of protecting water and wildlife. This would include $600,000 from the Lake Okeechobee restoration budget and $854,000 in manatee rehab funds. As if that weren't enough, another $839,000 is about to be cut from the state's harmful algal bloom program.
But with all of these problems, Lake Okeechobee isn't completely suffering. "The lake is absolutely beautiful right now if you go out to the marshes," Paul Gray of Audubon Florida told Florida Newszap. "It's got clear water, wading birds and a lot of fish." But all of that could also be at risk if the next two months bring any major hurricanes and more rain. "If a lot of rainfall comes and it gets two or three feet deeper, we could lose that beautiful marsh," he said. "It took years to get to this point. It could be destroyed very quickly."

Politics and Water intersect
Florida Weekly – by Roger Williams
September 11, 2013
To clean up and better manage water coming into and flowing out of Lake Okeechobee, a great deal more will have to be stored outside the lake, experts say — both in reservoirs, and on southern lands where it once flowed naturally.
A significant portion of those lands, 700,000 acres called the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), is now owned by farm corporations. Together, they grow 480,000 acres of sugar cane there.
The EAA is a government gift to agriculture that includes 15 major canals and 25 water control structures managed by the South Florida Water Management District.
The sugar companies use water channeled their way efficiently, they say — back-pumping small amounts of it into the lake when necessary and cleaning the rest according to EPA standards before releasing it into canals flowing southward.
But sugar companies have resisted storing additional water on their lands for many years, while insisting on significant amounts of water for irrigation in season.
U.S. Sugar alone, with 1,700 employees, takes in an average of $604 million in profits annually, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Its strategy for maintaining this status quo, say critics, includes significant campaign contributions to the state’s current political leaders in both parties.
The relationship between so-called “Big Sugar” — the Fanjul Corp. and the U.S. Sugar Corp., in particular — and very powerful politicians, appears to be intimate.
Sen. Marco Rubio, writing in his autobiography, “An American Son,” recalled the following meeting with the Fanjul family, owners of Florida Crystals, Domino Sugar and others. The passage was later quoted in The Wall Street Journal. “The Fanjuls suggested I spend Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons, where many of their friends and major Republican donors would spend the holiday. Jeanette and I stayed in Mark Gerson’s guesthouse. On Sunday night, Pepe and Emilia Fanjul hosted a dinner for us on their boat, and they invited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rudy stayed for the entire dinner, and afterward we talked about my campaign. He wasn’t ready to endorse me yet, but he was intrigued. There was no love lost between Rudy and Charlie Crist.”
Mr. Crist, Florida’s former Republican governor, had championed an effort to buy U.S. Sugar lands en masse at market rates with federal and state money, and solve the problem of Everglades restoration once and for all with a southern flow-way.
It failed, although Florida managed to buy 26,800 acres for $197 million. Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Rubio and others campaigned against the plan in 2010, and a three-year option to acquire 153,200 acres of sugar land for about $1.1 billion expires next month.
But the problem still has to be fixed — that’s what everybody is now insisting, both Republican and Democrat.
“I reached out to Congress with this, I reached out to (U.S. Rep.) Trey Radel and (State Sen.) Lizbeth Benacquisto. I said, ‘You need to fix this,’”says Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “Tourism in Lee and Collier counties alone is a $4.4 billion industry. It provides 85,000 jobs.’”
But not if the water is bad.
Meanwhile, in one of the ironies of public life, Gov. Scott, who has long criticized federal participation and federal spending in Florida, went on the stump recently to demand help from the feds. He noted insistently that the federal government has failed to kick in $1.6 billion its officials promised to pay as the federal share of Everglades cleanup.
And that isn’t all they should pay, according to Gov. Scott. They’ll need to meet the state halfway in a number of projects, including the new road raising on the Tamiami Trail in southeastern Collier County — planned as 2.6 miles of elevated highway costing $180 million, to be split half-and-half by the state and the federal government.
The project will allow water to resume its traditional flow from north to south and out through the southern Everglades to Florida Bay.
At the same time, and supported by many state legislators, in his first term the governor has eviscerated the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, along with state water quality standards, which are now significantly more lax than they were in 2010.
The Water Management District budget alone, about $1.5 billion in 2010, came in at $567.3 million in the current fiscal year, profoundly inhibiting the ability of officials to monitor compliance with clean water rules, to study permit applications, and to do research, many said.
Administration officials argue the system is now leaner and more efficient.
And in the last six weeks, from the Indian River Lagoon, to Stuart and the St. Lucie Lock, to Fort Myers and the Franklin Lock, elected leaders, including Gov. Scott, have made appearances before disgruntled or anxious crowds, announcing money injections into a system designed to control water.
That comes on the heels of larger struggling efforts by officials to advance the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, reconfigured in 2000 from a decades-old plan as a nearly 70-part, 30-year strategy to save the Everglades.
But the CERP, as they call it, was judged to have made little progress by the National Research Council last year.
Nevertheless, “this is the most progress I’ve seen in a long time — that the legislature is willing to take up the issues in a meaningful way, to reform existing policies,” says John Cassani, a biologist and water official in Lee County.
“That’s big. What the outcome ends up being is still a question.”
For example, the governor has now promised a $40 million state boost to help build a reservoir on the St. Lucie River, along with the $90 million boost to help raise the Tamiami Trail.
But will the feds do their share?
Some who toured with the governor last month are the feds.
“(That’s) where I come in,” announced U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, standing next to Gov. Scott at a Fort Myers meeting overlooking the Caloosahatchee.
“I’ll work to make sure the federal government keeps the promises it made years and years ago (to pay for half of the Everglades restoration). A healthy environment means a healthy economy, means jobs for all of us.”
Working a small crowd beside other legislators, all within a few feet of the governor, was a smiling State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Could she help secure more money for key water projects in her District 30?
“We’re working on it,” she said.
Meanwhile, proposals either to buy the U.S. Sugar land necessary to filter water south of Lake Okeechobee, or require the agricultural companies to store more water on their lands have not received any attention from Gov. Scott.
At a St. Lucie County news conference, reporters asked Gov. Scott how he could objectively consider such options as acquiring U.S. Sugar if he continued to accept campaign contributions from the sugar industry.
So far, he’s received $375,000, records show, including a $100,000 donation in June, as summer rains began to fall.
“Look, what I’m focused on is today. We’re going to make sure we do the right thing for this community,” he replied.
“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.’”



FL Rep.

Rep. Fitzenhagen talks water quality at Estero business event
Naples Daily News - by Laura Gates
September 11, 2013
Water has been in the headlines lately, and state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen would like to keep it that way.
She has long spoken against excessive freshwater releases into the Caloosahatchee River, which are taking a toll on the health of our local ecosystem. And now that she has been appointed to a Florida House committee, Fitzenhagen is addressing this issue.
It’s definitely a top priority for the upcoming legislative session, Fitzenhagen told members of the Estero Chamber of Commerce during a Business After Hours event at Miromar Design Center Aug. 29.
“It impacts tourism, our lifestyle, our businesses, the fishing industry and more,” said the representative for District 78, which includes a portion of Estero east of I-75. “I am happy to announce today I will have a role in doing something more than just an advocate. The speaker of the House has appointed me to a committee to address this issue.”
Fitzenhagen has set up a website- to collect petitions, showing citizen buy-in for protecting our water quality. To avoid overburdening the aging Herbert Hoover Dike, the Army Corps of Engineers releases excess water from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. With record rainfalls this season, water in the Caloosahatchee is running fast, high and dark, with low salinity.
Florida’s Gulf Coast needs to be as vocal as communities on the Treasure Coast are, Fitzenhagen said. Gov. Scott recently announced the state would commit $40 million to help complete a federal storm water project there.
“I’m very interested in water quality,” said Fitzenhagen, who campaigned on the issue. “We have limited resources, and we all need to learn how to share them more effectively.”
She applauded Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement last week to commit $90 million over the next three years to bridge a segment of U.S. 41, eliminating a concrete barrier and allowing water to flow more naturally to the Everglades. However, more needs to be done, said Fitzenhagen.
The House committee will be examining the possible purchase or lease of land in the Caloosahatchee Water Basin to filter water before it is released into Southwest Florida estuaries, she said. State officials also will go after federal funds owed to the state to rebuild the Hoover Dike, Fitzenhagen added.
She wants to explore a public-private partnership to get water flowing more directly from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, which likely would involve an agreement with the sugarcane industry in south Florida.
“I am hoping if we are all sitting at the table, we can come to a solution,” Fitzenhagen said.
Many Chamber members agreed that water quality needs to be a top priority for legislators.
“I want to know what is going to be done about our water as soon as possible,” Eileen Galvin said. “We went through this a few years ago, and nothing was done.”
Local real estate broker Stephanie Miller said she hopes Fitzenhagen will be relentless in her efforts to fix Southwest Florida water quality woes.
“I think this water quality issue is huge,” Miller said. “We keep getting the short end of the stick.”
The other big issue on Fitzenhagen’s agenda is addressing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Controversy has swelled because of the self-defense ruling in the Zimmerman case.
“I want to look at the Stand Your Ground law to see if there is anything we can do to make that a better law,” Fitzenhagen said.
The law is not evenly applied throughout the state, with local municipalities given wide latitude, she added. The House is looking into a possible augmentation which would require a grand jury if Stand Your Ground is being used as a defense.
Fitzenhagen took an informal poll of attendees at the After Hours event, finding a near even split among those in favor of keeping the law unaltered and those who think it needs improvement.
Fitzenhagen also touched on the proposed “Credit Freeze Bill.” It would help prevent identity theft of minors by allowing parents or guardians to put a freeze on their children’s social security and other information so it could not be used to obtain credit.
“The bill would protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” Fitzenhagen said.
She also listed a highlight from her first legislative session as obtaining increased funding for mental health services, an area where Florida has ranked at the bottom, Fitzenhagen said. Included was $600,000 toward a program for troubled adolescents.
“As a society, we need to take away this stigma and realize many of us, at some time in our life, is going to have a mental health crisis,” Fitzenhagen said. “We need to have a support network for people to get back on their feet. Mental health is no different than physical health.”
Fitzenhagen also noted increased funding for Florida Gulf Coast University and Edison State College as positive results of the legislative session, as well as funding for local transportation projects like the direct interstate exit to Southwest Florida International Airport.
She has been in Estero several times recently, helping break ground for the Alico Family Golf Center and supporting the Love That Dress! fundraiser for PACE Center for Girls of Lee County. Fitzenhagen serves on the advisory board for PACE, as well as the Fort Myers Women’s Community Club and the Lee County Association of Women Lawyers.
In the House, she serves on the Judiciary Committee, Healthy Families Subcommittee, Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee, Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee.
“This girl has a big future,” Miller said. “She’s on some great committees, and she cares sincerely from her heart.”


Spring dive

Water quality improvement: Save springa for all of Florida
September 11, 2013
Florida's chief environmental regulator stopped in Ocala one week ago to announce that the state is giving the community $3.5 million to help pay for "water-quality and water-quantity springs-improvement projects”.
In doing so, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard declared Ocala and Marion County "ground zero" in Florida's battle to save its springs. As home of a famous freshwater spring, Silver Springs, Ocala and Marion County are both passionate and protective of its springs, including Silver, Rainbow, Juniper and Silver Glen. These North Central Florida developments are important for Polk County because water runs downhill (south) in Florida more or less through the Floridan Aquifer, which is essentially an underground series of rivers that starts in Georgia and runs down through much of Florida. So the state's springs restoration grants: $2 million for the city of Ocala and $1.5 million for Marion County that will help reduce the amount of nitrates from treated wastewater making their way into the groundwater, and ultimately, springs in that area may have some effect farther south. If nothing else, it is a good precedent.
Vinyard said divvying up the $10 million allocated for springs projects this year was based largely on choosing projects that were sure to produce quick results and ready to proceed. "Action dollars," he called the money, that would "get the biggest bang for the buck." The Ocala grant of $2 million will go toward a $12 million upgrade of one of its wastewater plants, a project that is expected to reduce nitrate pollution by 330 tons per year, the equivalent of 442,000 bags of fertilizer. The county's portion of the grant, $1.5 million, will be used to help finance an $8 million undertaking to pipe wastewater from the Silver Springs Shores facility to two golf courses, each more than 13 miles away. The reduction in nitrate pollution is expected to exceed 2,000 tons per year and reduce water consumption at the courses as well. It was a positive day for Florida's springs. Vinyard repeatedly pointed out the $10 million spent this year by the Scott administration for springs restoration was a record amount. Therein lies the problem. While the $10 million is a welcome down payment on what ails the springs, it is hardly the serious kind of investment that is necessary to restore, indeed repair them after decades of overpumping, pollution and inexplicable neglect. Moreover, a few million dollars is hardly enough to assuage fears of what lies ahead.




Water Rescue
Florida Weekly – by Roger Williams
September 11, 2013
Polluted estuaries, treacherous rainfall, an aging dike and political posturing – our State is in a need of a …
It was the same old summer thing, until suddenly it was as new as a shiny coin.
The rain began to fall, and it kept falling. Then it rained some more (same old thing).
Lake Okeechobee filled. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, eager to avoid a breached dike and a lot of dead people, opened the floodgates and released the polluted freshwater east and west down dredged and straightened rivers, to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico — 24/7, for a solid month into late August (same old thing).
Placed at risk: marine life forms, Realtors struggling to sell waterfront properties, and every man, woman and child serving tourists for a living (again, same old thing).
But suddenly in the waning days of summer, the familiar became the novel. Politicians of every stripe arrived in the flesh: Gov. Rick Scott. Sen. Bill Nelson. U.S. Rep. Trey Radel. A handful of state congressional leaders.
They showed an unprecedented interest in events north, east and west of Lake Okeechobee, including along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
As September approached, they met with anxiety-ridden residents. And they promised money.
That promise was the new silver dollar in the old quarter roll of troubled waters that wash the southern half of the Florida peninsula.
The pols didn’t just promise money, either. They also demanded it, in the case of Gov. Scott, who repeatedly pointed to the federal government as the laggard in Everglades cleanup efforts.
“Right now, the federal government needs to stand up and do their job,” he told reporters at a St. Lucie press conference, using a line of argument he repeated on the Indian River Lagoon and in Fort Myers.
“What they need to do is fund the project, fund the Corps, (and) the Corps will do their job if they have the money.” So far, federal officials have failed to pay $1.6 billion promised to help Florida clean up the Everglades, he said.
With that novel Scott administration position, water politics, suddenly, had become front-page news, along with the most diverse chorus of voices to weigh in on the subject in years.
Politicians did not fare well in the eyes of many.
From east to west, increasingly vocal critics of the status quo pointed fingers at elected leaders who ultimately control state and federal money for fixing the problems of environment and water.
Those officials, they insisted — Republican and Democrat alike — have underestimated the sea of trouble now facing the Sunshine State’s greatly altered water system, a jimmied patch-up of flood-dodging, purity-compromising engineering grafted onto nature.
That has to change, they said.
“You have to keep talking. You HAVE to keep talking. Politicians will say how happy they are to (hear) you — they’re not, ” announced Maggy Hurchalla, a former Martin County politician and the sister of one-time U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. She addressed a crowd of water and business advocates gathered in Clewiston on the first day of September.
“Politicians will blame God, then they’ll blame the Army Corps, and then they’ll blame Washington. Look over there at that dike. There is not one single drop in it from Washington. We done did it to ourselves.”
What we done did
In Florida now, there’s either too much water in the summer, or too little of it during disabling winter droughts. It’s either polluted when it flows into and out of Lake Okeechobee, or it’s flowing the wrong direction out of the lake. Or both.
“The key thing to understand is that the Kissimmee influences Lake O., which influences the estuaries and the southern part of the system,” says Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, Jacksonville district deputy commander for the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Fixing this will require tremendous resources. There are no short-term solutions to the problems. It’s tough for me to talk about getting things done in decades, but that’s the reality.”
The uses and obligations of water — who gets how much, and how much users ought to pay to clean it up when they use it — can create significant conflicts among special interest groups that might be better served by working together, many acknowledge.
Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Florida Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of about 50 farms, put it this way: “We have a saying: Water is for fighting, whiskey is for drinking.” The difficulty comes in turning that truth upside down.
The heavy imprint of cows
Since a 2006 Lloyd’s of London report citing Lake Okeechobee as the nation’s second most vulnerable site for hurricanes, the Herbert Hoover dike has been buttressed by 21 miles of Army Corps engineering between Belle Glade and Pahokee. In addition, 32 of its dangerously aging culverts are now being replaced, notes Lt. Col. Greco.
“It’s stronger than it was a year or two years ago, (with measures) actively protecting communities around the dike,” he says.
But for many, that’s too little cause for celebration in a tributary river and lake system where nearly a century of runoff nutrients from farming, mining and urban living have been poured, and southward flows altered significantly.
Lake Okeechobee’s bottom, which was once commonly visible at any depth, isn’t now.
“There’s a century worth of phosphorous banked in the sediment of the lake — that’s not going away anytime soon,” explains John Cassani, a biologist and resource manager at Lee County Hyacinth Control on the west coast.
“A lot of that is urban contribution from Disney World south, but a lot of it is also agriculture.”
No matter what their viewpoint, most agree that the Kissimmee River basin’s cattle industry is one of the major problems in cleaning the Everglades for hundreds of miles to the south.
“That’s where a lot of the nutrient pollution comes from, right up there,” says Clewiston Mayor Phillip Roland.
As a boy, he could see the bottom of the lake in 15 or 20 feet of water wherever he was, he recalls. Now, at 74, he can’t see it anywhere he is.
About 550,000 beef and dairy cattle live along the Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek at any one time, the state Department of Agriculture estimates. Each cow can produce roughly 65 pounds of manure per day. Unfortunately, acknowledge the experts, much of that waste will reach the lake as nutrient pollution.
Following overwhelming rains of about 100 inches in the wet season of 1947, and after years of planning, the Army Corps straightened the meandering Kissimmee over a 100-mile stretch in the 1960s.
Engineers reduced the river to a canal that worked like a big hose, stretching about 50 miles long, 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Water that once required six months to filter through natural wetlands from Orlando’s southside lake system to Lake Okeechobee now takes about two days, says Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
Unfiltered, that water injects huge amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous into Lake Okeechobee.
Every drop of it, eventually, becomes part of an allpoints waterscape stirred daily into the Florida cocktail of geography, culture and economics.
John Poggi, president of West Palm Beach-based Eco- Advisors, characterized the problem this way: “The northern Everglades from Orlando down to Lake O. has been a forgotten child. It’s a major source of this phosphorous and nitrogen pollution that help cause the algae blooms. It’s regional and development runoff, and it includes agricultural runoff.
“The lake is like a big bowl. On the bottom of that lake it’s probably six to eight inches thick over 730 square miles. That’s called legacy phosphorous.”
Holding catastrophe at bay
Wherever it comes from, much of the nutrient pollution eventually flows down the rivers east and west. Residents near the rivers contribute to the problem, too, by using lawn fertilizer and aging septic systems — 30,000 on the St. Lucie side in Martin County, and more than 100,000 on the Caloosahatchee side through Glades, Hendry and Lee Counties, records show ( is one source).
Seepage from those tanks gets into the river or groundwater systems that reach the river, is back-pumped into the Lake, or ultimately flows into the bays.
In addition, there are too few high-tech sewage treatment plants, the kind that filter out not just floating things, but many chemical pollutants, too, experts say.
The entire effort to hold catastrophe at bay or improve a fresh-to-saltwater system that once was as pure as anything in the world is so complicated it almost defies a single description. A map of ongoing or planned projects from Polk and St. Lucie counties south through Palm Beach, Collier, Broward, and into the Keys shows more than 60.
But the basic principles of restoration in the Everglades remain consistently simple.
The water-quality problems of pollution and its algae offspring, and the water-quantity problems — supplying clean freshwater at the right times to support estuaries and healthy bays with productive levels of salinity and light — are discordant themes in a whole symphony now badly out of tune, observers acknowledge.
“Once water gets into the lake, we’re at the mercy of the system we have. The more we can keep out of the lake the better off we are,” explains Rick Barber, a Naples-based engineer and career water manager appointed recently by Gov. Scott to the governing board of the 16-county South Florida Water Management District.
But the water system we’ve created doesn’t have to be the one we continue to live with.
“If it’s going to go south it’s got to get cleaned up. Can we even do that?” asks Mr. Poggi, the environmental consultant.
“Yes, we can. The only reason we can’t or won’t, will be funding. And ultimately it’s politicians who decide if that funding will be there.”
Southward, or not ?
Sending more water southward, and less east and west during the typical summer season of 55- to 65-inch rainfalls, may be the key not only to the future of this water world itself, but to the culture and economies built on it, many insist.
Once upon a time, the southern Everglades and ultimately Florida Bay inherited almost all the water from the northern Everglades in a nearly imperceptible flow of a few miles per month.
Now, says Mr. Perry, the Everglades gets only 13 percent of the water — not enough to maintain the proper levels of salinity in Florida Bay.
Agriculture, including sugar-producing companies that use 480,000 of the 700,000 acres in the government-protected Everglades Agricultural Area mostly south of the lake, gets 23 percent. And the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river systems get the rest, but in amounts that are often too much, or too little — 20 percent in the case of the St. Lucie, and more than twice that much, 44 percent, in the case of the Caloosahatchee.
But southward storage or filtering does not appeal to those who control much of the land below the lake. Sugar growers, with their heavy fertilizer regimens and license to back-pump dirty water, maintain that they have been able to reduce the amount of phosphorus they create by 50 percent in recent years.
“Backpumping into the lake — we get criticized for it, but it only occurs under extreme flooding conditions,” says Ms. Miedema of the Sugar Growers Exchange.
“The South Florida Water Management District can’t move polluted water out to tide, so they have to put it back into the lake to prevent communities from flooding. And they haven’t done that for months.”
As for storage, she argues, that should be done either on the north side of the lake in cow country, or in the lake itself, with a better dike — but not on sugar lands.
“Rather than using (our) farmland, storage north of the lake gives you a bigger bang for your buck.” And for the time being, she adds, “Fix the levee around the lake. That’s the best place to store water.”
Where the pollution comes from
Debates about water use and storage aside, no one disputes this fact: The users, all of them together, create immense amounts of pollution.
In the Caloosahatchee system, for example, 18 to 27 percent of nutrients come from Lake Okeechobee. Roughly the same amounts enter the system from “submarine groundwater inputs,” according to a study produced by marine biology Professor Ai Ning Loh and other researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The remaining nutrients come from the local watershed, especially east of the Franklin Locks.
As a result, the researchers concluded, “the best approach to reduce nutrient inputs would be… fertilizer ordinances, stormwater treatment areas, required septic system inspections, and so on.”
Some have taken action. Residents of Sanibel Island anted up a huge sum to keep their oceanfront and bay waters attractive to visitors, who will provide even greater streams of revenue, they hope.
“There’s a reason Sanibel spent $71 million on (sewage treatment) — it was not to have septic poured into the water,” explains Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane.
Unfortunately, however, the charming and upscale barrier island lies at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, which is not charming and upscale.
During the month-long flood of dirty-coffee water released downstream to protect Lake Okeechobee’s dike, salinity levels dropped to zero at various points in the naturally brackish estuary.
The average flow through the Franklin Locks in Lee County for 30 days, from July 21 to Aug. 19, was 9,800 cubic feet per second — 3.5 times higher than the “harm threshold,” according to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.
That will have long-term effects, but it also had a shortterm effect: “The release caused 100 percent mortality of intertidal juvenile oysters at two sites,” reported Rae Ann Wessel, the foundation’s policy director.
Low salt or none is only the short-term problem on the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie, however.
“So far this year alone, about a million pounds of nitrogen and 600,000 pounds of phosphorous have been released down the St. Lucie River — and probably more than twice that down the Caloosahatchee,” Mr. Perry said.
Cleaning this water, and directing it in appropriate quantities to the right environments, is now the challenge.
Ultimately, the system works like this:
When somebody flushes a toilet in the clubhouse of Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, 10 minutes from the main gate at Disney World near the headwaters of the Kissimmee River and the 28-year-old Chemline water-treatment plant there, that four-gallon injection will ultimately affect Florida Bay more than 200 miles distant.
That happens even if the treated molecules of a flushed urban toilet, comingling with nutrient-rich waters from the lower Kissimmee basin, are held in Lake Okeechobee and then released in freshwater floods east or west down the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee Rivers.
There, they join runoff: the massive runoff from farms, tens of thousands of leeching septic tanks, each town and city, and every sewer treatment plant designed to take out some but not all the pollutants in the effluvium.
When freshwater that once flowed southward reaches Stuart on the east, an ocean-front town bricked into the Atlantic mouth of the St. Lucie, or Sanibel Island on the west, wedged into Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf of Mexico, it can’t refresh the southern Everglades and Florida Bay.
Never mind that 90 percent of the wild fowl populating this water world in 1900 is now gone; Florida Bay has grown so salty without its traditional injections of naturally filtered freshwater that its marine populations might be unrecoverable to their original state.
Especially if politicians don’t behave much differently than they have in recent decades.
“It’s a resilient system,” notes Professor Aswani Volety, a marine biologist and chair of the Department of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University — shortly before adding the “but.”
“But there’s no silver bullet. The problem is not a localized problem.”
Four things become apparent to nearly every opinionater weighing in on the water issue:
One, the problem is likely to be solved only incrementally by a confluence of small fixes, unless lake water can be released in large measure to the south.
Two, it will take a great deal of money either way.
Three, elected officials are the ones who determine whether that money will be spent, or not, repairing the Everglades system enough so that tourism, real estate and agriculture all can live comfortably in the region.
And four, everybody is going to have to sacrifice something, from environmentalists to farmers.
As Wayne Daltry, a retired planner and now president of Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association/Riverwatch, put it in a letter to elected officials recently, “adversity is to be shared.”
He was encouraging them to support a measure calling for the Army Corps to provide more water down the estuaries in the dry season.
Even drawing down Lake Okeechobee six inches would invigorate marine wildlife in and near the gulf, and allow the Army Corps to store more water in the wet season — at no cost — than the entire, $500 million C-43 reservoir, with its 170,000 acre feet of planned storage, could hold upriver in Hendry County when and if it is ever built. (Congress has failed to release any stream of money for the project, so far.)
That, in turn, would help water managers avoid the flooding of those estuaries, killing flora and fauna, Mr. Daltry pointed out.
The C-43 reservoir on the west, and the now green-lighted C-44 on the east side of the lake, with its planned 50,600 acre feet of storage, represent the two most critical projects in the engineering plan of the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps, many insist.
If there is good news, it might be this, suggests Professor Volety. “For about 15 years, things have been status quo. It hasn’t really gotten worse. And this is a resilient system. It can come back.”
It will have to if the natural and social economics of Florida are to remain robust.


A Lake in South Florida floods rivers with garbage; neighbors cry foul
Latinos Post
September 10, 2013
In South Florida, on the estuaries of Lake Okeechobee, there's a problem brewing. As swimmers head down to the shoreline, they see the signage:
"Advisory," read the one around the estuary, according to the New York Times. "High bacteria levels. Avoid contact with the water. Increased risk of illness at this time."
Okeechobee is no small lake: at 730 square miles, it's about half the size of Rhode Island, and it's the largest lake in the United States. And the problem it's creating is no small potato, either.
With the lake full of polluted water and the dike holding the water is vulnerable to storm and hurricanes, Florida was recently put in an unenviable position: risk the 143-mile-long dike breaking during tumultuous weather - a measure that would've proven disasterous to nearby lakeside communities - or drain billions of gallons of polluted water into the nearby brackish estuaries.
The Army Corp of Engineers chose the estuaries, following guidelines established after the catastrophic levee breaks in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That storm killed over 1,800 people when broken levees in the storm surge devastated the city's inhabitants.
For Florida, the flooding - while less dramatic - is still damaging, and no permanent solution seems close. The St. Lucie River estuary to the lake's east and the Caloosahatchee River estuary in the west, both a delicate ecological balance between fresh and salt water, were flooded with billions of gallons of freshwater, not to mention septic/sewage water and the pollutants from farms, ranches, and golf courses. As the freshwater overpowered the saltwater, smaller marine life like oysters were wiped out en masse while larger marine life like manatees were likewise hit.
Public reaction to the ecological disaster was so strong that politicians have shown signs of taking action. Governor Rick Scott has proposed $130 million in projects to help the estuaries, including diverting more water into the everglades and cleaning up water in the St. Lucie River basin. But skeptics remain.
"I've seen this time after time," Mayor Phillip Roland of Clewiston, a lakeside town, told the Times. "This problem hasn't just started."


A start for springs - Editorial
September 10, 2013
There's plenty of reason for skepticism about the state's commitment to environmental protection, but just throwing eggs at Gov. Rick Scott won't fix the problems plaguing our springs.
Scott announced last week that $37 million would be spent on 10 projects aimed at improving water quality and quantity at some of the state's best-known springs. The money includes $10 million allocated by lawmakers in the state budget combined with $27 million from local and state agencies.
The projects include nearly $4 million in state funding to improve the treatment of wastewater routed to Lake City's sprayfield. The project is intended to reduce 85 percent of the nitrogen now going from the sprayfield into the aquifer feeding Ichetucknee Springs.
Other projects provide similar benefits for Silver Springs in Ocala, springs along the Suwannee River in Dixie County and other springs throughout the state. But Scott's announcement was largely met with skepticism from environmental advocates, who said the projects don't go far enough to reduce nutrient pollution and fail to address the overpumping of the aquifer.
Eric Draper of Audubon Florida told the Florida Current that Scott should get some credit for genuinely positive announcements for the environment.
"If the governor tries to do good things and all we (environmentalists) do is throw eggs, where is the incentive to do more things?" Draper said.



Exercise land purchase option to finalize Lake O solution - below: The Governor remains mum
North Fort Myers Neighbor - Guest Opinion: by Ray Judah, - a former Lee County Commissioner and long-time environmental activist.
September 10, 2013
The recent press conference held in Fort Myers by Gov. Scott to announce a joint agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Interior to fund the construction of 2.5 miles of bridging along the Tamiami Trail, to enhance water flow to the Everglades, was a wonderful example of the state and federal government continuing to work together on behalf of Everglades restoration.
The bridging is a component of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which is a state and federal initiative to use land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
When completed CEPP is expected to provide for the conveyance of approximately 220,000 acre feet of water south to the Everglades. An acre foot is essentially one foot of water covering an acre.
Gov. Scott and the State Legislature now have a tremendous opportunity to finalize the most critical piece of the Everglades restoration puzzle by moving forward with exercising the state's option, created several years ago, to purchase U.S. Sugar land holdings. The three- year option on 153,209 acres at $7,400 per acre expires Oct 2013. The state would still have an opportunity to acquire U.S. Sugar lands after October but, at a much higher price and having to compete with other potential buyers. To place things in perspective, CEPP is expected to cost approximately $2.6 billion and the entire comprehensive Everglades restoration efforts is expected to cost approximately $16 billion over 30 years.
It is interesting to note, that in 2005, the east and west releases from Lake Okeechobee amounted to 2.6 million acre feet. This totaled 855 billion gallons of turbid fresh water containing excess nutrients and other contaminants. The coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida sustained unprecedented damages to sea grass and fisheries and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie were covered with toxic blue-green algae. Health Department officials warned citizens not to touch the water. Threats of serious health problems were cited.
River and estuary damages are certain to occur repeatedly under present drainage structures and practices. Restoration of the historic southern flow-way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is the most cost effective and efficient solution to alleviating the destruction of the rivers and east-west estuaries that were once acclaimed as the most bountiful in the nation.
The purchase of U.S. Sugar lands is absolutely critical to recreate a flow way through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee to redirect the massive release of lake water that continues to cause adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
Our extremely wet summer rainy season of 2013 is shaping up like 2005 and with CEPP, including the bridging, conveying only approximately 10 percent of lake water to the south, it is imperative that the state acquire additional lands for the necessary storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
Gov. Scott should declare a state of emergency given the devastating economic and environmental impacts to the west and east coast communities of south Florida and schedule a Special Session with the Legislature to investigate options to acquire the U.S. Sugar lands. Such action would help bring to an end decades of degradation to our rivers, coastal estuaries and Florida Everglades. Bond financing, BP oil spill disaster funds dedicated to Florida under the Restore Act, or the re-prioritization of the South Florida Water Management District's Capital Improvement Program would provide the necessary funds to enable the state to exercise the land purchase option.
The final ingredient to "getting the water right" is the political will to complete the final phase of Everglades restoration.

Gov. Rick Scott remains mum on option to buy sugar land - by Jonathan Mattise
September 10, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH - With the deal's deadline about a month away, Gov. Rick Scott didn't offer a preference Tuesday on an option to buy sugar land to send more Lake Okeechobee water south into the Everglades, away from the St. Lucie Estuary.
Over a two-week period in August, Scott promised more than $130 million for projects related to the St. Lucie. But Scott and state officials haven't prioritized the land buy. Scott opposed a U.S. Sugar Corp. land purchase deal as a tea party candidate in the 2010 Republican primary, claiming the deal was crafted to benefit special interests.
The Republican governor addressed the land buy Tuesday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, his first stop on a statewide tour to brainstorm new tax cuts.
"We work with our Department of Environmental Protection and water management districts to see what land they need to continue to make sure we have the quality of water we want (flowing) through the Everglades," Scott told reporters Tuesday. "So it will be a decision they focus on."
Oct. 12 is the expiration date on the South Florida Water Management District's three-year option to buy up to 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land at a set price of $7,400 an acre, about $1.1 billion. Also under a deal negotiated with U.S. Sugar, the state has the option to buy 46,800 acres, most of it on the south end of the lake between Clewiston and Belle Glade, at the same per-acre price - a total of about $346 million.
After the deadline passes, the district has six years left to buy all or part the land, but at market price.
The district has said there is no active negotiation to buy the land, which local environmentalists argue is the best move to divert Lake Okeechobee releases away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and into the River of Grass. The problem, the district has said, is lack of money.
Representatives from U.S. Sugar have said the plan for a "flow way" south was deemed not viable multiple times. But at an Aug. 22 Senate hearing on Lake Okeechobee discharges, Bubba Wade Jr. of U.S. Sugar said his company was not opposed to having a panel revisit the flow-way concept.
The other sugar giant, Florida Crystals Corp., was willing to swap lands necessary to create a flow-way in 2008. But a Florida Crystals spokesman said he's not sure about the swap now, since it hasn't been brought up to the company.
"Now, I don't know," said Gaston Cantens, Florida Crystals vice president of corporate relations. "No one has approached us about it."
Then-Gov. Charlie Crist announced the sugar land purchase idea in June 2008. The $1.7 billion deal would have bought out U.S. Sugar and its 187,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area. After the economy tanked, the district approved only a 26,800-acre land buy that cost $197.4 million.
Scott tied his 2010 Republican opponent, Bill McCollum, to the scaled-down deal, bashing him for taking huge donations from U.S. Sugar.
For his 2014 re-election try, Scott has since accepted at least $430,000 from U.S. Sugar and affiliates through his political committee, Let's Get to Work.
"Voting in favor of this sweetheart deal for U.S. Sugar places the interests of one company above those of the 7.5 million people who will end up being taxed to pay for this political favor," Scott said about the U.S. Sugar deal in August 2010.
"During the course of his campaign, McCollum and his attack groups have directly or indirectly received nearly $1 million from U.S. Sugar. He has cut a secret deal supporting a secret tax. Unfortunately for U.S. Sugar, I can't be bought."
After he toured the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Aug. 22, Scott started promising cash for water projects benefiting the St. Lucie.
He dedicated $40 million for the C-44 project and $90 million to raise 2.5 miles of Tamiami Trail, a Miami-Dade County stretch of highway blocking the flow of water into the Everglades. The C-44 stormwater treatment area and reservoir will use state and federal dollars to clean runoff into the canal that ends up dirtying the St. Lucie. But the project won't limit the lake discharges into the estuary.



Lake Okeechobee in Florida puts pressure on local residents
September 10, 2013
To prevent a spillover and possible flooding, Florida takes extreme measures
A subject of environmental concern for the last several years, Lake Okeechobee returns to the environmental spotlight yet again. The polluted Florida lake—the largest freshwater lake in the state—was on the brink of overflowing earlier this year. And with a weakened dike, Florida residents who live near the lake thought it may ruin their communities.
According to the New York Times, the rise in water level began in May due to heavy rain and put serious stress on the lake and its dike, which is 80 years old. The rain also damaged three of the lake’s prominent estuaries.
Bordering on spilling over, The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) had to decide between releasing billions of gallons of the polluted lake water into nearby estuaries and breaching the 143-mile dike. They chose the first option, as breaching the dike could harm the nearby residents and agriculture. The USACE has been releasing the contaminated water since May.
Though the solution has temporarily relieved the lake, the USACE has still reported weakened spots in the dike, which could eventually lead to serious erosion, according to The Huffington Post.
Both the New York Times and the Huffington Post point to the negative effect this process is having on the nearby estuaries. The polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has comprised the mix of salt and fresh water in the estuaries. The water has been found to have toxic algae, therefore officials at the Health Department are advising locals to stay away from it. The transfer of polluted water has also caused oyster reefs and sea grass beds to die, and manatees’ health to be affected.
Lake Okeechobee has faced a myriad of other problems in the past. In 2007, state water and wildlife managers had to remove thousands of truckloads of toxic, arsenic-filled mud from the lake’s floor during a drought. In 2008, portions of the lake bed dried out and caught on fire. And in late 2008, a tropical storm caused a four foot increase in water, which not only killed fish but also led to polluted water run-off into local land.
Due to the problems the lake has caused and protests from local citizens, Florida governor Rick Scott has proposed a two-part, $130 million plan. The first part of the plan will allow more water to flow south into the Everglades, which will ease the pressure on the lake. The second part of the plan will clean more of the polluted water that flows into the lake from the St. Lucie River Basin.
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Ranch recognized for environmental stewardship
Highlands Today
September 10, 2013
SEBRING -Sebring's Rafter T Ranch has received Audubon Florida's 2013 Sustainable Rancher Award.
On Aug. 20, Darden Restaurants hosted a luncheon program with the Florida Cattlemen's Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Florida Audubon to discuss the environmental sustainability of the Florida cattle industry. Audubon and Darden Restaurants are recognizing ranchers who "take noteworthy actions to help restore the Northern Everglades. Rafter T Ranch has been a leader in the efforts to store and clean water on ranchlands in the Northern Everglades," states a news release.
"Jimmy Wohl and Rafter T Ranch are setting the standard for ranchland stewardship in the Northern Everglades. We at Audubon believe that innovative water management projects undertaken by ranchers and ranchland preservation are the key to restoration of ecosystems north of Lake Okeechobee," said Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, in the news release.
Through the Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project and the Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services Program, Jimmy Wohl has "installed improvements" on the 5,200-acre ranch to store and clean water before it runs into the watershed to Arbuckle Creek.
"His work shows how ranchers can make simple adjustments on working landscapes to maximize benefits for the environment," the news release adds.


TOXIC WATER: Martin County declares state of emergency for Indian River Lagoon – by Jon Stainman
September 10, 2013
Stuart also passes resolution to move water south
STUART, Fla. - The paddle boards stand ready at attention.
But no one is coming to Coastal Paddleboarding to use them.
"I'm just mad. I'm sick and tired of talking about this," said Dan Neumann, owner of Coastal Paddleboarding.
Dan Neumann lost almost all of his summer business thanks to the toxic algae in the water. But the rent still has to be paid for his Port Salerno space.
"Every day is worth money to us in some way, whether it's money coming in or money going out.  Right now, it's just money going out," said Neumann.
Stories like this have garnered headlines, but now local governments are trying to get more attention, and resources to the problem.  
Tuesday night, Martin County Commissioners approved a resolution asking the governor to declare a state of emergency for the Indian River Lagoon.
"I think anything we can do to protect our residents and to protect our resources we should do," said Commission Chairwoman Sarah Heard.
Monday night, Stuart city commissioners passed a resolution supporting the restoration of the southerly flow of water from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades.
"We hope to build a lot of support and momentum and hope this is the first of many to come," said Commissioner Jeff Krauskopf.
For business owners, like Dan Neumann, he's tired of all the talk because a resolution doesn't keep his business afloat.
"Unfortunately on a selfish note, for us there's no quick fix," said Neumann.
The hope is that if the Governor declares an emergency, it could cut through some red tape for potential short and long term fixes for the health of the Indian River Lagoon.


We're selling off the family silver for a quick profit – by Jan Rogers, retired broadcaster and low-level chicken rancher living in Havana
September 10, 2013
The dismantling of Florida is under way. Nobody has really noticed, but ever so subtly the governor and the Legislature are reversing a decades-long effort to preserve this state.
The most recent evidence was the release of a list of property owned by the state that is now deemed “excess.” Read through this list and you’ll realize that bits of our local real estate are going up for bids unless somebody stops it. Bits and pieces of Falling Waters State Park, Florida Caverns, Grayton Beach the Lake Talquin State Forest, 79 acres of the Porter Pond Tract in Washington County, and parts of Tate’s Hell and Torreya State Park are all proposed for the auction block, along with other chunks of Florida.
Granted, it’s an acre or two here and there, not all of Florida Caverns, for example, but why is this property “surplus”? The state has been buying tracts of land to save it in pristine condition, to stop the march of strip malls, parking lots and subdivisions; why suddenly stop and reverse the process ? The argument for selling off some 5,000 acres earmarked is that the money will allow for the purchase of other lands. It’s an idea with a decidedly hollow ring to it. I am reminded of the camel’s nose under the tent flap. Once the nose is in, the camel follows.
If nobody says anything, that in turn will embolden those who would like to sell off a whole lot more, in tracts far larger and more commercially attractive.
There is an effort in progress to produce the signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would earmark part of the revenues from doc stamps, through good times and bad, for the sole purpose of buying endangered land for posterity. It’s quite obvious the Legislature cannot be trusted, and a mere law to that effect would have them subverting and pillaging in no time, but a constitutional amendment is a bit tougher to circumvent.
I could be accused of being alarmist, but this is just another piece in a series of puzzle parts that are creating an image of Florida’s patrimony going down the drain.
The Department of Environmental Protection is being systematically gutted by way of a subtle, but effective shift in its focus and function. Memos and directives leave little doubt that DEP is not there to protect the environment, but rather to facilitate the rape and pillage of our air, land and water. A document titled Compliance Assurance Program Performance Standards spells out the new, kinder, gentler DEP being fashioned by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. Particularly telling is the word “customer” as applied to the people that DEP is meant to regulate.
Other memos I have been given use the word “constituent.” The message is simply that prosecution is not necessary, wrist slapping will get it done and we have to explain over and over to repeat violators that they’ve been naughty boys and girls and shouldn’t do that again. I can imagine the calm that would settle on our interstates if the Florida Highway Patrol got the same kind of enforcement orders from above.
The numbers tell it all. Enforcement of environmental violations has dropped sharply, because aggressive enforcement of the laws is not merely discouraged but punished. Careers are ended; desks are cleaned out if you take this whole environment thing too seriously.
This is an important story, worthy of your attention and cause to raise a fuss. Left alone, power plants will befoul the air, sewage system operators will dump unmentionable material into the water system, and water systems will go untested because the official view is, according to a memo I have in hand, that those who are self-reporting, who report no violations, are a very low priority due to a shortness of staff. Lie and the world laughs with you.
Selling off Florida for a profit, abusing and befouling the rest for lack of meaningful enforcement are part of the current program. That this is the work of people who use the word “conservative” to describe themselves is Orwellian.
To conserve is to save that which is best and protect it. Thus, a conservative, one would expect, would be full-throated in defense of that which makes Florida unique.
If you want to exercise those conservative urges in a practical form, go to, where you can get a copy of the petition that’s being circulated to put that amendment on the ballot. There is something you can do.



Where will all that RAINFALL
Highlands Today - Gary Pinnell
September 10, 2013
SEBRING - Rainfall records were set in May, June, July and August. Eight times between June and September, Lake Istokpoga recorded two-inch or better rainfalls.
Highlands County lakes are full. Even Lake Jackson, which has been emptying since the drought began in 2006, has only 1.5 feet of storage space left before water begins flowing out. Last week, Lakes Manager Clell Ford said Jackson stood at 101.6 feet above sea level. "That's 3.4 feet higher since the end of May."
Southwest Florida Water Management District officials say the aquifer is 1.7 feet higher than last year. And now, Florida's hurricane season is peaking.
So the question is, if a big, wet hurricane or tropical storm soaks Highlands County, where will the stormwater go?
v vOne answer can be found south of Lake Placid on XR Ranch, where Cary Lightsey has been raising beef, citrus and grandchildren.
"This will be the 14th generation," said Lightsey. A tall cowboy under a white hat, he looks like a typical rancher, but he's soft-spoken yet emphatic about his values: an admirer of swallow-tailed kites and Archbold Biological Station, a defender of bears and gators but not wild pig. Asked about a plant, he retrieves "The Guide to Florida Wildflowers" from his King Ranch pickup.
"I'm not an environmentalist, but I guess you could call me a conservationist." About 85 percent of his 3,500 acres are in conservation easements, and he talks of another 6,000 acres nearby. One of those easements stores 887 acre-feet of water that bubbles from the Lake Wales Ridge. The runoff stays in a lily-pad retention pond until it overflows into Boot Hill Creek and washes into Fisheating Creek.
Drive south from Lake Placid and where U.S. 27 begins downhill, that's where the ridge ends. That's why northwestern Highlands County's rainfall winds up in the XR Ranch's pond, where Lightsey said the number of waterfowl have quadrupled since he contracted with SFWMD to start the project.
"We've had 42.3 inches since June 1," Lightsey said. That's why the 580 acres set aside for the retention pond expands to 900 acres, covering nearly 1.5 square miles.
The value of water is diminished in this wet year, he understands. "But if we were in a drought, you'd be saying, 'Thanks.'"
Most of peninsular Florida's lakes are connected by canals. On the western side of the state, stormwater flows through Fisheating Creek and the Peace River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lake Jackson, for instance, is chained to Little Lake Jackson, then Josephine, Istokpoga, Okeechobee and the Everglades. Most of Avon Park's lakes flow to Arbuckle Creek, which winds up in Istokpoga.
Stormwater releases must be carefully regulated. Let excess rainwater out of Florida's titanic Lake Okeechobee too fast and estuaries along the Atlantic Ocean will flood, killing fish and aquatic plant life. Let out water too slowly and the freshwater plants and fish die.
People and property are the larger consideration, however.
"Flooding trumps everything," Ford said. Istokpoga is managed by South Florida Water Management District, but Jackson, Lake June-in-Winter and most Highlands County's lakes are under the jurisdiction of Southwest Florida WMD.
"June is about where it's supposed to be," Ford said. However, if a hurricane comes and SWFWMD has to pre-release water, its options will be limited, he said.
"The downstream folks, they can get flooded pretty quickly," Ford said. "When water gets that high, there's just nowhere for it go," Ford said.
Storing water on ranch land remains a primary short-term option for the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. However, 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 estuary wildlife, which also devastates local tourism and property values.
"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 agriculture lands for water storage reduces the amount of water downstream when a release is needed, the News Service of Florida wrote on Aug. 23.
South Florida Water Management District diverts water onto nine ranches; and another 19 are submitting proposals. The Senate committee is also looking at using public land to hold even more water until it's needed.
Ranchers can't use the stored water, but Lightsey thinks the pond on his land generally raises the water table, which keeps the grass growing and the calves fatter.
"Water is our lifeblood," State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, told the committee.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, questions the finances, however. "No one has mentioned the quantity of money," he said.
SFWMD contracted to pay Lightsey $157 per acre foot - about $1.37 million over the next 10 years.
Craig Fugate, who was Jeb Bush's emergency operations chief during Florida's disastrous 2004-05 hurricane seasons, now directs FEMA. He's worried that Floridians aren't worried enough about hurricanes.
"We're in denial. It's not amnesia. People remember the storms; they're just in denial that it can happen to them," Fugate said Aug. 20 during a visit to the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
During last year's Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic Coast residents in the Carolinas and New Jersey didn't evacuate because they lived outside the center of the forecast zone. Take evacuation orders more seriously, he suggested.
"Don't focus on the storm," Fugate advised. "Focus on the impacts."
If a hurricane does come, the water management districts and Highlands County have emergency plans.
"The plan is watch the weather all the time," Ford said. "Emergency Management Services and road and bridge will coordinate with the water management districts. If they're as certain as can be that there is a storm coming, they'll remove as many boards as they can." The simplest dam structures are operated by adding or removing two-by-six planks.
"We don't have a lot of structures we can operate," Ford said. "If the projections are to dump a foot of water in a day - and Hurricane Sandy raised Istokpoga by a foot - we have to prevent flooding. We wish we could hang onto every drop, but that's the decision we have to make."
Make no mistake, Ford said. No matter the decisions are made, if enough water falls on Highlands County, some spots will flood.
"If you are in a bowl, the only respite you have is pumping," said County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete.
"We have aerials, we have surveys, we have localized studies, we know where the water will go," said Gavarrete: Toni Drive, Highlands Estates. Sandy Tyrell's riding stables between Spring Lake and Lorida always flood after a heavy rainfall. The county will move pumps and other equipment to those areas in anticipation of county, state and federal governments' declaration of a state of emergency, Gavarrete said.
The county has improved flooded areas since the President's Day storm of 15 years ago, Gavarrete said. "That caused a lot of massive flooding. Thunderbird Hills and a bunch of other neighborhoods had problems. The soil already saturated, and we had two 100-year storms back to back. This year, thank God, we haven't had that."
The county received mitigation grants and fixed Old State Road 8, Toni Drive, U.S. 27 along Lake Jackson and other areas. The road and bridge department regularly cleans canals, ditches and keeps culverts in good repair. All that ensures stormwater will flow.
"Spring Lake Improvement District did a very good job. Their pumps are functional, and they have agreements with the water management district and the property owners.
"The areas that could be drained have been drained," Gavarrete said.
The public can help, Gavarrete said. "We need to keep people from putting in obstructions. People need to have their personal plans for evacuation. If they don't have flood insurance and they know they're in an area prone to flooding, go get it. I know it's expensive, but expensive flood insurance is better than having to replace their entire house."


Effort to heal lagoon coming together
Daytona Beach News Journal
September 9, 2013
Efforts across multiple agencies to study problems afflicting the Indian River Lagoon system give hope that solutions will soon be found.
For the last few years, the lagoon system — which stretches from Ponce de Leon Inlet to Palm Beach County — has seen 47,000 acres of sea grass die. Mammals and aquatic life have suffered too. Since last July, 111 manatees have died. Sixty-two dolphins have died since Jan. 1. Hundreds of pelicans are dead. Algal blooms are suspected as a main cause, but detailed answers are needed to prevent further losses and preserve the vital lagoon system.
The Indian River Lagoon system includes Mosquito Lagoon. It is a unique environmental asset of the region, and it deserves protection.
The lagoon system is also an economic engine. The fishing and recreational industries may be seriously hurt if the lagoon system is further harmed.
The scope and complexity of the problem pose a challenge for researchers. There may be multiple causes. There may have been a chain reaction which killed the sea grass and the wildlife. No one is sure yet.
But one theory is that years of pollution combined with two severe freezes in 2010 triggered algal blooms.
Toxins thus appear in the algal stew. Peter Moeller of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes there are thousands of types of toxins in algal blooms. Those toxins could prove to be harmful to wildlife.
Figuring these things out is a huge task, but consider the players who are working in the lagoon system.
Bethune-Cookman University’s associate professor Hyun Jung Cho is studying the problem.
Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook are in the field too.
Experts from NOAA are looking at why there has been a mass death of hard clams in the lagoon last year, and what effect the lagoon’s problems have on oyster growth.
The St. Johns River Water Management District will spend $3.7 million to study algal blooms, among its other efforts.
The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, associated with Florida Atlantic University, will install two automated water-monitoring stations in the lagoon.
And the Florida Senate put together a select committee to work as a “clearinghouse” for all the data as it comes in, so everyone can share information and the state can concentrate the efforts.
There are indications the brown tide bloom is decreasing, but that cannot slow efforts to learn why this happened and how to stop it. The focus must be on how to prevent new outbreaks in the lagoon system. The cooperation we’re seeing gives hope for the future.


(see Blog with Bo-)

Everglades water flow plugged up by bureaucratic challenges
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith
September 9, 2013
All the bridges in Kingdom Come won't make a difference. Until the bureaucratic dysfunction ends -- and don't hold your breath -- there will be no water flowing south through the central Everglades and into thirsty Everglades National Park.
The problem is something called the Modified Water Deliveries Project. You may not have heard of it, but trust me, it's unique among federal Everglades projects -- the most essential factor in restoring the "river of grass" and moving more water south during times of high water.
It's a complicated business.
The Modified Water Deliveries Project steps on toes, wounds egos and when all is said and done will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Wait until you see how many litigators it attracts. 
It's this project that will keep the Everglades alive at times like these, when water in the central 'Glades is stranding wildlife, threatening ecology and rising to the highest level on record for this time of year.
  CLICK for Blog: LO water releases
It is unique among federal Everglades projects because it is funded entirely by the Department of the Interior, but it must be constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps. Big problem. 
The story of the Everglades is the crowning example of government programs gone awry. Even today. The private sector can only do so much harm to the Everglades -- the need to cover costs reduces the potential for massive mistakes. Even the state is limited in the harm it can cause. But the federal government -- those folks are able to override common sense and cause real environmental havoc.
"I've been around here for 30 years," says Mike Collins, "and for 30 years we've been trying to get water into Everglades National Park. "But the Army Corps doesn't want to do it. No matter how much money we spend or how much sense it makes."
Collins, who served on the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District from 1999 to 2010, told Sunshine State News, "We keep drowning marshes and wildlife on the north side of Tamiami Trail while at the same time we're experiencing desert conditions in the National Park on the south side. But every time we try to do something about it, the Corps thwarts us."
The Modified Water Deliveries Project, one of Collins' babies, is among the "somethings." It was authorized in 1989 and more than $500 million has been spent on it, but, of course, it's still not operational.
The latest and most frustrating obstacle is a thing called Contract 8. For the Modified Water Deliveries Project to work, one component of the 8.5-square-mile system must be connected to the C-111 project. The C-111, by the way, is a $26 million project which began construction in 2010, with the idea that it would pump 290 million gallons of water daily into the eastern edge of the national park.
It is also a standard U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/South Florida Water Management District project with no role for the Department of the Interior. Sounds simple, right? Two agencies get together, come up with a plan to get 'er done. But, no.
Contract 8 may be the final construction element of the C-111 project necessary to make the connection, but the Corps and the District have been hung up in bureaucratic inter-agency wrangling over cost share, land appraisals and other arcane policy and legal conflicts on Contract 8 for years.
It would cost around $20 million -- and the District at one time even offered to pay for it all, with no federal cost share, all to no avail.
Contract 8 is dormant. The Modified Water Deliveries Project cannot -- that's cannot -- be operated. Consequently, water is backing up critically in Water Conservation Area 3-A, to the detriment of the wildlife and habitat there.
The Corps has now finished a new one-mile bridge and, with Gov. Rick Scott's $90 million pledge, will be building even more. Unfortunately, without the Modified Water Deliveries project there will be no new water flow under the bridges into the Everglades. Solving the bureaucratic challenges is proving a lot more difficult than building bridges.
As for the southern "flow way" from Lake Okeechobee -- it's a pipe dream.
Collins says, in reality, any "flow way" would be a system of managed projects and not a natural sheet flow, as described by speakers Aug. 22 at the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. Those managed projects are estimated to cost at minimum $14 billion to construct and $500 million per year to operate.
And before any such expenditures can be approved, let alone met, there's a little matter of purchasing land left on the table during the aborted U.S. Sugar Corp. deal in 2010 -- untold millions of dollars required there -- and then the state would have to swap it with land belonging to other sugar farmers, because it would have purchased the wrong parcels to complete the flow path.
To that problem, add the cleanliness of the water going into Everglades National Park. Because of a court ruling to protect the Cape Sable sea sparrow -- even with 57,000 acres of treatment areas -- when the water is three times as great as it is normally, there is a distinct possibility the phosphorous level will not fall below the court-required 10 parts per billion. In which case, it would not be allowed into the park.

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Federal, State and Local officials discuss water releases with residents – by Ashley Lopez
September 9, 2013
Local lawmakers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials and South Florida Water Managers all spoke at a town hall meeting in Lee County Thursday.
They updated residents on the status of the ongoing water releases from Lake Okeechobee which have been degrading water quality in Southwest Florida.
Residents at the town hall said the releases have been hurting businesses and their property values.
The Army Corps of Engineers say they’re working to minimize the releases for now, but future rain could mean even more releases towards the end of the wet season.
Ernie Barnett, the interim executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, said new plans will focus on moving water south.
However, he said, it’s a long term plan which could take a lot of money.
“Our hope is to alleviate the best that we can the damage that are occurring both east and west  by sending as much water south to our storm water treatment areas and cleaning it up and remaining vigilant and building these longer term solutions,” Barnett said.
But residents like Michael Goodwin from Sanibel said officials need to buy sugar land south of the lake in order to move enough water south. He said the state has missed opportunities in the past to buy the land.
“Are we going to purchase that land in order to have further runoff from Okeechobee or is that opportunity going to be passed by,” he asked officials.
Environmentalists say current plans to bridge another part of Tamiami Trial in order to move water south won’t take care of enough water.
The Corps and Water management officials all said buying sugar land for reservoirs or for water flows would require a lot of funding and political will.
At the meeting, video messages from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, and Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, were played for residents. There were also several state house members from the area present at the meeting to share their frustration with residents, as well.




’Glades in peril due to failures by feds and Florida
Miami Herald – by Maggy Hurchalla, a former Martin County commissioner. She served on the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, which developed the CERP
September 9, 2013
In 2000, Florida and the U.S. government held hands and pledged eternal partnership. It had to be eternal because saving the Everglades will take a generation.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration issue was bipartisan. “Saving America’s Everglades” passed overwhelmingly.
The state and the nation forged a 50/50 partnership. The state would be responsible for water quality and land acquisition. The feds would be responsible for constructing projects.
The state started with enthusiasm. In 1991, Gov. Lawton Childs laid down his sword before a federal judge in a longstanding water-quality lawsuit and accepted the fact that it was Florida’s Everglades, and we would clean it up.
Jeb Bush proudly supported the Florida Forever Initiative, committing the state to $300 million a year to buy land. The feds went forward with planning for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP).
The honeymoon was short.
The first component of CERP that completed a detailed plan was the Indian River Lagoon – south, but no Water Resources Act bill authorizing construction passed until 2007.
The state got tired of paying for water-quality improvements and went back to court. In 2004, Gov. Bush declared that the feds were moving too slowly, and the state would take over construction of key reservoirs. Nothing got built.
Two big breakthroughs seemed to turn things around.
In 2008, Gov. Crist announced the U.S. Sugar deal to buy 183,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee to provide water storage and water treatment and move water south.
The feds completed a plan to raise the Tamiami Trail through a series of bridges that would move more water south.
Stimulus funds built the first one-mile bridge on the trail. The Corps of Engineers committed to fast-track projects to move water south under the new bridges.
Then the state stopped buying land for CERP projects. Now the feds were pouring money and manpower into Everglades restoration, and the state was becoming a silent partner.
Then Gov. Rick Scott hammered out a settlement for the longstanding water-quality lawsuit with a commitment to clean up state waters flowing onto federal lands. Then it rained. They dumped Lake Okeechobee to the coastal estuaries. The St. Lucie turned neon green from toxic algae. The state Health Department told residents not to stick a toe in the water.
The populace took up pitchforks and staged rallies. All the levels of government blamed each other. That partnership had failed. What will it take to put Humpty Dumpty together again?
Unfortunately, the answers are technical. Politicians and an angry populace hate technical answers and long-term solutions. The Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie Estuary are in crisis. They might die tomorrow. The rest of the system won’t be far behind.
There are solutions. Here’s what needs to happen:
CEPP: The Central Everglades Plan to move water south needs to be ready for authorization in the coming Water Resources Development Act . WRDA needs to include authorization for the C43 reservoir on the Caloosahatchee and other projects that are ready to go.
WRDA: We need to convince a dysfunctional Congress that it has to pass a WRDA Bill.
CERP: Congress needs to accelerate CERP funding and immediately fund the project and reservoirs around the lake. Walking away from the comprehensive plan to look for silver bullets won’t work.
LAND: The state’s responsibility in the CERP project is to buy land. They stopped doing that. The Corps of Engineers cannot buy land. Without land acquisition the projects can’t be engineered and they can’t be built. Florida needs a source of funding for land acquisition that the Legislature can’t steal. U.S. Sugar is ready and willing to sell land. We need to buy it now.
LOBBYING: If the decision rests with Congress, we can’t sit home and blame them. State officials need to trek to Washington to make them meet their commitment to save America’s Everglades..
If we all get together, we can put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Maggy Hurchalla is a Miami native and a former Martin County commissioner. She served on the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, which developed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.


Overflowing, polluted Lake Okeechobee is killing oyster beds & manatees
Indian Country Today Media Network - ICTMN Staff
September 09, 2013
Its name, Okeechobee, means “big water” in the language of the Seminole Indians, but these days it has turned into a big problem.
The largest lake in the southeastern United States covers 730 square miles, according to the South Florida Water Management District, and is a key player in supplying water and controlling flooding. But fierce rains that began in the spring have forced the flooding of the lake into delicately balanced estuaries east and west of the huge body of water, The New York Times reported on Sunday September 8. This in turn has perhaps irrevocably harmed the fragile ecosystem of the estuary region.
Lake Okeechobee is heavily polluted, and rainstorms in the spring forced the Army Corps of Engineers to make a difficult choice: whether to do nothing, which risked a breach of the 143-mile dike that keeps the lake from flooding farmland and communities to the south, or channel the water to the east and west, ruining the estuary.
The choice, as the Times reported, was to release the water into the estuaries out of fear that the dike would burst and flood southward. The release of polluted fresh water wreaked environmental havoc on the saline estuaries.
“As a result, the St. Lucie River estuary in the east and the Caloosahatchee River estuary in the west, which depend on a naturally calibrated balance of salt and fresh water, were overwhelmed,” The New York Times reports. “The rush of fresh water from the lake and the estuaries’ own river basins, along with the pollutants carried in from farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses, has crippled the estuaries and, on the east coast of the state, the Indian River Lagoon.”
The pollutants enabled algae growth, and between that and the fresh water, “oysters died in droves,” The New York Times reported. “Manatees, shellfish and the sea grasses and reefs that help sustain the estuaries all were badly hit.”
Florida’s oyster industry is already teetering elsewhere in the state because of water disputes around Apalachicola Bay, as the Times reported back in June.
RELATED: Three States Debate Water Use as Apalachicola Bay Oyster Harvest Collapses
Lake Okeechobee’s woes have reverberated around the state, and with hurricane season still peaking, there is potential for major damage.
“The lake is slowly beginning to recede a bit,” said Ernie Barnett, the interim executive director for the South Florida Water Management District. “But the concern is still there. All it will take is one tropical storm to put us in a massive crisis mode.”


Tamiami Trail work to calm high waters in Everglades
September 9, 2013
Recent updates from the water managers have shed light on the fact that the Tamiami Trail roadbed about 30 miles west of Miami has been cleaned by the workers. They've been successful in reducing high water in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
The cost of the project was roughly $66,000. Under this budget, 7,480 gallons per second were allowed to flow south from the water conservation area north of the trail into Everglades National Park. The former region was completely filled with water.
According to a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, Randy Smith, this is only a temporary response from the government. There are a number of things lined up in the process. But he has hailed this as a good start.
They have fleshed out the details by saying that the work was done on a section of old roadbed. It lies almost near to the ValueJet Memorial abutting the L-67 Canal. The workers slowed the flow of water in south to the L-67 extension canal and then into the park.
The authorities concerned have dubbed this as one of the significant measures to control the flow of water. The work has been approved by the higher officials. Even the concerned residents of Southwest Florida attended a town hall meeting. Though the initial steps have brought results, a multitude of permanent steps are expected to follow.


In South Florida, a polluted bubble ready to burst
NewYork Times – by Lizette Alvarez
September 8, 2013
CLEWISTON, Fla. — On wind-whipped days when rain pounds this part of South Florida, people are quickly reminded that Lake Okeechobee, with its vulnerable dike and polluted waters, has become a giant environmental problem far beyond its banks.
Beginning in May, huge downpours ushered in the most significant threat in almost a decade to the bulging lake and its 80-year-old earthen dike, a turn of events with far-reaching consequences. The summer rains set off a chain reaction that devastated three major estuaries far to the east and west, distressing residents, alarming state and federal officials and prompting calls for remedial action.
With lake waters at their limit, there were only two choices, neither of them good. One was to risk breaching the 143-mile dike, a potential catastrophe to the agricultural tracts south of the lake and the small communities that depend on them. The other was to release billions of gallons of polluted water into delicate estuaries to the east and west.
Following its post-Hurricane Katrina guidelines, the Army Corps of Engineers chose the estuaries, rather than test the dike’s vulnerabilities.
As a result, the St. Lucie River estuary in the east and the Caloosahatchee River estuary in the west, which depend on a naturally calibrated balance of salt and fresh water, were overwhelmed. The rush of fresh water from the lake and the estuaries’ own river basins, along with the pollutants carried in from farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses, has crippled the estuaries and, on the east coast of the state, the Indian River Lagoon.
A breeding ground for marine life, estuaries are crucial to the ecosystem. As algae caused by pollutants quickly spread and fresh water overpowered saltwater, oysters died in droves. Manatees, shellfish and the sea grasses and reefs that help sustain the estuaries all were badly hit.
“These coastal estuaries cannot take this,” said Mark D. Perry, the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, based in Stuart. “Enough is enough. This cannot continue to happen. These estuaries are so important to us, our environment and our economies.”
The damage to the estuaries has been so profound and the clamor from local communities so intense that political leaders have pledged action. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, visited the affected areas last month and proposed spending a total of $130 million for two separate projects.
One is intended to ease some of the pressure on Lake Okeechobee by allowing more water to go south into the Everglades, where it should flow naturally. The water will flow under a series of bridges that will be completed over the Tamiami Trail. By law, the water flowing into the Everglades is filtered and treated, unlike the water that heads to the estuaries.
South Florida was expressly engineered to prevent too much water from moving south, which is why most of the flow from the lake is pushed east and west. Canals to the south were dug to make way for agricultural fields, mostly containing sugar cane, and for urbanization. The little water that is released flows around those areas.
Environmentalists have fought for decades to correct the flow into the Everglades, a gargantuan and costly undertaking.
A second project would clean more of the polluted water in the St. Lucie River Basin that flows into the river. There are plans for a similar storm water treatment area on the west coast to help curb the damage.
“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,” Mr. Scott said recently when he proposed $90 million for one of the projects. “My message to families being impacted is that we will not give up on you.”
Among other projects quickly moving forward is one to store more water outside the lake, including on private property, and another to unclog culverts south of the lake. A prominent state senator, Joe Negron, recently held a hearing in Stuart to talk about the problems stemming from the lake and possible solutions.
A top priority is repairing the frail Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, which is more than half the size of Rhode Island and is renowned for its bass fishing. A 2006 report on the lake found that the dike, long ranked among the most vulnerable in the country, posed a “grave and imminent danger.”
But the repairs take time and large amounts of money.
Last year, the Corps of Engineers finished shoring up one section of the dike. It has now shifted gears and is working on replacing or repairing some of the lake’s 32 huge culverts and conducting a further analysis of the dike.
“It doesn’t take long at all to realize what a complex web water management is in South Florida,” said John Campbell, a corps spokesman. “There are no easy fixes anywhere.”
The corps built the dike after two hurricanes smashed into the region in the 1920s, flooding the area and killing 2,500 people. Decades later, its flaws are evident. For one, it was built with earthen mounds. Hurricanes and storms have taken bites out of it, causing leaks in the past.
But there is another intractable problem, as well. The corps dug channels to funnel water from the Kissimmee River into the lake and prevent flooding to the north. The channels propel the water so swiftly that six times more water can pour into the lake than the corps can pump out. When it rains heavily, the lake swells quickly.
As a result, the corps starts discharging water when the level rises above 15 ½ feet, although some leeway exists depending on the weather. This summer it hit 16 feet, close to a record high for August. The corps began to release water as quickly as it could, further damaging the estuaries.
“There is no button we can push to magically lower the lake if the inflows coming in exceed the outflows,” Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Scott has accused the federal government of dragging its feet on making dike repairs and paying its share of the cost. But environmentalists say Mr. Scott and the Legislature have slashed the budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the state’s water flow, and have put in place some inexperienced managers.
Meanwhile, the peak of hurricane season has arrived.
“The lake is slowly beginning to recede a bit,” said Ernie Barnett, the interim executive director for the South Florida Water Management District. “But the concern is still there. All it will take is one tropical storm to put us in a massive crisis mode.”
The rush of fresh water, both from the lake and its own river basin, has had an immediate impact on the St. Lucie River estuary to the east. Life in and around it has come to a standstill this summer — one recent afternoon, boats could be tallied on one hand. Fishing piers sat forlorn. Any fish capable of swimming away have already done so. Salinity in the estuary is at zero percent, said Mr. Perry, of the Florida Oceanographic Society.
The bay, which abuts picturesque downtown Stuart, is about as inviting as someone else’s filthy bath water.
“Advisory,” read the warning signs around the estuary. “High bacteria levels. Avoid contact with the water. Increased risk of illness at this time.”
Lake Okeechobee, with its prized bass, is also struggling. Phillip Roland, the mayor of Clewiston, a lakeside town of 7,000, has witnessed many of the lake’s travails: the 1947 hurricane that drove water over the dike; seasons of drought that starved the lake, followed by storms that weakened the dike.
But he is skeptical of the hubbub, unsure that it will amount to change.
“I’ve seen this time after time,” Mr. Roland said wryly. “This problem hasn’t just started.”



Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch makes a splash as rivers advocate
Palm Beach Post (blog) - by Sally Swartz - a former member of The Post Editorial Board.
September 8, 2013
Her shocking photos of Lake Okeechobee’s polluted, dirty water fouling the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon and the turquoise Atlantic propelled Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch to Facebook fame on the Treasure Coast. Her several-times-daily posts on Facebook about river issues, history and rallies keep the Sewall’s
  Spotting the Lagoon
Point Town Commissioner in the spotlight.
The Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District, which jointly manage the lake, began dumping excess lake water in May. Now the east and west coast rivers are overwhelmed with blooms of toxic, blue-green algae dangerous to people and wildlife. And no end to the releases is in sight.
Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch made a big splash at state Sen. Joe Negron’s hearings on the river when she suggested Florida should condemn the land it needs to create a flow-way south of the lake.
The Guardians, a group that fights to preserve “the Martin County difference” through planning for future growth, has joined the “Save Our Rivers” campaign and is posting photos, videos and reports on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with following Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch’s activities.
Find links to river action activities here.
Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch, organizer of the River Coalition’s activist children, the “River Kidz,” speaks anywhere she’s asked these days. At a women-for-the-river rally luncheon. At the Sugarland rally in Clewiston Sept. 1, where hundreds of residents worried about the Caloosahatchee, the St. Lucie and the Indian River Lagoon gathered at the first-ever east-west coast demonstration.
On Facebook, she posts river bacteria counts, history lessons, and suggests words such as “riverlution” to describe the battle. She adds links to other websites aimed at educating her peers. “You’ve got to hand it to Mrs. Maggy Hurchalla,” she writes on the Save the Indian River Lagoon Facebook page Wednesday (Sept. 4.) “…72 and fighting for the river like a young soldier. See her new web site at”   (See photos at: )
Her good manners, unusual among social media users, have her posting public “thank yous” to the Clewiston mayor, Sen.Negron, and anyone who works to help the rivers.
She even cheerfully posted a Palm Beach County blogger’s attack accusing Martin politicians of “Communist tactics” for suggesting using the state’s powers of eminent domain as a solution.
So, is she considering running for a public office beyond Sewall’s Point ? Maybe the state legislature, which could use a few well-informed river warriors ?
“I’m trying to think how best to fit in,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’ve watched some of the new legislators, and see how they are pressured to vote the party line…and if you don’t support the party agenda or the party will, the party won’t support you.
“I don’t know if I’d be willing to conform (to that) for years…maybe I would do better working from the wings.”
She confesses to a “fantasy of running for governor” but said she realizes that takes more money, time and organization than she has.
She is heartened that the city of Stuart endorses her suggestion that the state condemn land south of Lake Okeechobee for a flow-way and said she’s shocked that sugar industry and agricultural business representatives who own the land haven’t “come together to do something” sooner.
She supports programs already planned, she said, “but we’re talking about amounts of water we can’t even imagine.” The public has to push for more water going south, she said, more storage north of the lake and for changing laws that allow big farms to pollute.
“We need to toughen laws on polluters,” she said.
As others have begun to realize, Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch knows there’s no quick and easy solution. “If we have a core group of committed people willing to stick together for 10 years” to fight for changes, she believes, the problems can be solved.
A noble ambition, for sure. Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch shows she can use social media to cultivate the political clout needed to help turn Facebook posts into a movement for change. And she’s gathering a fan club. Keep an eye on her.



Let’s hear some truths about Lake Okeechobee pollution.
Palm Beach Post – Letter
September 8, 2013
Regarding the protests over releases from Lake Okeechobee and whether the Army Corps of Engineers or the sugar industry is to blame, the Herbert Hoover Dike was not built to help farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The dike was built to prevent another mass killing of Floridians by storm surges coming off Lake Okeechobee, as happened in 1926 and 1928.
Now, let’s discuss another truth that is never told. Where is the pollution of Lake Okeechobee coming from? At another presentation on the status of Everglades restoration three years ago in Clewiston, a statement was made by an expert on the restoration plan. He said that pollution in Lake Okeechobee had little to do with the sugar cane industry. He said simply that the water into Lake Okeechobee comes from the north, not from the south.
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Deer decline in South Florida
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
September 7, 2013
Everglades restoration will reduce their habitat.
The white-tailed deer, an all-too-abundant consumer of gardens and hazard to drivers in much of the USA,
faces an uncertain future in South Florida.
Deer numbers have dropped in some areas, dismaying hunters and forcing panthers, bobcats and other predators to range farther for their dinners. The restoration of the Everglades, expected to help alligators, wading birds and many other creatures, is likely to reduce deer numbers further, as habitat artificially dried out by canals and levees reverts to its historic, watery condition.
In the southern section of the Stairsteps unit of Big Cypress National Preserve, the number of deer counted by air dropped from 393 in 2001 to zero this year. At the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area in southwestern Palm Beach County, the number fell from 45 in 2008 to 28. And in the Everglades between Alligator Alley and Tamiami Trail, seasonal high water has crowded deer onto levees and tree islands, making them vulnerable to predators and reducing their ability to find food.
"We have pockets in South Florida that have seen declines," said Cory Morea, deer management program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We think it's linked to water levels."
Of the regions in the Everglades, he said, "Historically these areas probably weren't great deer habitat. And being reverted back to their natural condition, we're going to see some areas supporting smaller deer populations and some areas not having any deer at all."
Jon Muguerza, who has been hunting in South Florida for more than 20 years, said the decline is clear, even in once-abundant areas such as the Bear Island section of Big Cypress.
"You used to see 15 or 20 deer each time." He said. "I went seven days to Big Cypress to archery hunt, and I saw one doe the whole time.''
Various reasons have been floated. Some hunters blame predators, particularly a resurgent panther population and the colonization by coyotes over the past few decades.
"I've witnessed a coyote chasing down a deer a couple of times," Muguerza said. "I saw a doe fly by at about 100 mph with a huge coyote after her."
Ron Clark, chief of resource management at Big Cypress, said he suspects the reasons include high water levels, disease, parasites, hunting, predators, changes in habitat or some combination of these.
Higher water is the most frequently mentioned cause. And if wetter ground is the reason, South Florida will become even less favorable for deer over the next few decades.
The restoration of the Everglades, intended to create a more natural flow, will bring more water to parts of western Broward and Miami-Dade counties that had become popular hunting areas.
To many scientists and environmentalists, there's nothing wrong with the impending deer decline.
"The Everglades proper, the middle of it, was never good deer habitat," said Paul Gray, science coordinator for Audubon of Florida. "It was a big wetland. Since we've drained it, the deer started turning up."
Gray said he expects conflicts over the next 15 to 20 years, as various restoration projects are implemented and hunters and their advocates try to steer the restoration plan on a path more likely to keep deer abundant.
"Our state wildlife agency has expressed concern about the deer herd," he said. "But guys, we've got to make a choice here. Are we going to protect the Everglades or are we going to preserve deer in places where they don't belong?''
Fred Sklar, director of Everglades assessment for the South Florida Water Management District, said the restoration plan preserves deer habitat in a 128-square-mile area west of Broward and Miami-Dade counties called Water Conservation Area 3B.
It also attempts to minimize the degradation of deer habitat in the adjacent Everglades Water Conservation Area 3A through an engineering solution that routes water more narrowly.
John Rosier, of Davie, president of the Everglades Coordinating Council, which represents hunters, said the group supports the broad goals of the restoration plan but is concerned water will remain too deep for too long, destroying the tree islands vital to deer, raccoons and other mammals.
"This thing is to help Everglades National Park, and we have no problem with that," he said. "But why kill an entire area ?"
Everglades restoration in the purest sense is not possible since no one's proposing removing Interstate 75 or suburban neighborhoods, he said. Therefore, the goal should be to improve what's left.
"Let's take this area and make it better," he said. "We can still do what they want to do and flow water and have a healthy deer population."

New normal, bad normal – by Brad Rodgers, Editorial Page Editor
September 7, 2013
The other day, I was reading a front-page article in the Star-Banner about the state doling out $10 million for springs restoration projects around the state, including $3.5 million right here in Ocala/Marion County. I commented to a colleague who was sitting nearby that while $10 million will hardly fix the problem, at least it was a step in the right direction.
“Guess you didn’t see the headline on the back page of the paper,” he said.
No, I hadn’t. But it spoke volumes about the water issue and water policy in the state of Florida. “Low water levels in region considered the ‘new normal.’ ”
Talk about irony. The fishing column by Star-Banner sportswriter Ted Beck highlighted an interview with longtime local bait shop owner and fisherman Dave Rosser. Rosser talked about how lake levels have been down for a long time hereabouts, and it is having an impact on our economy as well as our environment.
“People are going further south because there’s nowhere to put your boat in here,” Rosser said. “People want to come here because we’re known for having some of the best lakes in the country. But if you can’t put your boat in, we lose out.”
Now, if you talk to water management officials, they’ll concede lake and spring levels are lower than historical averages. Then they’ll tell you it has nothing to do with too many pumping permits or overpumping or a lack of conservation programs. No, it’s drought and changes in the aquifer.
Rosser isn’t buying it.
“Realistically, these lakes will never be what they were,” he told Beck. “With the aquifer being down and population spikes, a normal rainy day won’t fill the lakes anymore.”
In short, low water levels in our lakes, rivers and springs is the new normal. And while Gov. Rick Scott throws a few million around to show he’s for saving our springs — two years after abolishing a state springs restoration program, lest we forget — the truth is he has done little to stem the flow of nitrates to our water bodies. To the contrary, he has blocked measures that would do just that. He has done nothing to slow the issuance of massive pumping permits. To the contrary, he has coerced water districts to make it easier for big pumpers to get permits. He has done nothing to encourage a statewide conservation program that incentivises using less water.
Don’t worry, our water managers and politicians tell us, there’s plenty of water. Scott and his minions love to tells us they “want to get water right.”
Yet, we are squandering Florida’s greatest resource, all the while being told by our leaders it will be all right. Floridians who have spent a lifetime living and making a living on and around our waterways, though, like Dave Rosser, know the reality — that the new normal will be a catastrophic one if we don’t change our ways, and soon.


The Nature of Things: Sale of public lands draws objections, criticism
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
September 7, 2013
People often seem to understand the value of conservation lands better than politicians do.
One of the high points in recent environmental history in Polk County is the decision by the voters in 1994 to tax themselves to buy and preserve some of the county's remaining environmental gems.
The grassroots effort was met with indifference if not outright hostility by the political establishment.
When some of those same officials attended the dedication ceremonies for these new environmental recreation areas a few years later, they acknowledged they had underestimated the idea's public support and its contribution to the public good.
That's why it was no surprise that the release of a list of conservation lands the state might consider selling off drew quick criticism from the public.
The list was politician-driven.
The Florida Legislature, for whom environmental protection hasn't been a high priority in recent years, ordered state officials to come up with a list of land to sell to get money to buy other conservation lands.
Agency staffers didn't have much choice but to try to come up with something.
The biggest chunk on the hit list involves several chunks of Hilochee Wildlife Management Area's 6,083-acre Osprey Unit at the edge of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern along Interstate 4 in Polk County.
This property was purchased in 2001 for two sound reasons: to provide passage for water and wildlife under I-4 and to provide more open space for the public in the rapidly urbanizing Four Corners area.
There has been much discussion recently by advocates of the restoration of the Everglades about what a barrier the section of the Tamiami Trail between Naples and Miami has been to regional conservation and water management.
The result has been the construction of a number of bridges to replace the decades-old solid embankment to correct water flow and wildlife passage problems that were unrecognized when the road was built across the southern part of the state before Everglades National Park was created.
I-4 has created a similar barrier across the central part of the state.
The Green Swamp is, in many ways, Central Florida's Everglades.
Hilochee is the last large tract along that corridor that offers an opportunity to correct past environmental mistakes.
One of the parcels that was listed for disposal actually contains a passageway under the highway that was built to accommodate a rancher whose property was bisected by the highway.
More and better connections have been proposed.
I've been all over Hilochee, though it requires some effort since access is limited and it's a large tract.
My first view was by helicopter when the property was proposed for some sort of industrial park.
I remember seeing large winter flocks of sandhill cranes in a marsh on the property. It was an impressive landscape.
Today the landscape is less impressive because of the natural resource exploitation and wetlands destruction that occurred on the property while the never-realized plans for the industrial park remained on hold.
Eventually, the state bought the property.
But other than a couple of walk-through gates, little has been done to restore the property or to promote much public recreation other than limited hunting.
As a result, neither the environmental restoration needed to realize the land's natural resource benefits nor the recreational development that would have made it a regional nature park ever materialized.
It's not hard to understand why some state officials may have regarded parts of Hilochee WMA as a collection of derelict tracts that might be suitable for disposal.
According to the comments coming in from environmentalists and representatives of other government land-management agencies, that's a short-sighted view.
True conservation initiatives, such as the creation of the national park system and Florida's commitment through the state's Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs, take the longer view.
Florida's population has increased 800 percent in my lifetime and there's no reason to think the future will be any different.
Conservation land to protect what's left of Florida's natural resources will become more valuable to future generations.
If anything we should be buying, not selling. Future generations will thank us.
When the Heartland Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society next meets, Polk County butterfly enthusiasts Buck and Linda Cooper will explain why butterflies matter. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Circle B Bar Reserve's Nature Discovery Center lecture hall.
The Coopers will discuss how butterflies benefit from the increased use of native plants and how the preservation and management of large tracts of public land aids the survival of rare butterfly species.The program is free and open to the public. Circle B Bar Reserve is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland.
There has been much discussion recently by advocates of the restoration of the Everglades about what a barrier the section of the Tamiami Trail between Naples and Miami has been to regional conservation and water management.
The result has been the construction of a number of bridges to replace the decades-old solid embankment to correct water flow and wildlife passage problems that were unrecognized when the road was built across the southern part of the state before Everglades National Park was created.
I-4 has created a similar barrier across the central part of the state.
The Green Swamp is, in many ways, Central Florida's Everglades.
Hilochee is the last large tract along that corridor that offers an opportunity to correct past environmental mistakes.
One of the parcels that was listed for disposal actually contains a passageway under the highway that was built to accommodate a rancher whose property was bisected by the highway.
More and better connections have been proposed.
I've been all over Hilochee, though it requires some effort since access is limited and it's a large tract.
My first view was by helicopter when the property was proposed for some sort of industrial park.
I remember seeing large winter flocks of sandhill cranes in a marsh on the property. It was an impressive landscape.
Today the landscape is less impressive because of the natural resource exploitation and wetlands destruction that occurred on the property while the never-realized plans for the industrial park remained on hold.
Eventually, the state bought the property.
But other than a couple of walk-through gates, little has been done to restore the property or to promote much public recreation other than limited hunting.
As a result, neither the environmental restoration needed to realize the land's natural resource benefits nor the recreational development that would have made it a regional nature park ever materialized.
It's not hard to understand why some state officials may have regarded parts of Hilochee WMA as a collection of derelict tracts that might be suitable for disposal.
According to the comments coming in from environmentalists and representatives of other government land-management agencies, that's a short-sighted view.
True conservation initiatives, such as the creation of the national park system and Florida's commitment through the state's Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs, take the longer view.
Florida's population has increased 800 percent in my lifetime and there's no reason to think the future will be any different.
Conservation land to protect what's left of Florida's natural resources will become more valuable to future generations.
If anything we should be buying, not selling. Future generations will thank us.
When the Heartland Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society next meets, Polk County butterfly enthusiasts Buck and Linda Cooper will explain why butterflies matter. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Circle B Bar Reserve's Nature Discovery Center lecture hall.
The Coopers will discuss how butterflies benefit from the increased use of native plants and how the preservation and management of large tracts of public land aids the survival of rare butterfly species.The program is free and open to the public. Circle B Bar Reserve is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland.


Army Corps, water management district, present Lake O info at town hall meeting in Fort Myers
Pine Island Eagle – by Mckenzie Cassidy
September 6, 2013
Concerned residents of Southwest Florida attended a town hall meeting on water quality in Fort Myers Thursday night, hosted by the City of Sanibel and Lee County.
Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane moderated the session and presentations were made by officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District.
The message from attending officials was that improving water quality isn't as simple as turning up or down the outflow of water from Lake Okeechobee. Instead, their job is a balancing act between above average rainfall, anticipating tropical storm systems, working through a lack of federal funding to maintain a failing dam system, and finding creative ways to store and treat polluted water.
Col. Alan Dodd, commander of the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reported that as of Sept. 5 the water level at Lake Okeechobee was 15.54 feet with 270 cubic-feet per second more water leaving than coming in. But, with two months left in hurricane season, the Army Corps is hoping no tropical storms will increase the levels further, resulting in a need to release more water.
According to Tommy Strowd, assistant executive director of Operations, Maintenance, and Construction for SFWMD, the district's rainfall was 124 percent districtwide or within 18,000 square-miles from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
He said the Army Corps has devoted approximately $2 billion to rehabilitate the Herbert Hoover Dike System by updating culverts originally built in the 1930s and complete a new Dam Safety Modification Study. A total of 35 percent of the Army Corps' national budget is appropriated for dam safety, he added.
State officials are waiting for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Water Resources Development Act, a bill that would authorize funding to complete the C-43 Reservoir in Labelle. Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the SFWMD, said that the completed C-43 Reservoir would have a capacity of 170,000 acre-feet.
An acre foot is one foot of water covering one acre.
While the U.S. Senate passed WRDA 83-100, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, who addressed the town hall meeting in a prerecorded video, the House has yet to act.
Congressman Trey Radel, a member of the Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure, said WRDA is scheduled for consideration.
"We have seen our beautiful water turn brown. It harms our environment in Southwest Florida and, as we know, when the environment is harmed our economy is harmed," said Radel.
Nelson said there are many sources of pollution besides releases from Lake Okeechobee, but that source is the most visible.
"We have an intolerable situation in the Caloosahatchee," said Nelson. "When the water gets up to 16 feet it starts to create pressure on the dikes surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The Corps is required by statute to maintain that."
Nelson said authorizing C-43 was a short term solution, but in the long term officials must focus on the Central Everglades Planning Project that would begin moving 210,000 acre-feet south into the Everglades, reducing the flow into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins.
But, local environmental officials said at least 1 million acre-feet needs to be moved for any local affect to be seen.
Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner and coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, said the CEPP program and the raising of 2.6-miles of Tamiami Trail, recently announced by Gov. Rick Scott, would only be a 10 percent solution.
"When you look at the fact that there were 2.6 million acre-feet of water that went to tide in the east and west coast of South Florida, and now you are only talking about 210,000 acre-feet going to bridging with CEPP, it would appear to me that really the answer is in fact more storage," said Judah.
Judah is advocating for the state to purchase 153,000 acre-feet of sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee for $7,400 per acre in a three-year option with U.S. Sugar. The option expires in October and if the state doesn't act, they could face higher prices and competition from other bidders.
"That would alleviate the massive discharge that is harming the estuaries on east and west coast of South Florida," said Judah.
He added that funding to purchase the sugar land could be raised by using BP oil spill money, restructuring the water district's capital improvement program, or bond financing.
Barnett said with the CEPP and raising of Tamiami Trail, approximately 750,000 acre-feet of water is expected to move south through the system in a regular distribution of flow. But, he said, the district isn't in a position to authorize the purchase of sugar land.
"The reality that we are is that the water management district isn't in a position to make a unilateral decision," he said, asking concerned citizens to speak with their elected officials about allocating the funds.
Sanibel residents who attended the town hall meeting were upset about the economic and environmental affects of the freshwater releases.
"We have a couple of restaurants and we employ 200 people and this is an economic issue. This is our BP," said Sanibel Councilmember Marty Harrity. "This is the death of our economy and our neighborhoods."
Harrity said more water needed to go south through state purchased sugar lands.
Michael Goodwin, Sanibel resident, asked the panel why the state hadn't exercised its three-year option with U.S. Sugar.
"The three-year opportunity to purchase land from U.S. Sugar is about to expire at the end of October. Nothing apparently has been done about purchasing that land. Are we going to purchase that land in able to have further run off from Lake Okeechobee or has that opportunity been passed by ?" asked Goodwin.
Barnett said the funding wasn't available in the budget to make a bid on the sugar land, but the state has a first right of refusal for seven years after the three-year option expires.
Benacquisto said the water quality issue has been years in the making.
"We will accomplish our goals because we work as a team. Never before have I seen such a coming together and united front to make sure our community's needs are addressed," she said.
Besides finding new options for dispersed water, Benacquisto said she wants to see a study completed on the effect of septic tanks on groundwater and determine the potential benefits of declaring a state of emergency to flood the Everglades Agricultural Area.


Balancing water policy is way overdue - Guest Opinion by John Cassani, Chairman of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council.
September 6, 2013
The latest water crisis, this time a repeat of the Lake Okeechobee releases, has the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Florida once again pointing fingers at each other over who is to blame.
Gov. Rick Scott says the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government are the problem with managing excess water, while the Army Corps of Engineers is saying the water quality crisis is Florida’s problem. Both sides are partly correct but sadly no realistic solutions are on the horizon.
Remember it was about a year ago that Florida was fighting the Environmental Protection Agency tooth and nail in court to avoid a federal requirement for more meaningful pollution criteria. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was one of the most vocal in opposition to the proposed federal oversight and the new criteria.
Now, Putnam, in his recent interview with The News-Press editorial board, describes water quality as the No. 1 issue in Florida. What’s wrong with this picture?
As the crisis continues, the Everglades’ agricultural interests are pumping their excess polluted runoff back into Lake Okeechobee, further aggravating the pollution problem for someone else to clean up. Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers have made this activity “legal.”
The Army Corps of Engineers stated that the current lake operation schedule, begun in 2008, was anticipated to last only until 2010, but is now saying it has no plans to revise the schedule, which further enforces the current system and the problems is generates.
For the Caloosahatchee, about 75 percent of the pollution coming into the estuary is from upstream sources, primarily from agriculture. Yet Florida continues to shift the vast majority of costs for cleanup to the taxpayers. The private industry responsible for most of this has enjoyed considerable protection from the Florida Legislature at the expense of the state’s public waters; the same legislature supposedly representing the public interest.
Corporate agriculture is not entirely to blame, but a Florida government that could never say enough was enough in terms of handing out permits to use more water and to drain more land must be held accountable.
If the Florida Legislature equitably shifted the financial responsibility back to the sources, rather than asking the taxpayers to unfairly subsidize them, we might begin to see some progress toward a less-biased and reformed water policy in Florida where adversity is shared.
Agricultural interests will say that it will cost the public more to buy their products if they have to pay their fair share, but we are already paying more for farm products through publicly funded government services in a very unbalanced way, largely driven by lobbying efforts on behalf of this special interest.
With the sugar industry, the federal government already provides price supports to further guarantee their profits at the public expense.
Yes, there have been mistakes in the past, but how long will the sins of the past continue to justify our current water dilemmas ?


Beach businesses take part in Lake O roundtable with state officials
Cape Coral Daily Breeze – by Bob Petcher
September 6, 2013
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and other top ranking officials made a trip to Estero Island Thursday to check out the beachfront, dip their toes in the Gulf and listen to comments from Beach hospitality members about the economic impact suffered since high flow regulatory freshwater releases were discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and consequently along Southwest Florida beachfronts and saltwater estuaries.
After the brief beachfront visit, Benacquisto was joined by State Rep. Ray Rodriguez along with Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker, Beach Mayor Alan Mandel and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane at the head of the roundtable inside Pink Shell Beach Resort's Lido Ballroom. This trip came after she visited Sanibel and before she attended an evening town hall meeting on the subject at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.
Words such as "damage," "reputation," "future" and "trickle down effect" were bounced around the room as roughly one dozen Beach business representatives offered comments about how the state of the Gulf and Back Bay has affected their livelihoods. While Lake O flows have eased, the consequences of the action have escalated.
"Every comment that you make is critically valuable to us. We will underscore everyone's testimony to set the stage for next season," said Benacquisto. "With your help, we want to make sure the message is right and what it should be."
While Rodriguez acknowledged that "clear water is critical for a tourism-based economy," Ruane echoed that a solution will possibly not happened before the season is over.
"The key thing is we are heightening the issue to more than just an environmental impact," said Ruane. "Traditionally, that is how the story has been written. That's important, but now we are bringing in the economical impact. The data we collect is extremely valuable and will help us as we move forward."
Kiker, a Beach resident and business owner, stated he will bring comments forward to the County Commission.
"This is really, really important to all of us," he said.
Businesses, such as Pink Shell, have disseminated comment cards to hear from their guests. Social media outlets have compounded the problem.
"The water quality issue has been going on for a long time. Even though it is not as bad as compared to what it was weeks ago, the damage to the hospitality industry has been done," said Pink Shell Marketing Director Ellis Etter. He stated comments have ranged from "very disappointed" to "we will never come back to Southwest Florida again."
SOB owner Bill Freeman said: "My biggest concern is the future. People come down here for the beach. The impact it will have over the long run is what scares me. BP paid people for their mistake. Is the state of Florida going to compensate us for what we are going to lose?"
There have been reported hotel/resort cancellations due to the darker, tainted Gulf water. Many have shied away into dipping into it out of fear of not knowing what you cannot see.
Best Western Plus Beach Resort manager Jeff Malbon stated it will be difficult to put a figure on his accommodation's losses since the incident. He hears comments about people not wanting to swim in the Gulf.
Krusty Pete co-owner Dave Anderson mentioned the trickle down effect on his retail/wholesale business.
"A lot of our customers are the large restaurants and hotels. If they don't have the guests, they don't buy product from us," he said. "(Unlike BP), this is real. People come down, and they see the water. This is something we are going to have for a number of years. We need a short-term fix."
Nervous Nellies' Steve DeAngelis talked about implementing more preemptive water releases on Lake O.
"You won't have the volume in an emergency like we had if you release more water ahead of time," he said.
While Fish Tale Marina owner Al Durrett encouraged all officials not to give up in finding solutions, Charley's Boat House Grill manager Rob McKenney stated he took his family over to the west coast of Florida to enjoy the clean water after a bad experience on a Gulf beach. He feared local residents are doing the same.
Diamond Head Beach Resort Neil Hopgood talked about invested money into the European market during the summer months. He would like to know more about marketing ploys to help alleviate future cancellations. Beach Mayor Alan Mandel, the meeting facilitator, has made pleas to that end.
"They need to have a large marketing fund, giving the comments we are hearing at resorts and hotels to counter what has happened down here," he said earlier.
FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera relayed survey answers from Beach businesses as a whole and questioned the ability of those who have suffered from water quality issues.
"This is a beach of small businesses. This is a beach of people that cannot take a prolonged downturn in our tourism economy," he said. "We need to seek the short-term and the long-term solutions so that we can ensure our visitors that there is going to be pristine water in our Gulf, bays and estuaries."
Both Kiker and Ruane assured all in the room that this problem will pass. Kiker listed Hurricane Charley, red drift algae and the BP oil spill perception problem that Beach residents and businesses have had to recover from.
"It's in these kinds of situations where we can get information from you, focus in on and then address it, like we have done with the rest of them as we continue to be resilient," Kiker said.
"We have echoed everyone's concerns," added Ruane. "We will bounce back."
An analysis review concerning east versus west water releases will be revisited in the future. Ruane did point out the west flow is a longer run with more time to filter out pollutants. For now, a team effort is needed on both sides of the state.
"The experience of coming here is invaluable," said Benacquisto. "We want the water to return to its crystal blue status as quickly as we can. To be here first hand, really reinforces the need to move expeditiously. I hope you all know that we care and how committed we are to be working as part of your team. There is a lot of positive movement happening right now."


Florida for sale ? - Editorial
September 6, 2013
Florida Forever? Nope — Florida For Sale. That’s the latest ploy from the Department of Environmental Protection for preserving the Sunshine State’s most sensitive lands and resources.
The DEP has released an initial list of about 160 state-owned properties that are being considered as “surplus” lands. The plan is to sell this surplus land to raise $50 million to buy different land, deemed more important to the state’s conservation goals.
If the list stays as is, “For Sale” signs could be plopped into these properties in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties:
■ 30.8 acres of Cottage Hill State Forest in Cantonment.
■ 3.4 acres of Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park near Bauer Road in southwest Escambia County.
■ 20 acres of Gillis Road Tract in Milton.
■ 4.8 acres of the Blackwater Heritage State Trail in Santa Rosa County
We’re not wholly opposed to the idea because it could be wise to swap nonessential lands for more critical and sensitive areas. The concept isn’t inherently flawed. But, under Gov. Scott’s piloting, the state agency charged with this preservation strategy very well may be.
Since Scott took office, he has gutted the DEP with layoffs and cutbacks – some of which were whistleblowers and crucial personnel who were guilty of nothing more than actually doing their jobs. The result is an agency that is toothless and dysfunctional at best and very possibly corrupt at worst.
In 2011, Scott appointed Herschel Vinyard to head the DEP. Last week the Associated Press reported that, according to records compiled in a recent environmental report, since Vinyard’s appointment, environmental enforcement has plummeted:
“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 assessed and fines collected. The report said the department essentially has become nonfunctional under Vinyard, who worked for a shipyard before Scott appointed him secretary.”
So the state agency charged with protecting Florida’s most crucial natural resource and economic driver – our environment – is failing at the one thing it’s supposed to be qualified to do. But we’re now supposed to have confidence that Vinyard and his people are competent when it comes to strategic and fiscally prudent real estate brokering?
Our nature is our brand. We’ve long maintained that Florida’s unique natural environment is our greatest economic asset. Our state parks attract nearly 25 million visitors a year and have an economic impact of more than $1 billion. The Florida environment is the primary draw for tourists, residents and businesses. And it’s already in worse trouble than it has ever been.
Sustainability of our water is a dire concern that will climax this century. The ground is literally falling out from underneath us with sinkholes. The Indian River Lagoon is a cesspool that’s killing its own dolphins, manatees and pelicans. Apalachicola and its legendary oysters are on the verge of collapse. Our transcendent springs are becoming clogged, cloudy and choked with algae. Natural, undeveloped lands are our only tools to fight all this decay.
That’s why there must be awareness of the DEP’s most recent plot. Floridians need to be hyper-vigilant at a moment in time like this. Every lapse or oversight or incompetency or scheme is just a little more erosion of the singular thing that sustains us – our environment. It will be a pitiless village of fools who stand by and allow that to be destroyed – and an enraged village who finds out the governor is facilitating the destruction.


Latest idea for the St. Lucie River is the wrong idea
Palm Beach Post – Editorial by Randy Schultz, Editor of the Editorial Page
September 6, 2013
After weeks of seeing green waterways, Martin County residents and environmental groups are clamoring for any idea that might halt the dumping from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River. Their latest idea, though, is unwise and probably unworkable.
That idea is for the South Florida Water Management to buy land south of the lake from U.S. Sugar. In 2010, the district bought nearly 27,000 acres from the company for Everglades restoration. The deal included a three-stage option for another 153,200 acres. The first option, for either 46,800 acres or all 153,200 acres, expires Oct. 12. There are no negotiations between the district and the company over exercising the options.
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Lawmakers, Scott consider initial St. Lucie River cleanup efforts
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
September 6, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — Hoping to kick-start efforts to confront polluted discharges into Florida's rivers, a legislative panel will consider a $2.7 million request for South Florida water projects next week.
That's a drop in the bucket compared with what Florida would need to spend to seriously clean up the dirty water flowing south from Central Florida into Lake Okeechobee, experts say.
This summer, discharges from the rain-swollen lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers have contributed to major algae blooms that have mucked up the rivers and threatened tourism — spurring the Senate to create a new Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin that is looking for "short-term" solutions to the outbreak.
But despite a recovering economy and more than $1 billion in new tax dollars expected to flow into state coffers next year, advocates and environmental groups say it will be an uphill fight to make a dent in the problem.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing polluted lake water into the rivers to prevent further weakening of the Herbert Hoover Dike. Solving the problem would require billions of dollars to repair the levee, design new reservoirs and finish Everglades restoration.
"They're not going to end up doing anything about the lake, because there's nothing the Legislature can do to fix that levee," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.
A special House-Senate budgeting committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider one short-term fix: $2.7 million to help the South Florida Water Management District make improvements to pumping stations that will shoot more lake water south into Everglades National Park.
The agency is also looking to store water on public lands in the St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee basins.
"I think that'll make a big difference," said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Negron, who is in charge of the basin committee, intends to seek $100 million next spring for two Everglades reservoir projects in South Florida designed to reduce polluted discharges into the rivers. He said a long-term plan is still being formulated and won't be ready before the panel's meeting in Tallahassee next week. But whatever it is, it will have a sizable price tag.
"We will need to analyze the issue further and, as always, weigh it against all the other budget issues that compete for state funding," said House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
Other lawmakers have floated the idea of revisiting Florida's now-scrapped septic-tank inspection program — though conservative legislators dumped the program last year.
In recent weeks, Gov. Rick Scott has also pledged $37 million in state and local money to begin cleanup of Central and North Florida springs and another $40 million to build the C-44 reservoir on the St. Lucie side of Lake Okeechobee, again to slow discharges into the river.
Scott's potential 2014 gubernatorial opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, said Friday he had visited the polluted rivers and called the current governor's response "very disappointing." Scott's office responded that, "Gov. Scott is providing short-term and long-term solutions for families impacted by the Lake Okeechobee Dike system in the absence of federal action and needed maintenance."
But pressures to clean up the algae-polluted rivers and the state's springs will be competing with Scott's promise to cut $500 million in taxes and increase education funding in an election year.
State economists this week did produce an updated forecast that Scott and lawmakers would have $845.7 million in surplus revenue next year. And $449 million of that is considered one-time cash that won't be available in future years, so lawmakers may not want to use it for recurring tax cuts or school funding.
Still, Negron acknowledged, "Legislators have their work cut out for them for any major funding commitments that they seek."


Real estate hit hard by water releases - by Steve Campion, Reporter
September 6, 2013
Real Estate is yet another industry being affected by the Lake Okeechobee water releases. Tonight, realtors are calling Governor Rick Scott out.
Last Wednesday, Gov. Scott made a stop in Fort Myers to announce an ambitious plan he says will help struggling areas impacted by the fresh water releases.
He made two stops: Downtown Fort Myers and Starbucks.
Realtors and residents were left wondering why he didn't bother to make the short drive to see the beaches.
Realtor Mike Reeves said a prospective buyer for a beach-front property was driven away by the brown water.
"It's frustrating. He needs to be down here. If he is worried about the economy in Florida, he needs to take a look," he said.
Sanibel Realtor Shane spring stresses the dark waters are delivering a fiscal hit.
"The governor lives here. He can see it everyday when he is home. Does he really have to go out and tour? It would be great if he did," she said.
For more than a week, we have pressed for an explanation about the controversial skip.
Scott's team ignores all of our direct questions, only providing us with a statement which highlights his $90-million promise for everglades restoration aimed at improving water quality, which reads:
"We have visited Stuart, Apopka, Ft. Myers and Franklin County over the last few weeks making environmental announcements.  Gov. Scott looks forward to touring and seeing many more of our natural treasurers in the weeks ahead. He spends most days on the road touring and meeting with floridians all across the state."
Marco Rubio's team said he has no immediate plans to visit and is fighting for needy water projects.
Bill Nelson's office stresses this remains one of the top environmental issues in the state and plans to tour the area when time allows.


Scott’s environmental evolution
Tampa Tribune ( - Editorial
September 6, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott deserves credit for his recent backing of several important environmental restoration protects.
But the governor, who slashed conservation funding wildly his first year in office, still needs to show he understands the importance of the conservation safeguards that make such cleanup work unnecessary.
Last week Scott pledged up to $90 million to improve freshwater flow into the Everglades while also providing relief to estuaries on the west and east coasts. This week he promised to spend $37 million on Florida’s springs, including Homosassa and Weeki Wachee,
We hope these acts signal a newfound appreciation of the economic benefits of resource protection.
The Everglades project Scott supported will add bridges to the Tamiami Trail that will allow more water to be released from Lake Okeechobee. The water will be filtered through vegetation as it makes it way to the Everglades.
Excess water in the lake now is discharged into channels that run to estuaries on both coasts — the Caloosahatchee on the west coast and the St. Lucie on the east.
The nutrient-tainted water is having disastrous impacts on both bays, causing cloudy water, algae blooms, swimming bans, fish kills and even dolphin kills.
The pollution threatens property values and tourism in regions once renowned for pristine waters and terrific fishing.
The governor also has pledged to spend $40 million on cleaning up water from Lake Okeechobee and is pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cut discharges from the lake to the estuaries.
Scott’s investment in cleaning up springs also is badly needed, though it won’t go very far. Many of the state’s 700 springs suffer from dwindling flow and pollution.
Regardless, the governor’s actions are welcomed, and economically wise for a state that derives much of its appeal from its natural beauty and outdoors opportunities.
But Scott, who recently filed a lawsuit against Georgia for diverting too much water from Apalachicola Bay, should recognize that most of the state’s costly debacles result from a lack of planning. The state too often has worried more about short-term benefits than long-term consequences. Yet under Scott the state has virtually abandoned planning and growth management.
The administration appears less aggressive in enforcing environmental regulations.
Scott, who campaigned against over-regulation, should see there is a big difference between a maze of red tape and rules that protect resources from costly ruin. Yet he’s done little to blunt recent legislative assaults on the environment.
Former state Sen. Paula Dockery put it smartly in a recent Tribune column: “Political rhetoric about lessening job-killing regulations enables lawmakers to justify rescinding septic tanks regulations, water nutrient standards and permit and concurrency requirements.”
Heroic environmental stances such as Scott’s multi-million dollar pledges are necessary because of past blunders, but Scott could spare taxpayers the need for future such expenditures with a commitment to the planning and safeguards that keep such disasters from ever occurring.


Tamiami Trail work to help ease high water in Everglades
Miami Herald – by Curtis Morgan
September 6, 2013
Water managers on Friday completed the removal of a remnant of the old Tamiami Trail roadbed about 30 miles west of Miami, the latest emergency move to help relieve high water in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
The project, which took a week and cost about $66,000, will allow up to 7,480 gallons a second to flow south from an oversaturated state water conservation area north of the trail into Everglades National Park.
“Obviously, it’s not a cure. It’s going to take a lot more of these things but it’s a good start,” said Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District.
The work was done on a section of old roadbed just west of the ValueJet Memorial near the L-67 Canal. The old road, just south of the Trail, was abandoned long ago and was not used by vehicles. But it did act as a dam slowing water flowing south to the L-67 extension canal into the park.
Smith said the work has been approved by park managers and federal agencies.
It’s one of a number of emergency steps water managers are pursuing to lower levels in the rain-swollen Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Releases of polluted lake water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers have fouled rivers and estuaries on both coasts and put pressure on the administration of Gov. Rick Scott to find short-term solutions.
In addition to the road work, water managers have contracted with citrus growers and other private landowners to store water on their lands. They also have diverted water into reservoir projects still under construction. Scott also pledged $90 million in state support for plans to build additional bridging along Tamiami Trail, which will increase water flow to the south.


Tampa office of Archer Western will work $76M Everglades project
Tampa Bay Business Journal – by Jane Meinhardt, Staff Writer
September 6, 2013
Archer Western Construction LLC was awarded a $76 million contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project, which is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
The company, headquartered in Atlanta, has seven regional offices, and the Tampa office is performing the contract work.
Archer Western is a subsidiary of the family-held Walsh Group, a Chicago-based general contractor with about 5,000 employees.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project is the first in the Everglades restoration plan. The Archer Western contract includes construction of a pump station, plugging 13 miles of canal and removing miles of roads.
The restoration encompasses 55,000 acres of native Florida wetlands and uplands between Alligator Alley and the Tamiami Trail.
Archer Western is the third contractor awarded work connected to the restoration plan.


Water-quality effort would be undermined by budget cuts – by Chad Gillis
September 6, 2013
A state agency charged with protecting water and wildlife is preparing for a $10.8 million cut for 2014 that will “severely reduce or eliminate scientific sampling that monitors state waters for dozens of species of harmful algae,” including Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission met this week to plan for an expected 5 percent cut that would pull another $839,000, or about 50 percent of the funding for the harmful algal bloom program. That program monitors the Southwest Florida coast for events like red tide blooms (Karenia brevis), blue green (cyanobacteria), and an amalgamation of various species that contribute to what an Aug. 23 FWC report calls “superblooms.”
During a time when local business owners, politicians, tourists and residents are calling for more money to clean polluted waters in the Caloosahatchee River and along the coast, state agencies such as FWC are preparing for more budget cuts. Forty-two officer positions will likely be cut, with 35 of those being layoffs. More than $600,000 for Lake Okeechobee restoration work and $854,000 in manatee rehabilitation will be cut if mandated next year by the Senate, House of Representatives and Gov. Rick. Scott, who is planning a self-proclaimed “It’s Your Money” tax cut tour next week.
Eric Milbrandt, director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the algal bloom program is short on staff and funding, and more cuts will limit the scientific community’s ability to monitor and respond to events such as red tides. Past blooms have crippled the local tourism industry as red tide blooms can cause fish kills, dolphin and manatee deaths and respiratory problems in humans.
“You know we’re going to have more red tides, so if that ability to monitor the coastline is diminished or decreased – it’s already on a shoestring in my opinion – it limits the scientific community’s ability to know what’s going on,” Milbrandt said. “Everything is being cut, and the cost of doing some of the monitoring is only going to go up.”
SCCF and other entities conduct water quality sampling locally and send those results to FWC, which compiles regular reports on algae blooms.
A record 133 Florida manatees died this year in Lee County after a lingering toxic red tide bloom turned coastal waters deadly. May, the last full month of the dry season, delivered a foot of rain. The Army Corps of Engineers opened all water control structures, sending polluted waters at unnatural rates down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Senate hearings were held last month on the east coast, where Senate budget chief and Stuart Republican Joe Negron called for a solution to harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges within 120 days. A rally was held on Labor Day in Clewiston, where people protested near U.S. Sugar Corp.’s main refinery.
Army Corps officials have released large fresh water flows from Lake Okeechobee this year, sending water to the west coast at four times the amount necessary to harm coastal estuaries. High lake levels could cause the dike to break, which would flood billions of dollars of land, ruin farm fields and likely create an ecological disaster.
Engineers believe the lake has a 45 percent chance of failure at 18.5 feet above sea levels. Levels of 21 feet would cause a 100 percent failure, according to the Army Corps. Lake levels Friday were 15.5 feet above sea level, the maximum amount the Army Corps allows.
But Okeechobee waters are only part of the problem, accounting for about half the polluted water flowing into the Caloosahatchee and its estuaries since May. The other half has come from runoff from developed lands in and east of Fort Myers.
FWC commissioners could not be reached for comment on state cuts. Public relations staff responded to The News-Press with a statement: “Every agency goes through this budget exercise. FWC spread cuts across the agency. Presenting it to the Legislature will provide us with the opportunity to discuss the details. The Legislature will ultimately determine what, if any items are considered. We can’t speculate about the outcome,” wrote Susan Smith, FWC assistant director of communications.
Agency presentations to Senate and House of Representatives members are expected to start later this year. A vote on the 2014 budget will likely take place in the spring or early summer of next year.
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, spoke at a meeting Thursday night in Fort Myers with Army Corps and South Florida Water Management District and said the state is considering declaring a state of emergency in regard to polluted Okeechobee waters blanketing both coasts. Benacquisto could not be reached for comment Friday.
On the federal level, money is an issue as well. Projects like the C-43 Reservoir, an Everglades restoration project that’s expected to take excess water from Okeechobee during high-flow periods, are waiting for House of Representatives approval. The Senate has voted to fund Everglades projects, and some Washington politicians expect a vote from the House later this year.
Congressman Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, said he supports the C-43 project and federal funding to help clean up local waterways.
“I will work with my Republican and Democrat colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee to ensure the government delivers on the promises made to our state long before I started serving in Congress, including the C-43 reservoir project,” Radel wrote in an email. “Again, this was funding promised long ago, more than a decade before I arrived. I will do everything to ensure Florida gets what it was promised.”


Water Resources Act remains critical for SW Fla. - Guest Opinion by Connie Mack IV, former member of Congress who represented Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties from 2005-13
September 6, 2013 9:
In Southwest Florida, a healthy environment is the foundation of a healthy economy.
People come to our corner of paradise to play on our beaches, fish in our waters, and explore the beauty of our unique and fragile environment.
If our environment is the linchpin of our economy, the Caloosahatchee River is the lifeblood of our environment.
With the recent attention being paid to the latest Army Corps of Engineers’ water releases from Lake Okeechobee, I’m struck with just how similar a situation we face in 2013 that we faced years ago.
When I served in Congress, I was actively engaged in writing and passing the Water Resources Development Act which, even though vetoed by President George W. Bush over my objection, was ultimately enacted into law. Fortunately, as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that wrote WRDA, I was able to help marshal the many voices across our community to educate my colleagues and congressional leadership to ensure they understood how vital WRDA was to preserve and protect Southwest Florida’s fragile ecosystem.
One of the key issues I fought for in WRDA was to improve water quality and better manage the rate at which water flows from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee River.
Sadly, the work that others and I engaged in on a bipartisan basis remains incomplete. Despite our successes with WRDA, an increasingly partisan Congress, a lack of financial resources, and competition for scarce financial resources among other important environmental projects in Florida and around the country has stymied our best efforts.
Passing WRDA in 2007, and effectively promoting and protecting Southwest Florida’s interests took a full-court press.
From the South Florida Water Management District, to city and county elected officials, to U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney and Vern Buchanan, and former Rep. Tim Mahoney, our region came together to press a singular message – just as we effectively did in 2005 to secure the resources to expand Interstate 75 in Lee and Collier counties.
For WRDA, we were fortunate to have then-Chairman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., travel to Southwest Florida so he could see firsthand our fragile ecosystem and meet with a range of leaders about our concerns.
Today, we face both the reauthorization of WRDA and the funding challenges to actually build projects such as a filtration system that would reduce the nutrients that flow from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee, and improving the Herbert Hoover Dike, which because of its grave condition, has been a major factor in the need for periodic water releases from the lake for many years.
Our present congressman and my good friend Trey Radel is doing his part to ensure WRDA is reauthorized. But I know from experience that one congressman can’t do it alone. Radel, and for that matter Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, need the help of our entire community to fully press the case in Washington that preserving our environment is the right and necessary thing to do – and that we need the financial resources to make it happen.
As a private citizen I stand ready to do anything I can to leverage my experiences to be helpful. I urge all of us to come together to help Radel, Nelson and Rubio do just that.


Crowd gathered for water quality meeting
September 5, 2013
Several dozen people are waited at the Lee County Emergency Operation Center in Fort Myers to talk water quality with Col. Alan M. Dodd, Army Corps and Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the district.
Sanibel mayor Kevin Ruane is at the meeting, which started at 7 p.m.
A few people are wearing shirts and holding signs with slogans like "Save Our Rivers."
High rainfall this summer has flushed pollution from urban areas, farmlands and roadways into the Lake Okeechobee system. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are used by the federal government to keep lands and towns to the south of the lake from flooding. Lake levels have been artificially lowered several feet and are now managed between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. Lake Okeechobee levels were at 15.5 feet above sea level Thursday, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
Lands within the Caloosahatchee River watershed drain to the river and contribute heavily to potentially harmful algae blooms, sea grass and, sometimes, marine animals kills. Parts of North Fort Myers received 10 inches of rain just this week, and the Southwest Florida region (Lee and coastal Collier counties) posted 47 inches of rain this year, five inches above average.
Rainfall combined with Lake Okeechobee discharges are pushing freshwater about 15 miles offshore.


Lake "O" releases, where are we now? - by Julian Glover
LEE CO., Fla. - Tonight Lee County is hosting a town hall style meeting with state representatives and members of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss water quality issues facing our coastline in Southwest Florida, but how did we get here ? 
Dark murky water still approaches our coastline thanks to heavy seasonal rainfall, pushing water levels at Lake Okeechobee to an historic high.
That extra water is then sent to the St. Lucie River to the east and to the Caloosahatchee here to the west, and that's creating a nightmare for beachgoers. 
"We came down to Fort Myers because we expected clearer waters, but we didn't get it this time," said one vacationer. 
Unpleasant reactions from tourist are causing businesses throughout Southwest Florida to suffer.
Todd Runfledt works at a Sanibel kayaking and paddle boarding rental shop and he says the concerns over water quality are already starting to affect business.  
"It's definitely going to perhaps cut-down on the repeat business," said Runfledt.
Repeat business is crucial for our tourism-based economy in Southwest Florida, so much so that the problem is catching the attention of Florida's top leader.
Governor Rick Scott toured the east-coast side of Lake "O" in mid-July to witness the problem first hand. 
Afterwards the Governor blasted the federal government and the Army Corp of Engineers for inaction.
"If they had fixed the dyke in a timely manner, we wouldn't have all this water flowing into the St. Lucie river and the Caloosahatchee, and messing up our waterways," said Gov. Scott.
The Governor also says the federal government is supposed to match Florida dollars for water quality projects, but that's not the case. 
Huge budget shortfalls caused by government gridlock is tying up crucial funds.
Southwest Florida Congressman Trey Radel says he's fighting to bring those dollars home. 
"We're going to have some success in Washington. We're working with Democrats and Republicans to make sure the federal government comes through on what it promised years ago," Radel said. 
Those promises are still up in the air, but back home Gov. Scott is pushing to make changes. 
Last week the governor announced a $90 million project that will allow some water from Lake "O" to flow south of us, naturally into the Everglades.
Tonight, the county is hosting a town hall meeting with the city of Sanibel to allow you to voice your concerns on that project and where to send the rest of that water, crippling key industries here in Southwest Florida. 
"It's important that we get the community support behind these huge projects to move them forward to address our water problems," said James Evans, Sanibel Director of Natural Resources.


Dike fixing

Hoover Dike repairs
are essential, slow
and expensive -

Lake Okeechobee watershed: Funding is the key to fixing pollution – by Chad Gillis
September 5, 2013
More than 100 residents, elected officials, natural resources scientists and others gathered Thursday at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center in Fort Myers to talk about water pollution that has plagued both coasts this summer.
Col. Alan M. Dodd, district commander for the Corps in Jacksonville, said the way to fix the pollution problems is to repair the ailing dike around Lake Okeechobee, fund and build water reservoirs along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, and complete Everglades restoration. In other words: billions of state and federal tax dollars and years of waiting for projects to get funded and completed.
The Army Corps oversees the release of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to both coasts. Lake levels are currently 15.5 feet above sea level.
“A tropical storm today could easily increase lake levels to 18 feet,” Dodd told the crowd.
Such lake levels could cause the dike to break, which would flood billions of dollars of land, ruin farm fields and likely create an ecological disaster.
Engineers think the lake has a 45 percent chance of failure at 18.5 feet above sea levels. Levels of 21 feet would cause a 100 percent failure, Dodd said.
About half of the polluted water flowing into the Caloosahatchee and its estuaries has come from Lake Okeechobee. The other half has come from runoff from developed lands in and east of Fort Myers.
Dodd said about 35 percent of the federal budget allocated for dam safety is going to fix the lake dike.
Boat captain Mike Smith said he wants to see action.
“I appreciate the love fest we’re having today, but this is an old problem. I understand you need money. Why aren’t you on the phone with Washington instead of sitting here ? Instead of shooting 70 missiles at Syria, let’s fire 10.”
Sanibel councilman and business owner Marty Harrity said the federal and state should buy large tracts of sugar farm lands.
“You have to buy the land,” Harrity said. “We subsidize sugar to something of the tune of $2 billion annually.”
High rainfall this summer has flushed pollution from urban areas, farmlands and roadways into the Lake Okeechobee system. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are used by the federal government to keep lands and towns to the south of the lake from flooding. Lake levels have been artificially lowered several feet and are now managed between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level. Lake Okeechobee levels were at 15.5 feet above sea level Thursday, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
Former Lee County commissioner Ray Judah said building bridges under U.S. 41 is a start, but a small one. Gov. Scott announced last week the state is setting aside $90 million to build a bridging system that will allow Lake Okeechobee water to flow south.
“When I look at the project that’s a 10 percent pollution,” he said.
Lands within the Caloosahatchee River watershed drain to the river and contribute heavily to potentially harmful algae blooms, sea grass and, sometimes, marine animals kills. Parts of North Fort Myers received 10 inches of rain just this week, and the Southwest Florida region (Lee and coastal Collier counties) posted 47 inches of rain this year, 5 inches above average.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers said state officials are currently weighing the benefits of declaring a state of emergency.
“We know this is a long term problem with long term solutions,” she said. “But we have to act now.”
Benacquisto said there are about 120,000 septic tanks in east Lee County that “touch,” or feed into the Caloosahatchee.
Some people in the crowd wore shirts or held signs with such sayings as “Save Our Lagoon.”
Rainfall combined with Lake Okeechobee discharges are pushing freshwater about 15 miles offshore.
Rick Bartleson with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation said that lack of light penetration is killing off sea grass beds, the base of the marine food chain.
“We haven’t done this much damage in recent years, even when you consider the hurricanes (of 2004 and 2005),” he said.
A public forum is at the Cape Coral Library at 2 p.m. Saturday. Judah is one of Saturday’s speakers.



Florida Senator

More ideas, few decisions at water town hall meeting - by Steve Campion and Laura Roberts, Reporters
September 5, 2013
UPDATE 9/5/13 11 p.m.: There was a lot of information, but not enough permanent solutions. That's what people are saying about a town hall meeting held tonight in Fort Myers.
It was a chance for people to ask direct questions to the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District about the Lake Okeechobee water releases.
Those releases are causing that brown, murky water in the Gulf.
Both agencies presented potential long-term solutions to increase water storage in southern Florida.
But the Army Corps of Engineers says in the short-term, the water releases have to continue until the rain stops.
"I learned a lot of things, but again, we're not getting that yes, we're going to do this," said resident Josette Wall.
More than 100 people attended. Several took the opportunity to speak to the crowd about pressuring politicians to take action.

Today, Fort Myers and Sanibel host another state decision maker over the Lake Okeechobee runoff.
Governor Rick Scott neglected to visit our beaches when he was here last week.
But today, Florida Senator Lizbeth Benequisto paid a visit to the Sanibel boat ramp and Pink Shell Resort in preparation of tonight's town hall meeting with the Army Corp of Engineers.
Officials are expecting a big crowd tonight. The meeting is open to the public.
The dark, murky water has driven visitors and locals away for months now. It took an invite from Fort Myers Beach's mayor to get some powerful state leaders here -- where they heard from business owners -- warning our islands' stunning reputations are sinking fast.
"Oh, Fort Myers Beach, it's like an afterthought. We don't want to be the afterthought. We're really not," said Ronnie Lonoff, Local Color.
Feeling forgotten -- almost marooned -- those on Estero Island are finally get some love. Benacquisto was joined by Lee County leaders to tour the barrier island communities. Months after water started gushing out of Lake Okeechobee due to dangerous water levels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to push fresh water down the Caloosahatchee River and out to the Gulf of Mexico -- the clash remains clearly visible.
The water darkens our coastlines and kills off sea life. Taking a first hand look on Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach, Benacquisto promised to fight for these communities' economic futures by funding needy water storage projects like the C-43 reservoir.
Others on the sand wonder if they can weather this water quality crisis.
"The experience of coming first hand is valuable. We're going to continue to stress to everyone come and see it," Benacquisto said.
"We can solve this. It's not a short term solution. The public and vacationers may have life. I believe people have a short term memory and will come back," said Al Durrett, Fish-Tale Marina
Now while some say the water's unsightly, the health department says its safe to swim in. We heard from some business owners who say the damage to our reputation is spreading fast across social media -- where visitors are writing about their disappointment and warning those around the world about the water.

UPDATE 9/5/13 9:30 p.m.: After our story aired Thursday evening, the governor's office contacted us with this written statement. Unfortunately, it still does not answer our question as to why Governor Scott has yet to visit the areas in Lee County impacted by the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, like Estero and Sanibel islands.
"The Governor was proud to be joined by Congressman Trey Radel, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane and Lee County Commissioners to announce an historic $90 million commitment that will directly benefit families in Southwest Florida. To support families in the region, the Governor also called on the Corps of Engineers and the federal government to step up and fix the Lake Okeechobee dike system which is impacting the region."


No shortage of troubled waters facing new South Florida Water Management District director
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
September 5, 2013
Blake Guillory began his first day as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District on Thursday with a 3-1/2 hour, non-stop meeting on all things water in the 16-county district. The topics ranged from the Everglades to Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie Estuary, Caloosahatchee, Indian and Kissimmee rivers, Biscayne and Florida bays, dikes, reservoirs and canals.
Guillory said little but listened attentively as the 42 members of the district’s Water Resource Advisory Commission aired concerns about the region’s water problems. The commission advises the district’s governing board on water policy. Its members include representatives from agriculture, business, local government, utilities, tribes, environment and public interest groups.
Guillory, of Jupiter, left his job as executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District to head the South Florida Water Management District. As the district’s third executive director in 26 months, he inherits an agency that has recently endured severe budget cuts, layoffs, claims of cronyism and the departure of long-term senior executives, scientists and staffers.
Although Thursday was Guillory’s first day, he was recently seen at several high-profile meetings, including the commission’s July meeting in Jensen Beach, where dozens of activists protested polluted water being flushed into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Guillory also attended the Aug. 22 public hearing of the Senate select committee on Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon in Stuart, where activists and experts presented short-term solutions to current high-water conditions.



Not another bait and switch
Miami Herald - Editorial
September 5, 2013
OUR OPINION: State’s plan to sell ‘surplus’ public land to buy other ‘better’ land raises valid concerns.
Beaches, walking trails, wetlands meant to clean stormwater before it enters Florida’s aquifers. As many as 5,331 acres of land in Florida could be on the auction block for developers to gobble up, all in an effort to raise $50 million to buy “better” land to protect. We are not making this up.
The political motivations are simple. It’s a way for the governor and legislators, who approved his haphazard plan, to say they care about Florida’s environment while continuing to rob the trust fund, meant to raise money to buy such lands and instead using that money for their own pet projects.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that in a state with millions of acres of protected land, from beach shorelines to swamps and forests, that there would be some acres that aren’t as valuable to the environment, water quality or wildlife.
The problem with the state’s plan, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times and published in the Herald on Thursday, is the way the state Department of Environmental Protection went about creating the potential list — in a rush. (To find the proposed sites of the state’s “surplus” land go to
Another problem: The $50 million figure is not based on any scientific rationale as to the environmental value of those lands.
At a July 15 meeting by the Surplus Lands advisory group, a consultant pushed the group to change the criteria of what would qualify to reach the magic $50 million because the group was coming up short. Among the sensitive parcels on the proposed list is the Green Swamp, at the headwaters of four rivers in Central Florida, which is land that is crucial to protect an aquifer that supplies fresh water.
At least 145 acres in the Oleta River State Park in Miami-Dade County were pulled from the state’s proposed “for sale” list. Good call, as this park contains the largest coastal mangrove forest in North Biscayne Bay. Deed restrictions made it impossible for the state to sell.
But there are at least 17 parcels in the Keys, along U.S. 1 from Tavernier to Plantation Key, that remain on the state’s list, and that should concern every South Floridian who values the rare hardwood tropical hammock in that area, which wildlife, including rare butterflies, count on to survive.
Remember Florida Forever? That program, along with Preservation 2000, bought more than 2.5 million acres — part of 10 million acres that are managed for conservation. The state was spending up to $300 million a year to buy environmental treasures. Under both Republican and Democratic governors and legislatures, Florida became a nationally recognized model for protecting land.
The Great Recession put the brakes on that legacy and the state’s land-buying program, which had used a small portion from real estate closing costs for a trust fund to buy environmentally sensitive land. Instead, legislators this year offered $20 million, plus $50 million from the sale of surplus land.
This latest attempt to sell some land to buy “better” land seems to be another classic bait and switch. The Cabinet will be making a decision by next year on the land sales. In the meantime, the DEP plans to hold meetings throughout Florida.
Speak up. You can start by emailing state officials at and let them know we’re on to this bait and switch.
With a recovering economy, the trust fund should be used for what it was intended: protecting Florida’s treasures.


Senator visits Beach to view Gulf and hears from hospitality officials
Fort Myers Beach Observer – by Bob Petcher
September 5, 2013
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and other top ranking officials made a trip to Estero Island Thursday to check out the beachfront, dip their toes in the Gulf and listen to comments from Beach hospitality members about the economic impact suffered since high flow regulatory freshwater releases have been discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and consequently Southwest Florida saltwater estuaries.
After the brief beachfront visit, Benacquisto was joined by State Representative Ray Rodriguez along with Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker, Beach Mayor Alan Mandel and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane at the head of the round table inside Pink Shell Beach Resort's Lido Ballroom. This trip came after she visited Sanibel and before she attended an evening town hall meeting on the subject at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center.
Words such as "damage," "reputation," "future" and "trickle down effect" were bounced around the room as roughly one dozen Beach business representatives offered comments about how the state of the Gulf and Back Bay has affected their livelihoods. While the Lake O flows have eased, the consequences of the action have escalated.
"Every comment that you make is critically valuable to us. We will underscore everyone's testimony to set the stage for next season," said Benacquisto. "With your help, we want to make sure the message is right and what it should be."


Big Sugar

Subsidized capitalism favors sugar over SW Fla. Businesses – Guest Opinion by Chauncey Goss
September 5, 2013
Does anyone else find it ironic that even as the ink is drying on over $12 billion in BP settlement claims, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, and the state of Florida are all seemingly baffled as to how to stop the flow of filthy brown water from being discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers?
If BP suddenly started pumping this water into our pristine estuaries causing businesses to lose revenue and employees to lose jobs, what would have been the state and federal response?
If BP held a press conference saying that they had a solution they could implement in 2017, what would have been the state and federal response?
The Deepwater Horizon was a horrible accident, and BP has been held accountable to the tune of $12 billion. The pumping from Lake Okeechobee is not an accident, it is the result of specific policies drawn up in Jacksonville, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach, and none claim accountability.
There is too much finger pointing going on, and more than enough blame to spread around. Our agriculture policies favor the sugar industry with price supports and subsidized crop insurance. The state and the SFWMD reward the sugar industry by allowing it to backpump water into the lake. The fact that none of the water is being released south into the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) is a policy decision that is impacting our coastal economies.
If the state were to decide to pump water into the EAA, it would be a disaster for the growers, which is exactly why they have crop insurance subsidized by our federal tax dollars.
Those of us on the coast have no such luxury. There is no loss of business insurance attributable to the discharges although the discharges are hurting our economy.
My Republican friends rightly decry crony capitalism and government favoritism of companies such as Solyndra. My Republican friends rightly fret over the very real impact the Affordable Care Act will have on small businesses. I have a difficult time making a distinction as to why favoritism to the sugar industry is not crony capitalism and I assure you that while the economic impacts of Affordable Care will be felt in Florida in the future, the economic impacts of the water releases are being felt now.
The oil from the Deepwater Horizon never made it to Southwest Florida, yet the economic impact was very real as were the damages paid. The brown water discharges from Lake Okeechobee are here today and impacting our businesses on both coasts. Our elected officials reacted quickly to condemn BP and hold it accountable. Our elected officials played hard ball when negotiating with BP.
Where are they now ?


The Army Corps of Engineers meets with frustrated Floridians about Lake O - by Kelli Stegeman
September 5, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Southwest Floridians packing into a town hall meeting Thursday night demanding to know why officials are allowing brown murky water to slop across our beaches and hurt the tourism industry. 
The dark water is pouring from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and out to our shoreline. 
Residents got the first chance at this meeting to talk directly to the Army Corps of Engineers. 
The meeting went almost an hour over the scheduled time at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center. 
In the packed 'Situation Room' there, a big situation was discussed. 
"The Army Corps of Engineers needs to hear from the residents," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "They need to understand exactly their point of view, their passion, their disappointment, their anger and hear it first hand."
Representatives from local, state and federal levels meeting with the public who came armed with shirts and signs to talk truth about Lake Okeechobee water releases.
"We're going to give them the truth, whether people like it or don't like it, it is the way it is," said Colonel Alan Dodd with the Corps.
He laid out a path forward that included Everglades restoration and work to reinforce the Herbert Hoover dike. Col. Dodd said it couldn't get done without the government's help. 
"We all want action," said Col. Dodd."We are doing what we can within our authorities, but we have to maintain our balance of responsibility to protect life and safety."
He recognized there is no easy solution to reduce pumping the dirty water onto our shores and prevent the impact on the environment, but they're working on it.  
Lee County resident Bob Schwandner is looking for a compromise.
"I think it's great that everyone is starting to see that there is a horrendous problem here," Schwandner said. "I would like to know about getting the water to flow south."
This meeting was a chance to be heard. But, the fact of the matter is that there is still a lot of time and work ahead to reach a solution.
"I don't see us stopping any of the releases any time soon," Col. Dodd said.


Town hall meeting will address concerns with Lake O releases
September 5, 2013
LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County and the City of Sanibel are hosting a town hall meeting at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center in Fort Myers at 7:00 p.m. A representative from the Army Corps of Engineers along with South Florida Water Management District will discuss the ongoing freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee basin into the Caloosahatchee river.
"People are very concerned. We're hearing it everyday in our work. They need to hear from the decision-makers. Those agencies, those decision-makers that are deciding how to operate this big system, how they're managing all the water that's flowing from Disney World to Key West and how that's impacting us and impacting other areas of the state," said Kurt Harclerode, Operations Manager for Natural Resources Division of Lee County.
The two-hour meeting is open to the public.


Water Management District engineers quick fix - by Valerie Alker
Wednesday  bulldozers  broke through a section of the original Tamiami Trail, about thirty miles west of Miami. 
With the roadway gone, water will able to flow from water conservation area #3, into a nearby canal and then south towards the Everglades National Park.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said it’s a quick, affordable fix.
“Other than District fuel station’s time and fuel for the equipment these are going to be some things that we can do efficiently and should be effective,” he said.
Smith said the increased flow to the south will be “moderate”.  He said bulldozing the road to move more water south will reduce water levels in the Everglades which are very high this summer, threatening wildlife. 
“Keeping water levels high is having adverse effects on wildlife and critical tree islands,” he said. “When we get the water level down in the water conservation area the increase in southerly flow facilitated by the demolition becomes a means for diverting more Lake Okeechobee water away from the coastal areas.”
Last week Gov. Rick Scott announced state funding for a bridge over a portion of the existing Tamiami Trail. The federal government has also bridged a portion of the roadway.


Water quality forum set for Saturday
North Fort Myers Neighbor
September 5, 2013
A water forum to educate the public about freshwater releases and Lake Okeechobee will be held at the Cape Coral Library on Saturday.
The Coastal Estuaries in Peril forum, first held on Captiva Island on Aug. 26, is coming to the library on Sept. 7 from 2-4 p.m.
Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner and coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, and Jennifer Hecker, Natural Resource Policy director for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, will speak at the forum.
Although the topics discussed will be similar to the meeting on Captiva Island, Judah said an emphasis will be placed on informing the public about the state's three-year option to purchase land from U.S. Sugar.
He said the option includes 153,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee that could be purchased for $7,400 per acre, but the deal expires in October. If the state doesn't exercise that option then clearly the price will increase and they will have to compete against other potential buyers, said Judah.
Gov. Rick Scott announced a $90 million environmental project to raise 2.6-miles of Tamiami Trail in the Everglades, which would facilitate the natural flow of water south from Lake Okeechobee, but Judah said it won't ease the releases to Southwest Florida unless the sugar land is purchased and used to divert water south.
Rather than naturally running south, water from the lake is now diverted east and west to St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee basins. Judah said the purchase of sugar land could be used to begin diverting water south to the Everglades and land swap with companies to acquire other lands needed for the project.
"It would save the coastal estuaries from the damaging releases," said Judah. "This is the only way to route the volume of water that is in the lake that has to be released during the wet summer months."
Purchasing the sugar land under the three-year option would cost $1.1 billion, said Judah, but in perspective the entire Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) will cost $26 billion.
Hecker will discuss how the murky water affects Southwest Florida. Tourism is the state's primary industry and she said some tourists are canceling trips to this region. Ninety percent of surveyed hotels on Fort Myers Beach said they had cancellations over the water, according to a survey conducted by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
She will also discuss other steps that need to be taken to protect local estuaries, including a revision of the South Florida Water Management District operations, declaring a state of emergency and flooding the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), and finishing the sugar land purchases.
The library event is co-sponsored by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife. The Cape Coral Library is at 921 SW 39th Terrace. For more information, call 980-2593.
Water quality forum set for Saturday Fort Myers Beach Observer


FL springs

$37M targeted for helping Florida's springs
Orlando Sentinel – by Kevin Spear
September 4, 2013
Standing less than 2 miles from an algae-plagued Wekiwa Springs, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's top environmental officials gushed praise Wednesday for $37 million in public money set aside to jump-start restoration work at some of the state's best-known springs.
"We care about the quality of water; we care about the flow of water," said Scott, who was also accompanied by top state lawmakers promising to make springs-friendly legislation a priority during next year's session of the Legislature.
Several advocates for restoring and protecting Wekiwa Springs and the Wekiva River said they were unimpressed by the amount of money allocated for the Seminole County springs.
 "None of that money is going to necessarily improve the springs with the urgency that is needed," said Pat Siemen, director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University's law school near Orlando.
Scott said the statewide program includes $11 million from the state's Florida Families First and Department of Environmental Protection budgets, plus about $26 from local governments and state-run water-management districts.
The big winner among the projects highlighted by the governor: Silver Springs, perhaps Florida's most famous springs, which suffers from shriveling water flows and pollution tied to fertilizer and sewage.
More than half the program's $37 million will be spent on Silver Springs alone, upgrading a city of Ocala wastewater plant ($12 million) and rerouting Marion County's effluent discharge ($8 million) from a spot near the springs to a golf course for use as irrigation.
Also atop the spending list: Ichetucknee Springs, one of the state's biggest and most-popular springs. The program announced by Scott includes $4.6 million to upgrade a Lake City sewage-treatment plant that discharges its effluent in an area near both the springs and the Ichetucknee River.
Wekiwa Springs does not benefit nearly as much from the spending plan, at least not in terms of dollars. About $3.5 million in state and local money will be used to help pay for a pipeline so the city of Apopka can use treated sewage and storm water for irrigation instead of dumping it in the Little Wekiva River.
"It's a good first step," said Deede Sharpe, president of the Friends of the Wekiva River.
The plight of Florida's signature springs, nearly all of which are in Central and North Florida, has not gotten the kind of attention paid for many years to restoration of the Everglades in South Florida.
But the governor's announcement Wednesday was backed by coordinated and emphatic statements from lawmakers and officials who said that lack of attention is changing.
"Nothing else could be more important than what we are doing today," said state Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, and chairman of the Legislature's Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Dean described the governor's announcement as a "kickoff" for springs protection.
Rep. Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City and a member of the House's Natural Resources Committee, said the springs will now get the same attention as "we are giving the Everglades." Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, added: "We look forward to all the good things the next Legislature will do with springs legislation."
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said the $37 million will be well-spent — but must be accompanied by added legal protections for the springs.
"We urge Governor Scott and the Legislature to continue funding springs projects while tightening rules on fertilizer use and water conservation," Draper said.
Siemens and another lawyer from the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, Robert Williams, delivered a letter to the governor urging him to require that existing environmental laws be enforced to protect a part of the state's "priceless heritage."
"Wekiwa Springs does not need another public relations effort," they wrote.
Environmental-advocacy lawyer John Thomas said the governor and legislators can spend money on springs restoration, "but if they don't stop allowing too much water use and too much nutrient pollution, it won't make much difference."
Governor Announces $37 Million Investment in Florida Springs ...  WMBB
Rick Scott Focuses on Funding to Improve Springs  Sunshine State News (blog)
Improvimg the water quality of several Florida springs         WEAR
Springs protection funding announced           Branford News
Florida springs to receive nearly $37M           WPTV
State funding to help Silver Springs, Ichetucknee     Gainesville Sun



Activists seek signatures for lagoon
TCPalm - by Stephanie LaBaff
September 4, 2013
As the woes of the Indian River Lagoon and other Florida waterways garner national attention, environmentalists and politicians alike are asking Florida voters to sign the Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Petition.
The group needs 683,149 signatures from registered voters in order to get their referendum on the ballot. With renewed interest in our environment, signature collection has soared since earlier this year.
In April, the group had reportedly collected 110,958 signatures. As rallies and panel discussions spread across the state, an increase in signatures has risen leaving the group in need of only 150,000 more signatures before the November 30 deadline.
Previously, many residents would pass by the volunteers trying to get the word out about the loss of funding to protect Florida’s land and waterways by placing an amendment on the November 2014 ballot.
“We were at the Phipps Rally and the Save the Indian River Lagoon Rally at Riverside Park and we’ve collected 3,630 signatures locally. Amazing support from ALL voters,” according to local volunteer Kristy Polackwich.
Polackwich née Warren grew up in Vero Beach and has a vested interest in protecting the environment as she raises her children along the Indian River Lagoon too.
“Fighting for this amendment has personal meaning to me due to the dire situation of our lagoon, a national estuary.” Twenty-two volunteers from Vero have worked tirelessly attending public events across the state of Florida. Fourth of July parades, eco-events, waterway cleanups, anywhere large numbers of people would gather to enjoy the Florida outdoors.
The goal of the amendment is to set aside one-third of the current documentary stamp tax (paid when real estate is sold) to restore water sources, protect lands and wildlife.
It is estimated that more than $5 billion would be earmarked for water and land conservation over the course of the next ten years.
Since this is a tax already collected, taxpayers would not see any increase as a result of the amendment.
Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign has drawn the support of almost 300 environmental and conservation groups. This consortium garners its support from the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife and other like-minded representatives.
There are almost 12 million registered voters in the state of Florida, with about 100,000 of those residing in Indian River County. With about 90 days left to collect signatures, the task no longer seems insurmountable.
Although the amendment addresses waterways and lands throughout Florida, the money for the protection of these areas would greatly affect the Indian River Lagoon. Our shallowwater estuary runs for 156 miles across approximately 40 percent of Florida’s east coast.
The lagoon serves as both an economic and recreational resource for the Treasure Coast. According to the St. Johns River Water Management District “the total estimated annual economic value of the lagoon is $3.7 billion, supporting 15,000 full and part-time jobs and providing recreational opportunities for 11 million people per year.” The current plight of the lagoon was a long time in the making. There have been fish kills and algae blooms coupled with man’s continuous pollution of the environment. These have all contributed to the loss of as many as 47,000 acres of seagrass, which in turn reduces both refuge and food resources for marine life dependent upon them.
Unexplained deaths among manatees, bottlenose dolphins and pelicans have increased during the past few years and now with the recent sludge spotted along the lagoon and high levels of nitrates and phosphates damaging the balance of the lagoon’s ecosystem, residents have begun to question current regulations for the protection of the lagoon.
If approved, the amendment would take effect July 1, 2015. According to literature from the authors of the amendment, “Florida’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund would receive a guaranteed 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents.
These funds would be dedicated to support financing or refinancing the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas and related property interests and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat and lands that protect significant water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems.” Legislative budget cuts in the area of environmental protection began as a direct result of the recession. With a decline in property values and fewer purchases, funding diminished.
Floridians have historically supported amendments geared toward the protection of their natural treasures. It’s taken an extreme wake up call to roust many supporters, but if the increase in signatures and attendance at local rallies is any indication, stewards of the environment have decided it’s time to take control and responsibility.
For more information about Florida’s Water and Land Legacy or to sign the petition visit the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. To sign the petition, go online to


Aquifer represents huge hurdles for Central Florida - by Kyle Rambo, Guest Columnist
September 4, 2013
It’s an obvious fact that when a population continues to grow, it will have effects on the basic resources necessary for a society to continue to run smoothly. With there being more and more people in a specific area, that area must compensate to fill the population’s needs to survive.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Floridan Aquifer, which pumps 800 million gallons of water a day to homes and businesses around Central Florida, can only pump up to 850 million gallons of water a day without severely damaging surrounding wetlands, springs and rivers. The demand for the aquifer is expected to reach 1.1 billion gallons of water a day within the next three decades. The math of all this says that something drastic needs to change before this inevitable clock ticks down.
Hal Wilkening, a director of the division of water resources at the St. Johns River Water Management District, told the Sentinel, “This should come as no surprise.” He hopes that these calculations will help give the Central Florida Water Initiative the financial courage needed to be invested to fix this problem. One solution being thrown around was pumping water from distant rivers, lakes and as far as the ocean to avoid pumping from the aquifer.
An article from the Bloomberg News sustainability blog, The Grid, reported that China is going through a similar, but more severe problem; its government planned 363 coal-fired power plants across the country that would cause severe water stress to already stressed areas.
The government is working on a strategy to fix this problem, aiming to cap annual maximum water use at 700 billion cubic meters. If China doesn’t find a way to slow down its coal production, this shortage in water will affect everything in its economy from its farms to its industries.
The fact that somewhere as far away as China can have similar problems to such a fundamental need is frightening and may be a sign of things to come with a population that continues to grow. Learning from each other and our mistakes on solving these problems will better help the world’s understanding on how to maintain a bigger society.
It would be better to not make mistakes and have everything solved and continue to run smoothly, but only time will tell if that’s the case.
The Sentinel described another possible solution by describing the possibility of improving the existing conservation measures so that the demand for water stays constant even with the likelihood of Central Florida’s population growing from 3 million to 4.1 million by 2035. This seems like an unrealistic scenario, and the only way to solve this problem long term is to draw on other sources and not rely so heavily on the aquifer.
Mark Hammond, the director of resource management at the Southwest Florida Water District, described how the 800 million gallons a day the aquifer is pumping now can have dangerous effects on the wetlands and springs, the Sentinel reported. If the amount of water being pumped down in dangerous, then there is no way that the aquifer should continue to push its limits and make things even worse before it’s figured out that saving money and hoping it will work was a bad idea.
Making the necessary adjustments now when there is a larger time to work with, instead of when it has to be done, will pay off in the future.
Hopefully clean water will remain in Central Florida without harming the beautiful environment for many years to come. Overcoming these obstacles will be an example of the many different challenges to come as the population grows without limit.


Florida's phosphates turned into fertilizer - by Ann Marie O'Phelan
September 4, 2013
Phosphate minerals are a valuable natural resource found in rock deposits throughout the United States and the world.
Phosphate minerals were first discovered in central Florida, the "Bone Valley" area, in the early 1880s. However, many of the phosphate deposits are now mined in north Florida in Hamilton County and further south near the Peace River in the vicinity of Fort Meade in Polk County.
Florida provides a good majority of the nation's phosphate supply. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, ".Florida and North Carolina accounted for more than 85 percent of the total U.S. production with the balance being produced in the western states of Idaho and Utah." The U.S. marketable phosphate rock production for the 2012 crop year (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012) was 28.8 metric tons.
The phosphate that is produced from mining is ultimately made into phosphoric acid, which is in turn used to create fertilizer and other products. Fertilizers are an important part of agriculture worldwide and have a huge impact on what we see harvested. "Modern farmers routinely use chemical fertilizers and animal feed ingredients, derived from mineral sources of phosphate, to augment organic sources of phosphate. This practice has increased yields of crops and livestock to levels that greatly exceed natural population growth rates," Central Florida Phosphate District (CFPD).
Two types of phosphates can be found in Florida: pebble and hard-rock. The pebble type is the more common of the two. "Hard-rock phosphate was mined in the late 1800s and early 1900s because it was concentrated and easier to mine," said Florida Geological Survey District Geologist, FDEP, Harley Means.
Means explained that hard-rock phosphates occurs within paleo-sinkholes where groundwater has dissolved the phosphate from upgradient pebble phosphate deposits and transported it into sinkholes where it replaced the limestone in the walls and fill within the sink. The majority of this type of phosphate has been mined out in Florida.
Pebble phosphate deposits form in a different way. It is believed that the fluctuating sea levels across the state, through geologic time, played a role.
"Nutrient rich sea water covered parts of Florida's carbonate platform (primarily during the Miocene epoch) and organisms utilized the nutrients, proliferated and ultimately did so in great abundance," said Means, who explained that this led to eutrophic conditions (meaning that the oxygen was removed from the water) and the remains of the organisms accumulated and over geologic time were converted to phosphate in the form of the mineral francolite. As sea levels fluctuated, these phosphate deposits were reworked by streams and rivers and became concentrated into placer deposits.
The phosphate mining process in Florida is conducted via a dragline. The miners first remove the soil, sand and clay atop and then bring in the draglines. The largest particles are first removed and then slurry, using large water cannons, is run to remove the clay. The material is then pumped into the beneficiation plants where sand and clay are separated for processing.
In order for phosphates to be used as a water-soluble fertilizer, the substance must first be chemically processed. While phosphate mining allows more productive crop harvests, there are a few drawbacks. Phosphate is nonrenewable like most things that are mined.
"At some point in the future we will reach the production limit and there will be less and less phosphate produced in Florida. However, as the economics change it may be economical to go to new areas or back into spoil piles and reprocess some of the material that was previously not economically feasible to mine," said Means.
Another downside is the byproduct known as phosphogypsum that is produced by the process. There is an abundance of this material stacked across the state. However, some initiatives are being taken to put it to good use, such as using it for fill material in road construction.
Lastly an issue arises when the fertilizers are applied in karst regions. These regions are areas that were created by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone and dolomite, and contain aquifers capable of providing large supplies of water.
"The excess that is not taken up by the plants can make it down into the groundwater and cause significant contamination, especially if it makes its way to springs and surface drainage features like rivers," said Means, who added that the Suwannee River is a good example of a spring-fed river system that is terribly contaminated with excessive nutrients due to agricultural applications of fertilizer.
While phosphorous is an important part of root and flower development, it quickly becomes depleted in soils so the substance must be replenished regularly to maintain the impact.


Lake Okeechobee water levels slow to recede
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid,
September 4, 2013
A return of rainy weather is hampering efforts to lower Lake Okeechobee, despite the daily dumping of lake water out to sea for flood control.
Hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water has been drained away since May to ease the strain on the troubled dike that protects lakeside towns and South Florida farmland from flooding.
Despite the ongoing discharges, lake levels remain about the same as a week ago due to a recent increase in rainfall north of the lake. Forecasts call for more rainy weather to come as South Florida enters the peak of hurricane season.
Lake Okeechobee on Wednesday was 15.5 feet above sea level, about 1.3 feet higher than this time last year. The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet.
The problem is, just one tropical storm can boost the lake 3 feet because water drains into the lake faster than it can be drained out to sea. Threats of a dike breach grow if the lake hits 18 feet.
Recent inspections revealed no worse leaking at two spots along southern portions of the dike where increased amounts of water have been seeping through the earthen structure this summer, the Army Corps of Engineers reported Wednesday.
"It is certainly something we are keeping our eye on," said Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Army Corps' deputy commander for South Florida.
The lake discharges that are good for South Florida flood control have been devastating for coastal communities; killing fishing grounds and bringing an influx of pollutants that make some waterways unsafe for swimming.
Before South Florida farming and development got in the way, water used to naturally overlap Lake Okeechobee's southern rim and flow south to replenish the Everglades.
Now canals dug to link Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are used to drain lake water to the coast.
The lake's leaky Herbert Hoover Dike remains in the midst of a multi-decade rehab effort, heightening the need for lake discharges to lessen the threat of a breach.
With lake levels slow to recede during this rainier-than-usual summer, the lake dumping is expected to continue through the end of the year. Discharges so far have succeeded in lowering the lake about half a foot since its peak earlier this summer.
But the prolonged deluge of lake water to the coast throws off the delicate balance of salt and fresh water in the estuaries and brings pollutants and muck that foul water quality.
Lake Okeechobee dumping is already killing marine habitat and scaring away game fish in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, which is also hurting businesses in coastal communities that rely on tourism. The polluting consequences of lake discharges are also now being felt in Palm Beach County's Lake Worth Lagoon.
Restoring more of the lake's natural water flows to the south through Everglades restoration has been billed as the long-term alternative to the damaging lake discharges into the estuaries. But multibillion-dollar projects aimed at storing and cleaning up water that could flow south remain backlogged due to high costs and other political hurdles.
On Wednesday, the South Florida Water Management District launched an effort to get more of South Florida's stormwater flowing south by beginning work to plow a channel through dense vegetation growing on an old stretch of the Tamiami Trail.
The hope is that small-scale improvements like that when combined with larger-scale restoration projects will get more water flowing south to Everglades National Park and eventually lessen the need for draining lake water east and west.
Those large-scale restoration projects include the proposed $1.8 billion Central Everglades plan, (CEPP) which would get more lake water flowing south by removing portions of levees, filling in sections of canals and boosting pumping capacity. It is still awaiting state and federal approval.


Officials hold town hall meeting to address water releases
September 4, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District discuss the ongoing freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee basin into the Caloosahatchee River at a special town hall meeting hosted by Lee County and the City of Sanibel.
The town hall meeting is free and open to the public and will take place Thursday from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center, 2675 Ortiz Ave. in Fort Myers. No RSVP is required.
Following informational presentations from both organizations regarding the freshwater releases and management of Lake Okeechobee and the Central and Southern Flood Control System, members of the public may ask questions or provide comments. Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane will serve as facilitators for the discussion.


Poor water condition has a ripple effect – Opinion by Jennifer Hecker
September 4, 2013
As polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee continues to rush down the Caloosahatchee River, dark dirty water plagues the beaches threatening Southwest Florida’s greatest economic engine — tourism.
The future of Southwest Florida’s economy and environment is in our hands. We encourage residents to become actively involved in this important issue, so it gets the needed attention from lawmakers.
Please attend a public forum on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at the Cape Coral Public Library Meeting Room, 921 SW 39th Terrace in Cape Coral.
With the word of the poor water conditions spreading, would-be visitors in Southwest Florida are canceling plans or leaving town early. In fact, a Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce survey shows 90 percent of surveyed hotels say they have had cancellations because of the water, and 70 percent of those asked say some tourists expressed they would never come back.
The ripple effect — our real estate, hotel, restaurant and retail industries, as well as our anglers are being hit hard. The livelihoods of these industry employees are in jeopardy. In addition, releases have killed off juvenile oyster beds and seagrasses which serve as a nursery, feeding and shelter area for marine life including manatees. It’s safe to say that Southwest Florida’s economy and environmental health are dependent upon fixing the Caloosahatchee water flow issue. So what’s the solution?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s visit to Fort Myers last week to announce that the state is committing $90 million to fund bridging an additional 2.6-mile of the Tamiami Trail to increase water flow into Everglades National Park is encouraging.
Some of the other immediate steps that could be taken by the state include:
Funding and building planned Caloosahatchee River Watershed Protection Plan water storage projects before the 2014 rainy season to capture, store and treat excess water.
Revising current South Florida Water Management District operations to allow additional water storage north of Lake Okeechobee
Declaring a State of Emergency to send excess water through the private farms that make up the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). These private farms are protected from high waters by man-made canals and structures and have crop insurance, while our public estuaries are being devastated — losing our “crops” of juvenile oysters and seagrasses, for which there is no compensation.
Finishing the U.S. Sugar land purchase. The window of opportunity to purchase the land from a willing seller and under the three-year price option expires this October. These lands are essential and are the ultimate permanent solution for redirecting the amount of water south to restore the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers as well as the Everglades.


S. Fla water managers cut through old road to improve water flow into Everglades National Park
The Associated Press
September 4, 2013
MIAMI — A gap has been cut into an old highway west of Miami to increase the flow of water into Everglades National Park.
The South Florida Water Management District on Wednesday cut through a 35-foot-long section of the Old Tamiami Trail to drain water south from state-managed wetlands in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
District spokesman Randy Smith says high water is reducing wildlife habitat. Smith says the area also is too saturated to receive water being released to reduce pressure on Lake Okeechobee's aging dike.
The old highway is no longer in use. The gap is several miles west of a bridge that raised a mile of U.S. 41 to improve water flow into the park. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed raising an additional 2.6 miles of the same highway.


Sometimes the government must step in
TCPalm - by Rev. Scott Alexander in the Community Forum
September 4, 2013
Over recent months it has become painfully and profoundly clear, thanks to the “Press Journal” for its extensive and thoughtful coverage of this crisis, that our beautiful Indian River Lagoon is in severe ecological crisis.
Nutrient runoff from our farms, lawns and antiquated septic tanks is poisoning the river, causing the death and endangerment of many wonderful species of animals and plants.
While this pollution crisis is complex, and will not be solved easily or overnight, one thing is perfectly clear governmental bodies (at the local, county, state and national levels) will all need to be actively and aggressively involved in fashioning an environmental turn around.
Another thing that is clear is that an overwhelming majority of the people of the Treasure Coast now deeply concerned by the terribly compromised environment of the lagoon both want and demand governmental and political leaders to step up and take real action to address this crisis. As one local citizen, I will do everything I can to encourage my government leaders especially at the city, county and state level -- to show wise and active leadership in solving this solvable environmental crisis.
And yet here on the Treasure Coast there remains what I believe is a totally unnecessary and irrational obstacle to our taking the obvious collective actions necessary to save our most treasured natural resource namely the widespread hostility on the part of some of our citizens to government and its activities. More than in any other place I have ever lived, there seem to be a significant number of people here on the Treasure Coast who direct ideological fury and rhetorical poison against the very idea of government (at all levels) and its resulting programs, taxation and regulations.
I am always startled and yes saddened when I see a vehicle on the street with a bumper sticker that reads, “I love my country, it’s my government I hate.” And I have a hard time understanding those who angrily view government solely as “a beast that must be starved.”
The environmental crisis that now grips our lagoon is a perfect example of a large societal problem which only active and involved government can solve. Individual citizens and the free enterprise system are simply not capable of taking the bold and determined steps that will be necessary to reverse the growing nutrient pollution only government planning, regulation and action will succeed.
Take the Lake Okeechobee nutrient-rich water release problem as a prime example of the necessity for concerted governmental action. It is clear that the solution to this deadly pollution flowing into the lagoon will be a joint (and yes, massive) plan developed by local, state and federal governmental bodies to reroute billions of gallons of water back to the everglades, or toward new retaining wetlands.
This will require the cooperation of governmental and political leaders at the local, state and national level -- and will also necessitate the expenditure of public funds (which yes, may mean additional tax revenues will be required) in order to preserve the lagoon for future generations.
It is time for all the citizens of the Treasure Coast to realize that there are some problems which only our governments can appropriately address. And the key phrase here is “our governments,” for in this democratic republic government at all levels is representative -- freely elected by the people, for the people.
So let us together move past the irrational anti-government rhetoric, and work together with our leaders to save our precious lagoon.


This is the time to acquire U.S. Sugar lands – by Ray Judah, former Lee County commissioner
September 4, 2013
The recent press conference held in Fort Myers by Gov. Rick Scott to announce a joint agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Interior to fund the construction of 2.5 miles of bridging along the Tamiami Trail, to enhance water flow to the Everglades, was a wonderful example of the state and federal government continuing to work together on behalf of Everglades restoration.
The bridging is a component of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which is a state and federal initiative to use land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. When completed CEPP is expected to provide for the conveyance of approximately 220,000 acre feet of water south to the Everglades. An acre foot is essentially one foot of water covering an acre.
Scott and the Legislature have a tremendous opportunity to finalize the most critical piece of the Everglades restoration puzzle by moving forward with exercising the state’s option, created several years ago, to purchase U.S. Sugar land holdings.
The 3-year option on 153,209 acres at $7,400 per acre expires October 2013. The state would still have an opportunity to acquire U.S. Sugar lands after October but at a much higher price and having to compete with other potential buyers.
CEPP is expected to cost approximately $2.6 billion and the entire comprehensive Everglades restoration efforts is expected to cost approximately $16 billion over 30 years.
It is interesting to note that in 2005 the east and west releases from Lake Okeechobee amounted to 2.6 million acre feet. This totaled 855 billion gallons of turbid fresh water containing excess nutrients and other contaminants. The coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida sustained unprecedented damages to seagrass and fisheries and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie were covered with toxic blue-green algae.
Health Department officials warned citizens not to touch the water. Threats of serious health problems were cited. River and estuary damages are certain to occur repeatedly under present drainage structures and practices. Restoration of the historic southern flow-way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades is the most cost effective and efficient solution to alleviating the destruction of the rivers and east-west estuaries that were once acclaimed as the most bountiful in the nation.
The purchase of U.S. Sugar lands is absolutely critical to recreate a flow-way through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee to redirect the massive release of lake water that continues to cause adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
Our extremely wet summer rainy season of 2013 is shaping up like 2005 and with CEPP, including the bridging, conveying only approximately 10 percent of lake water to the south, it is imperative that the state acquire additional lands for the necessary storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
Scott should declare a state of emergency given the devastating economic and environmental impacts to the west and east coast communities of south Florida and schedule a special session with the Legislature to investigate options to acquire the U.S. Sugar lands.
Bond financing, BP oil spill disaster funds dedicated to Florida under the Restore Act, or the re-prioritization of the South Florida Water Management District’s capital improvement program would provide the necessary funds to enable the state to exercise the land purchase option.
The final ingredient to “getting the water right” is the political will to complete the final phase of Everglades restoration.


Lagoon needs our help now to survive
Florida Today – by Keith Winsten, Executive Director of Brevard Zoo in Viera, FL
September 3, 2013
The emails started flying about a month ago. What’s happening with the Lagoon? Who’s working to save it? Have we reached a tipping point? What role is the zoo going to play?
At the same time concern about the Indian River Lagoon was ratcheting up, I started counted recycling bins in my community. I live in Viera and we all have the green bins. Some of us have more recyclables in our bins than bags in our garbage cans (we have single-source recycling so almost everything is recyclable). Others use the bins sparingly because they are still throwing out lots of recyclable materials. But that’s an education problem.
These people want to participate but they don’t know the full range of stuff they can recycle. Much more discouraging is the fact that more than 50 percent of the homes in my neighborhood were not using the bins at all. Had they lost their bins and didn’t know how to get new ones? Or did they simply not care enough to bother?
Recycling is a fairly intensive behavior. It requires space in your home or garage, constant decisions and daily actions. And yet, much of the United States has committed to recycling. At times, market forces have helped drive the process, because some recyclables, such as aluminum cans, have economic value. But also the impending threat of overflowing landfills and images of mountains of garbage presented a crisis that drove us to change our ways. With that crisis being perceived as behind us, I think we see slippage in our behavior.
On the other hand, the Indian River Lagoon crisis is in front of us. The lagoon is an incredibly complex ecological system –
  Mosquito Lagoon
with salt and freshwater inflows and a length that spans from temperate to semi-tropical climates – and using seagrass coverage is a good overall indicator of the lagoon’s health.
Seven species of seagrases make up the Lagoon's fishery nursery and a rich biologically diverse food pantry for the lagoon and near-coastal waters. Like all plants, seagrass needs sunlight to grow. From 2004 when I first arrived here, through 2009, we saw a steady increase in the acres of seagrass growing in the lagoon. And since 2009, seagrass acreage has shrunk by 60 percent. More than 47,000 acres have been lost.
This seagrass die-off is tied to a number of major ecological events – an algae “superbloom” in 2011 in the Banana River Lagoon and a brown tide in the northern reaches of the lagoon – but the conditions leading to these events is what is so alarming. Some natural factors such as drought and low water temperatures came into play but other factors are under human control.
Anything that blocks sunlight from reaching the seagrass beds slows its growth and hurts the lagoon. Three factors block light
• Color: the stuff that runs-off our streets and lawn like leaf litter and yard debris contain natural dyes that leach into the water and block about 13 percent of the light
• Chlorophyll: an indicator of nutrients in the water; too high of a chlorophyll-a reading and algae blooms are likely, caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus washing into and stirring the water. We contribute to this chemical miasma through many poor behaviors such as over-fertilizing, washing cars in the wrong place, not picking up our dog poop and having leaky septic systems. Chlorophyll-a accounts for roughly 21 percent of the light blockage.
• Turbidity: dirt and other solids suspended in the water column. Erosion and many other factors effect turbidity, like sediment getting stirred up from the bottom. Turbidity is responsible for approximately 66 percent of the light blockage.
I believe we are now facing the tipping point with the lagoon. As a community we need to decide whether we are ready to commit the resources in time and dollars to avert the crisis and protect it for the long-haul. Or are we going to pinch-pennies, point fingers and do the least possible in the hopes the problem just goes away? The problem won’t but the Indian River Lagoon as we’ve know it, will.
Certainly, market forces are in favor of us making a big commitment. The annual economic value of the lagoon is $3.7 billon, supporting 15,000 jobs and providing recreational opportunities for 11 million people – more than the impact of the space program. But those jobs and impacts are spread over many small businesses and individuals who will have to work together to find solutions and be heard. A good start is the Hands Across the Lagoon event scheduled for Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. on National Estuaries Day. To find out how you can participate and start to make a difference, visit Indian River Lagoon News and Events Facebook page.


FL Rep. (D-Plantation)

Rep. Katie Edwards on Lake Okeechobee: Let's be careful who we blame
Sunshine State News – by Nancy Smith
September 3, 2013 3:55 AM
The sick, toxic waters in and out of Lake Okeechobee, the hysteria whipped up in local media, the need to find a big, bad villain-polluter -- all deja vu to freshman state Rep. Katie Edwards.
The Plantation Democrat spent a lot of her childhood on her grandparents' ranch in Okeechobee. She remembers well excessive rainy seasons in the 1980s when Okeechobee discharges turned the water brown and lifeless.
Only, back then, the prevailing bad-guy wasn't sugar farming, it was dairy farming.
"This is why my view of what's going on now with the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon -- the entire conversation about pollution in the northern Everglades -- is very personal," Edwards, 32, told Sunshine State News. "I remember so clearly. We were told all the bad stuff came from cattle. Dairy farmers were the scapegoat. They were hassled relentlessly. Get rid of the cows, the lake stays clean."
Dairymen felt the heat, Edwards said. Ultimately, the crushing cost of the clean-up got to them. In 1983 there were 45 dairy farms in the Okeechobee Basin; today there are 17. 
"And, guess what?" she said. "The ones who stayed, clean up everything that flows into Mosquito Creek or the Kissimmee River -- and I mean to a very high standard -- and there's still a world of problems in heavy discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
"What happens when we drive out sugar farmers and they're all gone but we still have polluted water flowing into our lake and estuaries ? Who do we blame then ?"
Edwards, who represents Florida House District 98 in Broward County, didn't have to attend Sen. Joe Negron's Aug. 22 meeting of the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. No one required her to drive up to Stuart. But she was there for the duration, sitting in the front row. She is the former executive director of the Dade County Farm Bureau who now serves on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.
Edwards is looking for an honest, nonpartisan conversation among Florida leaders on policy for solving the problem -- all of it, not just the discharges.
She claims there is an ample body of evidence relating the pollutants in Lake Okeechobee to explosive development, not only on the waterways linking the lake east and west, but particularly north of the lake -- as far north as Kissimmee. It's the every-time-somebody-in-Orange-County-flushes-a-toilet syndrome. It's runoff laden with man-made chemicals used on golf courses, lawns and across thousands of miles of roadway. It's seeping septic tanks and leaking sewer pipes. It's continuing to allow construction in flood-prone areas. 
Edwards said Big Sugar is the convenient scapegoat, even though South Florida Water Management District data show conclusively that farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area reduced phosphorous in the water flowing from their properties last year by more than 70 percent. "I would like to see the same standards applied to the rest of the South Florida community to protect our waters," Edward said. "It's incumbent upon us as lawmakers to stop the gamesmanship and apply ourselves to our long-term responsibility. It's going to come at quite a pricetag, but I feel Sen. Negron and his committee are moving in this direction and that's refreshing to see."
Sugar farming in Florida employs 7,000 people directly, 25,000 indirectly. It is a vital economic engine, she said.
After the Senate committee meeting in Stuart, Edwards voiced concerns about the integrity of the dike around the lake.
“The current derelict condition of Herbert Hoover Dike in South Florida is a national environmental crisis," she said in a written statement. "For the protection of South Florida’s residents and environment, I believe more federal funding is needed now to improve the dike’s structural integrity. The dike’s importance to our region is as important now as it was when it was constructed following the destructive hurricanes of 1928 and 1932. As a Florida native whose family has farmed in the Northern Everglades for more than four decades, I understand this issue very well and hope to see positive and prompt action from state and national leaders.”
Edwards believes Everglades restoration and dike re-girding should be priorities. "The governor wants jobs. There are shovel-ready jobs right there, right now, just begging to happen." 



Temper tone to best move Army Corps
Sun Sentinel – by Editorial Board
September 3, 2013
First, Gov. Rick Scott blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the problems associated with Lake Okeechobee and its discharges, which are polluting the St. Lucie Estuary.
A day later, he had nothing but praise for the Corps during a press conference where he proposed using $40 million in state funds to help restore the damaged estuary.
Criticizing, then cozying up to the Corps may help Gov. Scott win a few votes from Floridians who've seen the toxic effects of the discharge from a bloated lake. But it won't help him build the working relationship needed to win quick federal approval for critical water projects, such as Everglades restoration and port improvements.
To be sure, the federal government can be enormously frustrating to deal with and feuds between the Corps and the state date back years. Anyone following the painfully slow progress of Everglades restoration and needed improvements for Lake O's Herbert Hoover Dike knows the Corps has its problems.
Still, the Army Corps is the state's primary partner on crucial water projects and holds the fate of several big-ticket items.
Take the Port Everglades dredging project. The port generates $26 billion in business activity and more than 200,000 jobs statewide. But it needs deeper channels and a wider turning notch to accommodate larger ships and stay competitive. If port officials fail to win the Corps' approval by year's end, their chances of obtaining needed federal funding will diminish and a key economic engine will stall.
The same can be said about the Central Everglades Planning Project, an initiative to increase the quantity of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee south into Everglades National Park and provide an alternative to dumping polluted lake water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. This project also needs Corps approval by year's end to be eligible for federal funding any time soon.
But at the moment, the governor's working relationship with the Corps is rocky. "The 50 year-old Lake Okeechobee structure is supposed to be a 100-percent federal responsibility," the governor wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to the Corps. "Yet, it has deteriorated due to a lack of investment and maintenance by the Corps of Engineers."
The tone and timing of the letter was unfortunate. Col. Alan Dodd, who oversees the Corps' Florida projects, heard about the letter the day before the two men were scheduled to meet to discuss the lake's problems.
The governor tried to make amends, but the effort was awkward.
"First, I'd like to thank Colonel Dodd," the governor said at the start of the press conference, standing next to the colonel. "We're working on a lot of things together and we've gotten a lot of things done."
Nice words, despite the chill in the air. To get things done for Florida, Gov. Scott should temper his tone with the federal government and with the Army Corps, in particular.


Flood-control water dumping hurting Lake Worth Lagoon
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid, Staff Writer
September 2, 2013
Water pollution plaguing coastal waterways during this rainier-than-usual summer is seeping into Palm Beach County's Lake Worth Lagoon with damaging consequences.
A rush of stormwater as well as water drained from swollen Lake Okeechobee is getting dumped out of flood-control canals and into the lagoon that reaches from North Palm Beach to Boynton Beach.
While the discharges help keep neighborhoods and agricultural land dry, the dumping pollutes the lagoon.
Now, seagrass and oyster beds on the southern end of the lagoon are dying, threatening to wipe out fishing grounds and thwarting lagoon restoration efforts that have already cost taxpayers millions.
"It has been very hard on the lagoon," said Daniel Bates, Palm Beach County's deputy director of Environmental Resources Management. "A lot of effort, a lot of money is spent trying to restore habitat in the lagoon. It's frustrating to see everybody's effort take a step back." It's similar to the drainage problems in the Indian River Lagoon to the north, where much bigger discharges of Lake Okeechobee water combined with local runoff is killing fishing grounds, making water unsafe for swimming and prompting outrage from residents
Lake Worth Lagoon
and businesses. Everglades restoration that could get more Lake Okeechobee water flowing to the south offers a long-term alternative to damaging discharges to the coast, but it remains backlogged by costs and political hurdles.
Also, that restoration work takes billions of dollars and decades of construction — assuming federal and state leaders follow through — and in the meantime the damaging draining continues.
"It's like a kick in the gut," Tom Twyford, president of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, said about the damage to the lagoon from the dumping. "We have got a big plumbing problem in South Florida. It's going to take some really big fixes."
South Florida relies on a vast system of levees, canals and pumps to provide flood control for farmland and towns sitting on what used to be part of the Everglades and neighboring wetlands.
Much of those flood-control discharges into the lagoon come from the C-51 canal, which stretches from western Palm Beach County into West Palm Beach. This week about 517 million gallons of water per day was getting dumped from the C-51 canal into the lagoon, with half of that coming from Lake Okeechobee, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
That amount of water draining form the C-51 into the lagoon can triple during a typical rainy day, though it doesn't always include water from Lake Okeechobee. Ten times as much water could be discharged from the C-51 during a big tropical storm or hurricane.
While it's not raining as much now as earlier this summer, the amount of water built up in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades water conservation areas and other saturated areas has led to the prolonged dumping.
"We are using literally every available outlet … to move water out," said Tommy Strowd, director of operations for the South Florida Water Management District.
The increased flood-control dumping from the canals throws off the delicate balance of salt and fresh water in the estuaries. It also brings pollutants and muck that make conditions worse by clouding the water and keeping much-needed sunlight from reaching the sea grass below the surface.
The Snook Islands Natural Area, just north of the Lake Worth Bridge, is one of the spots where water pollution from flood control discharges is killing habitat vital to fish, manatees and wading birds.
Taxpayers since 2005 have invested about $20 million in expanding seagrass beds and oyster reefs and planting mangroves — along with building a boardwalk, fishing pier, docks and other public access attractions — at the 100-acre marine habitat restoration project.
Snook Islands was a restoration success story, even becoming home to the largest concentration of Johnson's seagrass, a threatened species.
But a recent inspection in the wake of the polluting discharges revealed that all 42 acres of Johnson's seagrass is dead and oysters at the Snook Islands are "declining fast," Bates said.
In addition, mangroves are dying off, possibly because the change in water conditions is allowing a root-boring crustacean to spread out of control.
Lagoon restoration projects such as the Ibis Isles and John's Island are suffering similar effects, Bates said.
"We had seagrass and oysters growing all over the place, then you get these big slugs of water [discharges]," said Bates. "We don't know what's going to happen."
The problem is that there is nowhere else to send the water until Everglades restoration shows more progress, Twyford said.
"It's a very, very challenging environmental problem that we face because we have allowed growth to continue at such a rapid pace," Twyford said. "Lives and property values are going to trump the environment."
Flood-control water dumping hurting Lake Worth Lagoon   MENAFN.COM


Florida seeks legal cure for Apalachicola crisis
Gainesville Times – by Jeff Gill
September 1, 2013
Official worries water war lawsuit might outlive seafood industry
Seafood is more than a meal in Franklin County, Fla. It’s a way of life, down to having an annual festival, where oysters are shucked, ships are blessed and the industry’s rich past is celebrated.
But Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, is worried the coastal community’s future might not fare so well.
“We go through another drought like we did and our bay is over with,” he said in a phone interview last week.
This year’s heavy rains, which have fallen throughout the Southeast, have provided too much freshwater for oysters, while previous years of drought and dry weather have put an economic hurt on the Apalachicola Bay, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s panhandle, Hartsfield said.
“I was up in Atlanta last year and rode around ... and everybody was watering their lawns and going on like there’s plenty of water, and here we are (in the bay) struggling to get any water. It’s not being fair and sharing the pain a little bit.”
The Apalachicola Bay, part of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which includes Lake Lanier at its northernmost end, is a focal point in a longstanding debate between Florida and Georgia over water supply and usage, dubbed as “water wars” that also have included neighboring Alabama.
Georgia gained a strong upper hand in June 2012 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a crucial appeal by Florida and Alabama, but tensions have flared again with Florida Gov. Rick Scott threatening to sue Georgia over increased water consumption limiting flows to the Apalachicola.
In an Aug. 13 statement, Scott said the Sunshine State must take such drastic action because it has been unable to negotiate a settlement in recent decades on how to allocate water between the three states. Florida’s step is an escalation in years of litigation.
“This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing — fighting for the future of Apalachicola,” Scott said at the time.
“This is a bold, historic legal action for our state. But this is our only way forward after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia. We must fight for the people of this region. The economic future of Apalachicola Bay and Northwest Florida is at stake.”
Patrick Gillespie, press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said last week: “Florida will be filing its complaint, which is still in development.”
A possible lawsuit triggered immediate reaction among Georgia officials.
“More than a year ago, I offered a framework for a comprehensive agreement,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “Florida never responded. It’s absurd to waste taxpayers’ money and prolong this process with a court battle when I’ve proposed a workable solution.”
He added, “The fastest and best resolution is an agreement, not a lawsuit going into an election year. On the flip side, the merits of Georgia’s arguments have consistently prevailed in federal court, and a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court would decide this issue in Georgia’s favor once and for all.”
Deal also pointed out the timing of Scott’s remarks, noting that both states have been deluged by rainfall this year.
Hartsfield said the bay is dealing with “too much freshwater, all at one time.”
“Every time Georgia gets too much water, they just flush it all down here,” he said. “Now, we’re getting overflows. It seems like during a wet season, there would be some kind of reservoir system that would fill up. Our river flood stage is 15 feet and we’ve hit over 19 feet in the last two or three months.
“What happens is it throws the oysters into shock. You get a sudden surge of freshwater and it messes their system up, and a lot of them die.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said, “This really is a sad political stunt to go about exercising a court battle over issues that have been litigated before. And I feel like Georgia is in a strong position to prevail again.”
In a statement issued last week, the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association called Scott’s intentions to sue a “major disappointment.”
“The LLA has empathy for the Florida oyster industry, having experienced the direct impact of a major drought on a North Georgia economy,” officials said. “Lake Lanier area losses exceed $100 million annually when Lake Lanier is drawn down to 1,060 feet or below for prolonged periods of time.”
Even Hartsfield has concerns about litigation, but his are of a different stripe.
“I told (Scott) we haven’t got five years,” he said. “Five years just to get it into the court system and then another five years fighting and wasting a bunch of money, I think that’s just a waste of time. Our bay won’t last long enough.”
Dan Tonsmiere, executive director of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, said the bay “collapsed last summer, and it’s going to take maybe five years to recover if we get some decent flows. Our entire fishing industry is on the rails right now.”
He said a lawsuit would serve “as a long-term fix, if it’s a fix at all.”
More court action would continue nearly 20 years of litigation between Georgia and Florida over water in the ACF. Lake Lanier has been a bone of contention because it is the main drinking water source for much of metro Atlanta, as well as Hall County.
Florida and Alabama appeared to gain the upper hand in July 2009, when U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson imposed a three-year deadline for Georgia to find another source of water, have Congress reauthorize Lanier as a specially designated source of drinking water or negotiate a water-sharing agreement with Florida and Alabama.
Then, in September 2011, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed Magnuson’s decision. A three-judge panel said Congress always intended for the lake to be used as a source of drinking water for the Atlanta area and that previous decisions that said otherwise, including Magnuson’s ruling, were based on “a clear error of law.”
The case wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which later refused to hear appeals from Florida and Alabama.
The Lake Lanier Association recommends that Florida “invest in the several groups that are looking into this issue,” including the ACF Stakeholders, which “has worked for the past four years analyzing and modeling the flows on the system.
“Included in that work is significant modeling of the Apalachicola Bay with focus on the factors affecting oyster productivity. Initial results of their work are expected by the end of 2013. The LLA encourages a collaborative working relationship between the state governors to establish a fair and equitable water-sharing agreement without the delay and expense that would be incurred from legal proceedings.”
Hartsfield isn’t so sure the ACF Stakeholders is the answer, and he serves on the group’s governing board.
“When I first got into it, I had a lot of high hopes,” he said. “I’m still hoping, but it’s still comes down to the (ideas) we think might work ... the only one that is going to be looking at them is the corps.”


Hundreds of protesters rally in U.S. Sugar's hometown – by Chad Gillis
September 1, 2013
Hundreds of people from across South Florida gathered near the U.S. Sugar Corp. refinery in Clewiston on Sunday to speak out about water pollution that’s plagued much of the state this summer.
Called the Sugarland Rally, Sunday’s event featured environmental activists, elected officials, high school students and business owners.
“It’s a fight to unite the east coast and the west coast and all of Florida, really,” said organizer Crystal Lucas. “Clean water is a Florida fight. There are people in the north fighting for clean springs, people in the south fighting for Florida Bay, and people on the west coast fighting for the Caloosahatchee River, and here for Lake Okeechobee.”
  EAA fields
EAA sugarcane fields with the rim canal and Lake Okeechobee in the distance

Rallies like these have become more common this summer across much of the state as high rainfall totals have flushed algae blooms and toxic waters from the center of the state to the coasts, where the majority of South Florida’s population lives.
The Sugarland Rally took place four days after Gov. Rick Scott announced $90 million in funding to help alleviate excess water and pollution in Lake Okeechobee.
Similar events on the Eastern Seaboard have drawn thousands of people, although demonstrations have garnered little support on the western coast.
Jo Neeson, of Jenson Beach, said the lack of representation for Southwest Florida is obvious at public support rallies and during government meetings, such as Sen. Joe Negron’s hearings recently in Stuart.
“We don’t hear a lot from the west coast,” Neeson said. “We need you guys.”
Water pollution is not new in South Florida. The system has been ailing for about a century, since developers and the Army Corps of Engineers artificially dropped Lake Okeechobee levels 6 or 7 feet to drain the Everglades. The canals and water control structures send too much water too fast toward both coasts, and Everglades National Park and other preserves are sometimes left too dry to flourish.
The altered flows have caused massive sea grass kills on both coasts.
“I literally saw a manatee come out of the water to eat yard grass because there’s no sea grass to eat.” Neeson said. “We had to literally help him back into the water.”
Neeson said he’d like to see the state and federal governments use eminent domain to force agriculture companies to sell their land for preservation and flooding.
Lake Okeechobee levels are kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level, according to the Army Corps’ latest water schedule. Historically, Lake Okeechobee’s surface was more around 22 to 24 feet above sea level, according to historians and Army Corps documents.
Lake levels, since the 1920s, have been managed mostly to prevent flooding in farming towns south of Okeechobee. Hurricanes decades ago flooded several towns on the lake’s rim, killing thousands and ruining farmland.
The same would happen today if too much water is allowed to build up in the lake, said Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor.
“U.S. Sugar gets a black eye, for a lot of reasons,” Taylor said after she spoke at the rally. “But they donated the land we’re on today. We shouldn’t be pointing fingers at this point.”
When asked if the solution were as simple as buying out farming towns and restoring the natural flows, Taylor said: “It wouldn’t work. People moved here because they want to live here. You can’t give me enough money to relocate. There’s not enough money in the world to replace my memories of growing up here. You would have to find new friends, and a new church. That’s a major part of my life.”
John G. Heim, of Fort Myers Beach, made the two-hour drive to show his support for cleaning up Florida’s polluted waterways.
“I call it a toxic slough” Heim said of the water near his home. “It’s a very serious description. Our tourism is dying, our chance to take our kids to the beach is dying. The east coast has taken a 100 percent proactive approach toward the problems (by holding rallies and protests). The people on the west coast need to understand that this is going to hit us in the face. I was the only protestor when Gov. Scott was in town (Wednesday). I expect Southwest Florida to be more vocal. Where is Southwest Florida for Florida ?”
Environmental activists from both Florida coasts unite at Lake ...    Palm Beach Post
Hundreds of people from across South Florida gathered near the US ...       Lehigh Acres News Star

Is a sustainable Floridan Aquifer in Florida's future ? -by Robert L. Knight, Special to the Star-Banner
September 1, 2013
The start of Water War II
The Floridan Aquifer is a natural wonder. Spanning more than 100,000 square miles, twice the size of Florida, and underlying portions of four states, the Floridan Aquifer is arguably the largest aquifer in the world. A large volume of this aquifer is filled with saltwater, a remnant of the last time the peninsula was submerged under the sea. During the past 35,000 years, the upper portion of the Floridan Aquifer has filled with freshwater. Before modern development and the invention of pumped wells, this natural underground reservoir continuously overflowed through more than 1,000 artesian springs.
Interconnected like a large plumbing system of natural conduits, the Floridan Aquifer flows from areas of high recharge to areas of high discharge. Almost anywhere in North Florida it is possible to insert a pipe into the ground, and for a nominal price, extract a seemingly endless supply of fresh water. More than 1 million wells now puncture this aquifer, causing reduced aquifer levels and diminished spring flows.
While other areas of the U.S. typically rely on surface waters (rivers, lakes, and reservoirs) for potable water, groundwater is conveniently located almost everywhere in Florida, resulting in its use for more than 90 percent of our freshwater needs. But this groundwater is a shared and finite resource.
Like other plentiful renewable resources, groundwater appeared to be unlimited when the human population was smaller. Not anymore. We have had ample warnings that we could deplete our underground aquifer and destroy our springs if we continue to pump at unsustainable levels. Salt water intrusion was the first sign of disaster along our densely-developed coastlines. Precipitous declines in the state's aquifers — exceeding more than 60 to 100 feet in Duval, Polk, and Hillsborough counties — were apparent more than 50 years ago. And aquifer declines result in the loss of large springs, reduced stream flows, increased sinkhole formation, and desecration of wetlands and lakes.
The first Florida “water wars” were fought more than 25 years ago in the Tampa Bay area, resulting in the first substantial cut in allowable groundwater pumping in the history of the state. Since that time, water supply plans suggest the likelihood of impending groundwater shortages and the effects of overpumping on natural aquatic resources. And the visible effects of overpumping are self-evident to anyone who lives on or near a lake, river or stream. Nevertheless, our water managers foolishly continue to allow additional wells to be installed and more groundwater to be pumped.
The proposed Adena Springs Ranch will occupy 20,000 acres in Marion County and plans to use groundwater to grow grass for a year-round population of 15,000 cattle. Adena Springs officials originally requested a consumptive use permit for more than 13 million gallons of water per day, which created a firestorm of public outrage. Due largely to the vocal opposition for such a large water grab (more water than that used by the city of Ocala), Adena Springs reduced their water request to 5.3 million gallons per day.
The St. Johns River Water Management District likely will make a final decision on this application within the next few months. Adena's permit and the hundreds of others that likely will be issued by the water management districts in the next year will further deplete flows in the area's springs, rivers, streams and lakes. The combined flow decline in North Florida's artesian springs is already on the order of about 2 billion gallons per day due to groundwater pumping. And aquifer levels continue to fall.
Faced by the accelerating and harmful consequences of excessive water withdrawals, “Water War II” has started in Florida. The troops in this popular uprising — folks like you and me — are observing the damage to our ecological resources and its effects on our fish and wildlife. We are educating ourselves about the causes and effects of overpumping, and demanding enforcement of the environmental laws and rules that were intended to prevent our precious aquatic resources from drying up and being polluted. If your vision is for a sustainable level of fresh and abundant water, then speak up and support the groups that are fighting for a sustainable water future.
Robert L. Knight, Ph.D., is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the University of Florida.


Massive new wetlands restoration reshapes San Francisco Bay
Marin News - by Paul Rogers, Bay Area News Group
September 1, 2013
NAPA — The Carneros region in southern Napa and Sonoma counties has been known for years for chardonnays, pinot noirs and merlots.
But as the grapes hang plump on the vines awaiting the autumn harvest, this area along the northern shores of San Francisco Bay is growing a new bounty: huge numbers of egrets, herons, ducks, salmon, Dungeness crabs and other wildlife, all returning to a vast network of newly created marshes and wetlands.
Construction crews and biologists are in the final stretch of a 20-year project to restore 11,250 acres of former industrial salt ponds back to a natural landscape. The aquatic renaissance is already the largest wetlands restoration project ever completed in the Bay Area, turning back the clock 150 years and transforming the area between Vallejo and Sonoma Raceway, despite little public awareness because of the distance from the Bay Area's large cities.
"It's a stunning achievement," said Marc Holmes, program director with the Bay Institute, an environmental group in San Francisco. "It's a phenomenal ecological restoration, one of the most important coastal wetlands projects ever done in the United States."
Leading the way
The restoration — encompassing an area as big as 8,500 football fields — is also offering a road map for similar projects now under way in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, particularly the massive restoration of 15,100 acres of former Cargill Salt ponds that extend from Hayward to San Jose to Redwood City.
CA wetlands
During a recent afternoon, fishermen in boats motored through parts of the new Napa-Sonoma marshes that look like the Florida Everglades, past flocks of ducks, thick grasses and even the occasional harbor seal. Only a decade ago the area was a dry, desolate expanse of mud caked with white salt crystals.
One recent morning, a group of local political leaders, nonprofit groups and government agencies plan to meet at the Napa-Sonoma marsh area to commemorate one of the last steps in the restoration. They'll mark the completion of a 3.4-mile pipeline to connect the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District treatment plant with the marsh complex.
The $10 million pipeline will take up to 550 million gallons a year of treated wastewater to two former salt ponds, where it will dilute a highly saline byproduct of salt-making called bittern, so it can be slowly released to the bay.
"We are bringing back the bay," said Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which oversaw the pipeline construction. "This is called the Bay Area for a reason. The bay is what defines us."
After the bittern has been diluted, the recycled water will be used for growing grapes in the Carneros region.
Shrinking bay
Since the Gold Rush of 1849, San Francisco Bay has shrunk by a third, as people diked, dredged and filled its waters to create hay fields, housing subdivisions, even airport runways. The rampant filling largely stopped in the 1970s, with the advent of modern environmental laws such as the federal Clean Water Act.
Since the 1990s, biologists, environmental groups and government agencies have been restoring wetlands around the bay, slowly pushing it back into its historic footprint. The new wetlands not only expand wildlife and public recreation, they also offer a buffer to reduce flooding as sea levels continue to rise because of global warming, scientists say.
And unlike other environmental restoration projects — such as replanting a clear-cut redwood forest, which can take 100 years or more to come to fruition — the payoff with wetland restoration begins almost immediately.
Once earthen levees are breached, bay waters thick with fish, crabs, plant seeds and other life come pouring in, which in turn draw everything from steelhead trout to avocets to snowy egrets looking for a meal.
"Once you open these areas to the tides, Mother Nature takes care of it," said Amy Hutzel, program manager with the state Coastal Conservancy, a government agency that oversaw the marsh restoration. "The sediment, the plants and eventually the animals come back really quickly."
1860s changes
The Napa-Sonoma marsh area was part of the bay until the 1860s, when farmers began diking and filling it. In fact, the word "Carneros" is Spanish for "the ram," a reference to the sheepherders and dairy farms of the 1800s. By the 1950s, salt companies began building huge salt evaporation ponds, cultivating salt for food, road de-icing and other uses.
Everything changed in 1994, when the previous owner, Cargill Salt, sold the property to the state for $10 million. Much of the money came from a $10.8 million court settlement paid by Shell Oil to compensate for a 1988 oil spill it caused in Carquinez Strait.
Crews working on the North Bay Cargill salt ponds restoration ran into numerous setbacks, including funding shortfalls and not knowing how to stop the ponds from making salt at first.
Eventually the whole project, which will cost roughly $40 million, was funded through state and federal money, including bond funds.
Agencies that worked on the project, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey, learned lessons that are helping with other Cargill restoration projects further south.
For now, outdoors lovers, fishermen, duck hunters and the project planners are reveling in their newfound creation. Striped bass, endangered shorebirds and even bat rays are back.
if you're interested
For information about how to visit the Napa-Sonoma marsh area, go to

Selling our parks - Editorial
September 1, 2013
If Gainesville apartment company owner Nathan Collier's $1 million offer for five acres of a local park angered some residents, an effort to sell thousands of acres of state conservation land should make their blood boil.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has identified more than 160 tracts of state land for possible sale. The sites include parts of state parks and property bought through the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 land-conservation programs.
The list of properties, released last month, includes three Alachua County parcels. Two properties, totaling about five acres, are part of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The third, a 14-acre property, extends from the southern end of San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.
The state, under Gov. Rick Scott's direction, is selling the land to generate funding for other land purchases. While hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent over the years to buy land through programs such as Florida Forever, lawmakers authorized just $70 million for that purpose in the last legislative session. About $50 million is coming from the sale of state land.
Groups such as Audubon of Florida support selling land that lacks significant value for wildlife, water and recreation if money could be generated to buy better land. But Audubon wants greater scrutiny of the properties being sold and has identified several on the state list that it supports retaining.
The issue comes as Gainesville has been going through a miniature version of the controversy. Collier had offered $1 million for five acres of Loblolly Woods Nature Park next to his home
Local springs expert Bob Knight and others promoted the idea, which we supported, of using to money to acquire the more culturally and environmentally significant Glen Springs property or arranging a swap. But Collier, amid public opposition to the sale, last week withdrew the offer.
Some opponents now plan to push for all 179 acres of Loblolly Woods to be placed on a city registry of protected places. The registry, passed in a 2009 referendum, protects land from sale or a change in use unless voters approve.
The idea of ensuring conservation land is protected has merit. But at a time of constrained government budgets, a premium should be placed on protecting the land with the greatest value for habitat, recreation and water quality and quantity.
Public hearings are planned this fall on the sale of the state lands. Environmentally minded residents can just oppose the entire sale on principle, or take the Audubon approach of focusing on protecting the most significant properties.
Better yet, they can help get the Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the November 2014 ballot and passed. The measure would require one-third of the documentary tax on real estate transactions to be set aside for land conservation and other environmental stewardship efforts.
It's certainly easy to bash folks like Collier and Gov. Scott for the sale of our parks. A more pragmatic approach ­— and one that recognizes the cost of conservation — might better advance the goal of protecting our most important land.
Concern over selling parks - Editorial (130902)
Public input sought on sale        The News-Press (130902)


The Ogallala Aquifer, an important water resource, is in trouble
The Kansas City Star – by Karen Dillon
September 1, 2013
A vast underground lake beneath western Kansas and parts of seven other states could be mostly depleted by 2060, turning productive farmland back to semi-arid ground, a new study says.
The life of the Ogallala Aquifer could be extended several decades, but only if water usage is reduced, a four-year study by researchers from Kansas State University found.
There is going to be agriculture production in Kansas and corn production and cattle production really for the foreseeable future,” David Steward, lead author of the study, said in an interview last week.
But without conservation, he said, “the future is bleak.”
The aquifer yields 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater, the study said. It could last until 2110 or longer if farmers were to cut 20 percent of their usage or more beginning now. But that would reduce agriculture production to the levels of 15 or 20 years ago.
Kansas alone pumped 1.3 trillion gallons in 2011, more than enough to fill Lake Okeechobee, the huge lake in Florida.
The study was done because there are a lot of questions about “how long can we pump and how long it will take to recharge the aquifer if depleted,” Steward said.
The study determined it would “take in the neighborhood of 500 to 1,300 years to recharge the aquifer” in western Kansas, Steward said.
Water from the aquifer lies under 175,000 square miles in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and New Mexico. The aquifer first began declining in the 1960s because of irrigation needs.
At the current rate, the aquifer will be 70 percent depleted by 2060, according to the study.
Kansas in recent years has begun trying to come up with ways to keep the lake recharging at a rate that doesn’t allow the resource to dry up.
In 2012, Gov. Sam Brownback sponsored special legislation that permits groups of farmers and producers within a groundwater management district to implement their own conservation plans.
Some farmers supported the legislation strongly because they knew that if they didn’t “they are going to lose their opportunity to irrigate totally,” said Terry Vinduska, a Marion corn farmer. “That will leave them in the desert.”
This spring a group of farmers in northwest Kansas, taking advantage of the state legislation, voluntarily agreed to reduce their water use by 20 percent over the next five years. Their area covers 99 square miles.
It was a difficult task getting all farmers who own land within that area to agree on ways to conserve, said Wayne Bossert, manager of Groundwater Management District 4 in Colby.
“It’s not perfect the way we did it,” Bossert said. “Most agreed. Not everybody was in favor. But it was a strong super-consensus that this proposal be submitted.”
So far they are the only ones to do so, but other western Kansas farmers are watching, Bossert said.
The state approved the plan, which now affects all farmers in that area, including portions of Sheridan and Thomas counties.
Drought and the planting of more cropland have increased the amount of water drawn from the aquifer, so the economic impact of water reduction is a major concern. But farmers are aware that if they use up the resource, their children and grandchildren will be hurt, said Aaron Harries with Kansas Wheat, which includes the Kansas Wheat Growers Association.
“It is a forward-thinking decision and a long-term decision where you have to think about future generations wanting to use that water,” Harries said. “But it is a difficult decision to cut back on that water, especially with summers like we had in western Kansas this year. That water can be the difference between making a crop and not making a crop.”
Nebraska already has taken action. A decade ago, the state legislature decided to conserve because 90 percent of the drinking water comes from the aquifer, said Doug Anderson, Keith County extension educator.
“Water is a touchy subject,” Anderson said. “Most of the farmers understand we can’t go back to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and dig a hole in the ground and pump as much as we want. Water is a big topic and is going to continue to be a big topic, especially if the world population keeps going up the way it is.”
The K-State study warned that farmers needed to act quickly to conserve water.
“Society has an opportunity now to make changes with tremendous implications for future sustainability and livability,” Steward wrote in the study. “The time to act will soon be past.”


Contemporary "Good Question" -
  WHY NOT "Move it South" ? Meaning "dirty" water from Lake Okeechobee - and instead of disastrous releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, move it where it used to flow - South. Is it possible ? Would the bridge on US-41 do the trick ?  
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ? - by Chad Oliver, Reporter
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


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