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Freshwater frustrations
October 31, 2013
Solutions to the water dispute between Florida, Georgia and Alabama are moving at a snail’s pace, which is bad news for the oysters and other aquatic life in the Apalachicola Bay that are suffering from a lack of freshwater.
For 20 years the states have battled over water usage in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, which empties into the bay, with Alabama and Florida accusing Georgia of taking more than its fair share. The metro Atlanta area gets most of its water from the Chattahoochee River, and Georgia’s consumption is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years. That leaves insufficient freshwater downflow for Alabama and Florida.
The resultant rise in salt content has been devastating to Apalachicola Bay, particularly its oyster population that the local economy is so dependent on. The oyster harvest declined 60 percent last year, creating a 44 percent drop in revenue for the oystering industry.
Lawsuits have failed to end the stalemate. In 2011 Georgia won a huge victory when a federal appeals court overturned a lower court and unanimously ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to allocate additional water to meet Atlanta’s increasing needs. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.
That didn’t dissuade Gov. Rick Scott from filing a new suit against Georgia Oct. 1 at the Supreme Court. It was the first time in the water dispute that one state had sued the other (previous litigation had been directed toward the Corps of Engineers).
It’s seen as a Hail Mary play on an issue that more likely will be resolved through congressional action.
Enter U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, who recently amended federal legislation to reflect Florida’s frustration — and Apalachicola’s dire situation.
Southerland inserted non-binding “sense of Congress” language in the House version of the Water Resources Development Act encouraging the states to cooperate and create agreements on sharing freshwater. Southerland told The News Herald’s Matthew Beaton that he also received assurances from Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., that a Government Accountability Office study would be conducted, reviewing the impact of Georgia’s freshwater consumption. Hopefully that study will prompt movement on the settlement front.
Furthermore, Southerland said that Shuster wants to pass a new WRDA bill every two years, which would give Northwest Florida’s representative more opportunities to influence provisions that could increase freshwater to Apalachicola.
That sounds like a box of glasses half-filled with wishful thinking, starting with the fact that Congress has not passed even one WRDA bill since 2007. Even if everything falls Florida’s way on that legislative front, it likely would take years to pass something substantive that rescues the bay. Apalachicola doesn’t have that time — especially if a drought should hit in the interim, which would greatly exacerbate the problems.
 “We’re trying to surround this problem from a lot of different angles,” Southerland told Beaton. That’s the right approach. Unfortunately, Georgia holds the political and legal high ground, while Florida is trying to dislodge its neighbor with spitballs.
Water dispute moves forward … and backward        Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Congress opts not to wade into water war between three states        WTSP 10 News
River Notes: Flint River's Georgia friends see Florida as ally in water ...      The Florida Current
Ga. AG picks lawyers for water lawsuit         Legal News Line


Lagoon bigger priority than exploring Mars
Florida Today - Letter by Gene Cate, Palm Bay, FL
October 31, 2013
Mars has long been ingrained in the American psyche as a world of little green, bug-eyed characters with intentions of dominating our planet. Ironically, now the tables are turned and it’s our intention to invade Mars to exploit whatever useful commodities might be found.
Billions are to be spent on a vast amount of speculation as to what makes up the planet.
If there’s water, so what? If there are exploitable minerals, so what? Could it be we might need to move there when our world is no longer inhabitable? That’s going to happen. Yes, Earth is not an infinite source of the necessities to sustain human existence.
We read of impending disaster in the decades long beyond most of our lifespans and we selfishly disregard the doomsayers. However, I have to look no further than a few yards from my home on the riverbank to impending disaster. My 14 years of observation are miniscule compared to those whose livelihood has for years depended on a healthy Indian River Lagoon.
Ask a crabber and fishing guides about the billions spent on a Mars probe. I daresay their replies would be unprintable.
Look at the recent front-page articles: schools and the lagoon share space with rockets. In the larger scheme of things, the first two are more important to our future than the latter. Our children are our future and our waters provide a quality of life beyond measure.
Space exploration has been good to Brevard County and, by all indications, will continue to be so.
Mars isn’t going anywhere, but the Indian River is in serious decline and someone needs to put our priorities in order. Right now, the river should be number one.


Miccosukees battle for the Everglades - by Deirdra Funcheon
October 31 2013
Michael Frank, a 56-year-old Miccosukee Tribe member, points to Bone Island, a small tree-covered hammock in the Everglades that got its name during the Seminole Wars of the 1800s. When Frank's ancestors arrived to check on relatives after the white man swept through, "All they saw were the bones," he explains during a steamy fall day on an airboat in the waters north of the Tamiami Trail.
Frank was raised on these islands under a chickee hut with a dozen family members from the Otter clan until he was 7 years old. They lived off bass they caught and corn they planted, he says. But then farmers began draining phosphorus — eventually 4,000 tons a year, twice the weight of the Statue of Liberty — into the area's watershed. And mercury began pooling from nearby industry and trade winds.
"I haven't had fish from here in 20 years," Frank says. "I last hunted here in 1985 or '90." He supposes he could catch a bird or a fish, but "why kill an animal that's full of mercury? If I ate more than one or two fish a month, I'd die of mercury poisoning."
This area — a vast, beautiful, lily-pad-dotted expanse south of I-75 — is considered by federal experts the most pristine part of the Everglades. Earlier this month, members of the Miccosukee Tribe spent five days on a fleet of airboats to execute their annual Fall Everglades Study — basically, an environmental census.
Though any outsider would become disoriented amid the sawgrass and clouds that stretch to the horizon, the natives zip around sites they know as "Stinking Ground," "Bead Island," and "Jumping Black Man" without needing maps or a GPS.
Today, Florida is facing water crises on all sides of the cattail-congested River of Grass. There's a giant algal bloom in Florida Bay, a huge die-off in the Indian River Lagoon, and dikes about to burst around one of the world's largest reservoirs, Lake Okeechobee. Though Florida and the federal government just in the past few months committed $130 million to raise the Tamiami Trail and clean up the St. Lucie River, it's not nearly enough, critics say.
"We're still at war with the United States," Frank says. "Our war is a war for the trees. The battle is for water, for birds, for existence."
The tribe's warring began when soon-to-be president Andrew Jackson's forces invaded Florida in 1818. The killing and displacement of Native Americans continued through the end of the Third Seminole War in 1858. Troops believed they had shipped all but perhaps 100 of the natives to Oklahoma and New Orleans as part of what historians came to call the "Trail of Tears."
But "some hid in the islands, where the soldiers could not see us," Frank says. While many of the Seminoles returned during the decades that followed and some prospered, others never left their homes in the tree-covered hammocks and knee-deep water.
He explains that those who stayed were told by tribe leaders: "Do not leave the Everglades. Do not assimilate. Do not go to Miami. Do not go to Naples. Do not go to Broward County."
Frank was born in 1957, the year the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which today has more than 2,000 members, was recognized by the U.S. government. Some natives organized as the separate Miccosukee Tribe, which was federally recognized as a sovereign nation in 1962 and today has about 600 members. A small number of independents opted not to join either group.
As a young child, Frank lived in the Everglades with five brothers, five sisters, and "nieces and nephews all over the place." In the early '60s, "my grandpa couldn't provide for us anymore," he says.
Frank's family eventually moved out of the woods and accepted a modern house. But they still believed "never, ever live in a home with four walls. Breathe clean air. The air in a house isn't clean," he says. They even constructed a chickee hut next to the house and used the the house for storage.
He went to school in the early '70s for two or three years but left during fourth grade. "I used to run around in a [traditional Native American] skirt, and at school, they made me put pants on — but it was so hot!" He says he taught himself to read newspapers. Over the years, he made a living building chickees, hunting and fishing, and doing carpentry.
He also learned a lot about environmental issues and watched throughout the '80s and '90s as the Miccosukees launched various lawsuits against federal and state governments. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had built dams and levees to control the water flow from Central Florida through the Everglades. This system had the unintended consequences of polluting the water with agricultural runoff and alternately starving or flooding the Everglades to the south. The lawsuits argued the water being released was far too contaminated. One case based on the federal Clean Water Act went to the Supreme Court in 2004.
"They're not doing what they said they're going to do," Frank says. He finds it absurd that he had to force the U.S. government to follow its own policies. "When we sue them, it's not our law. It's their law !"
The Florida Everglades Forever Act, signed in 1994, prioritized Everglades restoration, and a federal followup in 2000 outlined $11.9 billion in projects that would be completed over four decades. But many of those plans have become bogged down in bureaucracy — compromised and underfunded, Frank says.
He's now a point man for the tribe on Everglades issues and recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with tribal chairman Colley Billie to urge Congress to prioritize key restoration projects.
On a recent seven-hour airboat tour of the Glades, Frank and others depart near the Miccosukee Indian Village off the Tamiami Trail just as the morning light cuts through the endless sawgrass.
The team encounters only a few scattered birds where there used to be 100,000, the native surveyors and their scientists say. If there are any frogs or deer about, they remain hidden on the tree islands that sweep to the horizon like thousands of stepping stones.
Water hyacinths proliferate like carpets — but the floating plant with the lavender flower is actually an invasive species that can double its spread in six days. Cattails choke the waterways — "a sign of polluted water," Frank says. "The phosphorus and nutrient levels are too high."
Frank sadly explains the Miccosukee name for that area means "brightly lit place." He says the river otters, bobcats, raccoons, and rabbits that were common 20 years ago are scarce now. "When I was a boy, I'd look down and there'd be a snake wrapped around my leg," he says. But today there's little wildlife, and the deer that were once plentiful have virtually disappeared. "When the water is too high, they drown or go up on a levee, where they are easy targets for hunters."
These days, Frank lives in a house. "I've got a master bedroom, a walk-in closet" — but he still maintains his island and plants corn on it every year.
He says the tribe is still seeking two basic things from the government: "Maintain the proper level of water, and clean the water before you pump it in."
"There isn't anything new," he laments. "It's the same circle. Every four years, there's a new president, a new governor, a new EPA, new senators. I have to re-educate everyone again. I'm still here, and I'm still waiting."
If the U.S. government ever carries out its plan and restores the Everglades, there'll be one main force to thank, Frank says. "The voters ? They don't know nothing. The Miccosukee Tribe — it's us that's going to push them."
Miccosukee Battle for the Glades New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Environmental Department to focus on water quality, Park upgrades - by Jessica Palombo
October 30, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection wants to focus on increasing water quality and upgrading state parks next year—if the Legislature grants a request for additional money.  The department also expects to sell $20 million worth of conservation land as part of its 2014 spending plan.
The environmental department plans to spend the largest chunk of its money, $75 million, on what it calls “Governor Rick Scott’s signature Everglades restoration project.”  The second-largest expenditure is expected to be for conservation land—using $20 million in cash and another $20 million expected to come from the sale of non-conservation land.
Department Chief of Staff Lennie Zeiler sums up the priorities like this: “Those are regulatory consistencies and efficiencies, getting the water right and improving access to our state parks."
Out of $20 million requested for state park upgrades, a fifth would go toward creating easier access for people with disabilities. Wednesday’s money request also included $5 million more for springs restoration.
Zeiler pointed out, though, he expects most of the department’s additional money to come from BP oil spill fines distributed through the federal RESTORE Act.
Correction: A previous version of this story said DEP was planning to sell $20 million worth of conservation lands next year. The planned sales are in fact of non-conservation land.


Funds sought for snail fight, Everglades restoration, and wildfire pay
WJCT News - by Jim Turner
October 30, 2013
TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — Florida intends to continue the fight against Giant African land snails and citrus greening next year and could direct more than $80 million to Everglades restoration efforts, according to budget requests Wednesday from state agriculture and environmental agencies.
The legislative budget proposals also would increase funding for freshwater springs protection and provide $1.5 million to give pay increases to the state's wild-land firefighters.
"Thankfully we've received an abundance of rainfall this year," said Derek Buchanan, director of policy and budget for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "However, the tragedies we saw in Arizona and in this state in Hamilton County in 2011 remind us that our firefighters are putting their lives on the line each day."
The pay raises would be about $1,500 for each wild-land firefighter. Another $1 million has been requested to cover overtime as a way to help fill about 20 vacancies.
Agencies throughout state government presented budget requests Wednesday for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Gov. Rick Scott will consider those requests as he puts together a budget proposal that will go to the Legislature. Ultimately, it will be up to lawmakers to decide which of the requests get funded.
Along with seeking to boost firefighter pay, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' budget request addresses issues such as Giant African land snails. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's agency is requesting $3.4 million to continue a two-year-old effort to eradicate the pest from Miami-Dade County.
More than 133,000 snails have already been eliminated.
"We are experiencing success, collections have gone from 1,000 a week a year ago to a few hundred a week now," Buchanan said.
Originally from East Africa, the snails can grow to 8 inches long. They consume at least 500 different types of plants and can damage buildings by eating the plaster and stucco for calcium.
The state budgeted $3.6 million this year for the eradication effort, with additional money included in a $6 million package the state received through a federal farm bill in March.
The budget requests also pinpoint the precarious state of Florida's citrus industry.
The Florida Department of Citrus is proposing a $58.3 million budget, which is down $3.8 million from the current year.
The decrease is due in part to a projected decline in citrus crops, therefore a decline in revenue.
A big reason for the decline is citrus greening, a bacterial disease that has been devastating the $9-billion-a-year industry.
Putnam's agency has proposed $6.5 million toward addressing greening, of which $2 million would expand the research lab and greenhouses in LaCrosse and $4 million would go into research of the disease.
The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed a $1.4 billion budget, up about $100,000 from the current year.
The DEP budget includes $75 million that Gov. Rick Scott has proposed for Everglades restoration efforts, $40 million for environmental land acquisition, and $15 million for springs restoration, up from the $10 million designated during the 2013 session.
Half of the land acquisition funding, as in the current year, would come from the sale of non-conservation lands, said DEP Chief of Staff Leonard "Lennie" Zeiler.
DEP has another $19 million proposed for state park improvements, including $4 million to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services' budget request also offers another $10 million to address nutrient reduction practices and water retention efforts in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, $8.2 million for best management practices in the northern Everglades, and $5.2 million to reduce agricultural nutrients from reaching the state's northern freshwater springs.


House passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act
North Fort Myers Neighbor - Guest Opinion by Larry Kiker, District 3, Lee County Commissioner
October 30, 2013
An unusual event occurred in Washington, D.C., late Wednesday, Oct. 23. The House of Representatives voted 417-3 to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA). Representative Trey Radel (R) and Representative Pat Murphy (D) gathered bi-partisan support for this bill during the recent shut-down in an already scheduled Congressional Briefing, in Washington D.C.
A total of 25 Senators and Representatives attended the session, each acknowledging our water quality issues in support of our efforts, including our own Senator Nelson (who could teach a course on our environment).
Directed by the Lee County Board of Commissioners, I joined Natural Resources Director, Roland Ottolini and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane (who had previously worked with Fort Myers Beach Mayor Alan Mandel at the state level) with testimonials alongside Representative Matt Caldwell and Representative Heather Fitzenhagen. Needless to say, Lee County was well represented and well received. To be sure, our local water quality issues are now recognized at a national level, evidenced by the passing of this bill. What does this mean?
To begin with, this event signifies a major step of the continuing efforts of Commissioners and staff that, for the last seven years, have been advocating for a water bill and authorization of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Reservoir Project along with other projects including much needed work on the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
The C-43 Project is a centerpiece restoration and storage project for Southwest Florida. It is perhaps the most important Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan project for our region. In fact, over the last several years the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have invested thousands of man hours and over $125 million on this project. Significantly, all of the design and permitting for this project has been completed. In other words, this project is shovel-ready.
Obviously there were many environmental experts speaking in Washington DC., however Mayor Ruane and I included the economic component as it relates to our immediate area. This becomes an important factor when looking at not only the revenues generated, but more specifically to the amount of money required to fund these projects, well over $1 billion.
A clean and healthy environment is one of the most critical cogs of the economic engine that drives Lee County. The $3 billion annual contribution that tourism brings depends largely on our unique natural resources. If our resources are not protected from environmental degradation, tourists find other places to spend their dollars. Surveys show that approximately 90 percent of our visitors choose Lee County because of our beaches and water. Our challenge as leaders is to ensure the protection of our natural resources without making growth and managed development cost prohibitive.
While Federal/State projects like the C-43 are critical, the Lee County Commission has been on the forefront of investing in conservation and environmental projects and programs. Lee has invested nearly $110 million on water quality associated projects and programs in just the last five years.
So the journey continues. Passage of the WRRDA bill is indeed a milestone along the course. Rest assured that the Lee County Commissioners are committed to working with our delegation, our county neighbors and our stakeholders so funding for these programs and projects are completed.
Special thanks to Representative Trey Radel for his continued leadership on this subject as we continue to count on him to help address the newly arrived Flood Insurance catastrophe that will affect us all!
Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to see this day, and thanks to the people of Lee County who continue to support our efforts to protect our vital natural resources.
Water bill passes US House    The News Herald


Seacow deaths top record
Daytona Beach News J. - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
October 30, 2013
Natural, manmade factors cited in ‘catastrophic’ losses; 40 deaths reported in Volusia
A record number of manatees have died in Florida waterways this year, 769, with two months still to go.
The deaths are the result of a combination of natural and manmade factors, including algal blooms in Southwest Florida and unusual conditions in the Indian River Lagoon. The Save the Manatee Club announced the death totals Wednesday.
Pat Rose, the club’s executive director, called this year’s losses “catastrophic.”
“It really has me alarmed,” said Rose, especially when coupled with the high number of deaths in the 2010, the previous record high year.
That year the state documented 766 deaths, including hundreds from cold stress conditions after a series of extreme freezing temperatures.
Overall this year, the manatee deaths are nearly double what they were in 2012, when 369 deaths were reported, including 21 in Volusia County and five in Flagler County. This year, 40 manatee deaths have been reported in Volusia and four in Flagler.
More than 100 manatee deaths in Brevard and Volusia counties have been attributed to a mysterious ailment striking apparently otherwise healthy manatees. Officials believe it could be related to a loss of seagrass in the Lagoon.
In Southwest Florida, 276 manatee deaths have been attributed to red tide, a harmful algal bloom that has plagued the coast.
Statewide, 123 young manatees less than 5 feet in length have been found dead, also a record, the Manatee Club stated.
It’s too early still to tell what the implications of the large number of deaths might be on the overall manatee population, said Kevin Baxter, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“It’s something that will take a while to really understand,” Baxter said.
The last statewide manatee survey, conducted to estimate a minimum population count, was done in 2011 and estimated around 4,800 manatees, Baxter said. State officials were unable to conduct a survey in 2012 or 2013 because of a lack of extreme cold temperatures which force manatees into warm water refuge locations where they are easier to observe.
Between 2003 and 2007, the annual population estimate fluctuated between 2,500 and 3,100. It hit a high of 5,000 in January 2010, before the cold stress deaths began.
Rose said he had been hopeful back then that efforts to recover the manatee were working, but now he’s fearful of the long-term implications.
“Our ability to recover from these two extremely high mortality events is going to depend on having the habitat in shape to recover it,” he said. “We must be better stewards of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe consequences going forward.”
Florida manatees dying at record rates           GlobalPost
Susquehanna Riverlands, whitewater weekend, manatee massacre ...  (blog)
Manatee deaths surpass 12-month record       Florida Today


Factbox: Projects from U.S. House water bill
Reuters - (Editing by Fred Barbash and Tim Dobbyn)
October 29, 2013
(Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 on October 23, in an overwhelming 417-3 bipartisan vote, a novelty in an age of division.
The U.S. Senate has passed a similar measure, but with some differences, which will have to be ironed out if the measure is to become law.
The bill authorizes about $8 billion in projects across the country, but funds must still be appropriated in separate bills before anything can be spent.
Most projects also use funds from state governments and private sources.
Here is a sampler of projects authorized:
- Texas and Louisiana: Sabine-Neches Waterway project to improve navigation for large ships.
- Maryland: Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration
- Minnesota and North Dakota: Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan area project to reduce risks from floods.
- California: American River Watershed Program to reduce risk from floods in the Natomas Basin near Sacramento.
- Florida: Project to deepen the channel and improve port at Jacksonville; Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
- Georgia: Savannah Harbor expansion project.
- North Carolina: Hurricane and storm damage risk reduction project at West Onslow Beach, Surf City and North Topsail Beach.
- Kentucky: Flood risk management project for the Ohio River Shoreline.
- Mississippi: Coastal improvement program in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties.
- Illinois, Kentucky: Lower Ohio River locks and dams improvement project.
- Indiana: Little Calumet River basic flood control project.
- Great Lakes region: Measures to fight the spread of Asian Carp.


Lagoon story cries for help
Florida Today – by Keith Winsten
October 29, 2013
I’ve written a lot about what is happening to the Indian River Lagoon and pledged to myself that I would cover something else this week, just to give my readers a break. But then I heard Laurilee Thompson, probably the most respected voice for conservation in the county, tell this story, and I knew I needed to share it.
Laurilee is a member of the Thompson clan from northern Brevard. Her family has been involved with fishing and boating for generations. As a young woman, Laurilee was one of the first female, commercial fishing captains in the nation. Later, her family started Dixie Crossroads restaurant, which she co-owns today. And, she founded the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, the most successful of its kind in the country. These are her words, with just a little editing for print. Thanks to Laurilee for letting us use them.
The north end of the river doesn't look that much different now than when I fished it 45 years ago. It’s bordered by a wildlife refuge on the east and development stopped by the railroad on the west. As I looked south toward Titusville, I saw red and green lights flashing at the top of the railroad bridge. Those lights reminded me of something I saw on a long-ago summer morning.
I was heading to Mosquito Lagoon to fish for sea trout and passed under the Railroad Bridge. I saw a lot of splashing and fins in the water. No birds were diving, so I knew it wasn't a bait pod. I steered my boat toward the commotion to investigate and noticed a tremendous amount of dolphin movement around the big ruckus.
I eased closer, watching the rise and fall of dozens of fins. Inching nearer still, I was stunned to see an oval ring of dolphin fins that did not dip below the water. Four feet out from the ring of fins, the water churned in a second oval, a perfect perimeter of whitewater that surrounded the inner ring of fins.
In all of the hours I'd spent on the lagoon, I had never seen anything like this. I cut my motor and paddled slowly toward the turmoil. I finally got near enough to see the center of the frenetic activity and was amazed to witness something not many people get to see.
An injured dolphin was the center of attention — a fully grown female. Family and friends from her pod surrounded her, each one with its nose under her body. They frantically pumped their tails, paddling furiously to hold her up so she could breathe. I watched in silent awe. Their frantic squeals rang in my ears. When one of the rescuers tired, it dropped down to be instantly replaced by another of the circling dolphins. They diligently kept up this behavior, lifting their injured friend. I put down my paddle and leaned back to contemplate this emotional scene I'd been so fortunate to witness.
The wind finally pushed my boat far enough from the dolphins so I could start my motor without disturbing them. I humbly turned north and continued my journey up to Haulover Canal. After a day of fishing, I headed home, passing the spot where I'd seen the dolphins eight hours earlier. They were still holding up the injured dolphin — still doggedly supporting her heavy body to keep her from drowning. Who knows how long they kept it up. My guess is that they held up their friend until she drew her last breath. When I passed that spot the next morning, the dolphins were gone.
We live in a world of ever-changing baselines. What seems normal to each new generation would have been unacceptable to those who came before. I will never see the Indian River the same way that my grandfather saw it. What is abhorrent to me seems normal to my grandchildren. They have never seen a shoreline covered with fiddler crabs or a water column filled with graceful moon jellies. They have never experienced pulling an oyster or clam from the water and eating it on the spot.
It’s up to us to reverse that trend.
One way to measure the character of a community is to look at what it protects. We protect what we value.
The Indian River is the heart and soul of our community. The river can’t speak, so we must be her voice. Our river is dying. We must be as steadfast as the dolphins as we hold her up so she can keep on breathing. Our economy and our quality of life depend on her survival. We must speak for the river.
So that is where I see us all: We must speak for the river.
Related Links:
Matt Reed: Marine council pushes fixes for Indian River
Melbourne launches rain barrel rebate program
Summit explores invasive lionfish's threat to Florida


Marine council pushes fixes for Indian River
Florida Today – by Matt Reed
October 29, 2013
Goal: Curb pollution that feeds killer algae blooms
Long before the Indian River Lagoon’s current crisis, a group founded by scientists from the Florida Institute of Technology began working to protect Brevard’s estuary and coastal waters.
Today, the Marine Resources Council is helping to organize efforts by the Brevard County Commission, local cities, sport fishing interests and others to cut pollution, end killer algae blooms and restore a healthy ecosystem, including seagrass and fish. How to do that ? Efforts may include restrictions on lawn fertilizer, restoration projects and more dredging of muck from tributaries.
I interviewed MRC Executive Director Leesa Souto about the lagoon and her organization’s agenda.
Question:The lagoon’s health seems to have plunged in the past couple years. What’s going on?
Souto: It’s described as a major tipping point. We had a super algae bloom in 2011 that lasted a long time, and it contributed to a lot of the seagrass loss. In the lagoon, the seagrass is the primary production engine. If you don’t have seagrass, then you don’t have habitat for the baby fish, which the carnivores then eat.
Q:The problem doesn’t appear to be classic pollution: oil, garbage, sewage, chemicals. It seems more like a home aquarium — looks OK from the outside, but one day the salinity or oxygen shifts and your fish die. Is that description close?
Souto: You’re right in that there’s an ecological balance that needs to be maintained. However, I suspect it’s not something that happened quickly. There’s an accumulation. I know in my fish tank, there was an accumulation of a whole bunch of organics at the bottom that caused it to flip one day. I hadn’t done anything different. It just had low pH and high nitrogen.
With the lagoon, I think it happened over the past 50 years, with the buildup of muck at the bottom of the lagoon, the additional inputs of nitrogen from human waste, fertilizers we put on our lawn and the acidic rains, which used to be sulfuric acid but now are nitric acid — nitrogen is raining out of the sky.
Q:Have you done any studies to inform your push for local fertilizer regulations?
Souto: I had the opportunity to work on the Wekiva River on what was known as a source-allocation study. You work in a smaller, watershed-basin scale. From the study, you figure out where the sources of nitrogen are coming from based on where the nitrogen is being applied or, with septic tanks, leached out.
In Wekiva, we went out and talked to 741 homeowners on the telephone, corroborated with face-to-face interviews, and figured out how many pounds of fertilizer and what blends they were applying. We also talked to those who hired professionals, which was about a third of the people.
We found that 22 percent of the nitrogen going into the Wekiva River was coming from residential fertilizer use, which was about equal to the 6,000 septic tanks in the same area.
Nobody thinks their little piece of the watershed does that much. But when you multiply that by 100,000 or 500,000 across Brevard County, it becomes a huge number.
What’s missing in Florida are the stormwater studies. We’re in the middle of one in Tampa Bay right now.
Q:So, those of us who want healthy economic and urban growth may have to accept a trade-off on things that make our yards look their best?
Souto: You’ve heard the “sustainability” buzzword a lot, but in this case, it’s real. How do we create a human environment we’re all happy living in that’s not going to kill our water bodies? How can we change how we live along the Indian River Lagoon to preserve our opportunities to boat, fish and enjoy wildlife?
Q:The Marine Resources Council seems different from other environmental groups in that it focuses mainly on stewardship and has some partnerships with local governments. Where did the MRC come from?
Souto: It’s a nonprofit charitable organization started in the 1980s by a group of FIT professors. The mission has always been to use science, education and stewardship to protect the coastal estuary system.
We’re about engaging the public. We’ve run a Lagoon Watch water-sampling program for more than 20 years that has been used by state government.
Q:The fishing and recreational boating community seem to have embraced that thinking in the past couple years.
Souto: They have a lot to lose.


1 child

Overpopulation: Should America have a one-child policy ?
Washington Times – by Joseph Cotto
October 29, 2013
OCALA, Fla., October 29, 2013 — Today, America is more secular of a nation than ever before.
With secularism’s rise has come a scientific wave — some might even call it a tsunami — that is answering life’s toughest questions in a fact-based fashion. Of course, scientific inquiry has no shortage of foes; the most prominent of whom tend to be hardline followers of supernaturalist religions.
Beyond the stereotypes of Bible thumpers and pseudo-intellectual creationists, though, one sector of modern science tends to attract derision from across the board. This, as more than a few might have guessed, is overpopulation.
The very concept of overpopulation is so controversial that some deny its existence. These people run our society’s socioeconomic gamut; from poor immigrants to public intellectuals to high-profile politicians. Their overarching claim is that as populations grow, human innovation will increase; thus creating a higher quality of life.
What can be said about their perspective?
“There’s no doubt that innovation increases under pressure,” urban designer and public policy analyst Michael E. Arth tells The Washington Times Communities. In 2010, he launched a quixotic bid for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. While this was not a success, it set the ball rolling for discussion about the role special interests play in politics.
On a more comprehensive level, Arth’s writings about overpopulation have attracted great controversy, but successfully raised interest about the subject. 
He continues: “One of the most innovative periods of human history was WWII, which ushered in a technological age that has helped create a higher post-war quality of life. Computers, rockets, pressurized air cabins, jet airplanes, radio navigation, the microwave oven, penicillin, synthetic materials (rubber, lubricants and fuels), radar, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear power were all developed or brought into use during those five years. 
“However, we also had the wholesale destruction of cities, untold suffering and the massacre of at least 60 million people. No compassionate person would advocate such misery and sorrow for the sake of innovation, but the human misery created by overpopulation is comparable to war and one of the main reasons for war. Nazi foreign policy, for example, was based on the need for “Lebensraum,” living space that would support Germany’s growing population. 
“Every day the human population of the Earth increases by 220,000 people, or 80 million annually. That is like adding adding another Germany or Iran every single year.  As famed mathematician Bertrand Russell said about overpopulation, ‘Humans would rather kill themselves than learn math.’
 “We live on a finite 8,000 mile diameter sphere, two-thirds of which is covered with water. Based on current practices, we are far exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. The carrying capacity has previously been expanded through scientific innovation, but it’s a risky and unnecessary course of action to count on just so we can senselessly grow our population. 
“We should use innovation to clean up the mess we have already created and make a better, sustainable world for ourselves.”
Jo Wideman is the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, perhaps the foremost group addressing overpopulation’s impact on American life. She explains to TWTC that “(o)verpopulation is a fact, not a myth.  
“Human innovations – medicines and antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation, exploitation of fossil fuels, the Green Revolution, etc. – have allowed for a higher standard of living and quality of life for most of the world’s 7.2 billion inhabitants.  And, these advances have occurred in spite of a global population that quadrupled over the last century, and grows by 80 million annually. 
“These increases in human numbers and overall rates of resource and energy consumption are not, however, sustainable.  They have taken place at great ecological cost, enabled by the ongoing depletion of non-renewable natural resources, over-exploitation of renewable natural resources, and the accelerating degradation and disruption of environments – air, water, lakes, ocean, atmosphere, climate – upon which the modern industrialized human economy, and indeed civilization itself, depends.  
“To believe that the human capacity for innovation is infinite, and that therefore human populations can grow infinitely, is to believe in fairy tales.  It is to believe in a parallel universe in which we live on a flat earth, because only a flat earth extending infinitely in all directions – as opposed to a round earth, which is bounded and finite – could support a human population that never stopped growing.”
In order to proactively meet the challenges posed by overpopulation, Arth has proposed an immensely controversial program. Pushing all of the rhetoric aside, what is it all about?
“The U.S. population grew by 22.5% from 1990-2010,” he says. “That is the highest growth rate in the industrialized world. By comparison, Mexico’s population grew by 32% while Japan only grew by 4.7% during the same period.  
“I have proposed that all countries adopt a self-funding, choice-based, marketable birth license plan called ‘birth credits.’ Each couple could have one child for free, additional births would cost one credit each. In low-birth countries, like all of Europe, these credits would be free. In high-birth countries, the cost of the credit would still be only a tiny fraction of the actual cost of raising a child, so birth credits would function as a wake-up call to future costs. 
“The wealthy would not buy up birth credits because birth rates correlate inversely to net worth through intelligent choices. Instead of socializing the costs of bad family planning, like we do now by encouraging the worst parents to have the most children, we should put a greater burden on individuals to make socially responsible decisions.”
Wideman states that “(a)cess to contraception is a key component of enabling population stabilization.  Along with age-appropriate sex education and education on the role of population growth in environmental degradation, it is an important and necessary tool.  However, in the U.S., where most growth stems from immigration, these tools are insufficient.
“The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of American women has been at or below the replacement level (2.1 children per female) for four decades. This means is that if net immigration were zero (immigration equaled emigration), or even below a few hundred thousand annually, the U.S. population would stop growing in a matter of decades. 
“What keeps our population growing very rapidly and unsustainably is net immigration (legal and illegal combined) of between 1 and 2 million year after year.”
How far has political correctness brought down America ?
Should America stop foreign aid to Israel ?
Is immigration destroying America’s quality of life ?
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


Southeast Florida leaders take initial steps to prepare for climate threat
Palm Beach Post - by Joe Capozzi, Staff Writer
October 29, 2013
Palm Beach County’s already accustomed to the annual rite of preparing for hurricanes. Now, it’s coming to grips with a potentially more devastating problem — global warming.
In the battle against rising sea levels, the county’s coastal communities are turning their thoughts to a variety of possible defenses – from requiring stilts for shoreline homes, to elevating roads, raising seawalls and relocating water treatment plants.
This story continues on our new premium website for subscribers, Continue reading/get access here »



US Agriculture Secretary

Vilsack: Farm bill critical to Fla.
Orlando Sentinel
October 29, 2013
President Obama recently urged Congress to reach a compromise on the farm bill — the multiyear plan for agricultural policy. Farm bills used to pass with bipartisan support, but the latest version has been tied up more than a year. Some lawmakers have taken aim at the billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies in the bill, and the parties have deadlocked over how much to cut from the food-stamp program.
As U.S. agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack is the Obama administration's point man on the legislation. In an email interview with Opinions Editor Paul Owens, Vilsack argued there are multiple reasons to pass a farm bill.
Q: Why is it important that Congress pass a farm bill?
A: The farm bill provides crucial financial support for America's farmers, ranchers and producers when they experience losses to crops and livestock due to natural disasters. The safety net allows farmers, ranchers, and producers to manage that financial risk, which enables them to continue to provide a safe and abundant food supply that benefits all Americans. At the same time, the farm bill gives low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families a helping hand with nutrition assistance. So, the farm bill is really a food bill.
Q: Are there good reasons for members of both parties to get behind a bill?
A: The farm bill supports job growth, trade promotion, and energy security through programs that provide resources for small businesses locating or expanding in rural communities, companies that export our ag products around the world, and manufacturers producing and providing renewable fuel and energy. So, the farm bill is really a jobs bill, a trade bill and an energy bill.
Q: Would the bill change or reform current farm policies?
A: The farm bill reforms the financial safety net for farmers by eliminating direct payments to producers, which they have received in good times and tough times, and replacing these payments with a system that gives help only when help is needed.
This reform saves billions of dollars over a 10-year period. So the farm bill is really a reform and deficit-reduction bill.
Q: What stake does Florida have in the bill's passage?
A: Florida's important citrus industry is fighting for its life against citrus greening, which has caused great damage to Florida's orange crop. Research provided in part by farm bill programs is underway to help mitigate and ultimately eliminate the risks of citrus greening.
The farm bill supports critically important research in crop and livestock production, food safety, nutrition and climate-change impacts on agriculture.
At the same time, farm bill programs have been instrumental in efforts to conserve and protect the Florida Everglades — and a new farm bill would provide conservation programs that farmers, ranchers, and landowners could continue to use to protect the soil and water in Florida and across the nation.
So, the farm bill is really a research bill and a conservation bill.
Q: Do you support the effort from Republicans to put nutrition programs and farm assistance in separate bills?
A: Historically, the passage of a farm bill required an alliance between supporters of farm programs and nutrition assistance. Farmers represent less than 1 percent of America's population, so that alliance remains important in getting support for farm programs that have helped recently to achieve record farm exports, conservation activities and farm income. Ending the alliance between supporters of farm programs and nutrition assistance will erode support for these important farm programs at a time when they are needed most.
Q: Will the continuing struggle over the federal budget make passing a farm bill harder?
A: In addition to providing budget savings by reforming the farm safety net, passage of a farm bill would also provide a model of bipartisan cooperation that could yield a budget bill and a comprehensive immigration reform bill.


Georgia eyes stake in Glades reservoir project - by Ray Henry
October 28, 2013
ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal's administration is considering investing in a North Georgia reservoir that would send extra water downstream during droughts and boost the amount of water that flows into a lake at the center of a three-state dispute, officials said.
Deal's administration earlier announced it would consider investing state money into projects that give Georgia's government the ability to augment flows in drought-parched waterways. One potential project is the proposed Glades Reservoir in Hall County, whose local government has requested nearly $14.6 million in state funding. That's a small part of the estimated $130 million project cost. A formal decision is due next month.
Since taking office, Deal has advocated for building reservoirs and other water storage projects to increase the water supply in Georgia, which has long fought with neighboring Alabama and Florida over regional water rights. The neighboring states accuse metro Atlanta of using too much water, leaving too little for downstream communities, businesses and wildlife.
In the latest development, Florida has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to divide up water rights in the basin formed by the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola rivers. That river system is shared by all three states.
Under Georgia's plan, the state government would partner with local communities seeking to build reservoirs for their own needs. Officials in Deal's administration said it makes sense to build reservoirs large enough to meet both local needs and larger state goals.
"We're only going to build so many of these," said Judson Turner, director of Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. "They are expensive. There are only so many sites that make sense."
Deal's chief of staff, Chris Riley, said the Glades Reservoir could give Georgia the ability to send water south to Lanier during dry spells, water that eventually reaches Alabama and Florida. If the state decides to invest and the project moves forward, state officials would require that the land around the newly created lake be preserved, not developed, Riley said. Prior plans for the Glades Reservoir envisioned it as a centerpiece for a housing development.
Environmental groups have instead urged Georgia to focus on conserving water, which they say is far cheaper and produces faster results than building multimillion-dollar reservoirs.
"They are dealing with these torturous potential solutions for water supply when they are not looking — and I know people are getting tired of hearing this — at water efficiency and conservation," said Sally Bethea, executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
Bethea said state officials should more aggressively consider trying to raise the level of Lake Lanier, the federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River, before seeking to build new reservoirs that consume money and ground.
It's not clear how Alabama and Florida might react to the emerging plans for the Glades Reservoir. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's administration has questioned the need for the reservoir, and has previously worried that more reservoirs upstream will result in less water flowing downstream.
"While Governor Bentley believes that additional reservoirs may be part of a comprehensive solution to the tri-state controversy, Alabama cannot support additional reservoirs until a comprehensive agreement is reached," Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said.
Hall County officials have been interested in building the reservoir for years. State officials say water could be released from Glades Reservoir and into Lake Lanier. The city of Gainesville withdraws water from Lake Lanier, treats it and sends it to area business and residents. The water can also flow south toward south Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Lake Lanier has been a flashpoint in the tri-state water feud. In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that metro Atlanta had little right to take water from that federal reservoir. He threatened to severely restrict water withdrawals for the metro Atlanta region unless the leaders of Alabama, Florida and Georgia reached a political agreement. An appeals court overturned Magnuson's ruling in 2011 and ruled that the reservoir could legally provide water for Atlanta.
Federal officials are still studying how much water the region can take.
It remains unclear whether U.S. officials would endorse the proposal for the Glades Reservoir. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues permits for new reservoirs and manages Lake Lanier. Unless the Army agreed to work with Georgia, the system would not work.


Hooray for Port, but Army Corps remains challenge
Sun Sentinel - by Editorial Board
October 28, 2013
Members of Florida's congressional delegation proved their mettle last week by amending a key bill to keep federal funding flowing into the Everglades Restoration and Port Everglades projects.
The amendment allows the port, as well as state and local governments, to get reimbursed from the federal government for any design, engineering and construction costs once their plans get approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the form of a Chief's Report.
The change is important because it prevents a lack of federal funding from stalling a deserving project. Continuity is essential for both Port Everglades dredging and re-plumbing the Florida Everglades if these projects are ever to be completed.
Any celebration by the delegation should be short-lived, though. There's still the matter of making the Army Corps more accountable for how it handles major water projects crucial to Florida's well-being.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, has embraced that role, largely because Port Everglades is located in her district. Ideally, that responsibility should be shared among Florida's 27 House members. The Corps' impact on our state is too important to let its oversight fall through the cracks.
Keeping closer tabs on the Corps should be a no-brainer. Since Congress ended budget earmarks, our representatives in Washington can no longer add projects to the budget to bring our tax dollars back home. Everything must first go through an agency. And when it comes to water projects — beach renourishment, port dredging and re-plumbing the Everglades — none can be funded without the approval of the Army Corps.
Better oversight of the Corps will be challenging. The agency is responsible for a wide range of public works projects throughout the world and with 35,500 civilian and military personnel, it is the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency.
The agency's duties are varied and complex, from supporting military units in the world's battle zones to maintaining direct control of dams, navigation locks and hydroelectric facilities.
The Corps' impact on Florida is huge, since it has oversight of coastlines, flood protection, ports, navigable waters and recreational areas. For a state that relies so heavily on water resources, there aren't many infrastructure projects that fall outside of the Corps' jurisdiction.
At times, though, the Corps has been more of an impediment than a partner.
For example, at one point its district planners used an economic model to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio of the Port Everglades project that officials in Washington deemed outdated. The mistake was discovered late in the port's review process, resulting in a do-over that caused an 18-month delay in the permitting process that began almost 17 years ago.
The good news is that the water bill, approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday, contains provisions that streamline the Corps' review process to prevent such lengthy and frustrating evaluations.
If approved by the Senate and signed by the president, the Corps must complete its evaluations within three years and spend no more than $3 million. The bill also calls for three levels of review, a change that should help our lawmakers keep better tabs on its bureaucratic processes.
Kudos to Frankel and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Daniel Webster for taking lead roles on the amendment as members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Fredrica Wilson and Mario Diaz-Balart also played key roles in obtaining support for the amendment with other House members.
"This was such a good example of how Congress is supposed to work," Frankel told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, a summation rarely heard out of Washington.
The amendment is a good start, but the challenge of completing key projects remains. Florida's congressional delegation can continue its bipartisan streak by doing a better job of monitoring the Corps and making sure key projects are properly evaluated in a timely fashion.


Lehigh projects aim to help control the water in Lee County wetlands by Kevin Lollar
October 28, 2013
Under a threatening sky last week, Ron Bishop checked out the birds at Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres; to his left, a bald eagle perched in a cypress tree; to his right, five sandhill cranes rattled and trumpeted.
Bishop is a serious birder, and the 578-acre marsh is serious bird country — members of the Lee County Bird Patrol have documented 166 bird species there.
“It’s spectacular,” said Bishop, a Lehigh resident who visits the marsh five days a week. “I’m reluctant to tell people how many birds are here. There are a variety of species that it’s difficult to find in other parts of Southwest Florida.”
But Harns Marsh is only incidentally a great birding spot.
As one of a half dozen projects in the Lehigh Headwaters Initiative, a watershed restoration effort that encompasses 100 square miles in Lehigh Acres and western Hendry County, the marsh’s main function is as a stormwater retention facility that has a positive impact on the Caloosahatchee River and estuary.
The lead agency in the initiative is East Lee County Water Control District, with financial and technical help from the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Created in 1958, East County’s original mission was to get water off the land as quickly as possible.
Ten years ago, residential areas along the Orange River were being flooded after heavy rains.
“Most of those houses were in the old flood plain,” said Mike Cook, assistant East County Water Control District manager. “There had never been a point where houses washed away or three feet of water was running in the front door and out the back. But there’d be water in barns and damage to some houses.”
Enter the South Florida Water Management District.
“A lot of people out there were really upset; they were trying to get the water management district to take over East County,” said Steve Sentes, a supervisor for the water management district. “East County had a lot of old concrete structures that were breaking down. I was given the task to go in and bring them up to speed.
“What they’re doing now is tremendous. They have computers and telemetry so they can read water levels on the computers. They can open and close gates by computer. Before, they had no flexibility; now, they have flexibility to move and store water.”
After dealing with the immediate problem of flooding around the Orange River, the water control and water management districts looked around the watershed to see what else they could to improve water storage and quality.
Thus was born the Lehigh Watershed Initiative, whose projects are designed to keep water from the district’s 311 miles of canals on the land so it can rehydrate wetlands, recharge groundwater and prevent flooding.
Another important aspect of the projects is their effects on the Caloosahatchee.
In very wet periods, the Army Corps of Engineers releases billions of gallons of fresh water per day from Lake Okeechobee; nutrients in the water can cause massive harmful algal blooms, and the increased fresh water can upset the balance of fresh and salt water in the estuary.
Vegetation in initiative projects will filter nutrients out of the district’s storm water before it is released to the river.
“We’ve changed our mentality about water,” Cook said. “It used to be let it go; now it’s let’s hold on to it.”
Harns Marsh is the poster project for the initiative.
The marsh was designed in the 1980s, but the objective then was to let water from Lehigh canals flow into what had been farmland and then flow out to the Orange River.
From 2008 to 2012, water control structures were built to hold water on the marsh and release it after it has been filtered by wetland vegetation — the cost of the project was about $3 million.
Some water is always in the marsh, which contains a 59-acre cypress head, so there is always habitat for birds and other wildlife.
In 2008, Lee County bought the 205.85-acre West Marsh, which is adjacent to the west boundary of Harns Marsh, for $4.6 million through Conservation 20/20, a program that taxes Lee County property owners to buy sensitive lands.
As a 20/20 preserve, West Marsh is now open to the public, but the site is dry and covered with exotic (non-native) vegetation.
Plans include removing the exotics and building water control structures to allow water to flow from Harns Marsh into the preserve.
“Right now, there’s not a whole lot out there, some wild hogs, a lot of hunting, four-wheelers and abuse,” said Lee Waller, a Conservation 20/20 land stewardship coordinator. “The project will fix all that. We’re expecting it to be a big birding site, essentially an extension of Harns Marsh. It will be quite a transformation from scrap land to a refuge for birds.”
Other Lehigh Watershed Initiative projects include:
• Mirror Lakes/Halfway Pond: Among other things, this project moves water south of State Road 82 to rehydrate wetlands. Phase 1 of the project is complete, and water is being moved from Lehigh canals into Mirror Lakes Preserve. Phase 2, which will move water south from Mirror Lakes, should begin in the fall of 2014. Total cost: $1.69 million.
• Southwest Lehigh: This is a very dry residential section of Lehigh Acres. The plan is to construct 27 water-control structures in the many canals to hold and treat water. The Florida Department of Transportation will finance the $3 million project in return for use of the canal system during construction on SR 82. East County expects to take bids for the project in the fall of 2014.
In all, Lehigh Watershed Initiative projects will store about 4.88 billion gallons of water; for comparison, the C-43 Reservoir will be built in Hendry County to store 57 billion gallons of water from the Caloosahatchee.
“Every drop of water that stays out of the river keeps nutrients associated with it out,” Cook said. “As far as volume, our numbers are small when you look at the volume of the river, and they’re like the C-43 Reservoir, but every little bit helps. If everybody does their little part, the entire river benefits.”


Protecting Florida's taxed resources
Orlando Sentinel – My Word by Will Abberger, Chair, Florida's Water and Land Legacy campaign
October 28, 2013
In Florida, we depend on our natural systems for clean drinking water. We must protect our land and waters because our state relies on its beaches, springs, rivers, lakes and parks as a key part of our tourism economy.
The current state budget is more than $70 billion. The Water and Land Conservation amendment would set aside less than 1 percent for water and land conservation. The amendment simply seeks to dedicate the historic funding source for water and land conservation in Florida — the documentary stamp fee (paid when real estate is sold) — to its historic use.
The amendment sets aside one-third of Florida's existing documentary stamp revenues and guarantees that these funds can be used only for conservation purposes, such as acquiring conservation and recreation lands, managing existing lands, and protecting lands that are critical for water supply and restoring degraded natural systems. This guarantee would keep efforts to conserve our natural lands and waters from becoming a political football that could be eliminated at the whim of future governors or lawmakers.
The amendment would take an amount that had been used for water and land conservation and dedicate it for that same purpose — but with constitutional protections.
The percentage of documentary stamp collection directed to conservation has dwindled from 39 percent in fiscal year 2011 to 26 percent in 2013. Setting the funding level at 33 percent is a very reasonable allocation of funds to protect critical Florida resources.
Voters should look at the state's financial impact statement for the Water and Land Conservation amendment. State estimators concluded that the amendment not increase taxes and that — even using the most conservative assumptions — there would be a minimum of $100 million in new funding for critical natural resource protections available in the first year the amendment takes effect. It stands to reason that as our state continues to grow, documentary stamp revenues will grow resulting, in more funding for all programs tied to this source, including affordable housing.
Florida's Water and Land Legacy invites all Floridians to join in sending a strong message to Tallahassee: without clean water for drinking, swimming, fishing and boating, and without the natural beauty we hold so dear, Florida would not be Florida.


Winners of Agriculture-Environmental Leadership Award - by Julie
October 28th, 2013
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam presented awards to the three winners of the state’s Agriculture-Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes agricultural enterprises that are at the forefront of developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices.
 “These recipients represent the best of the best in developing and implementing progressive techniques to safeguard the environment and conserve natural resources,” Commissioner Putnam said. “All three share a commitment to protect and preserve Florida’s resources while continuing to provide top-notch agricultural products for our state, our country and across the globe.”
The awards were presented during a breakfast at the 72nd Florida Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The recipients are:
Barbra Goering of The Farmton Tree Farm, a 59,000-acre forest timber operation straddling Volusia and Brevard Counties. In partnership with local counties, Miami Corporation, which manages the land, created the Farmton Local Plan, an innovative 50-year vision for the future to place nearly 80 percent of the land into conservation, including a critical regional wildlife corridor and environmentally significant habitat. The Farmton Tree Farm serves as a model for large-scale and long-range planning efforts, by creating sustainable places for jobs, recreation and living in the future.
Dudley Calfee of Ferris Farms Inc, in Floral City. Ferris Farms has harvested the first commercial flats of strawberries in the state for the past six years and produces more than 200,000 flats of strawberries and more than 250,000 pounds of blueberries each year. All the while, the farm has reduced the use of pesticides, plastic mulch and plastic drip tube and has perfected techniques to reuse 35 percent of these materials each year and reduced fungicide application by 50 percent. They are a leading example of increasing crop yields and decreasing production cost through innovation.
Shane Platt of Kissimmee Park Properties, LLC, in St. Cloud. Kissimmee Park Properties’ goal has been to protect the ranch as both an economic source and as a sustainable wildlife habitat and ecological component to the region. The ranch has been under the same family ownership for 135 years and operates a 250 head cow-calf operation. The ranch has always operated in an environmentally and economically sound method to ensure the natural environment can be passed on to the family’s sixth generation of ranchers. Kissimmee Park Properties recognizes both the economic and ecological value of a well run cattle operation – and represents Florida cattlemen well.
Nominees from different parts of Florida’s agricultural industry were reviewed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and industry and environmental groups. Environmental practices considered in the nominations include: Wildlife Protection and Habitat Conservation, Pesticide/Nutrient Management, Water Quality, Soil and Water Conservation and Waste Management/Recycling.
The Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award has been presented annually since 1994. The program spotlights the environmentally innovative farming practices of the state’s growers and ranchers.


Applied research: Immokalee's Southwest Florida Research & Education Center – by Laura Ruane
October 27, 2013
The hulking steel tubs, pulled from the ground for maintenance, look like Dumpsters to the untrained eye.
They are, however, lysimeters, devices that measure water-soluble inputs and outputs to the soil and a crop, and then remotely convey the data to designated computers.
“Every 15 minutes, the system measures how much water is going in, and going out,” said Sanjay Shukla, water resources faculty member at the Southwest Florida Research & Education Center in Immokalee.
In an era of erratic water quantity and quality, farmers, state and federal agencies and others want to know how much water a certain crop really needs, Shukla said.
“This is the gold standard for measuring water use of any given crop,” Shukla said, adding “there’s nothing like it elsewhere in Florida.”
This is one example of applied research on the center’s 320 acres. There are others. Among them:
• Researchers are studying how to fight the citrus greening bacterial disease that causes premature fruit drop and brings trees to or near death.
One promising plan of attack targets the Asian citrus psyllid that spreads the greening bacteria. A tiny wasp lays eggs under a psyllid nymph; when the egg hatches, the wasp larvae eat the psyllid nymph.
The center is releasing the wasp in a number of places, to see whether supplementing the population of wasps will improve control of Asian citrus psyllids.
It’s a big undertaking that involves both raising both wasps and psyllids.
“We produce 5,000 to 7,000 wasps per week,” said Phil Stansly, the University of Florida entomology professor based at the center.
Scott Croxton, a University of Florida student working on his Ph.D. under Stansly’s oversight, is looking at how citrus trees planted into raised soil beds covered with plastic use less water and fertilizer – about half as much of these resources, Croxton said.
Another tantalizing lead: Reflective plastic coating with an ultra-thin aluminum layer seems to disorient incoming Asian citrus psyllids.
• Growers have learned that spraying a rich cocktail of chemical nutrition on citrus leaves can help the trees stay healthier and more productive even with greening or canker. That is especially important until there is a definitive cure or prevention for the diseases.
But how much, and which materials work best? The center is trying different blends because “not everybody can afford a complete cocktail of nutrients,” said Bob Rouse, UF associate professor and citrus horticulturalist.
Pruning back infected trees as well as spraying foliar nutrition has brought some back from near death.
“Look,” Rouse said, “these trees are so heavily loaded (with fruit), the limbs are hanging down.”


Future water supply safe, report says
The News Herald - by Matthew Beaton
October 27, 2013
PANAMA CITY — The agency charged with overseeing the region’s water supply is starting to update projections on future availability — and the outlook is positive.
The Northwest Florida region, which includes Bay County, will have an adequate water supply to satisfy “projected future water needs,” a draft version of the updated assessment states. The Northwest Florida Water Management District is in charge of the assessment.
“In terms of Bay County, nothing’s going to change. We have a regional water supply plan, and the recommendation will be to continue the plan,” said Tony Countryman, a senior hydrogeologist with the district.
The assessment is updated every five years and projects out to 2035. The county’s only drinking water supply is the Deer Point reservoir, which district officials say will be sufficient in the future.
Bay County, though, consumes a lot of water compared with the other 15 counties in the district. It’s the fourth most populous county, but the second largest water consumer, according to the assessment. Escambia, Leon and Okaloosa County all have larger populations, but only Escambia uses more water, at 95.3 million gallons per day.
Bay County uses 72.3 million gallons per day, significantly more than third-ranked Leon County’s 42.2 million gallons per day.
In 2035, Bay County is projected to use 88.4 million gallons per day.
Though the water supply is adequate, there are always areas for improvement; one in particular is reusing treated wastewater, said Paul J. Thorpe, the district’s resource planning section director.
While not up to drinking grade, the treated wastewater is suitable for landscape irrigation, industrial processes and even firefighting, Thorpe said. Traditionally treated wastewater is disposed of in sprayfields or dumped directly into surface water bodies, not reused, he said.
“So in this case the water would be, again, highly treated and then recognized as being a resource that could be used to meet the demand,” Thorpe said.
The county doesn’t reuse much treated wastewater, though. Of the 15.4 million gallons per day it generates, only 2.6 million gallons replace drinking water that would have otherwise been used.
Future goals for reusing more treated wastewater is just one topic the public will have the opportunity to address district officials about Wednesday when they are in town, holding a public workshop to discuss the draft assessment.
“We are interested in learning about any concerns on the part of the public, any suggestions and recommendations,” Thorpe said.
The public workshop is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday inside the Gibson Lecture Hall at the student union at Gulf Coast State College. The public will be able to ask questions.
-Who: Northwest Florida Water Management District
-What: Public workshop
-When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
-Where: Gibson Lecture Hall, student union, Gulf Coast State College


Help save our rivers
Sun Sentinel – by Jim Moran, governing board member, South Florida Water Management District, West Palm Beach
October 27, 2013
The St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon are dying. Most proposed solutions are very long-term and very expensive. There is a solution that is short-term — less than one year — and relatively cheap ($20 million.)
It is a two-step plan: Have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers complete Contract 8 (Acceler8) between Mod Waters and C-111, and negotiate an amended formula — known as Appendix "A" — to measure the phosphorus in the water going into Everglades National Park.
By completing Contract 8 and slightly refiguring Appendix A, water could be moved south within the year. This solution would allow Lake Okeechobee to be kept lower in the rainy years, thereby creating additional capacity in the lake and requiring fewer discharges that destroy the estuaries.
Let's help our rivers now. Tell your representatives to complete Contract 8, amend Appendix A, and save the river.


Special Report: Oil drilling company has leased 115,000 acres, including land under dozens of homes
Naples Daily News - by Jacob Carpenter and June Fletcher
October 27, 2013
Collier Resources Inc. has been selling off underground mineral rights to other companies, including to Dan A. Hughes Co., which now has mineral rights on about 150,000 acres in eastern Collier. What are the plans for the land, and how will it affect you ?
 When Michael O'Neill bought his two-story Pulte home in Ave Maria's quiet Emerson Park, he figured he might be sitting on black gold.
"We live off Oil Well Road, so I always assumed there must have been oil here at some point," O'Neill said.
But if there is oil underneath O'Neill's one-sixth of an acre, he doesn't own it. The lease on everything below his house belongs to the Dan A. Hughes Company - the Texas-based oil and gas group best known in town for seeking to drill in Golden Gate Estates.
O'Neill's property is a sliver of the 115,000 acres of mineral rights being leased by the Collier Resources Company to the Dan A. Hughes Company, a deal with potentially widespread impact on eastern Collier County.
The lease agreement between the two companies was reached without fanfare in June 2012, but Golden Gate Estates residents are already seeing the results: the Dan A. Hughes Company has constructed one well, received a permit for another well in August and is seeking a third well on leased land within 1,500 feet of a home.
Many terms of the lease, including financial details and the Collier Resources Company's influence on drilling sites, weren't disclosed in public records. The lease lasts for a minimum of five years, with an option for a three-year extension.
"We are confident that the use of best management practices in conjunction with the strong regulatory framework will protect the rights of surface and mineral owners as well as the citizens of Southwest Florida," Collier Resources Company said in a statement. Dan A. Hughes officials didn't respond to requests for comment.
Much of the 115,000 acres cover rural parts of Collier County and southeastern Lee County, but they also include dozens of homes in Golden Gate Estates, Ave Maria and Immokalee.
While an oil well couldn't be placed on residential properties, new technology could allow for construction of a well miles away that drills horizontally under homes. For now, the three wells only travel straight down to determine how much oil exists in Southwest Florida fields. Should the Dan A. Hughes Company find enough oil, the wells will be permanently extended horizontally, allowing for commercial extraction of oil, according to permits approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The three wells would travel horizontally about one mile each. Though none would travel beneath homes, permits show, two of the three are within a half-mile of privately-owned properties, a distance within reach of horizontal drilling.
The Dan A. Hughes Company hasn't enunciated plans to expand beyond the three exploratory wells. Still, that hasn't allayed concerns that the company might seek more wells, potentially traveling under residential properties and raising environmental and quality-of-life issues.
"I think it does beg the question of what their plans are for Collier County, and perhaps some of that will be dependent on what ultimately happens in Golden Gate Estates," said Amber Crooks, senior natural resources specialist for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, a Naples-based nonprofit environmental group.
Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle questioned the impact on home values if an energy company drilled horizontally under residential properties.
"That's a potential ticking time bomb for values in those communities," Coyle said. "Once those people understand that drilling can occur in those areas, the property is not going to be as valuable as it is now."
The lease agreement
For nearly seven decades, oil drilling has been part of Collier County's fabric. More than 300 drilling permits have been issued in that time, and 25 active wells operate today, producing about 868,500 barrels of tar-like crude oil last year.
Twenty-one of the wells are operated by BreitBurn Florida LLC, which leases the rights to obtain oil from Collier Resources Company, a subsidiary of Barron Collier Companies.
When the founding Collier family, which once owned much of the county's property, sold off land bit by bit, the family severed and retained the mineral rights, giving it ownership of all underground oil, gas and minerals. Today, the Collier Resources Company manages mineral rights for more than 800,000 acres in Southwest Florida.
Until 2012, only BreitBurn Florida LLC and Hendry Energy operated oil wells in Southwest Florida.
Then the Dan A. Hughes Company came calling.
Seeing an opportunity in Southwest Florida, the Beeville, Texas, company reached an agreement with Collier Resources in June 2012 to lease about 115,000 acres. The agreement was part of an effort by Collier Resources to more actively utilize its mineral rights.
"We're going to be more aggressive than we have in the past in trying to develop this resource," Tom Jones, senior vice president of Collier Resources Company, told Oil and Gas Investor, an industry magazine, in a June 2012 article. "Let's see what's there. With the price of oil, now is the time to take a run at it."
Most of the land is uninhabited by people. Nearly 50,000 acres are east of Desoto Boulevard and south of Oil Well Road, approaching Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. Another roughly 30,000 acres cover space between Immokalee and Corkscrew roads east of Interstate 75, about 7,000 of which stretches into Lee County.
Yet a few sections include residential neighborhoods, notably the southern half of downtown Immokalee, northeast and south Ave Maria, and areas along Immokalee Road in Golden Gate Estates.
"The capital requirements of oil exploration are significant and it is a standard practice to lease large sections of land in order to prevent competitors from piggybacking onto the discovery of an oil field," Collier Resources officials said in a statement.
In addition to the 115,000 acres, the Dan A. Hughes Company obtained leases from a few owners of small parcels in Golden Gate Estates. They included about 400 acres from Paul Meador's family and investors of the land, located near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Meador said Dan A. Hughes representatives approached him about the lease and negotiated to provide Meador and his investors royalties of 20 percent.
"I had a lot of interest in property in the Immokalee area, and they were prudently going out and creating relationships with a lot of owners that had mineral rights," said Meador, whose property isn't included in current drilling permits.
"Our interest is to obviously share in any proceeds that oil or any underground minerals may produce for us. Certainly, as land owners, we're paying property taxes and you have to generate revenue to pay them."
The well construction
The June 2012 lease agreement, a four-page document found in Collier County court records, was filed without much notice. By December 2012, the Dan A. Hughes Company had received its first DEP permit for an exploratory well, located in a tomato patch about a half-mile northeast of Immokalee Road and Everglades Boulevard North.
Curtis Summeralls, whose family founded the Corkscrew Independent Baptist Church, said workers drilled around-the-clock about 2,500 feet from the church, but the commotion was minor.
"You could hear them working out there, but it didn't really seem to bother anything," Summeralls said. "It wouldn't bother me even if I lived across the street, as long as I know the reason behind it."
When the company went back for another well in July, this one located about 1,500 from a home on 24th Avenue Southeast off Desoto Boulevard, residents and activist groups voiced concern about the environmental impact, ecosystem disruption, noise and traffic.
"Its proximity is too close to residential homes and it's such an environmentally sensititve area, right upstream from the Fakahatchee Strand and surrounded by protected wetlands," said Karen Dwyer, spokeswoman for the Stone Crab Alliance, a community group opposing drilling on the site. "They could not have chosen a worse place for a drill site."
A third well, located on a farm between Lake Trafford and Immokalee, was permitted by the DEP in August without public outcry.
Dan A. Hughes and Collier Resources officials have sought to quell complaints in meetings with residents. The projects won't involve fracking, and low gas pressures make an explosion highly improbable, they said. Drilling also would take place thousands of feet below the water table, making water contamination unlikely, company officials said.
All three wells involve designs for horizontal drilling, in which a well is drilled down like a traditional vertical well, then extended horizontally. Horizontal drilling and the similar practice of fracking have been more common in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, but the technology might also make Southwest Florida's oil reserves more lucrative.
"Florida doesn't tend to come up in national conversations about these resources, but I think with the national boom, companies have started to look to this state to see if there are (unexplored) resources," said Hannah Wiseman, an assistant professor at Florida State University who teaches about oil and gas law.
The three Dan A. Hughes exploratory wells stretch about 1 to 1.2 miles horizontally. In the two wells closest to privately owned properties, the wells travel away from, rather than toward, the properties.
Although homeowners and environmentalists are worried about horizontal drilling's effects, it "should not be a concern," said Ed Garrett, program administrator of oil and gas for the DEP. While other seismically active states, such as California and Colorado, have experienced problems when oil has seeped into the water supply, that is unlikely to happen in Florida, Garrett said.
"The industry is heavily regulated and inspectors are there day and night when (a well) is drilled," Garrett said.
The future of drilling
While activists continue to fight the 24th Avenue Southeast well, concerns over mineral rights and the impact of horizontal drilling on residents are gaining notice.
Collier County Commissioner Tim Nance, whose district covers much of the area leased to the Dan A. Hughes Company, said it's "hard to know" whether horizontal drilling will expand in the county, but he "wouldn't be surprised a bit."
"It would give all appearances that the newest technology is going to make a lot more of that oil out there recoverable that probably wasn't up to this point," Nance said.
County commissioners last week discussed looking into mapping who owns mineral rights in the county, a potentially arduous task given lax recordkeeping over the decades.
"I do not believe that anybody knows the location and owner of all the mineral rights in Collier County, and it's something we should try to find out," Coyle said.
Mineral rights are often found in a homeowner's title, but the topic routinely gets overlooked in property transactions. The Collier family routinely severed mineral rights, and some home developers have rights that they've retained. Home building giant D.R. Horton, for example, has transferred mineral rights for lots in Fiddler's Creek, Summit Place and Valencia Lakes to its subsidiary, DRH Energy.
In Southwest Florida, "it's the exception to the rule" for a homeowner to have mineral rights, Naples real estate lawyer Jim Pilon said. Retaining mineral rights has only recently become an issue, Pilon said.
"Forty years ago, when I came to this area, there was not wide pressure to pull oil out," Pilon said.
Naples real estate lawyer David Leigh said homeowners shouldn't be too concerned if they don't have mineral rights.
"No one can tear down your house and put up a well," Leigh said.
O'Neill, the Ave Maria homeowner, said mineral rights never came up when he bought his home in March, calling it "a little odd." Nevertheless, the native of oil-rich Louisiana said he's not fretting the future of drilling near his home.
"These oil companies spend millions of dollars to be in compliance," O'Neill said. "I just trust the system to make sure nothing goes wrong."

Indian River Lagoon

What’s next for the St. Lucie River ?
The Palm Beach Post - by Sally Swartz, former member of The Post Editorial Board
October 27, 2013
Martin County’s summer from hell ended last week when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District — the two agencies that jointly manage Lake Okeechobee — finally closed the gates at the St. Lucie Locks.
It marks an end to six months of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee pouring into the St. Lucie River, killing oysters and seagrass, causing blooms of blue-green algae and chasing away residents and tourists from the dangerously toxic waters.
From May 8 until 7 a.m. Monday, fishermen, boaters, swimmers and beach walkers were warned off by health department signs urging them to stay away from the water. The bait and tackle shops, boat, paddle board and kayak rental operations, fishing guides and other ocean- and river-related businesses suffered.
Now begins the healing period, which takes months and each time raises frightening questions. Will the oysters and sea grasses recover? Will all the polluted sludge left by the dumping affect the river ? Are the fish safe to eat ? Have the dolphins suffered further harm ? Will all the tiny organisms that thrive in the estuary’s mix of salt and fresh water return to serve as food for the game fish born in this nursery?
All the answers aren’t clear yet. But this latest devastating onslaught changed things. A new generation of river warriors, gathered by Facebook, organized Save Our Rivers rallies and brought together people who care about rescuing the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
The Guardians, champions of managed growth, emerged as major river advocates and provided news of the ongoing campaign. State Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart)helped raise state legislators’ awareness of river woes here and on Florida’s west coast with a hearing in Stuart. And a twist of fate put Treasure Coast water problems on Washington, D.C.’s radar in new ways that already are paying off.
The government shutdown was the fateful event. Crowds of Martin residents (and TV cameras) drew legislators with empty schedules to Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) panel of state, federal and local people testifying at his hearings before the committee that writes the federal water bill. On Wednesday, Congress approved $1.8 billion for four Everglades restoration projects and allowed a fifth to move forward. The House and Senate still must negotiate final details of the Water Resource Development Act, which authorizes water projects, but Rep. Murphy hails it as a “big win for Florida.”
Martin Commission Chairman Sarah Heard counted 26 Congressmen and women, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)and all Florida’s senators and representatives except Sen. Marco Rubio. Rep Hoyer, who grew up in Florida, later joined Rep. Murphy for an airplane tour of the lake and river areas.
Calling Rep. Murphy “the hardest working Congressman in Washington,” Ms. Heard said lawmakers were familiar with his bottles of dirty green river water. Ms. Pelosi, she said, saw one on his desk “and asked him if he was juicing.”
Federal legislators, the Guardians’ Greg Braun said, for the first time began to see that federal projects, such as straightening the Kissimmee River and management of Lake Okeechobee, cause problems, and the feds have a responsibility to help clean up the mess.
In addition to a Treasure Coast Washington whammy, other things are different this time around.
Even Martin’s Economic Council got involved in the last few weeks, producing videos about the impact of bad water on local business. One shows an outdoor writer who wants to bring a convention of outdoor writers to the area to fish but “can’t in good conscience” invite them when the waters are trashed.
Florida Audubon is backing a push to pay farmers for storing water — not a permanent solution, but every little bit helps.
Martin Commissioner Ed Fielding has organized commissioners from other counties bordering the Indian River Lagoon. This could be a real powerhouse in pushing state lawmakers to do right by the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.
What’s yet unknown is how much of the momentum for solutions continues after the dumping stops
Still, nothing compares to the relief residents feel that those gates are closed. On Wednesday, Martin health officials lifted warnings at the Sandbar, where boaters anchor out in the Indian River Lagoon to party on weekends.
Billions of gallons of polluted freshwater are no longer pounding into the river. The Lost Summer has ended at last, and it’s time to hope Mother Nature can work her healing magic one more time.


Sustainably Speaking: Climate-change disconnect baffles - by Terence Duvall and Molly Gilligan, first-year students at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy
October 26, 2013
Despite the signs of decline in Miami, not enough is being done
We are currently experiencing a slow-motion catastrophe. The dye is cast. We have emitted enough carbon into the atmosphere to guarantee climate change and rising sea levels. Some of our most precious real estate, our commercial capital and destination beaches, are doomed.
And yet, instead of proactively considering possible solutions, from abstaining from new building on fragile coastlines to moving inland, the response of many is to deny that they are or will ever experience the effects of climate change in the city they call home. This is despite the fact that we are already beginning to see the effects of climate change in many coastal cities within the United States and worldwide. Why then, is there still such disconnect between science and societal beliefs? How can this gap be closed?
The role of journalism
There are some who claim that climate change is the result of a political conspiracy. Often these detractors harp on minutiae of broad scientific reports, relying on science’s inability to posit anything with 100 percent confidence. Then they raise an alarm to discredit the clear and compelling arguments for responsible action to climate change. It is up to journalists to investigate the fact of the matter and disseminate a rational view.
Author and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine Jeff Goodell is one of those investigative journalists. He recently joined the Bard Center for Environmental Policy National Climate Seminar to discuss his inspiration for writing the Rolling Stone article, “Goodbye Miami.” Goodell reports that within a century Miami and South Florida’s famous beaches will be inundated by the sea’s rise, but within the next decades, the effects of climate change will eliminate the opportunities of a vibrant society in Miami. We spoke to Goodell about South Florida’s fight to keep itself above water and asked him about his role as a journalist in the climate change discussion.
Goodell, who has had a diverse career in journalism, has recently focused on climate issues. As a writer, Goodell enjoys the challenge of taking the abstract ideas that compose the climate-change debate and using them to create a vivid story that makes hard science explicable to non-scientists.
A forum such as Rolling Stone magazine provides Goodell with the opportunity to reach an audience that might not otherwise be exposed to articles about climate change issues.
Following Superstorm Sandy, Goodell found himself reflecting on New York City’s vulnerability to the effects of global warming. He was not the only one. The impact from Sandy could have been even worse if Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city workers and policy-makers had not been hard at work for close to a decade thinking of solutions to save their city with PlanNYC. Through conversations about New York City, Goodell became intrigued in the future of other cities, specifically the extent to which Miami’s leaders are not facing up to the challenge of adapting to or mitigating the effects of climate change.
Can we save Miami ?
Goodell traveled to South Florida, where climate change is already wreaking economic havoc and logistical nightmares on the city of Miami.
He notes that high tides bubble up from sewers and flood the streets of Miami Beach. Salt water is threatening the remaining fresh water supply in the Biscayne aquifer. The low lying land is no longer considered insurable against hurricanes by major insurance companies, so the state is on the hook for billions of dollars of property in the event of another extreme weather event.
South Florida’s geology precludes some of the adaptation strategies practiced by other endangered cities. It is low above sea level and built on permeable limestone bedrock, which makes it a poor candidate for any structures that can act as a barricade for saltwater intrusion. Engineering of hard structures, such as dikes, or soft structures, including increased vegetative coastal protection, are also challenging because the salt water is coming from the east from the Atlantic Ocean as well as from the west through the Everglades. As the sea levels rise, the water will find its way over, under, or around whatever dikes or sea walls are constructed.
Policy implications
The best available technology is not measuring up to effective and efficient solutions for South Florida, either. Goodell notes that a $6 billion desalination treatment facility would only provide one third of the water needed by the region. Raising buildings off the ground will not protect the wiring and drinking water being ruined by saltwater incursion.
South Florida’s energy production poses a problem, as well, in the face of the rising ocean given the location and design of the Turkey Point nuclear power plant, which is exposed to storm surges and hurricane forces. Although the reactors themselves are elevated in an attempt to withstand hurricanes, some of the essential safety components, such as the emergency diesel generator, were not designed to withstand extreme storm events. With the projected sea-level rise of three feet, Turkey Point will be completely isolated from the mainland within the next century. Even still, Florida is considering building two more nuclear reactors on Turkey Point.
Determining which mitigation or adaptation policies and technologies would be the most effective in South Florida is a challenging feat, but one that needs to be addressed with urgency. In spite of this, politicians have decided to ignore reason and go about business as usual. During the National Climate Seminar, Goodell spoke of the political forces, including the current Republican governor of Florida and the strength of the tea party in South Florida, which are perpetuating a climate-denier standpoint and actively halting the necessary conversations, decisions and progress that could save their state.
Businesses, scientists, engineers, policy-makers and journalists must work together to convince Florida’s elected officials to face the facts: we need new solutions, otherwise it’s time we start saying goodbye to Miami.


Students, concerned
citizens and staff
came together to
discuss the wetlands
at West Florida

Wetlands top topic of West Florida Environmental Symposium - by Antonio Jones
October 26, 2013
Plans to restore natural resources, wetlands of Gulf Coast States were discussed at the West Florida Environmental Symposium at the University of West Florida.
The symposium was held on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the UWF conference center. Students, concerned citizens, staff and others came together to highlight issues and successes that will lead to a better Panhandle environment.
“It started off as a cooperative agreement between the Western Regional Planning Council and the Bay Area Resource Council, and community partners,” said Matthew Schwartz, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at UWF. “In recent years the University of West Florida has been brought in as a partner because of ongoing research coordination that we do with some of these partners and shared expertise.”
Some of the key topics discussed at the symposium were invasive plants, water issues, impacts of different animal species, animal protection and habitat restoration.
“I like these kinds of symposiums that have a wide range of topics instead of just focusing really on one thing,” said Madison Walker, intern for the National Wildlife Federation.  “I think it’s good for everyone to get a more encompassing view of everything.”
The symposium looks at the environment as a whole. It was formed to try to educate the public and make them aware of the local issue
“I was involved today because, as an environmental specialist, I really take an interest in environmental issues, especially ones that are directly related to me and my community,” said James Brough of the Department of Health in Escambia County.  “So, I just wanted to make sure I was well informed on the issues that were being presented.”
Brough said, it is imperative that everyone is up to date about the environmental issues that are happening in the local area, and if people don’t pay attention to them there won’t be a way to fix them.
“The environment is a big part of this area; it’s really what drives our tourism,” said Mike Reistad, of the WFRPC and organizer of the event . “People don’t want to come to a dirty beach, they don’t want to come to a dirty environment, they want something nice, and we really have a good environment for them to start with and we just want to make it better.”
This year’s event brought keynote speaker Laura Bowie, the director of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. The alliance is cooperation between the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Their goal is to use increasing regional association to better the economic health of the Gulf.
Schwartz said she is a coordinator for various research universities on the Gulf, and that the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act or RESTORE Act as been one of the focuses of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.
The RESTORE Act is a bill to restore ecosystems, beaches, wildlife habitats, create jobs, and help the economic health of communities affected by things like oil spills and other purposes.
Reistad said if people would like to get involved they can visit, and find the link to the Bay Area Resource Council.
“They can start attending meetings, and they can get a feel of what is going on in the environment as well as joining in,” Reistad said. “We are always looking for public involvement and just a concerned community.”


Why you should care about Everglades restoration
Huffington Post – by Jane Graham, Plicy Associate, Audubon Florida
October 25, 2013
This week, the U.S House of Representatives passed a bill to move forward several Everglades restoration projects. According to Audubon Florida's Director of Everglades Policy Julie Hill-Gabriel, if the water resources bill becomes law, four Everglades restoration projects will be eligible for federal funding for the first time.
Okay, I get it. The only alligator you like is the one on your Lacoste polo shirt. Your favorite bird is either barbequed or fried. And you utterly despise mosquitos.
Why then, you ask, should you care about Everglades restoration?
Your water. The Everglades is the primary source of drinking water for more than 7 million Americans -- more than a third of Florida's population.
And the economy. The Everglades cornerstone of the regional economy, supporting the state's estimated $67 billion tourism industry, a $13 billion outdoor recreation economy, and $100 billion agriculture sector.
These sound like talking points, you say? Let's take a quick look at the history to understand how and why it matters.
Almost everywhere you go in South Florida used to be part of the Everglades. Miami International Airport? A wetland. South Beach? Mangroves. Weston? Well, take a look at what is just little west of there. When we talk about the "Greater Everglades," it refers to the ecosystem from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes (close to Disney World), all the way south to Florida Bay by the Keys. Not just Everglades National Park in Miami Dade County.
Last century, conveniently after the invention of air conditioning and mosquito control, people started to settle in South Florida. After a few rainier than usual wet seasons and particularly nasty hurricanes in the 1940's, the Florida government asked the federal government for help to drain excess water off the landscape.
On this particular task, the federal government was quite effective. The project, known as the Central and South Florida Flood Control Project, transformed miles of wetlands into a regional water management system with thousands of miles of canals, thousands of levees and berms, dozens of pump stations and hundreds of water control structures and culverts. A gargantuan feat in human engineering.
The new water management system was so efficient that it drained too much water from the region -- water that otherwise would have gradually seeped into our aquifer to recharge public water supply and give life to the region's abundant ecosystems.
The severely altered ecosystem/man-made infrastructure remains today. During rainy periods, water is quickly flushed to tide. Approximately 1.7 billion gallons of water from the Everglades drains to the coasts each day. Conversely, this water is not available for use during dry periods.
This has some serious consequences for the region's ecosystem and economy. This summer, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries were hammered by large releases of water from Lake Okeechobee, leading to widespread devastation of these ecosystems. Prior to human alterations to the ecosystem, this water would have naturally flowed south. Sadly and ironically, in one or two years from now, the same estuaries may need water from Lake Okeechobee to help sustain their ecosystems during the dry season, likely at the same time agriculture and public water supply users will compete for water allocations.
Fortunately, at the turn of the new millennium, a new plan emerged. Encouraged by the unusual coalition of environmentalists, agricultural interests, and public water utilities, the Federal and State Governments embarked on a groundbreaking plan, known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), or just "Everglades restoration" for short. This effort is known as one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world.
The plan sets forth more than 60 different projects to store water, clean water, and flow water through the system. It is projected to take several decades to complete. The plan aims to restore ecosystems, provide flood protection for residents, and ensure clean and abundant water supplies for South Florida's residents.
Thirteen years into the plan, we are slowly trudging along. There are a few Everglades restoration projects that are nearing completion. The Picayune Strand project, which restores wetlands on drained and on Florida's southwest region is nearly complete. This past March, the 1st mile of Tamiami Trail Bridge opened.
Where do we go from here ? Finish projects. Get new ones authorized. And keep an eye toward adaptive management. No one said this was easy. Or cheap. Or that we would get it right all the time. But for our water, for our economy, and for our future, we must keep going.



Melissa MEEKER,
Former Exec. Director, SFWMD

Don’t let drought catch Florida by surprise
Miami Herald – by Melissa Meeker, former executive director of the South Florida Water Management District
October 24, 2013
With recent months bringing large amounts of rainfall to Florida, it can be easy to forget our ever-repeating history of drought conditions. In fact, Florida has consistently faced intense drought year after year. Just two years ago, severe drought forced communities across the state to implement stern water restrictions.
Conditions were so bad in parts of southeast Florida that West Palm Beach was less than two months away from running out of water. At the time, water managers warned that Florida’s cyclical water supply challenges would only get worse if we did not begin to invest in new, drought-proof sources of freshwater.
During droughts, conservation measures call for Florida residents to drastically cut their outside water usage to avoid worsening already precariously dry conditions. But, brown lawns aren’t the only side effect of water scarcity. Businesses and industry, like agriculture, golf courses and landscape services, suffer economic blows due to the limited availability of freshwater, adding job loss to the long list of negative drought effects.
While drought is all too common in Florida, potable water usage in the Sunshine State is not diminishing. The demand for this vital resource is predicted to rise by approximately 1.4 billion gallons in 2030. Conservation will continue to play a critical role, with a need to focus on voluntary and incentive-based initiatives, as well as education and marketing efforts. At the same time, it is also critical to focus on diversifying and developing alternative water sources to drought-proof our economy.
Traditional water supply sources feed our natural systems, including wetlands, springs and rivers. Expanding these sources can be costly — and in certain regions simply not possible due to the capping of withdrawals from certain aquifers. In many areas, traditional alternatives are no longer the easiest or cheapest water supply solutions, making it critical for Florida to take additional steps toward more effective methods of meeting our state’s water needs.
Here’s the good news: Advances in technology have decreased the costs of previously prohibitively expensive alternatives that can augment water supply, including aquifer storage and recovery, reuse, and desalination of brackish or ocean water. These important technologies allow engineers to store and access water sources that were previously unusable.
For example, Florida is a national leader in water reuse with more than 480 provider facilities across the state. Yet, Southeast Florida still lags behind the rest of the populated areas with between just 15 percent and 45 percent of available reuse being utilized. We need to view wastewater as a critical water resource rather than a disposal challenge.
Another method gaining rapid momentum among experts is seawater desalination, a process that would take advantage of the vast amount of seawater that surrounds Florida. This proven technology has been deployed successfully worldwide for many years. Developing coastal desalination projects in Florida could provide a potentially unlimited, high-quality, drought-proof water supply for our future.
Today, both reuse and desalinization are viable options for Florida. The cost of these technologies continues to decrease and, with a vast coastline providing access to seawater, there is no doubt that these are renewable resources.
Although our lawns are currently green and rain is plentiful, it won’t always be. Let’s not sit back and allow drought conditions to continually catch us by surprise.
Just as Florida plans and prepares for hurricanes, so too should we plan and prepare for droughts. We must mobilize with action-oriented preparation that includes aggressive water conservation programs and the exploration and development of new drought-proof water supplies. Let’s learn from other areas around the world and challenge decision makers to expand and develop sustainable technologies to ensure our economy and natural resources are protected for future generations.


Urban (over)-development

2,000 new homes revives western development push
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 24, 2013
The first 2,000 homes in a revived western Palm Beach County development push won approval Thursday, triggering renewed concerns about suburbia swallowing more rural land.
In a case of development déjà vu, the County Commission approved Palm Beach Aggregates' on-again-off-again proposal to build a new neighborhood on 1,200 acres alongside old rock mines west of Royal Palm Beach.
It's the first of several Loxahatchee-area development proposals to resurface after being sidelined by the South Florida housing slump.
That leaves residents in The Acreage and Loxahatchee Groves as well as nearby Royal Palm Beach and Wellington worried about a new influx of traffic, school crowding and even increased flooding threats.
"We have several projects coming at us all at once … coming to take over the area," said Carol Jacobs, vice president of the Indian Trail Improvement District, which oversees roads and drainage in The Acreage. "No one wants this."
In addition to the Palm Beach Aggregates' proposal, the County Commission on Monday will consider changing development rules to potentially allow up to 6,500 homes on the old Callery-Judge Grove property — more than twice as many as currently allowed on the 4,000 acres in Loxahatchee.
Similarly, development interest remains for Indian Trail Groves, near Callery-Judge, and Vavrus Ranch, near Palm Beach Gardens.
Residents in Loxahatchee and other rural pockets of Palm Beach County are worried about development squashing the "rural character" of their communities, County Commissioner Jess Santamaria said.
Santamaria likened the revived deal approved for Highland Dunes to "wheeling and dealing in the backroom" that he contends has too often opened the door to more Palm Beach County development.
"The voices are getting louder and louder," said Santamaria, a developer-turned-politician who opposed the Palm Beach Aggregates proposal. "The people are saying enough is enough. … We have got to listen."
Highland Dunes, on Southern Boulevard about 2-1/2 miles west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, was put on hold back in 2008 after South Florida's building boom went bust. During the economic downturn, Palm Beach Aggregates formally dropped the development plans and went back to agricultural operations.
That saved the landowners about $1 million a year in property taxes, according to the county. It also helped them avoid maintaining a $24 million bond for future development-triggered road improvements.
On Thursday, Highland Dunes planners persuaded the County Commission to approve switching the property from agricultural uses back to a 2,000-home building plan. They will have to pay about $10 million in road improvements; benefiting from a change in development requirements.
Loxahatchee residents say the 2,000 homes are too many for the far-flung property and that it will bring more traffic and flooding concerns to communities that want hold onto horse trails and deer sightings.
The property would be better used as an extension of the stormwater treatment area across the street that cleans up water headed to the Everglades, not as another suburban-style neighborhood, said Bill Louda, a former councilman for nearby Loxahatchee Groves.
"This is greed, not need," Louda said.
Wellington once had visions of annexing the Palm Beach Aggregates property and potentially using it as a springboard to annex and develop thousands of acres of neighboring sugar cane land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee.
To block Wellington from claiming more territory and to keep control of western development, previous Palm Beach County commissioners in 2005 struck a deal with Palm Beach Aggregates to allow up to 2,000 homes on the property as long as it couldn't be annexed.
Aside from the history of development jockeying associated with the proposal, Palm Beach Aggregates has ties to past County Commission scandals.
Palm Beach Aggregates' land deals as well as a reservoir built on the mining land factored into corruption controversies that toppled former county commissioners Tony Masilotti and Warren Newell.
Commissioners on Thursday defended the development deal struck by their predecessors as an important compromise. They approved the building plans 6-1, with Santamaria casting the only "no" vote.
2000 new homes OK'd in Loxahatchee area; thousands more on tap            WPEC
Planners say 7600-home Avenir development is out of character for ...        Palm Beach Post


Citrus growers not the bad guys – Thursday Letter to the Editor by Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president/CEO, Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland
October 24, 2013
Swiftmud treads lightly as growers exceed water limits | Oct. 18
The Florida citrus industry, one of the state's true economic engines, is battling an insidious bacterial disease known as HLB, or citrus greening. The disease has the potential to wipe out our $9 billion industry, its 76,000 jobs and a way of life across Florida's rural interior.
There are a lot of unknowns about growing citrus in the era of HLB, including when and how much irrigation is needed to restore growth and health to the blotchy, wrinkled leaves that are a hallmark of HLB. Studies are underway to figure it out.
So it was disappointing that an article and subsequent editorial in the Times regarding a handful of growers overpumping water painted them as the bad guys. In an era of uncertainty, unintended errors will be made, especially when a grower is trying to save his livelihood. The citrus industry is in crisis, and to compare our situation to homeowners having to install low-flow shower heads is small-minded and inaccurate.
In fact, despite disease challenges, citrus growers in the Southwest Florida Water Management District have reduced their daily water pumping by more than 37 percent over the past decade, according to the district's annual water use reports.
This significant decrease has been achieved through a number initiatives including robust communication between the district and growers, advances in technology such as micro-jet irrigation, and innovative programs that incentivize farmers to use less water.
Growers need quality water to maximize tree growth and yields. They understand the importance of a healthy environment, conservation and efficient production techniques. Unfortunately, this context was not reported in the Times. Jumping to conclusions without giving context does a disservice to your readers.


Floridians hail water-bill impact on Everglades, port
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
October 24, 2013
Eager to move forward on port expansion and Everglades restoration, Florida officials on Thursday hailed U.S. House passage of a major water bill that paves the way for billions of dollars of federal spending on local projects.
 The bill authorizes $1.8 billion to clean up polluted water and send it south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
And it allows Broward County and Port Everglades to be reimbursed for work beginning next year to dredge and widen the port’s channel to accommodate bigger cruise and cargo vessels.
A late change to the bill before its passage on Wednesday “allows Port Everglades to move forward with deepening and widening our harbor, which is critical to sustaining local jobs that are increasingly dependent upon the larger cargo ships that our customers are building to compete in today’s global marketplace,” said Port Director Steven Cernak.
 All these big public-works projects were sold as job creators.
 Port expansion is expected to create 5,862 construction jobs and 1,491 permanent local jobs. And a 2010 economic study projected that all related Everglades restoration projects would generate 442,664 jobs over 50 years.
The bill authorizes federal spending to store and gradually release water that pours off farmland and out of Lake Okeechobee, filtering out pollution before it flows into the Everglades, rather than channel it through estuaries out to sea. Proponents say it will revive polluted areas along the Treasure Coast while bringing clean fresh water to the ‘Glades.
“It's all connected," said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who represents the Treasure Coast. "The more that water can go south, the more it helps us out.”
 He and others who pushed for passage of these measures – notably Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach – were confident the House bill can be quickly reconciled with a similar measure passed by the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Southerland Applauds Water Resources Act     WMBB
Florida Ports Council Applauds US House for Passing WRRDA Bill          Dredging Today


Funding water project bill no drop in bucket by Ledyard King
October 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — Passing a massive water projects bill through a divided Congress with resounding bipartisan support is no easy feat.
Lawmakers accomplished that Wednesday night when the House approved a bill authorizing billions for water projects, such as levees, port improvements and environmental programs, around the nation. The bill now goes to a conference committee that will resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.“For all the talk of how we don’t work together, we don’t get along, we yell scream at each other and nothing ever gets done, this is a great example of Democrats and Republicans working together to pass a great piece of legislation,” said Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers.
  C-43 Reservoir
Next comes the harder part: finding the money.
That will be a challenge because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already has more requests than it can pay for and automatic sequestration spending cuts are set to kick in Jan. 1 for a second straight year.
The legislation includes $297 million for the C-43 Reservoir, a 55-billion-gallon holding area for freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. Those releases are now carried by the Caloosahatchee River into San Carlos Bay where it contributes to the brackish runoff flowing into waters off Sanibel, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach and threatening the region’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.
The money must be matched by state and local sources. The state already has spent about $100 million buying land and designing C-43. The reservoir is one of four Everglades restoration projects in the water bill.
Radel said he’s “very confident” the money for C-43 will be found, given the overwhelming support for the project.

Secretary of Department of Environmental Protection defends state's response to toxic water crisis - by: Alex Sanz
October 24, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection has defended the state's response to the toxic water crisis in the Indian River Lagoon during an interview with WPTV NewsChannel 5.
In an interview before an appearance at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Herschel Vinyard said accusations that the State of Florida had not acted swiftly were unfounded.
"You know what ? The finger pointing, you know, to me is not a productive use of everyone's time," Vinyard said. "The answer is we have an awful lot of people in southeast Florida. It was, at one time, a much larger Everglades -- four million acres. Now, we only have two million acres of Everglades and we're still getting the same amount of rain. That water has to go somewhere but nobody wants the flooding in their homes."  
After months of higher than average rainfall, the water level at Lake Okeechobee reached highs not seen in years.
To prevent a breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released millions of gallons of water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
The discharges were blamed for the bloom of toxic blue-green algae in the Indian River Lagoon and dangerous levels of bacteria near Sandsprit Park, the Stuart Sandbar and other Martin County waterways.
Earlier this year, some Treasure Coast residents accused Governor Rick Scott of ignoring the problem.
"That's absolutely wrong. Obviously, he has been down here several times," Vinyard said. "I should have an apartment down here I've been down in the Martin and St. Lucie counties so much. This is on the forefront of everyone's mind in Tallahassee and that's why we've devoted so many resources to the area."
Vinyard said Scott had committed $90 million to elevate a section of the Tamiami Trail so that water could flow south into Florida Bay.
Vinyard also said the C-44 Canal project, once it is completed, would treat and store large volumes of water near the St. Lucie River.
The water quality in the St. Lucie River was expected to improve in seven to ten days because the Army Corps had suspended the discharges from Lake Okeechobee earlier this week, Vinyard said.
Florida DEP chief defends state's response to crisis in Indian River ...         TCPalm


South Florida groups praise House for the first water resources bill since 2007 – by Kevin Ruane, Sanibel Mayor
October 24, 2013
Government agencies, water quality scientists and environmental groups across South Florida praise the House for passing the first water resources bill since 2007.
"It's what we've been working towards for several years," said Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation policy director Rae Ann Wessel. "This is the next step for getting some projects built in the (Caloosahatchee) watershed to accommodate watershed run-off. The second part of this is to get money appropriated."
The Caloosahatchee Reservoir is designed to hold 170,000 acre feet of water, more than a third of the storage needed to clean up Lee County's ailing estuaries, Wessel said.
Wessel said an acre-foot of water is enough to flood a football field with 12 inches of water. She said while the reservoir is a component of restoring local waterways, it's not the final answer to the altered watershed, which consists of about 700,000 acres of land north and south of the Caloosahatchee River.
The reservoir is designed to capture excess stormwater run-off from the watershed and hold it for use during dry spells.
South Florida Water Management District board members were glad to see the House vote as well.
"We've crossed the authorization threshold but we haven't crossed the funding threshold. There's still an uphill battle there," said district governing board member Mitch Hutchcraft, who represents agriculture interests and Southwest Florida. "It's particularly good news for the Lee coast because it includes the (Caloosahatchee) project, which is going to be a significant benefit to our estuary conditions."
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane said local support -- from resident and visitor letters and emails to politicians to local officials traveling to Washington, D.C. to talk about water conditions -- is being heard on the national level. "Obviously we're extremely excited. There seems to be overwhelming support," Ruane said. "It just took some time to get through the House. When we were in Washington for Congressman Radel's fly-in, we spent time with all the people on the appropriations side and that was our pitch when we went up there. Now the appropriations side are where we need to be focused."
Ruane, who attended state Senate Hearings on water quality this summer as well, said he expects to travel more in the future to secure more support and funding.
"This is a marathon because these are long-term projects. We need to stay focused on this and I can envision another trip to Washington, D.C.," he said. "There's a real correlation between the environment and the economy. They're one in the same, and once people get that we become better stewards.
Eric Eikenberg with the Everglades Foundation, said Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter were crucial in relaying South Florida water quality troubles to decision-makers in Washington, D.C.
"The people in Southwest Florida and businesses along the Caloosahatchee, this is a big thing for them because we finally have authorization to build the Caloosahatchee reservoir," Eikenberg said. "This is a critical part of the Everglades restoration plan."
Related Links
Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013
US House Passes Water Bill With Southwest Florida Projects          The Florida Current


Sweet deal for U.S. sugar growers – by froma Harrop
October 24, 2013
Ever notice how some government programs draw the ire of almost everyone? Conservatives, liberals, environmentalists, libertarians, business, labor, consumers and grouchy taxpayers are all opposed. Yet these programs go on as though directed by an unstoppable particle beam from a neighboring galaxy. The public rarely sees who in Washington keeps the outrage in motion, and that's how “they” get away with it.
The sugar support program is one such curiosity. We will get into the “who” and “how,” but first an explanation of why almost everyone hates it.
Americans pay about three times the world price of sugar because of a complex farm program designed to greatly enrich U.S. sugar growers and processors, in actuality a handful of families. Among other things, it limits imports of far cheaper sugar from impoverished Caribbean countries. It provides taxpayer-backed loans: If prices slip, the borrowers repay their loans with sugar, which taxpayers must sell at a loss or store at their own expense.
In sum, the policy provides a government-guaranteed income to cane sugar producers in Florida and sugar beet growers in Minnesota and Michigan. Who pays? American consumers, for starters. The manipulated price of sugar amounts to a tax estimated at $3 billion a year.
The domestic sugar industry argues that 142,000 jobs would be lost if the sugar program ended. But the Commerce Department reported in 2006 that inflated sugar prices kill three manufacturing jobs for every sugar-growing and -processing job saved. Many U.S. candy-makers have seen no choice but to move factories and their jobs to countries with normal sugar prices. Among the examples:
Atkinson Candy Co., of Lufkin, recently sent most of its peppermint candy production to Guatemala. “It's a damn shame,” company President Eric Atkinson told the Wall Street Journal. He had to move 60 jobs to Central America that should have stayed here.
Jelly Belly Candy Co., based in Fairfield, Calif., has again expanded its factory in Thailand. Sugar makes up half the cost of the product, Jelly Belly President Bob Simpson said. High U.S. sugar costs have forced him to raise his prices several times over the past 10 years.
As Congress debated last spring whether to continue the program, Big Sugar's lobbying force, the American Sugar Alliance, ran an ad in The Washington Post, hotly headlined “Big Candy's Greed.” The candy-makers, the ad charged, were trying “to boost their already bloated profits.”
In Florida, meanwhile, the giant sugar plantations — propped up by taxpayers and abused consumers — dump fertilizer runoff into the Everglades, threatening the state's precious water sources.
Followers of partisan politics will be intrigued to see so-called liberals combining with so-called conservatives to preserve this travesty.
On the Democratic side, Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings both voted for the program. On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Frank Lucas, of Oklahoma and chair of the House Agriculture Committee, also voted in favor. As he backed the government shutdown, Lucas was speechifying for a budget “that reduces spending and eliminates waste and abuse in government programs.”
How the politicians get away with this is simple: The voters aren't paying attention. Only when they do will this absurdity stop.
Not a sweet deal for taxpayers           The Robesonian
US sugar subsidies a sour deal for taxpayers  News & Observer


HR 3080
Passed 417-3

WRRDA - House approves historic water resources infrastructure reforms
October 24, 2013
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly (417 to 3) approved bipartisan water resources reform legislation that cuts federal red tape and bureaucracy, streamlines the infrastructure project delivery process, fosters fiscal responsibility, and strengthens our water transportation networks to promote America's competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth.
H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-NY). 
Through WRRDA, Congress authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out its missions to develop, maintain, and support the Nation's vital port and waterways infrastructure needs, and support effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs.  Historically, Congress has passed such legislation every two years to provide clear direction to the Administration and the Corps, but no bill has been signed into law since 2007. 
"WRRDA is the most policy and reform focused legislation of its kind in the last two decades,"Shuster said.  "This bill contains no earmarks, cuts red tape for improvements that will strengthen our economic competitiveness, streamlines the infrastructure review process, and deauthorizes $12 billion of outdated projects in order to more than fully offset new authorized Corps activities.  Fundamentally, this bill is about jobs.  Not just the jobs in constructing these improvements to our infrastructure, but current and future jobs that will depend on a modern, efficient transportation system that will allow American businesses to compete and prosper in a global marketplace."
"It has been six long years since we have passed water resources legislation," said Rahall.  "The bipartisan bill approved today stops the finger in the dike solutions to our water infrastructure challenges and instead invests in these corridors of commerce which create jobs and support increased economic opportunity."
"As Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, I am proud to see this bipartisan legislation passed," said Chairman Gibbs.  "This legislation will cut red tape and streamline the infrastructure authorization process while promoting fiscal responsibility. It is important that we as a country remain globally competitive and this bill brings our infrastructure into the 21st century.  At a time of economic stagnation, this essential, reform-driven jobs bill helps to move our country forward and gets Americans back to work."
"To run a 21st century economy, we need a 21st century infrastructure, and strategic investments in America's aging harbors and inland waterways will spur job creation and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth," said Bishop. "Passage of this bipartisan jobs legislation in the House of Representatives marks significant progress in our work to build the port and river infrastructure America needs to compete in a global economy."
USA: House Approves Historic Water Resources Infrastructure Reforms    Dredging Today
House Approves Historic Water Resources Infrastructure Reforms ...
House Approves Historic Water Resources Infrastructure Reforms ...          United States House of Representatives

Statement Regarding WRRDA House Passage
American Farm Bureau Federation - by Bob Stallman, President
October 24, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. - "The American Farm Bureau Federation is extremely pleased the House passed H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013. As one of AFBF's priority legislative issues, passage of WRRDA is welcome news for America's farmers and ranchers.
"Having an efficient and reliable inland waterway system linked to competitive ports is vital to America's ability to provide affordable farm products domestically and to compete internationally. More than 60 percent of grain grown by U.S. farmers for export is transported via inland waterways and 95 percent of farm exports and imports move through U.S. harbors. New projects for flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation's aging locks and dams infrastructure authorized under WRRDA are long overdue.
"AFBF now looks forward to conference with the Senate, which passed its version of WRRDA legislation in May, and finally getting a bill to the President to sign."


Bill approval gives boost to Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 23, 2013
Congress authorized $1.8 billion for four Everglades restoration projects late Wednesday and threw a life line to a fifth project in the central Everglades that missed the deadline for inclusion in the funding bill but will still be allowed to move forward.
“It’s a big win for Florida,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who for several months has carried a bottle of green, polluted water from the St. Lucie estuary to convince other lawmakers to approve the Water Resource Development Act, which authorizes projects that enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge ports, renourish beaches and restore ecosystems like the Everglades.
The bill approved on Wednesday authorizes the corps to build projects totaling $8 billion throughout the country. Nearly 20 percent of that went to Everglades restoration, Murphy said. "We got more than our share." Controversy over whether the corps could meet a deadline to include a project to restore the central Everglades dogged environmentalists and water managers throughout the summer.
Without final approval from the corps, the project could not be included in the bill. Hopes for getting the central Everglades project in the bill were dashed when the government shutdown forced the corps and other agencies reviewing the project to furlough workers.
However, an amendment tagged onto the bill on Wednesday allows the South Florida Water Management District to go forward with the central Everglades project even though the corps has not finished its report.
"It's a wonderful amendment," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, which lobbied hard for the central Everglades project. "With these projects we can begin moving water south." In May, the Senate passed its version of the bill. Early next year a conference committee will resolve differences between the House and Senate versions. The House and Senate will then take a final vote and, if passed, the bill will move on to the president for his approval.


Murphy takes bottle of polluted water from St. Lucie River to House floor
October 23, 2013
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy took to the House floor with a bottle of polluted water from the St. Lucie River on Wednesday to illustrate the need for passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).
According to a news release from Murphy's office, the freshman congressman, D-Jupiter, spoke on the state of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
Murphy took the bottle with him "to educate all Members of Congress of the severity of this problem in our local waterways," the release states.
The House is considering the passage of WRRDA today. The bill legislation seen by some environmentalists as essential to Everglades restoration efforts.
Click here to view Murphy's floor speech and full remarks.


New water district director Guillory detects ‘institutional resistance to change’
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 23, 2013
After seven weeks as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, Blake Guillory admits he still has a lot to learn about the agency that he says spends “$760,000 every day — 365 days a year.”
However, one thing Guillory has learned is that the district should not take control over the water-level in Lake Okeechobee — a controversial task now handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since May the corps has dumped billions of gallons of water from the lake into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River, contributing to an environmental crisis that killed oysters, sea grasses and left the water so polluted that health officials warned against touching it.
This story continues on our new premium website for subscribers, Continue reading/get access here »



Sierra Club

Rally message: Don't stop the fight
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer – by Bob Petcher
October 23, 2013
Drier weather has meant a lower flow of regulatory freshwater releases discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, but the damage to Florida coastal habitats and water quality has been done and will continue on an annual basis unless water management practices change.
That was the message from a dozen informative speakers from both Florida coasts at a staged peaceful rally at Crescent Beach Family Park on Saturday. Keep the pressure on.
Many measures and approaches for cleaner water practices need to be looked into further, like Plan 6's flow way to the south.
"Gov. Rick Scott has the power to ensure hard pollution limits are set and to make polluters stop using our streams and rivers as their own personal sewers," said Sierra Club's Cris Costello, the rally's emcee. "Until he does so, our water bodies, drinking water supplies, waterfront economy and public health will be left unprotected and unrestored."
"There is legislation pending to provide some infrastructure that doesn't exist at the moment. We are working on that," said Beach Mayor Alan Mandel. "Tourism is our industry here, but this is actually a national issue. Twenty-two percent of our $3 billion (in tourism dollars brought in; close to $600,000 million per year) is from new dollars coming into our economy. We need to speak to our snowbirds so that they can speak to their state's congressmen. We have to help them get the votes to pass it."
Councilman Dan Andre stated he is missing the view of clean blue-green water and jokingly asked if he now needed a fresh-water fishing license to fish in the area's saltwater estuaries.
Capt. George Howell, a full-time Lee County fishing guide, said a lot of strides have been made in protecting wildlife, but man-made water pollution is affecting our sea life and waters.
"This past winter, we had over 300 manatee fatalities pretty much associated with the red tide outbreak," he said. "The number one thing we can do is protect our waterways. Our waterways affect everything, including land animals and birds that feed off the water."
Capt. Don Voss, the founder and operational director of Florida east coast's Marine Cleanup Initiative Incorporated, believes the people should take over water management from the Army Corps of Engineers.
"Let's get together. One Florida. Two rivers. Unite. Let's take this down," he said.
Lilly Tougas, a seventh grader and clean water activist from the Indian River Lagoon region, has spoken to Congress on the issue.
"We need a fix to the runoff. We need your help, Save our river," she said.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida Natural Resource Director Jennifer Hecker stated more water needs to be stored north of Lake Okeechobee and a wider flow path south of it. She encouraged people to go to and check out ripple effect for various ways to clean up waterways.
"We still see a lack of political will by our state leaders to buy additional lands in the Everglades agricultural area," she said. "This is the worst assault on water policy I have ever seen. We need to spread the word and reach out and help others understand what the problem is and what the solutions are. Let's get this problem fixed."
St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky calls the water quality problem "a human issue." He is not happy with dying seagrass.
"If the seagrass goes, so do the animals and our fishing industry," he said. "Instead of waterfront property, we will have sewage-front property. This is a billion dollar mess. We need to build the dam stronger and make it work. We need a state government to focus on the water quality. Enough is enough."
Realtor and Beach business owner Carol Ellis reported that a customer of her paddleboard business received a full body rash after falling into the bay waters a few times.
"I made a decision that I am not going to take a chance with people's lives," she said. "A lot of my colleagues told me to shut up because I am ruining their businesses saying that this water is not safe. People are getting sick and people are dying. What is it going to take?"
Ellis said an expected, documented algae bloom from the polluted waters is being predicted to be the worst in the history in the state of Florida.
"We cannot become complacent just because the water appears to be a little clearer," she said.
FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera expected to see "5,000 people" at the rally, not such a small showing. He reported negative economic numbers from a survey and cautioned people about a "creeping normality."
"Every property owner, every business person and every seasonal resident that owns property in Southwest Florida needs to pay attention to this issue," he said. "It is about a legacy that we leave to our children and our grandchildren and their children. This has to remain front and center and in people's minds. Everyone needs to become part of this movement."
Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum reflected on the recent rally in Clewiston where 7,000 people showed up to protest, one that Facebook was effectively used as a method to get the word out. He stated that people have been sold out by elected officials and should get out and vote for environmentally conscious politicians at the next election.
"It scared the crap out of our politicians," he said. "They have cut the lakes out from underneath the clean water act. The power that we have is through networking amongst ourselves. We can make a difference."
Co-organizer John Heim justs wants the right information to get out and educate whoever cares on an important issue. He applauded the east coast ralliers for taking the time to drive the width of the state.
"We are to blame if we, as a community, don't face this head on," he said. "If we do nothing we are a part of the problem."



Time running out to comment on draft seagrass management plan at Everglades National Park
Nat.Parks Traveler - by Kurt Repanshek
October 23, 2013
With hopes of reducing damage caused to seagrass beds in Florida Bay, officials at Everglades National Park have crafted a management plan that strives to reduce prop scarring of the beds while also restoring damaged beds.
The preferred approach under the plan is to create "a formal, comprehensive seagrass restoration program for Florida Bay, in conjunction with the proposed establishment of pole and troll zones in shallow areas to aid in reducing prop scarring and vessel groundings." The end goal is to create an adaptive restoration plan "for assessing, restoring, and monitoring vessel-induced damages to seagrasses."
Florida Bay is important habitat for fish nurseries, and it's also used by a range of federally protected species, such as the Bottlenose dolphin, Florida manatee, American crocodile, Green sea turtle, Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, and Smalltooth sawfish, among others.
Now, one of the interesting aspects of creating this plan is that Florida Bay is within the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area. As such, it is to be managed to preserve wilderness character. And, in that spirit, motorized boats could in theory be banned from entering the bay's waters that fall within this wilderness area.
However, when the wilderness legislation was drafted in 1978, it specifically "recognized that motor boat use in some capacity would be part of the uses of Florida Bay and other marine waters given its vast size, traditional uses and related factors when it established only the bay bottom as wilderness," Fred Herling, the park's supervisory park planner, explained in an email. "The legislation left the surface and water column as non-wilderness."
Nevertheless, under the draft plan park officials are aiming to reduce impacts from props by creating "pole and troll" areas in the bay, where boaters are expected to turn off their boat's engines and use poles, paddles, or electric trolling motors to move about. Under the plan, roughly 131,400 acres, or one-third of Florida Bay, would be designated as pole-and-troll areas.
Some areas of the bay also have been closed by Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball to public use: Little Madeira Bay, Joe Bay, waters immediately adjacent to Porjoe, Sandy, Duck, and the Tern Keys (as posted) and the moats and internal creeks associated with the Buchanan Keys.
"I view this plan as providing the park and its many partners with an important tool to better protect Florida Bay. The goal of the plan is to provide a concise and easily applied process for evaluating seagrass damage, determining the appropriate restoration action, implementing restoration projects, and evaluating the success of resource recovery," said Superintendent Kimball in a park release. "With the support of the South Florida National Parks Trust, in particular its Florida Bay Stewardship Fund, we have been able to develop an approach to improve resource conditions and visitor enjoyment of the bay.
"We’re pleased to have reached this important milestone. We now look forward to hearing from the public and working together to meet some of the challenges associated with the numerous boat groundings and propeller-scarred areas in the bay.”
You can review the plan, and comment on it through this Friday, at this website. After the public review period ends, comments will be reviewed and analyzed, and the Final Florida Bay Seagrass Habitat Restoration Management Plan will be issued early next year.


Water use issue will need cooperation
October 23, 2013
Officials in Lake and some surrounding counties are going to have to work together to find an additional 250 million gallons a day of fresh water to meet the next two decades’ projected demand, but it’s unclear what the sources will be, according to one official with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“We have to develop strategies that will not demand increased groundwater,” said Mark Hammond, director of the district’s Resource Management Division.
Tentative information shows that the five-county region, including Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Polk counties, grew in water consumption from 300 million gallons a day in 1960 to 800 million gallons a day in 2010. This consumption is at or near its capacity to tap the aquifer, Hammond said.
Meanwhile, the projected water need is expected to grow to 1.1 billion gallons per day by 2035, Hammond said. This is why the Central Florida Water Initiative was created to come up with long-term water supply solutions.
In addition to representatives from the St. Johns River Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District and Southwest Florida Water Management District, whose boundaries all meet in the Central Florida area, this water initiative will involve local governments, and representatives from industrial, agricultural and environmental interest groups, Hammond said.
There will be discussion of a draft water supply plan at a public meeting from 4-7 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Clermont Community Center, 620 W. Montrose Street, Clermont. The discussion comes before the various water management districts’ governing board meetings later that month.
Swiftmud’s Governing Board will consider a draft plan Dec. 17, Hammond said.


Mecca Farms deal clears way for reservoir
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
October 22, 2013
Going from financially underwater to literally underwater, taxpayer-owned Mecca Farms is set to become a reservoir years after Palm Beach County failed in a $100 million push to transform old citrus groves into a biotech industry hub.
Trying to turn the page on a costly real estate blunder, Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday gave final approval to selling the nearly 2,000-acre property west of Palm Beach Gardens to the South Florida Water Management District for $26 million.
The district plans to use Mecca Farms to store and clean water that will replenish the Loxahatchee River and to free up more water to flow south to the Everglades. The deal also reserves 150 acres of the Mecca Farms property for a planned state-run shooting range next to the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
  Mecca Farms
This comes after Palm Beach County already sank more than $100 million into trying to make Mecca Farms home to The Scripps Research Institute, only to have environmental concerns move Scripps to Florida Atlantic University's Jupiter campus.
"I only wish that [the county] had found this solution five, six or seven years ago," said County Commissioner Jess Santamaria, who wasn't on the Commission when the county bought Mecca Farms for Scripps. "It would have saved us a lot of money, a lot of aggravation."
Environmental groups that for years fought plans for building Scripps' headquarters and spin-off development on rural Mecca Farms endorsed using the land for water storage and restoration efforts.
"It has been a long time coming," said Lisa Interlandi, attorney for the Everglades Law Center, which helped wage the legal challenge that in 2006 kept Scripps off Mecca Farms.
The water management district plans to make Mecca Farms a key cog in the state's revamped Everglades restoration plans.
The overgrown farmland, north of Northlake Boulevard, would be used to build a $133 million water storage and treatment facility that would feed the river — making up for flows blocked by South Florida drainage.
Water held at the planned Mecca Farms reservoir would take the place of water from the district's $217 million reservoir built from rock mines west of Royal Palm Beach.
New Everglades restoration plans are redirecting the existing reservoir's water to the south, so the district needed to create a water storage alternative for the Loxahatchee River.
"This is a great day for the river," District Assistant Executive Director Ernie Barnett said.
Carving out room for a shooting range could also lead to creating a long-planned recreation attraction that remained on-hold for years due to county budget constraints.
The new plan allows the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to acquire the 150 acres and run a shooting range, with the first phases opening to the public as early as 2015.
The proposal calls for building a facility capable of attracting national shooting events. It would include trap and skeet shooting, pistol and rifle ranges along with a pro shop, clubhouse and spectator seating.
The district and the state must still work out a compensation arrangement for the district giving up the 150 acres for the shooting range.
Barnett said the district and state are getting closer to reaching an agreement.
Buying Mecca Farms in 2004 was part of Palm Beach County's effort to lure The Scripps Research Institute in the hopes of attracting biotech businesses and jobs.
The county spent $60 million to buy the land and another $40 million on planning, permitting and initial construction. In addition, the county built a $51 million water pipeline to serve Mecca Farms and spin-off development expected to spread to surrounding agricultural land.
Back when the county was trying to woo Scripps to Mecca Farms, the back-up plan was to sell the property to developers if Scripps went elsewhere.
But after Scripps was moved, the South Florida building boom went bust leaving the county with a lot of land and no good suitors.
That left the county paying about $6 million a year in debt payments and maintenance costs for Mecca Farms. Those costs once included paying about $116,000 a year for a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputy to patrol the far-flung property.
County officials ultimately decided it was better to sell Mecca Farms to the water management district at a loss than to keep holding onto the property.
"It's a great accomplishment … to get this done," County Administrator Robert Weisman said.

Counties search for water solutions - by Tom Palmer
October 21, 2013
BARTOW | Officials in Polk and some surrounding counties are going to have to work together to find an additional 250 million gallons a day of fresh water to meet the next two decades' projected demand, but it's unclear what the sources will be, the County Commission was told Tues­day.
"We have to develop strategies that will not demand increased groundwater," said Mark Hammond, director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District's Resource Management Divi­sion.
Tentative information shows that the region, whose water consumption grew from 300 million gallons a day to 800 million gallons a day between 1960 and 2010, is at or near its capacity to tap the aquifer, he said.
Meanwhile, the projected water need is expected to grow to 1.1 billion gallons per day by 2035, Hammond said.
The work is part of something called the Central Florida Water Initiative, which involves efforts by major water users in Polk, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties to come up with long-term water supply solutions.
In addition to local governments, the effort involves representatives from industrial, agricultural and environmental interest groups.
Hammond said the effort to pursue a more cooperative, regional approach to water-supply planning involves not only five counties, but also three water management districts.
In addition to Swiftmud, the South Florida and St. Johns River water management districts are involved.
The next steps will be discussion of a draft water supply plan at a public meeting Dec. 12 in Clermont and before the various water management districts' governing board meetings later that month.
Swiftmud's Governing Board will consider the draft plan Dec. 17, Hammond said.
The action by the water boards will trigger changes in local government growth plans that will require local officials to detail how they will meet future water needs, including listing specific projects they will pursue to accomplish those goals, he said.
Hammond said part of the efforts involves trying to standardize permitting and evaluation procedures among the three districts to create a more coherent, seamless water regulation system.
Following his presentation, County Commissioner Ed Smith asked what water officials in Central Florida have learned from Southern California, which taps water sources far from urban areas.
"Southern California is a hotbed for lessons," Hammond said, adding that Central Florida officials examined water- supply strategies used around the world in places such as Australia, too.
"They (Southern California) have practically drained the Colorado River," Smith said. "I hope we don't do that to the Kissimmee River or the St. Johns River."
Following the meeting, Hammond said there's still much to be done using technical teams of experts from all of the user groups to come up with ways to boost conserva­tion.
He said the coordination has been challenging.
"It's like a man with three watches trying to tell time," he said, but said they've reached agreement on modeling for groundwater use and for setting minimum flows and levels, which is a state-mandated procedure to preserve flow in rivers and protect other water bodies from overexploita­tion.
Gary Fries, Polk's utilities director, has been involved in the technical discussions.
He said one of the challenges will be figuring out ways to store and retrieve reclaimed water, which now is used primarily for irrigation, but is unneeded during the rainy season.
"This is a move in the right direction, though," he said, explaining that looking regionally is critical.
He said it will be even more critical when future officials confront water supply needs in the next 30 years after 2035


Is agriculture poised for an employment boom? - by Todd Fitchette
October 21, 2013
They say necessity is the mother of invention. If that’s the case then agriculture may be poised for a boom.
The Gainesville Sun reports that as Huanglongbing (HLB) strikes a mortal blow to citrus groves in Florida, some growers are responding by planting olives. The resilience and drive of farmers and ranchers to not give up on agriculture continues to amaze me.
The ramifications of such a move will make California’s fight against the Asian citrus psyllid, the tiny pest that vectors HLB, even more important as Florida citrus acreage declines. That is not my focus, even though I hope to use it to illustrate my point.
Media reports continue to pop up about jobs in agriculture and how the industry may be positioned to do better than other industries for new graduates. One headline suggests people skip the MBA and major in agriculture. Given what farmers and ranchers are up against that may be sage advice.
University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor was quoted in an Idaho newspaper saying that while the number of jobs in agriculture continues to decline, those that remain will demand highly skilled people. Translation: jobs with higher starting salaries and greater opportunities for advancement.
Capital investment in agricultural processing in Idaho continues to add jobs and improve the state’s tax base. California could learn a lesson or two from this, but I digress.
Attend any of a number of agricultural meetings across the country and you quickly get a picture that farming is not merely someone with a shovel in the dirt hoping for rain at the right time. Growers employ professional crop advisors (PCA) and others with scientific schooling to help them manage their crops. Agriculture is highly specialized.
Private companies with highly educated personnel offer goods and services to help growers succeed. Certainly there remains a need for good ag researchers with the nation’s land grant institutions to provide independent analysis of various agronomic practices and products. An agronomist recently told me that many of these private firms are currently seeking more people because of the demand to assist growers and sell products.
At another meeting a woman who contracts with growers along California’s Central Coast to help them comply with water regulations suggests a huge need for people qualified to perform water sampling.
Opportunities continue as growers face various needs related to plant diseases, invasive pests, water availability, regulatory compliance, and a growing need to generate replacements for an aging university researcher and PCA community. Moreover, agriculture will continue to need educated people who can articulate these needs to a society many generations removed from production agriculture.



Lower Aquifer under exploration - by Sara Drumm
October 21, 2013
WINTER HAVEN | It may sound like a problem for the distant future, but officials are hurrying to find a new source of water before 2035.
By that time, it is projected that Central Florida will be pumping about the maximum amount permitted from the Upper Floridan Aquifer.
Even before that — around 2021 — some municipalities, especially along the U.S. 27 corridor, are projected to need more water than they are allowed to draw from the upper aquifer.
Officials with Polk County and the South and Southwest Florida water management districts say they hope to use a supplemental water source about which not much is known: the Lower Floridan Aquifer.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, which covers most of Polk County, is moving forward with a project to test the quality and quantity of water in the lower aquifer, which is separated from the upper aquifer by a thick layer of clay or rocks.
To do that, the district plans to drill three exploratory wells into the Lower Floridan Aquifer. Currently, it is looking into sites in Winter Haven, Haines City and Frostproof.
"We've come to the point where we've really got to come up with some other solutions, some other sources for supply," said George Schlutermann, a senior hydrogeologist for Swiftmud, during a recent presentation to Frostproof's City Council.
"The reality is, these programs take a long time," he said.
The county, in conjunction with the water district, already has drilled one exploratory well as part of its unrelated Southeast Wellfield project.
The project aims to eventually build enough wells to pump 30 million gallons per day and a pipeline to distribute the water around the county.
Gary Fries, utility division director for Polk County, said tests of the first exploratory well, which is south of Lake Weohyakapka near Lake Wales, were promising. It could pump 2 million gallons per day.
And while the water quality is worse than that of the Upper Floridan, the water could be treated by forcing it through a fine membrane.
"It's a lot more expensive than what we typically do. With the Upper Floridan Aquifer, we don't typically have to do any filtering or membrane treatment," Fries said. "But I think it's absolutely necessary long term."
As the population grows, the Central Florida Water Institute has projected that by 2035, 1.1 billion gallons per day will be pumped in Polk, Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties.
Current permits allow that level of pumping — but some areas already are being overpumped and only 800 million gallons per day are pumped now.
If all 1.1 billion gallons were pumped, it could cause "significant damage to the environment," Fries said.
Water conservation efforts are helpful but aren't seen as a long-term solution.
"The cheapest way of extending your water supply is through conservation," Fries said. "But there will be a time when you need additional water."
Fries said he thinks the data from the exploratory well points to the lower aquifer as a viable source of water.
However, the lower aquifer's characteristics vary from area to area, and Swiftmud's Schlutermann said it is too early to know whether it can be useful in other parts of the county.
The water quality and the amount of water that can be pumped each day need to be determined. Officials also need to make sure that taking from the lower aquifer doesn't affect the water in the upper aquifer.
"There really is very sparse information," Schlutermann said. "These locations are going to help us understand what we have."
Swiftmud's proposition to the cities is this: Work together to find a drilling site and Swiftmud will fund the exploratory well.
If tests show it can be a useful source of water, the city will have the option to buy the well. If it is not productive, or if the city does not wish to purchase it, Swiftmud likely will maintain it as a monitoring well.
If the city does purchase the well, it could be used to provide water to the city's customers or the city could sell the well.
Schlutermann said the project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, will take about three years if the exploratory well tests give promising results.
He expects the exploratory phase to take a little more than a year.
If the district then decides to move forward with phase 2, additional monitoring wells and a production well from which water could be pumped will be built.
In the meantime, Swiftmud is working with municipalities in East Polk to find three spread-out drilling sites. A potential site in Winter Haven already has been chosen.
Kim Hansell, utilities services director for Winter Haven, said she is excited about the project, but the city and the district still have to work out more details, such as a lease for the site, before making anything official.
If Winter Haven, Frostproof or Haines City officials decide they don't want a drilling site, the district will seek other locations.
Schlutermann said drilling is expected to begin next summer.
The Southeast Wellfield project is moving forward, as well.
The county is waiting to get a permit from the South Florida water district. If the permit is granted, there will be several more steps of preparation before construction of the wells would begin about 2019.
Fries said the project is estimated to cost $320 million, quite a bit more than the $4 million per well site that Swiftmud has budgeted, because the pipeline to transport the water around the county will be extensive and expen­sive.
Swiftmud has said it would help fund the county's project because it will extend into Swiftmud's territory. The district still is pursuing its own project because staff members have said they don't think the Southeast Wellfield would produce enough water to meet the increased demand of the future.
Both projects are fueled by the same worry, though.
"Without something like this, the water supply in Polk County could be in jeopardy," Fries said. "We all plan to grow, and we all plan to need more water."


South Florida switches from flooding fears to drought doubts
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 21, 2013
Go to sleep facing flooding threats. Wake up to drought risks and wildfire warnings.
Welcome to another change of the seasons for South Florida's feast-or-famine water supply.
In an almost comical about-face, on the same day last week that officials announced the tapering off of the flood-control-prompted draining of swollen Lake Okeechobee, talk turned to the risk of potential droughts to come. That was followed by the Florida Forest Service warning residents to start preparing for a potential increase in wildfires by sweeping out gutters and keeping vegetation 30 feet from homes.
All of this coming as South Florida's rainier-than-usual summer-to-fall rainy season gave way to a dry season projected to be even drier than usual.
"It's just amazing how quickly things dry out once that rain ceases," said Scott Tedford, Park Services Specialist and wildfire expert at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. "Before you know it, things are bone dry."
South Florida's periodic switch from too much, to too little water is the lingering consequence of draining the Everglades to make way for farming and development.
Canals, pumps and levees are great at flushing away potential floodwaters from once soggy land, but not so good at holding onto water for future needs.
"Until we change the water management system, this is our life," Paul Grey, an Audubon Florida scientist who monitors Lake Okeechobee, which serves as South Florida's backup water supply.
This year, even with a so-far-quiet hurricane season, South Florida's rainy season delivered an average of 39.03 inches of rain, 6.42 inches above normal for the region stretching from Orlando to the Keys.
That boosted Lake Okeechobee's water levels to points that raised concerns about straining the more than 70-year-old, troubled dike that protects lakeside towns and South Florida farms from flooding.
To protect the dike, the Army Corps of Engineers has dumped nearly 500 billion gallons of lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and out to sea.
While that draining is good for protecting the dike, the deluge of lake water had damaging environmental effects on coastal waterways — killing fishing grounds and making water in some areas unsafe for swimming.
As Lake Okeechobee water levels dropped closer to normal ranges, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday stopped dumping lake water into the hard-hit St. Lucie River and greatly reduced discharges into the Caloosahatchee River.
"It has really devastated the [marine] habitat," Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, said about coastal pollution from lake discharges. "People are still wondering, 'Is it OK to go out in the boat?'"
The Lake Okeechobee draining also wasted water that could otherwise have been used in future droughts to boost South Florida water supplies.
The water district projects that there should be enough water in Lake Okeechobee to meet water supply needs through the dry season, but the weather doesn't always cooperate with forecasts and projections.
"If the wet season doesn't start on time, we will all be screaming for water at the end of May," said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Sugar cane growers use lake water for irrigation.
Water managers contend that water supplies from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and to community drinking-water wellfields remain in good shape.
They are counting on South Florida's summertime rainfall boost and conservation from ongoing, year-round landscape watering limits to help regional water supplies hold up until the next replenishing rainy season starts.
"Above-average wet season rainfall provided South Florida with some insurance going into the driest months of the year," said Susan Sylvester, chief of water control operations for the South Florida Water Management District. "We remain mindful, however, that a sustained period of below-average dry season rainfall can have a significant impact on water levels."
State officials contend that the federal government needs to speed up the decades-long rehab of Lake Okeechobee's dike so that more water can be help in the lake for future water supply needs, and to avoid the damaging discharges.
Yet it will take more than a beefed-up Lake Okeechobee dike to resolve South Florida's on-again-off-again water supply woes.
Environmental advocates contend that the long-term solution is jumpstarting stalled Everglades restoration efforts that call for storing more stormwater, cleaning it up and redirecting the water south instead of out to sea.
The latest effort involves trying to win congressional support for a proposed $1.8 billion Central Everglades restoration plan that could divert at least 20 percent of lake discharges by moving more water south to the Everglades, where it naturally once flowed.
Beyond that, environmental groups advocate acquiring more South Florida sugar cane land to create a route for more lake water to flow south.
"Until we have more places to store water, we are going to have this," Grey said. "These are long-term problems."


Tampa Bay Water votes to settle reservoir suit, pay engineers $21 million in legal fees
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
October 21, 2013
After losing both at trial and on appeal, Tampa Bay Water's board voted 8-0 Monday to end its pursuit of damages from the engineering company that designed its flawed 15.5 billion gallon reservoir.
Instead, the utility will pay HDR Engineering's legal fees and costs, totaling about $21 million.
"These fees will be paid through funds on hand and they will not directly affect water rates," Tampa Bay Water spokeswoman Michelle Biddle said in a statement emailed to the Times.
HDR, a Nebraska firm, designed the C.W. Bill Young Reservoir and oversaw its construction in rural Hillsborough County. The reservoir — the largest in Florida — opened in June 2005 as a place to store water skimmed from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bypass Canal.
Within months, though, cracks developed in the earthen embankment surrounding the reservoir. The utility is now spending about $122 million to fix the problem.
In 2008, Tampa Bay Water sued HDR and two contractors who had worked on building the reservoir, saying they should pay for repairs. The two contractors settled the utility's claims for $6.75 million, leaving only HDR as the defendant.
Tampa Bay Water initially demanded $225 million from HDR. In 2011 HDR offered $30 million to settle the suit, but Tampa Bay Water officials rejected that as too little.
So in April 2012 the case went to trial in Tampa federal court. By then Tampa Bay Water had reduced its damage claim to $73 million.
After listening to testimony for a month, the jury took just four hours to find for HDR. The quick verdict marked another public relations setback for Tampa Bay Water, which has seen two of its boldest water supply projects — the reservoir and the Apollo Beach desalination plant — evolve into the source of repeated headaches.
U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore ruled that HDR deserved $9.2 million in attorneys' fees and $10.8 million in expenses for defending itself against the lawsuit. Whittemore called the fees "extraordinary" but explained in his 38-page ruling, "This was no ordinary engineering malpractice case."
In fact, he noted in his ruling, some testimony suggested it might be "the largest engineering professional liability case, in terms of damages sought, ever tried to a jury."
The utility appealed. But last month three judges with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a 33-page ruling rejecting the utility's arguments that the trial judge had committed a series of errors that should be overturned.


oil spill

Gulf ecosystem in crisis after BP spill
October 20, 2013
Three years after well blowout, declining seafood catches and deformities point to an environment in distress.
New Orleans, US - Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP's 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It's disturbing what we're seeing," Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. "We don't have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We're seeing things we've never seen before."
Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.
"We're seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can't find any production out there yet. There is no life out there."
According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are "dead or mostly dead". "I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don't have the production to run the rest. We're nowhere near back to whole, and I can't tell you when or if it'll come back."
State of Louisiana statistics confirm that overall seafood catch numbers since the spill have declined.
'Everything is down'
Robin is not the only member of the Gulf's seafood industry to report bleak news. Kathy Birren and her husband own Hernando Beach Seafood, a wholesale seafood business, in Florida.
"I've seen a lot of change since the spill," Birren told Al Jazeera. "Our stone crab harvest has dropped off and not come back; the numbers are way lower. Typically you'll see some good crabbing somewhere along the west coast of Florida, but this last year we've had problems everywhere."
Birren said the problems are not just with the crabs. "We've also had our grouper fishing down since the spill," she added. "We've seen fish with tar balls in their stomachs from as far down as the Florida Keys. We had a grouper with tar balls in its stomach last month. Overall, everything is down."
According to Birren, many fishermen in her area are giving up. "People are dropping out of the fishing business, and selling out cheap because they have to. I'm in west-central Florida, but fishermen all the way down to Key West are struggling to make it. I look at my son's future, as he's just getting into the business, and we're worried."
Dean Blanchard, owner of a seafood business in Grand Isle, Louisiana, is also deeply troubled by what he is seeing. "We have big tar mats coming up on Elmers Island, Fouchon, Grand Isle, and Grand Terre," Blanchard told Al Jazeera. "Every time we have bad weather we get fresh tar balls and mats."
Blanchard said his business generates only about 15 percent of what it did before the spill. "It looks like it's getting worse," he said. "I told my wife when she goes to the mall she can only spend 15 percent what she used to spend."
Blanchard has also seen shrimp brought in with deformities, and has taken photographs of shrimp with tumours (see above). Others lack eyes. He attributes the deformities to BP's use of toxic dispersants to sink the spilled oil.
"Everybody living down here watched them spray their dispersants day in and day out. They sprayed our bays and our beaches," he said. "We got a problem, because BP says they didn't spray down here, but we had a priest that even saw them spraying. So either we got a lying priest, or BP is lying."
BP and the Coast Guard have told the media they have never sprayed dispersants within 10 miles of the coast, and that dispersants have never been used in bays.
A decades-long recovery
On a more sombre note, Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer and a marine biologist, believes it will likely take the Gulf decades to recover from the BP disaster.
"The impacts of the Ixtoc 1 blowout in the Bay of Campeche in 1979 are still being felt," said Cake, referring to a large oil spill near the Mexican coast, "and there are bays there where the oysters have still not returned. My prediction is we will be dealing with the impacts of this spill for several decades to come and it will outlive me."
According to Cake, blue crab and shrimp catches have fallen in Mississippi and Alabama since the spill, and he also expressed worries about ongoing dolphin die-offs. But his primary concern is the slow recovery of the region's oyster population.
"Mississippi recently opened their season, and their oyster fisherman are restricted to 12 sacks of oysters a day. But they can't even reach six," Cake said. "Thirty sacks would be a normal day for oysters - that was the previous limit - but that is restricted now because the stocks just aren't there."
Cake's conclusion is grim. "Here in the estuarine areas, where we have the oysters, I think it'll be a decade or two before we see any recovery."
BP previously provided Al Jazeera with a statement on this topic, a portion of which read: "Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident."
BP claims that fish lesions are naturally common, and that before the spill there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.
More oil found
The second phase of the ongoing federal trial against BP investigates whether the company's actions to halt the flow of oil during the blowout were adequate, and aims to determine how much oil was released.
"BP is mounting an aggressive legal and public relations campaign to shield itself from liability and minimise the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf, as well as the ongoing impacts from the disaster," said Jonathan Henderson, an organiser for the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental group.
Even Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal agrees. Jindal recently said, "Three and a half years later, BP is spending more money - I want you to hear this - they are spending more money on television commercials than they have on actually restoring the natural resources they impacted."
As far away from the blowout site as Florida, researchers continue to find oil in both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay.
In Louisiana, according to the LA Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), more than 200 miles of shoreline have "some degree of oiling", including 14 miles that are moderately or heavily oiled. From March through August of this year, over three million pounds of oiled material have been collected in Louisiana, more than double the amount over the same time period last year. 
In addition, the CPRA reports that "investigations into the chemical composition of MC252 [BP's Macondo well] oil samples demonstrate that submerged oil is NOT substantially weathered or depleted of most PAH's [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons]," and "disputes…findings relied on by the USCG [US Coast Guard] that Deepwater Horizon oil is non-toxic".
The agency also expresses concerns that "submerged oil may continue to pose long term risk to nearshore ecosystems".
"New impacts to the Gulf's ecosystem and creatures also continue to emerge," Henderson told Al Jazeera. "This year alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service has recorded 212 dolphins and other marine mammal standings in the northern Gulf. A new scientific study conducted by NOAA, BP and university researchers also shows significant negative impacts on tiny organisms that live on the sea floor in a 57 square mile area around the Deepwater Horizon well site."
Numerous other impacts have been documented since the disaster began, including genetic disruptions for Gulf killifish, harm to deepwater corals,, and the die-off of tiny foraminifera that are an important part of the Gulf's food chain.
Ongoing studies continue to reveal toxins from BP's spill in water, soil, and seafood samples.
Meanwhile, fishermen in BP's impact zone wonder if things will ever return to normal. "Our future is very, very dim, and there are no sponge crabs out there, which is the future," Robin concluded. "I've never seen this in my lifespan. I'm not seeing a future, because everything out there is dead."


Miami Herald story on city’s worsening coastal flooding never mentions global warming or sea level rise – by Joe Romm
October 20, 2013
It seems nobody talks about climate change, but everybody wants to do something about it. Consider this head-in-the-wet-sand piece from the Miami Herald, “Rain or no rain, beachfront streets flood due to ‘spring tide’.”
You probably think it would be impossible for an entire news article on worsening street flooding in Miami to omit any mention whatsoever of global warming or even sea level rise. Think again.
“It gets super flooded from the tide every couple of months,” said [Moses] Schwartz who lived on the island for more than 20 years before moving to the Brickell area on the mainland. “It’s getting worse and worse as the years go by.”
Hmm. Why is it getting worse? The Miami Herald offers no explanation. This is all it has to say about the cause of the flooding:
The current levels of high tide are caused by an astronomical event known as “spring tide,” according to Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
See, nothing to worry about. It’s just high tides. Except the article runs with this quote from Schwartz:
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Miami Beach in 10 to 20 years,” he said.
Why? Why? Why? Why will it be interesting to see? Why does he think it’s going to get worse? Why did the reporter include that quote? No explanation is given.
Indeed, while the article fails to mention climate change or sea level rise, it does quote one “Nanette Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the city,” explaining that Miami is studying how to deal with this apparently inexplicable plague of street flooding.
Rodriguez said the city is thinking of short-term fixes to deal with the issue.
“We’re looking at improving our sea walls and raising some of them,” she said.
In search of a long-term solution, a delegation recently returned from the Netherlands, Rodriguez said, and the city will determine which of that country’s strategies to hold back high tides can be used here.
“Some of their ideas we can do, others we can’t as we are in different geographic areas,” Rodriguez said.
That last quote from Rodriguez is quite the euphemism given the reality of the region’s topology and geology. As the must-read June Rolling Stone piece, “Goodbye, Miami,” explains:
Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.
But, undaunted, Rodriguez and the Miami Herald end with this reassuring line:
Rodriguez said the tide should be back to normal by early next week.
For a dose of reality, let’s end instead with the Rolling Stone piece:
But the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”
… “If you live in South Florida and you’re not building a boat, you’re not facing reality.”


urban development

Prosperity the next 50 years
Miami Herald - Editorial
October 20, 2013
OUR OPINION: South Florida, the sixth largest region in the nation, has a chance to get it right
What will South Florida look like in 2060 ?
That’s the question that the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils are trying to answer in a joint project called Seven50 Southeast Florida Prosperity Plan.
The ambitious plan draft is now in a public comment phase open to the region’s residents’ views and ideas. The councils’ executive board met in Broward County last Friday, and your input is welcome.
(Check out the plan at )
The goal of the project is to come up with a regionally cooperative vision for the future that will affect residents and businesses in seven counties: Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River and Martin. Well, that’s half the goal; the other is to make the vision a reality in the next 50 years.
What began as mostly a swampy frontier in 1900 has grown into the sixth-largest metro area in the United States. Stretched along 295 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the region has never really stopped growing in population. Currently, 267 new residents arrive here daily, more than one-third of them foreign born.
How we developed tells a lot about the reason why this region needs a cooperative long-term vision and the leaders who can carry it forward.
Unlike many metropolitan areas, South Florida’s development didn’t spring from a single central city. We’re not bound, as a people, by a single urban identity like, say, New Yorkers or Chicagoans. We’re from all over the map originally, which means less inclination toward cohesion on any issue.
The region is also very linear with no central hub. Growth expanded from east to west, often haphazardly. There was little interconnection or interplay between one community and another, and very little cooperation between counties, much less the cities within them.
Only in the last 20 or so years have there been growing efforts to think and act like one, cohesive metropolitan area, especially on transportation issues like Tri-Rail and a regional plan to operate another commuter train along the FEC tracks that link coastal cities.
But the big question is: Because the region’s growth potential is very much limited east-west — by the Atlantic and the Everglades — how much more do we want to expand and how will that expansion occur?
With expansion — hopefully better planned and coordinated in the future — come increasing transportation challenges (I-95 can only be widened so much, after all), preserving the water supply and building and sustaining a strong region-wide economy.
And in South Florida there are also two unique challenges: protecting and restoring the Everglades (our water supply) and dealing with sea level rise as the climate continues to warm.
There are a lot of competing interests that block cohesion and continuity. Cities and counties still vy for companies to relocate within the region. While the leaders in coastal communities have begun to deal with the threat of a rising sea level as a dedicated group, there is seemingly little or no similar concern at the state level, or even among our congressional delegation. The Everglades restoration plan is inching forward, but lawsuits among various stakeholders still threaten to keep slowing things down.
Intrigued? Challenged? Curious?
Become part of the South Florida community that gets involved. It’s your future and that of your children — make it a better one.


Navy seeks better red tide forecasts from space
Florida Today
October 19, 2013
As the Navy hunts for red tide from the International Space Station, beachgoers may soon get improved early warnings of the harmful algae and other blooms that discolor the water and can cause respiratory problems.
“Our goal is to develop a system that can detect blooms early enough to assist with the planning preparation for remedial measures to reduce economic damage, health risk, etc.,” Ruhul Amin, the principal investigator at the Naval Research Laboratory, said via email.
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space recently announced a partnership with the Naval Research Laboratory to study what contributes to red tide and other harmful algae blooms.
CASIS — a Brevard nonprofit organization formed to maximize the use of the orbiting outpost’s national laboratory — awarded $250,000 to the Naval Research Lab, to expand Amin’s research.
The technology Amin is developing is specifically for the Hyperspectral Imager of the Coastal Ocean (HICO) sensor mounted on the space station.
The lab plans to use the advanced imaging technology on the station to develop early detection of red tide and other harmful algae blooms, possibly even those affecting the Indian River Lagoon.
“Our goal is to develop a general technology that is capable of detecting various algal blooms including brown tides from any (past, current or future) HICO imagery including imagery over Indian River Lagoon,” Amin said.
Coupled with field observations, scientists use satellite sensors, such as HICO on the station and MODIS on the NASA Aqua satellite, to distinguish different algae species based on the different wavelengths of light they absorb and reflect.
Amin said they will quantify algae blooms in terms of chlorophyll. But that’s doesn’t reveal toxicity. “It is very difficult to identify toxic blooms from space,” he said. So the lab has developed a classification technique for red tide and hopes to do the same with other species.
The HICO sensor can reveal substances other than algae as well.
“We used it during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to identify some of the oil,” said Mitchell A. Roffer, president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc., based in West Melbourne.
HICO verified that what Roffer observed with other, lower resolution satellites, was oil, he said.
Early detection of red tide and other harmful algae blooms is important for protecting public health, wild and farmed fish and shellfish, and endangered species such as marine mammals, Amin said.
Users of the information could include government agencies such as the Navy, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as private industries such as the tourism, fishing and healthcare industries and the general public such as beachgoers, he said.
The technology also can be used to track phytoplankton, Amin added, which play a major role in the global carbon cycle and ocean carbon fixation.
“Through its research, we believe the Naval Research Laboratory will effectively utilize HICO, which is a terrific platform capable of stimulating groundbreaking earth observational investigations that will benefit humankind on Earth” CASIS chief operating officer Duane Ratliff said in a release.
CASIS, which receives about $15 million a year from NASA, evaluates unsolicited proposals for scientific and economic merit and potential impact.


Protestors on FMB rally against water releases
October 19, 2013
FORT MYERS BEACH, FL - The numbers are in.
Saturday night we learn just how much the water releases from Lake Okeechobee are hurting the economy.
At least 100 people stormed the shoreline of Fort Myers Beach Saturday - in hopes of keeping Southwest Florida's dirty water in the spotlight.
"My gosh, how long is it going to take to realize they're losing their resource," said Chuck Richardson of Fort Myers Beach.
It has been going on for five months. The fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee have been polluting the way of life on Fort Myers Beach.
But the ralliers say they have only just touched the surface when it comes to raising awareness about the water woes.
"I have a passion for clean water and I think its absolutely essential that we address it and we address it now," said Richardson.
New numbers from the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce show hotels along the beach reported 60 percent of customers checked out early or canceled all together.
The study was conducted in a three week window during August to see how the dirty water was impacting business.
"Its not good. It's not good. But it's something again that there is a fix to. It's going to take everybody working together," said Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Bud Nocera.
Residents admit the water has gotten clearer since the Army Corp of Engineers began lowering the releases from Lake Okeechobee.
However, the problem is far from disappearing.
"We really need to become educated on the problem ourselves and not just leave it out of sight out of mind and try to do something," said Charter Captain George Howell.
This time around Floridians say they are taking responsibility for what is washing up on their shores.
"You know we need to hold ourselves accountable as much as the politicians because we are the ones voting for them. The louder we speak the more our voices will be heard," said Howell.
With November elections right around the corner this group says they will keep screaming until politicians see things a little clearer.


algal bloom

Algae outbreaks continue in St. Johns River - by Steve Patterson
October 18, 2013
New tests by a state agency show continued accumulation of algae toxins in parts of Northeast Florida’s St. Johns River, triggering new calls to avoid algae-stained water.
“It shows that these algae blooms are consistently toxic. … It shows people need to pay attention and stay away from the green slime,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, who alerted reporters Friday to findings of a lab hired by the St. Johns River Water Management District.
A sample taken Oct. 10 from algae scum in Doctors Lake in Clay County had a concentration of toxins 200 times higher than the level the World Health Organization, the health arm of the United Nations, considers safe for recreational use of water.
A follow-up test Monday showed toxin levels 50 times above the UN standard.
Rinaman said she’s trying to spread the word before a sunny, warm weekend when people could go boating, swimming or fishing in water that has excessive amounts of algae. Exposure to algae blooms can cause skin and eye irritation, nausea, diarrhea and other effects.
Worry about the algae prompted a marina manager to tell visitors to steer clear of contaminated water.
“Usually, it’s not like this this time of year, but it seems to have reached a critical stage,” said Wendy Wood, who has managed Doctors Lake Marina for 17 years.
Wood posted notices about the algae by the marina’s fuel pumps and a vendor renting jet skis and inner tubes there canceled reservations for the weekend to avoid chances of someone being sickened from contact.
“We want to make sure that all bases are covered,” Wood said.
Public health officials in Jacksonville had also warned people earlier in the week to avoid contact with algae or eating fish caught in or near blooms. A statement released by spokesman Charles Griggs said people should “refrain from recreational water uses that could result in ingestion of and/or skin exposure” and that children shouldn’t be allowed to play along shorelines where they could find clumps of algae.
The findings surfaced the same day Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard visited wastewater treatment plants in Duval and Clay counties and talked with local administrators about steps they’re taking to lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which fuel algae growth.
“These facilities have made major strides towards improvement,” Vinyard said, but said there are still steps needed to restore the river’s health.
Communities in both counties signed agreements with the state in 2008 to hit river-cleanup targets by 2015, with other improvements due by 2023. From Mayport to around Black Creek in Clay County, about 1.75 million pounds of nitrogen is estimated by the state to have been removed from the river yearly, or 74 percent of the reduction pledged by 2015.
But Rinaman said her group has always questioned whether the state had made its river standards tough enough.
“It’s not proactive,” she said of the standard. “Nothing is triggered until the damage is already done. It’s so much more expensive and problematic to remove pollution after it’s gotten into the river.” The Riverkeeper organization had been part of an unsuccessful legal challenge to state standards before Rinaman took the head job.
A water management district spokeswoman, Teresa Monson, said agency staff will be collecting routine water samples on the river next week and can net material if they find a large bloom.


Amendment could provide billions for conservation
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
October 18, 2013
TALLAHASSEE – It's a battle over Florida green: the state's unspoiled landscapes, threatened species, springs, rivers -- and a mammoth amount of tax dollars.
And it's being called both the salvation of the state's recession-battered conservation efforts and a threat to housing and rental programs for low- and moderate-income residents – because it would earmark money from the tax that now funds these other programs.
Environmentalists from Audubon of Florida, the Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club, Wildlife Federation and other groups have mustered nearly enough signatures to place a question on the November 2014 ballot that would steer billions of tax dollars to conservation programs, including springs protection and the Everglades.
Fed up with state budget cuts during the Great Recession, the groups have raised $1.3 million over the last year, and enlisted more than 340 organizations to help push the constitutional amendment.
The organization overseeing the drive, Florida's Water and Land Legacy Inc., says it has amassed more than 500,000 of the 683,149 valid voter signatures needed to make the ballot and hopes to collect the rest by the end of November.
"We're just trying to get the money for water quality and water resources and land that has historically been spent," said Audubon executive director Eric Draper. During Jeb Bush's final year in office in 2006, environmental programs got $800 million, he said.
But opponents say the amendment – if it gets the 60 percent of the vote required for passage – would undercut other programs funded by the same tax source. And even supporters worry that lawmakers could re-direct dollars raised by the amendment to pay for existing programs, resulting on little or no extra spending on conservation.
The "Water and Land Conservation" amendment would devote 33 percent of revenues collected from documentary-stamp taxes on real estate transactions – a tax that generated $1.7 billion this year -- to a range of conservation efforts. State economists estimate it would raise $648 million in 2015, nearly $8 billion in its first decade and, by 2034, $1.27 billion a year.
That money would be earmarked for two decades, starting in 2015, to "acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands," including the Everglades, along with protecting Florida's rivers, lakes and streams.
That could provide the tens of millions of dollars needed to finish off long-planned projects like the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway – preserving black bear habitat from north Orange County to the Ocala National Forest – or the Adams Ranch prairie land preservation project in Osceola.
"We believe we're … devoting very close to what we've received historically," said Will Abberger, a lobbyist for The Trust for Public Land and chairman of the signature-gathering group.
The money would be deposited in a state land acquisition trust fund that is already supposed to get a 7.5-percent cut of the doc-stamp taxes. That fund has paid for the state's Florida Forever land-buying program, which spent $300 million a year until its authorization ran out a few years ago.
This year, Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers devoted just $25 million to land-buying, and told the Department of Environmental Protection it could buy more only if it sold off $50 million in other state-owned properties. Some lawmakers say Florida can't afford to manage the lands it has already purchased.
Doc-stamp dollars also fund more than a dozen other environmental and affordable housing trust funds. Supporters of the housing program, fearful they would get short-changed, have labeled the amendment a "greedy" money grab that might steer dollars away from housing programs.
"This amendment is going to grab a hugely, hugely higher amount of money than they currently get," said Mark Hendrickson, an affordable housing lobbyist. "We told them this last year. It's not like they made a math error and no one told them."
Housing advocates got nothing out of their trust fund this year. Instead, the Legislature allocated some $275 million to rental assistance and housing down payments, homeless-housing programs and other programs, using dollars from the $334 million lump-sum payment Florida received as part of last year's national foreclosure settlement with the five largest mortgage servicers.
The panel of economists required to review the financial impact of the amendment concluded lawmakers may similarly repurpose money if the amendment passes, using the earmarked revenue to fund environmental programs now paid for out of other funds.
They identified $563 million in this year's budget that could fall under the amendment's definition of "environmental spending."
"They may find that operating the sewage system at the Capitol is an environmental program," Hendrickson said.
Green groups giving big to put conservation question on the ballot  Orlando Sentinel (blog)


citrus fungus

Citrus growers overpumping water from aquifer but not penalized by Swiftmud – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
October 18, 2013
Over the past year, more than two dozen citrus growers, including some in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, have repeatedly pumped thousands of gallons more water out of the aquifer than their state permits allow. One Brandon-based grower supposedly limited to 200,000 gallons a day pumped out 1.6 million gallons in one day.
But the Southwest Florida Water Management District has taken no steps to punish any of the owners of the 28 groves.
The reason: The growers contend that pumping all that extra water has been necessary to fight a disease that has been sweeping the state's orange groves, a plague called citrus greening.
 "It's a little hard to penalize somebody for doing what they think is right," said Robert Beltran, executive director of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud. "The farmers are out there doing what they can to protect their investment."
When asked why the growers need so many thousands of gallons of water to fight greening, Beltran said he was unsure, explaining, "I'm no expert."
Citrus scientists contacted by the Times said they'd never heard of combating greening with lots of water. Meanwhile, officials with the South Florida Water Management District and the St. Johns River Water Management District say they have seen no similar surge in irrigation among growers with infected trees.
Growers on Swiftmud's overpumping list say they need more water because greening — believed to be caused by bacteria that's spread by an insect known as the Asian citrus psyllid — shrivels up their trees' roots.
"We have to keep the water on the trees on a regular basis because the root system can't take in as much water," said Dennis Carlton, a Hillsborough grower whose grove is on Swiftmud's list.
By increasing the irrigation, they can continue collecting fruit a while longer. Knowing what the trees need is just a matter of experience, the growers said.
"When you see your leaves curling up, you know you've got to give it some water," said Ellis Hunt Jr. of Hunt Brothers, the Polk County cooperative that produces the Florida's Natural brand of orange juice. "But nobody is running their pumps more than is necessary. . . . Nobody is going to burn $4 a gallon diesel fuel if they don't have to."
Hunt Brothers' groves show up on the overpumping list more than any other growers. Some exceeded their permit just a little —- pumping 412,000 gallons one day in February, rather than the 411,000 permitted. But one day last year, at a Polk grove, Hunt Brothers pumped more than 282,000 gallons when it was permitted to use about 116,000.
Hunt said that when he talked to Swiftmud officials about the violations of the permits, he told them the agency should issue new permits allowing the growers to pump even more water.
"We're fighting for survival and we plan to win," Hunt said. "I don't think Swiftmud wants to be responsible for the demise of the citrus industry by not giving us the water we need."
But the lead author of the University of Florida's guide for growers on dealing with citrus greening, Ron Brlansky, was surprised to learn any growers have been pouring so much extra water on their infected trees.
"That's the first time I've ever heard of that," said Brlansky, a plant pathologist with a Ph. D.
The guide he helped to write instead recommends spraying infected trees with insecticide and then cutting them down before the disease spreads.
And the citrus extension agent for Polk and Hillsborough counties, Chris Oswalt, said trees showing the symptoms of greening shouldn't necessarily need more or less water.
Overpumping from the aquifer can bring expensive penalties. In 2009, Swiftmud threatened to hit Tampa Bay Water with a $1 million fine for overpumping during a drought. In 2005, the Englewood Water District near Sarasota faced fines of more than $400,000 for overpumping.
But rather than sue or fine the growers, Swiftmud has been working with them to find other ways to conserve water, Beltran said. He said in some cases the agency is "working with them on their permits" to see if the limit can be changed.
He said so far there has been no sign of their repeated overpumping causing damage to the aquifer. However, during an 11-day cold snap in 2010, farmers in Hillsborough and Polk counties pumped nearly 1 billion gallons of water a day out of the aquifer, making the water level drop 60 feet and creating about 100 sinkholes.
Florida produces more than 70 percent of the United States' supply of citrus and is second only to Brazil in global production. More than 500,000 acres of citrus groves, mostly in the southern two-thirds of the state's peninsula, are covered by more than 74 million citrus trees.
A University of Florida study last year concluded that citrus greening had cost Florida's economy at least $4.5 billion and 8,000 jobs since 2006. This year, the Legislature authorized $9.5 million for research into greening's causes and potential cures, and this week Gov. Rick Scott pledged his support for saving the industry from this latest scourge.
Swiftmud has launched a three-year study on greening to ensure permitting decisions are based on science, Beltran said. Hunt said when he was told about this, "I said fine, you can do all the studying you want. But I don't need some $200,000 study to tell me when I need to water my trees."
What is citrus greening and is it treatable ?
Citrus greening is believed to be caused by bacteria that is spread by an insect known as the Asian citrus psyllid. It shrivels up their trees' roots, so the roots don't absorb water as well, and the trees begin dying. A University of Florida guide recommends spraying infected trees with insecticide and cutting them down before the disease spreads.
Some citrus growers overpumping water from aquifer 


Deadline extended for comments on Everglades restoration project
Associated Press
October 18, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Federal officials are extending the deadline for submitting comments on an Everglades restoration project with an imminent deadline.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that comments for the Central Everglades Planning Project will be accepted through Nov. 1.
The original deadline had been Tuesday, but the corps suspended work on the project during the 16-day partial government shutdown. Along with public comments, the project requires input from multiple federal agencies that had furloughed their workers, too.
Corps officials say additional time is needed to review that input and make a final report on the project. It's still unclear whether the project will meet its year-end deadline for inclusion in a funding bill. If it doesn't, it could wait up to seven years for congressional authorization.
Everglades Planning Project: Deadline extended for comments        WPTV


Dry weather drying up Lake Okeechobee dumping
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 18, 2013
This year's environmentally-damaging dumping of Lake Okeechobee water into the hard-hit St. Lucie River and out to sea is coming to an end, at least temporarily, officials announced Friday.
South Florida flood-control concerns have prompted the draining of hundreds of billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water east into the St. Lucie River and west into the Caloosahatchee River since May.
Draining the swollen lake during a rainier-than-usual summer helped ease the strain on the troubled dike that protects lakeside towns and South Florida farmland from flooding.
But the lake dumping is devastating for coastal communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, where the polluting deluge is killing fishing grounds and fueling toxic algae blooms that can make waterways unsafe for human contact.
The damaging water quality consequences of the Lake Okeechobee discharges have even reached south to Palm Beach County's Lake Worth Lagoon, though to a much lesser degree than in the St. Lucie.
With the lake level receding to near-normal ranges and meteorologists this week declaring an end to Florida's rainy season, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday plans to stop dumping lake water into the St. Lucie River. Discharges into the Caloosahatchee River are to be greatly reduced.
"It's good news. … The sooner the better," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. "Jobs and the economy have really been hit hard, along with the environment."
While federal and state water managers are hoping that the lake levels remain in check, if waters start rising again the high-volume discharges could resume.
Even though the summertime cycle of near-daily rain showers has come to an end, hurricane season lingers through the end of November.
Lake Okeechobee on Friday was 15.57 feet above sea level, near the 12.5-to-15.5-foot range that the Army Corps tries to maintain.
"Drier weather is now starting to take hold in the area," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, the Army Corps' deputy commander for South Florida. "Our focus is now shifting toward retaining water in the lake to ensure a viable supply for the approaching dry season, while still monitoring for heavy rain events that might force future adjustments in flows."
Water once naturally overlapped Lake Okeechobee's southern shore and flowed south in shallow sheets that replenished the Everglades.
But then the draining for farming and development got in the way, redirecting the lake's flows into canals that dumped the water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and toward the coast.
Now Lake Okeechobee's 70-year-old, earthen dike is considered one of the nation's most at risk of failing. The 143-mile long structure remains in the midst of a decades-long rehab project aimed at making it less susceptible to erosion, which can lead to a breach.
Draining the lake lessens the pressure on the dike, but it wastes water that could be needed in dry months ahead to irrigate farmland and boost South Florida drinking water supplies.
The more immediate consequences of dumping lake water are the harmful environmental impacts to estuaries, which also hurts fishing, boating and other tourist-attracting activities that are so vital to coastal communities' economies.
The huge influx of lake water throws off the mix of salt and fresh water in the estuaries and brings an influx of sediment and pollutants that cloud the water.
"It has been a very, very difficult summer for us," said Leon Abood, a real estate agent in Stuart who also heads the Rivers Coalition, which advocates an end to the damaging discharges.
Public outrage over the coastal pollution drew renewed attention to Everglades restoration proposals aimed at getting more lake water flowing south, instead of dumped out to sea.
A proposed $1.8 billion Central Everglades plan could divert at least 20 percent of lake discharges by moving more water south, but it would take decades to construct and still requires congressional approval.
Coastal advocates are also trying to revive efforts to buy more South Florida sugar cane land and use it to send greater quantities of lake water south, where it once naturally flowed.
Without getting a long-term solution, the Lake Okeechobee water dumping is expected to resume the next time rainy weather boosts water levels.



Little being done to clean water entering Lake Okeechobee - by Eric Kopp, Okeechobee News
October 18
OKEECHOBEE — Some experts agree that, for all their rhetoric, the state is actually doing very little to help clean the water entering Lake Okeechobee.
By ignoring the Northern Everglades, which extends from the upper one-fourth of Lake Okeechobee to Orlando, these experts are claiming state agencies are doing little to help the Southern Everglades other than to spend more of the taxpayer’s money.
“I don’t think there is a policy any more in the state of Florida. I think everything is being controlled by special interests and no environmental goal is being pursued,” said Monica Reimer, an environmental attorney with Earthjustice in Tallahassee.
Mrs. Reimer has participated in a number of federal and state trials, including her win in a local trial that kept Lykes Brothers from fencing off Fisheating Creek and barring public access to the waterway.
Lake Okeechobee was battered by hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, and it is now being attacked by people on both coasts of the state who claim water being released from the lake to the estuaries is “polluted” and is causing “toxic algae blooms.”
While Mrs. Reimer and noted limnologist Dr. Dan Canfield agree the lake plays a part in those algae blooms, there is a bigger factor to consider: little is being done to clean the water flowing into the north end of the lake.
It should be noted at this point that questions were sent to South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) officials but they chose not to respond. Questions were sent to both Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director/Everglades and water resources, and Tommy Strowd, assistant executive director/operations, maintenance and construction.
Dr. Canfield said in a telephone interview from his office at the University of Florida that the nutrient-rich waters of Lake Okeechobee aren’t causing algae blooms along the east coast of the state. When asked if those blooms are the result of polluted lake water, Dr. Canfield was quick to reply “no.”
“Pollution is a human definition, and it’s a false use of the word,” he said. “It’s the fresh water that’s causing the problem. The water is not high enough in salinity.”
But, Mrs. Reimer argued that the high phosphorus content of the lake water is a factor.
“You have to have the nutrients — they are a critical piece of having an algae bloom. The more nitrogen and phosphorus, the more likely you are to have an algae bloom,” she said.
Lowering nutrient levels
While the SFWMD continues to tout the effectiveness of dispersed storage areas, where rain water is held on privately-owned property for a period of time then released, neither Dr. Canfield nor Mrs. Reimer are big proponents of these areas.
“I think it’s a lot of expense for an untested nothing,” said Mrs. Reimer, adding that all these areas really do is “give farmers a lot of money.”
Dr. Canfield said he thought these areas are fine — when there’s a lot of rain.
“The district (SFWMD) pays a lot of money to keep water up north and as long as the rain is not too bad, or too little, it looks OK. But it does very little, in my mind,” he said.
Water managers pay area farmers up to $150 per acre to use their property for dispersed storage. The problem with this idea is these areas only work when it rains, but the landowner is paid whether they are storing water on their land or not. When there is no water on the land, livestock is allowed to live and graze on it.
As for load reduction facilities, Dr. Canfield feels these area are excellent for removing nitrogen from the water but they don’t do that much for reducing phosphorus. He said while the plants take up the phosphorus from the water, it’s only for a short period of time.
“The plants die back, regurgitate and put it (phosphorus) back into the water,” he said.
What is to be done ?
A 2005 letter from Ruth Clements, the former head of the SFWMD real estate division, to Keith Fountain of the Nature Conservancy discusses the need for a 16,000-acre Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) in northeastern Glades County that would extend from the Harney Pond Canal to the Kissimmee River.
This basin, she continues, “... has the largest phosphorus load reduction target in the watershed (60 metric tons must be captured in the STA).”
Dr. Canfield pointed out that high phosphorus levels in the Harney Pond are due to phosphate deposits.
“When they dug canals, they put all that stuff up and it leaches back into the water,” he explained.
Ms. Clements further states in that letter: “Preliminary plans indicate that total phosphorus concentrations would be reduced from roughly 300 to 400 parts per billion, to 30 to 40 parts per billion in transit through the STA.”
But instead of following through with this plan to construct a STA, the district chose to lease over 4,700 acres of this property, formerly known as the PomCor property, to a local cattle concern. That lease was recently renewed for another 15 years.
According to figures released by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in their Lake Okeechobee Basin Management Plan (BMAP), the total phosphorus load in the Indian Prairie area is the highest around the lake. DEP’s figures show those total phosphorus loads from 2001 until 2013 to be 97 metric tons. The next highest area is Taylor Creek/Nubbin Slough at 92 metric tons. (Editor’s Note: Please see the accompanying chart for more.)
Land surplusing
But instead of taking the suggestions of Ms. Clements to heart, water managers are, instead, planning to surplus some of their land north of the lake then sell it.
“If the surplus parcels in question are isolated and not contiguous, then I can understand selling (them) off in order to procure land actually in the public interest,” said Florida State Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Dist. 21), whose district includes some of the property to be surplused. “That said, I would challenge SFWMD to keep and use funds derived from surplus sales in the Northern basin, to accomplish long-standing goals like water storage and treatment before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.”
She went on to point out that the state has come a long way with best management practices (BMPs) and important funding initiatives since 2000.
“Not to mention, the two meaningful pieces of legislation that put a spotlight on Lake Okeechobee. But, we need to challenge the mind-set that Lake Okeechobee is either a water storage unit for South Florida or a big holding pond,” she stated in an e-mail response to questions from this newspaper. “Lake Okeechobee is a critical natural resource and vital to the economic livelihood of many.”
State Representative for this area, Dr. Cary Pigman (R-Dist.55), said he is looking for science-based and data-driven solutions, and those solutions must respect all ecosystems and the concerns of all the people.
“These solutions will require many interventions including agriculture and urban BMPs, re-establishing normal Everglades headwaters flow patterns, aquifer storage and recovery and dispersed water management practices,” he continued. “These efforts placed north of Lake Okeechobee along (the) Kissimmee River, Taylor Creek and Fisheating Creek will benefit the lake and all flows southward. While the lake may be more phosphorus sensitive and the estuaries may be more nitrogen sensitive, all areas need assistance and all efforts will help achieve an improved and ample water supply to southern Florida.”
He also pointed out that projects along the C44 and C43 waterways will improve the Indian River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries, respectively.
When asked about BMPs, Mrs. Reimer said trend analysis has shown that nothing was really happening, in regard to lower phosphorus levels before that water reaches Lake Okeechobee.
“In fact, in some places it was getting worse. That tells me the BMP process isn’t going to be a solution in the Northern Everglades,” she said.
She went on to say the increasing population in Orlando, septic tanks and the use of fertilizer on improved pastures are three of the big problems north of the lake. And, in her mind, the district’s plan to surplus and sell land is wrong.
“If you bought it, there apparently was a reason why you bought it,” she said.
What’s the answer ?
Dr. Canfield said while the district has established daily phosphorus loads for areas around Lake Okeechobee, those numbers aren’t realistic.
“Now they have x-amount of time to reach that, but it’s so long that you and I will be dead. They’ll never reach it.
They just put numbers out to placate everyone,” he said. “There’s no easy answer. But, if you’ll follow the money you’ll get the answer.”
Which, says Mrs. Reimer, leads one right back to the SFWMD and big agriculture.
She said although it may be a “pie in the sky” idea, agriculture needs to be regulated. But, she added, that’s a story no one wants to talk about today.
“We need to get the ag community on board where, if stuff is coming off your property then you’re responsible for it,” she said. “We need to get to that point as a country as a whole, not just in Florida.”
She went on to say large farming concerns have come to rely on funds from the federal government, and they know how to get those funds really well.
“They’re all coming up with schemes to get money from the federal government. And, they certainly know how to play the South Florida Water Management District,” Mrs. Reimer added.
To her, when water management districts were first created they had local people appointed to the board and that’s when they got more things accomplished.
“We need to change the entire makeup of the SFWMD. It makes perfect sense to have local people appointed to the board. It doesn’t make sense when you have major land owners (on the board) who can benefit from the policies of the district,” she said. “We have kind of strange ethics in the state of Florida.”


Miami's flooded future - by Alex Chadwick
October 18, 2013
Today, there are about the highest tides of the year in South Florida.
And in a low lying area like that, a really high tide is more of a problem that you might otherwise think. The 3.59 foot high tide this morning at 8:30 a.m. caused flooding in many areas.
It's a warning, as well, of what to expect as sea levels keep rising.
In Ft. Lauderdale, the water came over a low sea wall and onto Mola Street, where Judy Mudge has lived for 20 years. "An hour ago it was almost to the door here," Mudge says, "almost to the back door."
She doubts it's because of climate change since her street always floods seasonally, but gauges show the ocean around here has gained about nine inches in the last hundred years, and many experts think it's accelerating.
South Florida is low, flat, already wet and bound to get wetter. A European study finds Miami is the single most ocean threatened city in the world. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says sea level here could go up seven-inches by 2030.
At the intersection of 10th and Alton in Miami Beach, a mix of sea water and sewage is almost knee-deep. Underground pipelines meant to drain storm water to the ocean are carrying the ocean here.
Charmain Howell was on a bicycle, the water up to her wheel hubs. She moved away from here, she says, but is back visiting -- and happened to run into what's called a king tide.
"'I was just trying to go to Walgreen's," Howell says. "I'm thinking, 'forget about it, it's not worth it.' It's like ridiculous. This is the worst I've seen it. It's been bad, but this is the worst, for sure."
Regional planning groups have ideas for adapting to high levels of sea here, but sea level projections for 40 and 50 years out are so serious -- two feet higher, maybe more -- adaptation may not work.
For people that want to be able to get to the drug store and in places in South Florida, that may not be possible.
High tides expected to cause flooding again in S. Fla.          7Online WSVN-TV


Sportfishers gather in SWFL: Water quality a major concern
October 18, 2013
LEE COUNTY, FL - More than 130 members of the American Sportfishing Association gathered at the Sanibel Harbor Resort to discuss the future of the sport. One of the major topics of discussion, the quality of water on the east and west coast of the state after numerous releases of fresh water from Lake Okechobee. Fresh water forces prize salt water fish out of estuaries and into deeper waters. In worse case senarios, it can cause fish kills and algae blooms."Sport fishing is a 7 billion dollar a year industry in the state of Florida", said ASA member and conservationist Jim Martin. The convention wraps up on Friday and members vow to lobby politicians to make Florida's water quality and the fresh water releases a top priority.


Third petition filed against exploratory oil drilling permit in Golden Gate
October 18, 2013
A third community activist group Friday filed a petition opposing an oil drilling permit awarded to a Texas company to drill near the Golden Gate community.
The group Stone Crab Alliance, formerly called Preserve Our Paradise, seeks to take the issue before a judge in a state administrative hearing. The group’s petition includes the names of 18 residents, plus State Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Democrat whose district includes part of Collier County, and Aaron McKinney, Bullard’s legislative assistant.
Bullard has supported residents in their fight against the permit, awarded Sept. 20 by the state Department of Environmental Protection to the Dan. A. Hughes Company of Beeville, Texas. The permit allows for drilling within 1,000 feet of some homes in the Golden Gate subdivision of Naples.
Two previous petitions were filed by a splitoff community group that retained the name Preserve Our Paradise, and Matthew Schwartz, head of the South Florida Wildlands Association, based on Florida's east coast.
The petitions seek to have the drilling permit modified or overturned. The deadline to file is Monday, and the state DEP has 14 days to review them.
The groups have numerous concerns, including noise, traffic, safety, health, possible contamination of the water aquifers that supply fresh water and possible harm to the endangered Florida panther as well as other endangered wildlife. They also consider an evacuation plan to deal with a possible hydrogen sulfide leak inadequate.
Related Links:
Oil drilling critics seek state hearing to stop Collier County wells
Challenge looming against drilling permits in Collier County
Golden Gate residents file for formal hearing on oil drilling
Golden Gate Estates officials answer citizens' concerns about drilling
Drilling approved near Golden Gate Estates, opponents fuming
View the petition for a state administrative hearing filed Friday by the Stone Crab Alliance


Water rules should apply to everyone – Editorial by Carolyn Van Houten, The Times
October 18, 2013 6:10pm
While state regulators impose watering restrictions on the rest of us, and ask residents to install low-flow shower heads, citrus growers in Hillsborough and Pasco counties are repeatedly allowed to pump more water from the ground than their state permits allow.
While state regulators impose watering restrictions on the rest of us, and ask residents to install low-flow shower heads, citrus growers in Hillsborough and Pasco counties are repeatedly allowed to pump more water from the ground than their state permits allow. This water is a public resource, which is why the Southwest Florida Water Management District issues permits in the first place. Agriculture is vital to Florida, but the agency has an obligation to enforce its rules and to responsibly manage this natural resource.
The Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman reported Friday that more than two dozen growers had exceeding their permits this year, saying the overpumping was necessary to fight a tree root disease called citrus greening. Grower Dennis Carlton said the extra water is needed because the disease causes the tree roots to shrivel up, restricting their intake of water. Another grower, Ellis Hunt Jr., said even more pumping was needed, adding: "I don't think Swiftmud wants to be responsible for the demise of the citrus industry."
If anything, Swiftmud is being too lenient. The agency has not punished a single grower. And its executive director is apologizing for the industry. "It's a little hard to penalize somebody for doing what they think is right," Robert Beltran said. By that standard, anything goes. And Beltran's insistence that "the farmers are out there doing what they can to protect their investment" shows a lack of balance and priorities. The public that employs him has an investment, too, in the health of the aquifer. Swiftmud's job is to balance the needs of all users when it comes to a public natural resource. It's clearly failed when growers are pumping up to eight times their daily allowable limits.
Swiftmud has launched a three-year study of greening, which will be helpful given that several experts told the Times that watering isn't necessarily the best treatment for trees that are plagued by greening. The agency also said Friday it will not wait for those studies to address the growers' overuse of water; Swiftmud will examine why the growers exceeded their permits and explore ways to bring them into compliance.
That's a good start by the agency. The state needs to have a constructive relationship with one of Florida's most important industries. But that cannot come at the price of mismanaging natural resources. With the dry season around the corner, it is essential that Swiftmud move quickly to address the growers' use of water. The public has an economic stake in the ecology, too, just as Swiftmud has a stake in appearing evenhanded.



DEP issues modest request for land buying, seeks to sell nonconservation land
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 17, 2013
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is requesting $20 million in new revenue for conservation land-buying, an amount questioned by some environmentalists as the state moves into a budget surplus year.
The 2014-15 legislative budget request filed this week also includes $75 million for Everglades restoration and related cleanup projects.
In addition to the $20 million in new revenue for the Florida Forever land-buying program, DEP is seeking to spend $20 million from the sale of nonconservation land, a department spokesman said.
The Florida Forever program, which received $300 million from 1990 to 2008, always is a legislative priority for environmental groups. But the program since 2008 has received less than 5 percent of its historic annual funding.
Environmentalists say they are hoping for more in the governor's 2014-15 state budget request, which is expected in January.
"Assuming the $40 million is for projects on the Florida Forever list and they are able to generate $20 million from nonconservation sales, it's a start," said Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy and strategies for The Nature Conservancy's state chapter.
In the current state budget, DEP has $20 million in new revenue and authority to sell $50 million of conservation land to buy new lands -- but it appears the department won't get close to selling that amount. An initial list of more than 5,331 acres in August has been trimmed to 3,409 acres. And some opponents of the land sales questioned why nonconservation lands, such as parcels not needed for prisons and highways, were not sold first.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said the Florida Forever Coalition will request $100 million in new funding for the authorized priorities of the Florida Forever program.
"We will look very carefully at what DEP recommends," he said. "We hope the governor will go well beyond the DEP recommendation."
The $75 million request for Everglades restoration and water quality projects includes transferring $18 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
"DEP is using trust fund money that is by statute intended for other purposes rather than growing the environmental budget," Bowman said.
DEP also is requesting $15 million for springs protection, an increase of $5 million over what the Legislature provided in this year's budget. With many springs becoming choked with algae, some senators on a committee recently said they want to provide more money for springs.
In addition, DEP is requesting $125 million for petroleum contamination site cleanups and $25 million for beach sand restoration projects. Those requests all closely track funding in the 2013-14 state budget.
The department also is requesting $48 million in spending authority for money from the federal RESTORE Act used to distribute fines from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to four other Gulf states and Florida's counties.
Related Research: Department of Environmental Protection's Legislative Budget Request
* Exhibit D-3A: Expenditures by Issue and Appropriation Category  
* Schedule I: Trust Funds Available and Schedule IB (if applicable)- Department Level  
* Schedule I: Department Level - Related Document  
* Schedule VIIIB-2: Priority Listing of Agency Budget Issues for Possible Reduction for Legislative Budget Request Year
* Schedule VIIIC: Priority Listing of Agency Budget Issues for Possible Reprioritization  
* Manual Exhibits, Schedules and Supporting Documents 
DEP to review sale of public lands in Jacksonville    Florida Times-Union (blog)


Everglades National Park reopens with end of federal shutdown
Miami Herald – by Susan Cocking
October 17, 2013
Everglades National Park reopened to visitors Thursday following a 2 1/2-week closure stemming from the federal government shutdown.
Entrance stations and visitor centers at Homestead, Shark Valley and Everglades City are now open.
Boaters may launch their crafts at the marina at Flamingo where boat tours and rentals also are available. Bike rentals and tram tours are being conducted at Shark Valley, and airboat tours are now open along Tamiami Trail. Ranger-led tours are expected to resume on Friday.
The re-opening means 238 furloughed park employees are back at work, and so are fishing guides who escort anglers to Florida Bay under concession permits with the park. The guides staged a protest demonstration against the shutdown last week near the park border in the Upper Keys.
“The fishing guides have returned. The park is open. We are back in business. Please come out and visit,” said Dan Kimball, superintendent of both Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks.
Dry Tortugas, a chain of small islands located about 70 miles west of Key West, also opened Thursday. The visitor center and campground at Garden Key are operating, along with seaplane service from Key West. However, park officials said the commercial ferry will not resume service to the islands until Monday.
Biscayne National Park, which had been open to fishing during the closure but nothing else, announced it has re-opened the Dante Fascell Visitor Center and museum. However, Elliott Key Harbor and the campground remain closed. Boat tours and rentals are unavailable because the park’s sole concessioner ceased operations before the government shutdown on Oct. 1.
The resumption of government services Thursday also brought good news for South Florida hikers and hunters. The Big Cypress National Preserve re-opened, allowing hikers to walk into the remote back country and set up camp and hunters to resume muzzle-loading season, which was interrupted by the closure.
Everglades National Park Reopens After Shutdown NBC 6 South Florida
Everglades National Park Back Open to Public         Florida Sportsman Magazine
Shutdown ends: National parks and museums re-open          KTIV
Government shutdown ends   WJLA


Another invasive hits the Keys – by Kevin Wadlow
October 16, 2013
The uninvited visitor to her Key Largo yard showed little concern over being discovered, said Lauren Norman.
"He was only a couple feet away and he just looked at me," Norman recounted.
The trespasser -- a carnivorous reptile called a tegu lizard -- joins the list of unwelcome invasive species confirmed to be at large in the Florida Keys.
Tegus have become a concern not only in South Florida but in the Tampa area, with sightings as far north as the Panhandle.
One species of the lizard, native to South America, carries the ominous name of giant Argentine tegu.
A popular pet among reptile fanciers, biologists suspect the black-and-white tegu seen on Key Largo's Ocean Shores Drive, off mile marker 99, may have escaped from a local collector.
Tegu colonies have been established in southern Miami-Dade County and portions of the Everglades, but last Thursday's encounter with the reptile may be the first in the Florida Keys.
"I had no idea what kind of lizard it was," Norman said. "It looked like a really dark, really large iguana."
Norman went upstairs to get a camera and returned to find the 2-foot creature "still sitting there," she said. As she approached for a photo, the tegu wandered away but left "moving very slowly."
Norman called her husband, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer, for advice. "He said don't let the puppy go outside."
Tegus, unlike the vegetarian iguana, will dine on small animals in addition to plants. They also will eat unattended pet food left outside.
"They eat anything from insects to rodents and eggs, so they are a threat to our native species," FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson said. "They don't belong here. Our native wildlife is not equipped to deal with them."
Matt Palazzolo of Key Largo stopped his car when he spotted the "nasty looking" tegu on Ocean Shores Drive.
When Palazzolo went for a photo, the reptile "kind of raised up a little bit." "It bummed me out," Palazzolo said. "I love the Keys and I hate to see this stuff crawling in here. I hope they catch it."
Tegus are active during the daylight hours. As weather cools in late October, they often dig themselves underground for a three-month period of dormancy, called a "brumation."
Tegus can endure winter temperatures far colder than usually seen in the Keys.
Wildlife experts caution against trying to grab a tegu.
"While a tegu is not likely to be innately aggressive, it will defend itself if aggravated or threatened," says a state report. "Tegus have sharp teeth, strong jaws, and sharp claws which they will use to defend themselves."
Tegus are easier to catch in traps than invasive pythons, Segelson noted.
Sightings can be reported over the phone to the FWC exotic-species hotline, (888) 483-4681 or online at



, Miami Lawyer
and Audubon Board

Everglades restoration requires public pressure
Miami Herald – by Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a Miami lawyer and Audubon Florida board member
October 16, 2013
Since the start of the Indian River Lagoon crisis this summer, there have been a variety of calls to action. Thousands of people raised their voices at protests, in the media, and to elected leaders to protect the ecosystems we love and depend on for Florida’s economy. The fever pitch of emotion from river advocates swelled to the halls of Congress and the state Capitol.
Bravo to the public for making our politicians take notice. And believe it or not, they have taken notice.
Let’s take a breath to take stock of what has been accomplished since the crisis started. And more importantly, take a step back to understand what remains to be done.
Since this summer, the public’s voices have led to:
• Increased funding for Everglades restoration projects.
This summer, the State of Florida committed $40 million to a restoration project that will help clean water from the St. Lucie Basin, known as the C-44 project. In addition, the state committed $90 million over three years to help raise Tamiami Trail to flow water south into Everglades National Park.
• Short term operational fixes to flow water south.
The South Florida Water Management District came up with some innovative ways to flow extra quantities of water south to the Everglades. Are the quantities of water huge? No. But every bit helps.
• Progress on the Herbert Hoover Dike Repair.
Slow as it may seem, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing progress on repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike, the levee that protects citizens from flooding in the cities south of Lake Okeechobee. Just a few weeks ago, new contracts were awarded to companies to help repair culverts around the lake.
• Elevating the crisis to the national and statewide stage.
Last week, 40 rivers advocates went to Washington D.C. to attend a bipartisan congressional hearing on the Indian River Lagoon crisis. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a scientist roundtable on solutions. And state Sen. Joe Negron held a marathon select committee meeting, aiming to come up with a set of recommendations by November.
But we are nowhere near the finish line. So where do we go from here?
• Clean up the water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries.
The continued pollution of the water north of Lake Okeechobee and in the estuaries is the 800,000 pound gorilla in the room. Actually, more. Annually, more than 4,000 metric tons of phosphorus enters the Okeechobee watershed — that is over 880,000 pounds, mostly from agricultural and urban sources from fertilizer, animal feed, stormwater and wastewater north of Lake Okeechobee. The state must crack down to make sure that the use of farm and lawn fertilizer does not harm water throughout the northern Everglades and estuaries. There are plans that purport to improve Lake Okeechobee’s water quality, but they are not working. Polluters should be held accountable. There should be quantifiable reductions through a mandatory program, with clear reporting requirements, on a clear timeline.
• Store more water on private lands north of Lake Okeechobee and in the estuary basins.
There should be more funding made available for projects that partner public agencies with landowners to store water on lands in the northern Everglades and estuary basins. There needs to be a clear, science-based plan to determine the most cost-effective and ecologically effective locations to store water from Orlando south to Lake Okeechobee.
• Keep moving forward with Everglades restoration and Kissimmee River restoration.
Everglades restoration is the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. It will take decades to complete. A number of projects, like the Kissimmee River restoration, are nearing the finish line. To ensure progress, it is crucial for the public to keep pressure on state and federal leaders to authorize and fund projects like the Central Everglades Planning project, Indian River Lagoon South and the C-43 Caloosahatchee Basin Storage Reservoir. It is also critical to support the use of adaptive management to gain the most ecological benefits when the projects are completed.
These solutions need decades of commitment and support. Fixing Florida’s water resources requires funding, political will, and realistic conversations. We must keep pressure on our leaders to protect our water for years into the future.


Sea level rise swamping Florida's Everglades - by Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
October 16, 2013
Rising sea levels are transforming the Florida Everglades, a new study shows. Plant communities that thrive in salt water are expanding along the coast, leaving less room for plants that depend on fresh water.
Salt-loving mangroves in the Everglades have marched inland in the past decade, while freshwater plants — such as saw grass, spike rush and tropical hardwood trees — lost ground, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Wetlands.
The findings, which come from an analysis of satellite imagery from 2001 through 2010, match long-term trends tracked on the ground for the past 70 years, said lead study author Douglas Fuller, a geographer at the University of Miami.
"I was very surprised at how well the results matched our understanding of long-term trends and field data, " Fuller said in a statement. "Normally, we don't see such clear patterns."
Satellite imagery of the southern Everglades — a region that includes Florida City, Key Largo and the upper Keys — revealed large patches of freshwater vegetation loss within 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of the coast. Only freshwater plants in the interior, about 5 miles inland (8 km), showed growth trends, the researchers found.
Tracking growth and plant loss is an important part of ongoing restoration efforts in the Everglades. Changes in water management, such as the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, may help offset the potential effects of saltwater intrusion, the researchers said. "However, restoration may not suffice if sea level rise accelerates in the coming decades," Fuller said.
The Everglades are one of the largest wetlands in the world. Water flows from north to south through a sea of grass underlain by cavernous limestone. In the past 200 years, about half of the original wetlands have disappeared.


Water is a Florida matter that needs your support today – Guest opinion by Doug Smith, Martin County commissioner and chair, federal committee, Florida Association of Counties
October 16, 2013
Recently, state and local elected officials and community leaders from 16 South Florida counties traveled to Washington to advocate on behalf of the 2013 Water Resources Development Act and funding for Everglades restoration projects.
Now we need your help to pick up the phone or send an email encouraging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass this important bill.
For more than seven years, Congress has been unable to pass legislation authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program, which constructs critical navigation and water infrastructure projects across the nation.
In May, the U.S. Senate passed a water bill and it is now up to the House to pass similar legislation that can be settled in conference and sent to the president for his signature.
Proposed legislation in the House, known as the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), authorizes more than $10 billion in Corps’ projects nationwide, including almost $1 billion in critical navigation and water projects to improve Florida’s ports and advance Everglades Restoration — an undertaking that will enhance water resources for more than 8 million Americans.
Important Florida projects currently in WRRDA include:
• The Caloosahatchee River C-43 West Reservoir Project on Florida’s west coast, which will improve the timing, quantity and quality of freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary ensuring a more natural, consistent flow of fresh water to the estuary rather than the huge discharges now occurring from Lake Okeechobee.
• On the east coast, continued federal authorization is needed for construction of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area to protect the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
• The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetland project in Miami-Dade County, which will increase fresh water flow to help improve the ecological health of Biscayne Bay.
• The C-111 Spreader Canal project on the tip of Florida’s peninsula to restore water flows to Florida Bay and improve fisheries and the ecology in the area.
• The Broward County Water Preserve Areas which will help to provide water supply to urban areas, prevent saltwater intrusion and provide groundwater recharge for the Everglades ecosystem.
• Navigation projects in Jacksonville and Canaveral Harbor that will increase capacity at our seaports and grow an industry in Florida that already contributes more than $95 billion in economic value to the state.
These projects are critical to water supply and the environment in densely populated South Florida as well as to the national commitment to restore America’s Everglades. They will also help prepare Florida’s ports for increased global trade, high-wage jobs and a hefty boost to our economy.
While Washington may seem far away and out of touch, it is important that Congress hear from you — the Americans who would directly benefit from this important legislation.
Ask your House representatives in Washington to stay on task and pass the 2013 Water Resources Reform and Development Act.


WATER QUALITY: Chamber speaker offers issue viewpoint
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer – by Bob Petcher, source: Florida Crystals
October 16, 2013
Even though the wet weather season has appeared to come to an end, do not expect our water quality issue to dry up.
The Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted an civil engineering expert in water pollution control and water conservation among other things at its monthly luncheon at Charley's Boat House Grill on Thursday.
Roland Ottolini spoke about the managed system, the inner workings of Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River, current water conditions and solutions as well as reactions to help the issue get resolved.
Ottolini provided testimony as a panelist on the recent Florida Senate Select Committee for the Lake Okeechobee Basin and Indian River Lagoon where he gave his insight about the effects of water quality in Southwest Florida. He has a degree in Civil Engineering and has served as a design engineer for several water resource projects. He also served in Lee County government to lead their stormwater management project
"I can't think of a community that is more affected by the water discharges down the river than Fort Myers Beach," he said.
The drainage area between the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee is roughly 1,400 square miles.
"In the wet season, that watershed expands. So, if your getting discharges from Lake Okeechobee (during that season) you're picking up the whole Kissimmee Basin all the way up to Orlando," Ottolini said. "So, you are adding 5,000 square miles to that water shed that ultimately could come our way."
Estuaries require a balance of fresh and salt water, depend on nutrients and support an abundance of sea life, says Ottolini.
"Our estuary out there is very important. It has national and state significance and is very important to our economy," he said. "Unfortunately, we do not have a natural system. It is subjected to a lot of extremes because it is a managed system."
Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the management of the system. Sending discharges south used to be the approach, but it's more difficult now.
"The historic route and desire is to send it south, but now we have what was hundreds of miles wide has now been shortened out to narrow canals. We also have a lot of agriculture and communities now," said Ottolini. "There is also a federal court order that says you can't send dirty water to the Everglades National Park. There are a lot of environmental considerations."
Solutions involve storing and conveying more water. Long-term projects are being looked into, such as Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir (designed to hold 170,000 acre feet of water), Central Everglades Planning Project (reconnect Lake O south with Everglades National Park, but water needs to be treated/clean) and the restoration of Herbert Hoover Dike (to enhance structural integrity and provide additional storage).
"It's going to take a multitude of projects and efforts to really help us out," said Ottolini. "Dry weather is around the corner, the water will clear and it will return to some sort of normalcy. But, that is only short-lived. We need to continue your efforts for both long- and short-term projects. It will happen again and again as long as we have this system in place."
Florida Crystals agrees to swap land
As part of the Everglades Restoration Strategies plan -- the settlement between the state of Florida and the federal government that was approved by the Florida Legislature this year -- the South Florida Water Management District will need to expand STA-1W in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Florida Crystals was approached by the District and asked to exchange its land that is adjacent to STA-1W and in the footprint of the expansion. Florida Crystals is willing to exchange the land, which is located south of SR80, for land purchased from U.S. Sugar by the District, located east of Pahokee.
The District estimates that obtaining the land adjacent to STA-1W through land swaps with Florida Crystals and another EAA farmer will save the agency $32.7 million.
Moving Florida Crystals' farming operations from its current land to the land purchased by the District from U.S. Sugar is estimated to cost Florida Crystals $19 million for construction of infrastructure and land improvements.
Among the items that need to be addressed when moving to the new parcel:
1. Conversion from a railroad-hauling harvest system to a truck-hauling harvest system
- U.S. Sugar transports its harvested cane using a railroad system while Florida Crystals uses trucks to haul cane to its mills. New roads and bridges would need to be built, existing roads improved, and truck ramps would need to be installed
2. Establishment of independent drainage and irrigation infrastructure
- The property that Florida Crystals would receive is part of a larger area farmed by U.S. Sugar. Additional irrigation and drainage infrastructure, including a new pump station and various canal improvements, would need to be engineered and constructed for Florida Crystals to farm the land.
3. The farm is bisected by railroad tracks, which cannot be relocated and impede water movement and truck traffic on the farm
- A system would need to be engineered and constructed to allow water to cross the entire acreage.
- Railroad crossings would need to be engineered and constructed.
In addition to these one-time costs, farming the District land is less profitable than farming Florida Crystals' land. Florida Crystals' land has fertile muck soil, allowing the company to plant seed cane that yields three crops and to also grow rice, corn and vegetables. The District land, however, is mostly sandy soil and on a significant incline with several ridges that make farming more expensive and complicated, including requiring the expensive replanting of seed cane every two crops instead of three. In addition, the District land is unsuitable for alternative crops.
Another landowner in the STA1W expansion footprint was unwilling to swap its land for the District land because of the differences in quality of the land within the STA-1W expansion footprint compared to the District land. Florida Crystals has offered to solve this problem by offering to swap an additional parcel of good-quality muck land with this landowner, thereby allowing the District to obtain all of the land it needs for the STA-1W expansion.
The District is proposing to address Florida Crystals' $19 million loss through increased acreage rather than monetary payment. Florida Crystals is willing to exchange 4,820 acres of muck farms south of SR80 for 8,713 acres of sandy soils east of Pahokee. Even with the larger number of acres, Florida Crystals estimates the trade will still result in a loss for the company at the farming level.


Florida lawmakers seek extension for Everglades project funding
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 15, 2013
Lawmakers and environmental activists have a backup plan if they cannot meet the deadline to insert an Everglades restoration project into a funding bill by year’s end: create another deadline for tardy projects.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel has responded to the fading likelihood that the Central Everglades Planning Project will meet the deadline for inclusion in the pending Water Resource Development Act with an amendment that would retroactively approve tardy projects within one year after the law passed. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, co-sponsored the amendment.
Brown has a similar situation. A project to deepen Jacksonville’s port is also nearing the deadline. Without the amendment’s retroactive approval, it is unlikely the Jacksonville project would meet the deadline.
“It’s a priority for the Florida delegation,” Frankel said about the amendment. Asked about the likelihood that the amendment would pass, Frankel said bipartisan politics complicate the effort. Still, “we have other ideas we are working on” should the amendment fail, she said.
Even before the shutdown, the Central Everglades project was on a tight schedule. The public comment period for the project ends today. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have 30 days to review the comments and make any changes.
Those changes must be reviewed again before the corps can issue its chief’s report, the last step in its approval process. Without a chief’s report, the South Florida Water Management District, the corps’ state partner in the project, cannot give its final approval. The chief’s report is also pending on the Jacksonville port project.
Other federal agencies that also must comment on the projects have not weighed in. And with their staffs on furlough, it is unlikely they can submit their reports before a vote on WRDA, the key piece of legislature through which Congress authorizes work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the nation’s ports and waterways.
If the projects are not included in the pending bill, it could be at least five years before Congress considers another bill. A final vote was scheduled for earlier this month but has been indefinitely postponed due to the government shutdown. Of the 23 projects already approved and in the bill, four are for other Everglades projects.
Dawn Shirreffs, the senior Everglades policy adviser at the Everglades Foundation, said the group has not given up hope that the Central Everglades project will be authorized.
“It’s an uphill battle, but we are very supportive,” Shirreffs said. “We are certainly supporting the amendment.”
Treasure Coast toxic water update: Maryland Congressman Steny ...           WPTV


Giant Grass

Giant Grass (Arundo
) is an invasive
species - and a

Invasion of the Giant Grass !
The American Prospect – by Sarah Laskow
October 15, 2013
Fueling the needs of biofuel factories could mean growing fields of 30-foot-tall grass, but no one’s positive it will stay where it’s told.
Arundo donax towers over the tallest man's head. It's thick, bamboo-like, and three-stories tall. It can withstand cold, and it can withstand drought. Give it water, and a little nitrogen, and it grows. Fast.
Killing it can be difficult. In California, where it was introduced in the 1800s, Arundo has gotten so out of control that in some places it seems to be the only plant growing on the riverbanks. It doesn’t have seeds, but it doesn't need them: it has other methods of multiplying. A fierce rainstorm can tear up its shallow roots and spread them far downstream. There, they start growing all over again.
Mow it down, spray it with pesticides—it’s all futile. If any of the monstrous reeds are left upstream, they'll grow back. Arundo doesn't need to be near water to thrive, though. It grows pretty much anywhere. It grows in Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Virginia—down the West Coast and across the broad swath of the southwest and southeast, up into the mid-Atlantic. Often it remains in small stands, growing tall, but staying in one place. But sometimes, it takes over and becomes an invasive species—an expensive problem for humans and a mortal threat for plants and animals.
Energy companies, however, are set to make Arundo one of the stars of the biofuels industry. They think they can control it. They're willing to take the risk. But not everyone is so sure it's worth it. If the companies fail—if Arundo does get out—it could have irreparable consequences.
In Mills River, North Carolina, up in the mountains and not far from Asheville, a small plot of Arundo has been growing since 2008, alongside switchgrass and another unusually tall plant called giant miscanthus. This patchwork of grasses was planted as part of a study on crops that could feed a next-generation biofuel plant. The qualities that make Arundo frightening to people who've dealt with it as an invasive—its size, sturdiness, and quick growth—make it attractive to the biofuel industry. Although it's not the only biofuel crop North Carolina is looking to grow (or the only one that's considered invasive elsewhere in the country), it does have the potential to yield the most biomass per acre—a key metric to making next-generation biofuels financially feasible.
"It's the difference between having this industry work or not work," says Matt Harrod, a director at Chemtex International. An Italian-owned polyester fiber, plastics, and design technology company, Chemtex has dipped into the biofuels market, and worked with liquefied natural gas, as well. Last year, in Crescentino, Italy, the company started up the world's first commercial-scale plant to make ethanol from plants like Arundo instead of corn or sugar cane. The company's also part of a joint venture that invested $200 million in developing a process to make this sort of cellulosic matter a cost-effective source for biofuel. Now, Chemtex wants to bring that same process to America, and has spent almost a million dollars lobbying the federal government over the past two years.
Over the summer, the company announced it would receive federal-loan guarantees worth $99 million to build the United States's first commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant in eastern North Carolina. Not long before, in spite of the objections of national and state environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added fuel made from Arundo to the Renewable Fuel Standard. (This is the policy that incentivizes the creation of biofuels and requires their use in the country's cars and trucks.)
Environmental advocates and scientists who have been dealing with Arundo as an invasive species think that the biofuels industry’s bet that this plant can be controlled is a bad one. More than 100 groups wrote to the EPA arguing against approving Arundo as a biofuel crop. "The last thing we need are government-sanctioned economic protections for an industry reliant on pests as their raw product," Mark Newhouser, of the Sonoma Ecology Center, wrote me. "This is just common sense."
For years, the biofuel industry has been chasing the advantages of developing plants like Arundo as biofuel crops. And while there's reams of research on different sources and strategies for creating cellulosic biofuel, the industry has had little success scaling that research up into a commercial enterprise. If "energy grasses" are proven a financially viable feedstock, the crops that feed ethanol plants could be grown on marginal land, with less chemical fertilizer than corn. The amount of land needed to meet the government's renewable-fuel goals could shrink, too. But growing a crop like Arundo on an agricultural scale is the botanical equivalent of adopting a wolf. Most agricultural crops are like dogs: we’ve spent thousands of years domesticating them; we know, more or less, how they behave; we can control them. Like a tame wolf, Arundo might seem like it’s behaving well now, but there’s an inherent danger in having it around.
"We haven't talked about doing something on this scale in this time period since the invention of agriculture," says Jacob Barney, a professor of invasive-plant ecology at Virginia Tech University, who's studied these grasses. Corn has been bred for 10,000 years to grow only where humans plant it. Arundo's been bred for only a fraction of that time. "It's a wild thing," Barney says
To the industry, ultimately, planting Arundo is about saving money. Higher yields per acre mean they have to spend less on land. Chemtex plans to contract with farmers to grow 18-19,000 acres of biofuel crops, according to Harrod, the Chemtex director. So far, he has about half of that accounted for, with switchgrass and biomass sorghum. Adding Arundo to the mix could help keep Chemtex’s costs down.
“Biomass sorghum is a quick growth annual. You can plant it in late March or early April and have it ready in July. Switchgrass can come online in September and works well through the fall,” says Harrod. It costs less for a company like Chemtex to run a biofuel plant if it can take crops directly from nearby fields, year-round, without having to bale and store them. “Arundo—they store themselves well in the field. They stand very well. They don't fall, and they maintain a lot of their leaves,” Harrod explains. “So it fills those winter months from December to February that other crops can't do.”
In southeastern North Carolina, the land that’s most likely to be converted to fields of energy grasses is currently growing bright green, knee-high Bermuda grass for cow forage. But one day soon, you could driving down the same country road by these same fields and all of a sudden start feeling a little like Rick Moranis in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, with fields of grass stretching far above your head.
It's difficult to predict if a species will become invasive in any particular place. But once it does it’s almost impossible to stop its spread. California has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get rid of Arundo, and across the country, invasive species cost the economy a total of $7.7 billion in eradication costs and lost agricultural productivity. Many of these plants were planted by well-intentioned people for good reasons
Arundo hasn't been a problem in many of the states where it's been planted as an ornamental, or as a building material. "We don't really have good data on why Arundo is not invasive in areas like Florida and South Carolina," says Adam Lambert, a research biologist at University of California-Santa Barbara. But that doesn't mean it never will be. Many weeds have a “lag phase” where, for a long time, they’re not a problem, until they reach some unknown, critical. Then, says Lambert, “they just start taking off.”
At that point, the plants become much, much more expensive to deal with. There is a federal state-by-state noxious-weed directory, which could, in theory, help prevent invasive species from being planted or from spreading: no one is allowed to grow or transport the plants on these lists. But they are created according to political, rather than scientific, logic. “Governments are not basing decisions about "noxious" weeds on what the science is—what weed ecologists think of as noxious or invasive,” says Bryan Enders, a law professor who’s studied the regulation of invasive species. He, along with Jacob Barney, the Virginia Tech scientist, worked on a study that showed that there was little correlation between plants that scientists would classify as “invasive” and plants that are regulated. “The question is why?” says Enders. “The power in the legislature traditionally is in the agricultural community. Plants that have been a problem for agriculture have been classified as noxious weeds. If it's not a problem to agriculture, then the state doesn't see any reason to regulate.”
The little regulation that does exist is inconsistent. Maryland has six plants on its noxious-weed list. None of those plants are on Virginia’s list. California has listed Arundo as a noxious weed. So have Texas, Hawaii, and Tennessee. Fourteen states consider it invasive. Environmental groups pushed for North Carolina to add Arundo to the state's noxious weed list, but earlier this year, the state's Board of Agriculture denied their petition. The state government has long been promoting the biofuel industry; the board said that Arundo could be grown “responsibly,” as long as proper management practices were in place.
Right now, the federal government is paying scientists to figure out how make Arundo grow even bigger and faster while simultaneously paying other scientists to figure out how to eliminate it. Lambert’s lab is collaborating with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to find a biocontrol agent for Arundo—a bug or a fungus that naturally keeps it in check. In the long run, using biocontrol is cheaper than continuing to plow money into chopping Arundo down and spraying it with pesticides.
Like Arundo, though, these “agents” are wild things. “Once you release them, you can't get them back,” says Lambert. If these scientists find the right insect and release it in California, there’s no guarantee it won’t make its way across the country, to fields where Arundo’s being grown as a biofuel, and decimate those crops. Scientists who do this work worry that the biofuel industry’s interest in Arundo will create political heft that weighs against their own work. Given the money Chemtex has already spent on lobbyists, it’s not an unjustified fear.
If farmers do plant Arundo in large quantities, they’ll need to follow a protocol that minimizes the risk of the plant spreading—plant only in certain places, leave a border around the field, cover trucks transporting plant material, destroy any plants left if the project fails. “There’s no such thing as a risk-free anything,” says Jacob Barney, who helped develop this regime. “It's all about understanding what the risk is and mitigate that risk to the greatest degree possible.”
This is the story of every form of energy—new or old—that the country is pursuing right now. Fracking horizontal wells is riskier than drilling vertical ones. Deepwater oil drilling has dangers that traditional techniques did not. But within these regimes, some energy sources are riskier than others: tall turbines might kill birds and bats, but they’re not going to spill wind all over the countryside. If the country is going to stop using cheap, polluting fuels like coal and oil, energy suppliers need to choose the least bad option; the alternative is relying on even riskier and more destructive strategies, like mining tar sands, to produce traditional fuels. Biofuels are clearly on the less-bad side, and there's a need for them to fuel vehicles, like planes, that can't easily run on electricity. And everyone agrees that it's important for the industry to figure out how to use less-resource intensive cellulosic feedstocks instead of corn or sugar cane. Environmental groups that worry about invasives argue, simply, that there are plenty of energy grasses to choose from: biofuels companies should limit themselves to crops that don't have a history as problem children.
No matter what precautions the industry takes, it’s impossible, in the short term, to eliminate the risk of invasiveness for a crop like Arundo . Controlling wild things, even plants, is an unpredictable business. If this were a horror movie—Invasion of the 30-Foot-Tall Monster Grass!!—where Arundo moved in and took over, only to be killed off, cut to the ground, and sprayed with heavy-duty pesticides, it would end with a shot of a single sprout of the plant, making its way out of the soil. In the sequel, the plant will have learned to grow seeds.


Justices decline case on timeline for lawsuits challenging EPA regs – by Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter
October 15, 2013
The Supreme Court today decided not to review a Florida water case that U.S. EPA claims set a harmful precedent for the lengthy amount of time environmental groups have to challenge the agency's regulations in court.
At issue is EPA's rule for water transfers between two sources. In 2008, EPA said such transfers do not require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permits, which typically mandate that point sources meet pollution limits.
Environmentalists and public health advocates have long tried to force EPA to require the permits for water moved from canals to Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida.
The case centers on which court has jurisdiction over an environmental group challenge to the rule. Last October, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it couldn't hear a lawsuit before it went through a lower district court.
That matters because federal district court jurisdiction would give environmentalists six years to file. If they were restricted to filing directly to the appellate court, as EPA had wanted, they would be limited to 120 days from when the regulation went into effect.
EPA, the sugar industry and the Florida water district asked the Supreme Court to review the ruling. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said the issue is of "exceptional importance."
"Under the 11th Circuit's decision," he said in court documents, "NPDES permitting regulations such as the Water Transfers Rule would potentially be subject to judicial challenge over a much longer period of time and in a variety of fora" (Greenwire, Oct. 2).
The sugar industry said such a timeline would create significant regulatory uncertainty.
EPA's water transfer rule and how it applies in Florida have been the subject of years of litigation from advocates because the canals are contaminated with various chemicals and the lake is a drinking water reservoir. The water district says permits aren't required because the pumping stations are not the source of pollution.
The issue has reached the Supreme Court before, but in 2005 the justices did not answer the question of whether the transfers required NPDES permits. The court was asked to review the issue again in 2010 but declined to take it up (Greenwire, Nov. 29, 2010).
Justices also declined to review a challenge from farmers to the Bureau of Reclamation over whether the bureau was delivering enough water from California's Central Valley Project for irrigation.


Putnam wants nearly $26 million to expand agricultural water programs
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
October 15, 2013
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is requesting nearly $26 million in fiscal year 2014-15 to expand agricultural water quality and water-use programs, according to budget documents filed this week.
Putnam also is requesting $6.1 million to combat citrus greening and more than $6 million to restore oyster reefs in the Florida Panhandle estuaries, including $930,000 to reassess restoration efforts in Apalachicola Bay.
Since 2012, Putnam has been telling audiences that water is the biggest long-term economic challenge facing the state. He made similar statements again last week in presentations to legislative committees.
"If you look at the three major economic engines in Florida -- agriculture, tourism and construction -- water is an inseparable force in the future," he said.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is requesting $10 million in nonrecurring general revenue for nutrient reduction and water retention projects in the Lake Okechobee basin in addition to $5 million requested in recent years. 
Republican state leaders have focused on water releases from the lake for sending nutrient-rich water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River estuaries. Federal water managers said over the summer they were releasing water to prevent the dike around the lake from being breached by high water levels.
Rich Budell, director of the department's Office of Agricultural Water Policy, said the funding will help the department move forward with Phase II of the Lake Okechobee protection plan.
"We are just going to use that (additional $10 million) to accelerate the things we have been doing and get money for some of these larger projects," Budell said.
The department also is requesting $5.2 million to bolster existing programs to expedite implementation of agricultural "best management practices" and irrigation system conversions in springs recharge areas.
Apalachicola Bay experienced a collapse in its oyster populations over the past two years, with state officials blaming lack of freshwater flow from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia and Alabama. 
The department budget requests spending $928,006 from the Federal Grant Trust Fund along with $2,000 in operating capital outlay to study the restoration of oyster bars in Apalachicola Bay. Another $5.4 million in is requested from the trust fund for restoring oyster reefs there and in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Bay counties.
A University of Florida task force in April said large-scale reseeding of oyster bars with shells could cut the bay's recovery time from 10 to three years, said Karl Havens, the task force chairman and director of Florida Sea Grant.
"This rehabilitation is critical to the recovery of the fishery," he wrote in an email on Tuesday. Havens said he had not reviewed the budget request documents.
The department is requesting $4 million in general revenue for agricultural marketing in part to offset the loss of BP oil spill funding that runs out in fiscal year 2013-14. The department also is requesting $5 million to replace aging forest firefighting equipment.
And the department is requesting $6.1 million, including $500,000 from general revenue, for the Citrus Health Response Program to battle citrus greening, a disease caused by the imported citrus psyllid insect. 
Related Research: Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services 2014-15 legislative budget request documents
* Exhibit D-3A: Expenditures by Issue and Appropriation Category  
* Schedule I: Trust Funds Available and Schedule IB (if applicable)- Department Level 
* Schedule I: Department Level - Related Documents
* Schedule VIIIB-2: Priority Listing of Agency Budget Issues for Possible Reduction for Legislative Budget Request Year
* Schedule VIIIC: Priority Listing of Agency Budget Issues for Possible Reprioritization
* Manual Exhibits, Schedules and Supporting Documents


TOXIC WATER: Seasonal residents ask Congress to help save Indian River Lagoon - by: Alex Sanz
October 15, 2013
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- As the concerns over toxic algae and bacteria in the St. Lucie Estuary continue, some seasonal residents of the Treasure Coast have asked members of Congress from as far away as Ohio and New York for help.
Mark Boston, a Nettles Island resident, has pushed for Congress to authorize House Resolution 3080 , the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013.
The legislation would clear the way for some of the water being discharged from Lake Okeechobee to flow south toward The Everglades instead of the east or west coasts of Florida.
"Ninety percent of those residents live in someplace else in the United States besides Florida," Boston said. "If we get them to really call their representatives up there we'll have a better chance of this bill passing and getting things to move in the right direction."
Scientists said the toxic algae, which has been reported as far north as the Jensen Beach Causeway, could spread farther north -- a worry for Boston and others on Nettles Island.
"It's going to take a while to get this river cleaned up," Boston said. "[Hopefully], they will move on something instead of dragging their feet."

$2.5 Million approved for Apalachicola Bay water quality improvements
NWFWMD Press Release (The Northwest Florida Water Management District)
October 14, 2013
HAVANA - The Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board last week approved approximately $2.5 million in grant funding to the City of Apalachicola to improve water quality in Apalachicola Bay. The funding will be used for the design and construction of three stormwater retrofit projects within the city.
The funding for these projects is part of a $3 million allocation proposed by Governor Rick Scott and approved by the Florida Legislature as part of the state’s Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget.
"The Apalachicola River and Bay system plays a vital role in Northwest Florida's environment, economy and way of life, and that's why we fought to fund critical water quality projects for families in the region," said Governor Scott. "The State of Florida remains dedicated to doing the right thing for the people of Apalachicola."
The three proposed projects include the US 98 and 16th Street Stormwater Quality Improvement Project, the Prado Outfall Stormwater Quality Improvements Project and the Avenue I Water Quality Improvement Project. The projects all involve retrofitting existing drainage system to capture and treat stormwater, removing pollutants before the water is directly discharged into Apalachicola Bay. These projects will also help to improve flood protection for the community.
“The protection of the Apalachicola River and Bay continues to be the District’s top priority,” said Governing Board Chairman George Roberts. “We are grateful to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their support as we work to improve the quality of water flowing into the Bay.”
The District’s Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget, which began October 1, includes a total of $4.7 million for Apalachicola River and Bay watershed protection and restoration, including the $3 million in legislative funding.


Agency approves Everglades land trade with Big Sugar for half as much acreage
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 14, 2013
South Florida water managers have agreed to trade 8,700 acres of publicly-owned sugar cane land that was part of a controversial 2010 Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The proposed deal calls for the South Florida Water Management District to give up 8,700 acres in Palm Beach County, near Lake Okeechobee, and pay nearly $6 million in exchange for about half as much land to the south, which is more strategically located for Everglades restoration.
The district board gave its initial OK Thursday, but still must give final approval after a formal agreement is reached with landowners.
The 4,500 acres that the district ends up getting would allow expanding a neighboring stormwater treatment area, which uses aquatic plants to filter phosphorus and other pollutants out of water that flows in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge -- the northern reaches of the Everglades.
The 4,500 acres the district gets in the deal come from sugar producer Florida Crystals and Gladeview Holdings LC. Florida Crystals gets the 8,700 acres once owned by its rival, U.S. Sugar.
Gladeview Holdings gets about 2,900 acres east of its old property, provided by Florida Crystals. Gladeview also gets nearly $6 million from the district.
The money for Gladeview is to compensate for relocation costs and to avoid an eminent domain legal fight, which district officials say could cost them even more.
Florida Crystals gets more land than it provided in the trade because the old U.S. Sugar land to the north is not considered as fertile as the ground Florida Crystals gives up in the trade.
The value of the land the district is trading is estimated to be about $20 million more than the land it is getting in return. But district officials contend the deal allows them to eventually save $32 million in Everglades restoration costs by being able to expand an existing stormwater treatment area.
"Location, location, location," said Martha Musgrove, of the Florida Wildlife Federation, which supported the deal.
The transaction would help revamped Everglades restoration efforts "stay on schedule," District Assistant Executive Director Ernie Barnett said.
Florida Crystals had been a staunch opponent of the 2010, $197 million land deal that enabled the district to acquire 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration efforts.
Trading some or all of that U.S. Sugar land had been envisioned as one of the benefits of acquiring the property.
"Florida Crystals has always supported science-based Everglades restoration projects, which is why we are willing to move forward with the land swaps, despite the potential cost to us," Gaston Cantens, Vice President of Florida Crystals Corporation, said in a statement released Thursday.
The land swaps and expanded stormwater treatment effort are part of Florida's $880 million Everglades water pollution clean-up proposal.
The plan calls for building nearly 7,000 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas to go along with more than 50,000 acres of manmade filter marshes already used to absorb phosphorus from stormwater headed to the Everglades.
In addition, reservoirs called "flow equalization basins" would be built nearby to hold water for the treatment areas.
Phosphorus, found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil, washes off agricultural land and urban areas and drains into the Everglades with damaging effects on wildlife habitat.


Bacteria brings bad news to Southwest Florida - by Lauren DiSpirito, Reporter
October 14, 2013
Our beautiful beaches made national headlines for the wrong reason.
A deadly bacteria in the Gulf has killed ten people this year. Two people were from Lee County.
Health officials say unfortunately, there is nothing unusual about what is happening now.
The bacterium is rare but occurs naturally and does cause some deaths in this state every year.
But now the negative attention could drive away tourists and incite fear. Brain-eating amoeba, problems with water releases, and now a salt water bacterium called vibrio.
You have heard about all three in Southwest Florida within the last few months. .
These three don't have anything to do with one another, except that they are all making headlines and drawing national attention to our coast - causing people to worry visitors will choose to stay away.
"People were overreacting as a result of the water being a red-ish tint and that story breaking at the same time," said Fort Myers resident Michael Banks.
Just as Banks noticed the water begin to clear on Fort Myers Beach, after weeks of intense rain and too much fresh water -- he is hearing another problematic term tossed around: Vibrio.
"The media frenzy picked up nation wide and everybody talks about it," said Banks.
National reports increased this past weekend on infections and deaths from different forms of vibrio bacteria.
Health officials say the bacteria occurs naturally and can be deadly to people who swim in the Gulf water with an open wound, in poor health or eat raw shellfish.
The Florida Department of Health says most healthy people should not be alarmed. In fact, they say there is nothing unusual about the 30 infections and 10 vibrio related deaths statewide this year.
The Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau is tracking calls and e-mails on this to better understand visitor questions and message what's happening.
The Department of Health in Lee County says it has fielded nearly two dozen calls about vibrio.
There are different forms of vibrio. Not all are deadly.
In both Lee County deaths, officials say men swam in the water with open wounds, allowing the bacteria to enter their bloodstream.
The threat is not just to Florida, but to all Gulf states.

Hoyer, Murphy to take aerial tour of lagoon, St. Lucie River today
October 14, 2013
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer will join U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy today on a helicopter tour of the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon.
Blake Guillory, South Florida Water Management District’s executive director, and Ernie Barnette, assistant executive director, will join the two to show Hoyer the damage discharges from Lake Okeechobee are having on the river and lagoon, according to a prepared statement from Murphy.
Hoyer attended Murphy’s Oct. 3 Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., on the state of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee waterways.
After the tour, Martin County Commission Chairman Sarah Heard will follow up on her testimony in Washington on the impact the discharges have had on the local economy and community.
The helicopter will leave from Palm Beach International Airport at 9:30 a.m.


Florida Crystals backs sugar land swap - by Gary
October 14th, 2013
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA – Florida Crystals has agreed to turn over nearly 8,700 acres of sugar-cane land to the South Florida Water Management District for more than 4,500 acres that had once been owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. The land swap, which still requires a final approval from the district governing board, is intended to expand an existing stormwater treatment area near the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The land near Lake Okeechobee that the district is exchanging was part of a 26,800-acre, $197 million purchase from U.S. Sugar Corp. in 2010. District officials, who last week agreed to move forward with the deal, have estimated the land the district will get is worth $20 million more than the farm land that is returning to private hands. Florida Crystals, in announcing support for the deal, noted that moving from the fertile muck farm land it is giving up for “subpar” sandy soils east of Pahokee will cost the company about $20 million.


Former commissioner leads charge to clean up Southwest Florida beaches - by Christy Dimond
October 14, 2013
Holding signs with messages that read sweet poisen and save our beaches, these folks are calling to do battle.
"We need to save Florida," environmental activist Jeanne Emerick said.  Jeanne is part of a local movement to save the water along local beaches called Floridians for Clean Water. 
Former Lee County commissioner Ray Judah is leading the charge in his new role as head of the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. 
"Tourists are saying, 'We're not coming back... thisdirty water is such that we are not going to invest our dollars to come back to Lee County," Judah said. 
Judah and his supporters fear the water situation is only going to get worse now that the state missed a deadline to buy a chunk of sugar fields that could be converted into a water filtering system. 
"It's surprising that the elected officials have not been more responsive to cleaning up our waterways," Judah said.
His solution is called Plan 6, which calls for the state to buy about a third less land than originally planned to still get the job done. 
"The missing link, the 50,000 acres I was referring to is only 7 percent of the Everglades agricultual area and only 15 percent of the entire sugar cane land holdings in the everglades agricultural are,"Judah said.
The state can still buy the land, but now it could end up costing more per acre, according to Judah.
"They still have the next seven years to excercise another option, but they have to compete now with other buyers...and they also have to compete with the fact that since the sugar industry is federally subsidized that increases the valuation of the land, so they're going to end up paying more," Judah said.
Yet, when Four in Your Corner recently spoke to the governor about this issue, he didn't sound eager to pay for any of it.  Even when the land Judah is referring to had a billion dollar price tag, considered a good deal at the time.
"We look at everything," Gov. Scott said after we asked him if buying the U.S. sugar land was a viable option. 
The governor may be looking, but local activists want action.
"We're looking at our children... to where we're trying to fix this problem.  We know it's not going to happen over night or any solutions come tomorrow but our goal is to have a solution for them to have a better quality of life for their children," activist John Heim said.
Former commissioner leads water release rally           WZVN-TV


Ohio seeks limits on phosphorus in streams
The Columbus Dispatch - by  Spencer Hunt
October 14, 2013 3:16 AM
Ohio could become one of three states to establish limits for farm and sewage-treatment-plant pollution that feeds toxic algae in lakes.
An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency proposal under review by federal officials would establish limits for phosphorus and nitrogen in streams. Both are found in fertilizers, manure and sewage. They’re called nutrients because they help plants, including algae, grow.
Phosphorus in fertilizers that rain washes off farm fields feeds blooms of blue-green algae in western Lake Erie and inland lakes across Ohio each summer. The algae produce liver and nerve toxins that can sicken people and animals.
Ohio rivers also carry nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico, where they contribute to a huge oxygen-depleted dead zone off the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally said he is optimistic that U.S. EPA officials will approve the proposal, which would be used to set specific limits for each Ohio stream.
Because of the partial government shutdown, federal officials were unavailable to comment. Approval would put Ohio on a path to join Florida and Wisconsin as the only other states setting limits for phosphorus and nitrogen in waterways.
Florida adopted its standards in 2011 after environmental advocates sued the U.S. EPA to demand them. Wisconsin set phosphorus limits in 2010 after environmental groups threatened to sue, said Amanda Minks, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources resource specialist.
Wisconsin rivers cannot have phosphorus levels that exceed a concentration of 100 parts per billion. Phosphorus in smaller streams, including creeks, can’t exceed 75 parts per billion.
Minks said Wisconsin is enforcing tougher water-pollution restrictions for sewage-treatment plants and is offering farmers grants and incentives to reduce storm runoff from their fields.
Instead of an across-the-board approach like Wisconsin’s, Ohio’s plan would use a formula that weighs phosphorus and nitrogen in water as well as the amount of algae and fish and other aquatic wildlife. The strategy takes into account that some streams can still be considered healthy at higher concentrations of nutrients, Nally said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Groups that represent Ohio’s sewage-treatment plants support the plan. Dax Blake, who is Columbus’ sewers and drains administrator and president of the Association of Ohio Wastewater Management Agencies, said it’s a sound approach.
Blake said he is optimistic that Columbus won’t have to install any treatment equipment to meet phosphorus or nitrogen standards for the Scioto River.
Larry Antosch, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s environmental-policy director, said his organization needs more details on how the limits might affect farmers.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to establish a (limit) so low that it’s not attainable,” Antosch said.
Anthony Sasson of the Ohio Nature Conservancy said the U.S. EPA might not approve of the Ohio EPA’s tailored approach. He said streams with higher concentrations of phosphorus might be deemed healthy but still contribute to algae blooms in a lake downstream.
But Ohio EPA spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said the stream limits will help the state’s overall efforts to stop algae blooms in lakes. “It’s a positive step in the right direction.”
Ohio seeks stream pollution limits to fight algae        Seattle Post Intelligencer


Water comes back into focus - by Bill Rufty
October 14, 2013
The 2014 session of the Florida Legislature already has major issues building, though bills are slow coming in.
The biggest is the governor's desire during his re-election campaign year to cut taxes by $500 million. Then there is Medicaid and another round of anti-abortion and social behavior bills.
But slowly being worked in the background by some legislators like Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, is a major revamping of water quality and quantity for all sections of the state.
The 2014 session, which begins March 4, likely will not become the Year of Water, but it is moving in that direction for a future year.
"The 35 million acres in the state had 6½ feet of water on it. How do we deal with water quantity and water quality ?" Albritton said, commenting on a wetter than normal summer. "You can't have one without the other."
During the summer and over the last month, Albritton and others have met over the many differing water problems and needs. He still maintains that water quantity problems are less than a decade away if the state doesn't take action.
Albritton, who first warned in the 2013 session that the amount of water needed for the future of the state is being largely ignored, said committee meetings and studies leading up to the new session have gotten water officials and lawmakers from across state thinking.
"At a minimum, we have had a lot of conversations. Water is the hot topic," he said. "We have not had meetings on the hydrology and science yet, but that will come soon. We are concentrating on water quality, quantity and conservation, and then the infrastructure."
The Indian River Lagoon, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee are just a few of the problem areas surrounding water that must be solved, ideally in a single legislative package.
That would include how to retain water falling on the state as well as stopping runoff pollution.
Two Polk County men, Mulberry City Commissioner Terry Evers and Mike Britt, Winter Haven's director of natural resources, have been at the forefront of increasing the state's water quantity, especially in Central Florida.
Both, Albritton said, have contributed to the ideas of water retention infrastructures to hold rain and floodwaters. And, of course, there is always the age-old concern of the supplying counties being able to retain enough for themselves.
"We need to make sure Orlando and Tampa and the coastal counties don't make decisions without the Heartland participating," he said.
Having enough water for everyone doesn't seem like a major concern just now, he said. Water faucets flow freely and swimming pools are full.
Albritton said if the state doesn't take action soon, however, water could be "a bigger cost to the state than Medicaid."
Rumors continue to surface around Bartow that former Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson is ready to re-enter politics, possibly the County Commission again.
In fact, County Commission Chair Melony Bell, who would be the person the former commissioner would have to challenge, has told two Ledger writers she thinks he might be planning a run for her seat next year when it is up for election.
Wilkinson could not be reached after several attempts last week. Apparently, his ever-changing phone numbers have been changed again.
He has had a long and at times controversial, if not amusing, political career.
And most important for those wondering whether he will run for some office in 2014 is that he has a very loyal core of conservative voters, which has supported him through School Board and County Commission races for more than two decades.
Reaching term limits on the County Commission in 2010 and passing up what some of his supporters told him was an easier run for the Florida House, Wilkinson ran for Congress.
He didn't run as the lifelong Republican he had been, but as a member of the newly formed Tea Party of Florida in a three-way race between himself, Democrat Lori Edwards and the winner, Republican Dennis Ross.
At the end of the election season, he thanked supporters and said he was heading back to business in real estate and investments.
But in 2012, Wilkinson filed to run for the nonpartisan Polk County clerk of court post just minutes before qualifying ended. He later withdrew from the race but was too late to receive back the $5,629.92 qualifying fee.
This time, however, he's a registered Republican again and within the year requirement of being a party member before running for the GOP. The talk of another Wilkinson candidacy has brought both concern from would-be opponents and elation from supporters.
It remains to be seen whether he will step back up on the old campaign war horse for another run.


Algae build-up in St. Johns River focuses attention on Jacksonville pledge to help clean up river - by Steve Patterson
October 13, 2013
Time may be the surest cure for algae blooms that covered parts of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville last week, with fall temperatures now shrinking patches of bright green muck on the water.
But passing months are also putting pressure on Jacksonville to meet years-old commitments to ease problems that made the St. Johns prone to algae eruptions in the first place.
Some river advocates argue the answer the city has settled on depends too much on river projects that other agencies were doing anyway, where the city would in effect pay to take credit for work that stops algae-feeding nitrogen from reaching the river.
“You’re using money to buy a credit for [pollution] reductions that have already been made. It’s not an addition,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.
“We have major issues with nutrients and with bacteria. … We’re not going to move the needle if we use that [money] to buy water-quality trading credits.”
What Rinaman worries about was approved by Florida’s Legislature years ago, but hasn’t been widely used.
Jacksonville is in line to change that. The city told Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection last month it planned to buy credits for removing 30.7 metric tons – 67,000 pounds – of nitrogen from the river by 2015.
That’s almost two-thirds of all the 106,000 pounds of nitrogen reductions the city had pledged in 2008 to complete by 2015. The rest would come from projects to clean storm water, phase out faulty septic tanks, and the like.
Jacksonville committed to the nitrogen reductions at the same time other local governments along the river signed commitments to curb releases of the chemical through projects expected then to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But the state warned the city this summer that it had missed deadlines for following through on that agreement, which required it to complete half of its reductions by 2015 and finish altogether by 2023.
Buying credits was a fast and affordable way for the city to meet its obligations.
Most of the credits would come from JEA, the city-owned electric and water utility that has worked for years on cutting the amount of nitrogen released by its sewage treatment plants.
JEA has spent $166 million since 2007 on treatment plant improvements, said Bud Para, the utility’s chief public affairs officer. One of the latest sites targeted is the Buckman Water Reclamation Facility in the Talleyrand area, where about $22 million worth of work is nearing completion now.
Although the JEA is set to face a sharp drop in the amount of nitrogen it’s allowed to release into the river next year, the utility actually hit that new level years early, which let the utility boast it had cut its nitrogen releases to the river in half in a decade.
Jacksonville isn’t involved in JEA’s environmental permits, but would pay JEA based on the utility’s actual costs for water cleanup and the proportion of the work the city would take credit for.
Para, who said his agency talked with the city last week about the deal, said the city’s costs would probably range between $800,000 and $2.5 million per year through 2023.
The city was also seeking credit trades with the Florida Department of Transportation and the cities of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, Public Works Director Jim Robinson told state environmental officials last month. The city would have through April to negotiate the trades, then set aside months for drafting formal agreements, and getting City Council and state approval.
While buying credits can help the city meet its legal requirements, that money could be used on new projects that would actually affect the river, said Rinaman, who last week collected water samples along Jacksonville University’s riverfront that contained up to 100 times more algae toxin than the World Health Organization considers safe in waters used for recreation. Thick algae scum was also found around Doctors Lake by the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Para said criticism of credit trades misses a main point. When his utility sells the credits to the city, the state will lower the discharges allowed under JEA’s permit by that same amount.
“Our permit will be changed. It’s very real,” Para said. “It’s not a goal. It’s a permit limit.” He noted repair work that affected Buckman’s performance caused JEA to release more nitrogen last year than the new limit would have allowed, and said the utility has to be certain it can live within any new permit requirements.
Similar credit trades have been used in states around the Chesapeake Bay and in the Pacific Northwest, said a University of Florida researcher.
“There are a number of trades that show these purchases of credit can reduce costs. … Potentially this can be a useful tool,” said Tatiana Borisova, a water economist who has studied the deals.


Smart growth, meet dumb move
Miami Herald – Editorial
October 13, 2013
OUR OPINION: Miami-Dade commissioners’ unwise approval of expanding urban boundary will cost taxpayers more.
There’s enough buildable land within Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary to satisfy projected growth needs until 2026, says county planning chief Mark Woerner. That projection is new — the initial date was 2021, but county planners, backed by state experts, say population growth will continue at lower rates through 2030.
That projection has a lot of ramifications for Miami-Dade, many could be negative. But not to the Miami-Dade Commission, which moved the UDB recently and refused to protect 3,600 more acres earmarked for development, jeopardizing the county water supply and land that would better serve the Everglades than local builders.
The commission approved a 521-acre parcel for development west of the Florida Turnpike and north of the Dolphin Expressway. The land is surrounded by commercial buildings — a so-called “doughnut hole” left out of the UDB when the commission approved the Beacon Lakes and Shoppyland Enterprises office and industrial projects in 2002. Using the fig leaf that the 521 acres are sitting in the middle of development already, the commission, in an 11-1 vote, made the tract available for more warehouses and office buildings. That’s not smart growth.
On the surface, this might seem to make sense. But it’s only reasonable because of earlier, often controversial, commission decisions pushing the boundary west against staff recommendations. Almost every time the commission expands the UDB it sets a new precedent for future “reasonable” moves west allowing development on “backfill” or adjacent land. The argument being “there’s development next door, so why not on my land, too?”
Incrementally, the commission is chipping away at land set aside in the comprehensive development master plan to preserve the county’s agricultural economy and to keep construction away from well fields and protect the Everglades.
Commissioners’ votes on other staff land-use recommendations mostly reflect a gung-ho westward expansion mindset. They rejected proposals to eliminate or reduce development on three tracts just outside the UDB in Southwest Miami-Dade, earmarked in 1983 as future expansion areas for growth. The county’s regulatory and economic resources agency says that the parcels are in a potential flood-zone or hurricane-evacuation area or are targeted for Everglades restoration projects or well-field protection. The master plan wisely says that such lands shouldn’t be developed.
But commissioners didn’t buy it. They almost agreed to protect more land around a drinking-water well field west of Krome Avenue, but couldn’t muster the votes. Only one proposal got the nod: the commission reduced possible development in an area west of 137th Avenue by 575 acres for its wetlands potential.
In expanding the UDB again (the last time was in 2011) and refusing to pull some parcels out of future development mode, commissioners unwisely ignored county planners’ reasoning that slowed population growth in Miami-Dade has reduced demand for new development. Even with more newcomers from, say, Latin America in the future, planners project net population growth will slow for nearly two decades.
Instead of ignoring the messenger, commissioners should seek ways to offset the negative economic effects that fewer new residents could trigger. Let’s focus on bringing more diverse industries and investments to Miami-Dade — not adopt a “if we build it, they will come” attitude.


South Florida's crucial water fix
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
October 13, 2013
Everglades restoration is a gamble, but it's necessary if South Florida is to survive, everyone agrees.
Millions of people consider South Florida home today because thousands of miles of canals, levees and dams were built in the early 20th century to drain the Everglades and make way for neighborhoods, golf courses, malls, condos and farms.
But that monumental engineering feat also turned what was once a clear, shallow sheet of freshwater flowing freely from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay into a toxic stew, slowly ruining the habitat for plants and animals in one of the Earth's most diverse ecosystems.
It reduced the size of the Everglades by half, leaving fewer wetlands to filter water clear and more farmland and yards to fertilize. That means too little water during droughts and too much during the wet season; aquifers and wells, which provide much of the region's drinking water, not being sufficiently recharged; and salt water creeping inland without a robust flow of fresh water underground to hold it back.
Unless Florida re-plumbs the massive drainage system and restores clean water to the once soggy region, the long-term likelihood that there will be enough water to drink, irrigate crops, fill swimming pools and make 
golf courses green is doubtful.
In other words, scientists, bureaucrats and farmers agree, the Everglades must be restored if South Florida is to survive.
“When you consider that 90 percent of the people in South Florida get their drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer and the Everglades recharges the Biscayne Aquifer... the Everglades touches the lives of everyone by sustaining the water supply of the lower east coast," said Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director at the South Florida Water Management District who has spearheaded restoration efforts for 25 years.
A natural solution
The envisioned fix, in the works now for nearly 40 years, is to build tens of thousands of acres of shallow wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee and then use "green technology" - plants that thrive on high levels of nutrients - to clean polluted water from farms and urban areas before the water flows to the Everglades. These shallow reservoirs, the largest man-made wetlands in the world, have required massive land purchases and extensive engineering.
The problem is it's a big, expensive gamble.
Even with the best minds using the most advanced science and engineering to model what will likely happen, no one can guarantee that backfilling canals, re-routing water and building city-sized water storage and treatment areas will work on such a massive scale.
Take projects such as the A-1 Reservoir, about 35 miles west of Boca Raton, and the Ten-Mile Creek Water Preserve, near Fort Pierce. The projects were intended to help the Everglades by providing storage that would enable water managers to control flows for a consistent and reliable supply of water to keep the ecosystem properly hydrated. Taxpayers spent $300 million on the two projects. Neither worked. Both sit idle today, although water managers hope to salvage the A-1 Reservoir site with a shallow-water storage area.
Even so, progress has been made.
Five constructed wetlands, called stormwater treatment areas, are complete and have retained 3.4 million pounds of phosphorous, according to the water management district, the state agency overseeing restoration.
Already, 14 miles of the once meandering Kissimmee River, straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers during the 1960s to provide flood control, have been restored to its slow, winding path north of Lake Okeechobee. When complete in 2015, the natural flow will be restored to another 16 miles of the river. Already wetlands have emerged and populations of wading birds, ducks and large-mouth bass are up.
And with the completion of a bridge over the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County this year, a flow path was opened to allow more water into Everglades National Park.
Slow, fraught with problems
But there's no denying that the several decades of Everglades restoration has been a slow and often invisible process. Most efforts have focused on logistics
, litigation, scientific research and negotiating land deals, and so many projects have been revised and so many deadlines missed that no one knows exactly when the restoration will end and how many billions of dollars it will cost.
In 1994, the projected completion date was 2006. In 2003, the completion date was pushed back to 2016. Construction timelines now show the restoration will be complete in 2025 and will cost $8 billion.
Little wonder. Restoration of the Everglades, after all, is the world's largest environmental restoration project ever attempted, rivaled in size only by efforts to re-plumb the marshes of Mesopotamia, part of the fertile crescent believed by anthropologists to be one of the birthplaces of civilization. Saddam Hussein drained those wetlands in the 1990s to punish its rebellious residents, and now several non-governmental environmental groups in Iraq hope to restore the wetlands.
Part of '70s enviro wave
Early efforts to protect and restore Florida's water resources, including the Everglades, coincided with a wave of environmental consciousness that swept the country in the 1970s. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, harnessed the energy of the antiwar movement.
Besides Watergate, the birth of Microsoft and the end of the Vietnam War, the 1970s saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, passage of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the founding of Greenpeace and interest in restoring the Everglades.
In 1976, Congress approved the first Everglades-related restoration project when it authorized the Army Corps to undo a project it had finished just five years earlier. The straightening of the slow, meandering Kissimmee River was a well-intentioned effort to control flooding north of Lake Okeechobee, but its effect was devastating as it allowed polluted water from crops, dairy farms and cattle ranches to wash quickly into the river, destroying wildlife habitat and contaminating the lake - the liquid heart of the greater Everglades.
Although it took the Corps just 11 years to channelize the river, it has taken more than 36 years to restore the bends and oxbows, a lag time that would be repeated over and over with other restoration projects.
Meanwhile, the population, especially in South Florida, exploded. In 1980 the state's population was 9.7 million. By 2000, it had jumped to 15.9 million. Today, 19.3 million people call Florida home, each using between 80 and 100 gallons of water every day.
As waterfront property became more scarce, developers gobbled up land farther west, taking 
out swaths of the wetlands and prairies to build new towns in what once was the Everglades. Undeveloped lands that once absorbed rainwater and recharged aquifers were paved over. A web of canals captured nutrient-laden water from backyards, citrus groves and more than 400,000 acres of sugarcane fields 
and dumped it into larger canals, which carried it to Lake Okeechobee and other waterways that flowed directly into the Everglades.
Politicians spent much of the early 1980s passing legislation to protect water and restore the Everglades. A succession of Florida governors put partisan squabbling aside 
and built momentum for the cause. For example, Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat, unveiled his Save Our Everglades plan in 1983. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush championed restoration with an annual commitment of $200 million during his term.
Still, most of the progress was on paper and phosphorous levels continued to climb. Fed up with the slow progress, Dexter Lehtinen, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, sued the water management district on behalf of the federal government in 1988.
The lawsuit, which continues today, accused Florida of failing to enforce its water quality standards in the Everglades. It also established a new costly front: the courtroom. Other lawsuits followed, including one filed by the Miccosukee Tribe, who hired Lehtinen after he left his government position.
More state and federal agencies, environmental groups and sugar growers found themselves mired in the costly litigation. By mid-2011, the state's Department of Environmental Protection had spent $3.8 million on private lawyers, including one who billed $585 an hour.
A federal judge became so fed up that in April 2011 he issued a scathing order demanding progress in meeting limits on phosphorous pollution.
"None of the governmental agencies involved directly told the public the hard truth: we have not solved the problem, we do not know for sure when the problem will be solved, and we do not know if the Everglades will survive by the time we can meet the 10 parts per billion standard (if at all)," U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold wrote.
Gold's frustration and that of another federal judge resulted in an agreement in 2012 between state and federal agencies and environmental groups on how and when the phosphorous limits would be met. If the standard of 10 ppb of phosphorous is found to be exceeded in the Everglades, growers could face stricter methods for controlling phosphorous-rich fertilizers used on crops or the government could be forced to build more filtering wetlands.
Some say this standard came into play this summer in a way that shows that despite a century of efforts to drain, chop up and re-route the greater Everglades, it remains one system.
Billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee and storm-water runoff in the Treasure Coast have been flushed into St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River this summer, killing sea grasses, oyster beds and leaving the water unsafe for swimming.
Environmentalists say the district won't allow more water south from Lake Okeechobee because it fears violating the 10 ppb standard in the Everglades and it doesn't want to flood crops. The district says its storage areas south of the lake can't take any more water until other restoration projects are complete. The Army Corps, responsible for the releases into the river and estuary, says it has been forced to release water because lake levels are so high they threaten the dike surrounding the lake.
Although restoration cannot bring back the Everglades to its original state, Barnett envisions a "Xerox reduction - an Everglades with a smaller footprint that functions like the original Everglades did."
Unlike other construction projects paid by taxpayers, such as dams and highways, if the Everglades is successfully restored, there will be nothing to see but vacant, wet land and water splashing from your tap.
"We're deconstructing," said Barnett. "We want to get it to where you don't see what was done to the Everglades. That's the ultimate goal."
Picture captions:
Canals and dams were built to drain the Everglades and make way for neighborhoods, golf courses, malls and farms. That reduced the size of the Everglades by half, leaving fewer wetlands to filter water clear. MARICE COHN BAND / MIAMI HERALD / MCT
AFTER: In the past decade, the same section of the Kissimmee has been restored to its slow, winding path north of Lake Okeechobee. By 2015, the natural flow will be restored to another 16 miles of the river. Native plants and wildlife have already returned to this section.
BEFORE: A section of the Kissimmee River, straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s to provide flood control, is shown in 1999 before Everglades restoration began. A new timeline for the project spans more than 50 years and has a cost of at least $8 billion.


Everglades still awaits political will -  by Shahid Latif
October 12, 2013
Hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane thrive in the heart of Everglades, one of the world’s largest wetlands. But the benefits of this agricultural land cannot be harnessed in parlance to its capability as the political will to restore the wetland seems to be gloomy.
The Everglades are a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee.
Due to its agricultural benefits, the environmentalists consider it of prime importance and making efforts to restore the wetlands area to a healthy ecosystem.
Moving in this regard, Florida officials announced a deal five years ago. It was a plan to buy nearly 300 square miles of Everglades land owned by U.S. Sugar. But then, reality set in: The economy worsened and political opposition grew, forcing state officials to settle for a much smaller parcel.
To understand why the land is so important to restoring the ecosystem, a place to start is a storm water treatment area owned by the South Florida Water Management District. It’s an expanse of marshland and shallow lakes with one main purpose: to scrub phosphorus from the water flowing south from the sugar cane fields.
It’s large, nearly 17,000 acres. But Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club says it’s just a fraction of what’s needed to restore the Everglades to a healthy ecosystem. “What we want to do,” he says, “is have more water come south, be stored and cleaned up so it can be sent south to the Everglades.”
The environmental groups, Florida officials and the federal government have worked together to restore the Everglades for more than 20 years. The main idea was to recreate the historic flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee south, through land that decade ago was drained and converted into farmland, mostly for sugar.
The initiative received a big boost in 2008 when then Gov. Charlie Crist announced that Florida had struck a deal to buy most of US Sugar’s Everglades holdings for USD 1.75 billion. But the 2008 financial crunch dampen the initiative. Two years after it was announced, Florida closed on a much smaller contract, buying just one-seventh of the land on offer. The contract included an important clause though: For three years, it gave Florida the exclusive option to buy some or all of the U.S. Sugar land. That exclusive option expires this week.
Recently, 38 environmental groups in Florida sent a letter to the state’s current governor, Rick Scott, asking him to carry through on the contract signed by his predecessor. Ullman says this deal remains the key to fixing the Everglades. “You’ve got to add more land,” he says. “It’s the only way.”
“ What we want to do is have more water come south, be stored and cleaned up so it can be sent south to the Everglades.- Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club
In Florida, the financial picture has improved over the last two years. But while the money may be there, the political will is not.


As of Jan. 1, 2014,
anyone who applies
fertilizer commercially
will need training and
a license

He needs a license to apply fertilizer
Miami Herald - by Adrian Hunsberger
October 12, 2013
Q. I pay a friend to fertilize my lawn. I heard that he may need to get a license to do this. Is this true?  - J.W., Pinecrest
A: Yes, as of Jan. 1, anyone paid to apply fertilizers to lawns and landscapes must have the “Limited Certificate for Urban Landscape Commercial Fertilizer Application” license. To obtain this license, all fertilizer applicators must obtain training, which is provided at most UF county extension offices in Florida.
The training is called “Green Industries Best Management Practices.” A passing grade at the end of training is required to even apply for the license. To find your local UF Extension office and when training sessions are offered, do a web search for “local UF Extension offices.”
No matter what type of fertilizer is used (such as granular fertilizer, fertilizer-pesticide mixtures, manure-based fertilizers), if someone is paid to apply it, they must be licensed. The primary reason for the license is to educate people about protecting our water resources.
As a reminder, whenever you hire someone to apply pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.), they must have the appropriate license. Ask for proof. This assures you that they have had the proper training to protect you, themselves, and the environment.
As the property owner, you are exempt from these regulations.


RiverTrek 2013: Amid water wars, advocates paddle Apalachicola – by Jennifer Portman, Senior Writer
October 12, 2013
Advocates paddle Apalachicola to better know waterway
Their hands will be sore, their shoulders worn and their lips probably a little chapped.
When this year’s team of Apalachicola Riverkeeper RiverTrek paddlers glide to the bay this afternoon they will have traveled the entire 106-mile river stroke by stoke during the last five days, camping each night under the stars.
The annual event, now in its seventh year, is a fundraiser for the non-profit dedicated to protection of the Apalachicola River and Bay. This year, the dozen paddlers chosen from around the state raised nearly $25,000, a RiverTrek record. The money is used for education and outreach, as well as data collection and research.
“We are just ecstatic,” said Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire. “It’s an opportunity as well to highlight the importance of the Apalachicola and the need to protect it.”
The river system is threatened by a lack of freshwater coming downstream from federally controlled dams on the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. The two rivers merge at the Florida state line where the Jim Woodruff Dam rises in Chattahoochee to form the Apalachicola. The low freshwater flow has contributed over the last 30 years to the loss of 4 million trees in the river’s flood plain and to the recent collapse of the oyster population in Apalachicola Bay.
Thanks to an unusual amount of rain in the basin this summer, the river during this year’s RiverTrek was twice as high as it was last year. Because upstream dams are full, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing more water than it is required to during dry periods. For the Apalachicola, it’s been a bit of short-term luck.
“The Corp has target flows and they are shooting for those targets all the time. When they can hold all the water, they are just hitting those minimum flows that they have to send to us, and of course the ecosystem is not designed to live off of those,” Tonsmeire said. “It’s only during those dry and drought periods that it’s really an issue. This year, they can’t hold all the water up there.”
For the paddlers, the higher water — which is normal for the river absent drought — has been a welcome treat.
“The river is beautiful, we are happy to see more water this year,” Alex Reed, one of this year’s team leaders said Wednesday morning after their first night on the river. “It’s a really nice return to the river.”
While the increase in water kept the paddlers from their usual first-night camping spot, they had more opportunities for side trips that showcased the area’s rich biodiversity.
“There are so many reasons to protect this resource,” Reed said. “We would like to do whatever we can to preserve this natural resource close to home.”
What is needed, said Tonsmeire, is a basin-wide water management plan that takes into consideration the needs of the Apalachicola River and Bay.
“Right now the Corp is basically providing water for upstream users and only meeting the needs of the endangered species down here. It’s not a balanced program,” he said.
Earlier this month, Florida filed a federal suit against Georgia over the issue. The lawsuit, which follows decades of unsuccessful legal wrangling, disappointed those in the basin who have been working toward creating a plan all three states can agree upon.
“The reaction of Georgia is they are just livid about the lawsuit, and rightfully so. It’s going to be a long, expensive battle. But then on the other hand, you maybe can’t blame Florida either because we haven’t made any progress,” Tonsmeire said. “But it we could have held off six or eight months, I think we would have had a better shot bringing people together.”
In the meantime, RiverTrek paddler Tom Herzog, who serves as president of the Riverkeeper board, said he tries to foster greater stewardship by getting as many people as possible out on the river.
“Once you get on it, it’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I’m in forever, I guess.”


$60 million approved to finish Everglades reservoir
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 10, 2013
A long-stalled Everglades restoration reservoir in Palm Beach County gets a $60 million restart under new scaled-down building plans approved Thursday.
Work on the 16,000-acre reservoir site along U.S. 27 in southwestern Palm Beach County has already cost taxpayers nearly $280 million, but it was left unfinished in 2008 when Everglades restoration plans changed.
Now the South Florida Water Management District is proceeding with a plan that includes a smaller reservoir that could hold water for nearby treatment areas, which filter polluting phosphorus out of stormwater flowing to the Everglades.
The old plan called for building a 62 billion gallon-reservoir with 30-foot-tall embankments capable of holding a huge pool of water up to 12-1/2 feet deep.
The new plan calls for a nearly 20 billion gallon-reservoir built with up to 10-foot-tall levees holding water about 4 feet deep. District officials contend that building a shallower reservoir enables growing cattails and other vegetation within the structure, which will boost pollution-filtering efforts.
The new $60 million, 1-1/2 year-project includes creating 21 miles of levees, 15 water control structures and making pump upgrades.
Work on the old reservoir plan got sidetracked as the state in 2008 pursued a controversial Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.


Florida's water problems are no longer regional
Orlando Sentinel – by Aaron Deslatte, Capitol View
October 11, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — Florida has a quandary when it comes to drinking water: Go the relatively cheap and nonintrusive route to preserve enough high-quality stuff to drink, or wait until "big government" has to do it.
Intergovernmental squabbles and Florida's recent history of dealing with springs protection — such as requiring septic-tank inspections and then repealing them when homeowners complained — suggests Option 2 is on the horizon.
But it's not too late to avoid some of the worst ramifications of water shortfalls, and Florida's political leadership seems to be taking the problem seriously
State environmental officials are already pursuing two basic tracks: "nonregulatory," focused on preserving water-recharge areas and developing alternative supplies, such as reused water; and "regulatory," which would make consumption permits to drain aquifers harder to get; toughen water-use restrictions — and raise costs for everything related to supplying a swelling, thirsty population.
"The water issues in Florida historically have been viewed as someone else's problems," Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a House natural-resources committee last week. "There is now not a single corner of the state that is not impacted by this."
Front and center is the economic disaster in Apalachicola, which has seen its seafood industry decimated by Atlanta pulling more water from the river that supports the bay supplying 90 percent of Florida's oysters.
The aquifer beneath Central Florida is almost at capacity, even as the region's springs are being choked by development and nitrogen runoff.
"We know that we have a nutrient problem in our state," Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vineyard told the panel.
And South Florida has been in disaster mode all summer because of Lake Okeechobee, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing polluted flows into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers — fueling disgusting algae blooms that kill fish and foul the tourism economy.
Environmental groups have lambasted Gov. Rick Scott's administration for much of the last year for cuts to regulatory enforcement, the gutting of growth management and catering to businesses.
That said, there are multiple efforts in the works to tackle these problems.
Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have taken the unusual legal tactic of asking the U.S. Supreme Court directly to intervene in the state's fight with Georgia over Apalachicola Bay. The court is appointing a special master to consider the "original action."
Florida sued in 1990 to stop Georgia's increased water usage, spent more than $23 million in legal fees, "and we have less water than when we filed the lawsuit," Vineyard said.
"Short of us invading Georgia, we weren't going to get to a solution."
Vineyard said agricultural groups and other stakeholders had pulled together to implement plans to reduce pollutants flowing off farmlands into the springs, and "you will see an improvement in water quality" because of it.
Lawmakers also have more than doubled the funding for springs protection: $10 million this year.
Scott during the summer touted the use of those dollars, matched by water-management districts, to put $36.8 million into springs-protection projects, with more than two-thirds of those dollars going to the Silver and Wekiva springs in Central Florida.
Scott has also pledged to push for more dollars to build two new water-storage and treatment plants around Lake Okeechobee. But those projects require federal funding — a dicey proposition given the federal government's current dysfunction.


Fouling Florida's environment? Simply insane
Tampa Bay Times – Bill Maxwell, Columnist
October 11, 2013
Albert Einstein said that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
In Florida, environmentalists have their unique definition of insanity: knowingly destroying our environment — one of our major economic resources — while blocking efforts to slow or stop the destruction.
This brand of insanity plays out daily and has for decades, from the moment business owners, their political supporters and lobbyists learned that the abuse of our precious wild places can bring huge profits.
Here on the southeast coast, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River and its estuary are being polluted like never before — perhaps irreversibly — by an algae slime that proliferates from excess manure, sewage and fertilizer released by municipalities and, of course, from Lake Okeechobee.
Research clearly shows that most of the nutrients flowing into Lake Okeechobee come from tributaries in the northern Everglades. This is Big Sugar country, the Everglades Agricultural Area, where most of the nation's sugarcane is grown. Adjacent regions also are affected by discharges from the lake.
Elected officials and others have known for more than 30 years about our nutrient-rich water problems, but they consistently have put business interests ahead of eliminating the sources of the pollution. The discharge of dirty water from Lake Okeechobee is not new. It has been going on since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the dike around the lake decades ago and created a reservoir system that enabled the sugar industry to operate without major interruptions or effective regulation.
That is a clear sign of the insanity.
This year, because of unusually high rainfall into the lake, the Army Corps discharged unprecedented volumes of polluted water into the tributaries, further enriching algal blooms and releasing muck that smothers vital sea grass beds. Many scientists believe the toxic blooms, which have been increasing over the years, may have caused the deaths of untold numbers of fish, hundreds of pelicans, dozens of dolphins and more than 100 manatees.
Although this damage is taking a heavy toll on businesses that depend on a healthy environment for their incomes, too many owners continue to contribute money to the same cast of characters in Tallahassee who refuse to pass legislation to curb the pollution.
For many years, environmental groups have identified several key areas that elected officials and other leaders need to address to fix our most serious water pollution problems. In August, a coalition of environmentalists sent a statement to lawmakers outlining measures to stop the toxic algae scum in the Indian River Lagoon and other waters.
Here is part of the statement: "Septic tanks need to be cleaned out and connected to treatment plants, failing sewer lines that pour sewage into the estuary need to be replaced, sewage treatment plants must be upgraded, fertilizer ordinances must be adopted statewide, and, most importantly, agricultural pollution — the primary source of the filthy water into Lake Okeechobee — needs to be regulated."
Over the years, our governors and legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, have done little to fix these problems. They have let the polluting industries and their lobbyists write the regulations. It does not take rocket science to spot the loopholes. The fox is being allowed to guard the henhouse.
How insane is that?
Last week, the Indian River County Commission, the St. Lucie County Commission, the Martin County Commission and the cities of Fort Pierce and St. Lucie Village signed a resolution asking Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency regarding the Indian River Lagoon. The resolution implored the governor to issue an executive order to protect the waters of these areas. Scott has the constitutional authority to issue the order and to hold violators accountable.
We should be encouraged by the action of these local governments. However, because the governor and the Legislature are value business over the environment, we should expect the environmental insanity to continue unabated.


Freshwater plants in the Everglades at risk from rising sea levels – by Lee Rannals
October 11, 2013
Researchers at the University of Miami have confirmed that rising sea levels are threatening the Florida Everglades‘ freshwater plants.
Life inside the Everglades depends on the fresh water that flows south from Lake Okeechobee. Both plants and animals alike could face devastation if salt water began to intrude on this community.
The team used satellite imagery from 2001 to 2010 over the southeastern Everglades in an area called Taylor Slough. The satellite imagery confirmed long-term trends of mangrove expansion and aggressive habitat loss near the shore. This trend is related to salt water intrusion caused by sea-level rise and water management practices, according to the new study.
“I was very surprised at how well the results matched our understanding of long-term trends and field data. Normally, we don’t see such clear patterns,” said Douglas Fuller, principal investigator of the study published in the journal Wetlands.
The team found large patches of vegetation loss closer to the coast, about 2.5 miles from the shoreline, in and around a vegetative band of low productivity that has been shifting inland over the past 70 years.
“Less salt-tolerant plants like the sawgrass, spike rush, and tropical hardwood hammocks are retreating. At the same time, salt-loving mangroves continue to extend inland,” according to Fuller, professor of Geography and Regional studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan may help to offset some of the changes being caused by future salt water intrusion, but Fuller says that this restoration may not suffice if seal-level rise continues to accelerate.
Taylor Slough is the second largest flow-way for surface water in the Everglades and stretches about 18 miles along the eastern boundary of Everglades National Park. Fuller said the methods used in the study helped the scientists to assess the trends, unlike past research that was limited to plot-level studies.
“These field studies, which provide confirmation of the satellite-based results, involved clipping and weighing plants found in sawgrass prairies and are part of a long-term effort to understand the dynamics of the ecosystems in the Everglades,” Fuller said.
The team would like to apply the methods used in their study to other coastal wetland areas that are similarly being threatened by sea-level rise.


Mecca Farms $26 million sale to water district approved
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 10, 2013
Palm Beach County's Mecca Farms turns from a failed biotech-industry-hub into a key Everglades restoration project, under a $26 million deal approved Thursday.
The deal calls for the county to sell the nearly 2,000-acre former citrus grove west of Palm Beach Gardens to the South Florida Water Management District. It also reserves 150 acres of the property for a proposed state-run shooting range.
Environmental concerns about sprawling development in 2006 killed plans to turn Mecca Farms into a home for The Scripps Research Institute and the spin-off business parks and neighborhoods once expected to follow.
Now water management district officials plan to instead build a reservoir that would help replenish the Loxahatchee River, while also freeing up other water to flow south to the Everglades.
The water management district board approved the sale Thursday and the Palm Beach County Commission will be asked to give its final OK on Oct. 22.
"This whole project is a winner," district Board Member Kevin Powers said about the new plans for Mecca Farms. "It's a big day for restoration."
While water management district plans for Mecca Farms could end up being a boost for the environment, the cost adds to the property's financial drain on taxpayers.
Palm Beach County already invested more than $150 million of taxpayer money into failed Mecca Farms development efforts, including the $60 million it spent to buy the land during South Florida's building boom.
Now the district expects to spend up to $133 million building a water storage and treatment area that would feed the river.
The growing public cost for Mecca Farms also includes the district agreeing to pay $26 million based on a value estimated by an appraiser picked by the county, instead of the $21 million estimate from a district-picked appraiser.
"I still have a problem with paying $5 million over our appraisal," said district Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe, who Thursday cast the only vote against the deal.
Water from the proposed Mecca Farms reservoir would take the place of water from the district's $217 million reservoir west of Royal Palm Beach. That existing reservoir was originally supposed to supply the river, but is instead having its water redirected to the south under new Everglades restoration plans.
The new plans for Mecca Farms, north of Northlake Boulevard, also include creating a shooting range on 150 acres of the northwestern portion of the property beside the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would run the shooting range, with its first phases potentially opening to the public in 2015. Plans call for trap and skeet shooting, pistol and rifle ranges as well as clubhouse, pro shop and spectator stands are envisioned, with the hopes of attracting national shooting events.
Even with the shooting range, environmental groups supported the county selling Mecca Farms to the district. They contend that the property should have initially been acquired for restoration, not development.
Back in 2006, environmental concerns about an influx of development on farmland surrounded by wetlands bounced Scripps' proposed research labs and headquarters to their current site at Florida Atlantic University's Jupiter campus.
Audubon Florida representative Jane Graham called the new plans for Mecca Farms a "bold step forward" for protecting the Loxahatchee River.
"This will have great ecological benefits," said Cara Capp, who represents the National Parks Conservation Association.
Environmental concerns did squash part of the new Mecca Farms deal that the Florida Wildlife Federation worried could have allowed using the property as a conduit for dumping Lake Okeechobee water into the Loxahatchee River.
Flood control concerns this year have prompted hundreds of billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water to be drained into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, which has fouled coastal fishing grounds and prompted toxic algae blooms that made some waterways unsafe for swimming.
Environmental objections prompted the district Thursday to at least temporarily drop plans for the creation of a canal that could more directly link Mecca Farms to canals connected to Lake Okeechobee. The concern was that could create a new outlet for using the Loxahatchee River to dump Lake Okeechobee water out to sea.
"We never want to see a direct connection like that made," Florida Wildlife Federation representative Martha Musgrove said.
District Assistant Executive Director Ernie Barnett said the now-sidelined canal proposal was an effort to provide more water management flexibility and that limits on the Mecca Farms reservoir would not allow it to become a water discharge route for Lake Okeechobee.


Rick Scott orders Florida not to fund federal programs as local losses mount
Huffington Post
October 11, 2013
Do you feel unaffected by the government shutdown?
It may not last: Miami-Dade County alone is losing $31 million in personal income per week, a number that reaches $46 million across South Florida, according to a county economist's report cited by The Miami Herald.
Though it is expected local federal employees will eventually receive backpay, there's no telling how long the shutdown may last: no specific determination on how to end it was reached Thursday nightwhen President Obama met with 20 House Republicans.
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has forbidden the use of state funds to keep federal programs run by the state afloat, according to a memo obtained by the Times/Herald Bureau. Some of the programs facing closure serve foster children, veterans, and schools:
[Scott's Chief of Staff Adam] Hollingsworth did not address what might happen to a handful of federal programs administered by the state that are expected to run out of money in the next four to seven days. Federal assistance programs that serve foster children, veterans programs and small to medium-sized school districts are all expected to be short of cash beginning Oct. 14, state documents show.
In addition, two state agencies that manage federal programs are in jeopardy of losing funding. Records show that 274 employees at the Department of Military Affairs are being furloughed and that the Florida Department of State next week will run out of money to pay the rent on some of its buildings.
The Department of Juvenile Justice had planned to use cash in its trust funds to make payments for its adoption and foster care programs, but Hollingsworth's directive appears to prevent it.
Though the federal government is allowing states to re-open some national parks, Scott also declined to use state funds on Everglades National Park despite damages to businesses that depend on park tourism and a protest Wednesday from commercial fishing guides denied access to park waters.
The protestors, aboard some 100 boats, also included restaurant employees and other Keys residents who depend on fishing tourism for a living. (Watch video above.)
"These are guides, these are bartenders, these are mates, they're captains, they're store owners, they're hotel owners, residents, so it's everybody getting together to stand up for what's going on because this really needs to get resolved before it gets any worse," said organizer Randy Towe, a fishing guide for 35 years.

According to the National Park Service, visitors to Everglades National Park spend some $147 million in surrounding communities

South Florida water managers approve construction for water quality improvement project
Associated Press – Miami Herald,
October 11, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — The state agency overseeing Everglades restoration has approved a contract to start construction on a water quality improvement project south of Lake Okeechobee.
The chairman of the South Florida Water Management District's governing board said Thursday that the new storage site will significantly improve the agency's ability to remove pollutants from water flowing into the Everglades.
The $59.9 million project will create a reservoir to store storm water. Officials say vegetation such as bulrush and cattail planted in the site will help reduce the concentration of phosphorus in the water.
The water will then be directed south into wetlands constructed to filter more nutrients from the water as it flows south into Everglades National Park.
The project is part of the state's strategy for improving water quality in the Everglades.


St. Johns Riverkeeper issues algae bloom warning
Associated Press –
October 11, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An environmental group says water samples from an algae bloom in a northeast Florida river show toxin levels up to 100 times higher than what's considered safe by the World Health Organization.
The St. Johns Riverkeeper is warning people to stay away from the St. Johns River until the bloom dissipates.
The Florida Times-Union reports that Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman outlined what she called "alarming levels" of microcystin algae toxin to the Jacksonville Waterways Commission this week.
Large algae blooms are deadly for fish, marine mammals, sea turtles and other sea life. The toxins also can become airborne and cause breathing problems for people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.
A St. Johns River Water Management District spokeswoman says the agency tracked algae blooms this summer without finding similar readings.


Trading sugar land OKed for Everglades restoration proposal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
October 11, 2013
South Florida water managers have agreed to trade 8,700 acres of publicly-owned sugar cane land that was part of a controversial 2010 Everglades restoration land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The proposed deal calls for the South Florida Water Management District to give up 8,700 acres in Palm Beach County, near Lake Okeechobee, and pay nearly $6 million in exchange for about half as much land to the south, which is more strategically located for Everglades restoration.
The district board gave its initial OK Thursday, but still musts give final approval after a formal agreement is reached with landowners.
The 4,500 acres that the district ends up getting would allow expanding a neighboring stormwater treatment area, which uses aquatic plants to filter phosphorus and other pollutants out of water that flows in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – the northern reaches of the Everglades.
The 4,500 acres the district gets in the deal come from sugar producer Florida Crystals and Gladeview Holdings LC.
Florida Crystals gets the 8,700 acres once owned by its rival, U.S. Sugar.
Gladeview Holdings gets about 2,900 acres east of its old property, provided by Florida Crystals. Gladeview also gets nearly $6 million from the district.
The money for Gladeview is to compensate for relocation costs and to avoid an eminent domain legal fight, which district officials say could cost them even more.
Florida Crystals gets more land than it provided in the trade because the old U.S. Sugar land to the north is not considered as fertile as the ground Florida Crystals gives up in the trade.
The value of the land the district is trading is estimated to be about $20 million more than the land it is getting in return. But district officials contend the deal allows them to eventually save $32 million in Everglades restoration costs by being able to expand an existing stormwater treatment area.
“Location, location, location,” said Martha Musgrove, of the Florida Wildlife Federation, which supported the deal.
The transaction would help revamped Everglades restoration efforts “stay on schedule,” District Assistant Executive Director Ernie Barnett said.
Florida Crystals had been a staunch opponent of the 2010, $197 million land deal that enabled the district to acquire 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration efforts.
Trading some or all of that U.S. Sugar land had been envisioned as one of the benefits of acquiring the property.
“Florida Crystals has always supported science-based Everglades restoration projects, which is why we are willing to move forward with the land swaps, despite the potential cost to us,” Gaston Cantens, Vice President of Florida Crystals Corporation, said in a statement released Thursday. 
The land swaps and expanded stormwater treatment effort are part of Florida’s $880 million Everglades water pollution clean-up proposal.
The plan calls for building nearly 7,000 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas to go along with more than 50,000 acres of manmade filter marshes already used to absorb phosphorus from stormwater headed to the Everglades.
    In addition, reservoirs called "flow equalization basins" would be built nearby to hold water for the treatment areas.
Phosphorus, found in fertilizer, animal waste and the natural decay of soil, washes off agricultural land and urban areas and drains into the Everglades with damaging effects on wildlife habitat.


sea rise

As sea level rises, Everglades' freshwater plants perish - by Marie Guma-Diaz & Annette Gallagher
October 10, 2013
Just inland from the familiar salt-loving mangroves that line the Southern tip of the Florida Peninsula lie plant communities that depend on freshwater flowing south from Lake Okeechobee. These communities provide critical habitats to many wildlife species, and as salt water intrudes, it could spell problems for freshwater plants and animals alike.
Satellite imagery over the southeastern Everglades confirms long-term trends of mangrove expansion and sawgrass habitat loss near the shore. The trend is related to salt water intrusion caused by sea-level rise and water management practices, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Wetlands.
"I was very surprised at how well the results matched our understanding of long-term trends and field data.
Normally, we don't see such clear patterns," says Douglas Fuller, principal investigator of the study.
The findings show large patches of vegetation loss closer to the coast, approximately four kilometers from the shoreline, in and around a vegetative band of low productivity that has been shifting inland over the past 70 years. Growth trends were seen primarily in the interior, at about eight kilometers from the shore.
"Less salt-tolerant plants like the sawgrass, spike rush, and tropical hardwood hammocks are retreating. At the same time, salt-loving mangroves continue to extend inland," says Fuller, professor of Geography and Regional studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami.
Changes in water management, such as the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, may help offset the possible effects caused by future salt water intrusion. "However, restoration may not suffice if sea-level rise accelerates in the coming decades," Fuller says.
Fuller and Yu Wang, a former master's student at UM and a co-author on the paper, used satellite imagery from 2001 to 2010 over the southeastern Everglades, in an area called Taylor Slough, which is the second-largest flow-way for surface water in the Everglades, and stretches about 30 kilometers along the eastern boundary of Everglades National Park.
"These methods allowed us to perform a spatially comprehensive assessment of the trends, unlike research that has been limited to plot-level studies, in which careful measurements of plant cover and composition have been made over the past dozen years. These field studies, which provide confirmation of the satellite-based results, involved clipping and weighing plants found in sawgrass prairies and are part of a long-term effort to understand the dynamics of the ecosystems in the Everglades," Fuller says.
The findings are shared in a paper titled "Recent Trends in Satellite Vegetation Index Observations Indicate Decreasing Vegetation Biomass in the Southeastern Saline Everglades Wetlands."
In the future, the researchers would like to apply the methods used in their study to other coastal wetland areas that are threatened by sea-level rise.
Explore further:
Wetland restoration in the northern Everglades: Watershed potential and nutrient legacies


Marine animals continue to die of mysterious cause in Indian River Lagoon - by Eleanor K. Sommer
October 10, 2013
Scientists perplexed over record dolphin, manatee, and pelican deaths in “distressed” estuary
The mysterious die-offs of marine life in parts of the 156-mile Indian River Lagoon have perplexed scientists, alarmed environmentalists, and angered local citizens. Over the past year, record numbers of dolphins, manatees and pelicans have been found dead in the estuary that runs along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The lagoon is a unique subtropical ecosystem that is home to 4,300 species of wildlife, including more than 40 threatened or endangered species. The interconnected lacelike system of rivers, wetlands, and coastal marshes stretches south along the Atlantic from Volusia County to Martin County, passing Cape Canaveral midway.
This narrow, shallow waterway has been deteriorating for decades, according to many citizens and environmentalists. Suspected causes for the lagoon’s decline include nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, overuse of residential fertilizers, and release of water from Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida. Experts are still trying to solve the mystery of the recurring algal blooms and the animal die-offs.
The current series of unexplained deaths in the northern area of the lagoon began in early 2013. This and previous die-offs have been designated “unusual mortality events,” or UMEs by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). Between January and August, 62 dolphins died in the lagoon – about double what might be normally expected, according to NOAA. The deceased dolphins appear emaciated, as did pelicans that died by the hundreds between February and April of this year.
Although some people initially thought the dolphin die-offs in the lagoon might have been related to the large multi-state die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the Atlantic seaboard, from New York to North Carolina that began in July, this is not the case. The Atlantic Coast dolphins are succumbing to a type of Morbillivirus virus, a measles-like disease among cetaceans, which experts say must run its course as it did during a similar 1987–1988 outbreak when nearly 900 dolphins died.
The Indian River Lagoon dolphins are not as susceptible to the Morbivillvirus, says Blair Mase, coordinator for NOAA’s marine stranding program in the Southeast US. The Atlantic dolphins migrate up and down the coast and easily spread the disease. The Indian River Lagoon dolphins are residents and highly studied, so if they had the virus, it would have been noted, she says.
Dolphins and pelicans are not the only casualties in Indian River Lagoon. In Brevard County alone, 112 of the 274 manatees deaths recorded since July 2012 seem to be related to the UME, according to a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Manatees die from various causes throughout the year in Florida, including natural and human-related (for example, from being locked in flood gates or canals). However, the massive die-off in the lagoon is unusual, enough to earn it a UME designation as well.
While the dead dolphins and pelicans were emaciated, the manatees appeared well-nourished. Biologists have noted a change in the manatees’ diet, though it’s not clear if that’s the cause of mortality. The marine mammal normally consumes a variety of seagrasses, including shoal grass, manatee grass, and turtle grass. In the northern portion of the lagoon, an area called Banana River, where most of the manatees have died, more than 22,000 acres of seagrasses were decimated following a severe and prolonged algal bloom. As a result the manatees have been resorting to a diet of reddish brown macroalgae (seaweed) called Gracilaria.
An early, erroneous media account pointed to natural toxins on the Gracilaria as probable cause of the deaths. But NOAA communications director Ben Sherman says no definitive results have been found connecting the manatee deaths to their changed diet. “At this point, there are zero linkages between the macroalgae and the deaths,” he says. To date, NOAA has not examined of any marine mammals (dolphins or manatees) for exposure to the possible toxins in question; however, tests are ongoing at the NOAA Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina.
The different species that are dying in the lagoon adds to the challenge of determining the cause of the die-offs. Manatees are vegetarians and mammals. Dolphins and pelicans, while in different zoological families, both consume fish. Meanwhile, other estuary birds as well as marine animals like sea turtles (that eat seaweed) seem fine. Tests on fish haven’t provided any clues for researchers yet.
Various species of algae, which grow out of control when too many nutrients are released into the estuaries, have plagued the Indian River Lagoon for decades. For instance, a species of reddish brown algae, Pyrodinium bahamense, can be toxic for humans and animals and has previously produced saxitoxin that has poisoned fish.
Dolphins have experienced two previous UMEs in Indian River Lagoon, in 2001 and 2008, and in both events the animal carcasses were emaciated and had empty stomachs. Researchers were not able to determine the cause in either case, although in the 2001 case, they suspected but never proved, saxitoxin as the cause.
The latest outbreak of unexplained dolphin deaths had slowed down by late September – with area of the most deaths, Volusia County, reporting only three. Unexplained pelican deaths have not been reported since the spring, according to state fish and wildlife officials.
Many environmentalists and Florida citizens are now pointing to the continued deterioration of the estuary as the general cause for the mysterious deaths.
Indian River Lagoon as has been determined an “estuary in distress” by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The Florida agency reports that the lagoon supports an economy of about $3.7 billion, providing more than 15,000 jobs, and offering recreational and vacation opportunities to more than 11 million people. The impact of so many nearby residents and visitors to the lagoon is causing some of the problems the water body is now facing, says Troy Rice, director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. In some ways, the very things that make the lagoon famous – its extraordinary biological productivity and the threatened and endangered species (including the manatee) that call it home – have led to its decline, he says.
The widespread use of fertilizers and chemicals on lawns, as well as nutrient run-off from interior Florida agricultural lands that drain into the lagoon have led to its degradation. Increased levels of nitrogen and other nutrients from fertilizers and manure, and sewage from old or poorly maintained septic tanks are the major causes of algal blooms, continue to be a problem in various Florida waterways.
While there is no current scientific evidence to link the marine deaths and the declining health of the lagoon, toxic algal blooms have been an ecological hazard here since 2011 and may be contributing to the collapse of the ecosystem, Rice says.
The environmental law firm Earthjustice has collected hundreds of photos from coastal residents clearly demonstrating the invasion of toxic green slime in the area waterways. Earthjustice had filed suit against the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2008, on behalf of several Florida conservation organizations, to force the agency to establish Clean Water Act limitations on pollutants. The EPA agreed in 2009 to set numeric limits to sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoffs in Florida. However, the EPA is now seeking to modify the agreement, so as to allow continued pollution of Florida waters, says David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice in Florida.
"The slug of pollution has killed large numbers of dolphins, manatees, and sea birds. It is destroying the local economy. That’s why people are rallying against it by the thousands." Guest says. The answer, he suggested, is not to move the polluted water around, as some have suggested, but rather to “clean it up at the source.”
Some of South Florida’s nutrient pollution issues have been caused by the release of billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee since May by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps regularly releases water to prevent damage to the 70-year-old dike surrounding the 730-square mile lake during high rainfall events. Florida experienced an exceptionally wet summer – the wettest start to a rainy season in 45 years, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
The freshwater and sediment that is discharged into canals from Lake Okeechobee makes its way to coastal estuaries (east and west) where the freshwater creates an imbalance in saline content of the fragile brackish water ecosystems. In addition, the nutrient-rich water is contaminated with runoff from agricultural lands, which stimulates the overgrowth of algae. And if that is not enough, stormwater runoff into the rivers carries fecal pollution from pets, wildlife and human sewage, which elevates bacterial levels in the waterways.
At the beginning of August, Martin County residents were cautioned not to swim in the algae-ridden waters of St. Lucie River that flows into the southern portion of the Indian River. Residents complained of burning sensations and rashes, and health officials continue to warn against swimming in certain parts of the river.
As the hundreds of photos submitted to Earthjustice indicate, local citizens have had enough. Late last month, more than 5,000 people gathered in eight cities along the Indian River Lagoon to call attention to ongoing environmental disaster.
At the north end in Volusia County, 250 people turned out in “brutal thunderstorms” to hold hands along one of the bridges that span the Halifax River. Farther south, 2,000 people rallied along the Melbourne Causeway and 1,000 people attended the event in Stuart, near the St. Lucie River, where residents are frustrated by the unremitting algae blooms.
Scheduled to coincide with the National Estuaries Week, the coordinated regional “Hands Across the Lagoon” events sought to raise awareness about the deterioration of Florida’s waterways. Ongoing campaigns and educational forums seek to gather support for increased restoration and protection of Florida’s wetland ecosystems, says Annie Morgan, of the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.


New weapon against pythons
Associated Press - by Jennifer Kay
October 10, 2013
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 a snake-sniffing dog 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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 will try camouflaging them as pipes or other small, covered spaces where pythons like to hide, said John Humphrey, a biologist at the research center. 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 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, 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.
Not a sure thing
It's not clear where exactly the traps would be deployed, or whether they would be effective in an area as vast as the Everglades.
Everglades National Park alone encompasses 1.5 million acres, and all but roughly a 100,000 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, 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.


Significance & restoration of northern Everglades – by Raoul Girard
October 10, 2013
The Everglades at the southern portion of state Florida carry a significant legacy with them. These wetlands were a huge ecosystem once upon a time. A huge hydrologic system beginning in Orlando connects the everglades at the southern Florida with those in the northern part.
Restoration of these Everglades means to protect the wetlands and the Everglades National Park as well. But little is known that Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida is connected with these Everglades very closely.
According to a Biology Professor at the University of Central Florida, Patrick Bohlen Lake Okeechobee is the center of these Everglades. This lake is vital as it collects water of the Everglades in northern region and this water from the lake then goes to the Southern Everglades.
However, this natural water flow has been changed by people, therefore, resulting in number of environmental problems like nutrient pollution. In northern Everglades, most of the land is owned by private owners, who are using it for agricultural and urbanization purposes, therefore several contaminants including fertilizers flow into the Lake.
Many efforts are now being put in to deal with these problems. In this line only Prof. Bohlen is soon to present a paper called `Wetland Restoration in the Northern Everglades: Watershed Potential and Nutrient Legacies'.


St. Lucie River & Estuary water conditions improving by Rachel Leigh, Content Manager
October 10, 2013
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - The latest quality report shows the water in the St. Lucie River and Estuary has improved.
It's now listed at satisfactory. The reason is in part because Lake Okeechobee releases have been reduced.
Meanwhile, we are still waiting to get President Obama's response to a letter U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy sent him.
He requested the president tour the Treasure Coast to get a first hand look at the water.



Whatever happened to the deal to save the Everglades ? – by Greg Allen
October 10, 2013
South of Florida's Lake Okeechobee, hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane thrive in the heart of one of the world's largest wetlands. The Everglades stretches from the tip of the peninsula to central Florida, north of Lake Okeechobee.
"The Everglades actually begins at Shingle Creek, outside of Orlando," says Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club.
That's nearly 200 miles north of the agricultural land that Ullman and other environmentalists say is crucial to state and federal efforts to restore the wetlands area to a healthy ecosystem.
Five years ago, Florida officials announced a deal many believed would do just that. It was a plan to buy nearly 300 square miles of Everglades land owned by U.S. Sugar. But then, reality set in: The economy worsened and political opposition grew, forcing state officials to settle for a much smaller parcel.
To understand why the land is so important to restoring the ecosystem, a place to start is a storm water treatment area owned by the South Florida Water Management District. It's an expanse of marshland and shallow lakes with one main purpose: to scrub phosphorus from the water flowing south from the sugar cane fields.
It's large, nearly 17,000 acres. But Ullman says it's just a fraction of what's needed to restore the Everglades to a healthy ecosystem. "What we want to do," he says, "is have more water come south, be stored and cleaned up so it can be sent south to the Everglades."
'You've Got To Add More Land'
For more than 20 years, environmental groups, Florida officials and the federal government have worked together to restore the Everglades. A key part of that effort is recreating the historic flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee south, through land that decades ago was drained and converted into farmland, mostly for sugar.
It's a vision that received a big boost in 2008 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that Florida had struck a deal to buy most of U.S. Sugar's Everglades holdings for $1.75 billion. At a news conference held under a tent in a wildlife refuge, Crist said, "I can envision no better gift to the Everglades, the people of Florida and the people of America as well as our planet than to place in public ownership this missing link that represents the true key to restoration."
But, it was not to be. As the recession took hold, the state found itself short of money. Two years after it was announced, Florida closed on a much smaller contract, buying just one-seventh of the land on offer. The contract included an important clause though: For three years, it gave Florida the exclusive option to buy some or all of the U.S. Sugar land. That exclusive option expires this week.
Recently, 38 environmental groups in Florida sent a letter to the state's current governor, Rick Scott, asking him to carry through on the contract signed by his predecessor. Ullman says this deal remains the key to fixing the Everglades. "You've got to add more land," he says. "It's the only way."
“What we want to do is have more water come south, be stored and cleaned up so it can be sent south to the Everglades.
- Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club
In Florida, the financial picture has improved over the last two years. Tax revenues are up and the state has about $3 billion in reserves.
But while the money may be there, the political will is not. Scott, a Republican elected with strong Tea Party support, has cut funding for land acquisition. In fact, his administration is now moving to sell some state land in conservation areas.
Eyes On The Long Game
Recently, there's been a new call to restore Lake Okeechobee's flow south through the Everglades — and it's coming from people who live on Florida's Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
Weeks of heavy rainfall this year forced the Army Corps of Engineers to release large amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee down waterways to nearby coastal communities. The water, rich in nutrients from agricultural runoff, has caused algae blooms, some toxic.
At a state Senate hearing in Tallahassee, David Cullen of the Sierra Club told lawmakers the best way to protect communities along the coasts is to buy the U.S. Sugar land and send the water south. "The deadline is upon us," Cullen said, "but government can do amazing things when it wants to." Cullen said the cost to buy the rest of the U.S. Sugar land, more than 150,000 acres, would be $1.13 billion.
Committee Chairman Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart, one of the affected communities, interrupted him asking, "And where's that money going to come from?"
In South Florida, it's a skepticism shared by water management officials who say they already have enough land for current Everglades projects.
At one of the stormwater treatment lakes in the Everglades, Mark Lehman launches his small skiff for a day of fishing. He says these stormwater ponds can be good places to find largemouth bass.
He says he's looking forward to the day when more water from Lake Okeechobee runs south through the Everglades. "Fishing and everything will be better if they get it back to normal," Lehman says.
Environmental groups hope Scott may still act to buy some of the U.S. Sugar land before the state's exclusive option expires later this week. But they also have their eyes on the long game. After this week, Florida has a nonexclusive option to buy the land for another seven years. That's a deadline that comes after the next gubernatorial election.
Whatever Happened To The Deal To Save The Everglades? OPB News


Citrus menace lends urgency to Valley scientists
The Monitor – by Elizabeth Findell
October 9, 2013
WESLACO – Hundreds of vials holding tiny insects sat stacked on the counter of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Research assistant Marisa Gonzalez carefully sucked the insects from the vials, and prepared them to have their DNA extracted and examined.
The center is on the frontlines of the battle against citrus threats in the Rio Grande Valley. That has grown more urgent since the citrus greening disease appeared in San Juan last year, and at a new location in Mission last month.
Both findings of contamination led to circles of quarantine that now include much of the area from eastern Donna to Palmview. The zones don’t quite overlap and exclude a strip of central McAllen between them, as well as areas to the north and south like Hidalgo and Edinburg.
Discovery of the disease – which has decimated hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus in states including Florida and Louisiana – came as a blow, but not a surprise, to Valley growers. It spreads via an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid, which has long been present in this area.
But the discovery gives a new urgency to local scientists, who are both surveying for the disease and testing ways to combat it.
“It’s kept us busy,” center Director John DaGraca said. “The workload has picked up a lot.”
Madhurababu Kunta, who runs the lab at the citrus center, said it processes more than 100,000 insect samples per year and nearly as many plant samples. New semi-automated machinery purchased in the last year has been able to extract and evaluate more DNA samples.
Some 80 trees have been removed completely from San Juan, where the disease first showed up in a commercial orchard in January 2012. In Mission, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors found it weeks ago in a backyard grapefruit tree – one they had tested before with negative results.
“That illustrates one of the most challenging things about this, and that’s the latency,” said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual. “It will be a few years before the tree will show symptoms and before you can get a positive test.”
The Mission case also illustrates the challenge of combating greening in residential areas, where homeowners may be less attuned to it and less able to pre-emptively combat it.
In Mission, the property owner voluntarily removed the tree. The city issued a news release warning residents of the quarantine and encouraging them to cooperate with researchers inspecting trees.
“It’s a cultural thing – having a lime tree or a lemon tree in your backyard is popular,” DaGraca said of the abundance of citrus in even densely populated areas of Valley cities.
That has led those in the citrus industry to begin reaching out to homeowners as well as growers, Prewett said.
The industry itself has responded to the greening with new regulations on getting young trees from a closed environment. Growers have been aggressive in spraying to kill the psyllid and have been trying to work together better with neighbors to spray at the same time so it’s more effective.
“The fight against greening is from the budwood production, through the nursery and then to the grower,” DaGraca said.
The USDA has implemented biological controls – releasing thousands of Pakistani wasps each month from a center in Edinburg that feed on the psyllid to lower its numbers.
Weslaco scientists are studying a fungus that also feeds on the psyllid and kills it, hoping to combine it with the wasp control, DaGraca said.
For long-term solutions, researchers are experimenting with adding genes to citrus that could make the trees resistant to the disease.
Websites for South Texas Citrus Alert and Texas Citrus Greening list phone numbers to call and report contaminated citrus, maps of the quarantine zones, information about greening and a smartphone app to identify and report sick trees.
The industry will be rolling out a more aggressive public outreach program in the coming weeks.
Some signs are encouraging to Prewett and DaGraca. The disease doesn’t seem to be spreading here as quickly as in Florida – perhaps because extreme heat slows it.
"It may be a few years before we know how much trouble we're in here, so there's concern, but there's also a lot of optimism,” Prewett said. “We're going on two years now and we haven't found too many trees that are infected."


Florida residents cannot let conservation land be sold so easily – Letter by Marian and John Ryan, Winter Haven, FL
October 9, 2013
This evening, the Department of Environmental Regulation is scheduled to hold the last of four public hearings to receive public comments on the proposed surplus and sale of more than 3,500 acres of conservation land. The hearing will be 6 to 8 the DEP Central District Office, 3319 Maguire Boulevard, Suite 232, Orlando.
Most troubling is the fact that 2,600 of those acres are Polk County Green Swamp land in the area of critical state concern.
They include land where the Florida Department of Transportation has promised to install two wildlife underpasses to cross Interstate 4, between County Road 557 and U.S. 27, when the interstate is widened to 10 lanes.
Underpasses would provide safe passage for wildlife and enable surface water to flow across the now-impenetrable barrier. Dismissing federal funding for these underpasses would be unconscionable for our state's wildlife- and environmental-protection agencies.
The Department of Environmental Regulation, who originally proposed the outright sale of Hilochee parcels, is now recommending sale with conservation easements.
Why on earth would we allow the fire sale of 2,600 of the 6,100 acres the state paid $11.2 million for to protect the aquifer, wetlands, river headwaters and wildlife resources?
Many people and agencies have fought long and hard to protect the Green Swamp, and are incredulous that these parcels could be deemed "no longer needed for conservation purposes."
This land should be retained in public ownership to permanently protect water and wildlife resources, as aquifer-recharge areas and wildlife-corridor connections, and to continue to provide public access for diverse nature-based recreation.
The Hilochee parcels offer opportunities for hunting, wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, biking and geocaching for the residents and visitors. These would no longer be available if sold with a conservation easement.
Please attend the meeting or submit comments via the DEP Land Assessment web page.



FL Agri. Commissioner

Putnam urges lawmakers to spend for water quality
WGCU - by Margie Menzel
October 9, 2013
Florida's agriculture commissioner says complaints about toxic releases from Lake Okeechobee may actually help water-quality efforts statewide.
Lawmakers say it's too early in the legislative process to predict funding allocations for 2014, but Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday that the attention given to federal releases from Lake Okeechobee could increase support additional funding for water issues.
Putnam will also pitch $5 million for restoration of the state's natural springs as a means to have farmers and ranchers reduce nutrient runoff, along with $10 million more for shallow water retention and treatment in the northern Everglades.
Putnam says the need for quality water impacts every Floridian.
"We’ve got a lot of issues facing our state, but if you look at the three major economic engines in Florida: agriculture, tourism and construction, water is an inseparable force in their future", Putnam said.
Governor Rick Scott is expected to request $40 million from the legislature to build a storm-water retention area along the Saint Lucie River.
Scott has also proposed that the state Department of Transportation put aside $30 million a year, for three years, to advance the US Department of Interior's $170-to-$210 million project to bridge a 2.6 mile section of the Tamiami Trail.
Groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called the trail "one of the most prominent dams" blocking the natural flow of the River of Grass from the lake to the southern Everglades.
Putnam Pitches Water Quality Improvements            Southeast AgNet
Putnam Urges Lawmakers to Spend for Water Quality         WGCU News
Florida Ag Commish To Legislature: Let's Make Water A Priority   WFSU


Radel, Murphy send Obama Everglades funding invite – by News service of Florida
October 9, 2013
Following up on an Oct. 3 congressional hearing in Washington, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., and Trey Radel, R-Fla., sent a formal letter Tuesday to President Barack Obama about visiting South Florida to see the impacts of water releases from Lake Okeechobee on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The letter is part of continuing attempts to spur federal funding for Everglades restoration. "Even though we lack seniority, we cannot sit back and wait our turn to protect our communities," the letter from the two freshman House members said.
"We think you can appreciate such boldness and desire to break through the polarization and gridlock of Washington. Our residents need our help."
Gov. Rick Scott sent his own letter of invitation to the White House on Sept. 24.
During the Congressional hearing, Radel joined state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in repeating Scott's request.
The South Florida congressmen pointed to "damage caused" by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' handling of the Herbert Hoover Dike system and the need for funding of projects including the C-43 West Reservoir.
The reservoir is in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act that has recently been passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"These projects will begin to address the concerns of our neighbors on both coasts of the Sunshine State," the letter said.
Residents who live along the estuaries have been fighting the Army Corps over the impact of the releases since May.
The nutrient-rich water sent from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers has reportedly killed oysters and sea grass, along with causing a toxic algae outbreak that has forced Martin County health officials to warn residents against coming into contact with the water.


water release

Water improvement programs build momentum in Florida Legislature
Jacksonville Business Journal – by the News Service of Florida
October 9, 2013
TALLAHASSEE – Complaints about the harmful impacts of releases from Lake Okeechobee into estuaries on both sides of the state may actually help water-quality efforts across Florida, according to the state's agriculture commissioner.
Lawmakers say it's too early in the 2014 legislative-budget process to predict funding.
But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday that the continued attention given to state and local efforts to combat water releases from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers could drive lawmakers in Tallahassee to support additional funding for water issues across the state.
  LO dike
Huge releases of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee
this year have caused widespread environmental damage
on Florida's east and west coasts.
"The environmental devastation that has occurred on the east and west coasts as a result of high volumes of fresh water being released from Lake Okeechobee has created momentum, and in the Legislature momentum is everything," Putnam said after appearing before a joint meeting of the House State Affairs Committee and the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee. "So I do think the stars are lining up for this to be a good year, a big year, an important year for water policy and water resource funding."
Already, Gov. Rick Scott plans to request $40 million from the Legislature to build a storm-water retention area along the St. Lucie River. He has also proposed the state Department of Transportation spend $30 million a year, for three years, to advance the U.S. Department of Interior's $170 million to $210 million project to bridge a 2.6 mile section of the Tamiami Trail.
Groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called the trail "one of the most prominent dams" blocking the natural flow of water between Lake Okeechobee and the southern Everglades.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who heads the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, has backed Scott's proposals and has said he could support up to $100 million in funding for Everglades restoration.
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. Water-management districts and local governments were able to add $27 million in matching funds to the state's 2013 contribution.
The state has about 1,000 springs that face an intrusion of nitrates and increasing signs of saltiness. Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, has said he doesn't want the 2013 funding to be a one-time allocation.
Legislators on Tuesday were told how fertilizer and septic tanks are among the sources of pollution for the state's springs. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard told the House members the state has policies in place to clean up the springs, but needs the funding.
"I would say we've made a lot of progress, but unfortunately you all don't have a magic wand either, it's tough to solve these problems in a 60-day legislative session," Vinyard said. "But what I will commit to you, whatever money you give me, we will use it in science-based solutions."
Putnam said he will pitch lawmakers on spending $5 million to help farmers and ranchers reduce nutrient runoff into springs and $10 million for shallow-water retention and treatment in the northern Everglades.
The need for quality water impacts every sector of the state from its vital agriculture and tourism industries to its growing population, Putnam said.
He pointed to the ecological and economic collapse hitting Apalachicola Bay, which is now the subject of a federal lawsuit by Florida against Georgia over water withdrawals and agricultural practices in southwest Georgia that have damaged the bay.
"It's not the most urban community, it's not the most urban county, but it is currently feeling absolutely the most pain, certainly on a per-capita basis, of not having water quality dialed in directly," Putnam said.
The message isn’t anything new from Putnam, who has been sounding the alarm since taking office that Florida must increase its alternative water supplies and conserve water.
His agency will also propose increases in conservation and increasing the use of recycled water, while pushing for nutrient reduction technologies and new sensors that can detect deterioration of water quality.
Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, quickly gave his support for increasing technology.
"You can't really treat a problem unless you know what you're treating," Lee said. "Sensors are a great way to measure what's out in there in the water. Our Indian River Lagoon is very sick and we need to do all we can to get it back."

Special section on BMPs

Following phosphorus, water BMPs can cut inputs without yields – by Sanjay Shukla, Gregory Hendricks and Tom Breza
October 8, 2013
Applying BMP (best management practice)-recommended water and phosphorus (P) inputs for seepage-irrigated tomato and watermelon in South Florida can reduce water use and P leaching to groundwater without adversely affecting fruit yield.
These are the findings of a 3-year comprehensive UF/IFAS study at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. The study determined BMP effectiveness with regard to yield, water use and water quality by evaluating response to different irrigation and fertilizer (N-P-K) inputs.
One tested production system represented industry-average fertilizer and water use whereas a second system used BMP-based inputs, both with seepage irrigation. A third system used BMP-based fertilizer rates with subsurface drip (BMP-drip), which is an alternative to the traditional seepage system.
The industry fertilizer rates and irrigation management were determined from a grower survey and on-farm measurements, respectively. The BMP-based P rates were based on a Mehlich-1 (M1) soil P test, whereas industry rates represented the average of survey results.
For tomatoes, they were 162 pounds of P₂O5 per acre, and for watermelon, they were 170 pounds P₂O5 per acre.
The industry system was maintained at a higher soil moisture than the BMP systems, which were managed by measuring soil moisture in the bed. The water table depths for the industry system were shallower compared with the BMP system. Concentrations of P in the plant, soil and groundwater were measured.
Tomato yields measured across three P rates and four growing seasons were not different, indicating that no adverse impact of reduced fertilizer rates occurred. Yield effects for watermelon varied across the two seasons tested.
During one season, there was no difference in yield; during the other season, yields for the industry average fields were higher, mainly due to a wetter-than-average spring that resulted in an extremely high water table that leached potassium and nitrogen from the beds.
However, no effect of P fertilizer rates on yield could be established. Although P concentrations in the leaf tissue for the BMP system were lower than the industry average, they were within the sufficiency range.
Despite a 35 percent higher P rate applied in the industry system (162 pounds P₂O5/acre) compared with the BMP (120 pounds P₂O5/acre) systems, the M1-P values remained similar as long as both systems received P inputs.
Soil M1-P stabilized around 55 parts per million and showed a gradual decrease after P application stopped for the two BMP systems, but M1-P steadily increased in the industry system, reaching a high of 145 ppm by the end of the study.
M1-P was positively correlated with groundwater P. Results showed that total P (TP) concentration in the groundwater for both BMP systems (BMP = 2,098 parts per billion and BMP-drip = 2,048 ppb) were 33 percent lower than the industry average of 3,090 ppb. Although the sub-drip system used almost 50 percent less water compared with the industry system, it did not offer any groundwater quality benefit.
Our results showed that adoption of UF/IFAS-recommended P rates as a BMP did not appear to reduce crop yield but improved water quality. Reductions in groundwater P observed with the BMP rates will also reduce the P loads in farm drainage.
The study was funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Vegetable Growers Research and Education Fund.
Sanjay Shukla is an Associate Professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. Gregory Hendricks is a post-doctoral researcher at the same center. Tom Obreza is a professor in the Soil and Water Science Department, Gainesville.


Local leaders say tide is turning on toxic waters
CBS 12 News - by Jana Eschbach
October 8, 2013
STUART, Fla. -- A game-changing meeting in Washington D.C. may get relief for those suffering along the banks of the toxic St. Lucie River.
Tonight, state leaders are flexing more political muscle to help fund projects to strengthen the Herbert Hoover Dike and reduce the polluted waters from flowing east into the St. Lucie Estuary.
Senator Joe Negron from Palm City met one on one with Gov. Rick Scott to ask for an additional $30 million to fund restoration projects for the Indian River Lagoon.
Negron feels confident Scott will back his request after Congress pledged close to $200 million in funding last week.
So, what's so expensive to do?
"First of all we have to buy the land. Land is expensive," said Martin Co. Commissioner Sarah Heard. "Then we have to design the projects. Then we have to build them. They are all massive projects and they all require massive funding."
To date, Scott has pledged $130 million in funding for Everglades projects, like the $90 million project to raise up Route 41 in the Everglades, to allow for more water to flow south. As well as $40 million for the C-44 Resevoir project that should help lessen the pollutants in the water flowing east.
"The Governor and I spoke about trying to come up with new procedures and policies so we dont find ourselves in this situation year after year," Negron said. "We are looking at the first week in November to release our report and recommendations to the State."
Negron is asking for $100 million in state funding total for the next legislative session. With the sad state of the Lagoon, and record dolphin and manatee deaths, he's gotten plenty of support. Negron says he won't stop pushing until the water flows south and not east into Martin County.
Negron also believes politicians like Reps. Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, would not promise funding they cannot deliver.
"I believe the Congressmen and women I spoke with will support these projects," Negron said.


The government shutdown really sucks at Everglades National Park
Huffington Post
October 8, 2013
As the federal government shutdown enters Day Eight, the grim reality hits hard in and near Everglades National Park.
Not only may the gridlock jeopardize a critical restoration funding bill, it has dried up business in surrounding communities.
Everglades City Oyster House owner Robert Miller told NBC-2 his business has dried up and he's had to tell employees to stay home.
"We usually get people from tour buses who came to the national park. The buses are 55 people, and I lost two of them a day; that's 110 people. That's probably about $2,500 in revenue out the window," Miller said.
Swiss tourists Christoph Zuercher and Michael Zuercher discovered the park was closed on October 7 when they arrived at the entrance to find Park Ranger Mirta Maltes behind gates. Visitors to the Everglades spend $147 million each year in surrounding communities, according to the Parks Service -- a critical cash flow for area businesses.
Letty Mendez and Elsa DeVito wait for customers at Gator Grill near the entrance to Everglades National Park. DeVito said she has seen an 85 percent drop in business since the park was closed by the government shutdown.Empty tables at Gator Grill, where a lone customer was eating inside. Everglades National Park usually sees 2,723 visitors on an average October day, but the government shutdown has now lasted longer than a week.
Other ways the shutdown is affecting Florida:
1,500 Furloughed For A Week At MacDill Air Force Base
The Tampa Tribune reports that the 1,500 workers furloughed through Sundayamounts to an estimated $2 million loss in wages "with a strong ripple effect on the local economy that depends on the base and the people who work there." It also meant longer hours for those airmen who remained at work.
Food Banks
Food bank distributor Feeding South Florida reaches 949,910 hungry residents -- the most of any such agency in the state -- but it's been hit hard by the shutdown: USDA funding accounts for more than one-third of its supply, the Miami Herald reports. 
“They sent us an email saying we can’t order anything else. So once we distribute this, that’s it,” Sari Vatske, the distributor’s vice president of programs and initiatives, told the Herald. “We need Publix, Target, Walmart and Winn-Dixie to step up. We’ll need to double efforts on food drives and fundraisers.”
Civilian Workers At Panhandle Military Bases
"I'm married, I've got three kids, I'm a disabled veteran, and I'm out of work now," said Matt Bowser, a member of the 4,000-strong union of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1897 at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. 
It was not immediately clear how many of EAFB's 5,300 civilian workers were affected, but about 1,160 people -- about 72 percent of the civilian workforce -- were sent home without pay from Hurlburt Field, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News
According to a protestor, the union reps base workers ranging from civil engineers to commissary workers. Roughly 2,500 civilian military workers were back on the job on Monday after a week of furlough, reports the Pensacola News-Journal, with priority for those whose jobs "directly support military missions." 
It is unknown how long it will take before they receive back pay, or how many additional workers can expect to be reinstated before the shutdown ends.
Endangered Species And Conservation Science
Research critical to endangered species, water quality, and Everglades restoration has been hobbled by the shutdown with 40 percent of the staff at NOAA's South East Fisheries Center sent home, forbidden to keep up with studies, experiments, and surveys. Long-term studies will be damaged if the shutdown continues, according to ecologist Dr. Margaret Miller: 
"On the internal side, your agency understands that we know we have a gap in the data because we couldn't help it. But when you go to publish that work or submit to reviewers or publishers, it's no good. And that's where scientists are really put in a bind by this situation: Scientific implementation is curtailed and it jeopardizes long-term data sets."
USDA Home Loans
Home loans available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been halted, leaving real estate agents without commissions and families unable to close on homes. The USDA loan program is focused on rural communities, affecting roughly 80 percent of the state of Florida
One realtor in Central Florida was banking on four closings in the coming weeks to pay for her wedding next month: "We've been through so much these past six years. We're tired," Addie Owens told the Orlando Sentinel. "And the people who are supposed to help us recover have shut things down."
Florida Keys Fishing Industry Stymied
"Charter guides received a message from the National Park Service this week that they cannot take clients fishing in Florida Bay until the feds get back to work," reports Keysnet. 
That means over 1,100 square miles of prime fishing is off limits until the shutdown ends.
"One week's worth of work is a quarter of my pay"
In Niceville, Robyn Murray was among U.S. Department of Labor staff sent home without pay. She has already filed for unemployment and begun looking for part-time work. Though her husband's job has not been affected, Murray told that finances will be strained: "[The shutdown] is going to keep me from paying half of the rent or my car payment or a bill or two."
2,069 NASA Workers Furloughed
Only nine of 2,078 civil servants will report to work at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral during the shutdown, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Green Sea Turtle
Thanks to the shutdown of Dry Tortugas National Park, no sea turtle nest monitoring will take place on seven islands in the Keys. A Florida Fish and Wildlife official told HuffPost that endangered green turtles may still be nesting in the area.
Head Start
Florida has the highest number of Head Start and Early Head Start programs whose grant funding is tied to an October 1 cycle, Lilli Copp, ‎director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office in Tallahassee, told The Huffington Post. 
Nearly 10,000 children in Florida are potentially impacted. Head Start agencies provide preschool, medical, dental, mental-health, disabilities and nutritional services for children of working parents living at the poverty line -- many of whom will be unable to go to work without Head Start because they cannot afford childcare. 
"It's not a choice they should have to make," Copp told The Orlando Sentinel
Already, 9 Head Start programs in the Tallahassee area were shuttered for a week before reopening Tuesday. Programs in Volusia county were going to close Monday, but will remain open another week through a line of credit. Copp said Jacksonville programs may have to close on Friday; Suwannee Valley programs had enough other funding to stay open for six and a half weeks; Orange and Palm Beach Counties have enough to stay open through the end of October; and Hillsborough County can stay open through the end of November. 
The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely it is that Head Start programs will close -- affecting not only children and parents but also employees. 
“They need to know that this situation is affecting a lot of families,” Victoria Thomas, a mom enrolled in a graduate program at Florida A&M University, told Bloomberg. “I’m not sure if they don’t know, or if they don’t care.”
Fishing Guides To Protest Everglades National Park's Closure         NBC 6 South Florida
Park service: Everglades National Park losing thousands of dollars a ...       Daily Journal
Amidst US shutdown, federal employees begin to rebel       In-Depth
Fishing Guides To Protest Everglades National Park's Closure Due to Government Shutdown
Shutdown costs jobs at 'Ding' Darling Wildlife Refuge        Lehigh Acres News Star
Obama did not 'shut down the ocean', Politifact says            South Florida Business Journal (blog)
From Capitol Hill to Main Street: 5 ways the shutdown is slowing ... 
10 Ways The Government Shutdown Is Squeezing US Science       Huffington Post


Abrupt climate shift may have altered Everglades 2,800 years ago - by Sheila Foran
October 7, 2013
A semi-permanent high pressure weather pattern, commonly known as the Bermuda High, shifted to the southeast about 2,800 years ago. As a consequence, tropical storms that had routinely hit South Florida were shunted into the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting change in weather pattern was an important precursor of current environmental conditions in the Florida Everglades.
In an article published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), John Volin, professor and head of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and his colleagues, write that this climate shift decreased deposits of wind-blown dust that had previously been carried into the Everglades from as far away as the Sahara Desert in North Africa. This circumstance significantly altered the region's hydrology, nutrient supply, and vegetation.
Volin and his colleagues did a multi-proxy analysis of a sediment core from the Northeast Shark River Slough located in Everglades National Park. Their results indicate that prior to about 2,800 years ago, a wet climate with high dust loadings prevailed in the region. That dust was a key nutrient source for the development of large peatlands that covered the area now known as the Everglades. "The result of this wind shift is a drier climate that supports the saw grasses and tree islands dominating the region," Volin says.
This knowledge is important, he adds, because it means that current conditions in the Everglades may not reflect the ecosystem's previous drivers. The implications are significant:
"Our findings give us a window on what can happen in a time of abrupt climate change," Volin explains, "and we can view this as a model of how natural fluctuations in the climate – not to mention those that are influenced by humans – can alter the landscape. Basically, the Everglades went from a marshland to what it looks like today – with tree islands and ridges interspersed with free flowing channels of water, called sloughs."
Saving the Everglades
The research is also part of a comprehensive effort to preserve, or in some cases restore, the environmental integrity of this important subtropical region of South Florida. Covering approximately four million acres in an area that begins near Orlando where the Kissimmee River discharges into Lake Okeechobee, and extending 100 miles southward to Florida Bay, the Everglades are protected by what Volin terms, "a mosaic of efforts" under the umbrella of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
He says that following World War II, the Central and South Florida Canal Project of 1948 authorized draining parts of the Everglades to make room for agricultural development. Dams and levees were constructed for flood control, and water was diverted to provide for the needs of the two million people who lived in that part of the state.
"By the year 2000, the population in southeast Florida had grown to 5 million, with ever-increasing demands on the water system," he notes. "The Everglades had been compartmentalized by more than 1,000 miles of canals and levees designed for flood control. About 700,000 acres had been claimed to grow sugar cane and other crops and that resulted in the dumping of damaging nutrients into the natural system. Basically, the Everglades were in danger of collapsing."
However, President Bill Clinton, during one of his last acts in office, authorized the 'Water Resource Development Act of 2000,' which committed a multibillion dollar budget to comprehensive Everglades restoration. Out of this came $7.8 billion for funding the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a plan developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the South Florida ecosystem, including the Everglades.
Volin says the plan provides a blueprint for what has been described as the world's largest ecosystem restoration effort. It includes restoring natural flows of water, water quality, and more natural hydro-periods within the remaining natural areas.
"I can honestly say that this is an amazing collaboration," Volin says, "because it has successfully brought together state and federal governmental entities, scientists, and concerned citizens. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the legislation that created [the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan ] is that the U.S. Congress mandated that any decisions made had to be governed by sound science and be subject to scientific review."
Volin's interest in restoration ecology has made him a vocal advocate for the Everglades. Prior to coming to UConn in 2007, he was professor and director of the environmental sciences program at Florida Atlantic University. While in Florida, he was a member of the Science Coordination Group of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Research Committee Chair for the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, and a member of the Greater Everglades Wetlands Module Group.
Referring to the results of the study reported in PNAS, Volin says, "As efforts continue to save the Everglades, it is research such as this that helps guide us. If we could step back in time and restore the Everglades to the way it was 2,800 years ago, we'd be looking at one scenario. As it is, we have to look at current climate conditions and needs driven by today's population dynamics. What we hope to do is put back the natural drivers as much as possible, and allow the system to evolve and develop into a healthy, dynamic environment.
"If we lose the Everglades and the ecosystem it represents, we'll never get it back," he adds. "Studies like this one give us a chance to get it right."


Federal shutdown puts Florida Everglades project at risk
October 7, 2013
An official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the federal government shutdown is jeopardizing efforts to get an Everglades restoration project into a funding bill by the end of the year.
If the project doesn't make it into the pending bill - the Water Resources Development Act - it could wait up to seven years for Congress to authorize it in a similar bill.
Lt. Col. Thomas Greco told The Palm Beach Post that several federal agencies whose input is required have not responded because of the shutdown.
The public comment period for the Central Everglades Planning Project ends Oct. 15. The corps then has 30 days to review those comments and make a final report that the South Florida Water Management District must then approve.
EPA Approves Plan for $880 MIllion Everglades Cleanup
The goal of the Central Everglades Planning Project is to increase the quality and storage of critically-needed water south of Lake Okeechobee and retain water within Everglades National Park.
Federal shutdown puts Everglades project at risk      ABC Action News
Federal shutdown puts Everglades project at risk
Five ways the government shutdown is slowing down small ...        Washington Post
Obama Administration Closes Ocean over Government Shutdown  Opposing Views
OUR OPINION: Washington fails, but voters share blame for shutdown    San Angelo Standard Times


A copy of Florida’s lawsuit against Georgia

Fla. lawsuit may restart years of water litigation - by Jeff Gill
October 7, 2013
For those believing the tri-state “water wars” were done with a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision favoring Georgia, along came legal action last week that could add another decade to the already 20-year-old fight.
Florida filed suit against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court — the legal setting for interstate suits — claiming Georgia has “overconsumed” water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin, leaving flows to trickle into the Apalachicola Bay, home of Florida’s struggling oyster industry.
Much of the focus of the dispute is on Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta’s main drinking water source.
Continuing litigation over Florida’s suit isn’t a given, as the Supreme Court will decide whether to accept the case.
But if the suit passes muster with the court, it will be assigned to a special master, who will oversee all aspects of the case and eventually write a report for the court that will include a proposed allocation, said Lewis Jones of Atlanta law firm King & Spalding, which has represented Atlanta, the Atlanta Regional Commission and other local governments in the matter.
“The parties will then be given an opportunity to file objections to the special master’s report before the Supreme Court issues a final decree,” he added.
The entire process could take up to 10 years, Jones said.
The ACF Stakeholders, a group seeking water-sharing solutions for the basin, which also extends into Alabama, passed a resolution last week asking Florida Gov. Rick Scott “to delay any further legal action or pursue any current lawsuit” against Georgia over freshwater consumption in the basin.
The group’s governing board asked for the delay until it “has published its recommendations for a sustainable water management plan,” adding it has worked for four years to develop the plan and expects to complete the effort by June 2014.
The group “is convinced that collaborative efforts are essential to finding sustainable water management solutions,” the resolution states.
Melissa Sellers, Scott’s communications director, couldn’t be reached for comment. Patrick Gillespie, press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has declined comment.
Scott announced on Aug. 13 he would sue Georgia following a U.S. Senate field hearing where lawmakers heard about the impact that drought and reduced water flows had on Apalachicola Bay.
“This lawsuit will be targeted toward one thing — fighting for the future of Apalachicola,” he said.
Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said in response to the suit: “The only ‘unmitigated consumption’ going on around here is Florida’s waste of our tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit.
“Florida is receiving historically high water flows at the state line this year, but it needs a bogeyman to blame for its poor management of Apalachicola Bay.”
Clyde Morris, an attorney for Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, said: “From my view, the complaint uses a lot of hyperbole — words like ‘unchecked use’ and ‘unmitigated use by Georgia’ that simply aren’t true.
“And frankly, they’re not going to be able to prove those things, but it’s not surprising to see those things in a complaint.”
Florida’s lawsuit doesn’t focus squarely on Lake Lanier and the Upper Chattahoochee basin.
“Now, they’re taking aim at South Georgia and irrigation uses for farming, not just the Atlanta area,” Morris said. “We really didn’t deal a whole lot with the Flint River in earlier litigation, and it looks like (Florida) is trying to make that a high focus of this case.”
The suit also complains about “low flows in the summertime.”
“It seems like their attitude continues to be that Lake Lanier is a bottomless resource that was built, in this case, to preserve the oyster industry, when we all know it’s neither bottomless nor was it built for that purpose,” Morris said.
The lawsuit doesn’t acknowledge “we have taken huge strides to reduce our per capita consumption,” he added.
“I think they’ve got a tough road to hoe to prove that Georgia is not being a good steward of the water that’s coming down through the ACF,” Morris said.
Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County (Fla.) Seafood Workers Association, doesn’t quite share that view.
“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.”
But even he is wary about a lawsuit.
“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.”


Governing Board meeting Agenda of the SFWMD - October 10, 2013
October 7, 2013
Discussion Agenda:
29. Technical Reports
A) Water Conditions Report - Tommy Strowd, Assistant Executive Director, Operations, Maintenance & Construction (ext. 6998)
B) Ecological Conditions Report - Terrie Bates, Division Director, Water Resources (ext. 6952)
30. Central Everglades Planning Project Update - Tom Teets, Office Chief, Federal Policy and Coordination, Office of Everglades Policy and Coordination (ext. 6993)
31. Resolution No. 2013 - 1013 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District authorizing an eleven-year contract with Blue Head Ranch, LLC. for a Dispersed Water Management Program Northern Everglades Payment for Environmental Services Project for the purpose of providing water retention services on ranchlands in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed in an amount not to exceed $3,805,750, of which $193,750 is budgeted in FY14 and the remaining is subject to Governing Board approval of the FY15-FY24 budgets; providing an effective date. (Contract No. 4600002877) (EPC, Temperince Morgan, ext. 6987)
32. Resolution No. 2013 - 1014 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, to approve an agreement with Palm Beach County for the acquisition by the District of land interests containing 1,896.49 acres, more or less, for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project, in Palm Beach County, in the amount of $26,000,000 and associated costs for which dedicated funds (Save Our Everglades Trust Fund) are budgeted; approve declaring surplus, disposal of, and removal from the asset records, any such structures deemed unnecessary for the stated purpose of the original land acquisition; providing an effective date. (OMC, Bob Schaeffer, ext. 2985)
33. Resolution No. 2013 - 1015 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District requesting the release of funds from Save Our Everglades Trust Fund by the Department of Environmental Protection for the acquisition of land interests containing 1,896.49 acres, more or less, in the total amount of $26,000,000 and associated costs; for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project in Palm Beach, Florida; providing an effective date. (OMC, Bob Schaeffer, ext. 2985) 8 Governing Board Meeting Agenda of the South Florida Water Management District - October 10, 2013
34. Resolution No. 2013 - 1016 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, to approve a Memorandum of Agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) for the acquisition of land interests containing 150 acres, more or less, in Palm Beach County located within the Corbett Wildlife Management Area for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project, and conveyance to FFWCC of land interests containing 150 acres, more or less, in Palm Beach County; approve associated costs for which dedicated funds (Save Our Everglades Trust Fund) and/or ad valorem funds are budgeted; approve declaring surplus for exchange and conveyance of land interests containing a total of 150 acres, more or less, in Palm Beach County, without reservation of interests under Section 270.11, Florida Statutes; providing an effective date. (OMC, Bob Schaeffer, ext. 2985)
35. Resolution No. 2013 - 1017 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District requesting the release of funds from Save Our Everglades Trust Fund by the Department of Environmental Protection for the payment of associated costs not to exceed $165,000, in connection with the acquisition of land interests containing 150 acres, more or less, for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project in Palm Beach County, Florida; providing an effective date. (OMC, Bob Schaeffer, ext. 2985)
36. Resolution No. 2013 - 1018 A Resolution of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District approving a non-binding letter of intent for exchange of lands under which the South Florida Water Management District will acquire approximately 4,535 acres of land in Palm Beach County and pay cash consideration in the amount of $5,978,474 Florida Crystals Corporation will acquire approximately 8,713 acres of land in Palm Beach County from the District, and Gladeview Holdings, LC and its manager Knight Management, Inc. will acquire approximately 2,865 acres of land in Palm Beach County from Florida Crystals and receive the $5,978,474 from the District, all subject to approval of a land exchange agreement by the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District; providing an effective date. (EPC, Ernie Barnett, ext. 2110


The case for combating climate change with nuclear power and fracking
Harvard Business School - by Carmen Nobel
October 7, 2013
Joseph B. Lassiter explains why he believes that nuclear power and shale gas are on the right side of the fight against climate change, and why markets have a better shot at winning the fight than governments do.
If you ask any given environmentalist to identify the biggest threat to the planet, you may expect to hear about man-made climate change, consumerism, or overpopulation. But if you ask Harvard Business School's Joseph B. Lassiter, he'll toss in another: single-issue myopia.
First, there's the oft-discussed issue of temporal shortsightedness—the very human tendency to focus on present-day concerns without considering how our actions will affect the future. But there's also ideological myopia—a failure to realize that compromising a little is better than staying stuck in the present path.
"Right now we're letting the ends of the ideological spectrum and the entrenched power of legacy interests stalemate a path to the future," Lassiter says. "That's a thing worth fighting."
“Right now we’re letting the ends of the ideological spectrum and the entrenched power of legacy interests stalemate a path to the future.”
Lassiter, the Senator John Heinz Professor of Management Practice in Environmental Management, has spent several years studying the intersection between entrepreneurial finance and environmental concerns. He recently sat down with Harvard Business School Working Knowledge to discuss the core challenges of fighting global carbon dioxide emissions in a shortsighted, ideologically polarized environment.
To his mind, both in Europe and in the United States, government efforts to regulate carbon emissions have been costly and ineffective so far, an outcome often ensured by extreme politicking from the legacy energy, transportation, farming, and environmental lobbies.
"It's time for politicians, regulators, and voters to give markets—and the price signals that they send to producers, consumers, and entrepreneurs—a try at doing something that is both environmentally meaningful and economically sustainable," he says.
Lassiter's market-based proposal
His proposed market-based solution? "I think each energy source—oil, natural gas, wind, nuclear, solar, etc.—should have a market price based not only on its production costs, but also, in part, on its unique public costs reflected by revenue-neutral taxes: a carbon emissions tax, a security-of-supply tax, a catastrophe insurance tax, and even a local emissions abatement tax," he says. "While people hate the thought of paying more taxes, we are in truth paying most of these 'taxes' today. Unfortunately, the political process allows these taxes—or subsidies—to be hidden in rules, regulations, and foreign policy decisions.
"The resulting market prices for energy should be enforced in international trade with border tariffs," Lassiter continues. "And we should let markets go to work for us. I think that markets will do a much cheaper, faster job of attacking our energy and environment problems than having politicians and regulators try to solve them by selecting technologies or drafting complex rules and regulations that simply hide the costs from consumers and producers alike. The likelihood that what I just said will actually happen is vanishingly small. But I'm an old man, so I should keep on emphasizing completely obvious solutions."
Like many people, Lassiter is concerned that the massive carbon emissions from today's coal plants and transportation sector pose a major danger to mankind through the effects of rapid climate change. Less typically, he's more bullish on nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," than he is on solar energy or wind power for addressing the worldwide carbon emissions problem. It's not that he has anything against renewable energy. It's that he hasn't seen evidence that renewable energy sources will get cheap enough, fast enough to slow global carbon emissions, particularly those from coal-fired power plants in China and India.
"The Chinese and Indians are going to clean up their local pollution problem—particulates and sulfur emissions—from coal plants, but the carbon emissions are an entirely different matter. To have a dramatic impact on those carbon emissions, you need to find something that beats a traditional coal plant in their countries on straightforward energy economics, and that's really, really hard to do," he says.
The case for fighting coal with nuclear and fracking technology
Given the absolutely clear evidence that electricity significantly betters human life in the developing world, Lassiter worries that attempts to squelch nuclear and fracking efforts will just give rise to more and more coal plants around the world. "When it comes to carbon emissions, nearly anything is better than a traditional coal-fired power plant," he says.
Lassiter argues that the world has allowed nuclear to become virtually an "orphaned technology," despite its potential to attack the problems of carbon emissions. And in spite of recent concerns about the tragedy at Japan's Fukushima plant, he maintains that nuclear power "is a scalable technology that has significant room for technological improvement, safety enhancement, proliferation resistance, regulatory redesign, and, yes, cost reduction."
“When it comes to carbon emissions, nearly anything is better than a traditional coal-fired power plant.”
And what are we to do about the problem of radioactive waste, a byproduct of nuclear power generation? Lassiter points to three young companies—Martingale, Inc., of Tavernier, Florida, Transatomic Power of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and TerraPower of Bellevue, Washington. Each is working on new nuclear reactor designs to harvest and run on radioactive waste fuels, such as thorium (a waste product of rare earth mining), and depleted uranium (the waste product left in spent nuclear fuel rods). In other words, these new nuclear designs could actually consume and be fueled by materials largely considered to be radioactive waste today.
"The world probably has enough spent nuclear fuel lying around to power reactors for hundreds of years, and there is literally four times as much thorium on the planet as uranium," Lassiter says.
Building a prototype of any one of these new nuclear designs may take 5 to 10 years and cost upwards of $1 billion, which suggests that they're in danger of falling into the financing "valley of death," the stage between researching a product and actually going to market with it. Even so, TerraPower has received multiple rounds of funding—and its chairman, Bill Gates, is the wealthiest person on earth. (Last year, Lassiter coauthored a business case about TerraPower's funding issues, along with HBS colleagues William A. Sahlman and Ramana Nanda and James McQuade [HBS MBA 2011].)
"What would our world look like if we could have US levels of electricity available at affordable prices for every person on the planet for 1,000 years?" Lassiter says. "We should be working on nuclear like there is no tomorrow. We should do everything we can to encourage new nuclear and drive it to costs that are competitive with traditional coal. We need to insist that the world's governments allow and encourage entrepreneurs to pursue nuclear with both rigorous testing and real urgency. And we need to always remember that if new nuclear or any energy alternative doesn't match coal on straight-up cost, it won't do much to solve the worldwide carbon emissions problem."
Lassiter also supports shale gas, produced through fracking. He likes it because the market likes it. The shale gas boom in the United States has driven down the cost of natural gas, which has increased secure, domestic supplies. The global unconventional gas market, valued at $93.95 billion in 2012, is expected to reach $126.93 billion by 2019, according to a recent report by Transparency Market Research. Coal's market share is expected to decrease accordingly.
"Shale gas has produced a ton of great companies, and the 'clean energy' cost gap versus coal has narrowed because of shale gas," Lassiter says. "A lot of people say, 'But, no, no, no, that's not clean energy.' Well, I say that if a gas-fired plant has lower emissions than a traditional coal plant, it's at least cleaner energy, and it buys us more time to find a zero-carbon emissions alternative."
Coal combustion emits nearly twice as much carbon dioxide per energy unit than natural gas, with crude oil combustion falling between the two, according to the Energy Information Administration. But fracking comes with its own environmental risks, not the least of which is wastewater production. Again, Lassiter points to a market-based solution: Select Energy Services in Houston is among many companies turning their attention toward fracking water management. The frack water treatment market is expected to grow ninefold to $9 billion in 2020, up from abourt $1 billion in 2012, according to a Lux Research Report issued last year.
Carbon emissions are acting globally, so why aren't we?
Lassiter also warns of geographical myopia—discounting how local action or inaction will affect the whole world. In his lectures, he often incorporates a slide from Robert Hargraves, an energy policy instructor at Dartmouth College, which forecasts a hypothetical but startling scenario for the world's electricity consumption. [Click the image to see the slide.]"Even if we were capable of cutting US per capita electricity usage in half by 2050 and the rest of the world only rose to that hypothetical level of US per capita consumption by 2050, the world will have a tremendous growth in electricity usage and with that the associated carbon emissions," Lassiter says. "So, unless we impact carbon emissions, particularly in China and India, nothing we do in the United States much matters. To do that, the world needs to show them an alternative for electricity that beats coal on price."
Somewhat wryly, Lassiter acknowledges that the threat of climate change may be overstated for some—inasmuch as he thinks that it's probably happening slowly enough for the planet's wealthier residents to adapt successfully. But that's not the case for nations in sub-Saharan Africa like Sudan, which has been in ecological crisis for years. (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is among those who have cited climate change as a culprit in inciting the Darfur conflict.)
"It is pretty bad in some parts of the world today," Lassiter says. "And with rapid climate change, it's absolutely going to get worse and worse over time. There will be more extreme events; there will be islands that go under water. But, thank you very much, they'll put another few meters onto the seawalls of the Amsterdams, Londons, and New Yorks of the world, and things will appear to be perfectly OK.
"Most of the time, wealthy people figure out a way to do OK, and it's the poor people who get hammered," he continues. "In my mind, there are some ethics there that each one of us needs to worry about, and today we are each making a de facto decision through our collective inaction. But even the wealthy need to do some soul-searching. If the upper extremes of potential climate changes materialize, I…no, we don't know what will happen. There is a material risk that we will all go into a world where no one knows the consequences to our food supply, our cities, or our society. With every pound of CO2 emitted, we pass a piece of that incalculable risk on to our children each and every day. "


Drilling plan could still fly at Immokalee airport – by Mary Wozniak
October 6, 2013
Exploratory work possible now that detractor departed.
The plan to do exploratory drilling for oil at Immokalee Regional Airport may still fly, although Chris Curry, the executive director of the Collier County Airport Authority who proposed the project, has departed.
Curry’s contract was not renewed by the Collier County Commission and left Sept. 30, the end of the county’s fiscal year. Curry had said in June that the drilling proposal would probably come before the commission for a vote in September.
But the commission turned control of the Immokalee airport and two other county-controlled airports, the Marco Island Executive Airport and Everglades Airpark, to County Manager Leo Och’s office.
The issue is up in the air, said Commissioner Donna Fiala, who was a Curry supporter. “With the state of flux we are now in with the airports, I don’t think anyone knows what can be expected. No one in the manager’s office knows anything about airports, most of the commissioners don’t know about this, and the man who knows what to do and how to do it has now been swept out the door,” she said. “We have a couple airport managers, but they’ll have to get up to speed with what the county manger wants them to do before I think anything will move forward on anything.”
Commissioner Tom Henning has made a recommendation to direct the county manager to come up with a staff analysis, organizational analysis and new operations management plan.
“The opportunities to drill for oil on the airport have not changed with the change at the helm, and the Board of County Commissioners is looking forward to hearing from the county manager how he can make the airports more efficient and move towards a balanced budget,” Camden Smith, Henning’s spokeswoman, said.
An underground title search has just been completed that shows the majority of the oil, gas and mineral rights at the airport belong to the county, Curry said in a phone interview. Next would be getting the approval of the commission and the Federal Aviation Administration. The county would have to put out a request for proposal for the project, he said.
“It’s at their total discretion to decide if they want to do it,” Curry said.
The reason for drilling would be to earn more revenue to run the three airports and eventually make them self-sufficient, Curry said. The county provides about $500,000 for airport operations. The Naples Municipal Airport is run by the City of Naples
Curry had estimated he could get a minimum $35 per acre for a pre-paid lease amount, then a minimum 20 percent royalty if anything is discovered. The county began talks about a year ago with “one or two” firms interested in drilling, he said.
He also reiterated that the Dan. A. Hughes Company of Texas, which just received a permit Sept. 20 to drill at a site near Golden Gate Estates, was not one of the companies expressing interest.
Residents’ overwhelming opposition to drilling near Golden Gate didn’t hurt the Immokalee Airport proposal, he said.
Curry said he didn’t think the drilling would be environmentally risky and that the nearest resident lives about 2 miles away.
Drilling is not new in the Eastern Collier area. “All that we were looking to do was sort of re-invent a lease that was done by the county on at least two occasions,” one in the 1980s and one in the 1990s, he said. “I don’t think anybody actually ever drilled. I think they had the lease to the rights to do exploration.”


LO release

Modern catastrophe churning near Stuart – by Frank Sargeant, Tribune correspondent (Outdoors)
October 6, 2013
One of the saddest stories in Florida’s sad history of environmental disasters is a modern one.
In an age of environmental awareness and scientific knowledge that should prevent following the footsteps of the past, we have a watershed catastrophe in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, in the waters around the posh, east coast town of Stuart.
This area was, not long ago, perhaps Florida’s finest estuary. The water was stunningly clear, sea grasses grew everywhere, and there was an incredible abundance of enormous snook and fat spotted sea trout as long as your leg (I knew many of them on a first-name basis). Manatees and porpoises were abundant and healthy, as were all the wading and diving birds that mark a healthy ecosystem.
It was such a striking spot that Karl Wickstrom, founding father of Florida Sportsman magazine and one of the state’s leading voices for conservation, moved the company there from Miami to be in the epicenter of sport fishing. And the fortunate few who owned waterfront property were rightly convinced they were living in heaven on earth.
That is not the case today.
The water has turned a sickly green for much of the year, and it has become so cloudy that vast areas of the once-abundant turtle grass have died off. With the grass went the food chain, and with the baitfish went the gamefish. One can only hope that most migrated out the inlets into safer water beyond. Both manatees and porpoises — bottle-nosed dolphins, actually — have turned up sick in large numbers.
What appears most likely to be causing these issues is the outflow from Lake Okeechobee, which is the kidney — or maybe more correctly, the bladder — for most of intensively developed Central Florida, Disney World, et al, and the farming industry below it.
Okeechobee, fed by the Kissimmee River, which originates in the Orlando area, gets loaded with nutrients when the state gets a lot of rain, as it has been doing the past several years. Those nutrients get shunted to the South Fork of the St. Lucie, the Caloosahatchee and other outlets via canals that run through what were formerly wetlands stretching all the way to the brackish water of the Everglades, a natural filtration system that slowly released “polished” or reduced-nutrient water to tide.
The canals were dug decades ago to drain the land for farming, creating vast muck fields that are now used mostly for growing sugarcane.
The Caloosahatchee, which runs to the state’s west coast and exits into the Gulf of Mexico at Punta Rassa near Fort Myers Beach — is having the same sort of problems as the St. Lucie, so the culprit seems fairly clear.
The Corps of Engineers is attempting to defend itself by pointing out that most of the water that goes into the St. Lucie estuary comes from within the watershed, which is assuredly true.
But it’s also true that most of the water that goes into Tampa Bay comes from a heavily developed watershed — and Tampa Bay is in the best environmental shape it has attained in the past 40 years. No other areas along the east coast are having anything like the problems experienced by those around the mouth of the St. Lucie River, so it’s fairly likely that all those angry folks who point to the outflow from the lake as the source of their problem are right.
To be sure, the Corps has very little choice in the dumping. Its primary mission is to make sure the Okeechobee Dike does not fail, and if water gets too high in the lake, engineers say failure is highly likely. Therefore, when the lake goes up, the Corps opens the locks and lets the water flow. It has to, because consider the consequences — and the public reaction — if a wall of water took out the farm communities on the south side of the lake.
The cure for this — and all the homeowners, anglers, kayakers and environmentalists around the St. Lucie want a quick solution — is going to take many years and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Basically, according to scientists and engineers, the entire Kissimmee Basin will have to be replumbed, with the water that now gets channeled to the coasts going into vast marshy holding basins — now mostly farmland — where the nutrients will be leached out by the thick vegetation of the shallow water, and the run-off can be released a little at a time.
Further, stronger efforts are needed upstream, where the excessive nutrients originate, to cut run-off from residential areas, golf courses and farms, among many other sources. Some of this work already has been done by plugging part of the Kissimmee River’s dug channel, forcing water back through historic marshlands that slow and clean it, but much more is needed.
All of this means enormous expenditures of tax money from the state and federal levels, at a time when the economy is still shaky and the business mood is anything but elevated, thanks to concerns about federal government regulations.
In short, there’s no quick fix. But there is a fix.
That’s the good news.


Basins would help clean water – by Chad Gillis
October 5, 2013
Land south of lake would be used to get rid of pollution.
Lands once set aside to store water for large South Florida farming operations will likely be used to clean phosphorus from polluted Lake Okeechobee waters before they reach Everglades National Park, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s latest reports.
Called flow equalization basins, the two storage and treatment cells would allow the federal agency to legally send Lake Okeechobee water south instead of west and east through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river and estuary systems. Phosphorus levels in the lake are around 150 parts per billion. State and federal laws say water must be, at most, 10 parts per billion before it can be discharged onto public or private lands.
“I think it’s a start, but they’re still going to have to discharge water to the estuaries because it’s not a very large volume,” said Eric Milbrandt with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “That water must first go through storm water treatment because the phosphorus concentrations are too high coming out of the lake. Part of the challenge from the Corps is to treat that water.”
The idea of “sending water south” has been a rallying cry of sorts this summer as rainfall has created growing water quality concerns in Lee County and in the St. Lucie River system on the east coast.
The two flow equalization basins would store about 200,000 acre-feet of water at a depth of four feet, or about 26 billion gallons of water at peak capacity. That may sound like a lot of water, but it’s only five percent of the storage that will be needed to make Everglades restoration a reality.
Water quality experts say south Florida needs enough land to store about 3 million acre-feet of water (nearly 1 trillion gallons) to make the Everglades restoration work.
The flow basins are being built along the Miami and New North River canals in Palm Beach County.
The only way to store water naturally is to keep it on the landscape in wetland systems. South Florida’s ecology balanced itself before lands were artificially drained for development. Now water flows too fast to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, sending pollution to both coasts at whitewater rates.
Army Corps officials were not available for comment because of the federal shutdown.
Sending water south also would require permission from the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, which owns lands south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Everglades National Park.
Michael Frank, one of nearly 600 Miccosukee Tribe of Florida members, said the tribe will continue to contest restoration plans that include flooding his tribal lands with phosphorus laden waters.
“They’re not meeting their own regulations,” Frank said of the federal agency. “It’s not that we want to sue them. They’ve broken their own laws. We’re fighting to keep our culture, our existence.”
Frank, 56, said he was born in a chickee in the Everglades, or what the Army Corps and South Florida Water Management District now call Conservation Area 3A. He and other tribe members, who now employ former Army Corps Col. Terry Rice, filed suit over the 1-mile suspension of U.S. 41. That project is finishing up this year, although excess water from Lake Okeechobee is not flowing south to Everglades National Park.
“In the ‘70s and early ‘80s I could kill a bird in the canal or catch fish and feed my family,” Frank said while drinking a cup of coffee at the Miccosukee Restaurant near the Shark River Valley entrance to Everglades National Park. “But I haven’t had a gig or a fishing pole in 30 years. I have no desire to eat polluted fish.”
Frank said the state and federal government has the proper water drainage and infrastructure in place to release Lake Okeechobee waters to Everglades National Park. The problem, he said, is the National Park Service doesn’t want polluted Okeechobee waters.


Government shutdown closes Keys waters
Associated Press
October 5, 2013
KEY LARGO – The federal government shutdown also has shut down popular fishing waters in the Florida Keys.
Fishing guides were notified this week that the 281-square-mile Biscayne National Park would be closed until further notice. Most of that park is comprised of water.
Everglades National Park also was closed, putting almost all of Florida Bay off limits. In an email, Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said the closure applies to fishing guides, kayakers and pleasure boaters.
Dave Fowler, who heads the park’s Key Largo ranger station, told The Key West Citizen that rangers will enforce the closure but will focus on educating violators about the situation. He said that during the last government shutdown in 1995, rangers in the Key Largo district didn’t write a single ticket for violating the closure.


In the land of fruit, sugar and citrus, a Florida banana farm is growing
Palm Beach Post – by Susan Salisbury
October 6, 2013
PAHOKEE, Florida — The farms around Lake Okeechobee in western Palm Beach County are known for producing sugar cane and vegetables, but at NK Lago Farms, the crop is bananas and plantains, something not grown in big supply in Florida.
Nick Larsen and his wife Kiley Harper-Larsen, both 29, started the part-time venture in 2009. In a good year they sell about 70,000 bananas and plantains.
NK Lago's top seller is the Hua Moa or "Hawaiian" plantain, a favorite in Cuban, Caribbean and Central and South American communities, but generally not found in supermarkets. The plump plantain is used to make tostones. The plantains are sliced, fried, mashed and fried again until crispy. The Dwarf Puerto Rican Plantain along with the African Rhino Horn Plaintain are also popular.
"Right after we got married in 2007, we rented a house in Pahokee that had 25 banana trees. I thought it wasn't much work. It seemed pretty easy," Nick Larsen said.
Nick Larsen, a biological scientist at the University of Florida's Everglades Research & Education Center in Belle Glade, found out that bananas as a crop require the least financial input in relation to the return. Not only that, the trees produce year-round. He's growing 31 varieties, some experimental.
Bananas and plantains grow incredibly fast. In less than a year, some plants can produce fruit. Although it's not something Florida is known for, small farmers in South Florida plant a total of 500 or so acres, Larsen said.
Now that they have close to 700 trees, some planted right next to the Lake Okeechobee dike at the home they bought on Main Street in Pahokee, and another 2.5 acres in a remote location, they have found there is a lot of work involved. The weeds must be kept at bay with little use of herbicides, which would kill the plants. Larsen must pull weeds by hand and keep the farm mowed.
Harper-Larsen, business development representative for the Southern U.S. region and Canada at Primus Labs, a food safety auditing and testing services company for the produce industry, handles the sales and marketing.
"He's the brains and the brawn," she said of her husband.
Paul Allen of R.C. Hatton Farms, a Pahokee-based vegetable grower, partnered with the couple at the start, provided land, labor and equipment and even sent some of their produce with his to The Breakers, Harper-Larsen said. Then he leased land to them.
"We owe a lot to Paul. He gave us an opportunity. Farmland is so hard to come by. He believed in us," Harper-Larsen said.
Lake Okeechobee provides a microclimate that protects the plants from damaging freezes. The temperature doesn't drop below 40 degrees. The rich muck soil also is ideal, although some nutrients, such as potassium, must be added.
"Cold is the enemy of the banana. It would have black spots, and no one would buy it. The American consumer is finicky. They want things that look perfect and have no pesticide residue," Larsen said.
Their crops are "nature friendly," meaning they use such products as herbicides only when absolutely necessary. The fruit is covered with freeze cloth bags Larsen makes to protect it from insects.
They sell the produce at the Wellington Green Market from November through April, through some community sponsored agriculture share programs, and on weekends from their home farm. At the farm, they sell the produce for $10 a stalk. At the green market, the bananas go for $1 a hand (a cluster of five to seven of fruit). Hua Moa plantains are 50 cents per piece and Macho plantains are three for $1.
Even the plants' leaves and flowers are sold. The leaves are used as wrap for Puerto Rican dishes and the flowers are prized by chefs for use in salads or as a container.
Kim Erickson, co-owner of Erickson Farm in Canal Point says that the Larsens produce a top quality product because of the attention and effort they put into it.
"They're not the same kind of bananas you find in the grocery store. They have a better flavor," Erickson said.


Is clean water a right or a privilege ?
October 5, 2013
I have heard that the wars of the future will be about water, not oil. As our population grows at ever increasing rates, the demand for water for agricultural and human consumption is already outstripping fresh water supplies all over the globe. Throw in some pollution and the potable water supply dwindles even further.
The crisis is already evident. For the last 20 years, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida have argued over water rights, and the Colorado River no longer reaches the Sea of Cortez. Major water shortages in the United Arab Emirates and China threaten to politically disrupt those already unstable regions as states and countries squabble over who has rights to the dwindling supply. Kenya has just discovered a huge aquifer in the desert that is touted to hold enough fresh water to supply the country for 70 years. But will everyone in Kenya benefit? How will that aquifer be managed so that everyone gets a fair share?
The availability of fresh, clean water has become an issue in our own beloved Shenandoah Valley. This month as the US Forest Service prepared its 15-year management plan, it proposed allowing oil and natural gas companies to begin fracking in the George Washington National Forest. The upside those companies and some politicians would like us to see is a boost to the economy in the form of jobs. But at what cost?
Six straight years of natural gas traded for the destruction of habitat for wildlife, pollution of drinking water (not just for the Valley, but for the entire watershed of the James and Potomac Rivers), and encroachment on local farms as large equipment plows through to reach the drilling sites.
Pollution is not the only concern – the process of fracking requires millions of gallons of water, so much that towns in places like West Texas that are doing a big business in fracking have literally run out of water as their reservoirs are drained to supply the fracking operations.
And while the clean water supply dwindles, the economic principle of supply and demand becomes supercharged. There is big money to be made from water, and those who control it stand to gain more and more as water supplies dry up or become polluted.
A case in point is Augusta County’s Seawright Springs, which for years was open to locals who wanted to fill a few jugs with some of the purest water on the East Coast. In 2003, the property and springs were purchased in a million-dollar deal by Seawright Springs LLC, a company based in northern Virginia, and the million-plus gallons a day were cut off from public access to be bottled and sold as premium water in big city markets. As of this year the property is in foreclosure, and yet the owner still has not made the springs accessible to the public.
In other regions around the country, the situation is even more sinister, as private companies buy municipal water supplies to bottle and sell it to the millions of Americans who consume bottled water on a daily basis under the false impression that it is more pure than their tap water. Not only is this a complete rip-off (the federal government actually requires more rigorous monitoring of the cheaper water from your tap than bottled water), manufacturing plastic bottles drives up demand for petroleum, and the post-consumer plastic waste generated by all this consumption constitutes an alarming volume of pollution in our oceans.
The bottom line here is ethics. Who gets clean water and at what price? Shouldn’t we all? If water is necessary for life, then clean water should be a basic human right, not one that gets exploited for profit and degraded by careless polluters. I am not typically an alarmist, but this is an issue we can no longer ignore. You can learn more and take action at, and many other action websites.


Massive sewage spill prompts health alert
Orlando Sentinel - by Desiree Stennett
October 5, 2013
Roughly 500,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into canals and stormwater culverts linked to the St. Johns River on Saturday after a county pipe cracked, prompting a health advisory in a mostly commercial and industrial area north of Seminole Towne Center Mall.
The spill, one of the largest in years, occurred in canals and stormwater culverts in the area north of Andre Court west of Hickman Drive and west of Smith Canal to Interstate 4.
Officials say the waste didn't reach the St. Johns River and drinking water was not contaminated.
The spill would only affect those who come in physical contact with the waste.
Wash thoroughly if that happens, especially before eating or drinking, a Florida Department of Health alert said.
Businesses in that area include Seminole Harley Davidson and Comfort Inn & Suites. There are also large retention ponds in the area, which is east of I-4.
The waterways impacted by the spill are not usually used for recreation, so chances are slim that someone will touch the contaminated water, officials said.
The few homeowners who live in the area were warned, and signs were posted so visitors would be aware of the possible danger as well.
Crews with Seminole County Environmental Services noticed at 3:45 a.m. that the sewage flow had dropped at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility on Yankee Lake Road, about a mile from the Seminole-Lake county line, said spokesman Gary Rudolph.
The waste spilled for at least six hours before a 10-foot crack in the 12-inch pipe was found and repaired, Rudolph said.
It is not yet clear why the pipe failed, but Rudolph said it was likely caused by age.
Rudolph described this as the largest sewage spill he has seen since he started working for the Seminole County Environmental Service 11 years ago.
Dain Weister, a Health Department spokesman, said fewer than a dozen homes have access to the waterways.
Weister said officials contacted residents living in those homes to warn them about the spill.
The spill contains waste with microbes that could cause gastrointestinal and other diseases.
"Until further information is known regarding this contamination, residents are urged to take precaution in these areas and avoid these waterways," Dr. Swannie Jett with the Seminole County Health Department said in an advisory.
Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to disease and should take extra precaution around the contaminated water.
For more information, contact the Seminole County Health Department at 407-665-3000


Stop blame game now - Editorial
October 5, 2013
Debilitating government shutdown drags into second week
As the blame game nears the end of its first week, one thing is certain, and it is a certainty we have lived with for decades: Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much of anything and those who suffer the most because of this disconnection are the American people.
The federal government shutdown rolls into its second week on Tuesday, with little movement promised on ending the standoff. It has become a tennis match in government suits, with volleys for possible solutions sent by the Republican-controlled House rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and vice versa.
At the center of how these volleys play out are the Affordable Health Care Act, the budget and the debt ceiling. President Barack Obama and the Democrats will negotiate on the budget only after the Republicans agree to move a Senate bill that pays for government through Nov. 15 and does not impact ACA. Obama also wants the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling raised. Republicans want ACA changed, even eliminated, and additional cuts in government spending. What has happened since Tuesday could be summed up in two words: not much.
The victims are the taxpaying public and 800,000 of 2.9 million federal workers who were sent home, meaning most non-essential federal programs and services have been shut down.
The ACA should no longer be part of the blame game. The tea party Republicans still bark statements about shutting down what has been law since 2010. House Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, also a tea party member, wants a delay and seems confused as to why the Senate continues to reject what has been four House bills with solutions on ending the shutdown.
The Democrats and President Obama have no intention of backing off ACA, nor should they. The plan will move forward despite the shutdown.
This political impasse has been replicated in Florida as well. While many say this past legislative session was among the most collegial, the lack of common ground on health care is also hurting our citizenry.
This shutdown impacts all of us. It has closed 401 national treasures — our national parks. It will force delays in other programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Benefit checks will still go out, but may not arrive when most Americans expect them because the people that usually process them are no longer working.
The parks could stay open but without the 41,000 parks rangers, the government faces liability issues should someone need help.
The shutdown further deteriorates the trust Americans have in their government officials, especially when they see no significant movement toward a meaningful solution.
Locally, there are impacts. Our prized national park “Ding” Darling is closed. Those applying for seawall and boat lift permits, especially in Cape Coral, also face indefinite delays because U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees aren’t around to review them.
The Harry Chapin food bank also is nervous because 10 percent of the food it receives comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Radel said this week he will continue to work during the shutdown, but not accept a paycheck. His staff also continues to work, also unpaid. They are commendable acts, but what is accomplished?
He does deserve to be commended for conducting a clean water panel discussion in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Key government leaders from throughout Florida and in Washington, D.C., including Sen. Bill Nelson and House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, participated in meaningful discussions on what can be done to end the polluted water releases flowing from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
But for Radel and the rest of Congress, there needs to be meaningful dialogue and solutions to ending the shutdown. The answer is not in ending Obamacare, or blaming Obama. There has been enough of that. It is time to move and engage in strong bipartisan dialogue to get the government up and running, reduce the federal deficit and bring hope to Americans that they are not in the crossfire of a dysfunctional government, but part of a Democratic nation capable of working together.


US Capitol

Amid shutdown, bipartisan Congressional panel talks florida water problems
October 4, 2013
A bipartisan congressional panel held a hearing Thursday about the water issues in estuaries downstream from Lake Okeechobee, which have been polluted by ongoing water releases.
The hearing was attended by a packed house of politicians and residents from all over the state.
Despite the government shutdown around them, congressional members routinely struck a strong bipartisan tone during the panel.
The hearing was put together by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy and Republican Rep. Trey Radel, which represent districts east and west of the lake, respectively.
Murphy said it was important to make the hearing as bipartisan as possible.
“It’s important to come together in a bipartisan, bi-coastal way, to address this issue,” he said. “Don’t let this little divide say anything about Trey and I not working together on this issue.”
Radel said the panel came at a good time considering the all the gridlock that led to an eventual federal government shutdown.
“In these times of incredible pessimism I hope we can be maybe a tiny little ray of light a hope of optimism,” Radel said.
Both men moderated the four hour-long hearing, which was focused on the negative effects of the ongoing water releases from Lake Okeechobee on water quality in Florida.
Congressional members from all over the state—and the country-- stopped by to express their concern for Florida’s waterways, which have been effectively polluted by the fresh water releases into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has been battling with Republicans in the House over a spending bill, stopped by to express her relief that bipartisanship was alive in at least one corner of the House.
“It’s really a beautiful sight,” Pelosi said. “We have a bipartisan coming together about an issue—it’s not an issue really, it’s about our planet.”
However, the fact that federal agencies were shutdown during the panel, loomed large over the meeting.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, said projects aimed at solving water problems are carried out by non-essential federal employee, most of which are furloughed right now.
“Because [of] the shutdown that means that all of the projects that would be ready would be delayed,” Brown explained. “So this is hurting us.”
Ultimately, the biggest request from state and local officials at the meeting was for Congress to adequately fund projects that would clean up the Everglades and store water from Lake Okeechobee
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who stopped by the House panel, said that funding depends on whether Congress passes a federal water bill, known as WRDA.
“Go to the west of the lake—go to the Caloosahatchee, there is a project that is scheduled for a big holding area south of label that whole project is going to cost close to $500 million. We’ve got to have appropriations, but we have to have a water bill first.
Besides the many appearances from federal representatives, the hearing was attended by various state lawmakers, officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, environmental activists-- as well as residents from the east and west coast of the state who raised money to take a bus to Washington, all attended the hearing.


SW Floridians push Everglades restoration to relieve Caloosahatchee – Ledyard King
October 4, 2013
WASHINGTON — The coffee-colored waters befouling Fort Myers Beach cost John Heim his job selling concessions this summer. So he decided to take a 20-hour bus trip to Washington and personally ask Congress for help.
The water off the shore has been brackish before, but never as forebodingly dark brown as it is now, he said before addressing a panel of lawmakers Thursday. If nothing’s done, Heim said, the pollution will have devastating consequences for his community, including his 10-year-old daughter, Willow.
“It’s effectively killing off tourism, not to mention killing off our ecosytem,” he said. “I’m here to fight like hell, quite honestly, for her and for our livelihoods.”
Heim, 43, joined dozens of other activists, officials and elected representatives from South Florida at a special hearing to promote Everglades Restoration projects designed to help Florida’s “River of Grass” and limit the tainted flow east along the St. Lucie River, and west along Caloosahatchee River.
The hearing was convened by Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, and Democrat Patrick Murphy, who represents the Treasure Coast along the Atlantic. Both are pushing a regional agenda endorsed by 16 counties that make up the South Florida ecosystem.
“We in Florida clearly understand that a healthy environment means a healthy economy,” Radel said.
The agenda seeks about $1.2 billion in federal aid through the Water Resources Reform and Development Act for four major projects: upgrading the 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, restoring the Kissimmee River. completing the C-44 reservoir to the east of Lake Okeechobee, and authorizing the C-43 reservoir to the west.
The C-43, which could hold 55 billion gallons of water, is designed to help control freshwater flows down the Caloosahatchee to minimize the brackish runoff now pouring into the waters off Sanibel, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach, Radel said.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill last month authorizing $297 million for construction of the C-43 project as part of the water infrastructure bill.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the bill in May. That measure also authorizes C-43 as part of a broad restoration of the Everglades.
Still, money for the reservoir is far from a done deal.
A full House vote on the bill has been pushed back for at least two weeks, a delay being blamed on the current government shutdown. Assuming it passes, both chambers then would have to hammer out differences on a host of issues in the broader legislation before it could be sent to President Barack Obama for signing.
Even assuming that happens, the money has to be appropriated. The bill authorizes but does not provide funding for the projects.
Money tight
Rep. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., who attended Thursday’s hearing, said total water project authorizations for fiscal 2014 could add up to several billion dollars while the Army Corps of Engineers is not expected to have more than $1 billion to spend on them.
The state has already spent about $100 million buying land and designing the reservoir but the project can’t be completed without federal aid.
Asking Congress for money during a government shutdown and just ahead of what may be a rancorous battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling may seem like bad timing.
But the project has broad bipartisan backing beyond Florida, as reflected in the attendance of about 20 House lawmakers at Thursday’s hearing. They included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Bill Shuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the transportation committee.
Local communities that have spent millions on conservation efforts and regional activists who have waited years for action say the threats to the environment and the tourist-driven economy of South Florida are reaching a critical juncture.
Lee County Commissioner Larry Kiker said a recent survey of the lodging industry found the spoiled waters are costing the area. Nearly two-thirds said visitors checked out early because of the water and more than half of those say they won’t be coming back.
“You’ve got to realize that you only have one chance at a first impression,” Kiker told Radel and Murphy. “And the image that we have, I’m afraid, is of black, murky, unsafe water making Lee County (a place) not only where they decide not to come but never to come to in the first place.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, who also attended the hearing, was asked what activists can do to convince Congress and the Corps of Engineers that the Everglades projects deserve immediate federal aid.
“Keep the pressure on,” he said. “We got a long way to go.”


Back home, a different view of water woes
CBS 12 - by Chuck Weber
October 3, 2013
INDIANTOWN-- As Treasure Coast residents made their case in Washington Thursday, back home it's clear some people have a different view of what should be done.
Work is under way on the first phase of the so-called C-44 Reservoir near Indiantown. The project features a 3,400-acre reservoir and 6,300 acres of manmade marshes, designed to reduce the dirty water flowing to the St. Lucie River.
While the C-44 project enjoys widespread support, some members of the Water Resources Advisory Commission, meeting Thursday near West Palm Beach, expressed frustration over coordination of efforts to under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. CERP, as it's called, includes projects to help the St. Lucie.
"We need to get back to fundamentals on what we need to do, and prioritize all the various different projects," said Barbara Miedema, of the Sugar Cane Growers Co-op, located in Belle Glade.
"There's nothing haphazard about it," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "There is a process."
"No one said this would be easy," offered Jane Graham of Audubon of Florida. "This is the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world."
While Treasure Coast activists have called for a flow-way south of Lake Okeechobee, Miedema and others cite studies showing it's more effective to store water north of the Lake. However, CBS 12 has learned research into such options is on hold.


Congress hears about troubled Indian River Lagoon
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
October 3, 2013
The troubles in the Indian River Lagoon made it to Capitol Hill on Thursday during a congressional briefing on how millions of gallons of water being drained from Lake Okeechobee are damaging estuaries on both Florida’s east and west coasts.
Two freshmen members of Florida’s federal legislative delegation — Patrick Murphy and Trey Radel — sponsored the briefing, inviting a range of speakers to address ongoing problems in the St. Lucie River, southern end of the Lagoon and in Southwest Florida where the Caloosahatchee River flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Three panels discussed the ongoing environmental and economic impacts that releasing the nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee is having on shellfish beds and water quality in the St. Lucie River. The St. Lucie is one of several rivers that flow into the Indian River Lagoon, which stretches 156 miles along Florida’s East Coast between Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County and Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County.
Such releases have been an issue for decades during periods of high water, but took on new urgency this summer, in part because of problems already occurring in the northern end of the Lagoon in Volusia and Brevard counties. Several large algal blooms have occurred during the past three years, killing nearly 50,000 acres of seagrass. Scientists suspect those blooms may have led to the deaths of more than 100 manatees, dozens of dolphins, hundreds of pelicans and thousands of fish.
Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat who is the youngest member of Congress, called Thursday’s briefing a bi-partisan, bi-coastal effort, but talk of the bitter feuding that resulted in the shutdown of the federal government this week couldn’t be avoided. It forced some last minute reshuffling as planned speakers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies canceled.
But, Congressman John Mica, R-Winter Park, who represents part of Volusia County, said in a way the shutdown, which he termed “a minor interruption of federal service,” proved something of a mixed blessing. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have received as much attention and focus,” said Mica.
With little happening on Capitol Hill, the briefing attracted a parade of representatives from Florida and elsewhere, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat; Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat serving as House minority whip; and Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who heads the House transportation committee. Florida Senator Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne, also attended.
Dozens of residents, business owners and elected officials from St. Lucie and Martin and other Florida counties attended.
Pelosi drew cheers and applause from the crowd when she said the briefing elevated the issue to one of “national significance.”
“It is a crisis that requires our immediate attention,” Pelosi said.
Radel suggested he and Murphy spearhead a bipartisan letter to try to get President Barack Obama to visit Lake Okeechobee and the Lagoon and see the impacts for himself.
Referring to the ongoing budget woes facing the federal government, several members of Congress pointed out the critical infrastructure needs across the country far outstrip the available money.
But Hoyer, who grew up in Florida, quoted Spiro Agnew, a former vice president, saying “the cost of failure far exceeds the price of progress.”
Ernie Barnett with the South Florida Water Management District said the district has taken emergency measures to try to redirect some of the water flowing from the Lake down toward the Everglades and Florida Bay, but officials say it’s only a fraction of the water that needs to be redirected.
Speakers called for faster action and more money to complete restoration projects to redirect the overflow from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades rather than to the coastal rivers. While some asked for more help from the U.S.Corps of Engineers, others asked for less, asking Congress to turn over control of the earthen dike around the lake to the state.
Referring to fears that a needed report from the Army Corps could prevent key Everglades projects from making it into the pending Water Resources Development Act by the deadline later this year, Nelson said “we have to keep the fire under the Army Corps.”
Murphy offered to help put pressure on the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency, if needed, “to clear up red tape and bureaucracy.”


Florida activists push for Everglades funding
Florida Today
October 3, 2013
Asking Congress for money during a government shutdown may seem like bad timing, but Florida activists told lawmakers Thursday the Everglades faces a crisis that only federal funding can resolve.
Dozens of environmentalists, community officials and elected representatives from South Florida attended a special hearing to promote Everglades Restoration projects designed to help Florida's "River of Grass" and limit the tainted flow east along the St. Lucie River, and west along Caloosahatchee River.
One project, the C-44 reservoir, would help reduce polluted runoff damaging the Indian River Lagoon. Although the project focuses mainly on helping the southern portion of the estuary around Martin County, the already started reservoir is expected to benefit Brevard County as well.
"Whatever cleans the bottom helps cleanse the top and vice versa," said Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, who attended Thursday's hearing.
The St. Johns River and South Florida water management districts sponsor the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, which has spent more than $80 million to improve the lagoon's water quality, according to the St. Johns district.
Since 1999, it also has helped local governments secure grants to restore the lagoon and has brought in an additional $200 million in capital improvements and preservation funds, according to the district.
But many say the lagoon needs much more help.
Scientists don't know why more than 110 manatees, 69 dolphins and up to 300 brown pelicans have died over the past year.
One precursor was a massive algae "superbloom" in 2011 that killed 47,000 acres of lagoon seagrass, a 60 percent loss from 2010. Not much of that grass has grown back, and about 100 fish kills have been reported in Brevard County this month.
Biologists suspect that extreme climate conditions -- including consecutive cold winters and extended drought -- coupled with a decades-long buildup of nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, septic tanks and other sources have shifted the lagoon to a phytoplankton-dominant system rather than one dominated by seagrass. Excess phytoplankton clouds the sunlight that seagrass needs to grow.
The lagoon has long been touted as North America's most diverse estuary, with an estimated 4,300 species. But no one knows how many of those are left.
Thursday's hearing was convened by Republican Rep. Trey Radel, who represents the beachfront communities of Lee and Collier counties along the Gulf of Mexico, and Democrat Patrick Murphy, who represents the Treasure Coast along the Atlantic. Both are pushing a regional agenda endorsed by 16 counties that make up the South Florida ecosystem.
The agenda seeks about $1.2 billion in federal aid through the Water Resources Reform and Development Act for four major projects: upgrading the 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, restoring the Kissimmee River, completing the C-44 reservoir to the east of Lake Okeechobee, and authorizing the C-43 reservoir to the west.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill last month authorizing $297 million for construction of the C-43 project as part of the water infrastructure bill.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed its version of the bill in May. That measure also authorizes C-43 as part of a broad restoration of the Everglades.
Still, money for the reservoir is far from a done deal.
A full House vote on the bill has been pushed back for at least two weeks, a delay being blamed on the current government shutdown. Assuming it passes, both chambers then would have to hammer out differences on a host of issues in the broader legislation before it could be sent to President Barack Obama for signing.
Even assuming that happens, the money has to be appropriated. The bill authorizes but does not provide funding for the projects.
Rep. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., who attended Thursday's hearing, said total water project authorizations for fiscal 2014 could add up to several billion dollars while the Army Corps of Engineers is not expected to have more than $1 billion to spend on them.
Posey said he was "very optimistic" that Congress would approve a regular stream of funding because supporters are wisely pursuing a prioritized approach.
"They're not looking at doing that overnight," he said. "They're taking an intelligent plan. They're taking a 30-year approach. They're doing it incrementally. Funding the program, he said, "ought to be no-brainer."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, who also attended the hearing, was asked what activists can do to convince Congress and the Corps of Engineers that the Everglades projects deserve immediate federal aid.
"Keep the pressure on," he said. "We got a long way to go."


Florida Everglades meeting in D.C. chugs on, despite shutdown
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
October 3, 2013
Officials from 16 South Florida counties disregarded the closed-for-business sign on Washington, D.C., Wednesday, meeting in the nation's capital with the Congressional Everglades Caucus to encourage water projects they believe will relieve pollution-assaulted waterways on both sides of Lake Okeechobee.
Included at the meeting were representatives of the counties within the South Florida Water Management District, including district officials themselves.
Mostly what they wanted was money, and a lot of it. This was their list of priorities:
-- Recurring money to re-gird the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
-- Recurring money to restore the flow of the Kissimmee River.
-- Money to finish the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area.
-- Authorization from Congress for the C-43 project on Florida's west coast.
-- Passage of the Water Resources Development Act.
Sen. Bill Nelson promised the 16-county coalition that the issue has "broad, bipartisan support" in Washington, but given the ongoing dysfuntion surrounding the government shutdown and talk of budget-cutting, the group was given little reason to hope its priorities would make it into the budget.
To make the coalition's priorities happen -- including the flow of Lake Okeechobee discharges moving south instead of east and west -- the Army Corps first would have to include the Central Everglades Project in the Water Resources Development Act. But that report is due to Congress by Dec. 31, making timing particularly tight.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, had arranged for the most important federal officials to meet with the coalition Thursday -- for example Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers' civil works and officials from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior -- but, according to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, because of the shutdown, the Florida group was told they are unlikely to attend.
During the 50-minute meeting, the Congressional Everglades Caucus listening to the group included Nelson and Reps. Murphy, Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton and Joe Garcia, D-Miami. Sen. Marco Rubio did not attend.
UPDATED: Packed Treasure Coast toxic waters hearing in Congress          WPEC


Florida senator calls for state to take over control of Lake Okeechobee releases
Naples Daily News - by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
October 3, 2013
TALLAHASSEE _ State Sen. Joe Negron asked federal lawmakers Thursday to give control of Lake Okeechobee to Florida.
The request from the Stuart Republican came during a congressional hearing on the adverse economic and health effects of water releases into estuaries on both sides of the state.
Negron’s request to wrest control of the lake from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came as members of Congress, working amid the shadow of the ongoing federal government shutdown, repeatedly expressed bipartisan support for longstanding efforts to clean waterways east and west of the lake and to secure funding so more water can be directed south.
“I’m sorry that we have a dysfunctional Washington,” U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, told South Florida residents and officials who trekked to Washington for the hearing.
“This is an issue that affects all of our state. When people in Great Britain or Germany or in Chicago (or) New York come and visit, our snowbirds, our vacationers that come visit and see this, I don’t care if it’s the east coast or the west coast, it affects Florida,” Radel continued. “We don’t want those trips to be canceled. We want more people to come to enjoy our beaches and help our economy.”
Radel hosted the hearing with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from the central east coast of Florida.
Many members of Florida’s congressional delegation, along with members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and other federal lawmakers, made appearances and brief statements throughout the morning hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the South Florida water situation “an issue of national significance ... that requires our immediate attention.”
Pelosi was among those lending support to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which has been approved by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The act includes money for a reservoir to serve as a holding area for freshwater releases coming from the lake.
Speakers from South Florida governments and environmental organizations testified in support of restoration projects that will redirect the overflow from the lake. A few residents, given time to speak, pushed for the federal government to acquire agricultural land south of the lake where the overflow could be stored and cleaned before it reaches the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat who represents a central and eastern Florida district, defended the farmers, ranchers and sugar growers south of the lake, saying they have reduced pollutants from exiting their land.
Negron, one of four state legislators who spoke during the session, pitched his idea for the state to take control of the lake, saying the intent is to have more consensus from different state agencies before releases are made.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has been running this project for decades. They have failed and they need to be replaced with those of us in Florida that we can vote for or against and people that have our best interest at heart,” Negron said.
The Army Corps, which didn’t have representatives at the meeting due to the shutdown, tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the dike, which is basically a 30-foot-high earthen structure that surrounds the lake.
Residents who live along the estuaries have been fighting the Army Corps over the impact of the releases since May.
Reps. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, both appeared as panel members.
Negron received a little more support in asking members of the state’s congressional delegation to urge President Barack Obama to return to the Treasure Coast for a first-hand look at the millions of gallons of polluted water that have been dumped out of the lake.
Obama played a round of golf in February with Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and golfer Tiger Woods at the Floridian, a secluded and exclusive golf course community along the Martin-St. Lucie County line.
“Nine holes of that golf course is right along the St. Lucie River,” Negron said, “so he knows our community well.”
Negron’s request repeated an unanswered Sept. 24 letter by Gov. Rick Scott to Obama.
The request is hoped to spur federal funding for projects that clean the water coming out of the lake.
Radel supported the request, asking other members of the state’s congressional delegation to write a bipartisan letter to Obama asking him to see the impacts of the water releases on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. No agreement was reached on the letter.
Joe Negron Calls for Feds to Turn Over Control of Lake Okeechobee         Sunshine State News


Federal shutdown could delay Lake Okeechobee, Everglades project
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
October 2, 2013
The federal government shutdown is threatening to create a long-term delay for Florida's efforts to get more Lake Okeechobee water flowing south to the Everglades.
State and federal officials had been rushing to complete the proposed Central Everglades plan in time for a pending water bill in Congress to help pay for the nearly $2 billion project.
But the congressional budget standoff, and growing employee furloughs, could sidetrack the federal review that needs to be completed before the Army Corps of Engineers can sign off on the Everglades project and move it along for Congress to consider.
It's been seven years since Congress last approved a far-reaching water projects bill like this, so state leaders and environmental advocates are concerned that missing out on this round of federal funding could leave the Central Everglades project stuck on the shelf.
"There's certainly some challenges," Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Army Corps' deputy commander for South Florida, said about the shutdown's effects on the Everglades plan.
Restoring more Lake Okeechobee water flows to the south would help replenish the Everglades and provide a drainage alternative that lessens the need for damaging lake flood-control discharges to the east and west — which are polluting coastal waterways.
The Central Everglades plan calls for removing portions of levees, filling in sections of canals and boosting pumping capacity to get more lake water flowing south toward Everglades National Park. The state is seeking to split the cost with the federal government.
Greco on Wednesday said the federal shutdown and Army Corps employee furloughs will not affect Lake Okeechobee flood control operations or inspections of the lake's troubled dike, considered one of the nation's most at risk of failing.


Big Sugar

Florida Republicans: ‘Big Sugar’ before Environment - by Richard Andrew, Guest Blogger
October 2, 2013
The Republican dominated Florida legislature has not responded to a crisis. Over 160 miles of Florida’s beautiful, once pristine coastline, is being destroyed by “Big Sugar”. The bottom line is, the coast is ruined because Republicans could care less about destroying the environment . . .  as long as Florida’s sugar industry is protected.
According to Environmental News Service:
“On Florida’s southeast coast, the St. Lucie River, its estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon are slimed with algae that grows from excess sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff released locally and from Lake Okeechobee to the north. Most of the nutrient pollution entering Lake Okeechobee comes from tributaries in the northern Everglades that take runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area, which grows most of the sugarcane in the United States.”
This toxic waste coming from the sugar industry is dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with it. It’s like something from a horror movie. Environmental News Service further reports that, “Published scientific research has confirmed the widespread presence of a type of cyanotoxin linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in Florida coastal waters, yet no testing for that cyanotoxin was performed by the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection].”
Members of environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Florida Oceanographic Society, say state and federal officials have known about this for over 30 years. The sugar industry, while releasing toxic waste into the ground water, raised the St. Lucie River estuaries to highly toxic levels.
In 2008, before Governor Crist left office, he tried  to negotiate a buy-out of U.S. Sugar Corporation land to the tune of $1.75 Billion dollars. The proposed agreement between the South Florida Water Management District and the United States Sugar Corporation involves the public purchase of nearly 300 square miles spanning four counties in South Florida.
The tragedy could have been prevented. Crist’s proposal was lauded by as a “Momentous Strategy”and by as a local cure for “Global Climate Change.” Apparently the Florida GOP felt it was more important that the proposal be used to stop Charlie Crist from becoming a U.S. Senator when he ran against Marco Rubio. The rest is history.
Recently, environmentalists have been arguing that “Big Sugar” should clean up the mess they have made in the Everglades these past decades. Beginning March 6, 2013, “One day into Florida’s legislative session,” reports the Sun Sentinel, “environmentalists and Big Sugar are already squaring off over proposed changes to Everglades restoration requirements.
However, the battle was short-lived. The Tampa Bay Times noted that, “Florida Legislators used a bill to change wetlands regulations to block a lawsuit against the state for approving two no-bid, 20-year lease agreements with sugar and vegetable farmers. The leases were challenged in court by the Florida Wildlife Federation, which alleges the leases allow the sugar growers to continue to farm without reducing their pollution levels.”
House bill 999 passed with the lease provision added to it. The bill changed environmental regulations and passed the House with a 106-10 vote and the Senate with a 39-1 vote. It was stripped of a provisions that “put a three-year ban on local fertilizer ordinances and a measure to prevent local governments from imposing local wetlands regulations.”
The end effect of HB 999 is the crises destroying the St. Lucie River estuaries. The GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, once again, sided with big business and failed to protect their constituency.


Judah addresses Lake O releases at meeting
Pine Island Eagle – by Ed Franks
October 2, 2013
Florida Coastal & Ocean Coalition Coordinator and former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah spoke before the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting Tuesday morning.
Judah, who served 24 years as Lee County Commissioner, is deeply involved in the environmental issues of the state of Florida. His remarks centered around the discharge from Lake Okeechobee.
"My main concern over the past decade is what's been going on with Lake Okeechobee," Judah said. "It's tough living downstream, especially when you have all this dirty water that's affecting your quality of life.
"The reason I'm having these public forums is to expose the deception that has been permeating this part of the state," Judah said. "There was a commissioner just today that said the cause of the brown water in the gulf is tannic acid that leeches from the mangroves. Well, most of you that have lived here understand that the mangroves do leech tannic acid that will turn the water a light brown color, but not what we have now this dark brown coffee colored water. We know that the cause of this dark brown water is a lot more than tannic acid.
The former county commissioner also explained why it's important to preserve the local estuaries.
"Estuaries are our most productive ecosystems," Judah said. "And these estuaries require a balanced water system with just the right amount of fresh water to the right amount of salt water. That mixture of salt and fresh water is vital to the ecosystem. These estuaries are where our commercial and sport fishermen find shrimp, crab, redfish, grouper and the list goes on and on.
To fully understand the issue, Judah said, you must be able to understand some of the terminology used in the discussions.
"There are a couple of terms needed to understand the problems we are facing," Judah said. "One very vital factor to this ecosystem is the term of 'flow rate' measured in 'cubic feet per second.' That 'flow rate' from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers and estuaries is what we're talking about today.
"Scientists have demonstrated that an acceptable flow rate from Lake Okeechobee is from 450 cubic feet per second on the low end to 2800 cubic feet per second on the high end. Within this range is the optimum range," Judah said. "Not too long ago we were getting 12,000 cubic feet per second coming out of S79 which is the Franklin Locks. So we're talking about 56 times the amount that causes harm to our estuaries that's coming down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee."
"In addition to all this water destroying the salinity, you have to add all the nutrients," Judah said. "Nutrients are drained from as far away as Disney World in Orlando into Lake Okeechobee.
"Another factor for nutrients is due to the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Okeechobee," Judah said. "The Everglades Agricultural Area contains a total of about 700,000 acres. This includes about 440,000 acres of sugar cane fields. The South Florida Water Management's main job should be to manage these resources for the public benefit. But instead they see their job differently. Their priority is to ensure that the water levels in the sugar cane fields are maintained at 1824 inches below ground for the benefit of the sugar cane fields. This water level insures for optimum production of sugar cane."
Judah says that for decades South Florida Water Management has allowed the sugar cane industry to back-pump water into Lake Okeechobee. Included with all this water are the nutrients, phosphorous, nitrogen, insecticides, plus the chemical waste. They're allowed to do this in order to maintain an optimum amount of water in their sugar cane fields. When it's released from Lake Okeechobee all those nutrients come down the Caloosahatchee River into the estuaries.
Judah referred to the recent visit to Fort Myers by Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott announced on Aug. 28 that the state will spend $90 million to alleviate the excessive water drainage from Lake Okeechobee by constructing a 2.6-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. The governor stated that this bridge would allow more water (210,000 acre-feet according to the governor) to flow from the lake into the Everglades. Judah questioned how the governor was going to get the water from the lake to the bridge and suggested that the proposal alleviated just 10 percent of the problem calling it the "10% Solution."
By doing the math, Judah demonstrated that the governor's proposal would only alleviate a small fraction of the total water flowing from the lake. One acre-foot of water is the amount of water that covers a one acre area one foot deep. Lake Okeechobee is 430,000 acres making 430,000 acre-feet of water. This year, being a wet season, 4.7 million acre-feet of water entered the lake. The releases from the lake this season have been 2.6 million acre-feet of water. The governor's proposal at 210,000 acre-feet suggests alleviating less than 10 percent.
According to Judah, the hotel/motel business and tourism have been adversely effected. "Visitors are commenting on the brown water and stating they won't be back to Southwest Florida," Judah said. "And with the Internet, the news is getting around the world. We should be the premier destination for tourism and it's critical that we hold our elected officials feet to the fire.
"We have seen massive destruction of tens of thousands of acres of grass beds and deaths of brown pelicans, dolphins and manatees" Judah said. "If you remember last year we had 133 manatee deaths and let me tell you the worst is yet to come." Judah believes Governor Scott should declare a state of emergency
"On a local level 'We the people' need to get involved," Judah said. "Either with phone calls, emails, or petitions the people can change this. Contact your county commissioner, your legislators, or even the governor."


Keep water, issues pure and simple - Editorial
October 1, 2013
Everything is simple, so they say.
Except when it isn’t, like understanding the Affordable Care Act or everything involved with bringing clean water down the Caloosahatchee, a necessary cause which rides precariously atop layer after layer after layer of complexity.
We must not let that complexity derail all the hard work it is taking to get clean water.
The complexity leaves the general public bewildered, less than trustful and worried about whether all the efforts will succeed. It is hard to build a public constituency with the public in such a state of confusion.
Consider just the layers of governments involved: the federal government; state, county and municipal governments, and then such bewildering local environmental institutions that are hard to fathom by a transplant from another part of the country or even a native Floridian who has heard their names, but has little idea how they operate.
Then there is the Army Corps of Engineers, which is mostly interested in taking care of Lake Okeechobee and repairing or replacing a 40-year dike so unstable that the engineers relieve its pressure by sending the murky water downstream to us.
That fresh water upsets our ecosystem when it meets the salt water from the Gulf of Mexico. That place is called an estuary. It is one of many fairly uncommon words one must learn to be on top of things.
The proposed solutions are many and varied, with the only real common denominator being money. Everything is expensive. Ideas range from building small reservoirs near Okeechobee to hold some of the excess water, to building bridges to take water beneath the east-west roadways.
So who cares about clean water, about saving our bounty of beauty for our children and grandchildren, about the economy and about the very future of this area?
Even though there is some squabbling, this disparate group of government agencies and institutions is doing pretty well at working together. There seems to be at least a preliminary agreement on two things: the water must move south to the Everglades and that one person or one agency needs to take the lead in coordinating all the efforts.
We’d like to add one task to this group’s work: Keep the people informed.


Photos show how nasty Lake Okeechobee pollution is; Congressional meeting tomorrow - by Deirdra Funcheon
October 2 2013
Tomorrow, Rep. Patrick Murphy a 30-year-old Democrat from Jupiter; and Congressman Trey Radel, a Republican from Fort Myers, are scheduled to hold a public briefing to members of Congress regarding the massive pollution that's flowing from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers to pollute estuaries as far south as the Lake Worth Lagoon.
In a pretty impressive feat of coordination, the congressmen have managed to assemble an agenda that includes a lot of the key players -- people from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and various Treasure Coast leaders and scientists. In addition, busloads of activists --
"River Warriors" or "Lagoonatics," as some of them are calling themselves -- were also traveling by bus and plan to attend.
Although the federal-government shutdown may still cause some changes in the agenda, Murphy's office said the meeting was still on. It was set to be live-streamed here beginning at 9 a.m.
Water flow in South Florida has been a problem since engineers started tinkering with Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades almost a century ago.
But things came to a crisis this year. Manatees started dying at the beginning of the year, and when heavy rainfall landed in Lake Okeechobee this summer, the lake became backed up. Water, polluted from both agricultural runoff and from septic tanks in homes around the lake, was diverted through rivers to the east and west coasts. Problems are compounding: There's the initial pollution, and that in turn is causing algae blooms, which are contributing to killing fish and leaving bigger creatures that feed on them to starve. Additionally, the fresh water from the lake has seriously messed up salinity levels in the estuaries.
Keri West is a Port St. Lucie activist who will be traveling to Washington on Thursday with the group. She says that in the past two months, businesses have been closing left and right in her area -- "fishing charters, sailing boat people, boat sales people, real estate people" -- and blames the pollution for deaths of several people who have died of infections the past few months.
"All of us have boycotted sugar," she says, because of the runoff-producing sugar cane farms surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
She said she hopes that the governor will be pressured to ask the president to declare a state of emergency and that the various agencies involved will hurry to implement key parts of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that would restore water flow south of Lake Okeechobee. She also hopes to see pesticides banned.
"These chemicals cannot be used in Florida anymore!" she said. "Our river has just been abused and raped."
Congressman Murphy was not available for comment yesterday, but his office offered use of these images he took during a helicopter tour recently:

Water pollution deemed critical problem
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer – by Bob Petcher
October 2, 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 last Wednesday -one that was attended by approximately only 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 cited as water management, and there is not enough storage space during the rainy season.
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 powerpoint presentations about the scientific angles of the impact during the Coastal Estuaries in Peril forum. Afterwards, they heard public comments, 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. Their voices have been heard and only a conservative amount of action has been done. They believe all Southwest Floridians need to help in taking action by contacting state elected leaders 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 two entities that control water management are the state-governed South Florida Water Management District and the federal-governed Army Corps of Engineers. The historic flow used to go south but, with a dike around the lake, the water is managed to the west and east.
Email Gov. Rick Scott at and urge him to support the above four priorities. Other Florida elected leaders can be found at .
"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."
It was stated the situation has reached "crisis proportion," while so many Southwest Floridians have fallen on "denial" by "pretending" our waters will eventually become clean of the present pollution or that the overflows will soon stop.
The fact is, while water flow rates 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 said the water flows have increased in the past couple of weeks. He stated that on Oct. 24, the flow was 11,688 cubic feet per second for 23,179 acre/feet and Oct. 23's measurement was 12,362 cfs for 24,514 acre/feet. At the forum, an acre/foot was described as being the size of a football field.
"Keep in mind that does not count any of the water flowing into the river from below S-79 such as water from North Fort Myers, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral," Laakkonen wrote in an email.
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."
Forum highlights
Hecker began her presentation by stating four things that need to be balanced, yet are not: quality of water, quantity, timing and distribution.
"When we drain our fresh water supply, we are giving it less opportunity to replenish our ground water and we are disposing of it essentially out into the Gulf where it is not available for our use," she said.
She reported that South Florida Water Management District acknowledges that Southwest Florida is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
"When the sea level continues to rise, water backs up and we lose our flood protection," Hecker said. "We need to keep our fresh water full and pushing outward and away from our coast. The problem is really water management."
Hecker stated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is primarily responsible with the quantity of the discharges.
"But the quality of the water is really under the states control," she said. "So, when you are looking at who is responsible for the pollution, that is the state. We would like to see more leadership because we are not having enough pollution control."
Hecker explained nutrient pollution as fertilizer, human sewage and manure that aids in the growth of algae, which leads to outbreaks of algae growth.
"In some cases, these algae can produce toxins. When the algae grows out of control, that can lower the amount of dissolved oxygen in the waterway to levels that are too low to support aquatic life," she said. "That is when you get a massive fish die-off."
Coupled with more than 300 manatee deaths since January 2012, Hecker calls this really troubling times.
"These are the 'canary in the coalmine' moments that we need to pay attention to that our waterways our becoming extremely unsafe," she said.
Wessel mentioned SFWMD and Army Corps of Engineers have a 50/50 partnership that manages the decisions for the Greater Everglades system. She informed where the system starts (Orlando) and the many inflows and outflows associated with Lake O.
"Most of the time more water is coming into our river from our watershed then from Lake Okeechobee," Wessel said. "Now, we have about 24 percent of the inflow coming from Lake Okeechobee and the rest is coming from the 800,000 acres of watershed."
One of the worst years ever for hurricanes and water flow was 2005. It produced 3.7 million acre feet of water.
"Today, we have 2.03 million acre of feet of water," said Wessel. "We are basically one big storm away from being in some dangerous territory in terms of excess floods.
"The message is stop the harm by buying the land, building the bridge and moving water south."
Go to to learn more. Check to find the latest real-time water quality readings.


We're in Washington covering lagoon issues
October 2, 2013
Despite the U.S. government shutdown, we’re in Washington D.C. all week talking to powerbrokers about the Indian River Lagoon crisis.
Reporter Jonathan Mattise Tuesday interviewed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who will host Thursday’s Congressional briefing. Mattise and columnist Eve Samples also interviewed National Republican Congressional Committee officials, who raise money for candidates; and U.S. Rep Patrick McHenry, a Republican recruiter working to unseat Murphy.
Watch for our resulting stories, as well as live coverage of Wednesday’s Everglades Caucus and Thursday’s Congressional briefing.


US Capitol

Everglades tourism hit by government shutdown -by Paul Brinkmann and Oscar Pedro Musibay
October 1, 2013
South Florida's fishing and Everglades touring businesses are among those affected by the government shutdown.
Gates to the national park will not open today, and the only services provided will be basic firefighting and law enforcement. The hardest hit communities are Homestead, the "gateway to the Everglades", and Everglades City on the Gulf Coast. There are also airboat tours and other tourism related businesses along Tamiami Trail, although some of those may still offer tours in the region.
Also effected: Key Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park in the Keys -- more than 200 employees.
"We may be on extended furlough so there’s concern about paying mortgage, taking care of your family like anybody else would,” Linda Friar, spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, told CBS Miami.
Is real estate safe ?
The federal government shutdown could create problems in a lot of areas and for a lot of people, including those in real estate.
Fortunately for South Florida’s real estate industry, New York/New Jersey is one of the areas, according to Trulia, that will see less of an impact, at least in the short term.
That’s because only 1.1. percent of local wages go to federal workers. New York buyers had partly been on the sidelines in the last couple of years as South Florida’s real estate market began to recover, but now that pool of buyers is coming back, say local real estate experts.
The Morning Report: Congressional showdown, gov't. shutdown    Creative Loafing Tampa
US Shutdown: An International Perspecitve Voice of America (blog)
Americans anxious, irritated as gov't shuts down      Charlotte Observer
Services that will be affected by the US govt shutdown       Hindu Business Line
What will a shutdown mean for you? WTSP 10 News
Goodbye, government: shutdown affects science, the...        The Verge
Government Shutdown Would Force 94 Percent of EPA Staff To Stay ...  Huffington Post
How would a government shutdown affect travel ?  Asbury Park Press


Florida asks US Supreme Court to stop Georgia water use
The Associated Press
October 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — Florida is suing the state of Georgia over its consumption of fresh water in a river system that serves three Southeastern states.
The legal action filed directly with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is an escalation in a legal dispute lasting more than two decades.
The lawsuit is not a surprise. Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced in August that the state would ask the high court to force Georgia to more equitably share water that flows downstream from Georgia into Alabama and Florida.
Scott's move came after the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay suffered a near collapse and after federal officials declared a fishery disaster for oystermen on the Gulf Coast. Oysters need a mix of fresh and salt water in order to thrive.
"Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia's unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court," Scott said in a statement.
"Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood, but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia's actions are not stopped," Scott added.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has previously criticized Scott and has called the pending lawsuit a waste of money. He also has contended Georgia offered a framework to end the dispute more than a year ago.
The long-running dispute hinges over withdrawals from Lake Lanier, a federal reservoir on the Chattahoochee River that provides water to metro Atlanta.
The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers merge to form the Apalachicola River, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that metro Atlanta had little right to take water from Lake Lanier. He then ordered that metro Atlanta's water withdrawals would be drastically restricted unless the three states reached a settlement.
A three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in 2011, finding that metro Atlanta could use the reservoir for water with restrictions. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying how much water the north Georgia region can take from the system. But corps officials have already acknowledged that it will be years before that study is complete.
Water officials in Atlanta have disputed that the metro area's consumption is harming the oyster fishery and say recent problems have more to do with drought.
Fla. sues Ga. over its fresh water consumption, asks US Supreme ... The Republic
Florida files water lawsuit against Georgia in U.S. Supreme Court   WSB Radio
Florida Sues Georgia Over Water       GPB
Florida Takes Historic Legal Action Against Georgia in Fight to Save ...     WJHG-TV
Scott and Bondi sue Georgia over water use (blog)
Florida Officially Sues Georgia Over Our Water       Peach Pundit
Scott, Bondi lob another water legal challenge at Georgia    Orlando Sentinel (blog)


Rick Scott, Florida’s CEO
Miami Herald – by Michael Putney
October 1, 2013
It’s taken nearly three years, but I’ve finally figured out what it is that bothers me about Rick Scott’s concept of being governor. He wants to manage the state, not be its political leader. He sees himself as Florida’s CEO. It’s Florida, Inc., Rick Scott, prop.
This might work if the goal of government were to produce a profit. But it’s not. It’s to provide services to its citizens. To organize those functions and responsibilities that only government can — safe roads, highways and bridges. Efficient airports and seaports. Mass transit systems. Prisons for criminals, and police to put them there. Good schools and an economic climate that puts people to work when they graduate.
To protect the vulnerable young and frail old. To care for the disabled.
To safeguard the air we breathe and water we drink. To be good stewards of the environment.
All this takes leaders who remind us that we’re a community, not a crowd, as Lawton Chiles used to say, and have prepared themselves for public service.
I wonder if Rick Scott seriously, systematically thought about the idea of governance before he ran for governor. Did he read Rousseau and Hobbes, John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes? Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry David Thoreau? The writings of Franklin, Adams and Jefferson? The Federalist Papers? He gives no indication that he has. His speeches, his style and his demeanor indicate his reading tends to books like Who Moved My Cheese?
Sorry if that sounds elitist, but the best elected leaders I’ve known in Florida had read all those Big Thinkers and a lot more before they sought public office. I’m thinking of, among others, former governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush. Bush, in fact, talked endlessly about “how we organize ourselves.”
Scott’s concept of societal organization is fairly straightforward: Business good, government interference bad. So you shut down the state agency that controls unbridled growth (Department of Community Affairs ), defang the agency that protects the environment (DEP), privatize much of the state’s prison system, order drug tests for all state workers and welfare recipients (Fourth Amendment be damned), make it harder for minorities and students to vote, initially turn down $51 billion to expand Medicaid and do everything in your power to interfere with the roll-out of Obamacare.
On the plus side, Scott has focused with OCD-like intensity on putting Floridians to work and luring businesses to the state. He’s had some success there, although the natural bust-and-boom economic cycle is also responsible. After slashing education funding in his first year, he has restored it to nearly the same level it was when he took office.
“I ran for governor because I didn’t like the way the country was going or the state,” Scott told the Latin Builders Association last week. He received a courteous, but not particularly enthusiastic reception from the LBA membership, who should be his people, a gimme. But they weren’t. He gave them his standard blah speech, and they gave him only polite applause.
It was the same scenario the week before when Scott spoke to a group of business leaders in Fort Lauderdale as part of his It’s Your Money tax-cut tour. Scott proposes to slash taxes by $500 million next year, a transparent election-year ploy. I spent a few minutes talking to Scott after the meeting and came away feeling like I’d been force-fed cotton candy. The interview was pleasant, but just empty calories.
Scott often reminds me of what Gertrude Stein, a San Franciscan, said of Oakland: “There’s no there, there.” I suspect there is, but this is a data-driven guy, not a humanist. I’m told that when he headed Hospital Corporation of America, Scott meticulously pored over each day’s figures on admissions, discharges, billing, etc. and that drove his decision-making.
He and his advisors recognize that he’s a cool personality and are trying to warm him up. At both South Florida events he began by pulling out pictures of his newborn grandchildren. It’s a natural “awww” moment that’s good for Scott. His pride in his grandkids is genuine, but there’s something slightly off-kilter about it. He has to show pictures of grandkids to prove that he’s got human emotions like everyone else?
Scott is the Tin Man of Florida politics. He needs a heart.


Silver Springs

Silver Springs

Silver Springs has its unveiling as State Park
Ocala Star-Banner - by Bill Thompson
October 1, 2013
The marriage between Florida’s oldest tourist location and the state park system becomes official Tuesday, with Silver Springs featuring something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Tuesday’s visitors to the attraction, which is now merged with the adjacent Silver River State Park to form Silver Springs State Park, will recognize some familiar attributes that helped build the site’s reputation over the decades.
Exemplifying the old are the glass-bottomed boats, some version of which have given visitors to Silver Springs a peek at life below the water’s surface since the 1870s.
The vessels will chug from the docks at the heart of the park three times a day, piloted by the same veteran captains, including a trio who collectively have logged more than 150 years ferrying people up and down the Silver River, according to Joel Wiessner, a partner in Silver Springs Management in Ocala, the new concessionaire at Silver Springs.
As for what’s borrowed, Twin Oaks Mansion, the site of Silver Springs’ popular music concerts, remains under renovation, Wiessner said.
The facility’s facelift will be completed in the weeks ahead, he said, in time for a new roster of musical acts. The first is expected to hit the stage in February, Wiessner said.
Wiessner has indicated that he is working on the schedule with JVC Media, the New York-based broadcaster that bought five Ocala radio stations in the spring.
While declining to identify any of the performers involved in those talks, Wiessner has suggested they will be more contemporary and better known than the aging rockers and country crooners that typically populated the roster when Palace Entertainment, the California-based amusement park operator, ran the shows.
The Silver Springs concert series was the brainchild of Bill Sims, a guru in the state’s tourism industry who ran the park in the 1990s for a couple of different companies before the property was sold to the state in 1993.
Signifying the blue, of course, will be the water.
Though not as pristine as in the days when Hollywood icon Lloyd Bridges was filming his adventure series “Sea Hunt” at the park, the water at Silver Springs is the main draw, and work is underway to reverse decades of inattention that have fed its decline.
Marion County and the state have spent millions of dollars on anti-pollution projects to curtail the flow of nitrates that have robbed Silver Springs of its clarity.
The work is continuing, as the county is leading an effort to define the watershed around the springs and to develop a plan to attack the sources of the contaminants.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller noted that besides preserving the park, the state is funding projects that are expected to remove 350 tons of nitrogen a year from Silver Springs.
Efforts to help Silver Springs, she added, will receive $20 million of the $37 million in springs-restoration spending that Gov. Rick Scott announced in September.
Finally, what’s new at Silver Springs could be applied in a couple of ways.
For instance, Wiessner offered high praise to the state and the volunteers for improving the aesthetic appeal of the place.
In January, Scott and the Cabinet amended Palace’s lease to allow the company to leave Silver Springs 16 years ahead of schedule.
Palace, in return, was to spend $4 million on renovations.
The contractor hired by Palace rehabilitated the walkway entering the park, fixed the boardwalk overlooking the main springhead and replaced rotted wood in many of the park’s structures.
The contractor also painted buildings, while dead or non-native shrubbery was eradicated.
Yet last month DEP officials acknowledged that they had halted much of the work, with less than half of Palace’s money spent, because some problems were bigger than first imagined.
Still, Wiessner said the changes, which include the $50,000 in work that his company has done, are noticeable.
“The state and the Citizens Support Organization have done a tremendous job in cleaning the place up,” he said.
But also new is the theme of Silver Springs.
One condition of Palace’s early departure was that the vestiges of the attraction’s past life as an amusement park and part-time zoo were to be removed — scuttled in favor of a return to a more natural setting.
Wiessner said the most prominent new feature will be a kayak launch.
Silver Springs Management, or SSM, has approval initially to run up to 40 kayaks a day and has subcontracted the work to Ocala-based Eco-Recreation Management, which operates as Discovery Kayak Tours.
Wiessner said that is a first step to recreating Silver Springs as an “ecotourism space.”
His hope is to add features such as a zip line, a rock wall, bicycle rentals and other things of interest to outdoor enthusiasts. He is also negotiating with DEP about allowing swimming at the springs.
All of that will be finalized in an engineering plan for DEP that will be submitted in a few weeks, Wiessner said.
SSM also seeks to make the retail merchandise more like an ecotourism outfitter would sell.
And while visitors Tuesday will be able to buy basic foodstuffs like hamburgers and hot dogs, Wiessner ultimately plans to locate a high-end eatery within the park, with a “surf, sand and sky” theme.
Wiessner, who is joined in the venture by a partner, Bobby Genovese, owner of BG Capital Group, a private equity firm based in the Bahamas, said he believes the public will like what’s available as the plan unfolds.
“We’re very excited, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
“We just ask that people be patient with us and get ready for some great things for Ocala.”
DEP officials also seem excited that the transfer is completed.
According to Miller, park rangers will be on hand Tuesday to present programs on park history, the health of the spring and wildlife.
The Education Center will be open and offer exhibits and information about the spring.
“I am excited to introduce Silver Springs State Park to the people and visitors of Florida,” Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service, said in a prepared statement.
“Silver Springs is special and represents ‘old Florida.’ I look forward to protecting it and helping people enjoy and appreciate all that it offers.”


State sues Georgia over water use
Florida Current – by Bill Cotterell
October 1, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi sued the state of Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the justices to protect Apalachicola's oyster beds by fairly dividing waters of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that flow down to the Florida Panhandle.
"Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood, but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia's actions are not stopped," Scott said in announcing the lawsuit.
Bondi said removal of about 360 million gallons per day by Atlanta, and downstream farming extraction of fresh water, is choking the economic life out of Franklin County and "devastating Apalachicola Bay's ecosystem."
A spokesman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in Atlanta called it all "political theater." Brian Robinson, the governor's communications director, said Flint and Chattahoochee water flow is high but that FLorida "needs a boygeyman to blame for its poor management of Apalachicola Bay."
The argument has been going on more than 20 years. Georgia, Alabama and Florida have attempted to work out waterway
compacts but, Scott contends in his lawsuit, Georgia did not negotiate in good faith and used the time to let Atlanta grow rapidly.
The suit does not accuse Alabama or the federal government of any misdealing.
"Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states," Scott's statement said. "Georgia's over-consumption of water threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region."
Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, said many families have left the area as the oyster business dried up in recent years. Historically low water levels have allowed intrusion of predators, salt water and other damaging influences, according to the state lawsuit.
"It's going to get worse," Hartsfield said of the economic decline. "I'm just worried that a lawsuit is going to take a long time and I don't see how it's going to be any different than before."
The city of Apalachicola sued in federal court and won at the district level, only to be overturned by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta. But as a lawsuit between states, Scott's case was filed in the nation's highest court.
The state lawsuit seeks appointment of a "special master" to hear all sides and report to the nine justices. Florida then sought an order from the court "capping Georgia's overall depletive water uses" at 1992 levels.
Dan Tonsmeire, executive director of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, said Atlanta is not the whole problem. He said farming use in the rivers basin -- including Florida farming -- also extracts huge amounts of water.
"It's a mistake to focus all the attention on Atlanta's water use," he said. "The agriculture water use in an average year is two times Atlanta's use."
Florida Sues Georgia in Fight to Save Apalachicola Bay
Water War II: Florida sues Georgia    Orlando Business Journal
Florida-Georgia Water Dispute Goes To U.S. High Court As Seafood ...    WLRN
Florida's mightiest river back in court
Florida Governor Files Suit on Georgia for Water     Wugatv
Water Wars Take To Court     WCTV
Florida takes water wars to Supreme Court   Gainesville Times
Fla. asks US Supreme Court to stop Ga. water use    WXIA-TV
Government shutdown could have an impact on the Congressional ...WPTV

White House: President ‘committed’ to Everglades restoration
October 1, 2013
WASHINGTON – Oct. 1, 2013 – The White House highlighted its continued support for working with Florida to restore the Everglades, after Gov. Rick Scott requested that President Barack Obama personally inspect damage caused by increased water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
“The president remains committed to the administration’s partnership with the state of Florida in our shared goal of restoring the Florida Everglades,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said in an email last week. “The administration has identified the Everglades as one of five high-priority, nationally significant ecosystems, and views rehabilitating the Herbert Hoover Dike as a priority.”
The Herbert Hoover Dike at the south end of Lake Okeechobee is delicate. Made of dirt, it currently can’t take excess water, and the Army Corp of Engineers has released water into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Canal to keep pressure low. The dike also acts as a dam. Strengthening it and allowing more water flow will enable engineers to send more water south rather than pumping it into the river and canal, where some waterfront homeowners and tourist industries have been harmed by excess fresh water flow.
Rosholm also noted that four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects are also expected to reduce the lake discharges, but they await congressional approval.
Last week, Scott wrote to Obama and asked him to tour Lake Okeechobee in an attempt to draw attention to complaints about how water releases have impacted the health of estuaries on both sides of the state.
U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., and Trey Radel, R-Fla., will hold a panel briefing Oct. 3 in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington about the impact of the discharges. Among the scheduled panelists are state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard.
Source: News Service of Florida


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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